If I've seen it I don't know it, and if it hasn't even scared the wits out of the hound then I don't think it's much of a comet.
Astronomically and scientifically, Halley's Comet is all very well, but thus far it has fallen far short of its duty to terrify tots.
In its last appearance over Washington (1910) it caused rather a stir. And globally it was remarked that this was the year King Edward VII died, succeeded by George V and perhaps boding ill for his reign. Sure enough, the Great War followed in no time (four years later), and sure enough his son Edward was a sorry failure as king to succeed him (26 years later), having got involved with the Baltimore woman (whom he married just 27 years after the comet, and if you divide by 3 and add etc., etc., you see how comets affect destiny).
Back to 1910, this newspaper was commendably concerned with the training of the District Guard and reported on May 8 that the men were no good on the target range. They had "unsteady nerves due to time spent observing the celestial wanderer."
"Guardsmen stationed on the range last week lost so much sleep in studying the comet that it was impossible for them to take interest in the target practice.
"An alarm clock was smuggled into camp last week and 15 minutes before the comet became visible each morning the tinkle of the alarm bell was heard. The hundred or more militiamen, instead of calmly sleeping in their tents and gaining some strength for the next day's work, were scampering to the top of the hill overlooking the range." Nor was dereliction of duty confined to the military:
"Men who never before gave their wives cause to worry now stay out to watch the appearance of the starry visitor, while other men who have worried their wives with nocturnal absences have found one more excuse to stay away from home till daylight."
And housewives took to blaming the comet "if the pot boils dry" while they moped about, though to soften this charge against homemakers it was noted "everybody who breathes becomes inoculated with cometitis which already has assumed the proportions of an epidemic."
Earlier The Post had consulted H. H. Turner, Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford:
"He assures us there is no need for alarm."
Still, lest everybody lose interest too quickly, there was the poisonous gas to be thought of. "Though poisonous gases may be present, if these gases do happen to mingle with the higher reaches of our atmosphere, they may take years to reach the bottom of it."
Great. Poisonous gases. They may take years to get down to us. May.
POISON IN ITS TAIL AGAIN, The Post continued in another story, this one from Paris. COMET QUITS ITS PATH was the main heading of that story -- the fool thing was going haywire, the reader might well conclude -- for the simple reason it was not following the course some astronomer predicted. Never mind that, "Cyanogen, Which Disappeared in March, Is Now Revealed by Spectroscope. Professor Deslandres Says Hypothesis That Gas Is Liable to Affect the Earth's Atmosphere Is Not at All Absurd."
A short piece from Newman, Ga., said, "Halley's Comet has thrown the negroes of western Georgia into panic as they believe it presages the end of the world. In more than a dozen counties they have quit work and are spending the time in singing and praying . . ."
The same week it was reported "a shaft of light appeared in the heavens resembling a searchlight . . ." and this was accompanied by a large illustration of white with black dots and squiggles on it, allegedly showing the movement of Halley's Comet, a fine early example of an illustration in which one has no idea whatever what is being shown.
It is always the custom to bring up previous appearances of the comet. It appeared the year of the Battle of Hastings (1066), which spelled doom to the Saxon kings and brought in the dreadful French, though now (920 years after that visit) we have begun to think it was not a total disaster. And for some time it was thought the comet was the Star of Bethlehem, until better calculations showed it arrived 12 years too early to have led any Wise Men.
The comet has appeared regularly since 240 B.C., with firm records of sightings every time, it is said. Of course, the 163 B.C. sighting was shaky for a time, but now some baked clay tablets are said to be an account of it. And some comments of Aristotle suggest it was sighted and recorded in the 5th century B.C.
Comets were widely supposed to foretell famine, plague and war, and of course they do, since it is impossible to find a period free of them. I saw an ad on television for horoscopes just the other night, and it seems likely the comet will be a joy for astrological types who like to think the reason everything went wrong was because Jupiter was naughty to Venus.
This newspaper in 1910 dutifully ran an account of the 1835 comet as recalled by the few people who had seen it and could still talk. John J. Payne of West Fayette Street, Baltimore, said:
"I was young and strong and my home was then in Harpers Ferry. There was much talk and tension, there was much seriousness and foolishness. People prated that the world was going to smash into something, give a couple of gasps and turn over on the wrong side.
"Just about that period the Millerites were in their glory and the coming of the comet was proof positive to them that the world was approaching its finish, as their leader, William Miller, predicted."
Well, back to the old drawing board. A particularly dazzling appearance of the comet turned out to be a lantern attached to a kite, and when it hit the Earth it attracted some attention, though the Earth disappointed many by not disintegrating on the instant. Payne said a lot of people had tons of fun in the 1835 sightings; not everybody was faint from thoughts of cyanogen and turning over on the wrong side.
Then there was John Turnbull Jr., who said of the 1835 comet:
"I don't recall a thing about it."
And W. W. Spence, "well known as a retired financier," the paper reported, said it was one of those incidents of his early days "about which he had no recollection."
Seventy-five years from now I think I'm with him. If it isn't going to light up the sky and make ladies squeal, the hell with it.