For hundreds of years, people have reported sightings of strange balls of energy floating through the air- and sometimes through walls. Ball lightning is generally accepted as concentrated energy in shape of a sphere. Although most scientists acknowledge its existence, it can not be proven due to lack of evidence. Reports date back to at least 1754 when Russian scientist G.W. Richman was killed while studying the phenomena.
The most common report of ball lightning includes the energy sphere slowly floating through the air as it occasionally passes through physical objects. The energy seems to have the ability to change colors- perhaps due to its varying heat. The lightning usually vanishes in one of two ways: either a loud explosion or a slow fade into oblivion.
Paris was the location of a large electrical storm in 1849 which included several reports of a red ball of energy which seemed to float about twenty feet above the ground. At one point, the ball exploded as it flung lightning in all directions. The resulting mayhem included a house with a "cannon ball sized hole."
At 6:30 PM on October 8th 1919, several witnesses in Salina, Kansas claimed to see a ball of energy "as large as a washtub" slowly floating through the air. As the ball collided with a building, bricks and glass exploded as baseball-sized spheres of fire floated away.
Lamar James, of North Little Rock Arkansas, had a personal encounter with ball lightning. In his own words, he recounts his experience with the strange phenomena.
When I was a youth, I visited in my sister's home in Malvern, Arkansas. I am 52 now, and I would guesstimate it must have occurred about 40 years ago.
During an especially violent thunderstorm, I was looking out a picture window and observed a blinding ball of sparks strike a fire hydrant, then bounce down the sidewalk. It took several bounces, then disappeared as best I can remember.
The entire episode was so incredible, I doubted what I had seen for a minute ... I am a former newspaper writer for the Arkansas Gazette and am trained in telling the public the unbiased truth.
A The Unexplained Site reader reports that the Ojibway Native Americans teach that ball lightning is actually a medicine man after death. After returning from the dead, he can then watch and protect people, or put a curse on them. This is also known as a bear walk.
Recently a reader of The Unexplained Site sent in information regarding the creation of ball lightning on a navy submarine. The account, which comes from an ex-submarine sailor, is as follows:
The first boat I qualified on was one of the old World War II fleet boats, diesel electric drives. What is described as ball lightening can be predictably created in the maneuvering room where the main electric motors are controlled. If the switch (those big levers everyone has seen in John Wayne movies) is opened quickly while a large current is being bussed to the main motors then the huge electric field around the motors must collapse. This generates a "flyback" effect across the opened knife switch and maintains a current through the air until the field collapses. The voltage is tremendous (about 10,000 volts per centimeter in dry air). The door to the cubical is kept shut to contain the results of such an arc. However, consistent with submarine sailors characteristics, the door was sometimes left open. This resulted in a ball of ionized gas that typically bounce slowly from the cubical along the after engine room deck plating (always covered with a thin coating of diesel fuel) and quietly dissipate at the forward end of the engine room.
The ball lightning effect is very similar to those reported in more common locations and perhaps the account could be tested to prove the existence of the phenomena.