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What Were the Oakville Blobs?

In 1994, inexplicable blobs fell from Oakville skies.

"Welcome to Oakville" sign
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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Oakville, Washington is a small town boasting a population of less than 1,000 people. If you're from a small town yourself, you know not much happens in these places.

But in the summer of 1994, something did.

Like any town in Washington, Oakville was used to its share of rain. But the rain that fell on that day—August 7th—was no ordinary rain.

A strange phenomenon occurred when blobs of clear gelatinous goo fell from the sky. Soon after the town was covered in this thick substance, people began getting sick.

Reports of the strange substance describe the drops as no larger than a grain of rice. While the globs were translucent, they were so thick that they made visibility through windshields almost impossible.

And perhaps weirder than one inexplicable torrential downpour of goo is the fact that, in the three weeks following the August 7th incident, there were five more reports of raining blobs, all within twenty square miles.

The sickness struck the people of Oakville the first day it rained the blobs. After making contact with the blobs or being in close proximity, individuals developed flu-like symptoms, including fatigue and nausea. 

As people became violently ill, some had trouble breathing. One woman, Dotty Hearne, collapsed from her symptoms, only to be hospitalized for three days with an ear infection. There were even reports of animals dying.

But what was this strange goop? And was it truly connected to the sickness wreaking havoc across Oakville?

Why did the Oakville Blobs make people sick?

The local hospital tested the substance and found that it contained human white blood cells. Meanwhile, Dotty Hearne's daughter, Sunny Barclift, sent a sample of one of the blobs to Washington State's Hazardous Material Unit at the Department of Ecology.

Scientist Mike Osweiler declared their investigation found two types of bacteria within these blobs, yet they could not identify which kinds. However, argued that the blobs could not contain human white blood cells, as the cells in the blobs did not have nuclei.

When the Oakville Blobs were featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, microbiologist Mike McDowell was able to identify one of the strains of bacteria as on that was known to have adverse effects on the human digestive system.

Any further testing was derailed when the samples disappeared from McDowell's lab.

What were the Oakville Blobs made of?

As for what exactly these Jell-o-like globs were, there is no accepted answer. But of course, there are plenty of theories.

One small but passionate group believes the Oakville Blobs to be jellyfish. Or parts of them, at least. The theory behind this is that bombing runs performed by the Air Force cause jellyfish particles to be dispersed into rain clouds.

Although it was confirmed that these tests were done in the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles away from Oakville, the rest of the claim remains unsubstantiated.

Another theory points to these blobs being made up of “star jelly.” Reports of star jelly, also known as astral jelly or astromyxin, go back as far as the 14th century. Described in much the same way as the Oakville Blobs, this substance is named after the legend that claims the goo hails from the sky during meteor showers.

Legend aside, no one can actually agree on the origin of star jelly. Research has found reports of star jelly to be frog spawn, sodium polyacrylate crystals, algae, and beyond.

Other appearances of this jelly, as in Somerset's Ham Wall Nature Reserve in 2013, remain unidentified.

A third theory about the blobs asserted that they were fluid waste from an airplane toilet. It would explain why white blood cells might have been present, and why airplane lavatory systems implement antifreeze, which would cause the symptoms to spread across town.

The US Federal Aviation Administration jumped into the conversation to refute this claim, citing the fact that airplane waste would have a blue coloring rather than translucence.

The fact that it's nearly impossible to verify the most sensational of the reports makes it all the more difficult to say what the Oakville Blobs actually were. Not only can it not be verified that any samples of the goo mysteriously vanished, but oddly enough, there's no record of the Washington Department of Health even receiving a sample to begin with.

As for the rain, it supposedly came in the middle of the night and cannot be factually corroborated. Some believe the blobs didn't fall from the sky at all, but came from a more earthbound source.

It's not impossible to believe the mystery substance came from the sky, however, as stranger occurrences—such as meat falling from the sky and frogs raining with a storm—have been documented.

Still, as there are no remaining samples, the investigation into this bizarre phenomenon has officially hit a dead end.