January 25, 1938
The Great Aurora was seen over the whole of Europe and as far south as Southern Australia, Sicily, Portugal and across the Atlantic to Bermuda and Southern California. People could read the newspaper at midnight, the Japanese invasion of China was the main news on the international front All transatlantic radio communication was interrupted. Crowds in Vienna awaiting the eminent birth of Princess Juliana’s baby cheered the aurora as a lucky omen.
Fire department of Salzburg was called out to quench what residents thought was their town in flames. So many alarms were rang that the fire department dashed about in all directions, which only served to increase the level of panic among the citizens. This same impression of the aurora also struck Londoners during the January 1938 aurora who also thought their entire city was aflame. In England, a hook-and-ladder brigade was summoned to Windsor Castle to put out a nonexistent fire.
In San Diego, forest officials in the town of Descanso about 40 miles east, were routed out of bed on January 22 to respond to reports of ‘great fire in the back country’. After making the trip to check things out, all they discovered upon arrival was the crimson aurora borealis in the northern sky, last seen in these areas on February 1888. In Bermuda, many people thought that a ship was on fire at sea. Steamship agents took the precaution of checking with wireless stations to learn if there had been any S.O.S calls. Meanwhile, in Scotland, many of the more superstitious people living in the lowlands ‘shook their heads and declared the northern lights always spelled ill-omen for Scotland. The phenomenon also had some side effects.
It was responsible for delaying express trains on the Manchester to Sheffield line after electrical disturbance hit the signaling apparatus. Numerous false impressions were aroused among Cannock Chase people. One person thought there was a big fire at a local colliery and phoned the fire brigade. In some quarters it was said the world was coming to an end. Short wave radio sets were interfered with and the teletype system at the local office of the Western Union was started up by the phenomenon.
Astronomers in New England said the lights differed from previous auroral displays with such intensity and color and direction of the beams. The immense arches of crimson light with shifting areas of green and blue, radiated from a brilliant Auroral Crown near the zenith instead of appearing as usual in parallel lines. It was also considered to be one of the Fatima Prophesies by Roman Catholics worldwide.