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UFOs and explanations by natural phenomena:

Ball lightning and Aircraft - UFO encounters

By Patrick Gross, 2004.


The notion put forth by the aviation magazine editor Philip Klass that encounters between planes and UFOs are explained by ball lightning/plasma phenomena are absurd. These proposals are made in spite of the quantitative factors relating to the phenomena of ball lightning in ball and in spite of the details of the witnesses reports in such encounters.


The proposition that some, if not all, UFO sighting reports by airborne witnesses can be explained by the atmospheric physical plasma phenomenon were often repeated, for example, they were proposed many times by the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and by the senior editor of an aviation magazine, Philip J. Klass who sees it as the explanation for many UFOs through several magazine articles, (see Ref 1. for an example) then as a general explanation through his books (see Réf 2. for an example), and often during his media 'interventions. It received a broad echo in the public, which, without necessarily knowing the details, often seems to have built a fuzzy but persistent belief that UFOs could be explained by these phenomena, and because these phenomena are badly known, it would be certain or at least possible that this explanation is valid and withdraws any mystery to UFOs which would be overall a mere natural phenomenon, except a certain number of cases of frauds and some other commonplace causes.

What is ball lightning?

Ball lightning is a phenomenon which was long ignored by the researchers, on the one hand because its alleged existence rested on visual testimonys, on the other hand because few researchers saw a particular benefit in studying an elusive and rare phenomenon without particular attraction. The ordinary lightning itself, whose existence is obviously not disputed, had not particularly been the object of research on the electric, physical, chemical mechanisms of its formation. The lightning exists, it is some sort of an electric arc, and this was enough to extinguish the curiosity it may cause.

It is however false to believe that research still has nothing more to say on plasma. The phenomenon is now well understood. And in particular, the conditions necessary for its appearance are known.

There is a set of several basic requirements. The first is regular lightning: if there is no thunder storm, if the meteorological conditions that allow regular lightning are not met, then, there is no ball lightning.

Second, the lightning must hit a structure such as a building, soil, or a tree. The struck object must have a metallic or an oxide component, such as silicon oxide. Lightning reduces it to silicon metal, a varietx of silicon produced in the industry. Silicon vapour condenses to form silicon nanospheres, which gather together in long strings.

The third requirement is the presence of "fulgerides," long holes in the soil, filled with hot vapour. These fulgerides are created when regular lightning hits the ground: geologists have dug the soil after it had been hit by lightning and found them to be made of frozen molten glass oxides, often in the form of tubes.

Silicon vapour is then ejected back out of the soil, forming a rin vortex which forms a sphere. Once in this shape, the ball can move some distance. The oxide layer on the surface of each of the particles slows the process down, until eventually each particle runs out of metal. At this point the ball either fades away or explodes.

Of course, as not everyone is a specialist in plasma, and as the comprehension of this mechanism is really very recent (2002 for the best checks), discarded theories and pseudo-scientist explanations abound and persist. They range from matter/antimatter annihilation, puffs of what the astrophysicists call "dark matter" of the universe, spontaneous phenomena of nuclear fusion and so on, all being incomplete undemonstrated explanations contradicted by the facts.

Moreover, a certain amount of confusion exists because many research are taking place to create in vitro plasma. There is certainly many methods to create a phenomenon in vitro, methods which do not owe anything to soil composition, do not require that a storm bursts above the laboratory. But to believe that, since it is possible to create some plasma phenomena with laboratory equipment, then this the method which is used by nature, is obviously erroneous.

What types of observation reports are discussed?

