Blast from the past: Cannonballs from the sky

Civil War CannonIn October 1997, a mystery cannonball tore through the walls of a Missouri mobile home. Nobody knew where it came from, or who fired. We wrote some crazy stuff about it, here on Now it’s come back to haunt us… The owner of the mobile home, Kathy J. Mickelson, emailed, telling her side of the story. The “cannonball” was no such thing – in fact, it was a massive spudgun.

“There never was an explanation which didn’t itself need to be explained”
– Charles Fort

Nearly nine years ago, on October 23rd, 1997, I wrote an article for called “The Smoking Cannon“:

A rather amusing, classically fortean story crashed onto the Blather newsdesk this week, in the shape of a cannonball. The ‘civil war-type’ missile tore through a window and two walls of Leonard and Kathy Mickelson’s mobile home, in House Springs, Missouri, on Thursday night 16th of October, according to the Associated Press. Nobody was home when it happened, and the neighbours noticed nothing strange. Police are reportedly investigating the possible use of a small cannon, a weapon readily available for Civil War re-enactments. In an apparently unrelated incident reported by the Associated Press in Cincinnati, Ohio, on the 19th, a 14 year old boy was severely injured by an exploding gunpowder charge during a Civil War re-enactment.

The article continues with me going off on a bit of a bizarre, whimsical tangent. I toyed with the idea that this mysterious cannonball had come from the “Super Sargasso Sea“:

The Super-Sargasso Sea is the dimension into which lost things go, whose existence was proposed by Charles Hoy Fort, writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena. It may be thought of as the spontaneous, anomalous teleportation of an object into another dimension. Fort did not actually believe that it existed but, in the vein of the ancient Greek skeptics, He wished only to present a theory that was just as plausible as those in the mainstream. The name alludes to the Sargasso Sea of the Atlantic Ocean.
Wikipedia: Super Sargasso Sea

I ended up expanding on the idea for an even crazier article, Super Sargasso Surfin’ for The Anomalist – the article is also here, on ». In it, I speculated on how all the historical reports mysterious of “sailing ships” in the sky, plus the wave of mystery airship were possibly all sailing around in the Super Sargasso Sea.
As for the cannonball – I suggested that it had been fired – not by an American Civil War cannon, but from the cannon of some old ship sailing around in the Super Sargasso Sea. Somehow, the cannonball had ripped through the thin veil seperating dimensions and ended up buried in the wall of a mobile home in Missouri.
And that was it. I looked back at the article every so often, and giggled. But the mystery of the cannonball was never solved. Until a few weeks ago.
An email appeared in my mailbox from Kathy J. Mickelson herself – yes, the lady who was unfortunate enough to have a cannonball plough into her mobile home, almost nine years go!
We exchanged a few emails, and then she sent me this report on what really happened:

We do have an explanation as to who caused the damage and why he did it. He
even had someone next door to us helping him to try to cover the noise. He used a homemade potato bomb as a projectile, trying to break into our home, in order to look for items to steal for drug money. He told this to the police, after the FBI and ATF were called in to canvass the neighborhood. They were searching up to a one-mile radius for a small civil war type cannon, like what would be used in a re-enactment or such.

This individual was currently on probation for shooting a rifle at a school bus, interesting, wouldn’t you agree? The St. Louis Post Dispatch did a story on it and they took film of a picture I had shot before the police had arrived, of the cannonball still in the wall behind our toilet.

They were supposed to send it back, however I have never gotten it. The pictures I have now are of the damage, and there is a complete circle in 2 walls were you can look straight into the other room. There was around $13,000.00 worth of damage. Now that so much time has passed, I must tell you that it is an amusing life story. My husband is still called ‘Cannonball’ by certain friends at work.

Kathy J. Mickelson

So, there you have it. Not a cannonball at all, but a massive lump of potato, in a misguided attempt at breaking and entering. Kathy’s promised to send me photographs of the damage, but as of yet, they haven’t materialised – but when they do, I’ll put them up here.
Thanks to Kathy for all her help….
The Smoking Cannon »
Super Sargasso Surfin’ »
Civil War Cannon image from Harper’s Weekly, May 18, 1861 »

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.


  1. yet another fortean gem goes the way of the hitler diaries thanks to some good old fashioned scientific investigation.
    damn them!

  2. You got to hand it to the guy. He saw explosive potential in a tattie.
    That is class…
    Imagine the damage this guy could cause with a carrot say, or worse, something humungous, like a pumpkin…damn, he could take out thw White House with one of those….

  3. Reminds me of the Bill Hicks line about using the military to fire food into the mouths of the hungry.

  4. Hi again, I love the story, but it was not a potato, they used a potato gun, the projectile itself was similar enough to a civil war cannonball, the police on scene, pulled it out of the wall and said, holy s@#t, it’s a cannonball! Just wanted to clarify that. I will send in the pictures as soon as I can I apolagize for the length of time.

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