Great Balls of Mystery! Is the Slow Rotation of This Massive Granite Ball Paranormal or Normal?

By Saberi, Reza | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Great Balls of Mystery! Is the Slow Rotation of This Massive Granite Ball Paranormal or Normal?


Saberi, Reza, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


On October 31, 2002 the Columbus Dispatch published a story about a rotating stone ball titled "Goodness, Gracious, Great Ball of Mystery." It was Halloween so it was reasonable to assume that causes other than the paranormal might be at work. According to the report, the ball, which is located in the principal cemetery of Marion, OH, is rotating slowly on its base without any apparent cause. Although the ball has been mentioned in Ripley's Believe It or Not' its movement was not presented as a paranormal phenomenon.

This ball (Figure 1) weighs 5,200 pounds (2,359 kg), is 36-inches (91cm) in diameter, and is made of granite. It rests atop a 5-foot (1.5m) pedestal base measuring 28 inches (71cm) square at the top. The ball and its pedestal were erected in 1896 to memorialize the family of Charles Merchant and it has been moving ever since, slowly turning upon its base, revolving about a horizontal axis in a direction from north to south. It was not known that it was turning until the spring of 1904 when the cemetery employees noticed that it had apparently shifted a little. Since then it has been carefully watched and measured, revealing that it is actually turning continuously. The movement of the ball is very slow--about 2 inches (5.08 cm) annually. There is no evidence or probability of a hoax since the ball requires heavy machinery to move it.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The ball was never securely fastened to the base. The white circle on the ball represents the unpolished spot where the ball was originally placed on the unpolished base. It was assumed hat the friction between the two rough surfaces would prevent any displacement. Now the rough white spot is nearly halfway up the south side.

Since I do not believe in paranormal phenomena such as ghosts, demons, haunted houses, aliens, UFOs and all other such Western folklore, I decided to visit the cemetery and find out for myself. I took my level, tape measure, and rope and went to the cemetery. Driving around I found two other balls (Figures 2 and 3). These two balls do not rotate and I quickly found out why. Ball 2 (belonging to the tombstone of A. & M. Meklingel) is laid in a deep cup-shaped socket that provides maximum surface contact which creates more friction with its base. I could not see if it was cemented to the base. Even if it was not cemented, movement would be very difficult due to the large contact surface. Ball 3, belonging to the tombstone of J. F. Morrow, was clearly cemented to the base and therefore could not move at all.

[FIGURES 2 & 3 OMITTED]

According to the manufacturer the "paranormal" ball is not cemented to its base but instead simply rests on the flat surface. …

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