Few sensations are better than returning to the comfort of our homes after a hard day of work, while the chaos outside no longer reach us. However, in these times, not even four walls and a roof are enough to protect us from the surrounding mayhem. And we are not talking about families attacked by criminals inside their homes; no, we are talking about something much more radical. There exist cases of dangerous objects that have suddenly and accidentally entered in homes of ordinary people. In this list, we will remember ten of the worst cases involving such undesirable situations.
The cannon became one of the most popular weapons in the world, thanks to its long range and the diversity of projectiles it could fire. A 19th-century military regime armed with cannons could kill hundreds of enemies in a few hours. Now, one might think that nowadays, cannonballs are no longer a danger to citizens. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and even in the safety of home, someone can end up face to face with one of these projectiles by accident. During the recording of an episode of the famous “Mythbusters” TV show in 2011, a cannonball missed the target and instead it flew towards a neighborhood in Dublin, California.
The projectile flew 640 meters (700 yards) before going through the door of a house, in which a family was sleeping. And as if that were not enough, the ball went out of the house, crossed a street, ripped some tiles from a nearby house, and finally hit a minivan. The family of the first house affected did not wake up until after the cannonball left their home. No one was hurt by this accident, which is incredible considering that the projectile moved at 305 meters (1,000 feet) per second through the neighborhood. Conditions were favorable enough for this anecdote to have an almost happy ending, but let’s hope that something like this will not happen again in the future.
We all know well the harmful effects that radioactive elements cause in our body. Some people use these elements to kill other people, and even people who die by irresponsibly manipulating radioactive elements. But hurting people by exposing them to radiation, without even knowing it? That is another level of misfortune, and the worst thing is that it has already happened. During the 1980s, two families who lived in the same apartment in the city of Kramatorsk (Ukraine) suffered severe health problems. Several members of both families ended up dying of leukemia.
When more people began to become seriously ill, a measurement of radiation levels in the building was requested. Then, the cause of the fatalities finally became known. A cesium-137 capsule, which was probably part of a level meter, accidentally fell into the concrete mix with which the building was made. Cesium-137 is a radioactive element highly toxic to humans. The capsule ended up being part of a concrete panel on the victims’ apartment. After the accident, the Ukrainian government improved its control policies over materials used in construction, but by then, the one-decade damage was already done.
A Rocket Engine
As if a cannonball through the door or a radioactive device on the wall were not enough, the roof is usually another preferred place by these unexpected objects. In this list, we will see many lethal objects enter through the roof, but few things are worse than a rocket falling at full speed over your head. Let’s see an example. In August 2015, in the province of Shaanxi, China, the residents of a house shuddered when they heard a loud noise. A large object went through the roof of the house, throwing up debris and making the windows tremble.
Moments later, authorities arrived at the house, and it was confirmed that the object was a rocket engine. It is believed that the engine was part of a rocket launched ten minutes earlier, which aimed to put a Chinese satellite into orbit. Far from being an isolated incident, other rocket debris had already fallen on Chinese territory before. China has many rocket launch sites inland, unlike countries like the United States, whose bases are on the coast. So this increases the chances of someone ending up with space debris as a piece of decoration inside their home.
A Crane Arm
Over time, construction techniques have greatly improved. For example, we can now build skyscrapers in a matter of days, when it used to take years. But it is also true that, with limited budgets and reduced construction periods, serious accidents can happen. After this story, living near a building site may become a bit frightening. At Bellevue, Washington, the operator of a 64-meter (210-foot) tall crane was securing the machine on a November night in 2006. The crane was part of a construction project for a new office building. Suddenly, the operator heard a loud noise; then, the crane collapsed across an avenue, damaging several surrounding buildings.
The arm of the crane impacted squarely against the upper floors of a nearby apartment building. A 31-year-old man who lived on the top floor of the building died after the collision, crushed in the rubble. The crane operator was injured but managed to survive the fall, after being rescued from the cabin of the machine. After a six-month investigation, it was determined that the cause of the accident was an error in the design of the crane base. Due to this incident, Washington formulated new laws to ensure the integrity of cranes on construction sites.
Wind Turbine Blade
Wind turbines produce large amounts of clean and renewable energy, but the mechanics inside these machines are not infallible. To date, thousands of incidents have been reported in wind farms, many of which have destroyed wind turbines. Sometimes, events align enough for some of these turbines to end up threatening the safety of the population. A family was sleeping at home in Ireland, on a stormy night in 2007, when a turbine blade hit the roof of the house like a lightning strike. David Campbell -farmer and owner of the house said that “it was like a bomb hitting the roof,” cutting it “like a chainsaw.” Strong winds caused the turbine to break and lose its three blades.
