Cloudbusting: Was it Science?

Many times we encounter science in our life in unexpected ways.  I encountered the term “cloudbusting” through listening to one of my favorite singers, Kate Bush.  After viewing the video, I was intrigued to find out exactly what cloudbusting was and if it was a really science or just a hoax.  I encourage you to watch the video first.

This video is based on a book ” A Book of Dreams” written by Peter Reich about his father in 1973.  Peter, portrayed by Kate Bush,  and  Wilhelm Reich, played by Donald Sutherland,  tells the story of the  use of a Cloudbuster and Reich’s ultimate arrest.

Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He was know for his radical techniques of using a form of  cosmic energy he named “orgonon”.  He used this energy first in his treatment of his patients.  However, it was the creation of the instrument, called a cloudbuster and the use of the cloudbuster to alter or augment weather that led to the ultimate arrest and imprisonment until his death in 1957.

A cloudbuster (left) is a device which consists of a series of metal tubes that can manipulate streams of orgone to produce rain.  The theory behind how cloudbusting works is based on the principle that orgone flows from a greater concentration to an area of lesser concentration.  When the pipes were grounded in water the cloudbuster would have greater orgone than in the clouds. Therefore, when pointed at the clouds the orgone would flow to the clouds and create rain.  Weather is created and affected by many different influences and is often likened to the Butterfly effect, where a flap of a butterflies wings can eventually lead to a hurricane. Unlike that analogy, cloudbusting is controlled,  not through a series of chaotic influences but through the influence of the cloudbuster operator’s mind (Montalk, Tom, 2004).

In 1942, Reich purchased 160 acres in Rangley, Maine and built a Student Laboratory.  Shortly thereafter he built the Orgone Energy Observatory which included additional laboratory facilities, Reich’s library and study and outdoor observation decks to study atmospheric orgone energy phenomena.  The scientific community was taking notice of his work.  Then in 1947 an article was written against his work and a charge was made by the Food and Drug Administration about his use of  orgone in his patient treatments.  What ensued next was a ten year long investigation by the FDA to discredit Reich in the field of medicine.  Reich then turned to other uses for his newly found source of energy.  Primarily the use of the cloudbuster to create rain. A famous story happened in Maine during a severe drought that had placed the blueberry crops in danger of being a total loss. The farmers paid Reich to use his cloudbuster. The weather department had predicted that there would be no rain for the next few days and Within a ten hours of Reich start to his “cloudbusting” a light rain fell.  The crops were saved and Reich was given credit for a two inch rainfall.

The final ending to Wilhelm Reich came after a student moved a truckload of equipment and books  against a court order.  The ensuing trial ended in both Reich and his student being incarcerated for a two-year sentence.  Reich died of heart failure eight months after his sentencing (Wilhelm Reich Museum, 2006).

Now that you have had a chance to watch this short film and to read this article, click here to take survey.  Many times  throughout history the people who arrived at some our most accepted scientific theories and laws,  were portrayed as insane and their ideas dismissed.  You can  decide what characterizes something that it is considered “scientific” and what is not by keeping an open mind and constantly testing ideas that come your way.


Bush, Kate(2010, September 14). Cloudbustin [video file].  Retrieved from
Montalk, Tom. (2004). Cloudbusting Resources. July 20, 2004.
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Wilhelm Reich Museum. (2006). Biography. Rangeley, Maine. December
     2006.  Retrieved from
Wilhelm Reich Museum image collection. Image retrieved from