6 Baffling Modern-Day Disasters of Biblical Proportions
Whenever there's a hurricane like the one we just had, or an earthquake, you hear somebody refer to it as a biblical disaster, meaning it calls to mind the God-sent catastrophes of the Old Testament. But the disasters that happened in the Bible tended to be weirder -- you knew it wasn't just a regular storm when the clouds dropped frogs and the seas turned to blood. That's the kind of stuff that just never happens anymore.
Well, almost never.
The Day It Rained Spiders
In the Old Testament, God had a tendency to unleash plagues of some hated creature on people when he got angry -- ancient Egypt alone was the target of spontaneous swarms of locusts, fleas and flies, while the ancient Jews got snakes. So it must have seemed like the days of Moses had returned when, in 2007, Christian Oneto Gaona was hiking with a friend in Argentina and spiders suddenly started raining from the sky. And this wasn't even Australia, where such a thing might be considered normal.
"So just to be on the safe side, I'd take an umbrella and maybe repent your sins."
Gaona wasn't able to identify the species of the "multicolored" spiders, but considering that this seemed like a scaled-up version of the kind of shit he used to pull on his little sister, it must have raised the question of whether God was in fact 12 years old.
Animals just straight falling out of the sky like hail is not unheard of, and the popular explanation for it is always that strong winds manage to pick up animals and deposit them into the atmosphere. Of course, this doesn't explain why the rain was limited exclusively to spiders. Why not toads, or chipmunks, or, you know, anything else whatsoever? God wasn't even mean enough to make spiders one of the plagues of Egypt, and he was really mad that time.
Or chocolate coins.
It's kind of unnerving that this kind of thing is going on in remote parts of the wilderness where people don't usually know about it, like some divine Manhattan Project. We can only assume that God is field-testing it before combat use on a modern city.
Getting Struck by Lightning on a Clear Day
There is probably no more iconic symbol of God's wrath than the lightning bolt (especially if your god is Zeus). It's the Almighty's way of pointing directly at a person and saying, "Hey. You. Fuck you." And while it isn't too surprising when someone gets smote during a thunderstorm, lightning in the middle of a clear, sunny day has to make anyone feel like they've got enemies up there. But it's real, and it's called positive lightning.
And that shit can arc out from a storm cloud more than 10 miles away.
Normal or negative lightning occurs when negatively charged rain clouds send down a lightning bolt to the positively charged earth below. Positive lightning is just the opposite -- the cloud is positively charged and needs a negatively charged spot to unleash upon. The problem is, these spots are much harder to come by, so the bolt not only has to travel miles away from the actual storm to get there, but has a serious case of blue balls when it does. As a result, the bolt is six to 10 times as strong as a regular one when it touches down.
But hey, you shouldn't worry too much, since getting struck by lightning is about as common as winning the lottery. But you know what gets hit all the time? Planes. Each one gets struck by lightning once a year or so. Luckily, planes have measures in place to protect them from regular lightning. But, like we said, this is not regular lightning.
It comes from goddamn Krypton.
Positive lightning drew first blood in 1963 in an event that happens to hold the Guinness World Record for Worst Lightning Strike Death Toll. Another aircraft was felled by positive lightning as recently as 1999, and airline safety measures are still not capable of coping with lightning strikes this powerful.
So we're not saying that you should avoid getting on a plane with too many people that God is mad at, but, you know, that's actually exactly what we're saying.
In 1923, a devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Tokyo, creating an immediate citywide disaster, as earthquakes tend to do. But it wouldn't be on this list if it were just a typical earthquake.
One minute, citizens were calmly attempting to evacuate the city through scattered fires, and then suddenly a flaming tornado appeared out of goddamn nowhere and incinerated 38,000 freaking people in 15 minutes.
This definitely would have made The Wizard of Oz a much different movie.
See, apparently, tornadoes can be on fire sometimes. If Hollywood was looking to make a sequel to Twister, this is really the only way to go with it. It's called a fire whirl, and it's thankfully rare, but when it happens, it looks like the kind of event that would have been cut from the Bible for being too unrealistic. Given the right atmospheric conditions, a fire can just pick itself right the hell up and blaze across the landscape.
Unfortunately for Tokyo, the conditions were just right that day to make it the largest and deadliest fire tornado in recorded history. For comparison, the earthquake we just mentioned was the deadliest quake in Japanese history, but a full third of the total victims were killed just by the 15-minute spinning fiery vortex of doom.
