“The house I was in shook with such violence that the upper stories immediately fell. Everything was thrown out of its place. I expected nothing less than to be soon crushed to death, as the walls continued rocking. Large stones fell on every side from the cracks.” A description of the Oklahoma earthquake that hit last weekend? Not at all. The above eye‑witness account is a description of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Estimates of the death toll from that disaster range from about 15,000 to more than 75,000.

As you might guess, prophetic prognosticators in 1755 claimed that the end was near. Some even predicted that the first anniversary of the earthquake would bring a new catastrophe.

The claim is being made by some that the Oklahoma earthquake is a record breaker and that makes it unique. How do they know? Statistics only go back 200 years. Today we have sophisticated seismic measuring devices that can measure even the slightest tremor. Actually, the region is pretty earthquake prone, beginning with “the great earthquakes in the New Madrid, Mo., region in 1811–1812.”

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