Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's Raining Snakes!

I'm glad that I was born too late for this event:  In January of 1877, thousands of living black snakes, ranging in size from a foot to a foot and a half, rained down on south Memphis.  This was according to several reports.  Scientific American theorized at the time that the snakes had been lifted by a hurricane from somewhere else and deposited in a rainstorm on the streets of that Tennessee city.

There is an alternate and, perhaps, more believable explanation.  There was, indeed, a torrential downpour, and, after, the citizens of south Memphis truly did find thousands of black snakes on the ground in at least a two-block area around Vance Street.  This was a newly constructed area at the time. There is some thought that the snakes crawled up from the ground, rather than rained down in the deluge. 

There were so many snakes that some were twisted around each other like threads.  According to Unnatural Phenomena by Jerome Clark, one local man scooped up some of the creatures and put them in a jar, which he carried to a local paper -- The Weekly Public Ledger.   The Ledger put the story on the newswires, attracting the interest of other publications, such as the New York Times and Scientific American. Unnatural Phenomena also states that Sargent McElroy of the U.S. Signal Corps also gathered specimens and sent them to Washington.  If so, those these specimens and the records of them have been lost to time. 

According to the book, McElroy's description of the creatures' movements implies that they might not have really been snakes, but a type of parasitic worm that can be mistaken for snakes.  There are some problems with this theory, especially that the appearance of such worms does not exactly match eye-witness detailings of the creatures.  A modern researcher has suggested that the animals were actually leeches carried in by a waterspout in the Mississippi. Again, this explanation does not fully fit with eye-witness accounts from the day.  Both theories do have some plausible aspects, though.  

Whether it was snakes or some other creatures, and whether they came up from the ground or down from the sky, it was definitely a creepy-crawly happening!

  

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