What Were the Oakville Blobs and What Caused Them?

One early morning in a small town in Washington State, it began raining blobs of gelatinous goo. The extraordinary phenomenon did not end there. Soon after the appearance of the Oakville Blobs, people started getting sick.

Mysteries Mysteries
17 May 2022

In the summer of 1994, the small town of Oakville in Washington State experienced an extraordinary phenomenon.

Instead of water, it began raining blobs. Gelatinous, clear goo splattered across windscreens, covering buildings and earth. And that’s when people began getting sick.

This strange phenomenon became known as the Oakville Blobs.

Oakville Blobs

Heavy blob-type rain obscuring the windscreen. (Photo: heyfajrul via iStock)

Oakville in Washington State was accustomed to rain, lots of rain. However, the torrential kind that fell on 7th August 1994 was no ordinary rain. Residents in the small city reported that what fell from the sky was not water, but gloopy, translucent blobs, each no bigger than a single grain of rice.

One police officer, David Lacey, recounted seeing the goop hit his windscreen while on patrol at 3am. Speaking on the television program Unsolved Mysteries, he compared it to Jell-O and said:

“We turned our windshield wipers on and it just started smearing to the point where we could almost not see.”

Another local, Dotty Hearn, described it as looking “like hail laying on top of the wood box and everywhere else”.

Over the next three weeks, there would be five more occasions of reports of raining blobs over an area of some twenty square miles.

Sickness

Getting sick after being in contact with the blobs (Photo: Marcos Calvo via iStock)

The very day of the raining blobs, people started getting sick, both Officer Lacey and Dotty Hearne among them. There were reports of people developing flu-like symptoms from contact or proximity to the blobs, even of animals dying.

Officer Lacey described being “violently sick” and having difficulty breathing. Dotty Hearne collapsed, also finding it hard to breathe, and was hospitalised for three days with an ear infection.

So, what was that mushy gloop? And did it have any connection with the reported sickness?

Investigating the Oakville Washington Blobs

Cell division (Photo: vchal via iStock)

Sunny Barclift, Dotty Hearne’s daughter, suspected a correlation between the raining blobs and her mother’s illness. So she sent a sample of the Oakville Blobs to the Hazardous Material Unit at the Department of Ecology of Washington State.

On Unsolved Mysteries, microbiologist Mike McDowell recalled finding two species of bacteria in the Oakville Blobs. One of these was known to infect the human digestive system.

According to an article in the New York Times on 20th August 1994, scientist Mike Osweiler of the Washington State Department said they found “a number of cells of various sizes” and two types of bacteria in the blobs, but were unable to identify them. They did, however, note that the cells did not have nuclei. This was significant in that it refuted a previous claim that the blobs contained human white blood cells, which do have nuclei.

Explaining the Blobs in Oakville

Tiny Jelly fish on beach (Photo: WATTANAYUT via iStock)

So, what were the Oakville Blobs? A small but vocal contingent believes they were jellyfish. Jellyfish parts to be precise, dispersed into rain clouds by bombing runs carried out by the Air Force. While the bombing was confirmed around 50 miles away in the Pacific, this idea is unsubstantiated.

Fluid waste from an aeroplane toilet was another possibility raised at the time. However, the US Federal Aviation Administration pointed out that this would have been blue, not translucent like the Oakville Washington Blobs.

There is, of course, the chance that the raining blobs never “rained” in the first place. That they emerged from a more earthly plane. Whilst this would require overlooking the witness statements of those who saw the blobs fall, it has been mooted as a theory.

Were the Oakville Blobs Star Jelly?

A mysterious substance (Photo: stealasecond via iStock)

Ever since the 14th century, there have been reports of a substance very similar to the blobs in Oakville being found elsewhere. It’s called ‘star jelly’, ‘astral jelly’ or ‘astromyxin’, and is named after the legend that it falls from the sky during meteor showers. That’s not to say that anyone agrees on the nature of star jelly.

Whilst it has on occasion been proved to be, inter alia, frog spawn, sodium polyacrylate crystals or algae, there are many unexplained instances, including in the UK. In 2013, slime was found at the Ham Wall Nature Reserve in Somerset. Despite sending it for DNA testing at the Natural History Museum, no conclusion was ever forthcoming.

The Truth is not Out There

Will we see the mysterious blobs again? (Photo: a_Taiga via Getty Images)

All the original, uncollected blobs have long disappeared and there are no known remaining samples of the Oakville Blobs, including at the Washington Department of Health. In fact, they apparently have no records of ever receiving any. So where does this leave investigations? It seems that, unless they make another appearance, explaining the blobs in Oakville and any connection they may have had to the sickness that spread in their aftermath may be forever out of reach.

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