saucer summer reading fest
Over the decades, countless anecdotes and reports have surfaced of baffling phenomena prior to the "first" flying saucer wave of 1947. Excerpted here (as the first weekly post of a summer-long saucer-reading fest) are reports chosen for their ability to provoke thoughtful consideration of the pre-1947 accounts -- beginning with one excellent summation found in a mid-20th century draft of an article for Air Intelligence Digest...
Above: First page of typewritten draft for the following excerpt, from the declassified files of Project Blue Book. The following is a note to its readers from the editor of Air Intelligence Digest as part of a much-longer piece on unidentified aerial objects (UAOs) written by Capt. Ed Ruppelt, then-head of the Air Force's Project Blue Book, and which appeared in the August, 1952, edition of the classified publication.
PRE-1947 UAO REPORTS
Early -- meaning pre-1947 -- reports are rich and varied, and fall consistently, like modern sightings, into three categories: luminous balls; saucer-shaped objects; cigar-shaped objects.
EDITOR'S NOTE: TIME, in a recent article, mentioned the celebrated "airship" reported seen in 1896-97 by thousands of people from Oakland, Calif., to Chicago, and printed part of a clipping about it from the New York HERALD of 11 April 1897. READERS DIGEST in an article in its July 1952 issue, "Flying Saucers Are New in Name Only," mentioned reported UAO sightings in 1913, 1904, 1897 (the same one mentioned by TIME), 1882, and 1870. These references gave a superficial impression that TIME and READERS DIGEST had extensively researched the subject of early UAO sightings. These eminent magazines, however, for all their reputations for thoroughness and their large research staffs, barely scratched the surface of this rich and extraordinarily-interesting subject.
It is rather widely believed that the now-famous "Arnold Report" of 24 June 1947 was the first UAO report. Actually, reported UAO sightings go way, way back well over a century and possibly to Old Testament days. Almost all "early sightings," as they have been short-titled by the Air Force, fall into the same main categories that the modern sightings fall into: luminous balls; saucer-shaped objects; or cigar-shaped objects.
The AIR INTELLIGENCE DIGEST requests its readers to make their own evaluations of these early reports. Were they -- as many modern sightings have turned out to be -- illusions, mistaken identifications, or hoaxes? Or were they real, and of terrestrial origin? Or real, and of celestial origin, possibly transplanetary or even transstellar?
There are many hundreds of reported early sightings on record, but, after careful screening, the DIGEST has selected for presentation only those discussed and/or reproduced (see accompanying artwork) in this article.
A large percentage of the early reports were in the form of letters to such sober and reputable journals as the London Times; Scientific American; Nature; American Meteorological Journal; U.S, and Canada Monthly Weather Review; l'Astromic; Astronomische Nachrichten; London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science; The Observatory -- Monthly Review of Astronomy; etc.
This proves, if it proves nothing else, that the witnesses were deeply moved and excited by what they saw or thought they saw. M. Lincoln Schuster wrote in his introduction to the book, "A Treasury of the World's Great Letters": "When any person has a soul-shaking experience, he usually can -- and frequently does -- write a letter about it."
"Ezekiel Saw de Wheel,"
Zechariah saw a "roll"
The AIR INTELLIGENCE DIGEST will not quarrel with readers who dismiss as far-fetched any interpretation of the Biblical quotations below as references to 1) a disc-shaped UAO and 2) a cigar-shaped UAO. These quotations are presented solely for whatever significance, if any, that DIGEST readers read into them.
The wording of the well-known reference in Ezekiel is: " . . . a whirlwind came out of the north . . . a fire unfolding . . . and a brightness was about it, out of the midst thereof as the color of amber . . . it sparkled like the color of burnished brass . . . like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps . . . the appearance of the wheels was like unto the color of a beryl (greenish-blue) . . . as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel".
Less familiar is a passage in Zechariah: "Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and beheld a flying roll . . . the length thereof (was) twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof (was) ten cubits." "Roll," in Biblical terminology, usually meant the parchment rolls then used for books. In some translations, the phrase "flying book" is substituted for "flying roll" in the foregoing passage. Converting cubits into feet, Zechariah's "flying roll" measured 30 by 15 feet.