In the UFO casebooks, it is easy to find a subset of fully detailed obserations reports for which the plasma explanation can in no way be validated. Philip Klass seems to take for granted that UFOs manifests only visually in the form of more or less vaguely spherical amorphous blobs, misty or fuzzy, glowing or luminous. However UFOs, sometimes, are also reported as visually clear cut objects, solid, structured, having a geometry which is incompatible with the ball lightning phenomena, such as forms cylindrical, parrallelipipedic, disc with various types of protrusions such as domes and rings and so on. The texture of the observed phenomena is sometimes described as definitely solid, metallic looking, non luminous, non glowing, and the colors dark or divided into colours according to geometrical limits' (dark tops and light bottoms, rings of a different colour than the body for example, are not accomodent with a plasma explanation.) Other observation reports include clear descriptions of characteristics that require a severely twisted mind to accomodate the plasma theory: lights laid out geometrically, similar to headlights, regularly spaced cuttings showing luminosities or different colors than the main body of the observed phenomenon, evoking windows, port-holes, conduits, and even UFO occupants, At no time Philip Klass proposes an explanation of the manner plasma could produce such clear visual impressions.

One of the very rar photographs of ball lightning. Enlargement of the UFO in one of the 4 Lac Chauvet photographs.

However I want to discuss the context in which Philip Klass really proposes ball lightning as the explanation, case where the observation of UFOs is reported by pilots in flight, ignoring the objection presented above, which remains however a fundamental and not a circumvented objection.

Quantitative electrical aspects

An essential characteristic at the same time in the observation reports of ball lightning and plasmoïds, and mathematical models suggested to explain them, which reached a broad consensus among the specialists is that ball lightning is closely related to common lightning in common thunderstorms.

Klass on the contrary argues that ball lightning is also produced in clear weather, free from any stormy activity, and his argument to claims this lies precisely in observation reports of luminous masses that witnesses saw visually, and in addition to their description, allot to the lightning in ball. The argument is confused, consisting in denying that the phenomena of the lightning in ball and plasma have as a condition nécéssaire the stormy activity with the reason that phenomena resembling proceed it apart from such conditions. At most could one concede that there would be another cause, still unknown, for the phenomena of plasmoïdes apart from the conditions stormy which explain them according to established consensus's. Indeed, Klass proposes any argument nor no assumption is not formulated on an unspecified cause for the phenomenon in clear weather. And actually, in the majority of the cases quoted with the support by Klass, it is arbitrary to define the observation as being that of a plasma; this returns in fact to a simple diversion of interpretation: since luminous masses are seen apart from stormy conditions and could not be explained differently than by plasma, let us conclude that plasma must also exist apart from the stormy conditions. By consulting the examples given by Klass, one can realize indeed that what it regards as example of plasma seen in clear time without storms is actually taken among the casuistry of the UFOS, and which it is by no means obvious that these cases must be described as plasmoids.

Better, a consultation of sources relating to testimonys of observations of the lightning in ball, such that given in Appendix 1, show indeed that it quasi totality of the phenomena of the lightning in ball take place well during storms. Being unaware of the details of the observations of UFOS which are not at all compatible with the lightning in ball, Philip Klass is also unaware of, in a manner which surprises us only little, the essential cause of the lightning in ball, and thus carries out without apparent state of heart an illicit bringing together between two definitely distinct phenomena however.

I cannot help myself from noticing a strange sentence noted on the sebsite of the CSICOP, an association of various people convinced of the inexistence of the phenomenon UFO like anything of other that a collection of frauds and phenomena commonplace: "These glowing balls of light appear very rarely in association with thunderstorms " (these incandescent balls of light seldom appear in association with storms.) There we have an ambiguity of which, if it is not voluntary, I am convinced that it is particularly specific to throw the reader in a terible confusion: does the CSICOP us say that the lightning in ball is rare, or he says us that the lightning in ball is seldom associated with the storms?

