The term Fortean Phenomena—so-named for Charles Fort, an American journalist who collected reports of odd occurrences—describes a wide range of mysterious things and happenings including falling frogs and fish, ball lightning, UFOs, poltergeist activity, spontaneous human combustion and other strangeness.
What occurred in Oakville, Washington, in August of 1994 would certainly qualify as a Fortean event.
On August 7, 1994, Police Officer David Lacey was driving through Oakville, WA., with a friend who had joined him for a ride-along. It was 3 AM, raining, and something strange was happening as raindrops splatted on the windshield. Officer Lacey noticed long streaks forming across the glass as the wipers swept back and forth, reducing visibility. He stopped the cruiser and the two got out to see what was going on.
On the windshield were small sticky balls of clear goo, each smaller than a grain of rice. As the two men watched, the strange substance continued to rain down on their shoulders and surrounding area. Lacey donned a pair of latex gloves he kept in the car and gathered a bunch of small globs in his hand. Strangely, according to his account, the individual balls coalesced into a glob and oozed through his fingers.
Baffled by this bizarre stuff Lacey and his friend stopped at a gas station to clean off the windshield.
Mere hours later Lacey would fall ill, suffering with nausea, fever and vertigo. There is no report indicating that Lacey’s friend had developed any similar symptoms.
The strangeness wasn’t isolated to the policeman’s windshield though. Dotty Hearn was at the farm of her daughter, Sunny Barclift, and noticed the gelatinous material falling across the yard and upon the farmhouse porch. She initially assumed it was hail and touched some which had landed on a firewood storage box on her front porch. It was not hail.
Shortly after coming in contact with the substance Hearn began experiencing vertigo and nausea, and fever. She was hospitalized after collapsing on the bathroom floor, where her daughter had found her. Following a three day stay in the hospital for observation she was released. According to Sunny Barclift the doctor had diagnosed an inner ear infection but later commended that he didn’t know what caused her illness; that it was “some type of virus.”
Within days of the rain Barclift’s kitten died, and within a few weeks her mother’s dogs fell ill. Barclift states that she suffered nausea after the first rain, and developed severe bronchitis six weeks later. In all, according to a diary allegedly kept by Dotty Hearn, the strange rain of material occurred six times over the course of three weeks.
Another Oakville resident, Beverly Roberts, also claims to have encountered the mysterious substance. According to Roberts’ account she found a couple of gallons of the material by the roadside, a frog and raven lying dead nearby. Wearing rubber gloves she collected a sample, and days later fell ill just like Officer Lacey, Sunny Barclift and Dotty Hearn.
According to Roberts, the sample she collected remained in a tall jar in her yard until years later when she received a request from a Japanese television show and mailed the jar off to them. Some time later she received $100 and a DVD from them, but according to a report in The Daily Chronicle in 2014, she has yet to watch it. There isn’t any other information available about Beverly Roberts’ story.
What were the unexplained, minuscule blobs that fell across Oakville?
Suggestions proposed to explain the gelatinous rain include military bomb tests along the California coast that blasted bits of jellyfish high into the atmosphere where they later fell along with rain. Witnesses disagree, and Dotty Hearn indicated in an interview that the stuff had no smell as you would expect from rotting marine life.
While that explanation may sound plausible, it seems that it would take one heck of a blast to lob pulverized jellyfish far enough into the atmosphere to become part of the weather, a lot of jellyfish too. But would bits of jellyfish reform into a single gooey mass when collected, as Officer Lacey observed?
Another proposed explanation is that the material was lavatory waste jettisoned from an airliner far overhead. This theory doesn’t work. Airline toilets contain a blue-colored liquid disinfectant to treat onboard waste but the Oakville Blobs were clear and quite a bit smaller than chunks of airline dung. Also, pilots and crew members do not have onboard access to controls for offloading the stuff while in the air.
If some waste happens to leak during a flight the disinfectant will typically freeze on the fuselage at high altitudes and fall to the ground in the form of “blue ice” after it thaws enough to drop off, which usually happens on approach for landing. It wouldn’t necessarily sprinkle over wide area.
So if not jellyfish or airplane waste what were the mysterious tacky globs of sticky rice that landed across Oakville, WA?
Oakville Blobs in the Lab
According to Barclift a sample of the substance was taken to a lab by Dr. Little, who had examined her mother. An unknown lab technician reported that a human white blood cell was found in the sample. This finding was not confirmed by subsequent examinations.
Barclift then sent a sample to the Washington State Health lab where epidemiologist Mike McDowell examined it. McDowell states he discovered bacteria in the gelatinous material, specifically pseudomonas fluorescens and enterobacter collacae.
