Perhaps because I now knew that I was not unique, that others were similarly troubled, I began to voice my belief about the Geneva air being unhealthy. Astonishingly, friends agreed with me, and some of them knew of the age old legends of the Foehn, the dry southerly wind that blows out of the Alps in early spring and fall and is stigmatized as a Witches Wind. When the Foehn blows, the Swiss and the people of southern Germany blame almost everything unusual on the wind itself. Fights at home, suicides, murders, traffic accidents, even plane crashes - all are said to be part of the Foehn sickness.
In Munich and many other parts of central Europe north of the Alps, surgeons even postpone operations if a Foehn is forecast.
But no one could explain why the wind is evil; why it blows misfortune and unhappiness as it sweeps across the plains dominated by the Alpine Mountains.There are scores of so called Witches Winds around the world. They include the Santa Ana in California, the summer winds of the desert that stretches from northern Arizona down into Mexico (they are known in Indian mythology as the Bitter Winds); the Chinook in western Canada and the U.S.; the Sharav of the Middle East around Israel. All are infamous, perhaps the Foehn most of all.
In Munich, a good friend learned to fear the Foehn because it made it impossible for her to sleep. For years she had inexplicable but occasional bouts of sleeplessness and irritability. By the process of deduction similar to mine, she realized she slept badly only when the wind blew from the south, and that wind was the Foehn. Another friend in Munich, a British born artist, cycles around the city all year - except when the Foehn blows. "For some reason the drivers all become either madmen or an accident looking for a place to happen," he says. "To ride my bike would be asking for trouble.
"Along the Rocky Mountains in the western U.S. and Canada, the warm, dry Chinook flows eastward out of the mountains for a few days at a time every year as winter is about to give way to spring. Doctors say the Chinook coincides with outbreaks of the common cold and other respiratory ills and I know one successful industrialist who after a decade or so found the Chinook made him feel so ill (he too, suffered anxieties as well as colds) that he now carefully schedules his holidays so that he escapes the area each spring.
In southern California, the hot, dry Santa Ana wind streams out of the coastal mountains across the plain where cities sprawl into one another from north of Los Angeles and Hollywood down to San Diego in the south. The belief that it causes murders and suicides and violence is so widespread that the Santa Ana is even used as the explanation for crimes in the private eye stories of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald. In the Middle East some courts even permit the fact that the Sharav was blowing at the time a crime was committed to be entered as a plea of mitigation, while in parts of Switzerland and Italy judges are often known to be lenient if the local Witches Wind was blowing at the time certain offenses were committed.
These and others mentioned here are probably among the quarter or more of the human race who are "weather sensitive" human barometers whose minds and bodies are thrown violently out of balance in response to changes in the weather.
It was not until now, however that this kind of folk wisdom had a scientific explanation. Even though I later found that most of my problems in Geneva were similar to those of people known by their doctors to be weather sensitive, it wasn't until 1971 that I finally made the connection between my "Geneva condition" and air electricity. At the same time I found that not only weather sensitive people are affected by electricity in the air. A large slice of humanity is influenced, most noticeably in the path of the Sharav in Israel, the Foehn in Switzerland, southern Germany, and Austria, the Mistral in France, the Sirocco in Italy, the Santa Ana in California.
The acutely weather sensitive may go to doctors with an encyclopedic collection of physical and mental ills ranging from swollen feet to serious psychiatric problems. Others are equally affected, and without a sane explanation for their feelings, are driven to extraordinary acts. In all these areas, both the suicide rate and number of attempted suicides soar when the Witches Winds blow, and traffic accidents become almost epidemic. Most people, of course, just feel low and out of sorts. Admittedly they blame their feeling on the weather, on the fact that it may be cloudy, humid, or a day of dreary drizzle. It's when there is no visual change in the weather, as is often the case with the Witches Winds that these seemingly inexplicable feelings are most damaging.
In a similar way everyone may be equally a victim of the man-made twentieth century Witches Winds that we create in cities, in modern buildings with central heating and air conditioning, and in cars and other forms of transportation. It is not the weather itself to which people are sensitive so much as to those electrically charged molecules of air called ions - that "something electrical about the air.