|The account of black Sunday now in paperback
"Black Sunday" only $8.00. Book contains nearly 100 personal accounts of that day in 1950. Cover photo can be enlarged to view. This book is bound to be a collector's item of that day when many in the Eastern USA thought it was the end of the world.
Click here to order direct from printers.
September 24, 1950
A mysterious day when the sky became dark as night during the middle of the day. The explanation by local officials was that a forest fire had occurred in Canada - but none were ever recorded on this date for Eastern Canada. Moreover, there was no smoke involved in the darkened skies as there has been in all other forest fires around the country since that date. Most people at the time thought that the world was coming to an end and that it was a sign from the heavens. Was it actually a Western Canadian forest fire? Or, was it really a 'sign' that marked the 'end of times', as man has begun to play God.
Norman P. Carlson puts a face on the dark day, which supports the 'forest fire in Canada' reason for black Sunday. Read his detailed account of the Canadian forest fire here.
This is the query I posted:
"posted by: Betty Rhodes - 11:28am Jun 17, 2000 EDT
During the mid 1950's when I was a young girl living in western Pennsylvania (Wattsburg - Erie County, PA) there was a scary event that occurred. One Sunday afternoon the sky got really dark - dark enough to view the stars. The skies stayed dark for the rest of the day. We did not own a TV set at that time, and with the whole family wondering what was going on - (some thought the end of the world was at hand), my dad took us to Uncle Jakes in Corry to see what his TV set had to say about the situation. After many hours of no announcements or bulletins about the particular event, finally a reading came on the bottom of the screen that said there was a big forest fire in Canada and this was causing the darkened skies. Does anyone have any remembrance of this event? If so I would love to hear from you. This has puzzled me for decades and I would like to know the date and location of this forest fire. What was puzzling for me is seeing the stars - if a forest fire was sending smoke to darken the skies why could we see the stars? And why doesn't the sky darken on that magnitude with the forest fires today in our country? Must have been a truly big fire but can't find it in the historical almanacs.
Sincerely Betty Matteson Rhodes firstname.lastname@example.org
Read a Newspaper Article from Warren Times, Warren, PA - printed on September 25, 1950 stating that 'Black Sunday' was a result of a forest fire in Alberta, Canada (sent to me by Gordon Mathis)
Responses to my query
I receive emails and letters from others from time to time. Their recollections of this day in 1950 will be posted below.
Last updated on: March 21, 2016
IF ANYONE CAN RELATE TO THIS MESSAGE, PLEASE EMAIL ME
I remember that Sunday that it was so dark you had to have all your lights on to see. We lived in Erie and had never experienced any thing like this. My sister and I went to a movie and when we came out she thought that we had stayed all day in the movies and it now was midnight and we were going to be in trouble for staying so long. When our parents picked us up they said it had been dark all afternoon and it was only 3:00 in the afternoon. No one had a answer for what caused the unusual day, they said a fire in Canada, the army was testing a new weapon, a spaceship had covered the sun and it was the end of the world on N on. Very few people remember that day. I would really like to know what happened. We didn't have cell phones, computers or much TV we were really in the dark. Let me know what you know about this day. John More P. S. One thing, it wasn't the end of the world.
I remember it was a Sunday in the early 1950's when this strange occurrence took place. I was living west of Owen Sound, Ontario at the time when the sun darkened around noon. It reminded me of twilight time. The atmosphere seemed eerie and the birds went to roost.
The adults talked of signs of "the end of the world". We eventually heard that forest fires in the west were so dense, the smoke blew east and blotted out the sun.
Dorothy B. London, Ontario
My name is Paul Barfoot. I was a nearing my sixth birthday in October in Owen Sound Ontario when the skies turned black. I'm really grateful to find all this information about an event that nobody in Owen Sound seems to recall. I was beginning to think
it was all in my imagination. Surprised it was a Sunday. It's interesting that so many recollections of this event come from our neighbor
to the south in PA. I recall thinking, wow, is this it? Nobody seemed willing to explain it and I was left to my own imagination. I never heard any explanation until today, October 13, 2012 when I did a search and found this web site. Cheers, Paul
I was born on September 24, 1950 in central California. I never heard of Black Sunday until today when I googled the date trying to find out what day of the week I was born. I was so surprised to see I was born on Black Sunday and learn what Black Sunday was (or wasn’t). I guess it must not have affected California or the west coast.
I remember it well. I lived in Jamestown NY I was 7 at the time. Initially the sky yellowed, and I can remember darker streaks across the sky. We were paying in a neighbors yard and we drifted back to our houses as parents came out to find us, It ultimately became totally dark, and then quickly lightened up to normal. As kids we took it in stride, but in later years, my parents admitted to being frightened. 10 Years later my High School Physics teacher who witnessed the event said that it was not smoke and gave several reasons which I don't remember. I suspect that most of the adults involved didn't believe the government story, but it was the height of the "Cold War" and people didn't question things, as much as today.
An aunt told me that there was some hysteria in the downtown area, but it ended so fast that it amounted too little In any case It was a subject of discussion for many years afterward. One of my friends at the time, went on to obtain a PhD in atmospheric Physics I am forwarding the article to him
My father has recounted several times the day that we drove home from visiting his aunt, and the day turned to night. I was only 2 years old at the time. We lived outside Homer City, Pa, about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. We had a turkey farm and when we arrived, the turkeys were already roosting. He often wondered what had happened and after reading your site, I think he'd still be a bit confused.
I just looked at your site. I have a 8mm movie my dad took of us at Horseshoe Curve the day it got dark in 1951. We lived in Pittsburgh, my dad playing with the Pittsburgh Symphony. He always loved trains, so he took us on a drive to Altoona. The movies show the darkness coming, but that part is quite out of focus. He did get some good shots of trains at the curve, though.
Dave M. Royal Oak, Michigan
Hi " My name is john" I Just searched "Google, curious to know if anyone else remembered this event,of the sky turning black in mid morning.I myself, was born in January 1941,near London Ontario Canada.
