History is full of stories of strange things falling from the sky, whether they be organic or man-made. Usually, anything that fell from the sky that wasn’t rain was thought of to be either an omen of bad times to come, a punishment for sins committed by people, or a gift from the gods above. Throughout history, unexplainable occurrences like that could be blamed on figures such as a vengeful, old testament God, or could be explained away by the stories of Greek mythology.
Spiders, rats, fish, dead bats, or frogs falling from the sky are still believed today to be a sign of apocalyptic prophecy. On other occasions, they are thought to be gifts from above. But some of these occurrences you just can’t find a religious or mythological explanation for. They just happened, randomly, and then didn’t happen again.
Here are a few stories of things falling from the sky that will surprise you.
An interesting story I researched when investigating strange showers involved the falling of rain in a particular spot in Aiken, South Carolina. Hundreds of locals witnessed rain falling continuously from morning until late at night on top of only two gravestones at a local cemetery. It didn’t rain anywhere else in the cemetery. There were also no clouds in the sky, according to the people who saw this phenomenon.
While meteorologists attempted to explain it by stating that wind-blown precipitation blown in from other areas can cause rain when there are no clouds present, it still didn’t explain any of the other odd behavior that made up the incident.
Stranger than the falling of rain on just two headstones is the falling of blood rain. It’s understandable why people could believe showers like this to be bad omens, a sign that the unthinkable was to happen.
Blood rain, though, can actually be explained by scientific means. Blood rains have been recorded to cover only very small areas, usually, lasting only a very short amount of time because the blood isn’t actually blood. Rather it’s just tinged red by an aerial spore of green microalgae that form on tree trunks or wet rocks. When the microalgae get in a state of distress it will turn red, causing the rain it is being carried in to look like blood.
The falling of blood rain has even occurred recently in Zamora, a city in northwestern Spain. Though it’s still a mystery as to how the spores became trapped in the rain clouds, as those kinds of micro-organisms aren’t native to that area of Spain.
But what we can’t explain are stories of blood and meat falling from the sky.
While sometimes only red rain will fall, which has been thought to be showers of blood, it has been known for it to be accompanied by what people will describe as pieces of flesh.
On a Sunday in July of 1869, it was reported by a nearby funeral party that out of a clear sky fell not only a thick and vivid red rain but also hairs and portions of organs. While a lot of these exact incidences recorded in the 1800s, for some unknown reason, there was one reported in 1968, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
According to a report given by an officer, quote “The pieces of flesh were found lying at distances of half a meter apart, there size variation between lengths of 5 cm to 20 cm. The meat was of a spongy texture and violet in color, And was accompanied by drops of blood.No aircraft had been seen just prior to, during, or after the event, nor were there any birds in the sky.”
While falling candy and sprinkling blood are fascinating subjects to discuss, this next one is my favorite thing to fall from the sky, and actually my reason for my writing this episode.
Poo-druh Sair is a Welsh sentiment for Star Jelly that translates to mean rot of the stars. It’s been discussed pretty frequently in historical records, literature, and even poetry. The term for Star Jelly can be dated back to an English Latin dictionary from the 1400s. According to folklore, it is deposited on Earth by meteor showers, hence its name. It’s a gelatinous substance that is sometimes translucent, sometimes colored, that will usually evaporate shortly after it falls down.
A physician named John of Gaddesden, who lived in the 1300s described Star Jelly in his medical writings as a quote “a certain mucilaginous substance lying upon the earth.” He even went so far as to suggest that it might be used to treat abscesses.
In 1950 four policemen from Philadelphia reported that they had discovered what they described as quote “a domed disk of quivering jelly, 6 feet in diameter, one foot thick at the center and an inch or two near the edge.” After attempting to pick it up, it then dissolved into an odorless sticky scum. This incident would later go on to inspire the 1958 movie, The Blob.
In 1994, in Oakville, Washington at around 3 am there was heavy rainfall, which residents noted in the morning left a strange, gelatinous substance on the ground. Over a period of three weeks, the jelly would fall from the sky six times, in such large quantities that at one point an officer on patrol turned on his car wipers only to have the substance smear thickly across his windshield.
What is strange about this particular event was that certain members of the community of Oakville then became violently ill, suffering from difficulty breathing, vertigo, blurred vision, and nausea. It was almost like a strain of the flu that swept through the town that lasted about two or three months. One of the people who fell sick decided to collect samples of the jelly in order to give it to a lab, hoping that it would explain their illness. It was examined by a lab technician who found that it contained human white blood cells, though he couldn’t identify where it had come from or why in the world it had come from the sky. It was afterward sent to the Washington State Department of Health and studied by a microbiologist who noted that it was quote “teeming with two species of bacteria, one of which lives in the human digestive system.”
Theories varied widely. Some believed it to be human waste from an airplane, even though legally that stuff is supposed to be dyed blue and is never released mid-fight. Another theory was that it had its origins in the military’s naval bombings that had accidentally destroyed a school of jellyfish and had a quote “sent their pieces flying into the atmosphere,” (though, that theory has quite a few problems with it.)
Major conspiracists believe it was a military experiment, where a new biological weapon was tested on U.S. soil. Sadly no samples exist today, as they have since evaporated naturally.
These days, modern science usually will try to explain the origin of Star Jelly by stating that it is an animal byproduct, like bird puke, a type of algae, or an object that just sucks up a lot of water when it’s up in the clouds. But Star Jelly has yet to be fully explained, meaning anyone’s guess is good.
What I personally have gleaned from researching this topic so far is that, while we think we know a lot about the world around us, we actually know, very, very, very little. It’s fascinating to think just what discoveries we will make in the future. But in the meantime, it really is fun to romanticize the idea that magical jelly comes from falling stars.
Thank you for joining me for this particularly strange, Strange Origins, my friends. Stay safe out there, keep your eyes on the skies, and don’t forget to keep it strange.
*This article has been edited down and rewritten for clarity from the original podcast. If you would like to hear more stories of strange showers, such as the frogs, spiders, green fireballs, and the Kentucky Meat Shower, check out Episode 32 of Strange Origins.
About Strange Origins:
Have you ever wondered what gave birth to the stories we tell around the campfire?
What happened in our history that caused spooky tales of creatures such as werewolves and ladies in white to be passed down from generation to generation?
And more importantly, why are we all still so fascinated with the macabre?
Join me as I jump down the rabbit hole of a new subject each week and attempt to stitch together the history of all things strange and spooky.
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