Perhaps you have heard the song "Stars Fell on Alabama" and assume it came from the book titled with the same name written by Carl Carmer in 1934 as well as the song with the same name written by Mitchell Parish and Frank Perkins a few years later. However, few people realize that the words probably came from an actual event on Nov. 13, 1833, in northern Alabama. On this night, people in this part of the state went to bed as normal to be awakened around midnight when a number of shooting stars began streaking across the night sky.
The number increased to tens of thousands by 3 a.m. The light was so constant from the streaming meteors that the roosters began crowing and people started arising, thinking the sun was up. Cows headed for pasture and chickens left their roost due to the brightness of the sky. The heavens appeared to be crashing down in the startling meteor display.
Now, let me pause here to say that this information came from an article I ran across by Donna R. Causey. The event was so unusual, and one that actually took place, that I decided to share it with you. The main reason, however, that I wanted to share it is because recent scientific information says an event like this could happen again with even more serious consequences.
Now, let me pause again before I continue to say that if this event were to happen today the media people would have a field day, let alone what could be picked up by all the satellites we have out in space. I can just see all those media trucks, filled with reporters and camera people speeding to the scene to give the whole world a firsthand account. However, back in 1833, they didn't have anything but the newspaper (hooray for our side). Here is one account, and it is quite humorous.
A Huntsville editor wrote "people were praying and shouting, thinking the Day of Judgment had come. The Heavens were on fire as 10,000 meteors fell in one hour." From newspaper accounts, the people of north Alabama literally thought the world was coming to an end. Travelers packed and headed for home to be with their families in the final hours. The Florence Gazette reported: "thousands of luminous bodies (were) shooting across the firmament in every direction. There was little wind and not a trace of clouds, and the meteors succeeded each other in quick succession."
From a wider angle, the shower of meteors was visible far and wide over North America. The maximum shower display was between 2:30 and 4 a.m. on the 13th of November. At the Pulaski Pike Race Track, confusion erupted during the annual holiday of horse racing, card playing and cockfighting as sportsmen and planters hid under chairs, tables, and beds to protect themselves from the meteors.
The shower of meteors was visible over North America but was nothing compared to what the people of the southeastern states and particularly north Alabama experienced that night. One astronomer claimed that one meteor was as large as the moon. The shower of Leonids occurs every 33 to 34 years but nothing has compared to what northern Alabamians experienced the fateful night of Nov. 13, 1833. And as Paul Harvey would say, "And Now You Know the Rest of the Story."