The Unbelievable Yet True Story of Charles Hatfield, The Man Who Summoned Rain

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Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.

- Roger Miller -


Charles was born in Kansas. Five years after his birth - in 1880 - his impoverished parents packed and moved to Southern California under the hope that there their lives would somehow improve. They settled down in a dusty farmstead and began selling sewing machines from door to door. By the beginning of the new century Charlie was a nineteen-year-old frustrated young man, sick to his very bones from selling sewing machines under the flaming summer Sun - he wanted to be wealthy, he wanted to do what he loved - rain happened to be his passion, he wanted to make it rain. And so, he did.

He was clever kid who had been paying sharp attention to the weather. He he learned that storm clouds followed places where big battles involving cannons and rifles had taken place and wondered if there was a chemical reasons why - with this in mind Charlie built a small wood tower and began testing different chemicals, mixing them inside a wooden barrel. When he was sure he had the recipe right he would cover the barril and let the mixture settle. It took long time and several attempts but one day, after a while of letting the brew rest, Charlie opened the lid from some distance with the help of a long stick. The steam drifted up into the sky and - in a gentle miracle - rain fell over his family’s bone-arid pasture.

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The first place were he took his rain-summoning service was to Los Angeles where the government promised to pay him 1000 dollars (close to 28,000 dollars in modern currency) if he managed to bring 18 inches of rain. Charlie built himself a tower and released those fumes through to the heavens - shortly after, LA received over 18 inches of the promised liquid. With success under his chest Charlie went on traveling, claiming on his way around 500 triumphs until - on a bleak January day of 1916 - San Diego called. The city languished under a big drought were Charlie seemed to be the one and only hope, they asked him to fill their Morena Dam reservoir, paying him 10,000 dollars if he achieved to do it.

The first thing he did was built another of his rustic towers, this time 20 ft higher than all others he had done in the past, he then worked his alchimic magic and waited… Nothing happened, Charlie stood hopeful for four days until it to finally happen; the local newspaper reported a light sprinkle - the next day however was better, and the day after even more… The problem was that it wasn’t stopping, rain poured day and night. In just five days the San Diego river had begun to spill in the land around it, floods and mudslides tormented all San Diegans while homes were being swiped away. One month later, on a day with 30 inches of rain, the dam with it’s 40ft high wall broke down and the water galloped into the city, destroying buildings and lives along the way. The furious city refused to pay Charlie and the legal battle resulted on a two decade long trial (ending in 1938 when courts decided that the rain was an act of God, which absolved him of any wrongdoing, but also meant he Charlie would never see a penny).

When the great depression arrived cities couldn’t pay any longer for something as banal as weather, he eventually closed his shop, his wife divorced him and - on his last years - Charlie was left with no other choice but going back to selling sewing machines.

Charlie repeated his recipe over and over by memory without ever noting it down, we know that his secret mixture contained 23 chemicals, but the name of the ingredients and the quantities was a secret that Charlie took to his grave.

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You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That's a part of it.

- Denzel Washington -

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