Stone storm

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(HOST) We’re used to hearing about large hailstones falling during summer storms, but commentator Joe Citro says that many old stories tell of showers of rocks and other projectiles. And where they came from remains a mystery.

(CITRO) Sometimes I like to use my air time to talk about rocks in odd places. A few years ago, I told you about a rock fall reported during colonial times on Great Island, New Hampshire. The mys- terious bombardment was attributed to a stone-throwing devil.

More recently, I discussed a stone storm that fell on the North Pownal farm of Thomas Paddock during October 1874. This southern Vermont case was studied by a team of investigators from nearby North Adams, Massachusetts.

But mysterious falling objects may have been epidemic in the region. My friend Joe Durwin, a native of the Berkshires, recently discovered a similar phenomenon in Sheffield, Massachusetts, where Simeon Sage owned a garment factory. On the night of November 8, 1802, a caretaker and two boys were preparing for bed. Around 10 o’clock they heard a frightful impact. A large chunk of wood had crashed through the shop window. Pieces of mortar followed it.

Summoned to the scene, Mr. Sage watched an assortment of objects battering his building. As windows shattered, he was unable to discern the projectiles’ origin. Abruptly, the hail of missiles ceased…until 8:00 p.m. the next night. The renewed assault continued until midnight.

Next night, same routine.

In the first three instances, the rain of objects occurred after dark, but on the fourth day, it began an hour before sunset. Still, no one could see the source. When things ceased at Sage’s, they inex- plicably resumed at the Landon house, a quarter mile away.

Soon a steady stream of onlookers began showing up. Though many witnesses were struck – some in broad daylight – all swore the objects were invisible until the point of impact.

Ammunition included stones, pieces of wood, charcoal and a strange kind of mortar unlike any in the area. The Landon house was assailed solely by stones. In total, 38 panes of glass were destroyed at the Sages’ and 13 at the Landons’. The phenomenon continued until the 13th of November, then ended for good.

But here’s the thing: No culprit was ever identified. And no credible theory was ever put forth.

Today, peering through the hazy glass of history, it’s impossible to determine what actually happened in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

‘Occultists’ might blame the stone storms on poltergeists. ‘Cynics’ might point the finger at disgruntled neighbors. ‘Skeptics’ might say that such things simply don’t happen.

But remember, scientists used to swear that rocks couldn’t fall from the sky, because there are no rocks in the sky. Then some- one learned about meteorites.

In any event, it’s a good story.

This is Joe Citro.

Novelist Joe Citro is a native Vermonter. He lives in Burlington.

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