CSICOP also says to us in a short presentation of the phenomenon by a geologist, that "since even ordinary lightning is mysterious, the activity of ball lightning in nature is even more mysterious." Again, far from explainingwhat is known of the phenomenon, CSICOP maintains a doubt that is favorable to their opinion on UFOs. Indeed, even if one may have lon agreed that the explanation of the major physical causes of the phenomenon is still a matter of studies, it is truly misleading to overlook what we already know very well about this phenomenon. Worse, the major and essential circumstance of appearance of the phenomenon, namely storms, had been known for very long. By overlooking this piece of knowledge CSICOP gives up true research on the origin of the UFO phenomenon UFO in favour of the thesis of the one of their members, Philip Klass.

However a more fundamental problem exists and is well-known by ball lightning and plasmoids sutdents: the implied quantitative aspects cannot create these phenomena in the free air, except maybe for active tectonic zones where the comparable phenomena of "earth lights" can be caused by piezoelectric phenomenon related to the nature of the grounds and the tectonic tensions. In the open air, in clear weather, in the places where planes fly, there is simply not enough electricity in the air to allow the appearance of ball lightning and plasmois except precisely under storm conditions.

Outside stormy conditions, if we try to evaluate the surface of the sector of air needed to gather enough electrical power, on a 100 meters height, in order to lead to a heating in Joules corresponding to 100 Watts, this surface amounts to 10.000 square kilometres, knowing that a plasmods corresponds rather to a minimum of 1000 Watts, 10 times more. In fact the conditions make the claims by Philip Klass obviously absurd.

Another serious problem for Philip Klass' theory is the kinetic considarations: if the real phenomenon of plasmods still comprises many unknowns, all the observational data show quasi null characteristics of displacement compared to the characteristics found in the UFO sighting reports. Agreed, plasma can move, but in no case were supersonic plasma observed for example. Besides, Philip Klass does not propose any explanation about fast displacement of UFOs and does not explain how UFOs which would be plasmoids could show kinetic characteristics ever observed in plasmoids.

He proposes, however, a circumstance in which the plane itself would be the cause of the creation of the plasmoids, under particular conditions which do not apply to any case where planes and UFOS are distant and stay distant. We discuss that now.

Assumption of attraction between plasmoids and aircraft

Klass' idea is as follows: mving planes charge electrically by friction of their structure with water vapor, dust, rain or snow of the air, and this attracts the plasmoids which then seem to approach the planes because of Coulomb attraction between body of opposite electric charges.

Atmospheric physicist James E. McDonald took the idea seriously, and noting that Klass did not carry out any quantitative checking of his assumption, showed that such an attraction, even by rounding the quantitative factors in manner systematically and largely favorable to Klass' assumption, was a totally ridiculous theory: in the best of the cases, our plasmod would move at the pace of a pedestrian in the direction of the plane.

It also remains that it is not at all proven that planes and plasmoids should get opposed electric charges, and Klass does not notice at all this at all, but if the implied charges were of the same sign, planes and plasmods would move away from each other. No doubts Philip Klass would have seen in this an explanatory theory about the attempts at interceptions of UFOS by interceptors in which the interceptor cannot close up on the target.

There also remains an amusing objection to formulate against this assumption: if plasmoids were attracted towards planes, how could it be explained that this attraction does not end in a systematic collision? In fact, Klass approached this objection, and proposed a quite ad-hoc explanation, again without any quantitative study, according to which plasmoids would stop at some distance from the plane because of the draughts that it generates. Klass however does not explain howsuch draughts would not favor a collision, in particular if the plasmoids approached the plane upfront. It seems that Klass benefitted from the lack of knowledge of the details of observations by its readers, being unaware of any reports describing arrival of UFOs near planes upfront and it must have created the imagery of planes only followed by UFOs, but which in some miraculous manner would be pushed back by flows of air from the planes back.

In a manner that does not astonish anymore as one gets familiarized with theories by Philip Klass, all the observations of UFO first approaching planes then flying away, sometimes repeatedly, are also excluded from his consideration . The question of UFOs approaching and moving away from one another or capable of flight in formation, or splitting from formation, or the adoption of successive and various formations, are also excluded from Klass' consideration.

