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No. 40: Jul-Aug 1985

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Vanishing Goo

"Some time between the 12th and 18th of December (1983), the west end of North Reading in Massachusetts was bombarded with blobs of jelly-like goo, greyish-white and oily-smelling. The first blob -- two feet in diameter -- was found by Thomas Grinley in his driveway. He thought something was leaking from his car until he found similar blobs on Main Street and on the gas station pumps. State officials denied that the blobs were dropped by a plane. They were soon absorbed into the pavement, but a little goo was saved and was being studied at the state's Department of Environmental Quality Engineering. Preliminary results showed that they were not toxic."

(Anonymous; "Vanishing Goo," Fortean Times, no. 43, p. 23, Spring 1985. Extracted from USA Today of December 22, 1983.)

Comment. These disappearing blobs represent a typically Fortean phenomenon with a history going back before the first aircraft. The reports are generally ridiculed and quickly written off. Given their historical persistence, perhaps we should pay more attention to them, trivial though they seem.

Speaking of falling goo, a detailed historical study of pwdre ser in folklore and science has just appeared. Pwdre ser, as readers of our Handbooks and Catalogs will know, is the Welsh name for star jelly. That jelly-like lumps of materials have been found in the fields after the fall of a shooting star is an integral part of European folklore. Here is a typical poetic mention by Donne:

"As he that sees a starre fall, runs apace, And findes a gellie in the place..."

(Belcher, Hilary, and Swale, Erica; "Catch a Falling Star," Folklore, 95: 210, 1984.)

Reference. Pwdre ser and similar fallen substances are cataloged in GWF7 in: Tornados, Dark Days. For more information on this book, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #40, JUL-AUG 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987