Flocks of birds falling en masse from the sky in Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and even Sweden is strange, but these mysterious mass deaths don’t hold a candle to the “Kentucky Meat Shower” of 1876 when it comes to avian oddities.
“Flesh Descending in a Shower. An Astounding Phenomenon in Kentucky – Fresh Meat Like Mutton or Venison Falling From A Clear Sky,” read the headline in the New York Times on March 10, 1876.
A second Times article the next day provided more detail on the strange occurrence.
“Mrs. Crouch, of Olympian Springs, Ky., was employed in the open air and under a particular clear sky, in the celebration of those mysterious rites by which the housewife transmutes scraps of meat, bones and effete overshoes into soap,” it said. “Suddenly, there descended upon her a gentle shower of meat.”
For a couple of minutes, it continued, big pieces of meat, three or four inches square, fell all over Mrs. Crouch’s yard. The meat “appeared to be perfectly fresh.”
The incident was corroborated for the New York Times by two sources – one Mr. Harrison Gill “whose veracity is unquestionable” and a correspondent of the Louisville Commercial newspaper.
But what exactly was the red flesh? “Two gentlemen” satisfied their curiosity by tasting the meat and determined that it was either mutton or venison, the Times said.
The incident sparked a lot of curiosity, skepticism and several scientific studies at the time.
The Royal Microscopical Society of Great Britain reported the most plausible explanation in its Monthly Microscopical Journal in July 1876.
After examining several specimens of meat, one scientist determined what fell out of the sky was in fact of “animal origin” (apparently he didn’t trust the taste buds of the locals). Therefore “the Kentucky shower was a veritable ‘meat’ shower.” Beyond that, he admitted that he had no explanation.
However, he relayed the most popular local theory: a large pack of buzzards must have flown over the area after having eaten some dead horses, then one of the buzzards disgorged himself and the others followed suit, (as is their custom, according to the journal).
The scientist reported that similar occurrences with buzzards had been known to happen in the past, so “it would seem that the whole matter is capable of reasonable and simple explanation, and we may expect to hear of similar downfalls in other localities.”
So watch out!