Book of the Damned Chapter IV
IT is in the records of the French Academy that, upon March 17, 1669,
in the town of Chatillon-sur-Seine, fell a reddish substance that was
"thick, viscous, and putrid."
American Journal of Science, 1-41-404:
Story of a highly unpleasant substance that had fallen from the sky, in
Wilson County, Tennessee. We read that Dr. Troost visited the place and
investigated. Later we're going to investigate some investigations--but
never mind that now. Dr. Troost reported that the substance was clear
blood and portions of flesh scattered upon tobacco fields. He argued that
a whirlwind might have taken an animal up from one place, mauled it
around, and have precipitated its remains somewhere else.
But, in volume 44, page 216, of the Journal, there is an
apology. The whole matter is, upon newspaper authority, said to have been
a hoax by negroes, who had pretended to have seen the shower, for the sake
of practicing upon the credulity of their masters: that they had scattered
the decaying flesh of a dead hog over the tobacco fields.
If we don't accept this datum, at least we see the sociologically
necessary determination to have all falls accredited to earthly
origins--even when they're falls that don't fall.
Annual Register, 1821-687:
That, upon the 13th of August, 1819, something had fallen from the sky
at Amherst, Mass. It had been examined and described by Prof. Graves,
formerly lecturer at Dartmouth College. It was an object that had upon it
a nap, similar to that of milled cloth. Upon removing this nap, a buff-colored,
pulpy substance was found. It had an offensive odor, and, upon exposure to
air, turned to a vivid red. This thing was said to have fallen with a
Also see the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, 5-295. In the
Annales de Chimie, 1821-67, M. Arago accepts the datum, and gives
four instances of similar objects or substances said to have fallen out of
the sky, two of which we shall have with our data of gelatinous, or
viscous matter, and two of which I omit, because it seems to me that the
dates given are too far back.
In the American Journal of Science, 1-2-335, is Prof. Graves'
account, communicated by Professor Dewey.
That, upon the evening of August 13, 1819, a light was seen in
Amherst--a falling object--sound as if of an explosion.
In the home of Prof. Dewey, this light was reflected upon a wall of a
room in which were several members of Prof. Dewey's family.
The next morning, in Prof. Dewey's front yard, in what is said to have
been the only position from which the light that had been seen in the
room, the night before, could have been reflected, was found a substance
"unlike anything before observed by anyone who saw it." It was a
bowl-shaped object, about 8 inches in diameter, and one inch thick. Bright
buff-colored, and having upon it a "fine nap." Upon removing this
covering, a buff-colored, pulpy substance of the consistency of soft-soap,
was found--"of an offensive, suffocating smell."
A few minutes of exposure to the air changed the buff color to "a livid
color resembling venous blood." It absorbed moisture quickly from the air
and liquified. For some of the chemic reactions, see the Journal.
There's another lost quasi-soul of a datum that seems to me to belong
London Times, April 19, 1836:
Fall of fish that had occurred in the neighborhood of Allahabad, India.
It is said that the fish were of the chalwa species, about a span in
length and a seer in weight--you know. They were dead and dry.
Or they had been such a long time out of water that we can't accept
that they had been scooped out of a pond, by a whirlwind--even though they
were so definitely identified as of a known local species --
Or they were not fish at all.
I incline, myself, to the acceptance that they were not fish, but
slender, fish-shaped objects of the same substance as that which fell at
Amherst--it is said that, whatever they were, they could not be eaten:
that "in the pan, they turned into blood."
For details of this story see the Journal of the Asiatic Society of
Bengal, 1834-307. May 16 or 17, 1834, is the date given in the
In the American Journal of Science, 1-25-362, occurs the
inevitable damnation of the Amherst object.
Prof. Edward Hitchcock went to live in Amherst. He says that years
later, another object, like the one said to have fallen in 1819, had been
found at "nearly the same place." Prof. Hitchcock was invited by Prof.
Graves to examine it. Exactly like the first one. Corresponded in size and
color and consistency. The chemic reactions were the same.
Prof. Hitchcock recognized it in a moment.
It was a gelatinous fungus.
He did not satisfy himself as to just the exact species it belonged to,
but he predicted that similar fungi might spring up within twenty-four
But, before evening, two others sprang up.
Or we've arrived at one of the oldest of the exclusionists'
conventions--or nostoc. We shall have many data of gelatinous substance
said to have fallen from the sky: almost always the exclusionists argue
that it was only nostoc, an Alga, or, in some respects, a fungous growth.
