They Thought It Was Hail. It Was Something WAY Weirder.
Over a period of 6 weeks in 1994, the small town of Oakville, Washington was hit with a bizarre string of storms that rained weird gelatinous blobs all over the town. It was all just a funny sidenote – and then people started getting sick. This is the weird and still unsolved mystery of the Oakville Blobs.
CIA operative Todd Delmonaco drove his ’53 Buick to meet Kieth Kincaid. It had rained that day. But was it normal rain… Or was it Chubby Rain?
If you get that reference, awesome, if you don’t, it’s from a movie called Bowfinger, it has Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy in it – one of my favorite movies, it’s about a down and out movie director who cheats his way into the business by just following around a big movie star who doesn’t know he’s in a movie, just suddenly all this weird stuff starts happening around him.
I honestly think it’s one of Eddie Murphy’s best performances, he plays the big movie star, Kit Ramsey but also his brother who’s super nerdy and awkward, anyway, it’s a great movie if you haven’t seen it.
But the movie that they make in the movie is called Chubby Rain, and it’s about aliens that invade Earth by falling from the sky in rain drops, making the rain “chubby”. Chubby rain.
This is a ridiculous premise, obviously, that’s what makes it funny, nothing like that could ever happen in real life…
A Strange Rain
In 1994, the small town of Oakville, Washington (pop. 600) was hit by a rainstorm. Nothing unusual in the Pacific Northwest. It rains there most of the year.Only this rain was different. It looked like hail, but when people touched it, it was squishy. Gooey. One might even say… Blobby.
Yeah, this was 1994… The Toxic Lady story that I just covered last month, that was in 1994. 1994… Weird year.
Anyway one person who experienced this was a police officer named David Lacey.
His story, which was actually featured in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, was that he was out on patrol on the morning of August 7th, and this rain started coming down. But when he ran his wipers, all it did was just smear it all over the windshield.
So he pulled over into a gas station to clean his windshield and put on some latex gloves just to be safe.
They Thought It Was Hail. It Was Something WAY Weirder.
Unfortunately that extra caution didn’t seem to help because within 24 hours, Officer Lacey would stumble into the emergency room, barely able to breathe. And he wasn’t the only one.
In 1994, the small town of Oakville, Washington was hit by a rainstorm. Nothing unusual in the Pacific Northwest, it rains most of the year there. But this rain was different.
It looked like hail but when the residents touched it, it was a gelatinous substance.
There’s the story of the police officer who talks about how it smeared across his windshield.
And Dottie Hearn noticed it on her porch.
Nobody could figure out what it was. And this would have just been another case of weird things falling with rain… Raining frogs has been a thing The Red Rain of India phenomenon
Except then people started getting sick.
Worse off was a woman named Dotty Hearn, who passed out at home. She was found on her bathroom floor an hour later by her daughter, Sunny, and her son, Donnie
Dotty was admitted to hospital. Initially, she was treated for Meniere’s Disease, which is an inner ear condition that can cause dizziness and confusion. But after four days in the hospital, Dotty’s doctor said a virus had been responsible.
She did recover over time. So did Officer Lacey and the other sick humans, thankfully no people died, but there were a lot of reported deaths of animals that were out in the rain. In fact, Dotty had several barn cats that died.
Luckily larger animals seem to have fared better; Dotty had 2 dogs that got sick, but they recovered.
Dotty seems like quite the animal lover.
Sadly, more animals would die in the 5 different rains that happened over three weeks in August.
Sunny was understandably alarmed by all this. She had a background in occupational safety, so knew some people at the Washington Department of Health and sent some samples to them.
And the DOH found two types of bacteria in the sample:
Pseudomonas fluorescens, which is a common bacteria that can be harmful to humans, but usually only those with compromised immune systems.
And the other was enterobacter collacae, is also found all over, but it’s known to contribute to infections of the lungs, blood, and urinary tract.
So these were fairly common bacteria, nothing too weird, but the blobs themselves… that’s a whole other story.
