In 1876 It "Rained" with Meat in Kentucky - an Unsolved Mystery

Diana Rus

The Kentucky meat shower was an incident that took place in a 100 by-50-yard area near Olympia Springs in Bath County, Kentucky, on March 3, 1876, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 12 p.m.

What appeared to be chunks of red meat measuring roughly 2 by 2 inches, with at least one 4 by 4 inches, fell from the sky.

Many theories exist to explain how this happened and what the "meat" was, but the "vulture theory" is the most widely accepted. According to this theory, a group of vultures regurgitated their meals after being startled into taking flight.

Although numerous stories said it was beef, lamb, deer, bear, horse, or even human, the actual sort of flesh was never identified.

Meat fell out of the sky on March 3, 1876

On March 18, 1876, The New York Times reported about the incident following:

"On last Friday a shower of meat fell near the house of Allen Crouch, who lives some two or three miles from the Olympia Springs in the southern portion of the county, covering a strip of ground about one hundred yards in length and fifty wide. Mrs. Crouch was out in the yard at the time, engaged in making soap, when meat which looked like beef began to fall around her. The sky was perfectly clear at the time, and she said it fell like large snowflakes, the pieces as a general thing not being much larger. - The New York Times
One piece fell near her which was three or four inches square. Mr. Harrison Gill, whose veracity is unquestionable, and from whom we obtained the above tacts, hearing of the occurrence visited the locality the next day and says he saw particles of meat sticking to the fences and scattered over the ground. The meat when it first fell appeared to be perfectly fresh. - The New York Times
The correspondent of the Louisville Commercial, writing from Mount Sterling, corroborates the above and says the pieces of flesh were of various sizes and shapes, some of them being two inches square. Two gentlemen, who tasted the meat, express the opinion that it was either mutton or venison." - The New York Times

The farmer's wife, Mrs. Crouch, saw the meat pieces fall from the sky while she was making soap on her porch at the time. She claimed that as the flesh began to hit the ground, she was 40 steps from her house. Mrs. Crouch said the flesh appeared to be grisly.

The wife and her husband thought the incident was a sign from God. Later reports of a similar incident came from Europe.

What kind of meat it was

The majority of the pieces were around 2 by 2 inches, although at least one was 4 by 4. The meat seemed to be beef, but two individuals who tried it said it was lamb or deer, according to the first report in Scientific American. Leopold Brandeis identified the substance as Nostoc, a kind of cyanobacteria, in a Sanitarian article.

A letter from Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton that was published in the Medical Record stated that 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".

Brandeis had given the meat sample to the Newark Scientific Association for additional analysis.

Additional testing supported the sample's composition by identifying two meat samples as lung tissue, three as muscle, and two as cartilage. Brandeis' Nostoc hypothesis was based on the fact that when rain falls on Nostoc, it expands into a clear jelly-like mass, creating the impression that it was falling with the rain. There had been no rain, according to Charles Fort's first novel, The Book of the Damned.

Locals preferred the theory that the meat was vomited up by buzzards, "who, as is their custom, seeing one of their companions disgorge himself, immediately followed suit". Dr. Lewis D. Kastenbine provided this theory as the best explanation for the diversity of meat in the contemporaneous Louisville Medical News.

Vultures vomit as part of their fast departure and as a defense strategy when threatened. Fort explained the flattened, dry appearance of the meat chunks as a consequence of pressure, and noticed that red "corpuscles" with a "vegetable" appearance fell over London nine days later, on March 12, 1876.

Until today, the Kentucky "Meat Rain" remains a mystery, but the vulture vomit explanation is widely accepted. Most people  think a group of vultures probably threw up while flying above Kentucky. The meat then was caught by a slight breeze, which made it fall like rain throughout the land.
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