8/7/1994 – Oakville, Washington
Details: On August 7, 1994, in Oakville, Washington at 3am, rain began to fall, blanketing a 20 square mile area. Though that is common in the area, residents began to note that it was not water but a strange, gelatinous substance they had never seen before. Over a period of three weeks, it would fall a total of six times. At the time it first began, Officer David Lacey was on patrol with a civilian friend. When he turned his windshield wipers on, they smeared it against the glass instead of washing it off. The obscured windshield forced him to pull into a gas station to try and clean it manually, after donning a pair of latex gloves for safety. He described the substance as being “very mushy, almost like if you had jello in your hand.” Local resident Dotty Hearn stepped outside after it had stopped and noticed it was everywhere. At first, the rice-sized blobs looked like hailstones to her, but when she touched them, she noticed that they had an odd gelatinous texture.
By the afternoon that day, David, Dotty, and various other residents had become mysteriously and violently ill. They described having difficulty breathing, extreme vertigo, blurred vision, and an increasing sense of nausea. Beverly Roberts, another resident of the area, said that everyone in town contracted a flu-like illness that lasted two to three months. Additionally, several cats and dogs that came into contact with the substance fell ill and died. An hour after first noticing her symptoms, Dotty was found sprawled on her bathroom floor, conscious but very weak. Her daughter, Sunny Barclift, described her as feeling cold and sweat-drenched and looking pale. She was moved to the hospital where she stayed for three days and was diagnosed with a severe inner ear infection. As she was being moved to there, Sunny remembered the odd rain and, thinking there might be a connection to her mother’s illness, collected a sample and sent it to the hospital. A lab technician examined it and found that it contained human white blood cells but couldn’t identify what it was or how it came from the sky.
The sample was quickly sent to the Washington State Department of Health for further study. Mike McDowell, a microbiologist at the department, noted that it was teeming with two species of bacteria, one of which lives in the human digestive system. Because of his findings, it was initially speculated to be human waste from an airplane, but Federal Aviation Administration regulations require that to be dyed blue, while it was perfectly clear. Furthermore, regulations forbid pilots from releasing this “blue ice” in mid-flight. Nearly a year after Dotty fell ill, she mailed a sample she had stored in her freezer to AmTest Laboratories, a private research lab. There, while analyzing it, Tim Davis, another microbiologist, believed he saw an Eukaryotic cell; complex, nucleus-containing cells that are present in most living creatures. This meant that it is or had been alive.
One theory as to its origins was that one of the military’s naval bombing runs at sea had accidentally destroyed a school of jellyfish and sent their pieces flying into the atmosphere, (Star Jelly) where they settled in Oakville, 50 miles inland. The distance the parts would have to travel, the number of times it fell, and the lack of any rotting smell in it put this theory in doubt to most residents. While the Air Force confirms that they were doing practice bombing runs over the Pacific Ocean in August 1994, they deny knowledge of the substance or any involvement in creating or dispersing it.
The locals of Oakville are skeptical of this; prior to it, many residents noticed a significant – almost daily – amount of slow-moving military aircraft in the skies above their town. Some believe Oakville was the site of a military experiment, designed to test a new biological weapon or to test the possible damage a biological attack on U.S. soil could do. No samples of the substance exist today.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the May 9, 1997 episode.