12 January 1838
Extensive controversies raged among astronomers during the 1700s about numerous small objects observed near Venus. Were they optical illusions? Satellites of Venus? A planet between Venus and Mercury? These telescopically observed objects probably have no connection with UAOs, although some commentators, notably Charles Fort, have tried to establish such a connection. We are possibly on firmer ground in quoting a brief reference in the 1877 Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, " . . . a report that at Cherburg [sic], France, on 12 January 1838, was seen a luminous body, seemingly two-thirds the size of the moon. It seemed to rotate on an axis. Central to it there seemed to be a dark cavity". The similarity of this earliest dated UAO report to most modern sightings is immediately apparent.
Nature: 1880, 1893
The magazine Nature, subtitled A Weekly, Illustrated Journal of Science, reported an unusually interesting sighting in its 20 May 1880 issue. The item on "remarkable phenomenon observed at Kattenau, near Trakehnen" (Germany) described "an enormous number of luminous bodies" which "rose from the horizon and passed in a horizontal direction from east to west. They moved through space like a string of beads, and shone with a remarkably brilliant light." Some were estimated to the "the size of a walnut," others resembling "sparks from a chimney," and, in connection with these estimates of size, it is important to bear in mind that apparent size and real size are two very different things, especially as applied to celestial phenomena.
In the 25 May 1893 issue of Nature appeared the much-quoted sighting report of the "unknown lights of Japan". This stated that "the globes altered in their formation . . . and . . . took the form of a crescent or diamond, or hung festoon-fashion in a curved line".
See, and compare, the material on the modern "Lubbock Lights" sighting, on page ____ of the article, "UAOs over USA."
On page ____ are reproduced some of the more interesting letters and news items about UAOs that appeared in the great Times of London from 1848 to 1869. An 1870 letter to the Times is our cover picture this month.
Why UAO reports, in all their varied, strange, and sometimes wildly-extravagant forms should have poured in on the ultra-conservative Times ("The Thunderer") is a mystery as challenging as that of the UAOs themselves. The serious treatment the Times gave these reports, however, is gratifying to look back on, since, in the 1800s, they must have been even more incredible-seeming than they are in today's age of supersonic flight, radar contact with the moon, and atomic fission.
Here are some selected quotations from Times UAO reports:
"There they shone with a bright flickering light until about 10 o'clock, when they moved, making a slight curve westward, The speed with which they migrated was prodigious." (1848).
" . . . a most extraordinary appearance in the sky this evening, which has quite frightened the superstitious here. At 7:20 a brilliant red light appeared to the south by east, about half-way between the zenith and horizon . . . its shape was oblong . . . in about 15 minutes it rose to the zenith." (1859).
"This (to me) extraordinary object . . . floated steadily away, northwest by north . . . threw no rays in any direction . . . and was in my sight, from first to last, about three minutes."(1867).
"A falling star would never have remained so long visible in the telescopic field." (1870).
Philosophical Magazine to
Monthly Review of Astronomy
The so-called "Auroral Beams of November 17th, 1882," was the subject of a 20-page article in the London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, and one of the 26 observers of this amazing phenomenon was none other than the Astronomer Royal. It was described by various observers as "spindle-shaped," "a cigar-ship," "torpedo-like, "weaver's shuttle," and, more specifically, "a bar of yellowish light, with a dark something before the bar and a dark streak where it passed". The compiler and collater of the observations, Mr. J. Rand Capron, wrote: "A primary question is whether the 'beam' was really and truly a part of the auroral display, or a 'meteor,' 'meteoroid,' 'cometary body,' or something allied to any of these, in contra-distinction to an 'auroral beam' ". The Observatory -- Monthly Review of Astronomy, commenting on the Capron article, spoke of the phenomenon as "unusual and striking, not to say awe-inspiring," but the Observatory editor, Dr. E.W. Maunder, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Science, held that it was an auroral, rather than a meteoric, manifestation. In other words, nobody, not even the best scientists of the day, could figure it out.