One of the 5-meter (16-foot) long blades hit the house from above and disintegrated on impact. No one was injured on this occasion, but that does not downplay the risk posed by wind farms near populated places. The spinning blades produce as much force like an airplane during takeoff. Also, parts of wind turbines damaged in other accidents have fallen even hundreds of meters away. So there is the possibility that parts of a destroyed wind turbine fall into nearby homes, in which case the outcome could be fatal.
Mid-air collisions between planes are infrequent. In the last decades, only a few dozen of these cases have been reported around the world. However, not only are there well-documented accidents of this type, but some have also occurred over inhabited places. The result? Lethal chaos worthy of being included in this list. In April 1954, a passenger plane collided with a military training aircraft over the city of Moose Jaw, Canada.
The 36 people who were on both aircraft died after the collision. Then, parts of the fuselages of the planes fell on a house in the city, setting it ablaze and killing the only occupant inside. After three investigations, no one was held responsible for the accident. But it is believed that perhaps a blind spot on the passenger plane prevented the pilots from seeing the military aircraft coming.
World War II Bomb
Negligence can also lead us to introduce dangerous things into our homes without knowing what they were. To put us in context about the following story, Nazi Germany threw thousands of bombs over England during World War II. Many of these bombs did not explode and remained buried over the years. When she was 15 years old, Kathryn Rawlins found a semi-buried artifact on the field of her school in Warwickshire, England. Thinking it would be a cute ornament, Rawlins dug it up and took it to her house, after which she used the object like a vase for 30 years.
One day, while watching a documentary showing World War I bombs, Mrs. Rawlins suspected that her old vase could be an old bomb. So she sent a photograph of the object to the police, and her suspicions were confirmed. The vase turned out to be an unexploded World War II bomb. The police told Mrs. Rawlins that, had it exploded, the device could have killed everyone within a radius of 20 meters (66 feet). Finally, authorities took the bomb to remove the explosive, after which they returned the empty shell to Rawlins. So after 30 years of running the risk of blowing up, Kathryn Rawlins finally has a harmless vase in her house.
To clarify, ball lightning is a rare type of electric discharge that moves horizontally at ground level. When ball lightning hits a solid object -like a wall or a tree- it often explodes violently. The exact nature of this phenomenon regarding its structure and composition remains unknown to scientists. So we can say ball lightning is an object instead of a simple energetic manifestation.
In 1783, a family was at home in Northleach, England, when ball lightning entered through the chimney. The phenomenon described as a “ball of fire” destroyed a bed on its path and went through the hat of a man. Then the object came out through a window, shattering it. Information about this event leads scientists to think that it was a genuine case of ball lightning. There were no fatal victims this time, although a woman ended up with her chest scorched by the fleeting discharge.
There are frequent reports in which, sadly, countries at war attack their civilian populations with highly destructive weapons. But what is not frequent, is that in a country outside the conflict and with relative peace, missiles fall on its neighborhoods. As expected, here, we will see a case. In April 1999, in the middle of the war between NATO and the countries of the former Yugoslavia, a jet fighter was reached by a Serbian defense radar. In response, the NATO plane fired a missile at the enemy system, but then the Serbs turned off the radar. The missile lost its target, falling off course over Bulgaria, a NATO-allied country. In Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, the missile glided over a neighborhood and hit the top floor of a house, while the owner was shaving.
Then the missile continued flying, crashing cars and homes in the process, until landing in a garden. Against all the odds, there were no injuries after this mishap. The owner of the first house hit by the missile said that his wife and children were much frightened by the blast. When it was confirmed that the fallen weapon was an American missile, the Bulgarian population increased its rejection against NATO – this was not the first time that a missile was accidentally dropped on them. Either way, the war would not last much longer, preventing further explosives from falling on innocent neighbors.
The best-known case of a person injured by a meteorite is that of a woman from Alabama in 1954, hit by a space rock that entered through the roof of her home. But that is not the only report about a meteorite hitting people inside their houses. In September 1907, a meteorite fell on a home in the area of Weng-Li, China. As a result, the entire Wan family, who was in the house at the time, died after the impact. It is believed that the bolide must have been of a considerable size because it brought the house down.
For that same reason, it is likely that the family died crushed under the rubble of the house, instead of being hit directly by the meteor. Most reports about meteorites injuring people are not officially confirmed because generally the evidence – the meteorite itself – is destroyed or kept privately. But even so, many of the “doubtful” cases have numerous eyewitnesses, while the number of reports has grown enormously in recent decades. Now that the world’s population is increasing and more zones on Earth are being inhabited, the risk of an alien rock breaking into someone’s house is more real than ever.