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‘Like an episode of Doctor Who’: Witness describes ‘whirlpool of fizzing light’ in her house during lightning storm

04 Jan 2022 6 minute read
An example of St Elmo’s fire captured over Georgia, USA. t is sometimes observed on the front windows airplanes. Pictures by Afronolan (CC BY-SA 4.0).

An eyewitness has described what she thinks might have been an example of St. Elmo’s Fire in rural mid-Wales.

Wendy Shaw from Pontrhydygroes, Ceredigion said she woke up at 5.30am yesterday morning to see a “whirlpool of fizzing light” inside her house.

Ceredigion was hit by a lightning storm before dawn, with the Met Office saying that it was caused by a “band of heavy showers and thunderstorms moving quickly eastwards”.

Wendy Shaw said that the episode reminder her of an “episode of Doctor Who” and a “mesmerizing firework show” which “spread out like a fan and began flashing sparklers and star shapes”.

She is hoping to reach out to an expert who might be able to explain what she witnessed and wonders if it was St. Elmo’s fire – a weather phenomenon that can be caused by lightning strikes. It is a form of plasma created by the electric field around the affected object, producing a glow easily visible in the darkness.

It was often observed by sailors on the masts of ships, who believed it be supernatural. It is also sometimes witnessed on the front windows of airplanes, as in the picture above.

Wendy Shaw said that she was woken up in the first place by a “zigzag of white light appeared in my room across my eyes and then face, waking me up rather abruptly”.

“This bright white light was followed by a pause, then a loud bang and clap of thunder many seconds later,” she said. “As soon as this had finished, darkness resumed, until moments later, the next bright light appeared in the middle window at the back of the house next to my bedroom.

“It illuminated the whole of the hallway by its whiteness. I was beginning to feel a little bit scared at this point as it felt like a spotlight was outside the back of the house scanning the indoors. Just as before, another loud bang followed outside after a slight pause.

“A third bright light then followed; it came into the bathroom this time, having moved from the left of the back of the house to the right. It was as if somebody pinged on the bathroom lights in a flash and a hurry. It went off as quickly as it arrived, and again another crack and bang followed.

I was sitting up bolt upright in bed with the cats by my side. I felt numb and unable to move, almost in a zombie state. I had no idea how or what or why this was happening right now. I vaguely remembered the forecast mentioning a stormy start today. Not a light show! The whiteness was piercing into the black abyss.”


Wendy Shaw said that just when she thought this was all over, her bedroom was subject to another powerful white light appearing through the windowpane at 5.45pm.

“I remember this, because the black clock face hands were highlighted in the room by the unexpected lightness amplifying the space. I could make out a patch of light near the neighbour’s house in the distance behind the trees at the back of the house through the net curtain, even though I was still in bed. Tree branches were wafting around and making the images look larger than they really were in the darkness.

“I wasn’t prepared for the next thing that happened. The light once again appeared intensely through the middle window into the hall, only this time, a huge whirlpool of fizzing light appeared in the middle of the hall between my bedroom and the bathroom.

“A pillar of light appeared from the carpet and travelled upwards by the chair that was in the hall and spread out like a fan and began flashing sparklers and star shapes and spinning around at speed. The shape was fizzing and spluttering.

“I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. It seemed to last for ages but in reality it was probably minutes. I wish I’d been able to get hold of my camera and take a snap. It was a mesmerizing firework show. I couldn’t make sense of it at all as it was inside the house.

“I knew the LED strip was situated near where this light show was happening. I was beginning to think that the thunder and lightning strike had affected this LED strip and then the next thing was going to be a fire. This didn’t happen, it fizzled back downwards towards the carpet and disappeared into nowhere. The final light came towards the bathroom window and illuminated that room.

“The last terrific bang came and went from the back of the house. The dramatic pattern of lights and noise was over. By this time it was gone 6:00 a.m. I decided now was the time to get out of bed and leave the cats and go outside to see if anything was left by nature. I was hoping for a BBC ‘Weather Watchers’ picture but this didn’t occur.

“It was still too black outside and the glimmer of lights were pale, in comparison to what I’d witnessed indoors. The light show was disappearing off into the distance towards the village of Cwmystwyth.

“I went back inside to make a cup of tea and to go and check the LED strips and the cats, feeling shaken and bemused by the whole experience that I had just witnessed indoors. The eeriness was hanging in the air outdoors so early in the morning. By now it was 6:10. I couldn’t believe the last 40 minutes. I have never ever seen anything quite like it except for at a firework display where you witness Roman Candles doing a similar display.

“There have been no power cuts, all the lights worked as expected, as did the internet and the LED strip upstairs. I could only assume that this was nature and definitely an unusual experience.

“If this had been in an episode of Doctor Who it would be believed as fiction. This had actually been my reality on bank holiday Monday, on the first Monday of New Year. Wow.

She added that she was “still processing it now – I’m still trying to make sense at all”.


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