Damned in Danville: Happy Birthday, Mr Fort

Damned in Danville: Happy Birthday, Mr Fort Michigan_J_Frog_svg

Damned in Danville: Happy Birthday, Mr Fort

The quintessential fortean event is a rain of frogs or fish or some other damned precipitant. In 1926 Danville, Virginia was swamped by the Great Frog Rain.

Danville’s Frog Rain Puzzles Local Savants

Evidence Backs Story

The great frog rain of 1926 had Danville by the ear this morning with residents of Bryant avenue, offering proof of the queer visitation by sending small boys over to the Southside with buckets full of the tiny frogs or toads. The frogs for the most part were about the size of a little fingernail and were possessed of the usual characteristics—that is to say they could hop and did so. The contention as to whether the froglets came down with the rain last night and the night before or whether the rain drove them out of nooks and crannies remained to be fought out.

Nobody could be found who was hit in the eye with a falling frog, but all agree that after the torrential downpour of yesterday evening the street and porches were so alive with the hopping amphibians that the family coal shovel was brought out to dig out a way to liberty and the further pursuit of happiness.

And the frogs were still there today much to the delight of the Brant avenue’s people who with one accord were thankful that they had substantial proof of the story of the frog visitation which became current last night.

“Yes, they are still here,” said Captain H.J. Clark, veteran Southern Railroad man who lives on that street. “I’ll bring you over a bucketful to see for yourself,” and he did so, appearing at The Bee office with a tin box containing perhaps three hundred froglets, all eager to get out.

The violent rain of yesterday afternoon, however, was not solely responsible for the rain of frogs, for Traffic Officer Ira Harris who lives on Bryant avenue, said that there were thousands of them in his garden yesterday afternoon, having appeared after the midnight rain of Tuesday. He said it was possible to cup the hands and lift large quantities of the frogs.

Efforts of The Bee today to determine the species was not wholly successful. Some held they were genuine toads that would reach maturity within a few weeks, others held they were tree frogs. But as the Bryant avenue frogs were black-backed with white stomachs, the majority of Danville savants called on to bring their opinions to bear on the controversy held that they were toads and not tree frogs, which are usually green. Then there were no trees of any size on Bryant avenue. The Bee’s supply of evidence was turned over to Lloyd Fuller and Judge Withers this morning who seized upon the supply with alacrity intending to journey to Toshes with Magistrate Charlie Carter this afternoon to see if the frog bait would change the notoriously bad luck that has attended their previous fishing expeditions. Bob Foster who in the absence of Dr. Russell Coles, is Danville’s piscatorial expert, was somewhat leery of the experiment.

Many questions were asked as to how the frogs if descending with rain reached the higher altitude. The belief was that in unusually warm and humid weather the sun’s power in evaporating pools of water was strong enough to draw upwards small animal life and that the frogs disported themselves in the upper levels until electrification of clouds caused the rain to descend. Many were found who had seen the phenomenon before.

The doubting Thomasses, however, were not prone to accept this explanation and were of the opinion that the frogs or toads or whatever they were, were on earth before the rain fell.

An opinion was sought this morning by The Bee from the Meteorological Bureau at Washington. The Weather man was informed of the reported descent of frogs from the skies and the large number found on the ground. He was asked if there were any similar cases on record and if so what the scientific explanation was. This is what he wired back:

“The Bureau receives many such reports that frogs, fish and others living things fall with rain but such are generally unproven except in the case of objects caught up by a tornado.

“Frogs and fish are easily washed to a place of observation from their native place by overflow. Small frogs keep under shelter during sunshine when the ground is hot and dry, but come out after a shower.” “Judging from the above the weather bureau is not convinced that the frogs descended with the rain.”

Bryant avenue people differ. There were no frogs before the rain and there were plenty of them afterwards and so far as they can see they had no hiding place for such large quantities. The Bee [Danville, VA] 24 June 1926: p. 1

The shower of frogs opened the floodgates of memory for some of Danville’s older residents, who told of similar occurrences


G.P. Geoghegan Recalls One In the Summer of 1884

The appearance of frogs in North Danville following the violent downpour of Wednesday afternoon has revived stories of similar occurrences in Danville. At least three similar phenomena have occurred in this city within the present generation. George P. Geoghegan remembers one of them well. This was in the summer of 1884 when one week day at four o’clock a deluge fell in Danville after which Main street from Bridge to Union was well covered not only with frogs larger than those seen here on Wednesday, but also fish. Mr. Geoghegan at that time was in an office on Main street with J.B. Thorton who also witnessed the occurrence. The rain was particularly violent. After it was over, Mr. Geoghegan says, it was impossible to cross Main street between the points named without stepping on frogs. Mr. Geoghegan immediately descended into the street and found a fish about an inch long still flapping. He also picked up a hail stone covered with red dirt and through which ran a straw. There was a warm controversy then just as there is now and many believed that the frogs came from the canal. Mr. Geoghegan however refutes this theory by saying that the frogs or toads which came down then were identified with stagnant and no running water. His impression is that cyclonic winds in their violent convolution suck up small pools and all that is in them keeping animal life revolving in mdi air until the force of the whirlwind is spent then the animal life drops. The reason why the frogs are not killed, he believes, in their long and rapid descent to the hard street is due to the fact that they fall with the water which acts as a cushion as they strike terra firma. A live fish, he says, can be dumped from a pan of water from a high building and will be picked up alive after striking the ground.

