Some things are supposed to fall from the sky: rain, snow, meteorites, damaged weather balloons. Some things are not supposed to fall from the sky, but they do. In fact, they do so all of the time and nobody ever seems to notice. It almost makes one wonder if we should be looking up more often…
One of the more devoted early chroniclers of strange aerial droppings was Charles Fort, who cataloged unexplained phenomena in his books, particularly The Book of the Damned. Fort was not necessarily interested in biblical damnation, so he didn’t view strange rain as evidence that God had cursed the earth and was preparing it for the end times. The “damned,” for Fort, constituted information about bizarre events that the scientific community had ignored. Today, we might use the word “outlier” to explain the kind of events that interested Fort. In any case, what fort documented was, for lack of a better term, some really strange sh*t.
Knowledge of Charles Fort’s work may prepare you for some of the items in this list of unbelievable falling objects, but not all of them. For one thing, some of these incidents derive from technologies (aircraft, powdered cream substitutes) nonexistent in Fort’s time. For another, no amount of preparation should make anyone blasé about, say, meat descending from the heavens. Certainly many stories of skyfalls are hoaxes or products of misinformation. Some, though, seem to be true. Here are 15 for you to choose from.
Charles Fort recorded many reports of fish falling from the sky, from ancient times to the nineteenth century. Since then, enough stories of falling fish have circulated to ensure that a continuance of this Fortean obsession remains viable today. Fish rain is actually fairly common. In early August of this year, a man found sand eels (a kind of skinny fish) lying around in his back yard in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. 2016 has also witnessed fish falling from the sky in Thailand, India, and Australia. How can fish drop from the sky? First of all, somehow they have to get up there. Weather scientists imagine that some kind of whirling wind, such as a waterspout or tornado, has sucked up sea or lake water and also picked up resident animals. The whirlwind moves away and carries everything up in the air, and when atmospheric conditions change, the wind loosens its grip and lets the water and its critters go. Another more prosaic theory acknowledges that sometimes the fish have been carried up by seabirds and then dropped. In 2015 in Alaska, for example, a rush on a thick school of lampreys by hungry birds caused an uproar when a few of the lampreys escaped the claws of their hunters and landed on the community below.
14. Balls Of Blue Jelly
After a January 2012 hailstorm, Steve Hornsby of Dorset, England, found 3-centimeter-wide balls of blue jelly on his lawn. He collected some and took them to nearby Bournemouth University for analysis. Josie Pegg, an expert on fisheries, analysed some of the balls with a spectroscope and determined that the jelly was sodium polyacrylate. This non-organic substance is used to make water-absorbent beads. These beads are found in diapers and often used by florists to keep flower arrangements moist. The more moist the surroundings, the larger the beads get. The next question, then, is how the beads got into Hornsby’s yard. Could they have fallen from the sky during the storm? Possibly: if winds can transport fish, they can transport little beads. Another theory is that at some point in the past, someone threw the beads onto Hornsby’s property (kids like to chuck them at each other). The beads lay dormant in the grass until a large enough rainfall caused them to swell and become visible.
13. A Dead Guy
In June 2015, a dead guy landed on the roof of a business in a London suburb and lodged in the rooftop air-conditioning unit. The man did not have a parachute. Carlito Vale was a stowaway who hid with another man inside the landing gear of a British Airways craft that departed from South Africa and was preparing to land at Heathrow Airport.
Stowaways have fallen into London from airplane undercarriages before. For example, an undercarriage stowaway on a flight from Angola toppled down on a London street in 2012. Enough incidents of this kind have occurred for the person who discovered Vale to guess correctly how the body got there. Stowaways in undercarriages can die in many ways. Landing gear can close on them after take off and crush them, or they can suffocate in the frigid, oxygenless air during the high altitude portion of their flights, or else their bodies can be struck and dislodged by landing gear as their planes descend for touch down. Vale may also have been alive when he fell 1400 feet to the roof.
