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THE UNKNOWN: Charles Hatfield, Rainmaker


Over a hundred years ago, the city of San Diego hired a rainmaker. His fee was huge, his methods were chemical, and he promised rain — then delivered a deluge. Against all odds, Charles Hatfield’s experiments prefaced the worst flooding in that region’s history. 

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Who would want to control the whether you could have the perfect beach, any time you wanted above storm when you wanted to stay in a breeze, as you fall asleep, even alight drizzle to water. Your plan, I feel, like the weather, even affects my mood so much that it would almost be like being able to control my emotions, but what, if you could only control this power? So much like you? Could make it rain, but you never really knew how much it would be could be. One inch could be. Ten would have One day things got a little out of control. You are no longer just playing with people's emotions. You were playing with their lives. This the story of the rain maker. Charles happier,
This is supernatural Spotify original from part cast. I'm your host, actually flowers Wednesday I'll be taking a deep dive into a real unexplained occurrence to try and figure out the truth. You could find all episodes of supervision chrome and all other Spotify originals from power cast for free. On Spotify this week, I'm looking at Charles Hatfield a self prickly rain maker, who had a lot of sceptics until he summoned so while it marked the wettest pure it in San Diego history. Suddenly his mysterious knowledge, it didn't seem so hokey anymore, it seemed downright dangerous. I'll have all that you were coming up stay with us. This episode is brought to you like
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and donating to local and humanitarian aid partners around the globe. There also making more respirators than ever before, with plants working around the clock reducing more than ninety five million respirators per month. In the? U S, helping those in the front line to continue the fight three m science applied to life, more about how three M is helping the world respond to the covert nineteen pandemic at three m dot com, slash covered. Ever since ancient times. People wanted to understand the weather. science, they had to invent creative ways to explain it. So the Greeks told stories about a pantheon of God to used whether for their own ends. The book of Genesis gave us story of Noah and the catastrophic floods, but by time. The industrial age was in full swing. People wanted to do more than explained the whether they wanted to
control it after I'll, buy the nineteenth century powers that once seemed impossible. Even supernatural were becoming commonplace. Humankind had harnessed electric light in ass bowls. Couldn't some one figure out how to control the rain? The first began to VI for the title of scientific rain maker with James Pollard Espy in America Meteorologist he believed that he could set these massive forest fires that would heat the Arab create enough condensation to make it rain unfortunate for him and the forest he obliterated, his theory didn't work throughout the rest of the night tenth century other would be rain makers had similar non results and pretty soon people began to suspect that the whole concept of whether modification was just wishful thinking until the early twentieth
century when a self taught whether aficionado enters the picture with a bit more optimism. His name is Charles Hatfield. As a young man, Charles is working day job as a sewing machine salesmen when he comes across these stories about rain makers like James Pollard, SB and he's like these guys, peddling, something valuable, more than hope you're selling life Charles spend his youth working on his father's ranch Offering so he understands the importance of rain. Watered crops means a healthy harvest, which means enough food to eat could find a way to prevent droughts. There might never be another famine, sure Ray attempt at actually doing. It has been a pretty big failure, but maybe Charles can crack the code and if he can, he can definitely make a pretty penny off the deal. Don't Charles learns everything he can about meteorology atmosphere. Press
humidity win patterns. It's not a formal. Education, but he feels like he really has a knack for it and when he's done with his books Charles starts experimenting. He climbed a windmill tower near his father's ranch and starts messing around with some chemicals to create his secret formula not exactly sure what these experiments are or what goes into his miraculous rain potion. Charles, never was anyone his secrets, but do know that by nineteen o for a twenty nine year old Charles is ready to go public with his new technology. He places some in the local paper calling himself a moisture accelerator. His work isn't magic. He stresses he says quote: I do not make rate. That would be an absurd clean, I simply attract clouds and they do that asked the ads catch the eye of some ranchers just outside allay their super entry.
