Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World – Out of the Blue


Out of the Blue opens with Arthur playing table tennis.  This seems slightly odd, but all becomes clear when he explains that his daily table-tennis partner – at the Otter’s Club, Colombo – saw fish falling from the sky.

There’s some classic eye-witness interviews in this one.  Joe Alpin recalls a strange event during WW2.  “The sky suddenly darkened. And then the frogs came. Millions of them. Raining out of the sky.”  Possibly Joe overestimated the number a little, as millions seem a little excessive – although he did claim it rained frogs for well over an hour, so there must have been quite a few.

Mrs Sylvia Mowday looks just the sort of sensible, late middle-aged woman that you wouldn’t think would make up a strange story simply for a bit of publicity, so maybe her froggy tale was true.  “We heard something thudding against the umbrella.  When we looked, to our amazement it was a shower of frogs. There were hundreds of them.”  This happened in the 1950’s – a few years after Joe’s sighting – and it’s interesting that Mrs Mowday only mentions hundreds.  Had raining frogs been curtailed since the war, or was she simply better at counting than Joe?!

Although reports of frogs falling from the sky are quite common, so are tales of fish descending from the heavens.  A series of interviews in Marksville, Louisiana illustrate how a number of residents all witnessed a deluge of flying fish.  From the testimony of the wonderfully named Sheriff Potch Didier to the accounts of several older woman (who all seem to have had maids at the time – clearly this was an affluent neighbourhood) it all sounds most odd.

Although Arthur considers that the whirlwind theory – freak atmospheric conditions which cause the likes of fish or frogs to be scooped up – might explain some of these events, he concedes that it doesn’t answer all of them.  And why are there never any reports of fish, frogs or other items getting sucked up into the sky?

Gordon Honeycombe’s incredibly detailed narration sets the scene for the next strange event.  “On Sunday March the 13th 1977, Mr Alfred Wilson-Osbourne, chess correspondent for the Bristol Evening Post, left the Westbury Park Methodist Church to walk home with his wife. Their journey took them past a car showroom.”

And what did they see? A shower of hazelnuts.  Mr Wilson-Osbourne wins the prize for the most accurate estimation of the number of objects he saw.  Joe Alpin reckoned he saw millions of frogs, Sylvia Mowday estimated that she observed hundreds of frogs, whilst Mr Wilson-Osbourne gives us a more precise figure – three hundred and fifty.

These aren’t the most staggering of mysteries, but they’ve quite fun nonetheless and some of the interviewees are highly entertaining.

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