It’s an event known as the “Kentucky Meat Shower,” where large chunks of flesh fell, appearing to be red meat, from the sky over Olympia Springs in Bath County, Kentucky… Here are various theories from scientists.
Weather mystery: The great Kentucky meat shower
We’ve all heard the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs,” and it’s been known to rain fish and frogs, but in one of the strangest weather phenomena ever reported – it rained meat over a spot in the United States.
The bizarre event, dubbed the “Kentucky Meat Shower,” occurred over Olympia Springs in Bath County, Kentucky, on March 3, 1876, and was reported by the New York Times a week later.
Allen Crouch reported the event, saying it happened near his house, and occurred when his wife was outside making soap, Scientific American reported.
“The meat, which looked like beef, fell all around her,” Crouch said. “The sky was perfectly clear at the time, and she said it fell like large snowflakes.”
Another witness, Harrison Gill, whose account of the events the New York Times described as having “unquestionable” veracity, visited the Crouch residence a day after the alleged event.
Gill noted that meat was scattered across the ground and sticking out of the fences. Measurements of the fallen flash were taken, with most being roughly 2×2 inches in size, although one was 4×4 inches squared.
According to reports, the meat was fresh when it fell, but having laid out all night the next day, it had become dry and spoiled. Nonetheless, two unidentified brave gentlemen showed up and dared to taste the meat rain, declaring that the flesh carried the flavor of either venison or mutton.
What was the mystery meat that rained down over Kentucky?
Scientists and meteorologists have debated what came down in the “Kentucky meat shower.” What type of meat was it? Was it meat at all? A number of theories have been offered.
Theory #1: Nostoc
In an article published in Scientific American in 1876, the same year the meat fell, someone named Leopold Brandeis received and analyzed some of the specimens that had been preserved in glycerin and offered an opinion.
“At last, we have a proper explanation of this much talked of phenomenon,” Brandeis declared, announcing the so-called “meat” was not meat at all.
“It has been comparatively easy to identify the substance and to fix its status,” Brandeis stated. “The Kentucky ‘wonder’ is no more or less than nostoc.”
“Nostoc is the most common genus of cyanobacteria found in various environments that may form colonies composed of filaments of moniliform cells in a gelatinous sheath of polysaccharides,” according to Wikipedia.
This substance surrounds itself with a protective gelatinous envelope and is known to swell up into a translucent jelly-like mass whenever it rains. The substance is inconspicuous when it’s dry, and many people believe it floats on the breeze until it rains, then it falls from the sky like hail.
Theory #2: Vulture vomit
Another theory was put forth by Dr L. D Kastenbine, writing in an edition of the Louisville medical news in 1876, who said the falling meat came from vomiting vultures overhead.
This theory became the most popular, suggesting that a large group of vultures was soaring over the spot when something may have startled them, causing them to projectile vomit to expel their recent meal.
Dr. Kastenbine obtained a sample of the meat, set fire to it, and observed that it emitted the distinct odor of rancid mutton.
“The only plausible theory explanatory of this anomalous shower appears to me to be that suggested by the old Ohio farmer,” Kastenbine wrote. “The disgorgement of some vultures that were sailing over the spot, from their immense height, the particles were scattered by the prevailing wind over the ground.”
“The variety of tissue discovered – muscular, connective, fatty, structureless, etc., can be explained only by this theory,” Kastenbine concluded.
It’s well known that the two species of vultures founding Kentucky – the black vulture (Coragyps atratus) and the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) – will projectile vomit the contents of their stomach as a defense mechanism or to make themselves light enough for flight.