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Let me clarify, I'm not asking if a miracle happened, or for a scientific explanation for why the sun might appear to do what was claimed. I'm asking about the actual numbers... if there is any verification for the claims that "thousands" of people saw a strange solar phenomena?

Though there are discrepancies in the numbers, it's a very popular claim by very religious Catholics (and some others) that "thousands" witnessed a strange solar phenomena...

Although an hundred thousand individuals, from many diverse faiths and from no faith, spread out even over several miles, saw the “miracle of the sun,” Source

Gathered in the Cova da Iria near Fatima, an insignificant rural community in the countryside in Ourém in western Portugal, about 110 miles north of Lisbon, were an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 witnesses Source

Etc.

Certainly some people claim they saw something odd. And certainly thousands were present on that day. Source

HOWEVER... Is there any evidence that thousands claim they saw this phenomena? The only statements I ever see (like in my two links above) claim thousands saw it without providing evidence for the numbers. What they tend to provide instead are anecdotes of a small handful of people who claim to have seen it combined with the fact that thousands were present and suggest this means thousands witnessed this phenomena. But that doesn't necessarily mean thousands claim to have seen anything out of the ordinary. It could have been a small handful of people making the claim and others misrepresenting the situation so it seems like thousands were making the claim.

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    The wikipedia article in your own link seems to answer this. It has a newspaper reporter and a professor claiming that something like 30-100 thousand people were there. Granted not all of them claim to have seen the actual phenomenon, but surely a reasonable fraction of them did. Your claim that only a tiny fraction of the people there might have actually witnessed this seems implausible given the reported behavior by the newspapers. – KAI Jul 8 '15 at 23:31
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    "But surely a reasonable fraction of them did" is exactly the vague kind of logic I am trying to get past. We're skeptics here. I want proof that thousands of people claim to have seen this phenomena. The best I have ever seen is individual anecdotes. IF, for instance, the phenomena was just straight up made up by religious people trying to fulfill a prophecy, it is conceivable that almost no one there saw or even claimed to have seen anything out of the ordinary and people are taking the few they can get to say they did and extrapolating that to the entire crowd. – Andrew Whatever Jul 9 '15 at 4:27
  • I guess what I'm asking basically boils down to... IF something strange happened with the sun, yeah, I agree that of the 30-100 thousand people there probably thousands would have seen it. But do we have any evidence that anything strange happened with the sun besides the small handful of anecdotal stories? I want to know why we should believe that "thousands" witnessed something that may or may not have happened. Essentially, is there empirical evidence thousands saw anything out of the ordinary? Thousands of witness testimonies, etc.? – Andrew Whatever Jul 9 '15 at 4:33
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    It isn't vague logic. It isn't possible to sample everybody from an event that happened a hundred years ago. But, we do have accounts from other parties. This includes multiple newspapers and professors from universities. Now, those newspapers and professors may have had their own biases, but given that they overwhelmingly reported the phenomenon and reported that the crowd saw the phenomenon, it's entirely reasonable to expect that most in the crowd saw it as well. Especially since you would expect them to be less likely to witness it than the real faithful that had gathered. – KAI Jul 9 '15 at 15:39
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    @kai: We don't usually require notable claims both pro and con; a claim has been offered that about 100,000 people saw whatever it was, and that's sufficient to investigate it. Evidence has been offered that a few people believed they saw it, namely those who are quoted as saying that they did. But the question is, do all or most of the the remaining 99,990 people also believe they saw it? We have not seen evidence to support that. – Nate Eldredge Jul 9 '15 at 23:47

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