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September 15, 2016

A brief history of things falling from the sky in Philadelphia

Poop, catfish and the mysterious blob

William Bender over at the Inquirer generated a classic "thing falls from sky" headline last week when he got the scoop on Lisa Lobree, a woman who claimed that, while near the Art Museum over Labor Day weekend, she was hit in the head by a freefalling catfish.

The story, which has generated national coverage, seems to have some rational explanation, as witnesses told the newspaper they had seen a large bird flying away that could have been carrying the large fish, which was about 16 inches long and weighed an estimated 5 pounds.

But the inherent bizarreness of a story where something that belongs grounded comes careening down from high above often proves irresistible to audiences and media alike, and flying fish are just the latest in a series of things that have rained down on Philadelphia throughout the years.

So, for the historians who one day will certainly try and compile this information, here is a brief list of things that have fallen from the sky onto our fair city (and sometimes the suburbs):


In 2015, a Levittown girl's birthday party was interrupted when feces descended upon the festivities. It was reportedly believed to have been dropped from an airplane. We won't try and include some clever poop joke here because seemingly every national outlet that covered the story had its own corny quip: "a crappy sweet 16," "party pooper" and "rain – poop rain" are a few examples. Fox 29, which inexplicably has since taken the story down from its website, had so many poop jokes that Philly Mag ranked them. Our favorite:

“A couple observations of Sweet 16 parties. Number one, you only get one in your lifetime. And number two, shouldn’t be there. But it was — number two, that is.”


Weather balloons tend to fall out of the sky a lot, a fact that would usually make this recent story in Northeast Philly rather innocuous. However, there was brief panic when an item attached to a small parachute hit a vehicle along Academy Road last year. Per the Inquirer:

Police were called to a Northeast Philadelphia block Saturday night after witnesses reported seeing a mystery object fall out of the sky and strike a vehicle.

The object, described as white and attached to a small parachute, turned out to be a weather instrument, police said Sunday. It fell onto a vehicle along the 11600 block of Academy Road about 9:30 p.m.

Members of the Philadelphia police bomb squad responded to the scene and deemed the object harmless. Though the vehicle sustained minor damage, no injuries were reported.


In 2012, a tire that fell from an airplane crashed through a building along the Schuylkill Expressway:

No, wait, not an airplane tire:

Some media outlets jumped the gun in reporting that the tire that fell from the sky was from a passing plane (h/t CrossingBroad). Eventually, it was discovered that the wheel that blasted through the roof of the Philadelphia Housing Authority Workforce Development training center near Vare Avenue was from a truck. Per 6ABC:

"We thought it was a plane tire. We said, 'Ain't no way in the world a tire could get this high,'" said PHA Training Supervisor George Johnson, Jr.

The tire punched a hole in one side of the roof and then landed on the other side. Workers in the building say it sounded like an explosion.

"We heard a heavy thump," said Johnson. "And my instructors came out and told me, 'Look, we smell gas.' So they put a ladder on the roof to see what was that thump that hit the roof. And when they put the ladder on the roof they saw this giant tire on the roof. And then we climbed to the peak and saw a big gash in the roof."

Luckily, no one was injured.


Several UFO blogs like to reference the case of the strange blob that four police officers said fell from the sky in Philadelphia in 1950. While obviously not credible sources, one did include reference to an Associated Press story that reported the account. Sure enough, in September of 1950, the AP ran this:

Four Philadelphia policemen think they know what happens to flying saucers — they dissolve.

Patrolmen John Collins and Joseph Keenan reported last night they saw a mysterious object about six feet in diameter floating to earth in an open field.

They summoned Sgt. Joseph Cook and Patrolman James Casper. Then they approached the object and turned on their flashlights.

Collins tried to pick "the thing" up. The part touched by his hand dissolved, he said, leaving a sticky, odorless residue. Within a half an hour the entire object had evaporated. It was so light, the policemen reported, it had not even bent the weeds on which it had rested.

Cook notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation — but unfortunately there was nothing to show the FBI agents except a spot on the ground.

Aliens? Aliens. Cue the music!

Did we miss an instance of something falling from the skies in Philly? Let us know in the comments or send us an email.