The Year is 1978, the number one song is “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, which is appropriate given that the Cold War is stuck in freezer-burn mode with every world power testing nuclear weapons as though they were discount fireworks.
The Day is April 2nd, a Sunday, and for the people of Bell Island this seemingly normal day would quickly become horrifying.
The time is 10:59am one minute from the event to be known from then on as the Bell Island Boom. The clock strikes 11.
A massive explosion sets off an astounding series of events. Television sets begin exploding, three buildings have holes punched through them, and a barn is blown apart. Mr. Edward Bennett sees blue flames, 18 inches long, shoot from his electrical outlets. Darrin Bickford is stopped in his tracks by floating balls of blue light three feet across with small crackling orange sparks.
Appliances whizz out of control and electrical transmission lines melt like cotton candy in your mouth. Mrs. Bickford, her home shaking violently, runs outside finding her entire flock of chickens dead, blood running out of their eyes and mouths. And then things turned strange.
Local geologist Dr. John Malpas heads to the scene looking for remnants of a possible meteor explosion. He finds three holes in the ground, one small and two 3 feet in diameter, but nothing else. They are soon joined by Dr. Thomas Gold, a geophysicist from New York, Dr. Gordon MacDonald, a climatologist and geophysicist from Washington, and the shady figures of Dr. John Warren, a plasma physicist, and Dr. Robert Freyman, a weapons design engineer from Los Alamos: the American nuclear weapons research centre.
The Los Alamos duo, as reported by Dr. John Malpas, begin behaving strangely and asking people if they were cleared for security, commenting that they had been expecting this to happen and had been on the lookout for it this past week. They say that they detected the event using military satellites designed to detect nuclear weapons tests. They were also quoted as saying that they were surprised that there was so little damage, they expected that the entire island would have been levelled.
The Los Alamos creepers faded into the mist, the American scientists Drs. Gold and MacDonald pronounce that the event was the result of “super lightning” accompanied by ball lightning. Dr. MacDonald is quoted as saying it was one of the largest electrical discharges ever recorded in history, enough energy to power the entire city of Montreal for over six hours.
As a finale, it was discovered that during the chaos that the dead chickens had disappeared. Who took the chickens remains unknown.
Whether it was super lightning, an exploding meteor, or an American/Soviet death ray, one thing is certain, it was the most spectacular way of getting a dirty ole feed of Mary Brown’s Chicken. (Names and details taken from CBC news report by Rick seaward which aired in 1979. Fora 3-part Youtube series on the matter, click here.)