Rain Man: the self-taught scientist who almost flooded California (8 photos)

Category: Nostalgia, PEGI 0+
22 May 2024

At all times, there have been those who claimed that they could both cause and stop rain. True, with the development of science, the relevance of these “shamans” has greatly decreased, but back in the 20th century, “rain spellers” could be attracted out of necessity. After all, drought or heavy rains could cause enormous damage to plants, animals and people.

It was 1915 when a terrible drought hit the Western United States. California suffered especially hard - streams, rivers and lakes dried up there. Farmers, out of desperation, asked Indians and scientists for help, in a panic they drilled wells and looked for underground sources. But all this did not bring any benefit and the money more often than not simply flew away.

Adherents of magical problem solving even showed up in the San Diego City Council and, after trying all the methods, they decided to turn to a certain Charles Hatfield.

He actually sold sewing machines, but at the same time he declared that he knew exactly how to make it rain. Hatfield was considered a very authoritative expert in the field of all kinds of precipitation. He had over 10 years of experience. It was even claimed that Charles earned more money from “managing rain” than from sewing machines. And Hatfield himself worked not in the field of spells and special dances, but in the field of chemistry and physics.

Hatfield was called to the mayor's office and agreed to help with the drought. For 10 thousand US dollars, which was a colossal amount at that time. As a guarantee of his work, Charles stated that he would take money from the mayor's office only if the rain actually came and filled the reservoir.

To start working, the “rain man” needed some materials and assistants, which he immediately received. 60 miles from San Diego, Hatfield built a six-meter tower with a tank on top. He poured a foul-smelling liquid into it, the composition of which he did not tell anyone. After all, he set fire to the entire contents of the tank and a chemical stench filled the area. The “aroma” remained in the atmosphere even after all the contents of the tank had burned out.

The next day came. And the next one after him. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. The townspeople began to make jokes both about Hatfield and about the mayor's office. But everyone stopped joking when on the third day the sky opened up and a flood hit San Diego.

The reservoir quickly overflowed, and then the San Diego River overflowed its banks, flooding the surrounding areas. Fields, villages, and then the water began to destroy roads and even railway bridges. Most of the state was left without communications and electricity, and the water washed away several villages and small towns.

The fleet and army rushed to save the population. Journalists immediately dubbed the disaster the “Hatfield flood,” and the cleanup of all the consequences lasted for weeks.

More than fifty people died, and the damage was estimated at $3 million. Residents immediately blamed the authorities who hired the “rain man” for everything. The city council, not having time to dry out, was flooded again, only this time with lawsuits. The mayor thought about it and decided that he would not pay Charles Hatfield's fee. Thus, the authorities simply disavowed the blame they were accused of causing the flood. Hatfield, of course, was furious and sued the administration of San Diego for more than 20 years. But unsuccessfully.

But was he really to blame?

Showers accompanied by hurricane winds swept across the entire Pacific coast. It’s clear that the sewing machine seller had, in general, nothing to do with it. Most likely it was just a coincidence, or perhaps Charles, being an experienced meteorologist (even if self-taught), simply made a forecast and adjusted the construction of the tower just in time for the coming rain. After all, his ability to cause or, on the contrary, stop rains has become truly legendary. Farmers have turned to him for help more than once, but he has not always agreed to work.

Most likely, he simply understood that precipitation was about to fall, so he agreed to work and installed a special tank with a “fragrant” liquid. It was starting to rain, and Charles was receiving his rightful income. Hatfield made so much money making rain that he practically abandoned his sewing machine business.

Already in the early 20s of the last century, Charles became so famous that he was even invited to Canada. In 1921, he raised as much as 21 thousand dollars in one rain.

But his entire rainy business soon collapsed when the Great Depression began. Since 1929, Hatfield had no orders, because between inviting a rainmaker and feeding children, people chose the latter.

Plus, transport has developed and delivering water to dry areas has become easier and faster.

Hatfield returned to selling sewing machines. The last news about him was in 1956. Then he was already an old man and he was invited to the premiere of the film "The Rainmaker". In the film, Hetfield was presented as an ordinary swindler, but whether he really was like that is unknown.

By the way, drought is still a global problem in California.

Add your comment
  • bowtiesmilelaughingblushsmileyrelaxedsmirk

You might be interested in: