The Unsolved Mystery Of The 'Kentucky Meat Shower'

Common meteorological events like rain showers and blizzards can be fascinating. But sometimes the sky surprises us with an event we never expected. In August 1994, for example, the city of Oakville, Washington, was afflicted by a rain of "blobs" — clear, jelly-like globs. Afterward, townsfolk bizarrely developed illnesses, and animals began dying. According to The Chronicle, the theories about what these "blobs" were included jellyfish displaced by military experiments in the ocean, a new undiscovered species, or waste being dumped from an airliner overhead. This wasn't the first time a U.S. city was gripped by unexpected objects descending from the heavens. An incident in 19th-century Kentucky involved mystery meat.

That particularly surprising case is the "Kentucky Meat Shower," an event so bizarre that it sounds like it belongs in a cheesy alien movie. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that, on March 3, 1876, the wife of a local farmer said she witnessed chunks of raw meat dropping out of a clear blue sky. It was described as tasting like mutton or venison by those daring enough to eat it (via Wonderopolis) How much meat fell that day is unclear, the rather antiquated description was used. Reports said the amount could "fill a horse wagon full" (via VICE). Transylvania University art professor Kurt Gohde, who studied the event, explained, "I have no idea what that means, but it was published in virtually all the accounts I've seen."

But where did all of this mystery meat come from?

The meat shower came from vulture vomit

Before you draw parallels between the Kentucky Meat Shower and the blood rain in Jordan Peele's "NOPE," many believe this phenomenon has a natural, albeit very disgusting, explanation. Scientific American, quoting an 1876 copy of the Louisville Medical News, reports that a farmer suggested — and Dr. L. D Kastenbine agreed — that the meat shower was caused by gastric ejecta from overhead vultures — in other words, vulture vomit. As the theory goes, vultures flying overhead released their partially digested food, which was simply blown over the area, creating the meat rain. This theory is bolstered by the fact that certain vultures local to Kentucky are known for using their vomit as both a defense mechanism and a way to keep themselves light.

So, vulture vomit is the reason behind the meat shower? It certainly sounds plausible. Yet Kurt Gohde of Transylvania University observed that the eyewitness from that event reported seeing a clear sky, per the Louisville Courier-Journal. If there were no birds in the area — at least none that the witness saw — does that undermine the vulture theory? Atlas Obscura tells us that others theorized that the meat came from the remains of a knife fight that got launched into the sky by a passing tornado. A humorist even argued that a doomed planet where livestock once lived blew up, sending meaty debris to Earth. You have to think strange to explain the strange, it seems.