Although this exceeds the boundaries of this discussion, we wish to remind that Klass also proposed that vehicles on the ground and even pedestrians would attract UFOs because of their opposed electric charges; this is again an aspect of his explanation of UFOs by plasma which is perhaps not well-known to researchers.

Also little known, the response by Philip Klass to physicist James McDonald in which he thought he was refuting quantitative calculations by the latter: having confused Volts and Watts, he believed he sucessfully restore the veracity of his theory but in fact he had only proven his incapacity to support any serious discussion on the question of quantitative aspects, and proven his fundamental ignorance of physics. Of course, it must be said that Philip Klass was by no means a scientist, and amongst other things not at all qualified in the field of plasma physics.

Anyway, it is quantitatively absurd to propose such a thing as plasma closing in or fleeing planes because of opposite or same electric charges, and I doubt that the public or an even many researchers familiarized or not with the problems of the UFOs really took notice of this claim; it seems to me on the contrary that Klass' idea was generally perceived as mere assumptions about something believed to be probable, and the details apparently escaped general attention.

Plasma duration problem

One of the arguments opposed to the plasma theory by Philip Klass is the problem of the duration of the phenomenon.

If one refers about it to the few thousands of collected ocular testimonies, the average lifespan of a plasma ball is about fifteen seconds, although some rare and poorly verified testimonies comprise durations estimated at about 40 seconds, some, even rarer, claiming duration of several minutes. (We exclude here the electric atmospheric phenomena such as Elmo fires and aurorae boreales or australis, which match even less UFO sightings either by their geographical localization, or by their visual aspect, and also by reasons given here about plasma). Sometimes plasma simply disappears, sometimes it explodes.

Generation of plasmoids by the aircraft

In addition to the proposal for a spontaneous creation of plasmoïds in clear, storm-free, skies, Klass proposes that planes themselves can create plasma, at the tip of their wings. He proposes that planes create pollution, which pollution would be converted into plasma by the swirls generated at the planes wings tips.

The proposal is absurd for so many reesons that one must seriously consider the possibility that Klass really has no concern for reality in his theories. Thus, creation of electrostatic charges by planes actually require that they travel through rainy or snowy area; in a dry air, no charge is created. If planes had such a capacity of pollution that it would approach the quantities implied by rains or snow, we would indeed have a major aviation issue, an issue that never appeared to date. It is also hard to understand the strange proposal of the creation of plasma occurring, according to Klass, at wingtips, certainly the place where the so-called pollution would have the least chance to cause such an effect. Actually it is a completely ad-hoc proposal made by Klass because of one UFO sighting report in which UFOs flew close a plane at the level of its wingtips. All this lets to us foresee that the nature of the assumptions of Klass is that of explanations forced in by the reports. One may wonder why, if such an effect were possible, it would not take place rather behind planes, where polluting exhausts, although insufficient, actually take place, whereas planes in the best of my knowledge do not reject any pollutants at the tips of their wings. It seems to to me rather clear that such exhausts, except case of tank leakages, would always occur at the engines and not at the end of the wings.

In vitro plasma production was attempted. From the attempts it clearly appeared that the quantitative factors only confirm that dry air without storm phenomena does not allow the production of any plasma, and that plasma never persist beyond a few seconds when they are not fed any more.

Other considerations

According to John Abrahamson and James Dinniss, University of Canterbury, New-Zealand, when lightning strikes the ground, it vaporizes carbon and oxygen, silicon particles, which can join to form long chains. Their explanation on the formation of plasma proposes that these threads, burning rather slowly, tend to fold on themselves to form hollow balls that drift with the winds. If one considers this work and theories, (which are not largely accepted, but simply because they are not largely known), it would thus be necessary to explain how silicon particles could be found in the sky, to take part in the formation of plasma.

