When a Comet Caused Panic

Before the flyby of Halley’s Comet on May 19, 1910, people worried that life would end when the Earth passed through poison gas in the comet’s tail.

A French astronomer Camille Flammarion warned he had detected cyanogen gas by analyzing light in the comet’s tail which the Earth would pass through. Most astronomers disagreed with Flammarion.

Adding to the concern was the death of England’s King Edward VII on May 6, 1910 after an illness of a few days.

Fraudsters sold fake anti-comet pills. People dug underground hideouts. Others prepared how to live out their final days.

Some, as pictured above, invented their own oxygen tanks with old tin lard cans in hopes of living through the event. (From St. Louis Post Dispatch Magainze, Page 2, May 29, 1910)

In the end everyone survived, even during its return on March, 1986. It’s next appearance is in 2061.