What is it that falls from mysterious skies?

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CLETUS PICKED UP THE POOL CUE and moseyed over to take his shot. It was a geometrical wonder. He pocketed three billiard balls in one stroke. His rival, Verne was no slouch, either, and it would not be a very lengthy game. They played their games all day long on Saturdays and occasional Thursdays and had done so for years. Their billiards strategies came off like well-oiled machinery—smooth, gliding strokes peppered by the plopping sounds of pocketed balls. Cletus looked up after he made his shot. Some kind of irritating racket was going outside. Both Cletus and Verne looked toward the big window at the front of the pool hall.

“What is that? Hail? Well I never. I thought we was just a havin’ a little summer squall.” Cletus’ comments were falling on confounded ears.

“Yep. That’s what it appears to be all right. It’s hail.” Verne walked over to the front window to get a better view. “They’s the size of acorns. Good thing we are in here or we would git whacked on the haid.” As Verne peered out, he saw a few measly street pedestrians hurrying for the cover of awnings.

The sprinkles of rain had been light and intermittent. “It sure is odd, how that come up all of a sudden like that. Weren’t no indication that that was a gonna happen.” Cletus had walked over to get his own view of the acorn-sized hailstones in the street. “Say, you remember that time they was a tornado near here a few years back and this very street filled up with hailstones about three inches deep, until it was a thick slab of pebble-y-lookin’ ice?”

“Shore do, Cletus! We was in here at the time, if you recall. The kids had a big ol’ time slidin’ around on that. Say, do you remember those tales our folks told us of the walnut storm that happened somewhere near here in the 1800s?”

Cletus answered, first with a question. “Walnut storm? Oh, yeah, now I remember those stories. People caught in that did get whacked on the haid—but good! Walnuts just came down from the sky like rain. I tried to look that up one time in some books but never found it. All we know about it is the stories that were passed down to us, but I don’t doubt they was true. I heard tell that one ol’ boy was knocked unconscious by the falling walnuts!”

“That is what happened in these here parts for sure, but I have heard tell of other things coming down from the sky like rain,” Verne replied. “They was frogs, birds, seeds, hay, jelly, fish and even snakes—over by Memphis they was snakes.”

“Jelly? Now I never heard tell of that one! Was it blackberry?”

An old illustration of the day it rained frogs.
An old illustration of the day it rained frogs.

Yes, it’s true. The hail-tales of Cletus and Verne are genuine. Strange objects have often rained from the sky as in the walnut storm of the Ozarks. The chief theory is that the objects were picked up and taken aloft by a tornado or high wind, and deposited elsewhere by the same wind. Sometimes they are crashed down, sometimes they are sat down gently, and other times they just pepper down, en masse like raindrops. The supposed snake-fall in southern Memphis on December 15, 1876 is a mystery, still. Not that they fell, particularly, but where were so many snakes all located in one place to be gathered up together like that? The snakes were alive and squiggling and varied in length from twelve to eighteen inches.

Over the centuries many fish have fallen from the skies. Some were living, flopping creatures, some dead. One notable fish-fall was in Marksville, Louisiana in 1947. A fish-fall on Lake Michigan in 1986 was so heavy that the fish almost capsized the boat upon which they landed.

Frog-falls are not that rare, either. One frog fall in Bournemouth, England in 1891 consisted of “hundreds of yellow frogs the size of half-crowns.” France has had more than its share of toad falls, although they have occurred in many spots on the globe, including Greece which has had a goodly number of toad falls. Tadpoles have rained from the sky in many places and on many occasions.

Other unusual types of rainfall include snails, caterpillars, beetles, ants and other insects. Bucharest, Romania had a horrible rain of black worms in 1872. There have been rains of bats (Ft. Worth, 1989) and even jellyfish, such as in the jellyfish rain in Bath, England in 1894.

Bird showers are common. Two famous bird falls in the USA happened in Macon, Georgia in October of 1954, and one involving sooty shearwaters happened in August of 1961. The already-dead birds peppered parts of the California coastline. The Georgia bird fall included fifty-three different species of birds.

Seeds, nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables have fallen from the skies. These include corn, peas, hazelnuts, apples and crab apples. People on the Empire State Building in 1951 had to take cover from a hail of stinging barley. In East Crescent, England, Mr. and Mrs. Hawthornwhite’s roof was pelted with apples. In 1980, in Tonna, South Wales, the home of Trevor Williams was pelted by peas. The peas were no longer in their pods.

In October of 1969, St. Louis had its own eerie rain event. This oddity sparked fear of an alien attack or a possible explosion at the McDonnell Aircraft facility. What witnesses observed coming from the sky could only be described as ethereal, gossamer threads. These thread-falls have been given the nickname of angel hair over the years, but they are in fact masses of spider silk, cobwebs, if you will. In one of these angel hair events in Selborne, England in 1741, it is said that hunting dogs had to roll on the ground and scrape the cobwebs from their eyes and faces with their paws.

Perhaps, meat falls are the strangest of all. Pieces of meat have actually rained from the sky. Some of the pieces seem to be covered with fine hair. When this happened in Kentucky in 1876, the witnesses finally decided that the meat had come from buzzards. They had probably recently eaten large meals and decided to regurgitate mid-flight as a group. In this one meat fall in Kentucky, the rain of meat covered an area 100 yards long and 50 yards wide.

Rainfalls of hay, straw, seaweed and feathers are not uncommon. Men have actually rained from the sky when they were picked up by a tornado or hurricane and deposited at a different location.   Sometimes they were left alive and laughing by the event. Livestock and other animals have suffered the same fate. Some of us remember the wiggly puppy found in the mailbox.

Falls of gelatinous material has perplexed mankind for centuries. The ancients called it star jelly and were convinced it was a product of the heavens akin to meteors. The old Welsh name of pwdre ser was given to it which translates, “rot of the stars.” Sometimes the star jelly had luminous qualities, adding to its mystery. It is now known to be some form of plant or animal life, or a by-product of their existence—or even half-digested disgorged matter consumed by animal life.

Poets of old have paid tribute to star jelly, including Suckling in 1541 and William Somerville in 1740. Suckling’s poem says in part.

As he whose quicker eye doth trace

A false star shot to a mark’t place

Do’s run apace,

And, thinking it to catch

A jelly up do snatch

 

I have decided to write my own poem, and there I shall end it:

 

Every life—rain must fall

And catch it if you try,

I hope that rain is all you catch

From the angry sky

Please click the book cover image to read more about Sara Marie Hogg and her books.

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  • Sara Marie Hogg

    Great illustrations, Caleb. Thanks.

  • Caleb Pirtle

    Sara: I’ve heard of frogs and fish falling from the sky. I’ve even written about it. But black worms raining down would have me re-reading Revelation.

    • Sara Marie Hogg

      It would be the coughed up buzzard lunch and snakes that would bring me to my knees, Caleb–black worms might do it though…

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