A cloudbuster is a device designed by Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, which Reich said could produce rain by manipulating what he called “orgone energy” present in the atmosphere.
The cloudbuster was intended to be used in a way similar to a lightning rod: focusing it on a location in the sky and grounding it in some material that was presumed to absorb orgone – such as a body of water – would draw the orgone energy out of the atmosphere, causing the formation of clouds and rain. Reich conducted dozens of experiments with the cloudbuster, calling the research “Cosmic Orgone Engineering.”
The Maine Blueberry Experiment
In 1953, a drought threatened Maine’s blueberry crop, and several farmers offered to pay Reich if he could make it rain. The weather bureau had reportedly forecast no rain for several days when Reich began the experiment at 10 a.m. on July 6, 1953. The Bangor Daily News reported on July 24:
Dr. Reich and three assistants set up their “rain-making” device off the shore of Grand Lake, near the Bangor hydro-electric dam … The device, a set of hollow tubes, suspended over a small cylinder, connected by a cable, conducted a “drawing” operation for about an hour and ten minutes …
According to a reliable source in Ellsworth the following climatic changes took place in that city on the night of July 6 and the early morning of July 7: “Rain began to fall shortly after ten o’clock Monday evening, first as a drizzle and then by midnight as a gentle, steady rain. Rain continued throughout the night, and a rainfall of 0.24 inches was recorded in Ellsworth the following morning.”
A puzzled witness to the “rain-making” process said: “The queerest looking clouds you ever saw began to form soon after they got the thing rolling.” And later the same witness said the scientists were able to change the course of the wind by manipulation of the device.
The blueberry crop survived, the farmers declared themselves satisfied, and Reich received his fee.
In Popular Culture
Wilhelm Reich’s cloudbuster was the inspiration for the 1985 song Cloudbusting by British singer Kate Bush. The song describes Reich’s arrest and incarceration through the eyes of his son, Peter, who later wrote the memoir A Book of Dreams, published in 1973. A cloudbuster, bearing only a superficial resemblance to the genuine article, was designed and built for the video. The video, intended by Bush to be a short narrative film rather than a traditional music video, was conceived by Terry Gilliam and Kate Bush, and directed by Julian Doyle. The video stars actor Donald Sutherland as Reich and Bush as his son, Peter.
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October 25, 2011