A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Did Mrs. Sybil Christian of Frisco, Texas, find blobs from space on her lawn?

May 31, 1985

Dear Cecil:

I've saved a newspaper clipping reporting that during the height of a meteor shower on August 11, 1979, three oozing, purple "blobs" were found on a lawn in Frisco, Texas. These blobs were not your ordinary garden variety — they had some very strange properties. Surmising that the blobs fell from space, NASA removed them for testing. I've finally given up waiting for a follow-up on this in the newspapers, and have decided to turn to you. Cecil, what do NASA's secret files say about these blobs? Were they really some sort of smegma from space, or just lumps of grape Jell-O that some kid flung out the window?

Cecil replies:

Cecil has gotten to be pretty chummy with the folks at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Houston, and as a result they don't get mad and slam down the phone when he calls up to ask about weird blobs from space. [NOTE: This was written before Cecil's latest inquiries about sex in orbit.] If only some of the other victims of my interrogations would be as considerate. Here's the whole story, as told by NASA geochemist Doug Blanchard:

The blobs were found by Mrs. Sybil Christian on the front lawn of her home in Frisco, a farming town near Dallas. She described them as looking like "smooth whipped cream, [only] purple." The blobs, which were about the size of a telephone and weighed a couple pounds apiece, were warm to the touch and contained small chunks of lead. One melted away on the lawn, but police took the remaining two to the Heard National Space Museum nearby, and eventually one ended up at NASA.

The Perseid meteor shower had reached its height around August 11, and one of Mrs. Christian's neighbors said she had seen a meteor just a few hours before the blobs were discovered. This gave rise to the story about the blobs' extraterrestrial origin. However, an enterprising gent named Ron DiIulio, assistant director of the Forth Worth Museum of Science and History, didn't buy it. Along with a couple newspaper people he commenced prowling around factories near the Christian home. Eventually they came upon a battery reprocessing plant about a mile and a half away, in the back of which they found — voila! — several tons of purple and reddish blobs. The stuff was a caustic soda used to clean impurities out of lead that had been salvaged from old batteries. It was also learned that trucks carrying scrap iron went past the caustic soda dump and the Christians' house every day. The mystery was declared to be solved.

But some still have their doubts. The distinguished scientific journal Fate, a great believer in UFOs and the like, published a long article claiming the purple blobs were — you had better sit down for this — Star Jelly, also known as Pwdre Ser, or "Rot of the Stars." Gelatinous mounds of this stuff supposedly have been found on several occasions following reports of shooting stars. The article goes on to speculate that Pwdre Ser may be "advanced cellular organic matter" that exists in "prestellar molecular clouds" floating around in space. In support of this thesis, the story notes that: (1) a simple test that could have conclusively proved the purple blobs were caustic soda was never performed; (2) the one test that was performed was inconclusive; (3) the blobs at the battery reprocessing plant were hard, whereas the blobs on the Christians' lawn were soft; and (4) Mrs. Christian herself does not believe the goo she found was the same as the stuff at the plant. In rebuttal, the scientists claim that Mrs. Christian's blobs were soft because they had absorbed water when she squirted them with a hose. (Mrs. Christian's notions of an effective planetary defense were a bit quaint.) At this late remove it's difficult for Cecil to make a definitive judgment on the whole affair, but I offer this word of advice to the Teeming Millions: next time you find some cosmic mucus out on the patio, call Unca Cecil first.

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