fish falls and frog showers

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For nearly 2,000 years, and from nearly every part of the world, there have been reports of showers of rain which contained large quantities of live frogs, fish, or other creatures, and the reports still occur with quite startling regularity. An early reference to Weymouth in The Travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia, Volume 3 part 1: 1634–1637 ((1919), 10–11) concerns, unusually, small snails, and implies that it was a regular occurrence and that the people found them in their hats because they ‘dropp out of the ayre’, and Reginald Scot (1584: book 13, chapter 18) provides another early English reference. Numerous other writers mention the subject, including Izaac Walton (Compleat Angler (1653) and Samuel Pepys (Diary, 23 May 1661). The phenomena could be taken as more than a simple wonder, as a Restoration newspaper rails against the ‘lying faction’ who report false ‘prodigies’ such as that ‘in several places in England it lately rained blood, frogs and other animals …’ (Kingdom's Intelligencer (30 Dec. 1661), quoted in Picard, 1997: 270). Most are second hand, but sometimes the account is from an eyewitness (N&Q 8s:6 (1894), 191). Various explanations have been put forward, including an early belief that the sun draws up frogspawn, which then hatches in the clouds. Modern theories usually involve some sort of localized waterspout or whirlwind which sucks up the contents of a pond or other body of water and deposits them at a distance, but this still leaves many questions unanswered. Forteans revel in this type of phenomenon: widely reported, suitably mysterious, on the edge of science but not (yet) accepted by the scientific establishment. We can thus claim fish falls, and related phenomena, as still in the realms of folklore, at least for the time being.Michell and Rickard, 1977: 12–19; Michell and Rickard, 1982: 72–88; N&Q 8s:6 (1894) 104–5, 189–91, 395; 8s:7 (1894), 437, 493.

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