Space Jelly


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Some paranormal phenomena are scary, and some are kind of cool. But space jelly is just kinda weird and disgusting, like getting slimed by a wraith in Ghostbusters. Space jelly, also known as star jelly or by its Welsh name, pwdre ser (which translates as “rot of the gods”), is a mysterious foul-smelling, viscous goop that is sometimes found in fields after meteor showers. It’s said to quickly vanish, which may explain why there doesn’t seem to be a reliable laboratory analysis of it to be found on the web.  The most frequent appearances of space jelly seem to be in the British Isles, but there are also reports of gooey residue being found in Australia, India and North America. Nobody is sure exactly what it is, where it comes from, or what actually causes it. Some have suspected that it is the result of a fungus, or regurgitation from frogs or birds. Others think it actually is deposited by meteors, though no one has ever explained how the goop would survive the heat and friction of falling through the Earth’s atmosphere.

People have been talking about space jelly for centuries. John Dryden mentioned it in his 1678 play Oedipus:


The shooting stars all end in purple jellies,
And chaos is at hand.

Similarly, Sir Walter Scott, the James Patterson of early 19th century England, slips in a reference to space jelly in his 1825 novel, The Talisman.


“Seek a fallen star,” said the hermit, “and thou shalt only light on some foul jelly, which, in shooting through the horizon, has assumed for a moment an appearance of splendour.”

Unfortunately, the scientific literature on space jelly is a lot less illuminating. In 1910, T. McKenny Hughes published a lengthy article in the journal Science, in which he traced the history of the phenomenon and obtained a sample of the goop of southwest Wales. Unfortunately, he didn’t do a chemical analysis of the stuff, but he did pass it along to a Cambridge University botanist. The latter concluded that that it was bacterial in origin, but Hughes wasn’t satisfied with that explanation:


The jelly seemed to me to grow out from among the roots of the grass, and the part still tangled in the grass seemed not only translucent but quite transparent. What is it, and what is the cause of it having a meteoric origin assigned to it?

An article from SFGate.com and various paranormal-oriented web sites also mention an occurrence in Philadelphia in 1950, in which police officers supposedly observed a blob of light-emitting star jelly, freshly emitted by a fallen meteor, crawling up a telephone pole before it vanished. Oddly, I haven’t been able to find any contemporary newspaper accounts of the bizarre incident, which is said to have been the inspiration for the 1958 sci-fi horror flick “The Blob.”

Last year, BBC Radio’s Scotland Outdoors program asked scientists to examine samples of space jelly. But they weren’t able to figure out what it was, either. Hans Sluiman, an algae expert at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, told the program that the goop didn’t seem to be of plant or animal origin. Andy Taylor, a scientist at the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute in Aberdeen, found fungus filaments in the slime, but noted that they appeared to be growing in the stuff rather than creating it. He ran a DNA test on the sample, but because of contamination, the results were inconclusive.


So what do you think? Have any of you out there actually found a sample of this gelatinous enigma? What do you think space jelly is? We’d love to hear your theories.

Paranatural: Blood Rain and Star Jelly” premieres Monday June 7 at 9P et/pt.

Comments

  1. shabbychic
    June 4, 2010, 4:17 am

    I love that there are things right here on our Earth like this, that people still have no explanation for. It’s just cool and makes life more fun!

  2. blue52
    June 8, 2010, 2:18 am

    I caught the last few minutes of your episode tonight and upon seeing it, I knew I had seen one of these jelly-like blobs years ago in my yard in upstate NY. It smelled so disgusting and very strong that I could smell it over 100 feet away. Not knowing what it was, I poured straight bleach over it to get rid of the odor. So my question is, if someone finds one of these things, what should they do?

  3. hiawatha
    June 8, 2010, 8:04 pm

    I found some weird clear jelly on the front porch this afternoon when I got home..I know it was not there is morning. I took pics and put a sample in the freezer…. anyone else in Indiana find any?

  4. Nauri
    June 15, 2010, 3:42 pm

    Sunday, June 13th, my husband found a blob of goo on the picnic table and called me out to have a look. Soon we found more of it all around the area. A huge blob of it clung to a tree branch high overhead, splatters and blobs dotted the grass, cement, siding, and wood pile. It was clear, very sticky, fairly firm yet squishy. We didn’t notice an odor, but we weren’t willing to stick our faces close enough to sniff it. It felt something like sterno when crushed into smaller, granule-like pieces, but more like warm gum before breaking. The surface had a shine, but with just a few minutes of direct sunlight became dull.
    Later that day, we came across the show about star jelly and could not help but believe we had experienced that very thing. Little bits of it continued to appear or rain down throughout most of the morning and afternoon – we’d get one area cleared of the goo, move onto another area, and upon returning to previous spots find more. The picnic table and cement pads seemed to attract the most, although admittedly it was harder to find in the grass if we weren’t standing right over it. It sounded like raindrops – some soft pings, some big splats – but when we hefted larger blobs and dropped them, they made much more noise – perhaps they had dried to a more solidified state?
    We, too, are curious about what to do with the stuff that we bagged and stuck in the fridge.

  5. crockford
    June 24, 2010, 9:19 pm

    I had someone I completely trust say they found some wierd jelly that looked like gelatinized ice cubes in their yard. His wife called me and told me to swing by if I had time. I didn’t get over there, because I had to go out of town for a few days. When I was gone, someone else stopped into the office with a similar sample. I recieved this one today and it looks like jelly icecubes. I’ve tried to find information about this, came across the NatGeo broadcast. Who do we go to with this?

  6. crockford
    June 28, 2010, 6:28 pm

    Another batch of this came in. what became of everyone else’s goo?

  7. LuisCarranza
    May 22, 2011, 6:00 pm

    You know guys, somehow I think this could be lighthing some new facts in the origin of life in our planet. As the article itself mentions, fungus actually grows in this ‘thing’, and it is thought to be of bacterial origin. So, what if this jelly is what first inserted life as a posibility here on Earth?