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Jim Kershner’s This Day in History

Sat., April 17, 2010

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From our archives, 100 years ago

Halley’s comet had become visible in Spokane, and The Spokesman-Review editorial page said plenty of superstitions arrived along with it.

Reports from around the country claimed that: A hen in Walla Walla laid an egg with two cometlike tails; the fish in Vermont had mysteriously stopped biting; and people in Indiana were suffering from an “insomnia epidemic.”

The editorial writer dismissed these reports as superstition, but noted that “superstition should not be confused with ignorance.” In any case, when it came to the comet, science had its limitations as well.

“Halley’s comet flares across the sky and in a flash, reveals the eternal puzzle of the universe, which men and women knew as much about when it lit up the heavens in 1066, as they do today,” said the editorial.

The comet returned in 1986 and is scheduled to show up next in 2061.

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1961: Some 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles launched the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. … 1964: Ford unveiled its new Mustang model at New York World’s Fair. … 1970: Apollo 13 astronauts James A. Lovell, Fred W. Haise and Jack Swigert splashed down in the Pacific, four days after a ruptured oxygen tank crippled their spacecraft while en route to the moon.

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