The carnal rain, that is a rain of blood and meet, that fell not once but twice in the history of the southern US was certainly weird. I am excited to share this bit of history with you, cousins.
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Carnal Rain Transcript
Imagine for a moment, standing outside on a hot day, getting work done on the farm. Sweat drips and you long for a cool rain shower to wash away the salt and dirt from your brow. Nature isn’t always in a giving mood, as you well know. And sometimes, when she gives, it’s in a manner wholly unlike anything you can fathom.
Welcome cousin to Haint n Holler podcast. I’m D, your guide through the strange and unusual stories of the South. Today’s story is about as strange as one can get. I’m talking about apocalyptic weird.
Rain of Blood and Meat that occurred not just once but twice in the regional history of my home states, Kentucky and Tennessee.
August 17th, 1841, just after noon, a tobacco farm in Wilson County, Tennessee, just north-east of Lebanon, experienced a rain of blood. Cousin, I can only imagine the horror the witnesses experienced as the gore fell upon them that day. The grizzly scene left a sprinkling of congealed blood, tissue, fat, and even a small piece of rotting meat on the green leaves of the tobacco. The scene stretched over six hundred yards.
Speculation went wild, of course. As my mama said upon hearing the story, it was like something out of the plagues of Egypt.
However, rational and sensible Dr. Gerard Troost who was a professor at University of Nashville and Tennessee State Geologist, had more secular reasons for the horror that befell Wilson County. Troost was no stranger to blood. Before coming to America he was a military doctor and sustained injuries to his leg and head. He’d seen fields soaked in the blood of men and, upon investigating what fell on Wilson county, said this was not what it appeared to be.
Lab tests Troost conducted proved that the gore was animal and from our earth, rather than something paranormal or extraterrestrial. He claimed that it was likely the remnants of a desiccated cow or similar beast. As for how it came to fall from the sky in pieces, the blame was placed upon strong wind that carried the remains across a long distance in the atmosphere only to drop from a viscous electric cloud. Now, I was unable to find any storms or tornadoes recorded in 1841 to explain this phenomenon but, according to the American Journal of Science I quote “There is now no room to relate or discuss these statements, and it remains only to give to the conclusion of Dr. Troost.”
A similar occurrence happened over 30 years later in Bath County, Kentucky – 250 plus miles away from Wilson County, Tennessee. Spring 1876, what appeared to be chunks of red meat measuring about 2 inches, with at least one being 4 inches, fell from the sky over a 100 yard area near the settlement of Olympia Springs. There exist several explanations as to how this occurred and what the “meat” was. The exact type of meat was never identified, although various reports suggested it was beef, lamb, deer, bear, horse, or even human.
Mrs. Mary Crouch, wife to Allen who was a farmer by trade, was making soap on her porch when she reported seeing the meat fall from the sky. She told the New York Herald the following:
“On Friday morning, March 3rd, between the hours of eleven and twelve o’clock, I was in my yard, not more than forty steps from the door of the room in which we are now sitting. The skies were clear and the sun was shining brightly. There was a slight wind coming from a westerly direction. Without any prelude or warning and exactly under these circumstances the shower commenced. The fall was of not less than one nor more than two minutes duration. I never touched any of the flesh until my husband came home. I noticed little whirlwinds in the mountains during the morning and predicted rain from that fact.
When the flesh began to fall I said to my grandson, who was the only person in the yard with me at the time, “What is that falling, Allan?”
He looked up and said, “Why grandma, it’s snowing.”
I then walked around and saw a large piece of it strike the ground right behind me, with a snapping like noise when it struck. A vague idea that my husband and son, who were away, had been torn to pieces and their remains were being brought home to me in this way by the wind flashed through my mind at the moment. I was also impressed with the conviction that it was a miracle of God which as yet we do not understand. It may have been a warning, as ‘coming events’ are sad to ‘cast their shadows before.’”
Unfortunately for Mary, a rumor circulated in Mount Sterling. It was known she and her husband quarrelled over the land. Mary wanting to sell and leave this place and Allen wanting to remain. The rumor swelled on the day of the carnal rain – whispers slipped and slithered. Did Mary cause the gruesome display somehow? Whether she did or not, Mr. Crouch was later found amenable to moving to Indiana where they had family.
Of course, scientists offered their more rational opinions.
Newark Scientific Association analyzed the meat. Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton appearing in the Medical Record stating the meat had been identified as lung tissue from either a horse or a human infant, “the structure of the organ in these two cases being almost identical.” Other meat samples were identified as lung tissue, muscle, and cartilage.
