Charles Hatfield: Rainmaker or Con Man?

When the city of San Diego hired Charles Hatfield to fix the devastating drought of 1915, they got more than they bargained for.

What would you do if you were facing the worst drought in history? As you watch crops wither, food become scarce, and even drinking water starting to dry up, you might be tempted to go to extreme lengths to bring in the rain. That’s what the city of San Diego did during the drought of 1915. In desperation, they hired a man named Charles Hatfield who claimed he could make it rain and they got more than they bargained for.

Who Was Charles Hatfield?

Charles Hatfield was a man of many pursuits but he made a name for himself as a rainmaker. His career started around the beginning of the 20th century with a secret recipe of 23 chemicals that he claimed could attract water — an early example of the pseudoscience of cloud seeding, which has been tested but never proven to work.

By 1904, Hatfield started to make a name for himself. Ranchers in the West paid him to call in the rains with his secret chemical concoction. In many cases, it appeared that Hatfield was successful. Wherever he went, the rains followed, and he soon had a following that believed he truly was a rainmaker.

This led to a $10,000 contract in the Yukon Territory in 1906. Hatfield was supposed to bring rain to the Klondike Goldfields. Instead, Hatfield took the money and ran, leaving the Klondike high and dry, literally.

The 1915 San Diego Drought

In 1915, the city of San Diego was in the midst of a drought, and it was willing to do just about anything to bring back the rains. They’d heard tales of this “rain man,” Charles Hatfield, so they enlisted his help to fill the reservoir with rainwater.

Hatfield was so confident he could bring rain to the parched city that he secured a deal but agreed only to accept money for each inch of rain that he produced: $1,000 per inch, to be exact, up to 50 inches. For the council, this was a perfect deal. If Hatfield was a charlatan and produced no rain, they didn’t have to pay. And if he did produce all the rain that he claimed he could, it would be a small price to pay compared to the devastation the drought was causing. The deal was sealed verbally. Hatfield never put ink to paper.

Charles Hatfield - The Rainmaker
Charles Hatfield in 1922 mixing up his chemicals. Photo courtesy of San Diego Public Library Special Collections

Hatfield sprang into action and on January 1, 1916, he and his brother Joel built a tower for their concoction at the Morena Reservoir and allowed the mysterious chemicals to evaporate into the air. Much to the delight of everyone involved, the rains started five days later.

From Drought To Flood

And they didn’t stop. By January 10, severe rains moved in that drenched the San Diego area. More rain fell between January 14 and 18, causing river flooding that washed away bridges and railroads. By January 27, dams overflowed, taking homes, roads, and everything else in their path, with them. Then the Lower Otay Dam broke, causing a massive flood that claimed roughly 20 lives.

The Aftermath

Despite epic destruction, Hatfield considered the deluge of water a success. The City Council, however, was furious. Flood damages had risen to about $3.5 million and they were refusing to pay Hatfield. Unfortunately, since Hatfield never signed a contract, there was little that anyone could do. Hatfield fought to collect his money in an ordeal that lasted until 1938, with two courts deciding that the rains were an act of God. Hatfield nor the City ever received a penny in the matter.

Charles Hatfield
Flooding that occurred in January 1916. / photo courtesy of San Diego Historical Society

Charles Hatfield: The Ultimate Con-Man?

Was Hatfield on to something? Did he have the secret formula to make it rain? The general consensus is no, there is no possible way that Hatfield could have made it rain with his vats of unknown chemicals, no matter what his most fervent followers believed. Even during his time, meteorologists noticed that Hatfield tended to only show up when rains were already in the forecast. Hatfield himself claimed that he made it rain more than 500 times, which leads most experts to believe that the man was a fraud—one who just so happened to be really good at forecasting the weather.

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Amber Kanuckel

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.

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Ken Woodburn

Hi Amber
This is not pseudoscience.
There are weather manipulation patents dating back to 1891. The US Military had Operation Popeye causing flooding during the Vietnam War. The US Military wants to Own The Westher by 2025. HAARP is wicked as is cloud seeding. The recent 2024 Dubai flood is the result of UAE cloud seeding operations but they will deny that. They are screaming about anthropogenic climate change when in fact it is weather sabotage by governments around the planet in alignment with UN Agenda 2030 goals, which just happen to include destroying agriculture as we know it and replacing it with pseudofoods.

Just Josh

Amber, a lot of this information is contradictory to almost all historical data. Charles Hatfield was a resident of San Diego, CA. His father had a farm in Vista, which is Southeast of camp Pendleton. So he didn’t just,”happen to show up”, as you put it. Secondly, he was sought out and commissioned to make it rain in lots of arid locations, both prior to and after the 1916 flood . He was even accredited with extimguishishing a fire in Haiti that was uncontrolled, within three days. Lastly, he withdrew his suit for the $10,000. There was no “act of god” judgement- that’s just 100% false. He was told that if he was responsible for the rain then he was responsible for the damages as well, so he wisely eat the loss.
History is better when you get the facts and not fabricate it from thin air. Do some research, or stick to gardening. Even if he was just prediicting weather like a boss, how could he do that in 1916? Half of America didn’t have electricity and there were few telegraph lines, no airplanes….???
We use satellites and massive sets of weather pattern models and still get it wrong. Don’t you think if was that good at predicting weather, he would have done that instead of cloud seeding; which is total science by the way. It’s done with alum- aluminum oxide- and been used as coagulate for decades. If you’ve drank water in the US since 1974(when the Clear Water Act was passed), then guess what, it was coagulated with alum prior the filtration to flocculate the dissolved solids because they are too small to filter and would clog up the osmosis membranes.


Thank you for your information. We love when our readers are able to share their knowledge with us! Thank you for being part of our community!


If you consider the fact that all Schooling Home ec has been taken away which those tools could have actually helped the human race to thrive as well as “ Science or Alchemy” as individuals. Stolen knowledge has been robbed and replaced with a.i. And it came to earth before we knew the time. We never had a chance…….. or did we?, to question. That is why we are here. Not to tell lies or call truths. But to find and KNOW IN OUR HEARTS. And be the CHANGE. I believe in Hatfield & his & this story. Its stolen.

Glenn Duval

If it’s true that he only appeared when rain was already in the forecast, why would anyone be contracting to pay him to make it rain? If rain was already in the forecast why didn’t people just wait for the rain to come? The claim that he only came when rain was already in the forecast is probably misinformation. And with what we know now about the military and how they have been geo-engineering the weather for over 30 years, i wouldnt doubt that they figured out the chemical formula the Charles was using.


Also Wilhelm Reich, he did it with a more sophisticated, and device that was portable, and could regulate the energy into the atmosphere.


…. and it is also nicely shown in the clip Kate Bush – “Coudbusting”.

Cloudbusting - Kate Bush.jpg

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