MYSTERIOUS FALLS
FROM THE SKY

It's Raining Fish & Frogs!

Books on the Unexplained from Whitechapel Press

INTO THE SHADOWS
American Unsolved Mysteries & Tales of the Unexplained by Troy Taylor


MYSTERIOUS ILLINOIS
The History, Mystery & Unexplained of the Prairie State 


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Throughout the strange history of America, there have been many bizarre instances recorded when things have fallen from the skies that simply do not belong there. There have been showers of frogs and toads, along with fish, snakes and worms. Blood has been said to fall from the heavens, as well as meat, muscle and flesh. Reports of these things and others have plagued those who search for a logical meaning in the world for centuries. The stories of such things range in believability from the logically possible to the downright incredible.

And for those who believe such things only date back to recent times, it should be noted that the earliest reports of strange falls from the sky actually appear in the Bible - the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament to be exact. According to one story, the Israelites, led by Joshua, have routed the Amorite army and are in hot pursuit of the survivors when a shower of stones fell from the sky and killed more of the enemy than died by the Israelite sword. The Bible goes on to mention other strange happenings in regards to falls from the sky, with the frogs that plagued Egypt not being the least of them.

The earliest reports that I could find of such happenings in America though dated back to 1828. It was said that after 10 to 12 days of rain, a partially dug ditch that belonged to a Joseph Muse of Cambridge, Maryland was found to contain hundreds of fish. The creatures ranged in size from four to seven inches long and were apparently jack perch and sun perch. There had been no water in the ditch before the rainfall and the nearest river was over a mile away. There was no explanation as to how they could have gotten there.

In 1833, something more unusual than fish fell from the sky over the town of Rahway, New Jersey. On November 13, locals saw what they described as “fiery rain” falling to the ground. When the glowing masses struck the ground, they turned into “lumps of jelly”. The lumps were said to be transparent and became round, flattened masses when they landed. Within hours, the jelly disintegrated and became a pile of small white particles that crumbled into dust when touched. The strange masses were reported at the same time that a meteor shower was taking place over the eastern United States and may have been connected to it in some way.

Troops stationed at an army post near San Francisco had their own encounters with strange objects from the sky on July 24, 1851. On that afternoon, soldiers who were on the drill field reported being pelted with spatters of blood and pieces of meat, that were apparently beef. The blood and meat fell from a cloudless sky and ranged in size from “a pigeon’s egg to that of an orange”. Several pieces of meat were given to the post surgeon and he described some of the slices as being slightly spoiled, as if they had been left out in the sun too long.

A similar event was said to have taken place in Simpson County, North Carolina on February 15 of that same year. Witnesses reported that pieces of flesh, liver, brains and blood rained down from the sky over an area that was roughly 30 feet wide and about 250 yards long.

On June 15, 1857 a farmer who lived in Ottawa, Illinois reported that he heard a hissing sound in the sky and he looked up to see a shower of cinders falling to the earth. They landed on the ground in a V-shaped pattern about 50 feet from where he was standing and caused the ground to steam and the grass to catch fire. The larger cinders buried themselves into the earth and even the smallest pieces were inserted into the ground at least partially. The farmer, whose name was Bradley, noticed a small, dense and dark cloud “hanging over the garden” at the time of the fall. The weather that day had been damp and a little rainy but no thunder or lightning had been reported.

The children of Lake County, California must have been happy on the nights of September 2 and 11, 1857. According to the History of Napa and Lake Counties by Lyman L. Palmer, a shower of candy apparently fell on some portions of the county on those evenings. The report states: “It is said that on both of these nights there fell a shower of candy or sugar. The crystals were from one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch in length and the size of a goose quill. Syrup was made of it by some of the lady residents of the section.”

Another shower of flesh and blood was reported in California on August 1, 1869. The shower occurred for three minutes and covered about two acres of J. Hudson’s farm near Los Nietos. The day was clear and windless and the bloody flesh fell in strips that were from one to six inches long. Many of them were reportedly covered with fine hairs, as if stripped from the body of an animal.