The opinion of the epidemiologist who studied the sample was that it was man-made. Which is a pretty bold conclusion that would require more testing to be done on the sample.
So did they do more testing on the sample? Well put your tin foil hat on people because here’s where things get even weirder.
The sample disappeared. They suddenly couldn’t find it. (a beat – X-files riff) And here come the theories!
The police officer (Officer Lacey) got to where he could barely breathe and had to go to the hospital.
Dottie Hearn was found on the floor of her house with extreme vertigo and confusion. She was diagnosed with Melier’s (sp) disease, which is a chronic condition but she never experienced it again.
There were dozens of other flu-like cases around the town that apparently went on for several weeks and even months. Also many animals died.
A sample of it was brought to a microbiologist (Mike McDowell) who found white blood cells in it (though I’ve seen in other places it was more like a white blood cell).
He also found two bacteria, Pseudomonas fluorescens and Enterobacter cloacae.
Mike Osweiler of the Department of Ecology tested the cells and found the samples contained “a number of cells of various sizes” and that they came from a once-living creature. He didn’t find any human white blood cells though. The cells he found had no nuclei.
The blobs fell at least 6 different times over 3 weeks and then stopped.
Star jelly is sort of a catch-all term for jelly-like substances that are occasionally found on the ground. These days, they’re sometimes pollution.
One famous case that happened in Texas involved bunches of purple goop that looked like whipped cream. A lady found three on her front lawn. They were probably a chemical used to clean batteries that fell off a truck.https://www.straightdope.com/21341699/did-mrs-sybil-christian-of-frisco-texas-find-blobs-from-space-on-her-lawn
A more ancient explanation for star jelly is slime molds.
Slime mold tends to get frothy and congeal when they multiply. Clusters of frog or toad eggs have also been called star jelly, even certain types of bird puke.
Nature’s ah… kinda gross.
Problem is you might have noticed none of that stuff falls from the sky. Even birds tend to puke when they’re on the ground.
Which brings us to another theory, jellyfish. Which also don’t typically fall from the sky.
But, many local residents reported an increase in military air traffic around the time of the blob rain. Turns out, there were bombing exercises going on relatively close by.
So the theory is that the U. S. Navy jets blasted a bunch of jellyfish out of the ocean. And all those jellyfish bits got swept up into the clouds and rode the jet stream.
That would explain what the blobs felt like, I guess, but almost nothing else. They would have had to fly fifty miles and rain down sporadically for 21 days.
Something that does fall out of the sky is human waste. Sometimes.
One Washington ecologist suggested that the blobs were waste from an airplane. Airplanes do sometimes release the contents of their toilets over unpopulated places. But the main piece of evidence for this was something that I actually didn’t mention before.
So I mentioned Sunny sent samples to the Washington Department of Health well she also sent some to the hospital where her mom was admitted.
And a lab tech claimed to have found a human white blood cell mixed in with the blob.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that sample has also disappeared. (X-Files riff)
Nobody else found human cells, but the ecologist I mentioned did see evidence of something biological in the gel. Human waste is biological, obviously.
The problem with that theory is that everything that goes into a plane’s septic tank is dyed blue from antiseptic. And the Oakville blobs were colorless.
Plus we kinda know what septic tank stuff looks and… smells like. Pretty sure that would have been solved fairly quickly.
Not to mention, again, this happened over 21 days. So, if it was an airplane… What were they serving on that thing?
Secret Military Experiments
Yeah, now we’re getting into the good stuff.
As I said before, there were some military exercises that were happening right around the time of the blobs, waging war against jellyfish apparently.
So the rumors are that these jets might have seeded the atmosphere with… something?
Like whatever made up the blobs was a kind of microorganism medium designed to hold the bacteria or virus or whatever it is that made so many people sick.
This is very tin-foil hat-y but it has actually happened before.
In 1950, the U.S. Navy conducted a test over San Francisco called Operation Sea Spray where they sprayed Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii bacteria over the city to see how it would fare in the event of a biological attack.
