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The Kentucky Meat Shower: When the Sky Rained Mystery Meat

History is full of strange historical events and unexplained phenomena that stretch the limits of our understanding and seem too crazy to be true. 

While many of these tales can be dismissed as folklore or exaggeration, some are so crazy that they leave us scratching our heads.

Photo by Kurt Gohde allegedly shows a piece of meat that fell from the sky in 1876. It’s kept in a jar at Transylvania University.

One such event, which has baffled scientists and historians for over a century, is the phenomenon known as the Kentucky Meat Shower.

The Day It Rained Meat

It was a clear and sunny day on March 3, 1876, in Bath County, Kentucky. Mrs. Crouch, a local farmer’s wife, was tending to her chores when she heard a strange sound—like splattering rain. Except, it wasn’t raining.

When she went to look she claimed to see meat falling from the sky. Yes, you read that right. Meat. Falling from the sky.

Over a small area of land, chunks of raw meat, ranging in size from flakes to several inches, rained down from a cloudless sky, landing on the ground and fences on the farm.

News of the “raining meat” quickly spread, attracting curious onlookers and baffled scientists. Samples were collected and sent for analysis, but even the experts were stumped. 

Some identified it as lung tissue from a horse or even a human infant, while others suggested it might be a divine message or an omen of impending doom.

Eyewitness Accounts

According to historical records, Mrs. Crouch, who was outside making soap at the time when the meat shower happened. She reported seeing large flakes of flesh falling from the sky “like large snowflakes.” 

The meat varied in size from small scraps to chunks as large as two inches square and fell over an area roughly 100 yards wide and 50 yards long.

Other eyewitnesses corroborated Mrs. Crouch’s account, describing the meat as falling steadily for several minutes. Some compared it to mutton or venison, while others compared it to beef. 

The texture was described as tough and gristly, with some pieces appearing to be slimy and partially digested.

One local hunter, B.F. Ellington, confidently identified the meat as bear, claiming to recognize the distinctive “uncommon greasy feel” and smell.

Two gentlemen, reportedly passing by the farm, tasted the meat (whether they cooked it or not is unknown) and described it as “mutton, but did not have the taste of mutton that is killed after being fattened.” Another witness described it as “very unpalatable.”

Theories And Speculations

Many viewed this bizarre event as a sign from God or a warning of impending doom, while others interpreted it as a test of faith.

Artwork depicting the meat shower. Image via KET.

As the news of the incident spread, many new theories popped up to try and explain how meat came to fall out of the sky. 

Some people speculated that a tornado could have lifted pieces of meat from a far-off location and carried them to Bath County. The only problem is that this doesn’t explain the lack of other debris or the fact that no tornado was reported in the vicinity.

Among the various theories proposed to explain the Kentucky Meat Shower, one intriguing possibility involves the misidentification of a common organism called nostoc. 

Nostoc is a type of cyanobacteria, a blue-green algae that often grows in colonies surrounded by a gelatinous sheath.

Nostoc colonies can be found on damp soil or rocks. When dry, they appear as thin, dark, inconspicuous crusts. However, after rainfall, they rapidly absorb water and swell into large, translucent, jelly-like masses. 

These swollen colonies can resemble chunks of flesh or animal tissue, especially when viewed from a distance.

The theory suggests that the “meat” that fell on the Kentucky farm was actually nostoc colonies that had been rehydrated by recent rainfall. 

The rapid growth and peculiar appearance of nostoc could have easily led to its misidentification as animal flesh, especially at a time when scientific understanding of microorganisms was limited. This could explain why the mystery meat appeared “slimy” and “partially digested”.

The problem with this theory is that it wasn’t raining on the day, and scientific analysis had concluded that it was, in fact, meat.

Another out-of-this-world theory proposed that the meat was part of a meteor shower, perhaps containing organic matter from space. While the theory may have captured the attention of the people of the era, the theory has not aged well and has since been dismissed as absolutely bonkers.

The Vulture Theory: The Most Plausible Explanation

Perhaps the most plausible theory to come out of this strange event is the vulture regurgitation theory.

After examining seven samples of the meat, scientists identified various animal tissues such as lung, muscle, and cartilage. But the question remained: how did this strange assortment of flesh end up raining down on a Kentucky farm?

Illustration by James Fosdike depicts the meat shower raining down.

Dr. L. D. Kastenbine, a physician, offered an interesting explanation in the Louisville Medical News in 1876. After analyzing a sample, he observed that it smelled distinctly of rotten mutton when cooked. 

He concluded that the most probable cause was a group of vultures flying high above, who had simultaneously vomited the contents of their stomachs.

This theory is not as crazy as it sounds. This actually aligns with the known behavior of vultures, who are notorious for their ravenous appetites and tendency to overeat. The only problem is that all that food can make them sluggish and heavy.

When they are startled or threatened, these birds often regurgitate their meals to lighten their load and make a quick escape.

Dr. Kastenbine came up with the explanation that a group of vultures was feeding on a dead animal when they all took flight at once. As they flew over Mrs. Crouch’s farm, they vomited up their meal in order to help them fly better. 

Like most birds, when one does something, the rest of the group follows suit. This would explain the variety of meats and tissues identified in the samples and why they appeared to be slimy and partially digested.

As far-fetched as it sounds, it’s the only theory that can possibly explain what happened without getting into the supernatural.

Other Strange Weather

The Kentucky Meat Shower isn’t the only case of strange things falling from the sky. Throughout history, there have been numerous accounts of bizarre objects raining from the sky.

Fish and Frogs: These are among the most common types of animal rain, with incidents reported worldwide. Waterspouts or tornadoes are often suspected of lifting creatures from bodies of water and transporting them inland where they appear to “rain” down.

Birds: In 2011, hundreds of dead red-winged blackbirds fell from the sky in Arkansas, a phenomenon later attributed to stress or disorientation caused by fireworks.

Worms: In 2001, it rained worms in Scotland, with the theory being that a tornado picked them up and dropped them.

Blood Rain: While not actual blood, this red-colored rain is caused by dust or sand mixed with water droplets, creating a disturbing spectacle.

Cobwebs: Massive falls of cobwebs have been reported, often linked to spider ballooning behavior where spiders release silk threads to travel through the air.

Golf Balls: In 1969, a shower of golf balls rained down on Punta Gorda, Florida, believed to have been lifted from a nearby golf course by a waterspout.

Non-Perishable Goods: In 2007, canned food and packaged snacks fell from the sky in a small English town, likely tossed from a plane.

While some of these events have plausible explanations, such as strong winds or tornadoes, others remain shrouded in mystery. 

Scientists and researchers continue to investigate these strange occurrences, exploring possibilities ranging from natural phenomena to human intervention.

The Kentucky Meat Shower’s Legacy

The Kentucky Meat Shower is a prime example of how a lack of knowledge can spark wild theories. In 1876, when the event occurred, scientific understanding was limited, leading to a whirlwind of speculation and outlandish explanations.

Thankfully, science doesn’t stand still. As we’ve learned more about the world around us, the vulture vomit theory has emerged as the most likely explanation. It’s a reminder that even the strangest events can often be explained with a bit of scientific know-how.

The Kentucky Meat Shower and other bizarre rain events remind us that the natural world still holds many secrets and surprises, and the boundaries of what we know are constantly shifting.


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