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The Day Meat Fell From The Sky

Have you heard about the1876 ‘Kentucky Meat Shower’?

KENTUCKY (WOWK) — It’s been nearly 150 years since one Kentucky couple got a surprise when pieces of meat fell from the sky and into their yard.

The unusual phenomenon gained national attention and would become known as the “Kentucky Meat Shower.”

The incident happened over a home in Bath County, Kentucky, in the area of then-Olympia Springs, just south of what is now Olympia. Multiple sources, including the Kentucky Historical Society, say the property belonged to Allen and Mary Crouch.

In the late morning of March 3, 1876, Mary Crouch was outside making soap with her grandson in the yard when the chunks of meat began falling around her. An article published by the New York Times on March 10, 1876, stated that the pieces of meat looked like beef.

Mrs. Crouch is attributed by the New York Times as describing the meat pieces as falling “like large snowflakes,” because most pieces were no larger than that. However, the article states one piece that fell near Mary was between three to four square inches large.

The Kentucky Historical Society states that Mrs. Crouch said the sky was clear that morning. The New York Herald published an article later that month stating she said the incident lasted for less than two minutes. The meat shower was said to have covered an approximately 45,000 square-foot area, the society says.

According to the New York Herald article, Mrs. Crouch at first wondered if the unusual incident was an act of God meant to be an omen of future events.

Once word of the bizarre incident got out, many people went to the area to see for themselves. The New York Times said one man named Harrison Gill told them when he went to the area the following day, he “saw particles of meat sticking to the fences and scattered over the ground.”

According to the Kentucky Historical Society and the New York Times, two local men actually tasted the meat and claimed it tasted either like mutton (sheep) or venison (deer).

Locals still wanted to get to the bottom of the mysterious meat and consulted with and provided samples to scientists across the country. After their investigations, most scientists agreed that the meat didn’t fall from the sky itself, but from the mouths of vomiting vultures in flight.

One man, Leopold Brandeis, who analyzed the meat claimed that it was not actually “meat,” but a substance called nostoc, according to the Scientific American. Nostoc is a cyanobacteria that, in colonies, is surrounded by a protective “gelatinous envelope” and can swell into a “translucent, jelly-like” mass in rain. He claimed that the nostoc in the air had swollen in the rain, and then dropped from the sky.

However, there were reports of clear skies and no rain that morning, contradicting Brandeis’ theory, but the New York Herald article did quote Mrs. Crouch as saying she had predicted rain due to “little whirlwinds in the mountains during the morning.”

Unlike Brandeis, the scientists across the country testing the samples found they were either made up of different types of animal cartilage and lung or muscle tissue. In one case, Dr. A. Mead Edwards, a histologist who worked with cells and tissue, determined his sample was likely the lung tissue of either a horse or a human infant, according to the Scientific American.

Following the scientists’ investigation, the idea that vultures had vomited the meat became the most widely accepted theory because it was the most plausible, according to the Scientific American and the Kentucky Historical Society. The magazine states Dr. L.D. Kastenbine wrote an 1876 article in the Louisville Medical News explaining that if vultures were at a high enough altitude while disgorging themselves, the wind – which Mrs. Crouch had noticed – would scatter the particles over the ground.

His theory is considered plausible because two species of vulture found in the Bluegrass State are known to disgorge their meals either to make themselves light enough to fly or as a defense mechanism, according to the Scientific American.

According to the Kentucky Historical Society, a piece of the meat was preserved and still exists to this day. It is on display at the Monroe Moosnick Medical and Science Museum at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.



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