McDowell kept the sample for further studies and ultimately proposed that the material itself was a manmade matrix created as a carrier mechanism for the spread of bacteria or a virus. Allegedly, according to Sunny Barclift, soon after bringing this suspicion to the attention of his supervisor McDowell discovered that the sample had been taken from his lab. In subsequent conversations his supervisor advised him not to ask any more questions.
Further examination by one Mike Osweiler with the Washington State Department of Ecology apparently revealed little more than confirmation of bacteria, though his findings didn’t identify any particular strains.
Barclift had stored a sample of the substance in her freezer and a year after the strange rain events she brought that frozen sample to Tim Davis at Amtest Laboratories. In a rather inconclusive statement for Unsolved Mysteries (Season 9 Episode 6 which aired November 8,1996) Davis said, “I saw what I think was a eukaryotic cell…”
Davis did not confirm whether the cell he thought he saw was an animal, plant or fungal type of eukaryote.
In her personal letter presented online at medium.com, Sunny Barclift suggests that the substance that rained down over Oakville, Washington during those many weeks of August in 1994 was evidence of a military “continuity exercise” though I can find no instance where that phrase is used to describe military testing on civilians. The term is typically used in reference to continuity of government, and business continuity exercises.
In 1994 Oakville had a population of just around 500 people for its half square mile of land area. Some might consider this the perfect location for clandestine biological testing. Far fetched? Not really. While it may seem unimaginable that US military forces would do this, a test on Oakville wouldn’t be the first time biological testing was done on unsuspecting U.S. citizens.
In his book Clouds of Secrecy: The Army’s Germ Warfare Tests Over Populated Areas Dr. Leonard Cole details a seven day test conducted over San Francisco, beginning September 20 1950, in which a US Navy ship sprayed microbiological agents into the air, infusing the infamous San Francisco fog.
Is it possible that the strange rain which fell over Oakville was a military biological test? If it was, why would they use common bacteria? Both pseudomonas fluorescens and enterobacter collacae can be found in soil and in water. Enterobacter collacae can also be found in sewage and vegetables and is common gut flora of many humans and animals. These may have been contaminants already on the ground and not part of the true origin of the gelatinous glop.
So what was this stuff? If the last lab test is true, and there was in fact a eukaryotic cell present, is it possible that the stuff was was some kind of fungal spores that settled across the landscape, carried aloft and distributed by the wind, and deposited as a fine dust that went undetected until it rained. Witnesses may have seen the gelatinous form after the rain had fallen, and assumed the stuff was falling in that small blob-like form.
Maybe a dense airborne cloud of fine particles, containing the bacteria became caught up in the atmosphere and were held aloft, blending with precipitation and forming the strange gooey droplets that fell. Where these particles originated is anyone’s guess.
Why did people get sick? If enterobacter cloacae was present and somehow inhaled it can cause respiratory infections but typically only in people with a compromised immune system.
It is also possible that a severe virus was making its way through town coincidentally and the illnesses may not have been directly related to the rain at all. Remember Oakville is roughly half a square mile in area with a population of around 500 at the time.
The story of the Oakville Blobs is a true mystery that has gone unsolved for twenty-seven years. It’s hard to explain such a mysterious event, but there must be a logical explanation. We just haven’t discovered it yet.
Cronin, Melissa. “Mysterious goop falls out of the sky in suburban Michigan.” February 18, 2016. https://grist.org/living/mysterious-goop-falls-out-of-the-sky-in-suburban-michigan/
Henley, Nicole. “The Blobs That Fell from the Sky.” Medium.com, March 8, 2019. https://medium.com/marvels-of-history/the-mystery-blobs-that-fell-from-the-sky-325ac9c9541c
Pasanti, Dameon. “The Day Blobs Rained Down on Oakville.” August 9, 2014. The Daily Chronicle. http://www.chronline.com/news/the-day-blobs-rained-down-on-oakville/article_55db01d2-1f96-11e4-8f58-001a4bcf887a.html
Paulson, Tom. “STRANGE PHENOMENON; Mystery Blobs Rain on Oakville; What Are They and Where Do They Come from, Residents Ask, Authorities Are Clueless.” The Lewiston Tribune. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 19, 1994.
Unsolved Mysteries Television Series. Season 9, Episode 6. Air date: November 8,1996. https://youtu.be/4tni2wQmvtA
Blue Ice (Aviation), http:/wikipedia.com/wiki/Blue_ice_(aviation)