The Great London Beer Flood
The Old Testament says that God already destroyed the world with a flood once before, but even the Almighty gets bored with the same old techniques. In 1814, part of London was wiped out by a flood of downright biblical proportions, but with a slight twist -- it was drowned under an ocean of beer.
The London Beer Flood of 1814 occurred when a vat of liquid gold at the Meux and Company Brewery ruptured for no apparent reason, causing other nearby vats to burst, ultimately releasing nearly 400,000 gallons of beer in a 15-foot wave onto the streets of London. Patrons at the Tavistock Arms Pub were taken by surprise when the tidal wave smashed through the walls and brought down the building. We like to imagine that this happened in a way that was comically ironic, like immediately after the bartender declared last call.
"This beer sucks. I wouldn't drink this if the room was flooded in it and I had to drink my way out to survive."
The beerpocalypse went on to demolish two more houses before it came to an end, and although it sounds like nobody could have had a bad time here, eight people drowned and many more lost their livelihoods -- although it was pretty convenient for those survivors who decided to resort to drinking. Many retellings of the story mention a ninth fatality, a man who died of alcohol poisoning, and to be honest, that probably is the way we'd go in that situation.
In the end, Meux and Company was taken to court, but the jury placed no fault with them. It was legally ruled to be ... well, an act of God. That's just a legal term, but probably one that was said in hushed whispers.
"Our Father, who art a mean drunk, hallowed be thy booze ..."
The Year Without a Summer
If you're a simple country farmer in 1816, you live by one clockwork schedule: You put seeds in the ground in the spring, wait for them to grow, then eat what grew over the winter. It's worked for thousands of years, because if there's something you can count on, it's the predictability of the seasons. Except, in this particular year, summer just never came. Kind of like if you woke up one morning and the sun didn't come up.
You have to admit, though, Italy looks pretty damn smooth in that shade of blue.
Across the northeastern U.S., Canada and most of Western Europe, temperatures dropped to winter levels in the spring and summer of 1816, creating frost that killed off all the crops that had just been planted. Snow fell and rivers remained frozen well into July and August. What little grain that did grow suddenly became a very expensive commodity -- oats, for example, rose from 12 cents to 92 cents a bushel. Of course, in some places, there simply was no food to buy, no matter what you were willing to pay for it, leading to riots, looting and arson over much of the Western world.
Did God just forget to turn up the thermostat or something? Actually, this was brought on by the eruption of Mount Tambora, the largest volcanic eruption in about 1,300 years. Not that the farmers knew that -- Mount Tambora is in Indonesia. Its April 10 eruption caused a volcanic winter, the ash cloud so thick and widespread that it blanketed much of the Earth and dropped temperatures globally, leading to worldwide crop shortages and famine.
Basically, people must have thought that they were living through an old school biblical apocalypse. Imagine trying to convince those people that their grandkids would have global warming to worry about.
Related: How To Not Roast Alive This Summer
The Snake and Boiling Mud Plague of 1902
Everyone was just chillaxing in Saint-Pierre on the French-owned island of Martinique in 1902, sitting on the beach, sipping frog legs out of coconuts or whatever you'd do if you were a French person in the Caribbean back then. The point is, nobody could have expected that they were about to fall victim to some divine justice until the snake plague came.
Saint-Pierre was known as "Paris of the Caribbean," a booming cultural capital and tourist hotspot built just under the slope of an extinct volcano (remember that, it's important later). One day, with absolutely no warning, hundreds of 6-foot-long snakes slithered into town and just started killing everyone.
Like this, but, you know, more.
Apparently, the venomous snake plague killed around 50 people and a whole bunch of livestock before (according to the story) they were killed by the town's "giant street cats." We're just repeating what our sources say here.
But that wasn't the end of Saint-Pierre's troubles. Before they could recover from the snakes, another wave of death came over the town in the form of an avalanche of boiling mud. Finally, a superheated ash cloud descended upon the city, literally destroying it in an instant. See, it turned out that the volcano they were nestled under wasn't as extinct as everyone thought it was. The city was so thoroughly obliterated by the disaster that, of the estimated 30,000 people living in Saint-Pierre, only two survived.
Seriously, the barren wasteland behind that guy used to be an entire town.
Clearly, the powers that be had decided that Saint-Pierre had to go. But you have to ask, if you're going to wipe out a whole city with a volcanic eruption, why would you send snakes first? That's just being a dick.
For more ridiculous disasters, check out 6 Natural Disasters That Were Caused by Human Stupidity and 6 Man-Made Natural Disasters Just Waiting to Happen.