The rival convention is "spawn of frogs or of fishes." These two
conventions have made a strong combination. In instances where testimony
was not convincing that gelatinous matter had been seen to fall, it was
said that the gelatinous substance was nostoc, and had been on the ground
in the first place: when the testimony was too good that it had fallen, it
was said to be spawn that had been carried from one place to another in a
Now, I can't say that nostock is always greenish, any more than I can
say that blackbirds are always black, having seen a white one: we shall
quote a scientist who knew of flesh-colored nostoc, when so to know was
convenient. When we come to reported falls of gelatinous substances, I'd
like it to be noticed how often they are described as whitish or grayish.
In looking up the subject, myself, I have read only of greenish nostoc.
Said to be greenish, in Webster's Dictionary--said to be "blue-green" in
the New International Encyclopedia--"from bright green to olive-green" (Science
Gossip, 10-114); "green" (Science Gossip, 7-260); "greenish"
(Notes and Queries, 1-11-219) It would seem acceptable that, if
many reports of white birds should occur, the birds are not blackbirds,
even though there have been white blackbirds. Or that, if often reported,
grayish or whitish gelatinous substance is not nostoc, and is not spawn if
occurring in times unseasonable for spawn.
"The Kentucky Phenomenon."
So it was called, in its day, and now we have an occurrence that
attracted a great deal of attention in its own time. Usually these things
of the accursed have been hushed up or disregarded--suppressed like the
seven black rains of Slains--but, upon March 3, 1876, something occurred,
in Bath County, Kentucky, that brought many newspaper correspondents to
The substance that looked like beef that fell from the sky.
Upon March 3, 1876, at Olympian Springs, Bath County, Kentucky, flakes
of a substance that looked like beef fell from the sky--"from a clear
sky." We'd like to emphasize that it was said that nothing but this
falling substance was visible in the sky. It fell in flakes of various
sizes; some two inches square, one, three, or four inches square. The
flake-formation is interesting: later we shall think of it as signifying
pressure--somewhere. It was a thick shower, on the ground, on trees, on
fences, but it was narrowly localized: or upon a strip of land about 100
yards long and about 50 yards wide. For the first account, see the
Scientific American, 34-197, and the New York Times, March
Then the exclusionists.
Something that looked like beef: one flake of it the size of a square
If we think of how hard the exclusionists have fought to reject the
coming of ordinary-looking dust from this earth's externality, we can
sympathize with them in this sensational instance, perhaps. Newspaper
correspondents wrote broadcast and witnesses were quoted, and this time
there is no mention of a hoax, and, except by one scientist, there is no
denial that the fall did take place.
It seems to me that the exclusionists are still more emphatically
conservators. It is not so much that they are inimical to all data of
externally derived substances that fall upon this earth, as that they are
inimical to all data discordant with a system that does not include such
Or the spirit or hope or ambition of the cosmos, which we call
attempted positivism: not to find out the new; not to add to what is
called knowledge, but to systematize.
Scientific American Supplement, 2-426:
That the substance reported from Kentucky had been examined by Leopold
"At last we have a proper explanation of this much talked of
"It has been comparatively easy to identify the substance and to fix
its status. The Kentucky `wonder' is no more or less than nostoc."
Or that it had not fallen; that it had been upon the ground in the
first place, and had swollen in rain, and, attracting attention by greatly
increased volume, had been supposed by unscientific observers to have
fallen in rain--
What rain, I don't know.
Also it is spoken of as "dried" several times. That's one of the most
important of the details.
But the relief of outraged propriety, expressed in the Supplement,
is amusing to some of us, who, I fear, may be a little improper at times.
