Kentucky meat shower

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Kentucky meat shower
Date3 March 1876
Time"between the hours of eleven and twelve o'clock in the morning"
Duration"Several minutes"
LocationRankin, Bath County, Kentucky
CauseInconclusive, though vulture explanation favoured

The Kentucky meat shower was an incident occurring between the hours of eleven and twelve o'clock[1] for a period of several minutes on March 3, 1876, where what appeared to be chunks of red meat measuring approximately 2 by 2 inches (5 cm × 5 cm); with at least one being 4 by 4 inches (10 cm × 10 cm) fell from the sky in a 100-by-50-yard (91 by 46 m) area near the settlement of Rankin in Bath County, Kentucky.[2] There exist several explanations as to how this occurred and what the "meat" was, the most popular being the vulture theory, in which a group of vultures regurgitated their meals; and the pieces fell to earth from a reasonable height. The exact type of meat was never identified, although various reports suggested it was beef, lamb, deer, bear, horse, or even human.


At the time, Mrs. Crouch, a farmer’s wife, was making soap on her porch when she reported seeing the meat pieces fall from the sky. She said she was 40 steps from her house when the meat started to slap the ground. The meat looked grisly, according to Mrs. Crouch. Mrs. Crouch and her husband believed the event signified a sign from God. A similar event was later reported in Europe. The phenomenon was reported by Scientific American, the New York Times,[3] and several other publications at the time.[2][1]

Most of the pieces were approximately 2 by 2 inches (5 cm × 5 cm); at least one was 4 by 4 inches (10 cm × 10 cm).[4] The meat appeared to be beef, but according to the first report in Scientific American,[4] two gentlemen who tasted it judged it to be lamb or deer.[5] B. F. Ellington, a local hunter, identified it as bear meat.[6][unreliable source] Writing in the Sanitarian, Leopold Brandeis identified the substance as Nostoc, a type of cyanobacteria.[2] 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".[5][7][unreliable source] 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.[5]

Brandeis's Nostoc theory relied on the fact that Nostoc expands into a clear jelly-like mass when rain falls on it, often giving the sense that it was falling with the rain.[4] Charles Fort noted in his first book, The Book of the Damned, that there had been no rain.[2] 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 contemporaneous Louisville Medical News as the best explanation of the variety of meat.[4][8] Vultures vomit as part of making a quick escape and also as a defensive method 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.[9]


  1. ^ a b (21 March 1876). The Carnal Rain - Careful Investigation of the Kentucky Marvel by a Correspondent, New York Herald, p. 4, col. 1
  2. ^ a b c d Fort, Charles (1919). The Book of the Damned. New York: Boni and Liveright. pp. 45–46. OCLC 2062036.
  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. ^ a b c d Crew, Bec (December 1, 2014). "Blog: The Great Kentucky Meat Shower mystery unwound by projectile vulture vomit". Scientific American.
  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. ^ The Louisville Medical News: a weekly journal of medicine and surgery. v. 1-20. Louisville. 1876–1885.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  9. ^ Fort, pp. 288–89.

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