Mystery of Kentucky Meat Shower

According to a New York Times article which published on 3 March 1876, unexplained phenomenon occurred when large hunks of flesh fell from the sky over Olympia Springs in Bath County, Kentucky. The meat, which looked like beef, fell all around Allen Crouch's house. The sky was perfectly clear at the time, and his wife said it fell like large snowflakes.

Back at the Crouch residence, a Mr Harrison Gill - whose veracity was described by the The New York Times as "unquestionable" - visited the day after the alleged flesh falls and noted the presence of meat sticking out of the fences and scattered across the ground. At least one of the hunks measured 10 centimetres squared, but most were about 5 x 5 cm. They were apparently fresh when they fell, but having been left out all night, they were now spoiled and dry.

Two unidentified gentlemen turned up to taste the meat-rain and declared that it had the flavour of either venison or mutton.

Writing in the Sanitarian, Leopold Brandeis identified the substance as Nostoc, a type of cyanobacteria, which takes on a jelly-like appearance when it comes in contact with rain. His theory was that it simply bloomed on the ground and that whatever fell from the sky was simply a normal rain shower. 

Brandeis gave the meat sample to the Newark Scientific Association for further analysis, leading to a letter from Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton appearing in the Medical Record and stating the meat had been identified as lung tissue from either a horse or a human infant, "the structure of the organ in these two cases being almost identical". The composition of this sample was backed-up by further analysis, with two samples of the meat being identified as lung tissue, three as muscle, and two as cartilage.

A chemist named Robert Peter, and the chemist from Louisville College all put forth the theory that the Kentucky meat shower was the result of a flock of vultures vomiting simultaneously, after “feasting themselves more abundantly than wisely.”

A similar event was later reported, but in Europe. The phenomenon was reported by Scientific American, the New York Times, and several other publications at the time.


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