Dr. R. B. James is another who is interested in the phenomenon. He secured several specimens of the little frogs yesterday and intends to keep them to see how large they grow. Dr. James has for years given thought to a new and unknown force and years ago contributed an article to a scientific magazine which was freely commented on at the time, as presenting a new thought. He believes that under certain meteorological conditions matter becomes imponderable, that is to say has no weight or defies the laws of gravitation. Whether it is an electrical condition offsetting the accepted laws of gravitation is not known. He cites certain peculiarities of earthquakes and tornadoes. Objects on mantel shelves of fragile character, have been known in places where earthquakes take place to become dislodged and to have been found unbroken on the floor in another part of the room when it was obvious that they would break of their own weight. There are the recorded instances, he says, of objects and even human beings, being caught up in tornadoes only to be deposited safely a considerable distance away. The frogs, he argues, could be swept up by a force contrary to gravity and maintained in the upper regions and there maintained pending the exertion of this unknown force, which gives them imponderability. Buzzards on a hot summer day may be seen lying lazily on the wind maintaining their altitude and making no effort, probably the most common manifestation of a strange and unknown force.

Another witness to the possibility of frog rain came forward today. He is G.H. Guerrant, who recalled an experience he had in Franklin county in the year 1904. “We had quite a hard storm one night,” he said today, “after which the ground was covered with little frogs about the size of a three-cent piece. The floors in our house were covered with them, having come down the chimney. Several Danville people were present at the time and it is apparent that the frogs could not have hopped onto the roof of the house and then down the chimney. It certainly rained down frogs that day, so the North Danville occurrence is by no means incredible. The Bee [Danville, VA] 25 June 1926: p. 3

To my regret, I haven’t been able to find the original articles on the 1884 or 1904 frog/fish rains, if the gentlemen’s memories were not faulty. If you have access to the Danville Bee for those years or have seen a notice of these falls in another paper, please let me know at chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

The aerial amphibians attracted international attention. A chap in London, England—one Charles Fort, Student of Phenomena—who was obviously well-read on the subject, wrote a very civil letter asking for more details.


Charles Fort, Student of Phenomena, Asks For the Particulars

The rainfall of frogs which took place several weeks ago in North Danville has created some interest in England where the phenomenon has also been reported. The following communication was received by this paper today from Charles Fort of London who sheds further light on the subject.

LONDON, July 11, 1926.

To the Editor of the Bee,

Sir: According to the newspaper clippings that I have received, there was an occurrence that was viewed with considerable astonishment, at Danville, upon the 23rd of June. It is said that multitudes of little frogs fell from the sky. But to me the most astonishing circumstance is that such a fall from the sky should cause astonishment. I have been interested in the subject about ten year, and I have collection 26 records of similar arrivals from the sky.

There are probably hundreds of records that I have not unearthed. The phenomenon must be common, and should be anything but astonishing.

But then I read something else with which I am very familiar. “An appeal to the weather man, as to similar phenomena actually recorded brought word that there had been several reports, but that none had been proven.”

“Note the word “several.” If anybody should like to read of an instance that was investigated by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, he will find it recorded in the report of the association, for the year 1859, page 158. The investigators accepted what they considered proof of a fall from the sky of thousands of living fishes. Nevertheless conventional scientists have minimized or have disregarded such occurrences and people in general either never have heard of anything of the kind, or have heard vague stories, which they regard as incredible.

According to “Notes and Queries,” 8-6-104, lizards fell from the sky, into the streets of Montreal Canada, Dec. 28. 1857. In the “Scientific American,” July 12, 173, is an account of millions of little frogs, “which darkened the sky and covered the ground for a long distance” at Kansas City, Mo. I have about thirty records of large, unknown larvae that have fallen from the sky, in enormous numbers, sometimes attracting hosts of birds, covering square miles of ground. Flammarion, in “The Atmosphere” tells of one of these arrivals of unknown origin. In the “Australian Museum Magazine,” April 1925, A.R. McCulloch, a member of the staff of the museum, publishes a list of occurrences in Australia. He especially mentions a shower of shrimps. I have two records of showers of shrimps, in England.

Of course there have been such occurrences, and many of them, though most of them date too far back to be investigated now. But here, only a few weeks ago, we have the shower at Danville. I ask readers who know of this shower of little frogs to send information to me, at my present address, 39 (A) Marchmont W.C. London, England.

Here we have an opportunity to collect testimony that will be important. It may lead to new astonishments. Where are these things coming from, so often, and in such multitudes? If they have not origin upon this earth—and not one of these invasions has ever been traced to a terrestrial origin—there is stimulation to most revolutionary speculations upon conditions in regions beyond his earth.

I note, in the clipping, somebody’s theory, in terms of evaporation. But frog spawn could not be raised to the clouds by evaporation. Even salt, in the sea, is left behind when vapors rise.

Charles Fort.

The Bee [Danville, VA] 24 July 1926: p. 1

Tomorrow is the birthday of Charles Fort. Let us raise a tin box of froglets in his honor.

In Wild Talents, Fort wrote:

Sometimes I am a collector of data, and only a collector, and am likely to be gross and miserly, piling up notes, pleased with merely numerically adding to my stores. Other times I have joys, when unexpectedly coming upon an outrageous story that may not be altogether a lie, or upon a macabre little thing that may make some reviewer of my more or less good works mad. But always there is present a feeling of unexplained relations of events that I note, and it is this far-away, haunting, or often taunting, awareness, or suspicion, that keeps me piling on.

Words for the fortean researcher to live by.  Many happy returns of the damned data, Mr Fort.

For more Fortean fun, see my book, The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past. Also available for Kindle.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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