Strange Mysteries from Around the World by Seymour Simon, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Strange Mysteries from Around the World

Strange Mysteries from Around the World

by Seymour Simon

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Discover nine bizarre-but-true incidents: a sudden shower from the sky of fish and frogs; buried treasure that remains untouched, even though its exact location is common knowledge; the abrupt and unexplained disappearance of a ship's crew; an eerie crystal skull that influences observers' thoughts; and more!
Praised by The New York Times as "the


Discover nine bizarre-but-true incidents: a sudden shower from the sky of fish and frogs; buried treasure that remains untouched, even though its exact location is common knowledge; the abrupt and unexplained disappearance of a ship's crew; an eerie crystal skull that influences observers' thoughts; and more!
Praised by The New York Times as "the dean of children's science writers," Seymour Simon is the author of more than 250 highly acclaimed science books. Strange Mysteries from Around the World features 13 photos and drawings and is written in a suspenseful manner that will captivate readers of all ages.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
This book explores various unexplained and un-explainable mysteries. How do people walk over hot coals? How can frogs rain from the sky? What happened to the ship Mary Celeste? Simon talks about nine strange phenomena, and gives possible answers, but admits that the truth can not be determined at this time. Fun to read, this is a revised edition of a popular 1980 title for young readers and should have lots of appeal for reluctant readers.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6A revision of a 1980 title (Four Winds; o.p.). Eleven puzzling events or unusual objects not yet explained by scientists or investigators are described. Chapters on rains of frogs and fish, the amazing destruction caused by the Siberian "big bang" of 1908, the strangely abandoned ghost ship Mary Celeste, a haunting crystal skull from Belize, and unexplainable loud booms around the world remain basically the same, with minor update or rearrangement of paragraphs. The areas of most significant change from the earlier edition are the inclusion of possible explanations for fire walkers' abilities, continuing efforts to find the legendary treasure of Oak Island near Nova Scotia, and results of recent investigations into Kirlian photography. A new chapter, "Lights in the Night," offers an extended discussion of UFOs. The chapter on the origins of the "Shroud of Turin" has been left out in light of recent scientific studies. Black-and-white photographs in both books are similar or identical. Simon's enticingly simple and clear descriptions make the subjects accessible with no unsubstantiated speculations. Worn-out copies of the 1980 edition can be safely replaced with this updated version. The mysteries it describes are as intriguing now as they were when they first became mysteries.Ann G. Brouse, Big Flats Branch Library, NY
Patricia Twohey
In this newly revised edition, Simon describes nine strange, true mysteries and introduces the theories that historians and scientists have offered to explain their occurrences. A sample of topics includes animals that fall from the sky, an atomic blast before the nuclear age, and men who walk on fire without being burned. A sure hit with your mystery lovers!
Bookbag Magazine

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Children's Science Books Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.30(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.30(d)
960L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

When it's raining heavily, some people say that it's "pouring cats and dogs." Of course, that's only an expression. Cats and dogs really don't rain down from the sky. (Although there may be poodles in the street.) But don't be too sure that it never rains animals.

Here is a quote from the July 12, 1873, issue of the magazine Scientific American: "A shower of frogs, which darkened the air and covered the ground for a long distance, is the reported result of a recent rainstorm at Kansas City, Mo."'

And this is by no means the only reported observation of animal showers. Here is a report from an 1841 issue of an English magazine called The Athenaeum: "During a heavy thunderstorm, the rain poured down in torrents mixed with half-melted ice, and, incredible as it may appear, hundreds of small fishes and frogs in great abundance descended with the torrents of rain. The fish were from half an inch to two inches long.... Many were picked up alive. The frogs jumped away as fast as they could, but the bulk of them were killed by the fall on the hard pavement."

The idea of living things raining down from the sky is difficult to believe. But from ancient times up to the present there have been reports of showers of one kind or another of animals or plants.

In olden times, these living showers were thought to be supernatural. People believed in magic and witches. They believed in good and evil omens. People must have been frightened or pleased, depending upon what rained down. But whatever animal or plant rained down, it certainly seemed to be a miracle.

There are still many stories of strange animal showers. The reports areoften printed in magazines or newspapers of the time. Let's look at some of these reports and then see if they can be explained in any scientific way.

Here is a report from Scientific American, February 21,1891: "In some parts of Randolph County, Virginia, this winter, the crust of the snow has been covered two or three times with worms.... A square foot of snow can scarcely be found some days without a dozen of these worms on it."

Another report from Scientific American, in 1877, tells about a rain of snakes in Memphis, Tennessee. "Thousands of little reptiles, ranging from a foot to eighteen inches in length, were distributed all over the southern part of the city."'

A shower of frogs was reported in a 1939 issue of the English journal Meteorological Magazine. "Mr. E. Ettles, superintendent of the municipal swimming pool, stated that about 4:30 p.m. he was caught in a heavy shower of rain and, while hurrying to shelter, heard behind him a sound as of the falling of lumps of mud. Turning, he was amazed to see hundreds of tiny frogs falling on the concrete path around the bath. Later, many more were found to have fallen on the grass nearby."

Even turtles seem to have fallen from the sky. Here is a report from a 1930 issue of Nature magazine: "During a severe hailstorm in Vicksburg (U.S.A.) ... a gopher turtle, 6 inches by 8 inches, and entirely encased in ice, fell with the hail."