I recall, along with my older siblings, the sudden darkness that caused the sun to disappear from our view,at the time.Some members of the family were startled,at the time, but I was to young to worry about anything.
The next day or so after,my Father informed us that this event was caused by a forest fire somewhere,so he heard.
"Thanks for sharing Your recollection of this day" J. F.
I brought up the subject while in a class this past spring while discussing airborne phenomena. I’m a pilot and a science buff so I tend to take more interest than most in such things. Several of the students were from the northeast and older than myself. Much to my surprise no one recalled the event. .
I was in Pittsburg playing with my friend Steven in his front yard in Mt. Lebanon. I was about 6 and Steve was three years my senior. Few people were outside (Steve and I were always outside if the weather was above 10 degrees!) and we could not find an explanation for the event. The radio and TV had nothing to offer, however we were told later that it was the result of a forest fire in Canada. The sky rapidly had darkened with a yellow cast, but not like smoke. The temperature had dropped from lack of sunlight and we went inside to invest ourselves in comic books without to much interest in the event. I don’t recall any fragrance of smoke although the yellow moving haze was low and should have produced a smell if indeed it was smoke from a fire of that magnitude. Smoke by it’s nature is particles of unburned fuel and has weight and mass that would harbor a fragrant component so I believe the forest fire smoke hypothesis to be wrong.
Hi, Betty! I was a kid of about 10 or 11 on that Sunday living just north of Oil City, PA, when the sky started turning dark. It lasted most of the afternoon, and we just assumed that it was an eclipse of the sun. That’s what I have always believed. My brother brought this up the other day, asking me if I remembered it. He said there was no documentation of an eclipse, and if there was no forest fire in eastern Canada, sounds like a government thing. A lot of odd things went on shortly after WW II, involving protection things, and God knows what else. Only now are we learning about a lot of it. This is fascinating that so many people remember something, but have different memories. I don’t remember any smoke, just stillness, no birds, and an eerie color to the sky. I currently live in Gainesville, Florida, and my brother in Montana, but he seems to recall talk of the end of the world. I don’t remember that at all.
Deleva M. R.
I grew up in western PA (Jamestown). Although I wasn't born until 1970, I had a high school chemistry teacher who told us about the day "they" turned the sky black..guessing this was around 1983/84. The teacher's name was Mr. Wheeler (don't remember his first name), but remember he lived in Greenville, PA. Anyway, he had worked for a chemical company for many years and only started teaching after he retired from the chemical industry. He told the class that they were performing some chemical experiments and turned the sky black. I hadn't thought of this in years, but something made me remember it today and I decided to google it and found your site. I remember the story because I went home and told my parents. My dad had a very clear recollection of it (he would have been 14 at the time), and even remembered that the story of the forest fire always seemed far fetched to him. Mr. Wheeler certainly would have been old enough in that he was probably in his sixties in 1983/84, so that would have put him in his late 20's in 1950.
Wish I had more details, but remember him saying that the experiment got a bit of hand or something...seem to recall it had to do with man-made weather...rain seeding or something like that.
My name is Steve k and I was an 8-year old living in Madera, PA
As I began reading your blog I clearly remembered that afternoon when the sky darkened. I was thinking it was a Sunday and turns out that was correct.
I heard adults talking that it was a forest fire in Canada. Don't recall anything else, like weird happenings.
Hi Betty Rhodes
My wife and I happened onto the subject of the "day of the yellow sky" just yesterday. I was about 13 and living near Harrisburg PA. My recollection is a "single-frame" picture of myself standing in the street beside our house late in the afternoon and marveling at the bright yellow sky, from horizon to horizon. It was like a heavy overcast, featureless cloud, but in stunning bright yellow. I do not remember what I was doing before that single-frame, or what I did after, just that one intense recollection. I do not recall any unnatural darkening of the sky. Possibly I was indoors by then, or possibly that part didn't
happen in my area. My wife was about 10 and recalls playing outside with two friends as the sky yellowed up. She recalls that it stayed yellow for about an hour; then her two friends went home, and she went indoors. She does not remember any darkening of the sky. She clearly recalls that she and her friends were playing 'frenetically', something very uncharacteristic of any of them since they were basically quiet kids.
What impressed the two of us was that we had these jibing recollections, since I was in PA and she was near Indianapolis. Now
from your site, I learn that the area affected was much wider than that!
JBG Champaign IL
Imagine your family returning from church on a Sunday morning in the spring. Birds are singing, the sun is shining, and you're looking forward to playing outside,
But that afternoon a "black blizzard" appears from the north. You've seen dust storms before. But this one will make history,
A Famous Storm
Black Sunday, on April 14, 1935, was one of the worst of the dust storms to hit the Plains states.
It blocked the sun and caused rainbow colors in the sky above the cloud of dust. Birds flew away ahead of it. People and animals caught in the dust couldn't breath, and some died.
Even people who were inside their homes were battered by the storm. Dust came in through cracks around doors and windows. It nearly buried some homes and barns.
Not only were the storms harmful to people and animals, but they also killed thousands of acres of corn, wheat, and other crops - sometimes in just one day. After losing much to drought and depression, many farmers in the Dust Bowl were completely ruined.
All the dust particles running into each other in the air caused a lot of static electricity. People sometimes knocked each other down just by shaking their hands. They also put cloth over metal door knobs to avoid shocking their hands.
Printed in Times-Observer, Tuesday, April 20, 2010 Warren, PA.
I have a very vivid recollection of the "Black Sunday" event but I could not remember the year. I knew it was in the fall and I remember is was on a Sunday. I lived in Western Pennsylvania in a small community east of Ellwood City. There was lots of speculation as to the cause. From the government testing blackout procedures to forest fire in Canada. I know that our family was sort of scared.
My father and I were in our back yard in Kingston, Pennsylvania [near Wilkes-Barre], playing badminton.
I was totally inept at the game.
The Spring weather was rapidly alternating between cloudy and cold, and sunny and warm.
(Overall temp about 62 degrees.) It was about 1 in the afternoon.
Suddenly it went from normal daylight to a late evening darkness in about 20 seconds,
then total night darkness - all in a matter of seconds.