Unquestionably, the most famous and most baffling American UAO was the "airship" which, first reported over Oakland, Calif., on November, 1896, finally appeared, according to thousands of observers, including many reputable scientists, over Chicago. The Oakland Tribune of 23 November 1896 led off its goggle-eyed story: "That a huge airship has been hovering over Oakland for the last few nights has, in the minds of many, been conclusively proven". The dispatch said further: "The ship resembled a huge bird in its outlines and seemed to rise and fall in its course." In its 11 April 1897 issue the New York Herald in a dispatch headlined "THAT AIRSHIP NOW AT CHICAGO" wrote: "For weeks, reports have been coming in from various points between here and California reporting an airship . . . men of unquestioned veracity declare the roving object was an airship . . . some declare they saw two cigar-shaped objects and great wings . . . Chicago and her suburbs are intensely interested, and the subject is almost the sole topic of conversation."
Monthly Weather Review: 1904, 1907
The U.S. Weather. Bureau's Monthly Weather Review, in its issues of, respectively, March 1904 and July 1907, printed two of the most mystifying early-sighting reports on record. They were headed "Remarkable Meteors" and "A Possible Case of Ball Lightning".
The author of the 1904 report was Lt. Frank H. Schofield, U.S.N., who stated that he saw "three somewhat remarkable meteors" at 35° 58' North -- 128° 36' West, which "appeared near the horizon and below the clouds, traveling in a group from northwest by north (true) directly toward the ship . . . As they approached the ship, they appeared to soar . . . " (EDITOR'S NOTE: To call meteors which soar "somewhat remarkable" was the understatement of the century.)
The 1907 report was by William H. Alexander, official weather forecaster of Burlington, Vt., who wrote about an "explosion so sudden, so unexpected, and so terrific that it startled practically the entire city of Burlington." He quoted Bishop John S. Michaud who, at the time of the incident, was standing in conversation with ex-Governor Woodbury of Vermont at the corner of Church and College Streets. Bishop Michaud, after describing the "most unusual and terrific explosion," said: "I observed a torpedo shaped body some 300 feet away, stationary in appearance and suspended in the air about 50 feet above the tops of the buildings. Although stationary when first noticed, this object soon began to move, rather slowly . . ."
In the book "Altai-Himalaya," by Nicholas Roerich, painter, traveler, and mystic, the author wrote that, in Mongolia in 1927, his party saw "something big and shiny reflecting the sun, like a huge oval moving at great speed. Crossing our camp, it changed its direction from south to southwest. We even had time to take out field glasses and saw quite distinctly an oval form".
Interesting . . .
Other striking accounts were found by British researcher W.R. Drake, who scoured through dozens of volumes of ancient writings to identify intriguing incidents, which he reported in books and publications such as UK-based Flying Saucer Review, from which the following is excerpted...
Above, cover for the January-February, 1963, edition of Flying Saucer Review.
Note: the following are quotes excerpted from much-longer articles penned by W.R. Drake.
From the Jan-Feb, 1963, issue of Flying Saucer Review...
222 B.C. "Also three moons have appeared at once, for instance in the consulship of Gnaeus Dornitius and Caius Fannius." (Pliny, Natural History, Book II, Chap. XXXII.)
218 B.C. "In Amiterno district in many places were seen the appearance of men in white garments from far away. The orb of the sun grew smaller. At Praeneste glowing lamps from heaven. At Arpi a shield in the sky. The moon contended with the sun and during the night two moons were seen. Phantom ships appeared in the sky." (Lycosthenes - Obsequens, Prodigiorum Libellus, Chap. XXXI. Livy, Book XXI, Chap. LXII, and Book XXII, Chap I.)
213 B.C. "At Ariminium a light like the day blazed out at night in many portions of Italy. Three moons became visible in the night-time. (Dio Cassius, Roman History, Vol. II, page 46.)
175 B.C. "Three suns shone at the same time. That night several stars glided across the sky at Lanuviurn." (Obsequens, Chap. LXVI.)
122 B.C. "In Gaul three suns and three moons were seen." (Obsequens, Chap. XLII.)
91 B.C. "Near Spoletium a gold-coloured fireball rolled down to the ground, increased in size, it seemed to move off the ground towards the east and was big enough to blot out the sun." (Obsequens, Chap. CXIV.)
85 B.C. "In the consulship of Lucius Valerius and Gaius Marius a burning shield scattering sparks ran across the sky." (Pliny, Natural History, Book II, Chap. XXXIV.) .
66 B.C. "In the consulship of Gnaeus Octavius and Caius Suetonius a spark was seen to fall from a star and increase in size as it approached the earth and after becoming as large as the moon it diffused a sort of cloudy daylight and then returning to the sky changed into a torch. This is the only record of its occurrence. It was seen by the proconsul Silenius and his suite." (Pliny, Natural History, Book II, Chap. XXXV.)
