If you read *When The Streets of Carleton Place Ran Thick With the Blood of Terror! you will remember three young ladies residing in a house in one end of Carleton Place. They were suddenly awakened at 3 am that night in May of 1910 by the cries from the town fire and the illumination of the sky. The women thought that Halley’s Comet had passed that night and had produced the end of the world.
The three rushed outdoors in their night clothes waving their arms and crying in despair. They thought it the end of the time was near. It took awhile to get the ladies under control and understand what had really happened. No doubt they had read the newspapers that very day about the coming of Halley’s Comet.
For weeks international and local newspapers literally terrorized their readers. Over 500 Italians in Little Italy in New York fell to their knees in prayer that night when they saw the ball of flame bearing down on them in the sky. In New Jersey locals took the whole day off work to pray in their local churches for their salvation. Fraudsters hawked anti-comet pills, with one brand promising to be “an elixir for escaping the wrath of the heavens,” while a voodoo doctor in Haiti was said to be selling pills “as fast as he can make them.” Two Texan charlatans were arrested for marketing sugar pills as the cure-all for all things comet, but police released them when customers demanded their freedom. Gas masks, too, flew off the shelves.
The whole performance took five hours that night while the Carleton Place fire raged. On the bridges of Ottawa and on rooftops people gathered and some educators carried bottles so they could contain some the atmosphere for future analysis. The world’s greatest scientists assured everyone that no harm would befall and their analysis could not be foretold, but it was concluded that there was no cyanogen gas from the tail of the comet that they were fearful of. Local bartenders were telling their patrons to drink half water and half alcohol and that was an antidote if they breathed any cynogen gas from the meteor. Local farmers removed their lightening rods from their homes and barns fearful of dangerous light flashes and substances that might accompany the comet.
Folks got real creative with their anxiety. It didn’t help that a few months earlier, The New York Times had announced that one astronomer theorized that the comet would unceremoniously end life as we know it. The Associated Press warned their readers they had observed two rather large black spots on the sun and solar eruptions were viewed and spread even more hysteria.
In the end there was no collision, and no drastic effects and life went back as we know it. That night as part of Carleton Place burned down few thought of Hailey’s passing comet except for the girls near Townline and the visibility of Halley’s Comet at the birth and death of Mark Twain was nothing “an exaggeration.”
I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: “Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”
– Mark Twain, a Biography
Some of our citizens claim to have seen the comet Friday night.
There is nothing wrong with their eyesight–Almonte Gazette- May 27 1910
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