I asked my father "What's going on?"
No sooner had I said it, than I heard a fellow working on the delivery deck of the bakery
across the street ask the same question as he turned on the lights there.
My father said he didn't know.
Stars were visible, and night insects or peepers - I'm not sure which - started chirping.
I would say that the total darkness lasted a minute.
Then the reverse: evening darkness again to total daylight in about 20 seconds.
Just as if nothing had never happened. The whole thing happened in the space of two minutes.
I've never heard any explanation for it. A friend of mine remembers the event, but it could easily
have been ignored or forgotten by people who would have thought it was a passing cloud.
It wasn't. I don't know what it was, but it was quite strange.
Please let me know you received this. Thanks,
Hi Betty! Thank you for your quick response. How incredible that you lived in the area, and went to Kingston high school! I went to Wyoming Seminary Day School in Forty Fort, but I did take a summer course at Kingston High School in about 1967.
My best guess for what my father and I went through is that there must have been some sort of time warp, and that night time imposed itself - briefly - on the day in question.
That may seem far fetched, but it makes more sense than that the earth somehow spun around 180 degrees, but only in Kingston! :-) best wishes to you and yours, bob
<>Wish I had more details, but remember him saying that the experiment got a bit of hand or something...seem to recall it had to do with man-made weather...rain seeding or something like that.
<> Jack Courtney<> of Havertown, PA
Betty, Thank you for putting together this information. I was a ten-year-old watching a Cleveland Indians game with my father when this happened. We had driven there from Erie, Pennsylvania that day our only purpose being to watch the game. I remember the sky becoming progressively darker and then the stadium lights coming on in the middle of what minutes before was a clear afternoon. I don’t recall anyone being alarmed by the event and I do recall some speculation at the time that it was caused by a forest fire in Canada. From what I can remember, the cloud seemed very continuous and I could not see the beginning or end of it in any direction. I don’t recall when it ended but I don’t think it was still overhead by the time the game was over. I don’t remember anything being published in the local newspaper about the event and many years ago I stopped asking people around my age if they recall the event and whether they have any information about it. Something motivated me to do an online search of the subject today and happily I found your site. Yours, KRG, Erie, Pa
The wild fires in the west
made me remember the day. I was only 3
years old at the time and lived in Altoona PA. I woke up from my afternoon nap to darkness, I was frightened and
cried. My father told me it was smoke
from forest fires but I must have been shaken because I can still remember the
day. For many years I thought I was
imagining it but it really happened. Another Rhodes from PA.
My Aunt and Mother, each living in Jamestown, NY at the time, recall this event clearly and often speak of it prompting me to do some research into the event. Please find attached a PDF of the Canadian Smoke Newsletter. Please see pages 13, 14 and 15 which describe the incident in Alberta, particularly a dramatic map published in the Toronto Star on Sept 25, 1950.
I hope this adds to the body of knowledge you've gathered on this fascinating and legendary event!
Michael New York, NY
I remember that day because my dad was working 7 to 3 at U.S.Steel National Tube Works in Ellwood city, Pa. and he had to use his headlights to drive home. Also our barn caught fire that day and burned to the ground around 1 pm just as the sky started to darken. When it was reported that the cause was a forest fire in Canada we couldn't dispute it because we had the smell of smoke from our fire. Then by supper time we had a normal sunset and it was the talk for days.
I knew for sure it was 1950 as I remember the big snow of Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving)1950 was on top of the remnents of the barn fire before we had it cleaned up the spring of 1951.
For some reason "the day that it got dark during the day in Salamanca, New York" came to mind today and I decided to google it. I was surprised to find so much information after all this time. I was 13 years old at the time and was playing at a girl friend's house. I called home to see what to do and Mother said to stay where I was because she didn't know what was going on and didn't want me out on the street.
Most people were satisfied with the explanation of a huge fire in Canada but many had other theories. I just was glad when everything got back to normal.
I was born in Dunkirk NY. I am 61 years old. My father told me throughout my life about the time when I was a baby that there was a beautiful day in late summer in Western NY when everything went completely dark. He told me that the explanation at the time was that there was a forest fire in Canada. However, there was one fact that did not jibe with the "smoke" explanation. He said they could see the stars and that it was dark as night. His story was consistant throughout his life. My mother confirmed this. She said they were all concerned and that she checked me in my crib and that I slept through the whole thing. The sense I get from their story was that it was day and then it was night, as if the day skipped to night.
Are you still gathering information? [answer: yes] Have you found anything new? [answer: nothing official] I was just 10 at the time in Erie, Pa. Friends and I were outside playing and noticed that, gradually over a period of what seemed like about 15 minutes, everything turned golden yellow. The white houses looked as if we were looking through yellow cellophane. Then, very quickly, it became as dark as night in the late afternoon. I don't remember it getting light again but it may have. The explanations at the time was that it was a forest fire in Canada but no one seemed convinced of that. There was no smoke smell that I recall and I think the adults were saying that there was no smell. Thanks for your web site. I now live in CA so no one here remembers it and I am happy to know that it happened the way I remembered. Alicia
From "Planet Earth and the New Geoscience" by Victor A. Schmidt, William Harbert, University of Pittsburgh University
"In addition to the few cases of World War II firestorms, there have been observations of large forest fires. The best documented one took place in Alberta, Canada in the summer of 1950. The smoke plume from this fire could be clearly traced for days, and was so dense that when it passed over Cleveland and Detroit on Sunday September 24, 1950, it darkened the sky to the point that lights were needed for afternoon baseball games. Temperatures were also several degrees below the expected levels in Washington, D.C. This same cloud was observed by a Royal Air Force pilot over England several days later at a height of 9-12 kilometers! Clearly, when meteorological conditions permit, smoke from massive fires can both get very high and last a long time in the atmosphere."
Just stumbled onto your site.