In August 1870, a deluge of “water lizards” hit Sacramento, California. The small animals were from two to eight inches long and alive when they hit the ground. The initial shower rained the lizards down so that they nearly covered the roof of the opera house. They slid down the building and into the rain spouts so that they covered the pavement around the building. The Sacramento Reporter stated that hundreds of them survived for several days in rainwater that flooded a partially dug cellar that was located nearby.


Main Street in Owingsville, Kentucky at the time of the mysterious Meat Falls of 1876.

One of the strangest stories of this sort took place on March 3, 1876 when flakes of meat fell over an area 100 yards long and 50 yards wide near the Bath, Kentucky home of Mr. and Mrs. Allen Crouch. The sky was clear at the time of the fall and the flakes of meat were described as being one to three or four inches square and appeared to be fresh beef. However, according to two gentlemen who (for some reason) decided to taste the meat, it was neither mutton nor venison.

Or perhaps it wasn’t meat at all - wrote Mr. Leopold Brandeis, whose article appeared on the strange fall in a July issue of the Sanitarian. He explained that the so-called “meat” was really nothing more than “nostic” - “a low form of vegetable substance”. He did not however, explain how this substance managed to fall from the sky. His opinion on the matter did not last for long for he was soon contacted by Dr. A. Mead Edwards, president of the Newark Scientific Association, who asked for a sample of the material that had been collected from Bath County. Brandeis was kind enough to give him the entire specimen, along with the information that he had obtained it from a doctor in Brooklyn, who had in turn been given it by a Professor Chandler.

Shortly after this, a letter from Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton was posted to the Medical Record, saying that he and Dr. J.W.S. Arnold had examined the material from the Kentucky meat shower under a microscope. The material, which had been given to them by Professor Chandler, was identified as being lung tissue from a human infant or a horse. According to the letter, “the structure of the organ in these two cases” was apparently “very similar”.

After reading the letter, Dr. Edwards called on Dr. Hamilton and was given a sample of the material that he had been studying. He was told that the samples had been sent from Kentucky to the editor of the Agriculturist, who had given them to Professor Chandler. And while the trail of where the samples had come from seemed to be growing longer and longer, Edwards noted that they seemed to be similar in character and age, although the sample given to him by Brandeis was less well preserved. Soon after, Edwards was shown a microscopic slide of a third sample of the Kentucky meat, which had been given to Professor J. Phin of the American Journal of Microscopy by a Mr. Walmsley of Philadelphia, who had in turn received it from Kentucky. The slide contained something that was “undoubtedly straited muscular fibre.”

Phin also showed Edwards a fourth sample that had been collected by A.T. Parker of Lexington, Kentucky. This sample also turned out to be muscle tissue but Edwards wanted to see more. He wrote to Parker and was sent three more samples, two of which turned out to be cartilage and the third, more muscle tissue. Edwards also passed along an explanation for the bizarre event that was currently making the rounds in Kentucky.

Locals believed that the meat had been disgorged by buzzards, “who, as is their custom, seeing one of their companions disgorge himself, immediately followed suit.” Parker did not explain just how many buzzards would be required to vomit that much meat, how much they would have had to have eaten - or just how high they had been flying as to render themselves invisible to those on the ground!

Perhaps almost as strange was the rain of living snakes that fell over the southern part of Memphis, Tennessee in 1877. These creatures reportedly ranged from about a foot to 18 inches in length and were presumed by the people of Memphis to have been swept into the air by a hurricane. Although even Scientific American asked where so many snakes would exist “in such abundance” (they fell by the thousands) “is yet a mystery.”

Scientific American also reported another strange occurrence in late October 1881 when Milwaukee, Green Bay and other towns in that part of Wisconsin saw falls of strong, very white spider webs. They were in sizes from a few inches to strands of more than 60 feet long. The webs all seemed to float inland from above Lake Michigan in thick sheets, fading upward into the sky for as high as the eye could see. There was no mention of any spiders being seen or in the presence of the webs and where the substance could have come from was a mystery.