12. Blood Rain
Blood-red rain is different from actual blood falling from the sky. Meteorologists know what causes colored rain. Wind has picked up colored soil or micro-organisms and thrown the substance into the atmosphere, or volcanic ash from an active volcano has gone skyward. The colored particles settle inside water droplets in the air, and the water droplets subsequently fall to earth as rain. Yellow, brown, black and red rains have fallen and freaked out people all over the world. Chemical analysis can isolate the nature of the colored particles. For example, when a blood-red rain fell in November 2012 in Sri Lanka, analysis identified the particles as algae. Another such rain fell the year before in Kerala, India.
A report of actual blood falling from the sky is another matter. A story has circulated about a 2008 rainfall in Bagadó, Chocó, Colombia, that a local bacteriologist determined to be a rain of blood. I have my doubts about this one, but anything is possible, as the items on this list should demonstrate.
Adult and juvenile frogs have rained down on the world for centuries, as Charles Fort reported. More recently, frogs cascaded upon a town in Serbia in 2005. Some of these frogs, which belonged to a species not normally found in the area, survived their transportation and hopped along on their way to their new lives. In 2009 citizens of Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan found dead tadpoles on car windshields and on the ground. Once again, waterspouts and wind seem the likely culprits, but meteorologists have not been able to confirm the actual cause of the tadpole rain, since weather conditions at the time did not seem amenable.
10. White Slime
For centuries, people have reported finding globs of white or greenish-white slime on the ground or hanging from tree branches. The substance is often called “star jelly” because folklore associates the slime with meteor showers. Accounts and images of these jiggly blobs populate the Internet, and new spates of white slime sightings tends to increase the number of these accounts and images. Unfortunately, the substance disintegrates rapidly, making definitive identification difficult, but sometimes scientists gets their hands on samples. Depending on which scientist and which sample from which event, the white slime has been identified as a fungus or mold, as the innards of toxic frogs, as stag semen, and as extraterrestrial substances brought to earth by meteorites. Based on these options, I recommend not touching any white slime you may find lying around outside.
In April 2015, worms fell out of the sky and landed in various parts of southern Norway. Karstein Erstad found some of the worms on snow while skiing near Bergen: the worms were alive too. Worm rain has been reported in Scotland in 2011 and Sweden in the 1920s. Charles Fort chronicles earlier examples of worm rain, such as the black grubs that fell during a snowstorm in Devonshire, England, in 1857. Crazy wind may once again be the culprit.
Many stories of falling cows are hoaxes. The usual iteration of the legend is that a cow fell on top of a Japanese fishing boat at sea. The cow had been inside a cargo airplane as illegal contraband and had been pushed out (or fallen out accidentally, depending on the version of the story) and landed on the boat. Hoax-smasher Snopes.com has dealt with this story, if you are curious. From time to time, however, cows do unexpectedly crash down from above. In 2007, a cow fell off a cliff in Chelan County, Washington, and smashed into a minivan driven by a couple driving on the highway at the cliff’s base. The couple were not injured. In 2015, a cliff-walking cow in France slipped and fell on the hood of a car driving below, totaling the car and cow but missing the driver and passenger. Sadly, falling cows have actually killed people. In 2013, a man in Brazil died when a cow crashed through his roof in the middle of the night and landed on him in bed. In this case, the cow seems to have climbed onto the man’s roof. The cow and the man’s wife escaped injury.
7. Golf Balls
Charles Fort did not record any golf ball rains. Only one rain of golf balls has been recorded, and that happened in Florida. According to The St. Petersburg Times, a brief rain of golf balls (not golf-ball-sized hail) descended upon the people of Punta Gorda on September 1, 1969. This could have happened. Enough golf courses with enough poor golfers and enough tempestuous weather could lead to such an eventuality. As it was, the American southeast experienced one of its most intense hurricane seasons ever in 1969, and the region is home to many golf courses. As well, this is Florida we’re talking about here. Lots of strange things happen in Florida.