I was 10 years old at the time, and I remember my mom made us go out and pick all the tomatoes from our garden she thought we were going to have a big frost that night. Our local radio station said it was a fire up in Canada but I never believed that, and often wondered what the real reason was. Our local “drive-in movie” started to show movies at 4 in the afternoon that day. I live in Butler, Pa. that’s about 30 miles North on Pittsburgh, Pa. I never did hear if it got dark out in the western states that day. Jerry
Hello. My name is Lydia and I live in Venango county PA. My grandmother was telling me about this day and what the sky looked like. She was pregnant at the time with my aunt Maxine who is mentally retarded. I am telling you this because almost every woman in our area that was pregnant at this time had a mentally retarded child. She seems to think that this had something to do with it and I do as well. It just seems strange that so many women had mentally retarded children after this occurrence. I am trying to research this and am not having much luck. I would appreciate any help you could give me. I would like to see any photos from that day as well. I can not seem to find any from that day and that seems strange to me also. I look foreword to hearing from you. Thank you, Lydia
Thanks for researching an event that has remained in my mind for 58 years.I was 8yrs. old at the time the sky darkened. I lived in Frewsburg, NY which is close to the PA border toward Warren PA. I remember the strange yellow in the sky, both going into and coming out of the darkness. The air had a strange, almost chemical smell and my parents took me down to a neighbor's house to play inside with my friends. The adults all stayed at the kitchen table while the kids played. I remember sensing some fear in the adults as they remained casual in front of the children.The time frame here is, I think, important.My Dad was a Civil Defense warden in our town. He got the alert early if there was to be an air raid drill. I can remember my mother pulling down those shades with the black-green exterior and putting out all the lights. Then the fire siren would blow and my Dad would be out on the street at his post. Fast forward five or six years, and suddenly on a sunny September day the sky goes black. The adult memories of WW II are pretty fresh and the cold war was gaining strength. Canadian forest fires were not cutting it with the adults I knew. They felt it was some government experiment we weren't supposed to ask much about. I tend to agree as I never smelled smoke but I sure remember the air having a strange smell. SallyThank You,
Just this past Sunday I was talking with my parents and they mentioned this event, which they believe the government was somehow responsible for. It was their first anniversary. I had never heard the story and was intrigued, so I googled it and came across your wonderful website. My parents will be thrilled to know they were not going crazy. They lived in Dunkirk at the time. Thanks again.
I remember this day very well. I was a little kid at the time driving with my parents back from Batavia to Buffalo, NY along Genesee Street. It had been a clear sunny day and then along the horizon the sky began to darken (as if a thunderstorm were approaching). The sky got darker and darker until my dad put on the headlights. My Mom was rather afraid but my Dad said we would just keep going back to Buffalo. Along Genesee Street at that point in time there were dairy farms and I can remember seeing the cows' confusion and then some started walking back to their barns. We got to Buffalo and home and the street lights were on. It was just plain nighttime and the stars were out. Neighbors were out on the street and very frightened. At about 4:00 p.m. that day the sky gradually got lighter and normal daylight occurred. Not many people had TV's in those days - we did and later it was said there was a forest fire in Alberta Canada which seemed absurd even then. There have been forest fires in the west since that day and there was never another day like this. It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen in my life. I've tried to find out more about it over the years and even asked people in my age group who lived here if they remember. I've found that they either did not remember or if they did were extremely reluctant to talk about it. Sylvia
Betty...we were just talking about the strange darkness while my daughter and family were visiting. So, I got on the 'net and found your site...I very distinctly remember that day, altho' until I read the date could not recall it exactly. I remember it being a Sun. in Sept. 1950 when after my family had returned from Mass at our local church in Sharpsville, Pa., we ate our dinner and at 2:30 p.m., my two younger teen age sisters went to the matinee at the Ritz theatre to see "Pride and Predjudice". I had a good book to finish, so I stayed home reading. Mom was napping; Dad was reading the paper and my brothers were out somewhere. I noted that the afternoon kept getting darker and as I read, I had to turn on a lamp. I thought it would storm but the sky was a bright kind of yellow. It kept getting darker and within the hour, the sky and the general outside light seemed to be a deep orange-yellow and getting darker! By the time my sisters returned and my brothers got back, about 5:30, it was like night...very dark with only a tinge of yellow...artificial lights outside (lampposts and car headlights) were unusually white-blue in this strange atmosphere and it continued into the usual time for sun down. We could not distinguish the weird stuff from night, by then. I wondered if the sun would come up the next day...but it did and all seemed normal...there was no good explanation except the "fire in Canada" one, which didn't plausible to us. We also followed the track of the phenomenon and read somewhere that it had gone east and out to sea, eventually ending up in Europe. We also wondered about nuclear experiments in the west and later wondered about the movie John Wayne made around that time. Many of the people out whereever it was made, died from cancer later. Toni
I was 5+ at the time of "Black Sunday" and lived in a suburb of Cleveland. I remember the event well and the official explanation of a fire in Canada, which seemed strange even to a 5 year old. My best friend was 3 at the time and thought it was night when her mother put her down for her afternoon nap. It was very dark - like the darkest of nights - and there was a yellow glow to the blackness. I don't remember anyone mentioning stars.
We never heard too much more about it, but I've always been curious. My mother who is now 98 recalls being intrigued but not too concerned at the time. I remain skeptical to this day.
I was born in 1945 and I remember a Sunday when I was 5 or 6 when it got very dark in the middle of the afternoon. It must have been in September of early October because we were picking tomatoes and all migrant workers quit because they thought it was a sign that they shouldn't be working on Sunday. This was in Fairview, PA. I don't remember seeing any stars or smelling smoke.
Somewhere I read or heard that it was attributed to a large forest fire in Canada. That never made sense to me. A large forest fire would burn for days, if not weeks. How could it result in an event that only lasted a couple of hours? Even if the wind direction changed it would have directed the cloud over some other area and there would have been reports from those areas.
Good Luck with your investigation. Does anybody knows how to use the "Public Information Act" to try and get information about this from the government?
