1923 Meteor Lands in Bethlehem

This article is from the Waterbury Republican, Sunday Morning, July 8, 1923
Falling Meteor Startles Bethlehem Family

Thunderous Swish of Heavenly Body Rushing Through Heard by Scores - Large Area of Freshly Turned Earth Leads Later to a Prize Meteor

No subject in the category of life is so universally attractive as that fear-instilling quintets, "the end of the world." The Judgment day, as it is vulgarly called, is the most uncertain certainty that we worms of the earth have to look forward to, and the mention of the inevitable arrival of that gala occasion is sure to strike home. We all fear it however we may discuss it. The preacher in the pulpit holds a secret fear of those last days, which should be apology enough for the rest of us who fear it, having no pull with the powers that be.

And in the only authentic Almanac of world activities that we have, we are told that those last days will be featured by wars, rumors of wars, famine, and pestilence; that the stars will fall from the heavens; and that in those times we may rehearse our alibis, which won't do us any good, and get ready, for the end is near. Most of us believe these things will happen; a few believe that they are taking place at the present time. There are very few, indeed, who do not anticipate that when the end does come these things will take place as scheduled.

So it was that the residents of East Street, Bethlehem were startled one morning as they prepared for the day's work, by a deafening roar, and looking up, were blinded by the penetrating rays of a falling body of fire; and in the confusion that followed, wondered if that were the end, the first signal for the grand finale. It wasn't the end, and they found the necessary evidence to prove that it wasn't but that is the story.

A. E. Johnson is one of the most prominent and respected citizens of Bethlehem, and what he says is accepted as truth, pure and undefiled, on the basis that he has lived in the town long enough to be known, and has always been known to give the facts as facts, leaving the gloss of fiction to some with more time and less principle. Mr. Johnson lives on East Street, some four blocks from the green, the geographic center of the town, and his pretty home is surrounded by land which, in the proper season is under cultivation.

A few years ago Mr. Johnson and his family awoke one morning to find an ideal day for work ahead of them. Bad weather visits Bethlehem, as well as other New England towns, and pleasant weather is not only appreciated by utilized. Every one hurried through with the morning meal and as quickly as possible went on the outside to tend to the numerous chores about the house and barns. The day could hardly have been more suited for work, and the entire family was busily engaged when something suddenly happened.

No one could have said just what it was. Other East Street folk stopped their work as abruptly and listened, and attempted to subdue that awful sensation that had thrust itself into their very souls. From somewhere there came the most terrible, penetrating, unearthly sound that ever human ears have heard. It was not a whistle, and yet is screamed in more awful tones that the most piercing whistle; it was not a roar, though the very air seemed torn asunder by the deafening, thundering clamor.

The only inclination of those startled folk was to look upward, though the sound came from everywhere. One glance into the sky and the very marrow of their bones was chilled. Like the sun slipped from its course, a great ball of fire seemed to drop from the heavens, threatening to fall upon the earth and burn its life to ashes. It grew larger and brighter and nearer until the wondering, waiting little groups on terra firma were blinded by the light. Then the weird noise ceased. The light died; and the world was as peaceful as it had been a moment before the spectacle.

These things take long in telling but it was the play of a fraction of a second. It would be impossible to estimate the time consumed by the phenomenon. A stopwatch would have been too slow, and the most magnificently poised soul in heaven couldn't have operated such an instrument under the stress of the moment. It was as if the sun had fallen to the earth and been buried far below the surface.

But the sun, when it was all over, was still climbing the eastern curve of the bowl; and the earth, where it could be seen, was still intact and undisturbed on the surface. What a moment before was the most obvious thing in the lives of those East Street people was now the most infallible mystery. But the world was left, and the heavens were left and though there had been wars and rumors of wars, the end of the world was apparently not yet a subject for H. G. Wells to include in his "Outline of History."

It looked as if the puzzling drama would forever be a matter for discussion but never for explanation. Then Mr. Johnson made a discovery. About 200 yards in the rear of his home he found a large area of fresh turned dirt. It was not piled like a mound, but was sunken liken an old well. The thing had not been there a few days before, and there was no explanation of how it had gotten there. But Mr. Johnson had an idea that there was something beneath that loose earth and he made up his mind to find out what it was.

Before he had dug long about the spot Mr. Johnson's shovel struck something hard with a semi-metallic sound. That made him think more than ever that he was following up a mighty interesting clue. So he got some help, dug down until they struck what appeared to be a large rock of irregular shape, and then snaked the unusual specimen to the surface.

Perhaps five feet long, the thickness of the piece was varied by large scooped holes that bore the resemblance of burned clay. The entire rock, if it can be called such, was streaked with veins of iron, and yet its weight was deceiving as an iron colored aluminum pot. It was like a great rock burnt out by intense heat.

That boulder was the explanation of the startling occurrence of a few days previous. Mr. Johnson recognized it as a rock not found in the vicinity of Bethlehem, and he was quite certain that there were no number of human beings who could have thrust it into the ground as he had found it, no matter where it came from. With the help of neighbors he carried the rock into his yard and placed it against a tree just a little ways from the front steps.

An astronomer from Boston came down to examine the peculiar stone. He promptly identified it as a meteor, a chip off of one of those other worlds whirling dizzily about in space. The meteorologist broke off a large piece of the rock to carry away for exhibition and analysis. Rev. Anthon Gesner of Waterbury, an enthusiastic student of astronomy and meteorology, also carried away a part of the rock.

Many pieces have been broken from this sample of Mars or Venus, or one of the smaller stars, until today there remains only about one-half the original meteoric specimen. But it still rests before Mr. Johnson's house and serves at all times to remind those who might forget that one morning not so many years ago the East Street residents were made to think of the end of the world.

Whether the end of the world will be like that is not bothering Bethlehem folk. It has been jocosely suggested that that WAS the beginning of the end. Wars in Europe. Rumors of wars in every crevice of the globe. Pestilence in India. Famine in the Near East. Falling stars in Bethlehem. But what difference does it make? Even the angels in heaven will get the surprise of their ethereal young lives when Gabriel steps out before the pearly gates and lets go on his trumpet. When that day does come we here in Bethlehem had just as same be busy as Mr. Johnson and his family were busy preparing for the days work, with never a thought that eternity is about to begin.