In 1958 Jack Harris and Irvine Millgate introduced the world to a soon-to-be iconic Steve McQueen and a squishy alien known as The Blob. This gooey fiend oozed its way across silver screens scaring the pants off a generation of teens in theaters and drive-ins nationwide, but while this B-movie beast has become an icon in its own right, there are few who realize that the Blob’s creator was inspired by a real life run-in with a gelatinous, allegedly extraterrestrial life-form that was encountered by four Philadelphia police officers in the autumn of 1950.
In the September 27, 1950 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer readers were treated to a bizarre headline which read: “Flying ‘Saucer’ Just Dissolves.” The article told the tale of Joe Keenan and John Collins, two veteran Philadelphia police officers who spied a strange “object” plunging through the night sky less than 24-hourst before, resulting in an encounter that neither man would ever forget.
According to the officers, they were making their evening rounds in their patrol car when they turned down a desolate side street between Vare Avenue and 26th Street.
As the two policemen rounded the corner they noticed a large, glittering “mass” drifting toward an open field approximately half a block distant.
The bewildered Keenan and Collins wasted no time in racing toward the unidentified falling object that was sparking under their headlights’ glare. Once their patrol car squealed to a halt, the officers swiftly retrieved their flashlights and rushed toward the quivering, domed mound of what they described as “purple jelly.”
The perplexed policemen observed the strangely pulsating heap, which they claimed glistened beneath their flashlights. The officers estimated that the circular mass was approximately 6-feet in diameter and nearly a foot thick at the center.
The edges sloped down from the peaked top of this “glob” — as Frank Edwards dubbed it in his tome “Strange World” in a chapter titled “Police and the Purple Glob” — tapering to a lip that was just a couple of inches thick. When they turned off their flashlights, the men discovered that the “thing” emitted a faint purplish, perhaps bioluminescent, glow that illuminated the darkened field.
The most disturbing thing about this odd object, according to the officers, was the fact that this iridescent, gelatinous substance seemed to vibrate of its own accord. There’s even one report that claimed the entity was “oozing” up a nearby telephone pole. Regardless of the limits of its mobility, the fact that this thing moved at all seemed to indicate to the officers in question that this blob-like entity was almost certainly a living organism.
At this point the two cops, fearing no one would believe their story, sagely radioed for backup and within minutes Patrolman James Cooper and Sergeant Joe Cook arrived at the scene of this extraordinary close encounter. After a perfunctory investigation, Cook speculated that object appeared to be solid enough to actually lift, so he entreated his cohorts to help him have a go at it.
The four officers evenly (and hesitantly, one must assume) spaced themselves around the glob. Collins was the first to screw up the courage to actually touch the substance and found, to his surprise, that this seemingly solid object instantly broke apart in his hands. Tiny pieces of the glob remained attached to his hands and fingers, but within seconds they evaporated leaving nothing but a residue of “odorless scum” on his skin.
The officers — apparently unable or unwilling to retrieve a sample — simply watched with astonishment as the purple goo evaporated before their eyes. Less than half an hour after the arrival of officers Cooper and Cook, the object had completely disappeared, leaving nothing behind but four mystified Philadelphia patrolmen. The following day when the police officers addressed a group of newsman regarding their bizarre encounter, the men made it abundantly clear that they believed that the glob was a living creature.