On September 4, 1886, a shower of warm stones purportedly fell on the offices of the News and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. The first shower occurred around 2:30 in the morning and then was repeated at 7:30 and then again at 1:30 in the afternoon. As far as any observers could see, the stones fell only over a small area directly above the newspaper offices. They came down with great force and even broke apart on the pavement. The rocks were described as polished pebbles of flint with the smallest being about the size of a grape and the largest as big as a hen’s egg. Many of the stones were gathered up and saved but I was unable to learn what may have become of them.

Scientific American from February 1891 had another tale of strangeness from the skies concerning the Valley Bend district of Randolph County, West Virginia. It seems that over the course of that winter, they were several occasions when ground was thickly covered with worms. Since the snow had been two feet deep at the times when the worms were discovered, and there was a hard crust on the top of it, they seemingly fell from the sky along with the fresh snow. They were said to be a species of ordinary “cut worms” and were abundant enough that a “square foot of snow can scarcely be found on some days without a dozen of these worms on it.”

During the early morning hours of a day in November 1896, a deluge of dead birds fell from a clear sky above Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They fell in such numbers that contemporary accounts say that they “cluttered the streets of the city”. The birds included wild ducks, catbirds, woodpeckers and many birds of strange plumage, some of them “resembling canaries”. The birds were all dead and fell in heaps throughout the city. The only plausible theory advanced as to the source of the birds was that they had been driven inland by a recent storm along the Florida coast and had been killed by a sudden change in temperature around Baton Rouge. The editors of the Monthly Weather Review stated that storms and temperature changes were common, but bird falls were most assuredly not.

From birds to fish again - in June 1901, hundreds of small catfish, trout and perch fell during a heavy rain at Tiller’s Ferry, South Carolina. After the rain showers ended, the fish were found swimming around in pools of water that had accumulated between the rows of cotton of a farm owned by Charles Raley. There is no record of what the Raley’s had for dinner that night!

In November 1921, rocks began to fall from the sky over the town of Chico, California. J.W. Charge, the owner of a grain warehouse along the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, complained to City Marshal J.A. Peck that someone was throwing rocks at his building everyday. Peck, believing it was nothing more than local youngsters playing pranks on the man, paid little attention to the report. His conclusions, after a very brief investigation, were that he had seen the stones fall but could not explain them. He suspected that “someone with a machine was to blame.” The stones remained a nuisance to Charge but were largely ignored by everyone else until a few months later, on March 8, 1922. On that day, stones ranging in size from peas to baseballs came raining down on the warehouse, seemingly from nowhere. They continued to fall for days and a search by police officers of the area failed to find anyone throwing the rocks.

In the days that followed, Charge’s warehouse sustained quite a bit of damage, from broken windows to split boards and collapsed roof shingles. Stones also began to rain down on a cluster of houses that were located near the railroad tracks and individuals who stood in the open, perhaps trying to determine the source of the mysterious projectiles, were often struck. The investigators and officials present often became targets too. Fire Chief C.E. Tovee and Traffic Officer J.J. Corbett were narrowly missed by a large boulder that came from nowhere and struck a wall behind the spot where they had been standing just moments before. The force of the stone’s impact left a large dent in the wood.

The fall of stones continued throughout most of the rest of the month, attracting a large amount of publicity and a number of curiosity-seekers. The origin of the stones was never solved but a Professor C.K. Studley added to reports by saying that some of the rocks were so large that they “could not be thrown by ordinary means”. He also noted that they did not seem to be of meteoric nature. The famous chronicler of anomalies Charles Fort asked a friend, writer Miriam Allen deFord, to go to Chico to investigate personally. Throughout March a series of articles appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and the rocks were described as being warm and “oval-shaped”. Miriam Allen de Ford, wrote: “I looked up in the cloudless sky and suddenly saw a rock falling straight down, as if becoming visible when it came near enough. This rock struck the earth with a thud and bounced off on the track beside the warehouse, and I could not find it.” She also stated that at one point a rock fell from the sky to “land gently at my feet.”

