The following account is one which I found in a book Stranger Than Science which recounts true stories told by the American radio commentator, Frank Edwards. This crack reporter was a master news analyst from the 1920s to the 60s for KDKA in Pittsburgh and another station in Indianapolis. Eventually he made the transition to T.V. but he was always more dynamic over the airwaves, preferred it, and ended up with a huge collection which is in the Library of Congress National Archives. The following is one of his favorite stories and one which intrigued me. – The Castle Lady
Motorist after motorist had skidded to a stop after their windshields were shattered by the Phantom Sniper… There were the bullet holes… but there was the mystery… too… and so it remains…
According to police records, the first motorist whose windshield was shattered on that same stretch of road reported his unnerving experience in March of 1951, the first of thirty-two such reports the worried gendarmes received in the ensuing sixteen months.
The experience of Thomas Woods of York Road, Kingston, Surrey, is typical of the lot. On April 3, 1952, a bit after four-thirty in the afternoon, Thomas was driving his truck between Cobham and Asher, on the road from London to Portsmouth. Traffic was almost non-existent; the only other vehicle in sight was another truck about a hundred yards in front of him.
Suddenly his windshield shattered and glass flew back on the front seat. There, perhaps a foot to the left of his head, was a hole through the glass large enough for Thomas to stick his fist through had he cared to try. Thomas noted the spot where all this had happened and headed for the nearest police post to report.
Said he, ” I find this to be quite unsettling !”
Truck driver Thomas Woods was expressing the feeling of the scores of motorists who have shared his experience, both before and since.
Strangely, the phantom bullets always find their mark in one straight stretch of road about two and a half miles long. It is smooth, there is no speed limit on it, the fields alongside the highway are open, with the exception of a few small bushes where no gunman could hide. But time after time there is a flash, a crash and the windshields are perforated with holes similar to those which might be made by a very small high-powered rifle.
As the reports came in, time after time, the perplexed police felt encouraged. Take the case of Mr. and Mrs. Eric Sykes, on May 8, 1952. They were driving along at a modest forty miles per hour near Esher Common when there was a bright flash as though a firecracker had exploded on their windshield, a bang like a gunshot, and their windshield was cobwebbed with hairline cracks radiating from a hole about the diameter of a lead pencil. Eric slid to a stop, he and his wife leaped out and looked around for their assailant, and saw nothing except the open, rolling field and not a car in sight.
After about a year of these baffling experiences, the police theorized that some gun crank with a high-powered rifle was haunting the roadside along that stretch of highway, firing through motorists’ windshields, a dangerous prank that must inevitably end in tragedy.
It was a good theory, but that’s all it was. The objects that cracked the windshields came from many angles, but they vanished when they struck the windshields. They never fell inside the cars nor did they ever go on through the cars.
Gun experts admitted that under test conditions it might be possible to create such an effect by using frangible bullets that would disintegrate on impact, but only at very short distances and certainly not on a moving target carrying passengers down a public highway. But even that theory fell by the wayside when microscopic examination of the bullet holes, including one in the metal door of a car, failed to produce any evidence that frangible bullets had been used.
While the worried police were setting traps and studying reports of the phantom bullets of the Portland road, the phenomenon changed its locale, it moved right into the town of Esher itself, where on June 16, 1952, a shop window in Station Road was neatly holed and four days later an angry tavern keeper reported to police that he too had been a victim; there was a small round hole in a front window of his tavern, identical to those in the motorists’ windshields.
Whoever, or whatever, was responsible for the phantom bullet holes was internationally inclined; for, in June of 1952, State police in both Indiana and Illinois found themselves chasing a phantom gunman who was fully as elusive as the one in England.
The luckless American motorists, like their British counterparts, saw nothing, heard nothing, except the flash on the windshield, the bang, the splintered glass that showered inside the car, And again, no bullet was ever found inside the cars; and no hole where it might have gone on through the vehicle.
Science was baffled; but not without a suggestion. For it is known that a meteorite the size of a pinhead traveling at incredible speed would produce precisely the effects attributed to the phantom bullets. Possible ? Yes, said science, but not under the known circumstances.
So another theory was filed away. Only the shattered windshields- and the riddle remain.
Riddling you with many kisses, The Castle Lady !