LarryAs i remember Sept. 24,1950 started out as a nice clear day. After we came back from burying grandpap the sky started to get pitch black and stayed that way for about 30 min. No rain or stars or clouds just pitch black as if someone covered the blue sky with a black blanket. I also remember someone saying about the chickens going to roost. Several people thought the world was comming to the end. Later I heard it came from a fire up in Canada. Some people thought it was a experiment from the government.Guess we will never know for sure. Take care . talk to you later. Shirley
As a kid (feb of 1943) I lived in Corry PA. and around noon it was getting dark on a rather sunny day.My folks packed us kids into the car and headed to titusville pa. to be with family members..Sure was a scar'y day for most of us..My parents did not say to much on the drive down,but sure was some wonderful colors in the sky..I being the oldest of five children was most concerned about it..Later in the day we were playing in the yard on 515 s. franklin st. titusville when it started to get light again ,say abot 4;30....Turned out to be a nice sunny day in a very short time.. I have asked just lately at church (seventh-Day Adventist church in Lowville Pa.)if anyone remembered that dark day..So I punched it into google.com. And found your site..did not smell any smoke or fallout from this day.Cows went to the barn and no birds..Not much traffic..Heard later everyone saying that the papers had a little write up that it was a fire in canada...yea Right!! Often wondered about this. Thanks for the info. and May God Bless!!! jerry
ps. We were studying prophesy in the bible about end time issues and another dark day in history,so I renewed my interest.. Thanks for getting back to me....
Great site. Thanks for doing this..Any updates? Jerry
Hi my name is Gene Palmer. I remember that day very well, I was at a aunt of mine ,outside of Plumville Pa. Which is between Indian and Kittaning Pa. She had a farm, and all of the chickens headed for the hen house, and the cows headed for the barn. I grew up in the hills of central pa, were the were no city lights. I never saw any nights as dark as that Sunday afternoon.
I was 7 at the time of the Black Sunday. We lived near Smicksburg, PA, which is north east of Pittsburgh, east of Indiana, PA and south of Punxsutawney, PA. I remember that the chickens went to roost and that we could see the stars. I often think of that day and how strange it was. The grown ups were frightened but we kids thought it was neat.
I remember the explanation being that it was a large forest fire in Canada.
Great to see the answer on the web.
My name is Jo Ann Boller and I live in northwestern Pennsylvania. I remember that day very well. It was the Sept. after I had graduated from high school. I was visiting my aunt and uncle who lived up the street from me and around 3 pm it got as dark as night. My aunt thought it was the end of the world. I remember running home as my Mother was alone because my Dad was at work. We heard rumors of forest fires in Canada and also some gov't testing of some sort but never did hear anything for sure. It's has been interesting reading the letters from other people that remember that weird happening. Thanks . Jo Ann Boller, Port Allegany, Pa.
Thank for posting my Memories [see below].
The funeral director (Charles Scoff). Would tell me every time we met. That he would never forget the day he buried my grandfather. (Even after 40 years) Must have made a lasting impression him also.
Sincerely ... Charlie Tyler
I just happened upon your inquiry of Black Sunday, 1950 (I've heard it referred to as that). I too have never heard any explanation as to that phenomenon. I can't tell you a whole lot about it. However, I can tell you that it was September 24, 1950. The reason that I know of it is because that was the day that I was born. When I was about 16, an aunt of mine felt a need to let me know about it. Like it was because of me. Jean Irwin
CAN'T BE OF MUCH HELP WITH DETAILS, BUT I WAS JUST A LITTLE GIRL AND REMEMBER THAT DAY VERY WELL. WE WERE ALL VERY FRIGHTENED AND ALSO THOUGHT IT WAS THEN END OF THE WORLD.
I wasn't yet born when this happened, but my parents told us about it several times. They too mentioned the explanation of a big fire in Canada, but also other explanations, like the CIA, and so forth. I don't recall the part about being able to see the stars while this was going on. I now live in California, and recently lived through a spooky fire that darkened the sky a few Sunday afternoons ago. There was no way you could see stars, and only a fraction of the sky was darkened.
The only way (I think) you could see stars was if the hour was near sunset, and the smoke from the fire obscured the sunset, but left the remainder of the sky clear. This doesn't jive with what you and my parents give as the time of the event.
If you find anything out, please let me know.
This won't be much help I am afraid, but as I read your remarks about the dark sky I remembered a Sunday afternoon car ride when I was a kid.
The sky became as dark as night. My father later talked to an uncle who was an air force pilot. My uncle said that the event was the result of a government experiment using powdered silver nitrate to seed clouds as a cover for our bombers on future missions, and that the cloud floated across the country from the desert in New Mexico. I remember it well.
I am now 57. It was about fifty years ago, but I still remember the excitement! I lived in Erie, where I was born, when this incident ocurred. The "chemical" (and other "defense-related") experiments were initially conducted in California, Nevada, and New Mexico between 1945 and 1955, commencing even before WWII ended. Interestingly, I have heard from several sources that they believed that an early version of a nuclear bomb was accidently detonated resulting not only in the darkening cloud, but in many military and civilian deaths. Unfortunately, we (the US government) are +all too capable of orchestrating cover-ups so well that truth becomes a non-sequitur. (I KNOW that this scenario was a possibility!)
Anyway, this is an interesting subject. You have no idea how much you have been deceived by those that you trust! I had to bite my tongue so many times I am surprised that I didn't bite it off!!!
Col. USAF (Ret.)
I lived on Powell Avenue in Erie from 1945 to 1953. My father was then transferred to Louisville, KY with GE. I very distinctly remember the day it was pitch black. I thought it was on a weekday as I remember my mother calling my father at GE to find out what was going on. He called us back to tell us the news that it was a forest fire in Canada. I've told that story to my husband and children and they think I've invented the story as they find it hard to believe that smoke from across the lake could make it that dark. I don't remember any stars though. I was recently in Erie working on genealogy and should have looked up the old newspapers. It occurred before Oct. 1953, when we moved to KY.
My cousin who is still in Erie doesn't remember it, but she's younger than I am. I'm planning to call another Erie cousin today who now lives in Colorado. She's a few years older so may have a clearer memory of the event.
I'll let you know if I find out anything from my cousin.