Fish fell again on October 23, 1947 and this time over the town of Marksville, Louisiana. The weather at the time was calm and it was not raining, although it was somewhat foggy. The fish came raining down without warning and included largemouth bass, sunfish, shad and minnows. Some of them were frozen and others merely cold but all were said to be “fit for human consumption.” The fish came down into an area that was about 1,000 feet long and 75 or 80 feet wide and a number of them struck people who happened to be on the street at the time. The weather bureau in New Orleans reported that there were no tornadoes in the area at the time of the incident.

On the night of September 26, 1950, two Philadelphia police officers, John Collins and Joe Keenan, encountered something far beyond the range of experience expected from two veteran cops. As they were cruising the streets in their patrol car that night, they made their way down a quiet side street near Vare Avenue and 26th Street. Coming around a corner, their headlights pick up a large, shimmering object that seemed to be falling down into an open field about a half block away from them.

When they stopped to investigate, their flashlights illuminated a domed mass of quivering purple jelly. It was about six feet in diameter and about a foot thick in the center. It gently sloped down toward the edges but was still an inch or two thick. The pulsating movement of the mass made them wonder if it might be alive! They quickly radioed for help and were soon joined by Sergeant Joe Cook and Patrolman James Cooper. Cook suggested that the four of them try and pick the thing up but when Officer Collins attempted to reach underneath it, the mass fell apart in his hands. Fragments of it clung to his skin but it too began to slide off of him, leaving only a sticky, odorless scum behind. Within a half-hour after Cook and Cooper arrived on the scene, the entire mass had evaporated and vanished.

On September 7, 1953, a downpour of frogs and toads “of all descriptions” began falling from the sky over Leicester, Massachusetts. The streets seemed to be alive with them and children gathered them into buckets using their hands, making a game of the astounding event. Officials attempted to explain the sudden appearance of thousands of the creatures by saying that they had escaped from a nearby, overflowing pond - however this explanation did not provide a logical reason as to why so many of them were found on the roofs of houses and in the rain gutters!

Carpenters who were working on the roof of a house in Shreveport, Louisiana had to take cover on July 12, 1961 when a brief deluge of green peaches began falling from the sky. They were all about the size of golf balls and were believed to have fallen from a dark cloud that was spotted overhead. According to the local weather bureau, the conditions around the city that day were not sufficient to cause whirlwinds, tornadoes or water spouts. Even a strong updraft would not have been enough to carry peaches into the sky, leaving those who witnessed the event to scratch their heads in confusion.

In January 1969, hundreds of badly injured ducks came crashing to the earth in St. Mary’s City, Maryland. Wildlife officials surmised that the ducks had received their fatal injuries, which included broken bones and mysterious hemorrhages, while they were flying. What may have caused the damage, or why so many ducks were flying in one large mass, was unknown.

And those are just a sampling of the bizarre falls from the sky that have plagued America and have been recorded in history. There are many hundreds more incidents like this that have occurred in other places around the world. But how do we explain such a thing happening?

There are naturally many theories but the standard explanation for the seemingly inexplicable falls from the sky are that the objects that come down were carried up into a whirlwind or a waterspout. This is the most logical explanation and admittedly, storms do often manage to pick objects up from one place and put them down again in others. A great variety of natural debris (like plants, dust, feathers, etc.) requires little force to lift it up into the air and larger storms could certainly move rocks or perhaps even pull fish or frogs from a body of water. Much larger items have often been found moved by tornadoes, including automobiles, people and even entire structures. Few of us have any doubts (especially those living in the Great Plains or the Midwest) as to what a major storm can do. I will never forget one of my first visits to the Illinois State Museum as a child to see the display of a single piece of straw that had been driven through a solid wooden fence post!