The first known photograph in the world of ball lightning was reportedly taken by a student in Nagano, Japan, on July 25, 1987. Since then, many amateurs projects were carried out and gave some results, the photographs being always realized under conditions of storms with lightning bolts, and showing indeed the appearance of ball lightning following that of the storm lignthing bolt. Although this is not the object of our article, let us note that one of the principal arguments against the reality of the UFOs, that of the too small number of photographs compared to the number of visual observations could be discussed in connection with that.

According to Dr. Michael Persinger, an American researcher, UFOs, some or all, are explained by the phenomena of the tectonic lights, aka earth lights. His Techtonic Strain Theory (TST) says that in areas where seismic activity goes on, considerable pressures between portions of the earth's crust exist, so that when some rocks and water is present, there is a piezoelectric phenomenon appearing visually as lights, stationary or with erratic movements, above the ground, appearing at heights ranging in tens of meters above the ground, and characterized by varied colors and a longevity going well beyond that of ball lightning. Various well-known places do seem to fit this theory, such as Marfa in Texas, where these phenomena have occurred and have been observed repeatedly for several decades. However, almost the totality of the arguments developed here about ball lightning also apply without difficulty to the tectonic lights: here, the necessary condition is not any more storm but tectonic pressures on the rocks. The strongest objections apply: the fact that these piezoelectric phenomena appear only near the ground, that these phenomena could not chase planes around, and that they do not match at all the characteristics of the visual observations comprising solid, nonluminous, structured bodies or showing details that can be interpreted in term of headlights, port-holes, beam emissions, and so on. Open to this objection, Dr. Persinger then added an addional proposition that is quite controversed even among the mainstream scientific community: the earthlights phenomenon would induce illusory perceptions such as flying saucers and extraterrestrial beings in the witnesses brains; let us leave this for a future examination, admitting for now that it could be an interesting point, but nevertheless, we have to recall that this addition to the TST still does not fit to sighting reports from planes.

A scientific friend gave me an example of how intense the necessary information effort must be before ufology gets some place in academia, when he believed he was telling me something I did not know of: pilots seeing strange things in the sky now have a commonplace explanation at hand. My friend was refering to a class of atmospheric electric phenomena whose displays were reported by pilots with the same hesitations as when they report a UFO, this for a long time, and these reports were welcome with the same denials and general scepticism than UFO reports. Lack of photographs, vague descriptions, and other feature made such reports, to tell the truth, even stranger than UFO repots. The phenomena in question, called "Blue Jets" and "Red Sprites," (see ref. 3) or "sylphes" in French, are indeed finally recognized as being real. They are atmospheric electric phenomena related to storm lightning, just like plasma, but this time very high up in the sky, appearing in the form of huge "mushrooms" or "jets" of red or blue light extending on heights of several tens of kilometers. However, these phenomena cannot constitute an explanation to UFO sighting reports that ufologists deal with, because of a particular and systematic characteristic: exactly like lightning bolts seen on the ground, Blue Jets and Red Sprites have a brevity smaller than a second of two orders or magnitude. It is precisely this brevity which often motivated the pilots not report the phenomenon, which would too easily be interpreted as psychological or sight issues. In no case could these phenomena correspond closely or by far to only the pilots and passengers of air lines pay as being UFOS to the direction flying material objects. To in no case these phenomena cannot be presented like having continued or having continued by planes, or having operated around them; it is not even here possible to speak speed, about turns, displacement. And, it is not useless to point out it, these phenomena occur also exclusively on the place of a storm, of which it are during in the upper atmosphere.


It must be noted that the consensus of the researchers about ball lightning is that it is associated with an ordinary thunderbolt, followed by a flash, which when it dies out, lets on rare occasions some luminous spheres float in the air at ground level during a few seconds. Most of the time, these spheres are of yellowish color verging on the orange, and of a diameter between 20 and 40 cm. Some testimonies however talk of colors going from the green to the blue and the diameters of less than 5 cm up to more than 1 meter, though it is necessary to take these estimates of size with as much of prudence than the estimates of size given by UFO sighting reports when there is no objective measurement of the sizes and distances. This consensus is strangely forgotten or ignored not only by Philip Klass, but by the majority of the researchers dealing with ufology when they argue that UFOs are essentially a natural or commonplace phenomenon.