Very spirit of the Salvation Army, when some third-rate scientist comes
out with an explanation of the vermiform appendix or the os cocyx that
would have been acceptable to Moses. To give completeness to "the proper
explanation," it is said that Mr. Brandeis had identified the substance as
Prof. Lawrence Smith, of Kentucky, one of the most resolute of the
New York Times, March 12, 1876:
That the substance had been examined and analyzed by Prof. Smith,
according to whom, it gave every indication of being the "dried" spawn of
some reptile, "doubtless of the frog"--or up from one place and down in
another. As to "dried," that may refer to the condition when Prof. Smith
In the Scientific American Supplement, 2-473, Dr. A. Mead
Edwards, President of the Newark Scientific Association, writes that, when
he saw Mr. Brandeis' communication, his feeling was of conviction that
propriety had been re-established, or that the problem had been solved, as
he expresses it: knowing Mr. Brandeis well, he had called upon that
upholder of respectability, to see the substance that had been identified
as nostoc. But he had also called upon Dr. Hamilton, who had a specimen,
and Dr. Hamilton had declared it to be lung-tissue. Dr. Edwards writes of
the substance that had so completely, or beautifully--if beauty is
completeness--been identified as nostoc--"It turned out to be lung tissue
also," He wrote to other persons who had specimens, and identified other
specimens as masses of cartilage or muscular fibres. "As to whence it
came, I have no theory." Nevertheless he endorses the local
explanation--and a bizarre thing it is:
A flock of gorged, heavy-weighted buzzards, but far up and invisible in
the clear sky--
They had disgorged.
Prof. Fassig lists the substance, in his "Bibliography," as fish spawn.
McAtee (Monthly Weather Review, May, 1918), lists it as a
jelly-like material, supposed to have been the "dried" spawn either of
fishes or of some batrachian.
Or this is why, against the seemingly insuperable odds against all
things new, there can be what is called progress--
That nothing is positive, in the aspects of homogeneity and unity:
If the whole world should seem to combine against you, it is only
unreal combination, or intermediateness to unity and disunity. Every
resistance is itself divided into parts resisting one another. The
simplest strategy seems to be--never bother to fight a thing: set its own
parts fighting one another.
We are merging away from carnal to gelatinous substance, and here there
is an abundance of instances or reports of instances. These data are so
improper they're obscene to the science of to-day, but we shall see that
science, before it became so rigorous, was not so prudish. Chladni was
not, and Greg was not.
I shall have to accept, myself, that gelatinous substance has often
fallen from the sky--
Or that, far up, or far away, the whole sky is gelatinous?
That meteors tear through and detach fragments?
That fragments are brought down by storms?
That the twinkling of stars is penetration of light through something
I think, myself, that it would be absurd to say that the whole sky is
gelatinous: it seems more acceptable that only certain areas are.
Humboldt, (Cosmos, 1-119), says that all our data in this
respect must be "classed amongst the mythical fables of mythology." He is
very sure, but just a little redundant.
We shall be opposed by the standard resistances:
There in the first place;
Up from one place, in a whirlwind, and down in another.
We shall not bother to be very convincing one way or another, because
of the over-shadowing of the datum with which we shall end up. It will
mean that something had been in a stationary position for several days
over a small part of a small town in England: this is the revolutionary
thing that we have alluded to before; whether the substance were nostoc,
or spawn, or some kind of a larval nexus, doesn't matter so much. If it
stood in the sky for several days, we rank with Moses as a chronicler of
improprieties--or was that story, or datum, we mean, told by Moses? Then
we shall have so many records of gelatinous substance said to have fallen
with meteorites, that, between the two phenomena, some of us will have
[47/48] to accept connection--or that there are at least vast gelatinous
areas aloft, and that meteorites tear through, carrying down some of the
Comptes Rendus, 3-554:
That, in 1836, M. Vallot, member of the French Academy, placed before
the Academy some fragments of a gelatinous substance, said to have fallen
from the sky, and asked that they be analyzed. There is no further
allusion to this subject.
Comptes Rendus, 23-542:
That, in Wilna, Lithuania, April 4, 1846, in a rainstorm, fell
nut-sized masses of a substance that is described as both resinous and
gelatinous. It was odorless until burned: then it spread a very pronounced
sweetish odor. It is described as like gelatine, but much firmer: but,
having been in water 24 hours, it swelled out, and looked altogether
It was grayish.
We are told that, in 1841 and 1846, a similar substance had fallen in
In Notes and Queries, 8-6-190, it is said that, early in
August, 1894, thousands of jelly fish, about the size of a shilling, had
fallen at Bath, England. I think it is not acceptable that they were jelly
fish: but it does look as if this time frog spawn did fall from the sky,
and may have been translated by a whirlwind--because, about the same time,
small frogs fell at Wigan, England.
That, June 24, 1911, at Eton, Bucks, England, the ground was found
covered with masses of jelly, the size of peas, after a heavy rainfall. We
are not told of nostoc, this time: it is said that the object contained
numerous eggs of "some species of Chironomus, from which larvae soon
I incline, then, to think that the objects that fell at Bath were
neither jelly fish nor masses of frog spawn, but something of a larval
This is what had occurred at Bath, England, 23 years before.
