Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Sunday, 16 December 2012

THE GRIFFINS AND THE FROG RAIN

My grandmother Gertrude Timmins (with my dog Patch), who experienced a frog rain when she was a girl during the early 1900s (Dr Karl Shuker)

One of the oddest enigmas of nature is the widely-reported phenomenon of frog rain - i.e. unaccountable falls of frogs down to earth from the sky, sometimes in appreciable numbers and usually (but not always) during a shower of rain. Sceptics attempt to explain this weird occurrence away by suggesting that the frogs in question were merely lurking unseen in ground-level vegetation, and were flushed out of cover by the rain, thereby creating the illusion that they had actually fallen down from the sky with the rain. However, there are various cases on file in which it is clear that the frogs really did fall from above. These cases include the following one - which happened to a member of my own family.

A frog rain as depicted on the front cover of Fate Magazine for May 1958 (© Fate Magazine)

In or around 1902, when she was about 8 years old, my maternal grandmother, Gertrude Timmins (née Griffin), was walking with her mother, Mary Griffin, across a field in what is now the town of West Bromwich, in the West Midlands, England. As they were walking, it began to rain, so they opened their umbrellas, but a few moments later Gertrude felt a great number of quite heavy thumps on top of hers. When she peered out from beneath it, she saw to her amazement that the objects responsible for the thumps were small frogs - dropping down from above, hitting the top of her umbrella, bouncing off it, and falling to the ground around her feet. She became quite frightened, but her mother assured her that there was nothing to fear, informing her in a wholly matter-of-fact manner that it was merely a frog rain, and that the frogs would stop falling soon - which they did. This dramatic incident left such a vivid impression in my grandmother’s mind that right up to her death in 1994, at the age of 99, she could still readily recall all of it.

This is the species, the European common frog Rana temporaria, to which the specimens encountered by my grandmother would have belonged (Richard Bartz/Wikipedia)

Why this case is so significant is that the frogs had actually been cascading down on to the tops of the umbrellas, confirming that they had not merely emerged out of undergrowth on the ground when the rain began. Moreover, there were no buildings or trees nearby from which they could have dropped – always assuming that they could, or would, have found their way onto such structures anyway. In short, the only place where the frogs could have come from was the sky.

Frog rain, in Conrad Lycosthenes's Prodigiorum ac Ostentorum, 1557

The most popular theory for zoological falls is that the creatures in question have been lifted from their normal terrestrial or aquatic abodes by a whirlwind or waterspout, carried some distance through the air, and then dropped back down to earth. Initially, this seems quite a reasonable solution - until it is realised that these falls are almost always species-specific, i.e. a given animal fall normally contains only a single species. Moreover, it does not usually contain any mud, vegetation, or any other substratum either - just the single animal species.

A photoshopped frog rain (Worth1000.com)

Yet how could a waterspout or whirlwind be so extraordinarily selective, just lifting members of one species (e.g. of frog, or fish, or snail), and leaving all other animal species in the same locality uncollected, and not even lifting up any substratum? It is this baffling specificity, this unexpected paucity of mixed showers, that poses such a problem when attempting to accept the vortex explanation for animal falls.


This ShukerNature post is excerpted from 'It's Raining Sprats and Frogs' – a chapter from my book Dr Shuker's Casebook: In Pursuit of Marvels and Mysteries (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2008).




9 comments:

  1. Nothing seems to inspire the sceptics to "explain away", rather than "explain", like anomalous rains. Over the years, some of the most ludicrous explanations have been proposed, and I'm always left with the feeling that we're little nearer to a solution. I've only recently read Dr Shuker's Casebook. A varied and riveting book.

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  2. Hi Karl

    I am from that area and i remember my Great Grandmother telling me about the same thing.

    I was never sure if she was pulling my leg.
    Maybe she wasn't after all!

    Jamie

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    1. Thanks for the corroborative info, Jamie, much appreciated!

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  3. I remember a conversation with my aunts about a shower of pennies somewhere in Kent.
    They recalled that the newspaper article was entitled Pennies from Heaven.
    The event happened years before I was born.
    Not so mysterious is the red dust that falls over Kent now and then. Dust from the Sahara.

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  4. I remember having got a few books (which sadly I threw out when moving) one of which was a Readers Digest one from the early 80's (maybe mid 80's?) that detailed many odd rains including frog rains. Many seemed to be in the UK and North America.

    Also great observation Karl. It is species specific.

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  5. Back in the mid 1970s, when I lived in Northern England, my grandparents took my brother and I camping, I can't remember exactly the location, possibly Dovedale. During the night it rained with huge heavy "thuds" on the tent canvas for a short while, and yet in the morning it was bone dry. The ground, however, was covered in thousands of little brown frogs with distinctive pointy snouts. I recall my brother scooping up a handful of them with great delight. They eventually all hopped away into the undergrowth, but I will never ridicule accounts of "species specific" sky-falls that's for sure!

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  6. Anomalous rains never fail to puzzle me! The species-specificness of them is the interesting part, and Amanda, commenting here, mentions the rain of pennies which may have been a single value of coin. I *may* have read that somewhere, but don't trust my memory.

    I think of how moving _fluid_ may sort objects suspended within it, but it's only the beginnings of a theory and I can't clearly remember anything at present. I read something about rivers dropping pebbles, gravel, and finer sediment in different places as they slowed down, but can't recall whether it was before or after they enter the sea. I've also read something similar about even the thin winds of Mars. I appologise for the vagueness; I'm sure this is a real physical phenomenon but can't recall anything specific right now. It's intuitively familiar to me, probably from frequent trips to the beach as a child. I was one of those kids who played with the water and sand instead of with my peers.

    There are also microcyclones within tornadoes where the air may move several times faster than the cyclone of the main funnel itself. (It's believed that microcyclones are responsible for most of the damage.)

    Putting the two together, a tornado may perhaps spread out objects by size weight and wind resistance, then a microcyclone could perhaps boost a small portion of the spread away from the rest and perhaps upwards. The mental picture (video) I have of all this doesn't seem to be quite enough, though.

    Returning to the beaches of my childhood, I couldn't understand how the sand came to be so consistent; all the grains an even size. (I'm expressing things poorly too, today, but want to write this down before I again forget about it for years.) In patches, large pebbles were also embedded in the sand's surface which also seemed to be more-or-less consistent in size, although harder to examine as the bulk of each heavy pebble was buried. They were quite separate from the mixed-size shingle at the head of the beach.

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