Whereas one can agree easily that rare cases of observations of ball lightning by airborne witnesses took place, one notes that the reports do not make any allusion to the least possibility that the phenomenon is something else than ball lightning. On the contrary the reports of observations of UFOS which occupy sensible ufologists show clear characteristics which exclude the plasmoids as explanation.

It seems obvious that Philip Klass, often cited as haveing successfully explained the UFO phenomenon as being caused by plasma, actually only produced pseudoscience. A quick glance on his explanation makes it obvvious that it is only an ad hoc proposal, an act of faith, not at all qualified research. Expectedly, some people little aware of the details of UFO sighting reports and characteristics of ball lightning were lead to discard the UFO phenomenon, except as a natural phenomenon, badly interpreted, that science explained.


Appendix 1

Reports by ball lightning witnesses:

Testimonys come from www.amasci.com/weird/unusual/bl.html which indexes some two hundred testimonys relating to the phenomena of the lightning in ball. More than 95 percent of these testimonys do specify that a storm took place, only a few others specified that no storm does not take place, or are somewhat suspect, or are not really ball lightning reports. I did not filter at all the reports I cite below, I took them all, one after the other; I cannot be accused og having selected cases that would support my thesis, as do those who support a contrary thesis. Descriptions of the phenomenon are almost always identical: during a storm, an incandescent sphere from 10 to 40 cm, which end up bursting at the end of 5 to 30 seconds with a more or less important detonation. Other collections of such accounts will be easily found by careful researchers.

"There was a particularly nasty thunderstorm in the summer of 1998..."

"This happened during the beginning of a thunderstorm in western lower Michigan..."

"About 5 weeks ago a huge thunder storm approached my house..."

"There was a storm moving in, and ...."

"There was a severe electrical storm outside (sheet and forked lightning)..."

Now, here is the first of this series of testimony not comprising any indication of storm, but also no mention of absence of storm. The place is the Grand Canyon in Colorado. It is notable that the description of the phenomenon seems very different from that of ball lightning and is rather evocative of the telluric lights. The witness himself doubts what that it was ball lightning.

"The ball did not move, and lasted a few minutes, when it seemed to implode. The zigzag lasted for hours My boyfriend thought it was ball lightning, but it doesn't sound like anything I have read about..."

"It was a summers day... hot, muggy, the air very still and the weather man was calling for thunder storms and rain showers..."

Here a testimony of ball lightning on board a plane at the time of a storm. Note the totally standard description of the lightning ball, completely different from that of UFO sightings which interest us.

"May of 1997 I was on a return flight out of Denver, CO heading to St. Louis, MO on a TWA 727 going through a thunderstorm. About 10 minutes into the flight there was suddenly a glowing sphere of light in the middle of our plane. It was very bright and about 12 inches across. It floated motionless for a few seconds then exploded. The sound was loud and frightening..."

"Dad always loved thunderstorms (...) and he and I were sitting out on our old farm porch steps watching one blow by..."

"It was really bad storm so my father and I..."

I give the entire text of the next testimony. There is mention of storm, and the witness comments "I do not think that that was an UFO, for it would be ridiculous."

"When I was younger (about 8) my dad and I were outside watching the sky, it was getting late so we were gonna head in,when this bright light I thought was an airplane started moving across the sky. When all of a sudden it started moving back and forth very erraticly, and started to slow down and all of a sudden it dimmed and disapeared, I found out several years later that several of my friends had seen it also, and that that stuff had actualy been spotted a lot in my area. I thought it was just some weird wheather like ball lighting as we were in a stormy weather system, but know I don't have any idea what it is as it was to bright to be natural. I don't think it was a U.F.O, because that would be ridiculous, but it was definately weird."

