It’s 1958 and you’re standing in line for the latest horror movie to hit the big screen, The Blob starring Steven McQueen. What you and your fellow movie-goers may be unaware of is that the terror-filled film you are about to watch was inspired by real events!
Flash back to the September 27, 1950 issue of the Philadelphia Enquirer and the headline that announces FLYING ‘SAUCER’ JUST DISSOLVES! The article begins, “Four South Philadelphia police officers had a new explanation last night for what happens to those flying saucers that people are always seeing. They dissolve.”
Two veteran police officers, John Collins and Joe Keenan are out on a routine patrol when they see something unusual in the night sky, a large, glowing, purplish-colored object drifting down to earth. They immediately head towards it in their patrol car and determine the object is going to land in a large, open field about half a block from Vare Avenue and 26th Street. The object reportedly glittered in their headlights as they got closer. After parking, the officers grabbed their flashlights and entered the field, finding a ‘purple jelly’. The substance, approximately six feet in diameter and nearly a foot thick at the center, quivered and appeared to pulse. As if that were not strange enough, when they turned off their flashlights, the purple glob glowed brightly enough to illuminated part of the field. The officers said they got the distinct impression that whatever it was, this thing was alive and they needed backup!
Two more officers, James Cooper and Sergeant Joe Cook, arrived minutes later. After what must have been one of the most bizarre conversations the four men would ever have in their lives, it was decided to try and lift it and get some sort of sample. They circled the mass. Collins was the first to work up the courage to actually touch it. Upon doing so, the blob immediately began to dissolve. It left some traces on his hands, but those too quickly vanished, leaving nothing more behind than an ‘odorless scum’. In less than half an hour the entire object had dissolved.
Seven years later, this particular purple glob would go on to inspire the movie 1958 you is standing in line to see.
Star Jelly. Not Purple. Not Glowing.
However, this was neither the first, nor last, reported incoming glob-blob sighting to fall to earth. Reports date back to as far as the 14th century and as recently as 2001 in both England and Massachusetts. The most common explanation is a substance called ‘Star-Jelly’, believed to be material carried into the Earth’s atmosphere via meteors. It’s not alive, it’s just space goo, the skeptics claim. Another explanation reports that these masses of quivering gel are nothing more than puddles of dead frog eggs. It’s claimed by experts that the eggs could have been dropped by a bird who caught a female frog primed to deposit her eggs. As the bird’s sharp talons disembowel its grab and go meal on the wing, the eggs are unceremoniously spilled and fall back to the ground.
Frog Spawn. Still not purple. Still not glowing.
This is all well and good and may explain some of this mystery, but neither of these hypotheses explains the purple glow, the pulsing, or the massive size of the 1950 Philadelphia sighting. That had to have been one hell of a big frog, not to mention the size of the bird it must have taken to catch and carry that unfortunate amphibian away. Remember, it was said to have been six feet across and a foot thick in the middle. Maybe the Jersey Devil was involved in some way. He/She/It is reported to be nocturnal, big, and strong and the Jersey Pine Barrens are less than an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, and a lot closer as the Jersey Devil flies. Plus, since when do frog eggs dissolve when you touch them? I’m a small town girl who’s had more than my fair share of frog egg encounters and, trust me, they don’t just dissolve as described by the four police officers.
So, what was it? Due to lack of any physical evidence whatsoever, we’ll probably never know. Either way, the real events from 1950 certainly inspired one of the greatest B-movies of all time and it’s one I would strongly recommend you see if you haven’t already.
For more in-depth information and speculation on these mysterious globs, check out Rob Morphy’s 2011 article “Beware The Blob” at Mysterious Universe.