Ghost stories are scary because they tackle the unknown. History is interesting because it recounts real events that actually happened. The fascinating medium between the two are natural events that we have yet to understand.
While we are constantly learning about how our world works, we often run into naturally occurring “miracles” that escape our ability to explain and force us into the realm of speculation and make-believe. From jelly that falls from the sky to unexplained explosions that flatten hundreds of miles of forest to apocalyptic bloodred skies, here are the top 10 baffling natural phenomena.
10 Star Jelly
Rain, snow, sleet, hail. No, these aren’t the four elements, but they are virtually everything one would expect to fall from the sky at any given time. Oddly enough, despite how accurately we can track and predict precipitation, there is something that has fallen from the air that we have absolutely no knowledge of: star jelly.
Star jelly is a translucent gelatinous material, often found in grass or on trees, that is known to evaporate soon after being witnessed. Many have reported seeing the substance fall from the sky, leading to myths that the material comes from dying stars, alien excrement, or even government drones. Documentation of the strange substance dates back to the 14th century, when doctors were known to use the star stuff to treat abscesses.
Of course, scientists must have studied this weird element to discover its origin, right? Well, kind of. Some believe the jelly to be frog ovum that has expanded from exposure to water. The problem with this idea is that the jelly has been shown to contain no plant or animal DNA, further adding to its long list of perplexing aspects.
9 Morning Glory Clouds
As pillow-like as they appear, clouds are not soft and fluffy. They are made of evaporated water and would (presumably) be very unpleasant to fall upon, unlike the aforementioned pillows. Because clouds are made of water, we can understand their shapes and movements and use this data to help predict future weather—at least most of the time.
Morning glory clouds are long, tube-shaped clouds that travel across the sky rather ominously. Reaching lengths of over 965 kilometers (600 mi), these vapors are most often witnessed in Australia during the transition from the dry to wet season. The Aboriginal people in the area explain that the cloud is an omen predicting an increase in the bird population.
Other than Aboriginal myths, not much is understood about why or how morning glory clouds form. Some climate scientists postulate that the clouds form from the unique combination of sea breezes and humidity changes, but so far, no computer models have been able to accurately predict this odd weather event.
8 Cities In The Sky
No, this isn’t some comic book nonsense or something from an old-world religion. This is real. On April 21, 2017, in Jieyang, China, numerous citizens were awestruck by the image of a city floating on the clouds above them. Many took to the Internet to post pictures and just generally freak out, but there was really no cause for concern as it has happened before.
The same floating cities were recorded at five different locations in China in just over six years prior to this event. This number of events has led theorists to hypothesize various possibilities: aliens are attempting to cross over from a different dimension, the second coming of Christ is here, or the images are a holographic test by the Chinese government or maybe even the US government.
We here at Listverse are above all that speculation, right? We want the facts. Well, there is a possible explanation: a rare weather event known as Fata Morgana, where light passing through heat waves causes a duplication effect. This would be an acceptable explanation if the images in the sky were not different than the skyline below them.
7 Tabby’s Star
The universe is unfathomably vast, and there are billions of galaxies that our descendants may one day get to explore. But we needn’t leave even our own Milky Way to find mysterious wonders beyond our comprehension. Enter: Tabby’s Star.
KIC 8462852, nicknamed Tabby’s Star after its discoverer Tabetha Boyajian, is one of the over 150,000 stars that has been observed by the Kepler space telescope. What is so unique about Tabby’s Star is how often and drastically its light dips.
Stars are usually observed for dips in light that indicate planets are passing in front of them. Tabby’s Star is so strange because its light drops by up to 20 percent at a time, a massive amount compared to other stars we have observed.
Explanations for this strange light activity vary greatly, from large clusters of planets passing by (very unlikely) to great buildups of dust and debris (not normal for a star of Tabby’s age) to aliens (the most interesting).
One leading theory is that an alien civilization is using massive machines orbiting the star to procure energy. While this may seem outlandish, it is far more interesting than space dust.
6 Raining Cats And Dogs . . . And Spiders?
One of the many laws of the universe is that everyone is either a dog person or a cat person. These two options encompass all of humanity. While virtually everyone loves animals, it would not be healthy to love them so much that one would want them to literally fall from the sky. If you love animals that much, maybe you should seek professional help. But before you do, we have good news for you.
While not a common occurrence, flightless animals falling from the sky is an actual weather phenomenon. While typically not dogs or cats per se, many animals have been recorded falling from the sky along with rainwater. Some examples include frogs, tadpoles, spiders, fish, eels, snakes, and worms (not a pleasant picture in any scenario).
The current leading theory is that these animals were lifted into the sky by waterspouts or tornadoes occurring in their natural habitat. Sadly, this has never been witnessed or recorded by scientists.