The initial theory related to the past Tennessee case. Wind and rain had brought the desiccated corpse matter to the Crouch farm. However, there had been no rain and the wind had been light.
Locals favored the explanation that the meat was vomited up by buzzards. Dr. L. D. Kastenbine presented this theory in the Louisville Medical News as the best explanation of the variety of meat Vultures vomit as part of making a quick escape and defensive method when threatened.
But Mary said nothing about seeing birds. On top of that, while vultures do regurgitate to escape dangers and can fly high enough to not be seen with the naked eye, they don’t do so in the air and not in unison enough to cover such a large space. Lastly, wouldn’t this be a more common occurrence if vultures were able to rain carrion on us?
We can only speculate cousin.
No such carnal rain has been recorded in the area since the turn of the century. We can only hope the skies remain free of such weather in the future.
A Note on Weather Omens
Hey cousin, welcome to part two of the podcast where we step away from the lore and into the practices of our southern folkways.
Today, we’re talking about weather omens.
At the time of this recording, we are in the death throws of summer and the chilled fingers of fall are just now starting to touch our lives. We see this in our cool, dewy mornings and our misty evenings like ghosts warning us of the cold darkness to come.
Old timers and those who know nature better than we know our own names and faces, would tell us that nature will talk to you if you will just be still a moment and listen. She speaks to us in an ancient language mankind knew before we formed words of our own. The language that is written in the way birds fly, the way flowers bloom and wither, and in the way our fellow creatures of the earth go about their business – the same ways they’ve been moving since time immemorial while mankind got too busy with their own creating and doing.
This language is read today, in the south, as watching for signs. It has a poetic language all its own – cryptic messages that might steer us well if we only take a moment to remember and learn.
My favorite bit of weather folklore is a simple saying – rain while the sun is shining, the devil is beating his wife. I thought this was the strangest saying and you can imagine my surprise when I learned recently that it was not only common among the south but also across the United States and elsewhere.
The first documentation of this folksy saying was in the early 1700s in a French play. Since then it has been documented in various anthropological articles along with its variants. What peeked my interest was that, in the south especially, there was not only the statement but a practice or method in which people could witness the abuse occur. Supposedly if you were to put a pin in the ground while the rain poured and sun shone, you could hear the devil beat his wife. Others said that instead of a pin, a horseshoe with or without a handkerchief was needed. In order to see the act, you would have to cross a fork and a knife then slip behind a door. From there, if you watch through the gap in the hinge side, you can see the devil beating his wife.
Who the wife is and why the act occurs during the mix of rain and sun is unknown. One person, who remained anonymous, suggested that it was due to the occurrence of rain and sun being unlikely – as unlikely as a woman marrying the devil. However, rain and sun together aren’t exactly a rarity, just uncommon, and history notes many unfortunate women who supposedly had relations with the devil rendering this suggestion unlikely.
A weather sign that you can be on the look out now or in the future during the change of seasons from summer to fall to winter, is the woolly worm. This caterpillar, also known as a woolly bear, is much like a groundhog in his prediction capacity.
According to folklore, the amount of black on the woolly bear in autumn varies proportionately with the severity of the coming winter in the locality where the caterpillar is found. The longer the woolly bear’s black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be. Similarly, the wider the middle brown band is associated with a milder upcoming winter. The position of the longest dark bands supposedly indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest.If the head end of the caterpillar is dark, the beginning of winter will be severe. If the tail end is dark, the end of winter will be cold. In addition, the woolly bear caterpillar has 13 segments to its body, which traditional forecasters say correspond to the 13 weeks of winter.
As with most folklore, there are 2 other versions to this story. The first one says that the woolly bear caterpillar’s coat will indicate the upcoming winter’s severity. So, if its coat is very woolly, it will be a cold winter. The final version deals with the woolly bear caterpillar’s direction of travel of the worms. It is said that woolly bear’s crawling in a southerly direction are trying to escape the cold winter conditions of the north. On the other hand, woolly bear’s crawling on a northward path would indicate a mild winter.
Keeping such weather predictors and sayings in mind helps folks feel more in control when it comes to the uncontrollable forces of nature. It gives us a feeling that, in a way, Nature herself is not always out to get us but perhaps, if we listen closely to her language, she can guide us through or show us something magical.
Well cousin, I hope you enjoyed this bit of down home education. Be sure to subscribe for more of the kind. If you’d like a peek at what lies beyond the story, the strange paths we tread to find these histories and folk practices, head on over to our Patreon. Every dollar in the offering plate helps us keep the mic recording. Thank you cousins, see you next time on Haint n Holler podcast.