What is Ball Lightning

Ball Lightning is a phenomena that is poorly understood. Multiple theories have been put forward ranging from various atmospheric electrical/plasma mechanisms, to hallucinations brought about by fluctuations in the magnetic field from a close lightning strike, to supernatural causes.

Eyewitness reports of ball lightning have been recorded as early as 1638 and continue through the present day. Descriptions include balls of various sizes-an inch to several meters, various colors and varying behavior. Sometimes the ball is reported to float, sometimes it moves with great energy through the air or alongside objects. They have been witnessed breaking through windows and doors and once even digging a huge trench. Frequently they are viewed in conjunction with electrical storms or near electrical equipment, but not always. They can be deadly or harmless.

This is my own experience with ball lightning in 1993.

We lived in a home at the top of a hill, a quarter mile from the highest point in the township. A storm was raging over the hill and I was on the telephone. This was a landline that was connected through the modem in my computer.

As I was attempting to wrap up the conversation the house took a direct hit from a lightning bolt. The light and sound were simultaneous. The lightning must have come through the phone line as there was a great explosion in my ear. I dropped the phone and staggered back a few steps. A smell filled the room, that I think must have been ozone, and I became very light-headed. I sat down quickly in a chair before I fell over.

This is when I looked to the other side of the room for the first time. There was my 8 week old daughter, asleep (through the storm even!) in her wind-up swing. About 18 inches above her head, and just inches above the swing crossbar, was a ball of fire about the size of a soccer ball (8-10 inches in diameter). It was brilliant orange and red. The ball was completely stationary though appeared to be actively “flaming” and spinning.

I watched, without moving, until it simply dissipated about 30-45 seconds later. Standing up I was still lightheaded but I quickly confirmed that my daughter was unharmed. The only fallout included a dead phone and a literally melted modem. The computer the modem was in was fine, as was the phone outlet.

I can’t explain what I saw but I do think there is an obvious connection between the lightning strike and the presence of the ball. Did it come down the phone line? I didn’t see anything like that but maybe it wasn’t in “flame” form yet!

I am just thankful neither my daughter nor I was injured in any way. And I’ve never talked on the phone in a thunderstorm again!