If golf balls can fall from the sky, and if fish can fall from the sky, then why can’t a shark fall from the sky and land on a golf course? In 2012, a small leopard shark landed on the San Juan Hills Golf Club in southern California. Fortunately, it did not interrupt a game. Staff at the course acted quickly: they put the shark in a golf cart, dumped it into a bucket of salty water, and took it to the ocean. Once in the water, the shark shook off the shock and swam away to tell its unbelieving friends and family how it had spent its day. And no, a “sharknado” was not involved. The shark had puncture marks on its body, so possibly it, like many a falling object, had been picked up by a raptor and then dropped.
Spider rain has occurred an unpleasantly large number of times in the past and present. Recently, spiders have dropped down in Texas, Australia, and Brazil. Unlike most of the incidents on this list, the falling spiders are actually behaving normally. Remember Charlotte’s Web? The juveniles of some spider species spin out webs and parasail away in a passing breeze in order to spread their wings, so to speak, and start their adult lives. The number of spiders doing this at the same time makes a difference, of course. A man from Goulburn, Australia, who was caught in a May 2015 spider storm not only had to see the spiderlings creepily falling down and leaving their silky webs lying everywhere, but also had to pick out spiders from of his beard.
4. Frozen Human Waste
Yes, crapsicles and frozen pee occasionally falls from the sky and lands in the backyards and through the roofs of perfectly respectable people. The frozen waste comes from airplanes and their sometimes leaky storage containers. In fact, aeronautical types have come up with a name for it: blue ice. The blue comes from the disinfectant in the toilet water. The ice comes from the fact that when a liquid or near liquid leaves a high flying airplane, the air temperature outside the airplane is well below the freezing point. As a result, the feces, urine, and storage liquid reach the ground very much frozen. Perhaps the frozen state is the best case scenario (easier to clean up), but the problem is that ice is hard. Early this year, a woman in India was seriously injured when a chunk of blue ice crashed through her roof and struck her shoulder.
Two different stories about puppies falling from the sky in the US circulated in 2012. In one case, young Taylor was walking through the Bouchard family backyard in Los Banos, California, in May when he saw an injured puppy. Claw marks on the pup suggested that a bird of prey had been carrying it, but for some reason the bird had lost its grip. A few months later in Arizona, Aimee French saw an owl snatch one of her foster dog’s puppies and carry it off. At some point, the owl dropped little Sally Jo in an elderly neighbor’s backyard. In both cases, the puppies escaped becoming birdy num-nums to become family pets instead. Taylor kept his puppy, which the family named TJ Heavenly.
On a clear day in March 1876, chunks of meat fell on the property of Allen Crouch in Olympia Springs, Bath County, Kentucky. The so-called Kentucky Meat Shower has continued to garnered attention from the scientific and pseudoscientific communities ever since. Someone back in 1876 had the wherewithal to preserve a sample of the substance in a jar. That means contemporary scientists have something to go on. Even back in 1876, though, cooler heads were able to look at the material and come up with much more reasonable theories than people closer to our time have generated. Did the meat come from the detritus of an exploding alien spacecraft? Was it a plot of the Illuminati? Yes, if aliens and/or the Illuminati can make vultures vomit on command. Seven scientists in 1876 looked at samples of the meat and concluded that the substance was the flesh and gristle of an animal (one person said horse). More than one person at the time noted that vultures sometimes disgorge their food on the wing, either as a defense mechanism to turn off enemies or to lighten their bodies for flight. If the alien spacecraft and/or Illuminati theory turns your crank, though, by all means, keep turning.
1. Non-Dairy Creamer
For many years, residents of Chester, South Carolina, had to contend with airborne non-dairy creamer. Food and chemical manufacturing conglomerate Borden Inc. owned and operated a factory in Chester that made Cremora, a powdered cream substitute for coffee. Sometimes the factory’s air vents malfunctioned and sent Cremora raining down on the town. In 1990, local health officials assured the people of Chester that the creamer was non-toxic, but toxicity was not actually the issue. When the expelled white dust mixed with dew or rainwater, the creamer solidified into a thick crust wherever it lay–sidewalks, siding, windshields. In 1991, Borden paid a $4000 fine for allowing its product to stray outside its factories. By 1992, the struggling company had parlayed its Cremora brand to raise money, and later Borden was bought out by another company. Today, the Chester plant is no more.