I also give the entirety of following testimony: null mention of the weather conditions are made, it is not absurd to suppose that the small yellow light "of the size of a golf ball" seen under the counter is the reflection of the eyes of an animal; perhaps the domestic ferret was not mistaken there when it leapt towards the thing...

"En 1993 j'ai habité à Saskatoon dans le Saskatchewan avec mon frère et nous avons eu un furet. Nous avions eu un lave-vaisselle portatif dans la cuisine près de l'évier et le compteur. Un ami était chez nous et en soirée nous étions tous debout dans la cuisine face à face en causant tandis que je faisais le café. Soudain j'ai vu une petite lueur jaune de la taille d'une boule de golf qui semblait douce et luminescente jaillir du dessous du lave-vaisselle à approximativment 3 pouces au-dessus du plancher et elle a fait une courbe douce à environ 3 ou 4 pieds du lave-vaisselle et s'est éteinte rapidement avec un bruit comme un fssthst. L'autre chose, c'est que notre furet a couru juste derrière la boule de lumière et a semblé chasser la boule de feu juste pour tomber sur rien."

("In 1993 I lived in Saskatoon in Saskatchewan with my brother and we had a pipe cleaner. We had had a portable dishwasher in the kitchen close to the sink and the meter. A friend was on our premises and in evening we all were upright in the kitchen face to face while causing while I made the coffee. Suddenly I saw a small yellow gleam of the size of a ball of golf which seemed soft and luminescent approximativment to spout out lower part of the dishwasher to 3 inches above the floor and it made a soft curve with approximately 3 or 4 feet of the dishwasher and is extinct quickly with a noise like a fssthst. the other thing, it is that our ferret ran just behind the ball of light and seemed to drive out the ball of fire right to fall on nothing.")

"...one humid May night we had a very intense thunderstorm..."

"...One humid night, we had a bad thunderstorm..."

In this old testimony, there is not mention of the weather; but should it be concluded from it that the weather was necessarily without storm conditions?

"The Medieval St Mary's Church at Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, UK, suffered an incident that sounds like ball lightning, one Sunday in July 1779. The church guidebook (by Elisabeth Everitt & Roy Tricker, 1996) records that "during divine service the lightning fell upon the spire...a ball of fire descended into the body of the church and burst in the middle aisle with a most violent explosion..."

"My mother, Mrs P. McLeod, witnessed ball lightning in her garden in Dundee, UK, on 26 June 2001, at about 11.00 am. This was during the early stages of a thunderstorm..."

"It was 1962 and I was in Patrol Squadron Four in the U.S. Navy station on temporary duty on Adak Island in Alaska. The story was told to me and confirmed by fellow crewmen of the Tactical Commander of one of our planes ASW stations. The crew of a P3 Orion were on a routine flight in the Aleutians. Weather was turbulent with distant thunder. During the middle of the flight, a few hours out, a large red glowing translucent object came through the rear bulkhead of the plane near the galley and slowly "rolled down the deck" passing the tactical command center. Crewmen sucked back their feet less they get touched by it. Slowing it left through the right fuselage forward of the electronic load center. It did not damage. The Lt. Cmdr said it was the size of a basketball. It was in the plane less than a minute."

"It was a friday night so my parents let me stay up late. Good thing too, because around 10:30 or so lightning just started striking, one after another after another. ..."

"I'm a professor and wouldn't want to spin yarns. But several years ago I was driving from Chicago to Buffalo with my wife and daughter. We seemed to be traveling east at the same speed as some wicked thunderstorms and heard about tornados near us on the radio..."

"I remember as a kid of about eight when a bad thunderstorm was blowing over our town of Florence, SC. ..."

"It was during a thunderstorm..."

"...our hooch was struck by lightning during the monsoon. ..."

"During stormy weather."

