Kentucky meat shower

By Wikipedia Contributors

One of the preserved meat specimens from the Arthur Byrd Cabinet at Transylvania University

The Kentucky meat shower was an incident occurring for a period of several minutes on March 3, 1876, where what appeared to be flakes of red meat fell from the sky in a 100-by-50-yard (91 by 46 m) area near the settlement of Rankin in Bath County, Kentucky.[1] Most of the pieces were approximately 5 centimetres (2.0 in) square; at least one was 10 centimetres (3.9 in) square.[2] The phenomenon was reported by Scientific American, the New York Times,[3] and several other publications at the time.[1][4]

The meat appeared to be beef, but according to the first report in Scientific American, two gentlemen who tasted it judged it to be mutton or venison.[5] B. F. Ellington, a local hunter, identified it as bear meat.[6] Writing in the Sanitarian, Leopold Brandeis identified the substance as Nostoc, a genus of cyanobacteria.[1] Brandeis passed the meat sample to the Newark Scientific Association for further analysis, leading to a letter from Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton appearing in the Medical Record and stating that the meat had been identified as lung tissue from either a horse or a human infant, "the structure of the organ in these two cases being almost identical".[5][7] The makeup of this sample was backed up by further analysis, with two samples of the meat being identified as lung tissue, three as muscle, and two as cartilage.[5]

Brandeis's Nostoc theory relied on the fact that Nostoc swells into a translucent jelly-like mass when rain falls on it, often giving the impression that it was falling with the rain.[2] Charles Fort pointed out in his first book, The Book of the Damned, that there had been no rain.[1] Locals favored the explanation that the meat was vomited up by buzzards, "who, as is their custom, seeing one of their companions disgorge himself, immediately followed suit".[5] Dr. L. D. Kastenbine presented this theory in the Louisville Medical News as the best explanation of the variety of meat.[2] Vultures vomit as part of making a quick escape and also as a defensive mechanism when threatened.[6] Fort explained the flattened, dry appearance of the meat chunks as the result of pressure, and noted that nine days later, on March 12, 1876, red "corpuscles" with a "vegetable" appearance fell over London.[8]