In 1949, a long article appeared in the magazine Science. The author, A. D. Bajkov, was a biologist working for the Department of Wild Life and Fisheries. Here is part of his eyewitness report of what happened in Marksville, Louisiana:

"'In the morning of October 23, 1947, between seven and eight o'clock, fish ranging from two to nine inches in length fell on the streets and in the yards.... I was in the restaurant with my wife having breakfast, when the waitress informed us that fish were falling from the sky. We went immediately to collect some of the fish.

"'The director of the bank said that he had discovered that fish had fallen by hundreds in his yard, and in the adjacent yard. The cashier of the bank and two merchants were struck by falling fish as they walked toward their places of business about 7:45 A.M. There were spots on Main Street averaging one fish per square yard. Automobiles and trucks were running over them. Fish also fell on the roofs of houses."'

Bajkov goes on to identify the fish as bass, sunfish, minnows, and shad. These were all freshwater fish found in local waters. The fish that fell that day in Louisiana were absolutely fresh and fit to be eaten, although Bajkov doesn't say whether he ate any of the fish or how they tasted.

As recently as February 1994, thousands of small fish were found in the Australian desert, flapping about in parking lots and on roads. The fish were found just after a rainstorm. A few days later, thousands more fish, this time slightly larger, were found in puddles after five inches of overnight rain. From 1988 to 1994, there have been three fish falls in this area.

Looking at these reports, it seems clear that at least some actually happened. If these reports are true, then what possible explanations could they have?

In the stories of worms, caterpillars, or insects found on snow or the surface of the ground, heavy rains or melting snows are often mentioned. Perhaps the soil became waterlogged and the worms or insects were driven to the surface from their underground homes.

In most of the other animal showers, windstorms or tornadoes probably lifted the animals into the air and then dropped them some distance away. For example, tornadoes are known to have lifted houses, cars, and even a train locomotive. It is not surprising that a tornado would also have the force to lift fish, frogs, or even a turtle.

However, there are still some strange things that cannot be explained. First, many of the animal showers report only one kind of animal falling. Why should a whirlwind select only frogs one day and not a combination of animals: fish, frogs, turtles? Second, all the animals that fall are often about the same size. Shouldn't a whirlwind pick up animals of different sizes? Third, the animals often fall without any plants or sand along with them. Shouldn't a whirlwind pick up some of the material surrounding an animal?

While we may not know all the answers to the mysteries of falling animals, this much is sure. The next time someone says that it is raining frogs and fish, you better go out and have a look. He or she may be right.

Meet the Author

Praised by The New York Times as "the dean of children's science writers," Seymour Simon is the author of more than 250 highly acclaimed science books, many of which have been named Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children by the National Science Teachers Association.

5 Questions with Seymour Simon: An Exclusive Dover Interview
Mr. Simon was gracious enough to talk with us about his career as a teacher, his affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, how humor can get children interested in science, and more.

You're a New York City native and a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, so it sounds like you grew up in a highly urban setting. How and where did your formative experiences with nature take place?
I have loved nature since I was a young child. Although I grew up in the Bronx — a very crowded part of New York City — the natural world was all around me. There is weather in the city, just as there is in the country. You can see the sun, moon, and stars from a rooftop in the city. And I explored a vacant lot on my street, which wasn't exactly a park, but still had birds, earthworms, small plants, and trees. In fact, when I grew up, one of the first books I wrote was called Science in a Vacant Lot.

You were a science teacher for more than 20 years, and you've remarked that teaching is the best possible way to learn how to write for kids. Can you offer some examples of what your students have taught you?
I'm still a teacher and still a student too, for that matter. Students' interests range wide and deeply. They want to be treated with respect and have their questions answered and have you pay attention to their comments. I'm constantly writing in the same way that I think. There is a famous story that explains my writing too. The story goes that there is a teacher who is teaching a difficult subject and he can see by the expressions on his students' faces that they don't understand what he is teaching. So he teaches it a second time and he can see that they still don’t understand what he is teaching. So he teaches it a third time and finally…HE understands what he is teaching. That's how it goes with me. When I finally get it right, finally I understand what I'm writing and teaching.

Some of your books are authorized by the Smithsonian Institution, which is a highly prestigious endorsement for any science writer. How did your affiliation with them develop?
My publisher, HarperCollins made the arrangement with the Smithsonian Institution. What it meant for me is that I had an expert from the Smithsonian editing each of my books, which I am quite sure just made them better! It is indeed an honor to have my name associated with the Smithsonian.

Does your recreational interest in nature photography contribute to your work?
I am asked this a lot because there are so many photographs in my books. Sometimes I travel to places myself and take the photographs. I have photographed glaciers in Alaska, volcanoes in Hawaii, wildfires in California and weather in my backyard. Other times, I arrange to use other people's photographs. Often they are specialists — like a scientist who has been living in Antarctica and observing penguin behavior. Someone like that has photographs that I could never get in a single, short trip. I love nature photography, and have done many, many of my books as photo essays because I know that children love these photographs, too.

Some of your books — Body Sense, Body Nonsense, for example — take a playful look at scientific facts, so you must regard humor as a valuable tool in engaging young imaginations. What other approaches can parents and teachers take to get children interested in science and excited by the processes of observation and experimentation?
I created a document for teachers called "Writing Exciting Nonfiction." This details many different ways that a nonfiction author can engage young readers. Anyone can download this resource from

Bonus Question!
Do you have a favorite Dover book?
I'm not sure if it is bad form to choose my own book, but I must say that I love Strange Mysteries. I wrote it many years ago, but today's kids are still fascinated by these mysterious, unsolved events.

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