In the middle of the night on September 2, 1859, gold miners living in tents in Colorado were wakened by bright lights in the sky. They rose and began making breakfast, thinking it was morning. Even birds and other animals believed that the morning had come. A New Orleans paper reported that three unfortunate larks, which normally don’t emerge from their nests until morning, were shot in the middle of the night. In London, England, the lights were even bright enough to cast a shadow on the ground. People who were up late that night in the northeastern states of the USA could read books and newspapers with just the lights in the sky. They watched the eerie colorful lights dance in the northern sky with wonder and awe.
In the eastern and southern United States, the sky was blood red. Many citizens believed that the sky or neighboring towns were on fire. In some areas, fire trucks were even sent to help put out the huge inferno. Some people were filled with fear and dread. They thought the lights were an omen of bad things to come, like an epidemic, a revolution, or even the end of the world. Others were familiar with the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis as scientists call them, but wondered why they were appearing so far south. Normally, they appeared only over the far northern latitudes. However, on this night and for several nights thereafter, the lights could be seen as far south as Hawaii and the Bahamas.
Julie L. Casey lives in a rural area near St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband, Jonn Casey, a science teacher, and their three youngest sons. She enjoys historical reenacting, wildlife rehabilitation, teaching her children, and writing books that capture the imaginations of young people.