Case File Status: Hoax / Explainable
On January 16, 2018, the following post went “viral” on the Facebook wall of Kurt Norris, who appears to be one of the originators and the root of this story.
Although I do not “blame” him for the misinformation regarding this case, the internet as a whole did that part all on it’s own by forwarding, sharing and reposting the photos, most with allegations that aliens were attacking or that the government was using a particle beam weapons. Many posts claimed that Facebook was deleting the evidence, and urged others to forward/share/like etc. which fueled the popularity.
Here are some examples of the photos that surfaced with multiple misleading headlines:
The story deepened, because on the same night, a meteor was also seen in the same area. The internet as a whole, began connecting the photos you see above, with the following video that surfaced (among others):
Internet lore deepened the mystery, but when dissecting the events, one can determine that the above evidence, is unrelated. The meteor falling had nothing to do with the original photographs with the “beam” along with the third photo in the array above, which appears to be onlookers looking at a fire in the distance (but lacks a “beam”).
It was determined that this third photo (lacking the “beam”), along with others that surfaced online, were taken near a garage fire in Taylor, Michigan. According to MLIVE, which reported on the fire:
TAYLOR, MI – A fire that destroyed a pickup truck inside a garage in the metro Detroit community of Taylor was not started by a piece of falling meteor fragment Tuesday night.
Fire crews were called to a garage fire at about 8:24 p.m., Jan. 16, on Merrick Road after the homeowner noticed smoke coming from the engine compartment of a pickup he was working on inside the garage, according to the Taylor Fire Department.
The fire started at about the same time a meteor reportedly entered the atmosphere and several onlookers near the scene assumed the garage was hit, officials said.
The original Facebook poster, which arguably started the online craze after garnering more than 37,000 shares (at the time of writing this), even said the photos were taken of the garage fire. He updated his post with the following, well after the story went viral:
*Two of the photos are from the garage fires in Taylor, MI… the shake and meteor was near Detroit area. The shake and sound was the sonic boom from the speed and going through the atmosphere and causing a 2.0 earthquake. The last picture I just saw circulating from people posting in Taylor, MI area but no one claimed to have taken the photo so it could be a fake.*
The photographs with the “beam” have also been determined to be photographs of a controlled burn from the Canton Marathon Oil refinery in Canton, Ohio. Fox 8 in Cleveland reported on this story:
CANTON, Ohio – Drivers and local residents saw a huge fire at the Marathon Oil refinery in Canton Tuesday evening.
But it was all planned, according to the company.
A Marathon representative told Fox 8 that the fire is called a “controlled flaring” and is used as a “safety valve.” He adds that “operational circumstances often require it.”
The burn still made for quite a blaze that could be seen for miles and miles.
A light pillar is an atmospheric optical phenomenon in the form of a vertical band of light which appears to extend above and/or below a light source. The effect is created by the reflection of light from numerous tiny ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere or clouds. The light can come from the Sun (usually when it is near or even below the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also come from the Moon or from terrestrial sources such as streetlights.
As the photographs seem to be easily explained, that leaves simply the meteor story.
Since none of the “beam” photographs resemble anything related to the meteor, and have other easily verified stories attached to them to offer a viable explanation, it is safe to say that the incidents are not related, and the video of the meteor, is explained simply, as a video of a meteor.
With the evidence above, I believe we can label the case a “hoax” perpetrated by social networks and click bait sites that help fuel the story, and the dissemination of it to the masses.
In short – don’t fall for the online hype.