If this theory happens to be true, it does not explain a similar circumstance where raw meat fell from the clear Kentucky sky in 1876. Yeah, figure that one out.
5 Bloody Sky
Quick quiz: What are the signs of the oncoming apocalypse?
Maybe you guessed famine, war, or pestilence. Perhaps you said (insert your least favorite politician) getting elected. While they are all acceptable answers, consider this one: The sky becomes a deep, bloody-red color for a matter of seconds before quickly returning to normal.
This is what the residents of Chalchuapa, El Salvador, experienced in April 2016. The crimson light reportedly filled the sky for only a minute or so before fading away and leaving the atmosphere with a pink tint. Many in the evangelical Christian population believe that the red flash is a sign of the oncoming apocalypse described in the Book of Revelation in the Bible.
Some of the possible explanations include the light being a side effect of the yearly April meteor showers that are often witnessed in that area. This is unlikely, however, because the bloodred sky is a phenomenon that has never been witnessed before.
Another possibility is that the light was a reflection off the clouds of the stubble fires made by several nearby sugarcane farmers. Whatever the explanation, maybe grab a Bible or head to the bar, depending on your belief system.
4 The Great Attractor
The most generally accepted model of the universe is that which follows the big bang: A super-giant explosion some 14 billion years ago sent all matter hurtling outward, leading to an ever-expanding universe. Although generally accepted, this theory is only one of many for how our universe formed over time. But it does not explain anomalies like the Great Attractor.
In the 1970s, we first began to study a strange force about 150–250 million light years away that is pulling toward it the Milky Way and multiple other nearby galaxies. Because of the way the stars in the Milky Way are positioned, we cannot observe what is doing the pulling and have simply dubbed it “The Great Attractor.”
In 2016, a group of international scientists were able to finally look past the Milky Way using the CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope and discovered 883 galaxies clustered in that area. While some believe this is the definitive solution to the Great Attractor problem, others suggest that many of these galaxies were pulled to this spot like we are being pulled right now and that the true cause is still unknown.
3 The Taos Hum
Everyone has experienced ringing in their ears at one point or another, and most know of the old wives’ tale that blames someone speaking about you as the cause. What is most irritating about this weird audio disturbance is that no one else can hear it. So the first time we experience it, we might think we’re going crazy. But what if other people could hear it?
The town of Taos in north-central New Mexico is known for its liberal artist community as well as the several celebrities who have lived there. But it is arguably more famous for the “Taos Hum,” a noise reported to be heard by 2 percent of the population, each of whom describe it differently.
First reported in the 1990s, the hum has been investigated by the University of New Mexico. While people were adamant that they could hear the sound, no equipment was able to pick up the noise. Explanations for this hum are par for the course: aliens, government experiments, the norm. Until we find a way to detect this sound, our guess is as good as anyone’s.
2 The Tunguska Event
During the Cold War, everyone feared nuclear destruction. We knew the power of the atom bomb, not only from the many tests but from the real world uses at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At that time, people practically expected fire to fall from the sky and for land to be flattened all around them. But people in 1908 probably did not expect this.
On June 30, 1908, near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Siberia, a massive fireball hurtled toward the ground before exploding about 6 kilometers (4 mi) above the Earth’s surface. The explosion killed many animals and completely flattened the forests, sending out a hot shock wave for miles. Visitors of the Vanavara trading post, 64 kilometers (40 mi) from the center of the explosion, were knocked back by the concussive force.
Most scientists believe that the fireball was an asteroid or a meteor that simply exploded before it could make contact with the ground, due to atmospheric pressure, composition, or a number of other factors. The biggest mystery is that no crater was ever found, meaning no meteor material can be analyzed. It is possible that the object was composed of mostly ice and therefore left no shrapnel. But this is impossible to prove.
1 Japanese Atlantis
This one is strange because we might find that this is not a naturally occurring circumstance when the mystery is solved.
Atlantis is the mythical underwater city ruled by either Poseidon or Aquaman, depending on whom you ask. As the story originated in Greece, many believe that the possible real-world equivalent is located somewhere in the Mediterranean. Or maybe it’s next to Japan.
Large stone formations lie below the waters of Yonaguni Jima, Japan. They resemble Egyptian or Aztec pyramids and have been underwater for about 2,000 years. Originally discovered by a local diver in 1986, the formations were thought to be naturally forming, albeit at strangely accurate 90-degree angles.
These rock shapes were later theorized to be an ancient city (5,000 years old) knocked into the ocean by a large seismic event. This theory is generally accepted but not completely proven.
Unlike the previous mysteries, this one has a pretty solid answer. We hope that helps us all sleep a little better tonight.
I’m an engineering student with encyclopedic knowledge of countless unimportant subjects. I’m a buff of movies, games, and TV and have an unexplainable love for all things ’80s.