especially because the former salesman has an incredible pitch Charles Problem is a no money down guarantee. Nobody has to pay him until after it rains, and these only asking for fifty bucks, which is worth about fifteen hundred dollars today and don't get me wrong. That's not pennies, but ranches are used to hefty business expenses and if there's a drought, they lose much more. In plus Charles doesn't look like a con man. He clearly has ambition and a healthy dose of bravado, but he's serious about what he's doing. He looks like he's, in his lab for so long, he hasn't seen the sun in years. Now there is something a little off about his piercing blue eyes, but it's the kind of off that could just be the mannerisms of a genius. So in the end, the ranchers are like. You got yourself a deal on the big day. the ranchers show up to watch Charles is process. There's a lot
It goes into it. First. There This wooden platform, elevated on tall stilts Charles apparently calls this his evaporating tower its suit All, it looks like it's ways with every light breeze, but that could also be a mirage from the overbearing heat next Charles Holes, up some of his secret sauce and pours it into these big shallow trays, where it will eventually evaporate. Naturally, he doesn't tell the ring yours, what's in the mixture, but he dies. Give a few hints it's a concoction of twenty three different chemicals aged in casks. Throughout the day, Charles keeps talking up his science. He assures his clients that it's the future, but for all his confidence, there's still a slight furrow in his brow. He needs this to work. He can see,
his future success. So clearly he can almost taste it, but he doesn't dare breathe a sigh of relief until days later when it starts to reign. In the end, Charles is technology seems to deliver on his promises shore, but could have been a coup insight but it doesn't matter it rains enough to get him paid and to leave the ranchers singing his praise, its Charles, field. Rain maker has credibility, and he, no time putting it to use later that here he shows up in LOS Angeles, with his bath of chemicals and in no time at all, he catches the attention of the city's business leaders. Charles says he can make eighteen inches of rain fall from the sky in the next five months. Of course, he has seriously up his rate at this point. It will cost them one thousand dollars or close to thirty thousand. U S dollars today, but he still.
bring his same money back guarantee and he suspects these city folk have some pretty deep pockets and that's a good bet Not only do they have the money there, desperate it's been devasted namely dry. Lately it Charles can deliver it save all the crops and reservoirs in LOS Angeles, which in turn would save lives and really can you put a price tag on that after the deal's made Charles gets to work once again. He does every in broad daylight, no secrets, Ellie residents, either to watch as he builds his tower and pours his special chemical recipe. Then they wait for rain. Of course it doesn't happen. instantly Charles reminds his impatient patrons that its science not magic, the chemical, we have to rise with the heat react with the air and attract clouds. Only then the condensation build, and everyone will see
The results and sure enough by the end of his five month deadline. It starts to rein. In fact, he exceeds Thomas of eighteen inches, buying an inch or two the entire city is thrilled. Charles becomes this subject. A public fascination, a minor celeb and white knight. One headline declares young wizard of meteorology, proves his ability to fill. Orders for rainstorms now it has some real momentum. This is what he always dreamed of accomplishing money, fame success. He works steadily from nineteen o five onwards for everyone from water companies to cotton, farmers to minors. He travels the country from again to Washington, to Texas Meanwhile, he is rolling in cash for four in.
of rain he's paid the equivalent of over a hundred twenty thousand dollars today for one gig by nineteen, fifteen he's wrapped up seventeen different commercial conch acts. Does he sometimes fail to produce rain? Yes, but you can't win them all, usually with so many elements at play, temperature. Pressure wind all that meteorology, stuff, lay people wouldn't understand the press falls for it. They don't pay much, tension to Charles is failures in the grand scheme things one magazine rights. His disappointment have been very few, of course, very few who is very vague, so I don't know Charles's exact success rate, but none of that matters because one bit storm can wash away every failure, and sometimes it wash The way a few lives in the process coming up.
