24 May 2013

Tornados producing a "dead man walking"


The image above is a screencap from a video on a television documentary about tornados.  Twin twisters rotating about one another produced a figure that could be viewed as humanoid in shape.

A discussion thread at the extensively-redacted AskHistorians subReddit examines whether or not there was a legend among pre-contact plains native Americans of some tornados being referred to as "dead man walking" and whether this image is representative of that.

I have often wondered why tornados are not depicted in ancient rock art petroglyphs in North America.

20 comments:

  1. Your observation that tornadoes aren't shown in aboriginal glyphs, at least in North America, is striking. Perhaps they worried that depicting the storm would invoke it?

    Is there an anthropologist in the house?

    Lurker111

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  2. How do you know there weren't representations? Many glyphs are designs with unknown meaning. The idea that the bit of pareidolia above could be the origin of the (perhaps apocryphal) dead man walking idea strikes me as rather improbable. The photo captures an fleeting instant in time that human perception would almost certainly miss watching an active pair of cyclones (that actually looks more like three).

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    1. I saw the actual video. You clearly could see this in the video and perhaps is the most disturbing one I have seen due to what it looks like. No, I do not believe it is a dead man walking but the impression sticks with you. Try to find and view this yourself.

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  3. There is theory that tornados were rare until the introduction of cars. The idea is that when two cars pass each other, they spin the air between them counter-clockwise, which is the same direction as a tornado. This "primes" tornados and allow them form.

    I don't believe it personally. I've seen plenty of tornadoes, water spouts, and dust devils form. The amount of energy in them is amazing. Plus they seem to form top down.

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    1. Please don't take offense, but that is the most ridiculous theory about anything that I have heard since I can't remember when...

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    2. That's a very stupid and obviously incorrect theory that any human could've possibly imagined. Cars do not create tornadoes! Anyone with common sense can see that they come from storms and their were tornadoes reported in biblical times without cars around.

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  4. This may be off base, but aren't most petroglyphs in the U.S. in areas not normally affected by large numbers of tornadoes? By that I mean areas in the southwest and eastern states. Were pre-contact Native Americans in tornado prone areas given to recording their lives in rock glyphs? And with pre-contact populations spread out over a large land mass how many people would have personally experienced a tornado? It's a puzzlement.

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  5. Cathy makes a good point - are there fewer geological places that would support petroglyphs in Tornado Alley? I'm not a geologist, but it seems possible. Also, often petroglyphs seem to represent things that are vital to everyday life or of ritual significance - since a tornado is an unpredictable, non physical thing it may not have figured in the mindset for representation.

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  6. It was a tornado like this that killed the three storm chasers in Oklahoma! R.I.P Twistex!

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  7. I am not certain where I read this, only that I've read it several times, it's not a 'dead man walking' for what it looks like-but because if you see it, YOU are a dead man walking

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  8. I have seen videos depicting this as well - while this one, at a freeze frame, makes it very easy to spot the human like form, of the videos I have seen, some have even been more human like, with the multiple vortices emulating arms swinging back and forth as well. The documentary I was watching was talking about the American Indians recognizing that these types of tornadoes (multiple vortex) were usually so much more powerful that may have been what made them refer to them as dead men walking.

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  9. The correct interpretation is: If you see one of these, and survive it, you are a "dead man walking"... The Native Americans believed that the monster multi vortex tornado was not survivable...

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  10. Stan -

    Look up "Dead Clade Walking". It is about post-mass-extinction survivors of species who hang on for sometimes a long time and then eventually succumb, after all. It seems to be what happened with mammoths, who survived for a few thousand years on two islands - Wrangel off the coast of Siberia and Santa Rosa in the Channel Islands off California.

    I first heard the term in the TV series "Elementary", and then I HAD to look it up!

    It IS a takeoff from the movie's name.

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  11. Stan - Can't find where else to suggest this, but see this, on a metal alloy called NITINOL:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKmYqUSDch8

    And this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmWWZKPDkv4

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    1. I think I remember this being proposed for use in endobronchial stents that would expand after placement. That's a potentially blogworthy video after I do some more research on updates in recent decades. Tx, Steve.

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  12. The tornado Anonymous is speaking of that killed Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young was the El Reno EF5. The "Dead Man Walking" "walked" right into Jerrill on May 27, 1997 and took the lives of 27 people including 14 children. The "Dead Man Walking" impression sticks right with you after seeing twin vortices rotating about each other in a humanoid shape. The Jerrill "Dead Man Walking" is the most disturbing "Dead Man Walking" I've ever seen. I've never seen a more disturbing "Dead Man Walking" than the Jerrill "Dead Man Walking". El Reno didn't even HAVE a "Dead Man Walking", though it was still deadly to 14 people directly and one person indirectly. It's a sight I never want to have around where I live.

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    1. Yes, it did. For a fraction of a second. Different anon here. No affiliation. If you watch National Geographic's Inside The Mega Twister you'll be able to see one for just a flash starting 10 minutes 49 seconds in. Blink and you'll miss it.

      Jarrell's... Was not gone that quickly. The human brain looks for humanoid shapes. The still photography of the tornado doesn't come close to what it looked like in motion. It had a jerky, extremely haunting movement and seemed to form a sword and shield. It was literally the stuff of nightmares. I will never forget it. What the picture fails to capture most is that motion. Until it was hidden it walked like a badly hand-animated figure. The "legs" walked forward properly to throw things into the hell of the uncanny valley. They didn't rotate around each other.

      Please, though, to anyone reading this: Unless it's on film please -- please -- restrict looking for fanciful shapes to benign weather conditions. I know curiosity is prone to get the better of some of you. You'll regret it if you ever actually see one of these things full bodied.

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    2. Where could you find a video of the "dead man walking"?

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  13. To answer the questions about Plains Indians.......French explorers in the 1700's (I believe) mapped out areas in the plains that were affected by tornadoes via horseback. Study of tornadoes began in England around 1010 A.D.

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  14. I took that video in Jarrell in 1997.

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