The annals of history are full of tales of strange objects falling from the sky. During biblical and medieval times, people typically perceived events such as rains of rats, dead bats, fish and frogs as signs of plague, ill portents or even manna from the benevolent above. Science eventually won out, bringing explanations for many of these seemingly inexplicable episodes. Still others remain unsolved, leaving the affected locals to theorize, and look expectantly to the clouds, for the next meat shower or golf ball storm.
We present a list of the 10 craziest things to rain down on humanity from the heavens.
1 Hodges Meteorite Strike
On the afternoon of Nov. 30, 1954, residents of Talladega County in Alabama noticed a fiery object shooting through the sky. Some reported a large explosion as it crashed to earth. Ann Elizabeth Hodges, though, neither saw nor heard any of it. Instead, as she lay napping in her living room, an 8-pound chunk of the meteorite smashed through her roof, ricocheted off a radio and hit her on the hip. Thus, Hodges—who received only a bruise from the incident—became the first recorded human to be struck by a meteorite.
2 Past and Future Fish Falls at Great Yarmouth
According to the British Weather Services, Great Yarmouth is the United Kingdom's most likely destination for strange objects falling from the sky. It cites "atmospheric stability" and Great Yarmouth's location on the North Sea as contributing factors to its ranking. Cool air from the sea converges with the warmer air on shore, sometimes causing the "mini tornadoes" that draw fish and other sea creatures out of the water and into storm clouds. In 2002, Great Yarmouth experienced a downpour of tiny silver fish, all dead, but still fresh.
3 Tri-State Mud Fall
Clouds from a massive dust storm that occurred in Illinois on April 11, 1902, were so large that they were whipped into the sky and blown across the eastern United States, where, encountering rain clouds over New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, they fell in the form of a mud shower. The event lasted only a few minutes but generated much attention. Writing from Penn Yan, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, a Times correspondent described the strange event: "People who were on the street were covered with mud spots, clothes hanging on the lines were smeared." The Rev. George P. Sewell, of Aurora, N.Y., wrote that the storm front was 40 miles across, adding that it "discolored or soiled everything exposed to it."
4 The Kentucky Meat Shower
Mrs. Allan Crouch, the wife of a Kentucky farmer, was in her yard making soap one cloudless Friday in 1876 when a downpour of meat flakes began falling around her. A correspondent for the Louisville Commercial reported that "two gentlemen who tasted the meat expressed the opinion that it was either mutton or venison." Subsequent analysis by scientists showed it probably was the former. Dr. L.D. Kastenbine, a professor of chemistry, wrote in the Louisville Medical News in 1876 that the "only plausible theory" was "the disgorgement of some vultures that were sailing over the spot."
5 Rubles Rain Over Russia
A treasure-transporting tornado is the given explanation for why a shower of 16th-century coins fell from the sky on June 16, 1940, in the Russian village of Meschera. Archaeologists who analyzed the aged currency supposed that it was from an undiscovered, buried trove that recently had been exposed by soil erosion before being scooped up and redeposited by the storm.
6 Lalain Toad Fall
One-hundred and fifty French soldiers were stationed near the village of Lalain in 1794 when a heavy rain began to fall. As the soldiers sought shelter from the storm, they were no doubt surprised to find that, in addition to the raindrops, the sky was also full of falling toads. Closer inspection revealed that many of the toads, a great number of which were discovered in the folds and creases of the men's hats and uniforms, still possessed tails. Toad falls, along with fish falls, are surprisingly common, and have an accepted scientific explanation. As a violent storm passes over a body of water, waterspouts spring up and lift the animals into the clouds, which then drop them farther along the storm's path.
7 Lake County Candy Shower
On two separate September nights in 1857, sugar crystals ranging in size from 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch, fell on the pleasantly surprised citizenry of Lake County in Northern California. According to the History of Napa and Lake Counties, published in 1881, "Syrup was made of it by some lady residents of the section." No cause was discovered and no explanation was ever provided, but the tome did conclude, "If this is a canard, it is surely a sweet one."
8 World's Largest Meteorite
The so-called Jilin meteorite streaked across the northeast China sky on March 18, 1976. Witnesses reported seeing a red fireball, which exploded and split in three before crashing to the ground. Investigations of the impact site revealed 11 large masses weighing a total of 4 metric tons. The so-called Meteorite 1, now on display at the Jilin Meteorite Museum in Jilin City, is the largest stone meteorite found in recent times.
9 San Luis Obispo Bird Fall
A street sweeper in San Luis Obispo, on the central California coast, reportedly was the first to discover a large-scale bird die-off that occurred there in 1976. On the morning of Nov. 24, he found hundreds of dead blackbirds and pigeons lying in the town's downtown area, and for two days the denizens of San Luis Obispo witnessed intermittent showers of dead birds. The California Department of Fish and Game speculated the birds were somehow poisoned, and later, California Polytechnic University admitted to setting out poison grains in a field near San Luis Obispo, in an attempt to control the bird population. Between 400 and 600 birds died as a result.
10 Golf Balls Over Florida
Local authorities were left baffled on Sept. 1, 1969, when a seemingly routine rainstorm took a dogleg turn for the bizarre, and began depositing golf balls in the gutters, lawns and streets of Punta Gorda. The St. Petersburg Times reported that "dozens and dozens and dozens" of golf balls fell from the sky, though no explanation was ever given. Located on Florida's western Gulf coast, Punta Gorda regularly experiences severe weather, which often causes waterspouts. The region is also home to many golf courses, so a logical explanation might be that a passing storm sipped up a ball-filled pond, then dropped its catch on the town.