nature shows its strength. High. Its Vanessa from cast an eye view to tell you about my new ten episode, limited series: obituaries there, the most iconic figures of all time celebrated in death for their individual achievements and impact on society, but in life the relationships they kept. a different story, one of unexpected connections that yield the extraordinary change every Wednesday. Obituaries joined my co host Carter and me as we explore the shared legacies of prolific pairs from the past from the mute the trauma of entertainers Marilyn, Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald to the unlike the admiration between visionaries, Mark TWAIN and Nikola Tesla. Each episode obituaries dig deep into the lasting impressions made between two legendary figures and held it entanglements change the course of history, these meaning
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emotional event. Is it's meant to be like olympic level big, but if, rain, doesn't start following there's going to be no water to drink and no crops to feed all the people coming in. Obviously, the city's government is for wreaking out so when Charles Hatfield pops into town missing he could fill their reservoir no problem. Most council members are happy to take him up on his offer. They don't even mine that he's charging ten thousand dollars the equivalent of more than two hundred fifty thousand, dollars today, but there are some sceptics this one council, member named Herbert Faye, doesn't trust it. He says Charles is a con. Man. Peddling quote rank foolishness, but, as usual, Charles is only asking for payment. If he succeeds, it's no risk all were work, so the council votes for it. one to give him a chance. Now,
Charles, is no novice. At this point, he's been in a gain for over ten years with this is still his biggest contract ever so the pressures on as San Diego is preparing to ring in the new year of nineteen. Sixteen Charles sets off on a quiet hike through the woods with his brother, who he's recruited as it assistant their heading for a spot six miles east of the city right near the Moraine, a reservoir, the one he promised to fill but ass he starts building his usual work sight. He realizes he's been followed a bunch. San Diego residents, apparently caught wind of his plans and height up to watch him work, a crowd, watches as he builds his tower and mixes. His Chemic but this time around, he does something unusual. He light some of the pans on fire, which maybe is an accident or possibly a new technique
regardless of this smell, is horrible. One witness describes it, as quote A limburger cheese factory has broken loose, but the stench seems to pay off. A few days later, on New year's Eve, San Diego gets its first rainfall in a long while now Herbert Faye, the Anti Charles Council member still isn't convey but he is in the minority. The city of Sandy, and its papers are already lauding Charles as a hero. The praise keeps coming for two delightful weeks, as the rain keeps falling Between January first and the fifteen, the showers are mostly gentle, the kind of Peter patter on the roof that makes you feel cosy inside. And even when the rain starts to come down hard on its doing everything it supposed to feeding the crops, filling the reservoir rejuvenating the city, but then January fit
arrives in the skies crack open the storm turns apocalyptic people staring out. Their windows are reminded of the great flood of eighteen, sixty two, which washed away half the West Coast some fifty years earlier, the city isn't cut out for this weather The San Diego River spills over its banks and spreads until it's a mile wide mountains are collapsing into mudslides telephone lines, go down, dams, overflow, railroad tracks and road or obliterated farms and homes are ripped away by flooding. One panicked resident fleeing his home in a rowboat shouts. Let's pay Hatfield, ten thousand to quit. Meanwhile, Charles doesn't see what the big fuss about in the midst of this, warm. The rain maker calls San Diego City Hall with an ominous message. He says quote. I just wanted to tell
you that it is only sprinkling now within the next few days. I expect to make it really rain horrified. The officials ask, if he's joking and he apparently response. quote never more serious in my life just hold your Mrs and I'll show you a real rain for two. More weeks. the destruction continues. On January, twenty seventh. Another reservoir gives way sending a forty foot wall of water crashing into the coastline. The wave sweeps away breathing in its path, trees, livestock houses and people, one thy clings to a small tree, as he watches houses in cattle sweet passed him. Some of the animals are alive, but many are or Eddie dead. They look like helpless little toys, completely powerless, miraculous leave this man makes it out alive, but now Everyone is so lucky more than a dozen people.