London Times, April 24, 1871:
That, upon the 22nd of April, 1871, a storm of glutinous drops neither
jelly fish nor masses of frog spawn, but something of a railroad station
at Bath. "Many of them soon developed into a worm-like chrysalis, about an
inch in length." The account of this occurrence in the Zoologist,
2-6-2686, is more like the Eton-datum: of [48/49] minute forms, said to
have been infusoria; not forms about an inch in length.
Trans. Ent. Soc. of London, 1871-proc. xxii:
That the phenomenon has been investigated by the Rev. L. Jenyns, of
Bath. His description is of minute worms in filmy envelopes. He tries to
account for their segregation. The mystery of it is: What could have
brought so many of them together? Many other falls we shall record of, and
in most of them segregation is the great mystery. A whirlwind seems
anything but a segregative force. Segregation of things that have fallen
from the sky has been avoided as most deep-dyed of the damned. Mr. Jenyns
conceives of a large pool, in which were many of these spherical masses:
of the pool drying up and concentrating all in a small area; of a
whirlwind then scooping all up together--
But several days before, more of these objects fell in the place.
That such marksmanship is not attributable to whirlwinds seems to me to
be what we think we mean by common sense:
It may not look like common sense to say that these things had been
stationary over the town of Bath, several days--
The seven black rains of Slains;
The four red rains of Siena.
An interesting sidelight on the mechanics of orthodoxy is that Mr.
Jenyns dutifully records the second fall, but ignores it in his
R.P. Greg, one of the most notable cataloguers of meteoritic phenomena,
records (Phil. Mag.: 4-8-463) falls of viscid substance in the
years 1652, 1686, 1718, 1796, 1811, 1819, 1844. He gives earlier dates,
but I practice exclusions, myself. In the Report of the British
Association, 1860-63, Greg records a meteor that seemed to pass near
the ground, between Barsdorf and Freiburg, Germany: the next day a
jelly-like mass was found in the snow--
Unseasonableness for either spawn or nostoc.
Greg's comment in this instance is: "curious, if true." But he records
without modification the fall of a meteorite at Gotha, Germany, Sept. 6,
1835, "leaving a jelly-like mass on the ground." We are told that this
substance fell only three feet away from an observer. In the Report of
the British Association, 1855-94, according to a letter from Greg to
Prof. Baden-Powell, at night, Oct. 8, 1844, near Coblentz, a German, who
was known to Greg, and another person, saw a luminous body fall close to
them. They returned next morning and found a gelatinous mass of grayish
According to Chladni's account (Annals of Philosophy, n.s.,
12-94) a viscous mass fell with a luminous meteorite between Siena and
Rome, May, 1652; viscous matter found after the fall of a fire ball, in
Lusatia, March, 1796; fall of a gelatinous substance, after the explosion
of a meteorite, near Heidelberg, July, 1811. In the Edinburgh
Philosophical Journal, 1-234, the substance that fell at Lusatia is
said to have been the "color and odor of dried, brown varnish." In the
Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-26-133, it is said that gelatinous matter fell
with a globe of fire, upon the island of Lethy, India, 1718.
In the Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-25-396, in many observations upon
the meteors of November, 1833, are reports of falls of gelatinous
That, according to newspaper reports, "lumps of jelly" were found on
the ground at Rahway, N. J. The substance was whitish, or resembled the
coagulated white of an egg;
That Mr. H. H. Garland, of Nelson County, Virginia, had found a
jelly-like substance of about the circumference of a twenty-five-cent
That, according to a communication from A.C. Twining to Prof. Olmstead,
a woman at West Point, N. Y., had seen a mass the size of a tea cup. It
looked like boiled starch;
That, according to a newspaper, of Newark, N. J., a mass of gelatinous
substance, like soft soap, had been found. "It possessed little
elasticity, and, on the application of heat, evaporated as readily as
It seems incredible that a scientist would have such hardihood, or
infidelity, as to accept that these things had fallen from the sky:
nevertheless, Prof. Olmstead, who collected these lost souls, says:
"The fact that the supposed deposits were so uniformly described as
gelatinous substance forms a presumption in favor of the supposition that
they had the origin ascribed to them."
In contemporaneous scientific publications considerable attention was
given to Prof. Olmstead's series of papers upon this subject of the
November meteors. You will not find one mention of the part that treats of