10 Times It Has Rained Something Other Than Water

When Mrs. Crouch saw those meat-like flecks falling out of the sky, she could never have imagined they were vulture puke. Prakhar Rajvanshi / EyeEm/Getty Images

The year was 1876. The locale: Olympia Springs, Kentucky. One Mrs. Allen Crouch was outside, minding her own business, making soap, when large flakes of meat drifted down around her. They looked like beef. The sky was clear, which puzzled Mrs. Allen Crouch all the more. The flakes, roughly 2 inches by 2 inches (5 centimeters by 5 centimeters), coated the ground and stuck out of the fencing. Mrs. Crouch, smart woman that she was, left them there. Two men stopped over a day or so later, when the flesh chunks were now dried and spoiled. They ate some (ick!) and described the flavor as that of mutton or venison [source: Crew].

Samples of the "meat" were taken and analyzed. One report by a Leopold Brandeis, published that year in Scientific American, said the substance was nostoc — a freshwater, blue-green algae often found in moist places in jellylike colonies. Typically smaller in size, Brandeis said this nostoc must have swollen with water when it rained down upon the Crouch household. The only problem was that it wasn't raining that day. So it couldn't have been nostoc [source: Crew].

Luckily other scientists received samples and did additional analyses. The consensus, published in the American Journal of Microscopy and Popular Science, was that they were a mix of cartilage, muscular tissueand lung tissue.

But what was that tissue from, and why did it rain down on Mrs. Crouch? We'll never know for sure. L.D. Kastenbine, a professor of chemistry in the Louisville College of Pharmacy, claimed the substance — which he confirmed was a mix of connective and fatty tissues and muscular fibers — was the stomach contents of a bunch of vultures who projectile-vomited it when flying over the Crouch residence. (The two vulture species found in Kentucky do sometimes barf as a defensive measure, or to lighten themselves for flight.) This was not Kastenbine's own theory; he said he heard it from "the old Ohio farmer," but clearly it was "the only plausible theory" [source: Kastenbine]. Sounds good (and gross) to us.