May 8, 1997, Unsolved Mysteries
Robert Stack: It came from the skies to wreck havoc on the earth. It sounds like a bad science fiction movie, but for the little town in Washington there was nothing entertaining about the scourge that befell them in 1994. Six times it rained down from above, leaving dozens of local residents ill, and several pets and small animals dead. It all happened in Oakville, Washington, population 665. Here in Oakville, clouds fill the skies daily, bringing rain some 275 days a year. So, when it began pouring on the morning of August 7, 1994, no one was particularly concerned - until they realized it wasn't raining rain. It was raining tiny blobs of gelatinous goo. It came down in torrents, blanketing 20 square miles, and brought with it something of a plague.
Maurice Gobeil (local resident): I got sick, my wife got sick, my daughter got sick and everybody that lived here got sick.
Beverly Roberts (local resident): Everybody in the whole town came down with something like the flu, only it was a really hard flu that lasted from seven weeks to two or three months.
Robert Stack: The local police were among the first to report the perplexing precipitation. Officer David Lacey was on patrol with a civilian friend at 3am when the downpour began.
David Lacey (police officer): We turned our windshield wipers on, and it just started smearing to the point where we could almost not see. We both looked at each other and we said 'gee this isn't right'. We're out in the middle of nowhere, basically, and where did this come from?
Robert Stack: Officer Lacey pulled into a gas station to de-goo his windshield. As an added precaution, he put on a pair of latex gloves.
David Lacey (police officer): The substance was very mushy, almost like if you had jello in your hand. You know, you could pretty much squish it through your fingers. We knew it wasn't something we would normally see, because we had never experienced it before. We had some bells go off in our heads that said that basically 'this isn't right, this isn't normal.
Robert Stack: Local resident Dotty Hearn was equally baffled. By the time she stepped outside that morning, the storm had ended, but the blobs were everywhere.
Dotty Hearn (local resident): It looked like hail, laying on top of the wood box and everywhere else, so I just went over and I touched it. It wasn't hail. It was a gelatinous material.
Robert Stack: By mid-afternoon, officer Lacey had inexplicably taken ill.
David Lacey (police officer): I was to the point where I could hardly breathe. I started to put together that possibly whatever the substance was, it had made me violently sick and ill like I had never been before, to the point where it just totally shut me down.
Robert Stack: Across town, Dotty Hearn wasn't fairing much better.
Dotty Hearn (local resident): I started feeling dizzy, and everything started moving around. It got worse, and as it did I became increasingly nauseated.
Robert Stack: An hour later, Dotty's daughter and son found her sprawled on the bathroom floor.
Sunny Barclift: She was cold, drenched with perspiration and pale. My mom had been vomiting, had extreme vertigo and had been complaining that she had extreme difficulty with her vision.
Robert Stack: Dotty would spend the next three days in the hospital. They diagnosed her with "a severe inner ear infection.
Sunny: For some reason, as we were going out the door, I remembered the substance, and I wondered if perhaps it might have had some sort of effect on her. So, I opted at that moment to take a sample of the gelatinous material to the hospital.
Robert Stack: A lab technician found the first startling clue. The substance contained human white blood cells, but exactly what it was could not be determined. The goo was promptly forwarded to the Washington State Department of Health for further analysis.
Mike McDowell (microbiologist, WSDH): It was very uniform. There was no structure that we could see visibly with a microscope. I set it up on various microbiological media and attempted to isolate bacteria.
Robert Stack: Mike McDowell discovered that the sample was literally teaming with two species of bacteria, one of which make its home in the human digestive system.
Sunny: The initial speculation was that it might have been human waste from an airliner, however that was out, because under FAA regulations aircraft waste matter is dyed blue. This material was not blue, but crystal clear in color.
Robert Stack: The blobs rained down over Oakville six times over a three week period. Dozens of people took ill and many animals died after coming into contact with the toxic droplets. But the nature of the substance, and any connection it may have had with the outbreak, remained a mystery. Dotty took a sample of the material to a private research lab.
Tim Davis (Microbiologist, Amtest Labs): Here we have sample 128-76. I saw what I think was a eukaryotic cell, which was basically a cell that has a definable nucleus and is present in most animals.
Robert Stack: Translation? The goo was alive. How in the world did living matter make its way into the clouds? It was as mind-boggling as the substance itself. Perhaps inevitably, the finger of suspicion was pointed directly at the military. The Air Force denies any knowledge of the substance, or any involvement in creating or dispersing it. Local residents, however, don't buy it.
Sunny: We had a significant number of military aircraft flying over the home prior to this happening.
Dotty: Every day almost, there were low flying helicopters that were black in color. We kind of thought it might have come from them.
Maurice: They let off things in the air all the time here. There's testing done all over the place. There are places you can't go into.
Robert Stack: Translation - germ warfare. However, it seems unlikely, given the severe international restrictions regarding experiments with biological weapons in populated areas. At present, it is impossible to say what this goo was or where it came from. Unfortunately, all samples of this substance are gone, making further study impossible. Perhaps the answer will come someday soon, when the skies open up over another small community, and the blobs once again fall to earth.