Waterspouts have been far less observed by science but records show that they have also accomplished extraordinary things. There are records of fish being emptied from bays, ponds being sucked dry and on at least one occasion, all water life being pulled from a lake in England and then being deposited on dry land.

That seems to show that the energy being generated by tornadoes and other storms is sufficient to lift into the sky those things that have been seen to fall from it, but does this theory really provide a solution for all of the incidents that have been recorded? How, for example, have these storms managed to be so selective about depositing the strange items? Things that fall from the sky are usually neatly segregated in that only stones, or only frogs, or only fish fall in one location. If a storm has swept up everything in its path, then how does it manage to only let fall a certain type of item?

Another interesting question would be how the fish, frogs and other assorted creatures usually manage to survive the storm and land on the ground alive? The whirlwind / tornado theory asks us to believe that the animals must survive being pulled from the water and then exist on nothing more than the moisture inside of the storm cloud for an extended period of time. This must be a long time, we have to note, because in many cases, there are no records of storms or tornadoes present in the area where the falls occur at the time they take place. Also for this theory to work, we have to believe that forces powerful enough to lift the creatures from their normal habitat and into the sky are insufficient to do them any physical damage (in most reported cases) and that the sudden changes in pressure and temperature that would undoubtedly take place are just as harmless.

Needless to say, this theory does make common sense but really lacks the evidence for it to be seen as the only explanation for the phenomenon. Unfortunately though, many of the other explanations that have been suggested to explain how such falls happen are nearly as hard to believe. These explanations fall into categories of extraterrestrials, the supernatural and shifts in time and space.

Those who proffer theories of aliens from outer space suggest that perhaps the otherworldly visitors have gathered up large supplies of earthly items, only to jettison them from their spacecrafts before returning to wherever they came from. The falls from the upper atmospheres might seem as if the objects were falling from nowhere. In addition, the rains of blood and meat could be waste matter from the crafts that was dumped to lighten the load for the journey.

In the supernatural theory, gods, spirits or other unnamed entities are responsible for falls from the sky, or at least some of them. Others suggest that perhaps poltergeist-like instances of psychokinesis may be responsible for falls of rocks and stones. When it comes to the falls of fish, frogs and other creatures, there have been suggestions that perhaps they are examples of some kind of supernatural benevolence. Proponents of this theory point to instances when dry ponds or new ditches have been found to contain full-grown fish after a rainstorm. This was one of the first theories to explain falls from the sky that I ever heard. As a child, a minister once told me that the oceans and lakes were stocked every time that it rained as God made the fish fall from the heavens. This fascinated me until I reached the age of perhaps 10 and after that, I looked elsewhere for the answers to a number of questions that explanation created for me!

One of the most popular theories to deal with falls from the sky is that our world consists of many times and dimensions. These parallel worlds intersect occasionally with our own and as we discussed in an earlier chapter, things sometimes vanish from our world and in turn, items mysteriously appear in our own. Many researchers of strange phenomena are inclined to this theory of teleportation - the paranormal transportation of an object from one place to another - as a sort of blanket explanation for everything from falls from the sky to mystery animals that appear in places where they don’t belong. In this case though, even if we accept the idea that teleportation is possible (which is not certain, of course) it still asks the same questions as the more logical explanations for these weird events - how is that the falls manage to be so selective with the items that falls and the locations where they happen?

As the discerning reader must have already noticed, the virtue of these types of paranormal explanations is that they account for all possibilities, no matter how bizarre. The only flaw that they have, in searching for an absolute solution, is that they provide explanations using untested ideas and circumstances that go beyond the fantastic. This is not to say that there may not be some truth to the theories, but there is simply no way to know at this time. It becomes a matter of course that our explanations for why these things occur are nearly as strange and inexplicable and the unsolved mysteries themselves!

© Copyright 2002 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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