Heather Scarlett Hurley
Dear Ms. Rhodes:
I do indeed remember the event you describe in your posting under "Erie Legends" at GoErie.com. I was five or six years old at the time and it made a life-long impression. To check my information, I talked to my father and he confirms what little I'm able to tell you.
At the time of this event, my family was living on West 7th Street in Erie. That's important because we moved from West 7th in the summer of 1951, which would put the event a little earlier than the mid-fifties.
My dad confirms that it happened on a Sunday afternoon but we both agree that the atmosphere had cleared before nightfall. I have a very distinct image of the sky to the north of us still laced with traces of semi-transparent, smokey-looking clouds.
My dad didn't recall the Canadian forest fire explanation but did say that many people thought it signaled the end of the world. He also said that he never heard what seemed like a credible explanation.
On the other hand, I did remember the forest fire explanation but also recall talk of a possible Department of Defense experiment. Most of the adults around me, including my father who was in London during the Blitz, would immediately understand the value of a man-made blackout.
Certainly, if that were the explanation, we'd be given the cover story and that would be it.
I'm not saying that it's a credible explanation, only that people who survived a World War, and then found themselves at the edge of a nuclear abyss, were sometimes asked to do and believe things that would seem quite ludicrous today. (Not that my choosing to live fifty miles downwind from two aging nuclear power plants isn't also.)
For instance, not long after the event we're talking about, I remember taking part in a countywide practice evacuation. It was scheduled for a weekend and we were literally on the road for hours following the directions of Civil Defense personnel in white coveralls and yellow or white helmets. Weird sort of Sunday drive, right?
Although I've not been much help, I'd be very interested in your findings. And I will keep your e-mail address in case anything of interest turns up.
PS I can't let my kids know that I've spoken to anyone about this because I always ridicule their interest in the X-Files and it's one of the few pleasures I have in life. (LOL.)
I have a vague recollection of that period when the skies darkened. I remember that night came in the afternoon and was told that it was a total eclipse of the sun.
Hi! Yes, I too remember that dark day when it was as dark as midnight and the Cleveland Indians had to turn on the stadium lights. I have always been curious about it and skeptical about "forest fires" being the cause. I remember that because I had always been a nervous kid in a family of stoics and they took no interest in the phemomenon, so I woke my oldest sister who was a RN, sleeping because she was on the night shift, she yelled at me for waking her and, because she was religious, told me my fear was caused by a "guilty conscience"! I didn't bother anymore about it, but have always been curious. As you said how could smoke cause that and one still see the stars. I did see a mention of it in an old copy of Life Magazine. I would be interested in learning more and will let you know if I see anything.
Especially interested because as a kid had nothing on my conscience! Name withheld
Good Morning Betty,
Sorry for the delay but I had my Black Sunday file disappear in the move I did this past year.
Do you still need the dates and information on when the sky turned black in the 1950s?
The Official Black Sunday occured several years before I was born. My family talked about it on occassion and it was simular to 3 other days which happened as I was very young. I am hoping to get more information or to locate the newspaper articles on them but so far I have no dates to go on or reference points to narrow the search beyond a 10 year time area.
There was a Black-out in the 1870s that I hope to be able to research within the next few months but the one most people refer to occured September 24, 1950 making the newspaper headlines around the world Monday September 25, 1950 and for several days following. New York Times, Jamestown Dispatch, and Warren Times I have seen articles to .......I have a copy of the Warren paper which I can photo copy and mail to you if you would like this for your files.
Basically the sky turned different colors then black around 3 pm over the Northeast Seaboard. Some thought it was judgement day - end of the world while many thought the government was doing an experiment. The story came out of severe forest fires in Canada and the smoke drifted across the US and eventially was rained clean over Europe.
gordon mathis (to read the article from the Warren Times Newspaper - click here)
I will need an address to send the article to......
I went over to the Warren Library today and I looked up the file on micrfilm from Warren Times Mirror and Observer to be certain of the date and facts. You should be able to access your newspapers and find simular articles that were published nation wide. It sounds like an interesting project and I will be interested to see other perspecitives and especially other dates that simular things happened.
I am hoping to get more information on the 1870 and track down the same type articles. I do regular research and am the author or the Trivia Game of Warren County, PA (1985)
It took a little longer to get there but our mail around here seems slow. I am on the board of directors representing stamp clubs for the local post office and will let them know at the next meeting.
There have been forest fires, inclduing bad ones, since then and none have ever turned the skies black. I think the explanation is lame. I have seen volcanoes blow and not turn the sky black although I did see one turn a rich grey. (when I lived in AK). I remember the sky turning black at least once and a dark red in the middle of Sunday afternoons when I was young and I was born well after the forest fire Black Sunday. I just think that maybe there is more to it and it will be interesting to hear other people talk about their experiences and perhaps some more dates will come up.
If I ever trip over additional information I will let you know. Good luck with the project!!!!!
Subject: Re: dark Sunday in the 50's
I was only 6 then, but now that you mention it I do remember. I seem to recall also that it was reported as a huge forest fire somewhere or a junkyard tire fire, but was too young at the time to question it. I am copying my Mom on this - maybe she or my Dad remembers something.
I'm 53 and have a strong recollection of the day your refer to. I remember being told of the Canadian fire. I notice your posting was made a while ago. Have you received any interesting feedback?
Re: Dark Skies
I remember the day well! It got darker and darker like before a storm but there was no storm in the air. It was only frightening if you thought it was the end of the world...for those of us who were "believers" there had to be another explanation..the forest fires in Canada were the only explanation we ever got unless I've forgotten something. We must have been having a gathering here that day as I vaguely remember someone else was here..Maybe Uncle Louis (Schibetta) who often visited us on Sundays.
HI BETTY RHODES..OF WATTSBURG!
