The Edendale Asteroid

December 20, 1907meteor
Edendale

Was Los Angeles nearly ground zero for a Cretaceous-tertiary extinction event-styled piece of catastrophism?  Sort of.  Not really.

An asteroid nearly reached the open field near the home of Joseph Phillis, at the corner of McCullom and Berkeley early this morning.  It exploded just before impact, leaving a burned patch twelve feet in diameter.  The neighborhood was filled with heavy sulphurous smoke, in the center of which burned a dim blue flame.

Surrounding homes were rocked by the loud explosion and lit up by a Fourth of July spectacular, but the only extant remains of our spacejectile the shaken denizens could find were chunks of meteorite that resembled volcanic rock.

Otherwise neighbors, and dinosaurs, were not affected.

specialists call them meteor-wrongs

I did a little googling and found a few interesting facts:
There was a report of a very large meteor over the easern half of the country in October of 1907. It, or they, did not make it to the ground. That story was in the news. The very large Willamette meteorite was discovered in 1902 and was the cause of a lot of stories in the paper at the time because the ownership was contested. Meteors and meteorite stories were very popular way to sell newspapers around that time. Most were found to be hoaxes or stories to cover up crime or accidents(!) One story I read of a meteor explosion turned out to be some teenage boys who had stolen some dynamite. Oddly enough, the Tunguska exlosion, in Siberia, was in August or July of 1908 (depending on what calendar you are using, they still used the Juian Calendar in Russia then so contemporary accounts are confusing) That explosion is now believed to have been caused by a comet. Some think Tesla was responsible (eyebrows go up.)

The most fuddy duddy thing I found was that virtually all meteors that reach the ground fall with the same force a rock dropped from a height would have, nothing like a bullet or missile, and are cool or warm to the touch after impact, not hot. This is considered a dead give away of a liar. Some are even covered by frost.

meteorites

As I am sure you are aware, scientists and experts accused the peasant population of France of mass hysteria when they reported stones falling from the sky in the 18th century. Oops, turned out they were right and now every scientist knows that stones do indeed fall from the sky.

Coulda happened. I think such an event as late as 1907 would be remembered and taught to freshman taking Astronomy at UCLA. I never heard it, and would have found the story fascinating in my Sci-Fi reading days.

It is a great tale, thanks for it.

by the way

Before someone mentions that meteorites come from meteors (note that I refer to our flying friend initially as an asteroid), terrestial meteorites in fact do not come from meteors. A meteoroid can only be 10m across; any larger and it is classed an asteroid. And an object must be 50m across before it can survive atmospheric entry.

How can this be true

There is something fishy about this story. I would wager that someone was covering up an accident of some sort. Occam's razor says the explosion had a terrestrial origin. That is the simplest explanation by a long shot

I am not trying to be a spoilsport. Truth is always more interesting than fiction.

lex parsimoniae

Spoilsport? Heck no! I agree, a terrestial explosion involves all sorts of fascinating conjecture -- the guy was making hooch, or building a death ray (though he'd unlikely to be doing so in an empty field; perhaps he was attempting to launch a rocket?) -- and I did look for further stories involving the guy, that corner, etc., and came up with nothing. So it's just conjecture, hardly within the dictates of Ockham, whom I admit, makes things no fun sometimes. I mean, history can't all be lone gunmen. We need Freemasons and the CIA and the World Bank once in a while. And asteroids.

There are at present 1,050 meteorite specimens in collections that have come from witnessed falls, and over 31,000 well-documented meterorite finds. So whether or not it's probable, it's possible, and I'm itching to go to that corner and knock on some doors and see if anyone a hundred years hence has some strange-looking chunks of rock lying around in their basement...a souveneir of the Edendale Asteroid.