Kentucky meat shower

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One of the preserved meat specimens from the Arthur Byrd Cabinet at Transylvania University

The Kentucky meat shower was an incident occurring for a period of several minutes on March 3, 1876, where what appeared to be flakes of red meat fell from the sky in a 100-by-50-yard (91 by 46 m) area near the settlement of Rankin in Bath County, Kentucky.[1] Most of the pieces were approximately 5 centimetres (2.0 in) square; at least one was 10 centimetres (3.9 in) square.[2] The phenomenon was reported by Scientific American, the New York Times,[3] and several other publications at the time.[1][4]

The meat appeared to be beef, but according to the first report in Scientific American, two gentlemen who tasted it judged it to be mutton or venison.[5] B. F. Ellington, a local hunter, identified it as bear meat.[6] Writing in the Sanitarian, Leopold Brandeis identified the substance as Nostoc, a genus of cyanobacteria.[1] Brandeis passed 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 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".[5][7] The makeup 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.[5]

Brandeis's Nostoc theory relied on the fact that Nostoc swells into a translucent jelly-like mass when rain falls on it, often giving the impression that it was falling with the rain.[2] Charles Fort pointed out in his first book, The Book of the Damned, that there had been no rain.[1] Locals favored the explanation that the meat was vomited up by buzzards, "who, as is their custom, seeing one of their companions disgorge himself, immediately followed suit".[5] Dr. L. D. Kastenbine presented this theory in the Louisville Medical News as the best explanation of the variety of meat.[2] Vultures vomit as part of making a quick escape and also as a defensive mechanism when threatened.[6] Fort explained the flattened, dry appearance of the meat chunks as the result of pressure, and noted that nine days later, on March 12, 1876, red "corpuscles" with a "vegetable" appearance fell over London.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Fort, Charles (1919). The Book of the Damned. New York: Boni and Liveright. pp. 45&ndash, 46. OCLC 2062036.
  2. ^ a b c Crew, Bec (December 1, 2014). "Blog: The Great Kentucky Meat Shower mystery unwound by projectile vulture vomit". Scientific American.
  3. ^ "Flesh Descending In A Shower.; An Astounding Phenomenon In Kentucky--Fresh Meat Like Mutton Or Venison Falling From A Clear Sky" (PDF). The New York Times. March 10, 1876.
  4. ^ (21 March 1876). The Carnal Rain - Careful Investigation of the Kentucky Marvel by a Correspondent, New York Herald, p. 4, col. 1
  5. ^ a b c d Wilkins, Alasdair (March 21, 2012). "When It Rains Animals: The Science of True Weather Weirdness". io9.
  6. ^ a b Mr. X (3 May 2015). "Debunked: The Kentucky Meat Storm of 1876". Journal of the Bizarre.
  7. ^ zatzbatz (May 9, 2003). "Kentucky Meat Shower".
  8. ^ Fort, pp. 288–89.