02 October 2007

High Strangeness: Blood Fall (1884)

[Photograph of Francis P. Venable from the UNC Virtual Museum of University History.]

On a clear day in 1884, it rained blood on a farm in Chatham County.

"Pooh!" scoffs the Gentle Reader. "Nothing weird ever happens around here, except the '70s." Ah, but I can prove it.

The event had an eyewitness. There were other, more gentrified witnesses of the immediate aftermath. And none other than UNC chemist Francis Preston Venable (pictured) published an article, "'Fall of Blood' in Chatham County" in the Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society.

The March 6, 1884 issue of The Chatham Record took a dubious tone in its article "A Shower of Blood:"
We do not ask our readers to believe the following wonderful statement, but merely publish it as it is told us. The wife of Kit Lasater, a negro who lives on the farm of Mr. Silas Beckwith in New Hope township, states that, about 2 o'clock on Monday the 25th of February, while she was at the bars near her cabin a shower of blood fell around her from a sun-bright sky!
We are pleased to note that The Record elected not to include any gratuitous details of "negro" eye-rolling and hair-straightening. They couldn't resist, however, this zinger at the end:
We are informed that a reputable physician of the neighborhood visited the spot and said it was blood.
It's not inconceivable that a tenant farmer, no doubt proficient at slaughtering hogs and chickens, would easily be able to recognize blood. Nevertheless, every neighborhood should have a "reputable physician."

More white men came to behold the wonder. SA Holleman visited the next morning, later describing the scene to Venable:
The space covered was about fifty by seventy feet, and nearly in a rectangular form. The drops were of sizes varying from that of a small pea to that of a man's finger and averaged about one to the square foot...Some fell in the bushes and coagulated upon the limbs.
The "reputable physician" must have been a certain Dr Robinson, who, according to Venable, "made certain simple tests which satisfied him that it was blood." Venable's next sentence is more explicit: the sample passed the Robinson Sniff Test.

Samples of bloody sand got into the hands of Holleman and another doctor, Sidney Atwater. Atwater brought the samples to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for analysis.

"It was looked upon rather as a joke and no analysis was made for some time," Venable noted.

But when preliminary tests were conducted, something happened that must have made Venable's prodigious mustache curl up with a hilarious "tweeter" sound:

The blood was real.

To be continued.

Do you have stories of UFOs, ghosts or other weirdness that you'd like to see covered in the High Strangeness corner of the Chatham Rabbit? Email me: pborowest@yahoo.com


anonyMoses said...

Silas was my great-great-great-grandfather, which is to say he was really great...although, perhaps, I should have said "witches to say...".

I'm familiar with this story, and have often pondered its meaning.
I'd love to hear more about it, should you or readers know more about it.

Thanks again,
David Beckwith

tommy yum said...


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