MY NAME IS CLIFF SHILLING...I REMEMBER THAT DAY IN THE EARLY 50'S....I WAS A RADIO AND TV ANNOUNCER IN ERIE...AND THAT SUNDAY I WAS IN MY PIPER CUB AIRPLANE FLY SOUTH TO BROOKVILLE, PENNA...MY HOME TOWN...AND WHEN I TOOK OFF FROM THE AIRPORT AT KEARSARGE...I LOOKED NORTH TOWARD CANADA AND SAW THE BIG DARK AREA....I WOULD TURN MY PLANE AROUND IN A CIRCLE OCCASIONALLY TO WATCH AND SEE WHAT IT MIGHT BE.
I NOTICED AS I FLEW ON SOUTH...THAT IT WAS CLOSING IN ON ME.....IT TOOK ME AN HOUR TO GET TO BROOKVILLE...AND JUST AS I WAS LANDING I COULD SMELL WOOD BURNING LIKE SMOKE...AND I WASN'T ON THE GROUND MORE THAN 15 MINUTES BEFORE IT WAS PITCH DARK...IT LASTED FOR ABOUT I WOULD SAY, TRYING TO REMEMBER BACK THAT FAR IN TIME...ABOUT 1/2 HOUR TO AND HOUR....I DIDN'T KEEP TRACK OF THE TIME...BUT IT GOT BACK TO DAYLIGHT AGAIN...AND LATER I TOOK OFF AND FLEW BACK TO ERIE... I CHECKED IN THE THE FLIGHT SERVICE PEOPLE AT ERIE AIRPORT AND THEY TOLD ME THAT IT WAS A FOREST FIRE IN CANADA THAT CAUSED THAT BLACKOUT...IT WAS SMOKE!
AS I HAD SUSPECTED WHEN ON THE GROUND IN BROOKVILLE....SO I HOPE THAT THIS CLEARS UP THE MYSTERY FOR YOU, JUST IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY HEARD FROM SOMEONE ELSE...I LIVE IN BEVERLY HILLS, FLORIDA SINCE RETIRING FROM RADIO AND TELEVISION...I WORKED AT CHANNEL 12, WICU IN ERIE AND CHANNEL 35...I WAS THE HOST OF DANCE PARTY" EVERY SATURDAY FOR 9 YEARS...A BANDSTAND TYPE SHOW FOR TEENAGERS...AND I WAS A DISC JOCKEY ON WIKK...WERC...WJET AND WLEU...I WORKED ON THEM ALL...NOT AT THE SAME TIME OF COURSE...
I LEFT ERIE IN 1964 AND WENT TO A NEW YORK RADIO STATION TO WORK.. AND RETIRED IN 1994 IN FLORIDA...I HAVE A LOT OF MEMORIES ABOUT YOUR AREA...I HOPE THIS HAS BEEN HELPFUL TO YOU... GOD BLESS YOU ..I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR BACK FROM YOU IF YOU COULD PLEASE.
SINCERELY, CLIFF SHILLING
My mother's recollections:
I remember that day pretty good. We were planning to go to North East, (PA) after apples so it was sometime in the fall. We changed our plans and didn't go after apples, but instead went to Corry to visit 'Uncle' Jake. The TV reported a forest fire across the bottom of the screen but it seemed like a strange forest fire. Everyone had to use their headlights when driving because it got quite dark early in the afternoon. It was in the early 50's.
Mom (Ethel Matteson)
Hello Betty, I remember that day,we(my family and I) were at my sisters house in Erie(I am Helen Klauks sister & Bill Klauks aunt) We spent a lot of time that day looking at the sky but I don't remember any stars, only the explanation from news reports that there forest fires in Canada and the wind blew the smoke in our direction. Laura Price
My name is Ron Joy, born in Dunkirk, NY, 40 miles east of Erie, PA. I remember the day in question and did some research in the mid 80's. My goal was to disprove the forest fire theory! I set this research aside for a number of years and during a recent visit to Erie, I asked a person my age if they remembered the incident. They did not, but it stirred my interest again. With the power of the internet I thought I might have better luck. Low and behold I found your inquiry.
If this truely was a forest fire cloud, we should be able to track it back to it's source. Edmonton. Have you continued your research since 2000 and if so what can you share.
I was born also i n 1941, and many of my classmates (1959) and later 60,61 etc contracted MS. I always wondered if there wasn't a conection between the two.
Here is what I found out about the cloud formation per the newspapers.
The "smoke cloud" drifted down from Canadian Forest fires, Edmonton, Alberta. According to newspaper accounts, the cloud in question, was sighted over the Eastern portion of the US and was traveling in an easterly direction toward the Atlantic Ocean. Sightings were reported as far north as toronto and south to Knoxville, TN. Astronomers observing the eclipse of the moon the night of Sept 24-25 reported obscuration of the moon. Estimates of the cloud formation was 1700 miles long and 200 miles wide. Airline pilots reported the cloud was as high as 25000 ft. Others flying at lower levels also encountered the cloud, indicating it was approx. 3 miles thick. It was last reported over the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland and heading out to sea.
I tried to link a "dirty" nuclear explosion for this event. If so the government covered it up pretty well. I could not find any information of a test on or around Sept 1950. Many verterans of the nuclear test era have websites and are still fighting the government for some kind of answer.
I hope you will enjoy the info. If you are still interested in researching this subject let me know.
Re: the Black Sunday....I was young also...however, out here in Calif. we did have a long term eclipse of the sun one day. I recall that it was our most pronounced we had ever seen. Now, I don't know the exact year, etc....and we are a bit more West than you all in PA, but suppose it happened on the same day as the fire?
Don't know, but that's just an idea.
I was in the Academy stadium that Sunday that went completely black, however, I do not have any idea of what happened either. It certainly was a scary day. If you find any info on this day, I would appreciate hearing back from you. I presently live in Fla., but lived in Erie until 1967.
Hello from Canada:
I have just been reading about the Black Sunday incident, on Sunday Sept 24 1950, you have posted. For years I have tried to pinpoint, and verify, that incident. I knew it happened, but I seemed to be the only one that remembered.
I think people were beginning to think I was crazy. I was in my teens, but of course my parents are long since passed away, as have my siblings. I no longer, and haven't lived in that area for over 45 years People of my own age group around here don't recall it. My wife, can't remember it , or her siblings.