44 B.C. "But I return to the divination of the Romans. How often has our Senate enjoined the decemvirs to consult the books of the Sibyls! For instance when two suns had been seen or when three moons had appeared and when flames of fire were noticed in the sky; or on that other occasion when the sun was beheld in the night, when noises were heard in the sky, and the heaven itself seemed to burst open, and strange globes were remarked in. it." (Cicero. "On Divination." Book 1, Chap. XLIII.)
42 B.C. "In Rome light shone so brightly at nightfall that people got up to begin work as though day had dawned. At Murtino three suns were seen about the third hour of the day, which presently drew together into a single orb." (Obsequens, Chap. CXXX.)
From the Jan-Feb, 1964, issue of Flying Saucer Review...
In his Jewish War, Book I, Josephus describing the Siege of Jerusalem about 70 A.D. wrote :
"On the twenty first of May a demonic phantom of incredible size, and what will be related would have seemed a fairy tale had it not been told by those who saw it, and been attended by suffering worthy of the portent. For before sunset there appeared in the air over the whole country chariots and armed troops coursing through the clouds and surrounding cities."
From the May-June, 1964, issue of Flying Saucer Review...
1110 A.D. "Now in this year a comet appeared in an unusual manner for rushing from the east it ascended to the heavens, it was seen to go not forward but backwards." (Matthew of Paris.).
Also found in the pages of Flying Saucer Review, in the May-June, 1966, edition, are the following intriguing conjectures about ancient Egypt -- and, indeed, the origin of many ancient religions...
Above, top: Beginning pages of article. Bottom: Statue of Horus at the temple of Edfu.
[Note: the term "lacuna" refers to missing text in a document.]
Space Visitors In Ancient Egypt
Signor Pinotti is a committee member of the Italian CENTRO STUDI CLIPEOLOGICI, and is a contributor to that Society's publication, CLYPEUS, THE INTERNATIONAL FLYING SAUCER NEWS.
by Roberto Pinotti
"...In the third month of winter of the year 22, at the sixth hour of the day, the scribes of the House of Life found that there was a circle of fire coming in the sky. (Though) it had no head, the breath from its mouth had a foul odour. One rod (about 150 feet) long was its body and one rod wide, and it had no voice. And the hearts of the scribes became terrified and confused and they laid themselves flat on their bellies ... (lacuna) ... they reported to the Pharaoh. His Majesty ordered ... (lacuna) ... has been examined ... (lacuna) ... and he was meditating on what had happened and which is recorded in papyri of the House of Life. Now, after some days had gone by, behold, these things (the fire circles) became more numerous in the skies than ever. They shone more than the brightness of the sun, and extended to the limits of the four supports (quarters) of the heavens ... (lacuna) ... Powerful was the position of these fire circles in the sky. The army of the Pharaoh looked on with him in their midst. It was after supper. Thereupon, these fire circles ascended higher in the sky towards the south. (Then) fishes and birds fell down from the sky. A marvel never before known since the foundation of this land (Egypt)! And the Pharaoh caused incense to be brought to make peace on the earth ... (lacuna) ... and what had happened was ordered by the Pharaoh to be written in the annals of the House of life ... (lacuna) ... so that it be remembered forever."
UFO researchers will remember this well-known translation of a badly decayed papyrus, found still untranslated with many others dating from the Middle Kingdom, among the papers of the late Professor Alberto Tulli, former director of the Egyptian Museum of the Vatican. Professor Tulli's brother, Monsignor Gustavo of the Vatican Archives, had allowed Prince Boris de Rachewiltz, one of the world's leading Egyptologists, to translate it, and so the papyrus. which begins with a broken off section relating to some other prodigy, could be identified as part of the Royal Annals of the Pharaoh Thutmose III (1483 - 1450 B.C.). This ancient writing, showing clear and impressive evidence of the presence of UFOs in the past, reveals that unknown objects with the same characteristics of the so-called "flying saucers " of today were often seen in the skies of Egypt in those days. In fact, in this papyrus there is a clear hint of some other occurrence which was "recorded in papyri of the House of Life", and it is stated that the mysterious fire circles became "more numerous in the skies than ever" -- evidently implying that such events were not new for the Egyptians.