lose their lives in that wave alone by the in of January. The skies are finally clear, but the city is incomplete. Shambles fifty people died in the deluge. Even those who didn't lose loved ones basically lost everything else. People are hurt horrified and angry, and they know just who to blame. They While this Hatfield Flood Charles, though, is still out in the woods by the reservoir he filled, he gave Christine why everyone so upset he fulfilled his end of the bargain. He proved he's the best rain grew. America has ever seen and now he's ready for his payment coming up taking credit for this, Warm is a double edged sword for Charles now, back to the story in the aftermath of San Diego January nineteen. Sixteen storm Charles Hatfield is either truly
oblivious to the cold reception that awaits him in a city or he just doesn't care. At the end of January. He tracks the sixty miles back into town, with a big smile on his face and an outstretched hand like That'll be ten thousand dollars. Please and ass. You can Urgent things don't go so smoothly. The city count has no plan to pay him the way they see it. Earl did cause the storm he's a monster who doesn't deserve a penny if he didn't he's a con artist who still doesn't deserve a penny, not to mention evade, did him, their essentially saying they commissioned a natural disaster which isn't going to look good when they file. Six million dollars worth of damage suits, which is worth close to a hundred fifty million today. So all those council members who were
eager to hire Charles a month ago, are now calling the flood an act of God and when Charles Protest, they sent him to a city attorney who essentially tells Charles he has to action. one he leaves San Diego empty, handed and never shows his sorry face here again. Charles good, try and fight it in court, but legally his case doesn't hold any water. Nobody ever saw and a contract. It was a verbal agreement or to they could sign a contract. Now, aid pay Charles, the ten thousand dollars in full and then Charles would be liable for the cities, millions in damages. What is trials pick well, he's furious. So he chooses Neither he's beat me odds before so he's willing to try his luck and take the city to court and he does but the case drags on for a year,
and in the end it amounts to a whole lot of nothing. Charles, had no contract and no way to prove he caused the storm before the case resolves. Charles aside, it's best to leave San Diego now you might think, with everything that happened Charles would find himself unemployed, but with a bit of distance, the event San Diego seem a little less grim and a lot more magical and even becomes a selling point for Charles. He refers to the storm as the most potent test. I ever made he may never collect his ten thousand, but He was crowned the king of american rain makers for the next twelve years, Charles works everywhere from Canada to Cuba, to Honduras, the money is good. The destinations are exciting he's on top of the world, old and a long way from his dusty days on his dad's ranch. But even
someone as lucky as Charles the good times, don't last forever, when the great Russian arrives in nineteen twenty nine. His business takes a serious hit. No one can pay him even city governments, dont have the cash throw it something like rain summoning and after yours, New deal leads to the construction of more dams and better water infrastructure across the country which essentially render his services unnecessary. Charles Hatfield is never proven to be a fraud. but in the blink of an eye he's obsolete and yet somehow his star keeps shining in nine
in fifty six eighty one year old, Charles attends the premier of the rain maker of film, inspired by his life, its doors, Catherine Hepburn in Bert, Lancaster to Hollywood heavyweights and in the twilight of his life, he's back in the spotlight where he feels at home, where he thinks he belongs. He dies two years later, taking his great twenty three chemical formula to the grave, but his legacy lives on in the work of other rain makers, yeah, that's right days of attempted whether modification never ended. In recent years, a technology called cloud seeding uses chemicals like dry.
eyes and silver iodide to encourage clouds to make reign. The whole process is controversial. For many reasons, the technique doesn't white prove that controlling weather is possible, but there are we'll reputable trained. Scientists that are invested in finding out and if it is possible, is also possible that Charles Hatfield Science was as real as he promised. I mean if you Look at his successes. The results speak for themselves. Maybe he was way ahead of his time and he invented a technology that scientists are still struggling to recreate, but there's another more likely explanation, one that most experts agree on cha. Charles was a well educated gambler here, studied meteorology. He did his research on weather patterns and he played the odds he would try well somewhere dry. That was likely to get rain soon and put on a convinced,
enough show that he could take credit for what mother nature would have already done anyway, regardless of what choose to believe the biggest secretly Charles's success was that he understood something about human nature. We were really like to be in control. We like to be at the mercy of fate. We want to feel like our lives belong to us. We It's so much that, when we're not in control, were willing to suspend disbelief and bet against the odds to get it back,
thanks for listening I'll be back next week with another episode, you can find all episodes of supernatural and all other Spotify originals from park asked for free on Spotify we're natural stars, Ashley flowers in his Spotify original from part cast its executive produced by MAX Cutler. sound designed by carry Murphy with production assistance by ranch appeal Trent Williamson Carling that this episode of Superman what was written by nor at the town, with writing assistance by Conor Samson Incorrect Gallagher, checking my on your barely and research by Mickey Taylor. To hear more stories hosted by me check out crying junkie and all audio chuck originals hi it's Vanessa from park. If you enjoy our in depth, profiles on historical figures and famous fades: you'll of my new limited series, obituaries everyone
Stay on Spotify join me and my co host Carter as we explore the unlikely bonds forged between two meaningful figures from the past and discover how those relationships impacted the future. Follow this spot My original from Parkhurst obituaries, listen, weekly, free and open beyond Spotify.
Transcript generated on 2021-07-22.