Those are fairly harmless bacteria – that’s why they were chosen – but there was a rash of extremely rare urinary tract infections reported just after.
Similar tests were done in New York, Key West, Panama City, Washington DC, and along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
In fact, a lot of this was revealed in a Senate Subcommittee hearing in 1977, where the Army admitted to doing open air tests of biological agents 239 times between 1949 and 1969.
So… It’s not the craziest idea? In fact Sunny Barclift, who I keep quoting for this story, she thinks this is the answer.
Not to mention if it’s some secret military thing, that would explain why the samples went missing.
Here come the theories
The first assumption was jellyfish The military had been doing air training exercises in the ocean and it was thought they had blasted some jellyfish so much they got obliterated and swept up into the clouds. The town even proposed a jellyfish festival But none of the blobs seemed to have jellyfish material, plus the ocean was 50 miles away, which seems too far away to travel.
Another theory was airplane waste material This would explain the white blood cells in the sample but airplane toilets use blue antifreeze so it would have been blue-tinted. There are stories of this happening though, maybe we could point to one of those here. Another thought was that it might be beads of sodium polyacralate Sodium polyacralate is a substance that absorbs water and is used in all kinds of things like ice packs (think orbeez), but it can also be used in agriculture to spray onto fields and help retain water. The theory is that maybe a storm swept up a stockpile of this stuff and then it absorbed water in the clouds and rained down on Oakville. Apparently something like this actually happened in Great Britain a little while back?
Then there’s Star Jelly. WHAT? Star Jelly is a blanket term applied to all kinds of organic blobs from slime molds to amphibian reproductive goo to undigested bird puke. It’s a natural phenomenon but unlikely that much star jelly got swept up into clouds.
Last but not least, the military experiments theory Some suggest that the blobs were like a microorganism medium meant to contain biological weapons and the military dropped it over the town to test it on the unsuspecting population. First of all, this is absolutely something that has happened before. They dropped spores and bacteria over San Francisco and the UK tested on their own citizens as well. There’s a surprising number of times this has happened. Also, residents reported military planes flying over their town quite a bit around the time this happened. The question is, would the bacteria that were found on the goop be good candidates for it?
One last little detail that might support the government testing thing – the sample in Mike McDowell’s lab disappeared.
Fact vs Fiction
Of course another explanation for why they went missing is because… They just went missing. Things get misplaced all the time. Especially if it goes into my wife’s purse.
The people that tested the samples probably didn’t know they were sitting on a mystery that would still be debated nearly 30 years later. They probably didn’t have a post-it note on there saying, “Mystery sky shit, don’t throw away.”
The cooler may have needed to be cleaned, maybe they had a bunch of life-saving medicine they needed room for, maybe Kevin didn’t have anywhere else to put his leftover pork sandwich.
Maybe it was a secret experiment, maybe some gelatin dust from a factory or a farm or something got swept up in the clouds and soaked up the condensation and gathered some cooties along the way.
There could be a totally natural and rational explanation for this. Nature be crazy sometimes. It just hasn’t been decisively proven. And it probably never will be, unless it happens again.
But as always with stories like this, they tend to become embellished over time until it’s hard to sort truth from legend. Which honestly made writing this kinda challenging, when most of the details came from Unsolved Mysteries.
I did try to use info from various places as much as possible, in fact, my writer Ryan found an article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer earlier that month puts an interesting twist on everything.
It reported that the National Weather Service took a phone call from a concerned father who complained of “hot, metallic particles from the sky that burned holes in his children’s trampoline.
Maybe… that was the remnants of an alien spaceship that exploded in the upper atmosphere and then the aliens scattered into the clouds and fell down to the Earth in the rain… In the Chubby Rain…
In the end, we’ll probably never know exactly what happened nearly 30 years ago in Oakville. It’s never happened since. Also, since it was featured on Unsolved Mysteries, a lot of what we know about it has been kinda hyped up and made into legend. So it’s actually hard to distinguish fact from fiction in a lot of this.