Weird but True: The Kentucky Meat Shower

The Kentucky Meat Shower happened on an ordinary farm, just like this one

The Kentucky Meat Shower happened on an ordinary farm, just like this one

Today, I’d like to take you back in time to a weird but true part of American history that I recently heard about. The Kentucky Meat Shower.

Now, you may be asking yourself. What in the world is a meat shower?

Well, it is, in some ways, exactly what it sounds like. Meat, raining from the sky, like a rain shower. It happened in March of 1876 in Kentucky, when flakes of meat fell from the sky. Some pieces were big, other pieces were merely like snowflakes. It was witnessed by a woman making soap in her front yard and her husband.

And I know what you’re thinking, it’s a hoax! But actually, it was reported on as being serious by several major sources, including the New York Times, so it’s unlikely that it was a hoax. (The New York Times article, by the way, is delightful in only the way that old style reporting can you. You have to read it.)

Nobody is quite sure what kind of meat it is, though some people who tasted it said it was either mutton or venison. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t think I would have been brave enough to try mystery meat that fell from the sky with no apparent explanation. Some also said that it was beef or even bear meat.

Scientists even came to collect samples and they thought it might have been lung tissue either from a horse or a human infant. Now, it sounds like those two things would be hard to mix up, but you have to remember that this was 1876 and things were not the same for science as they were now. For context, the meat shower happened about a week before Alexander Graham Bell made his first successful telephone call. So for it to spread as far as it did and for as many people to hear about it as they did is kind of remarkable. Imagine if there was a meat shower today and how fast that would be all over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

However, they were able to further back up that these samples were muscle, cartilage, and lung tissue, even though they didn’t know what kind of animal they came from.

For a while, they thought it was Nostoc. Which apparently you can eat, but look at that, who would want to? There was also, briefly, a theory that like the asteroid belt, there was a meat belt in space. I mean, we know this to be completely impossible, but I find it highly amusing to imagine.

Now, do you want to know what caused it? The most likely theory?

Vultures. Yup, those carnivorous scavenger birds. Apparently, they will vomit when they are scared or need to take altitude quickly. Definitely reason number two not to eat strange falling meat from the sky because it could be vulture vomit. But, then you ask, how come no one saw the vultures? Well, apparently, some species of vultures can fly at 40,000 feet.  That’s taller than Mt. Everest, so I understand that that might not be visible to the human eye.

Have you ever heard of the Kentucky Meat Shower before? What’s your reaction to this strange but true history? Do you have any great alternate theories about what caused it? 

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