A teaser news story from Huffington Post popped up Tuesday on Catherine’s AOL screen about a mysterious “star jelly” found in the RSPB Ham Wall nature reserve in Somerset, England. Being paranormal buffs (which, for us, includes sci-fi), naturally, Catherine looked up the article. There are a lot of theories out there, but not much positive proof about what this substance is. Some people postulate that the jelly is slime mold, a form of cyanobacteria, the remains of regurgitated amphibians, or frog spawn. Personally, all of the above are too ordinary. As paranormal fans, we like the more supernatural of the explanations which says the “star jelly” is related to the sighting of a strange meteor like object seen over the reserve last week—an extraterrestrial substance dropped to earth from the meteor shower.
This isn’t the first time “star jelly” has been found. Records dating back to the 14th century mention finding this gelatinous material after meteor showers. It’s been called star jelly, astral jelly, star rot, star shot and astromyxin. Non-paranormal believers say it’s coincidental that people find star jelly after meteor showers. Curiosity about finding a meteor rock leads them to places they wouldn’t normally go, and they find the substance, which has been there all along. In other words, they want to believe it’s this baffling substance from outer space.
Star jelly has been a part of several fiction stories. Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Talisman, H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Colour of Space, and Rick Yancy’s book The Isle of Blood all make mention star jelly.
Hollywood picked up on the paranormal possibility of this unusual substance after a 6-foot diameter, 1-foot high mass of star jelly was found by policemen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1950. This discovery inspired the horror movie The Blob (1958), which was the one horror story that Catherine saw as a child that scared her witless. For some reason, vampires and werewolves weren’t as terrifying to her as this big red, quivering mass of jelly. Perhaps it was because the blob consumed you, or perhaps it was because there was no way to stop it. There was no hope of reprieve from its touch, no time of day you were safe from it. Eventually the townspeople found that cold stopped the blob, after it had consumed a diner and most of the town. While they hauled the scary mass off to the Arctic to permanently freeze it, the story left the viewer with a cliffhanging ending, wondering if the cold would really kill it. In a 1972 sequel Beware the Blob, a technician brings back a specimen of the gelatinous substance from the Arctic, and the monster starts a new rampage on mankind, renewing Catherine’s terror. She did not see that movie even though it was a parody.
Other star jelly inspired movies include a remake of the The Blob (1988), which had a biological warfare twist; and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978),
which had gelatinous creatures falling to earth and growing seed pods that held alien life forms.
So what’s the writing point, you ask, of this discourse on what viewers today would NOT call a scary substance or a scary story?
There is nothing on earth, in outer space, or in the paranormal realm that we can’t reimagine into a story. From today’s or yesterday’s news to ancient Greek legends to ghost stories to bizarre phenomena there is a nugget of a story in every item. You just have to be open to seeing it and willing to tread on new ground.
Catherine already has a new idea bubbling in the background about “star jelly.” She’s just not sure she can write about a relative of the blob and still sleep at night. Her cell phone vibrated in her pocket while watching the youtube trailer on The Blob and she nearly jumped out of her desk chair. The blob still scares her.
Maybe a gelatinous vampire would be a safer choice.
What new ideas can you imagine from star jelly or another interesting news story?