In 1958, the world was introduced to an intergalactic horror movie about an alien gelatinous goo that consumes everything in its wake: The Blob. The ’50s B-movie has gone down in history as a classic monster flick, that would later even spawn a gory remake in 1988. But, this terrifying UFO film isn’t entirely fiction, and you may want to keep an eye on the sky after hearing the shocking true story that inspired The Blob.
Directed by Irvin Yeaworth, The Blob begins one fateful night after Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and his girlfriend, Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut), spot a meteorite crash. It turns out that this cracked meteorite contained a mysterious purplish slime that latches onto the first person it sees. After killing an old man, the alien goo descends on the small Pennsylvania town, and a good old-fashioned rampage ensues. In true horror movie fashion, the Blob begins to expand as it feeds, and continues to absorb everything it touches, threatening the very fate of the world.
Now I know what you are thinking. You must be wondering how on Earth can any of that story be based on reality. Well, buckle in, folks, because The Blob, or at least similar space goo, has indeed been spotted and has even made headlines in real life.
On September 27, 1950, in Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article titled ‘Flying Saucer Just Dissolves’. Two police officers named Joe Keenan and John Collins reportedly claimed to have seen something falling from the sky the night prior on the 26th. Searching the area where they believed the mysterious object fell, they found a strange purplish ooze dangling from a telephone pole.
Now finding an unknown substance from the sky is already unsettling enough, but apparently, the two saw the goo “crawl” into a nearby field. Once the officers cornered the mysterious jelly again, one of them reached out to touch the thing – overcome by his own curiosity.
But, upon making contact with skin, the slime dissolved out of existence, leaving no trace behind and two very confused men trying to figure out what they just saw. Following the out-of-this-world discovery, The FBI and US Air Force were called in to investigate the “flying saucer” that had supposedly dissolved in the men’s hands.
Although no official alien activity was confirmed by the government, the shocking story was distributed nationally by the Associated Press, catching the public’s attention – and leaving scientists baffled as to trying to explain what this glowing slime really was.
Philadelphia local and film producer Jack Harris set out to bag his first feature eight years after the incident. He teamed up with fellow Philadelphia writer Irvine H. Millgate to develop the story about a strange slime from outer space.
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Irvin Yeaworth would then join the production of Harris and Millgate’s story as its director, and Kay Linaker and Theodore Simonson were signed on to write the screenplay for The Blob.
Although the crew behind The Blob have never fully confirmed that it was the ’50s news story that inspired the monster movie, considering the similarities in the substances’ description, how the film used Pennsylvania locals, and the timescale, it is hard to believe that the ‘Flying Saucer’ headline didn’t influence the filmmakers at all.
But, all this headline talk aside, you may still be wondering what that strange substance really was? Was it really an alien? Well, prepare for this story to get a bit more bizarre. It turns out that the 1950s wasn’t the first time space goo had been reported.
In fact, the dissolving slime has been occurring for centuries and is actually a phenomenon known as pwdre ser —Welsh for “the rot of the stars” – or star jelly.
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The earliest sightings of star jelly go back to the 1400s, and some more modern examples of incidents of the substance were reported in 1846 in New York, 1996 in Tasmania, and 2009 in the Scottish Hills.
It was initially alleged that star jelly, which is often associated with meteor showers, originates from melted space rocks (that’s right, it isn’t a hungry alien, after all, friends). But scientists have since disproved this hypothesis stating that meteorites don’t melt and that a gelatinous substance like star jelly would never survive the fall into earth’s atmosphere from space.
The big takeaway from this whole story is that we still don’t know for sure what star jelly actually is or what those officers in Philadelphia actually saw. The Blob may be from space, or, according to some scientists, the goo that inspired the Steve McQueen monster movie may just be partially digested poisonous toads, thrown up by birds while no one was looking.
The most accepted theory as to what the heck the substance that inspired The Blob is, is that the star jelly is actually some kind of animal regurgitation. Other theories attribute the substance to bacterial algae byproducts, fungi, and forms of slime moulds (lovely).
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However, scientists commissioned by the National Geographic Society examined samples of star jelly in the US back in 2009 and found no DNA. This basically means that the strange goo (at least the samples that the scientist looked at anyways) likely isn’t from any animal or plant, so make of that what you will.
It is all very mysterious, but at least we know that whatever star jelly is, it doesn’t appear to be a malevolent life form. It also doesn’t appear to be capable of absorbing everything in its wake like the monster we saw in The Blob (yay).
Whether The Blob was intentionally trying to make a comment on pwdre ser or was just an idea spawned from the memory of a headline, it is still a marvel to hear that the story of the ’50s B-movie is somewhat based in reality.
Hopefully, whatever star jelly is, it keeps dissolving upon human impact, instead of…well, you know, turning into an unstoppable killing machine like we saw in the 1958 film.