Frog Falls

The world is considerably more mysterious than priests and politicians would have us believe. How else explain frogs falling from the sky? Small toads, actually, bouncing off the taut skin of English umbrellas. Or common minnows sliding off the slate roofs and clogging the gutters of Aberdare, Wales? Waterspouts? Sure, you can trot out that swaybacked old excuse but it has no legs. Waterspouts don’t pluck only one kind of amphibian or small fish out of a pond, fastidiously ignoring all the surrounding muck and water plants. In fact, a waterspout is more likely to rain mud and sticks on your head than small fish.

People mostly ignore what they don’t understand—toads falling from the sky, people reduced to ashes in overstuffed arm chairs, and that disquieting sense of the familiar called déjà vu. Charles Fort actually collected the stuff. He spent 27 years in the archives of the British Museum and New York City libraries scouring old issues of newspapers and magazines looking for the unlikely and the inexplicable. He filled books with it: The Book of the Damned, New Lands, Lo!, and Wild Talents. Charles Fort died in 1932.

Fort’s response to the waterspout excuse was wonderfully succinct: "A pond going up would be quite as interesting as fishes coming down…It seems to me that someone who had lost a pond would be heard from."

And the most unusual thing about stuff falling from the sky—three-spined sticklebacks, salamanders, freshwater crabs and shrimp, clams, snails, crayfish, frogs or toads—is that they rarely fall in mixed lots. Mostly they consist of a single species of uniform size and age.

I have no explanation for such things but they seem to incorporate a wonderfully eccentric sense of humor.

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