I remember it well as on Sundays we often used to hitch hike, just to go some place. I remembered it was in September, and I thought it was 1950 or 1951. We always calculated how far we should go so we would get a ride back before dark. We lived in a small town in Ontario, about 30 miles from Toronto. That day a friend and I hiked west, and made it to Stratford about 80 miles away. We walked around for awhile and not having watches didn't know the time. We realized it was starting to get dark and went looking for the time It was , as I recall about 4 in the afternoon. It got darker, we barely had the bus fare back home between us, but we had to take the bus. It was as dark as any night, I don't remember the stars being out, or any moon. Before we got home, which was about two hours, it was like having a sunrise as the sky lightened, but then because of the time it got dark again. We didn't know if the same thing had happened at home with the darkness, but it had. It affected most of Eastern Canada
The forest fires were given as the cause and I always accepted that. After all ,volcanic eruptions do that and when the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa exploded in 1883, they say its dust turned sunsets green and the moon blue all around the world for the best part of two years.
I am glad I found your page, really enjoyed it.
Betty -- Thank you for starting this investigation.
September 24, 1950 has always been a mystery to me that I occasionally think about, and wonder. I remember that Sunday in Titusville quite well, although I didn't remember the date. I was almost 13 and, as our family and other churchgoers went outside after the morning service (about noon), we remarked about how odd the sky looked: an eerie dark yellow. As I recall, it was the same color in every direction. The afternoon proceeded normally for me. I went home with a church friend for dinner with her family.
I can't recall anyone acting worried or afraid. Maybe that was because, as Bible-familiar Christians, we didn't expect the world to end that way. By about 2 p.m., it was as black as any dark night, but because it was mid-day, after all, we went for a walk around the town. I don't remember any stars, but I don't remember looking at the sky during the dark period, either. My memory says it stayed dark until late afternoon, but by the time we returned to church for our evening service (6:30, I think) the light was back to normal. I can't remember that anyone in the church that evening seemed upset or that there was anything unusual about the service. Nor do I remember any discussion about it the next day at school.
All I ever heard as an explanation was the story about the forest fire in Canada, but that never has made good sense to me. It remains one of life's mysteries. I have never been able to understand, either, why there wasn't a big hullabaloo about it. Or maybe there was, and I wasn't aware of it because I didn't read the newspaper and we didn't have television. I enjoyed reading the memories of others on your website. Thanks again for sharing.
Janet -- Delaware
Thanks so much for doing all this work! How wonderful to finally get an explanation after all those years of wondering. It's hard to believe that a forest fire all the way out in Alberta could cause so much smoke in Erie but it made it all the way to England & Holland! Makes Erie sound pretty close. Thanks again so much for your great web site and all your work.
Henryville, IN (formerly Erie)
The following 3 accounts are from the following website on the subject of Blue Moon
"It was a cloudy day. Early in the afternoon, the sun disappeared and it became as dark as midnight. Lamps were lit and lanterns brought out. I went outside to walk around and check the livestock, and found that the chickens had all gone to roost, all the wild birds had gone to sleep, and the farm animals had gone into their normal nightime sleeping places in barns and coops. We could see that the streetlights had come on in the nearby town. We had no Television at the time, but heard over the radio that there was a forest fire in Canada producing so much smoke that it had blacked out the sun."
"People were very frightened, and some thought the world was coming to an end. Others thought the Russians had done 'something' as the Cold War was in full flower then. Some thought the dreaded nuclear holocaust had come, but most people I knew thought it was a secret government smoke-screen experiment related to Cold War defense. The true believers in conspiracy never would accept the forest fire 'cover-up' story as they called it. Some of my classmates to this day still stick to the 'government cover-up' tale. Whatever one's thoughts at the time, it was a very frightening day. As the day waned, the smoke thinned a bit and the sun could be seen through the blackness as a faint blue orb, but it never did get light outside. After nightfall the moon which was full that night, was blue. I read later that blue moons were seen as far away as Europe on Sept. 26, 1950."
"There was a pervasive smoky smell in the air that didn't smell like wood smoke, but like peat smoke, a smell similar to smoldering wet hay. I remember being ill for several days afterward with a cold-like respiratory disorder including runny nose, stuffy head and irritated eyes."
"Most people who lived in Western Pennsylvania at the time remember that day vividly if they had any reason to be out-of-doors. We always called it 'Black Sunday' afterward. Sometimes you read references from people said they saw stars because it was so dark, but that is not true. Obviously no stars were visible because the smoke was so thick we could not even see the sun. I remember a sky that was totally black, smelled like smoke and was truly frightening."
from Tom Whiting of Erie Pennsylvania: "I was just a young boy 5 or 6 years old, living in New Castle PA in the summer of 1946 or 1947 when smoke from forest fires (in Canada?) drifted down over the Western Pennsylvania area. It got really dark in the daytime;I remember the street lights came on in the early afternoon, like 1 or 2 pm, and you could smell the slight odor of smoke. Anyway, for a night or two, we had this bluish-tinged near-full moon. I don't remember the exact year or month. I just remember we kids were all scared, and thought maybe the world was coming to an end. (Not because of the moon, but rather the daytime darkness). My one and only Real Blue Moon!"
from Samuel L. Sievers of Vincennes, Indiana: "I am 64 years old. I recall riding with my father in his large semi-trailor, returning to southern Indiana from Chicago's South Watermarket. This was a bouncy 6-hour trip. We were hauling watermelons, so it had to be in late July or more likely August, somewhere between 1954-1957. I wondered what sort of evil the bluish moon meant, and dad wisely said it was probably dust or smoke."
Truman ordered development of hydrogen bomb (Jan. 31, 1950)
Red Haze Report- Hamilton residents flock to church, fearing doomsday or a nuclear attack, as day turns to night on the afternoon of September 24, 1950, but the real culprit is drifting smoke from Alberta forest fires. http://www.weatheruntamed.tv/series1.htm
You may contact me at:
Betty Rhodes and put 'Black Sunday' in the subject line please.