Thursday, August 31, 2017

Man sees terrapin fall from the sky near Evergreen during 1931 storm

Diamondback terrapin of Alabama.
More than a few readers sent me e-mails about an unusual item The Courant had in its weekly News Flashback feature on Aug. 17.

For those of you who didn’t see it, it was an item from the Aug. 13, 1931 edition of The Courant that appeared on the front page under the headline, “HERE’S A PRIZE STORY, BELIEVE IT OR NOT.” The story went on to say that “Mr. J.H. Dickerson, well known farmer living about five miles north of Evergreen, informs a representative of The Courant that a phenomenal incident occurred at his home last Wednesday afternoon. While seated on his back porch, watching a heavy downpour of rain, he suddenly was attracted to a small object about the size of a man’s fist which had fallen, apparently out of the clouds with the heavy rains.

“Closer observation disclosed that it was a terrapin. Mr. Dickerson says that the fall stunned the creature to such extent that it did not seem to have much life and later was able to make his or her departure down through the field nearby. Mr. Dickerson says that he saw the terrapin when it hit the ground and he is positive that it fell out of the clouds just as did the rain.

“In his mind, there is no doubt about it. It is his opinion that the little animal was picked up somewhere by a storm and brought that far before being dropped.”

I did a little digging and believe that J.H. Dickerson was actually John Herbert Dickerson, who would have been 63 years old on Aug. 5, 1931, the date that the terrapin incident took place. A terrapin is nothing more than a small turtle with lozenge-shaped markings on its shell, commonly found in marshes throughout our part of the world.

Apparently, Dickerson was a highly credible witness. He lived to the ripe old age of 82 before passing away on Aug. 8, 1950. His obituary noted that he was a “successful farmer and highly respected citizen who enjoyed the love and esteem of a host of neighbors and friends as well as that of numerous relatives.”

Incidents like the one that Dickerson described in 1931 are not unheard of, but they are rare, and no one seems to be 100-percent sure what causes it. One explanation for this rare meteorological phenomenon is that tornadic waterspouts pick up flightless creatures and carry them for miles before they fall out of the clouds. Scientists also theorize that, in cases where the animal survives the fall, they have been carried a relatively short distance.

When I looked into it, I learned that incidents of this type have been reported in countries all over the world for centuries and have involved a wide variety of living creatures, including fish, spiders, frogs, toads, jellyfish and worms. Oddly, some of these “animal rains” have supposedly occurred during fair weather and there have been incidents where the animals have been found completely encased in ice.

In the end, I’d be interested in hearing from anyone in the reading audience who has ever witnessed an “animal rain” incident or has ever heard someone talk about one that they’ve witnesses. Chances are, this type of thing has happened more than once in our area, and it’s no telling how often it happens when no one is around to see it for themselves.

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