"...and a small storm was brewing outside. All the sudden I see a ball of light on the power line..."

"my partner and I could see a supercell storm..."

Here a retro-testimony, the witness was nine years old at the time of the facts and says he "does not think" that there was a storm. The witness had a similar experiebce two days before, he does not say that there was a storm, but does testify there was a thunder clap.

"The first was when I was about 9 years old. I was standing in my bedroom doorway as a ball of green-white light (about 3 feet in diameter) streaked from one end of the house to the other. My father was standing near the end of the hall where the ball originated and saw it as well. I don't think there was a storm at the time. The second was two days ago. I was at a friend's house, sitting on the couch watching a movie when we both saw a brilliant ball of blue-white light burst in front of an inside wall, above the fireplace. This was accompanied by a pop and a "fizzt" sound. At the same time, we could see through a glass door in another room that all of outside was lit in that same blue-white light. A couple seconds later (I had enough time to start asking "what was that?") a huge boom of thunder shook the house."

Here, we clearly do not have a storm, but torrential rain and an event close to the power lines. The witness is not sure that it is ball lightning. It could indeed be some Corona effect or Saint Elmo fire.

"...in a torrential downpour (daylight). Ahead in the distance (difficult to say how far away) I saw something small and whitish, but not glowing, in the sky moving right to left. It then flashed green and continued moving as a very bright greenish glowing spot. It all happened very quickly. My first thoughts were that it could have been a swan or seagull being blown into power lines, but the green spot continued moving across the sky. I never saw any reports of anything unusual in the press. I wonder if I saw ball lightning."

One of the rare cases of this list in which the witness specifies he is sure that there no was storm to his knowledge, nor lightning in the area, although there was rain. Note the tiny size of plasma.

"I saw a golfball sized brightly glowing scarlet red ball hover just above ankle height around me for about 5 seconds... appearing and disappearing without effect. It was on a street at night and i hadnt been drinking which was also an unusual combination, however it had been raining shortly before and the night was damp and calm in Autumn, no thunderstorm had recently taken place as i was aware of certainly i hadnt seen any nearby lightning strike."

"...the area experienced a severe series of electrical rain storms."

"During a thunderstorm..."

"...during a thunderstorm. I noticed a bright ball of light..."

When he was 8, the witness had seen a brilliant orange sphere, it rained, nothing is specified about a stormy condition.

"I was 8 at the time. I was looking out of the front windows of the house, watching the rain. I then saw this bright orange ball..."

"...but I think it was 1962 when hurricane "FREDA" hit Vancouver, British Columbia."

The witness says he filmed lightning ball, searched the Internet, and wonders whether his footage is of any value. Has he claimed ot was a UFO, no doubt that it would have been interpreted as an attempt at fraud.

"I had the fortunate encounter of what I now learn to be ball lightning by looking it up on the net (...) I had my sony handycam on ... Could this tape be valuable?"

"...on a hill during a thunderstorm. Not very smart is it?"

"While sitting in my lounge room, on a stormy night, ..."

In this report, a group of friends chat about the "paranormal" and the narrator tells of the irruption of a lightning ball. No mention of storm. There still, if a group of people discussing the "paranormal" had reported a UFO sighting, one would undoubtedly have spoken about an "favorable context to seeing UFOs."

"Well, we were talking about paranormal things ..."

"One day I was sitting in my living room in a thunderstorm."

"Summer 2001. Camping on top of mountain, a storm stayed all night."

"...and we were stopping at a restaurant during a ferocious thunderstorm."

"There were thunderstorms in the distance..."

"The weather was stormy but not unusually so..."

"One evening a violent storm approached..."

"...one Saturday afternoon just after a thunderstorm."

"There had just been a severe thunderstorm and it was still raining outside..."

No mention of storm, no mention of lack of storm either:

"A Ball Lightning went through my room (...) The lightning ball was about the size of an orange."

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This page was last updated on May 31, 2004.