The papyrus also reveals that such sightings have always been given, (like other phenomena in the skies such as meteors, mock suns and moons or comets which our ancestors were not able to explain), a supernatural and religious meaning. Ignorance, superstition and fear, obviously distorted and coloured many mysterious events witnessed by mankind in the past. This explains why it is difficult for us to obtain a clear picture of the real meaning of the myths and prodigies of antiquity. Modern philosophy aims at getting rid of such "fantasies" in the name of reason and progress, but surely Shakespeare was right when he wrote in his Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy". Man has been given irrefutable proof of this statement.
It is safe to say that our picture will never be perfectly clear, since too many details have been irremediably altered and facts misrepresented throughout the ages. Nevertheless, if we examine ancient records such as the Tulli papyrus, we can't help wondering if Extraterrestrial creatures visited our planet in the past, and if -- as some savants are now beginning to suspect -- most of our religions and mythologies were really originated by the deification of ancient space visitors who came down among men in far-off times. As a matter of fact, all our religions and mythologies state that mankind was ruled, at first, by divine beings from "Heaven" (in other words from the sky). And also the Holy Bible, as far as the Judeo-Christian scriptures are concerned. produces in Genesis (Chapter VI, verse 2) irrefutable evidence of the existence of these mysterious "Sons of the Gods" ("Beneha-Elohim" in Hebrew -- remember "Elohim" is a plural term. and its real meaning is not "God", but "Gods"). They and the two hundred fallen Angels called "Watchers" in the Coptic "Book of Enoch" and "Gregoroi" in the Slavonic "Book of the Secrets of Enoch" who came down among men in days of Jared to mate with the "daughters of men" and rule the earth are evidently
We must remember that beings with their same characteristics are the protagonists of several myths of Greece, Egypt, Lesser Asia, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, Tibet and Japan, as well as of a number of Celtic, Roman, Australasian and pre-Columbian legends. Were our ancestors really ruled by an alien race of super-men and by their descendants? Whatever one may say, such myths could prove to be too important not to be examined and studied in the light of all the aspects of the UFO enigma.
As far as Egyptian mythology is concerned, we know that the first earthly dynasties succeeded Horus, the last "divine king", who had been chosen by the council of the Gods in Heaven to be the ruler of Egypt after the death of his father Osiris, who had been killed by his brother Set, the usurper. "Manetho says "according to Josephus" that Horus was admitted to the sight of the Gods" (JOSEPHUS. contra APlON lib. i. p. 932). It is evident that this admission of Horus (who is here spoken of as a human and mortal king, as you see) to the sight of the Gods implies the use of a means of transport which could drive him to the Gods of Egypt, dwellers of the sky. In fact, according to Egyptian myths, this flying vehicle existed. It was the so-called "Eye of Horous" [sic], often referred to in several ancient texts, such as the "Book of the Dead", and which was always represented as a winged circle with all the characteristics of the winged sun-discs worshipped in other parts of the world. As a matter of fact, in the "Book of the Dead" (Chapter LXVI) it is written: "... My name is Horus and I am from the Eye of Horus...". Obviously, this sky vehicle was given the unusual name of "Eye of Horus" since the deity riding it was evidently able to watch mankind from the skies. In fact, Horus (which is only the Latin name of this God) was originally named "hrw" "hr" [sic], and the literal meaning of this ancient Egyptian word is just "he who flies high in the skies". Besides, it is interesting to remember that the vault of heaven (that is, the starry Universe) was named after him. "Hat-hor", which means "the abode of Horus".
All this not only shows that the Egyptians firmly believed that the "Eye of Horus" could easily reach outer space with its divine passenger, but also suggest that it might have been a sort of flying machine. Moreover, we know that in ancient India, where space flight was restricted to the Gods, as in Egypt, the mythical Garuda (a bird-like flying deity considered as man's earliest concept of an interplanetary vehicle) was evidently a symbolical representation of a flying means of transport. Are some researchers wrong when they wonder if the symbol of the "Eye of Horus" (the winged circle or disc), to which the Egyptians attached a very great importance, may be only a cross-sectional drawing. much simplified and stylised by many copyings of an ancient extraterrestrial spaceship? In this connection, surely the "fire circles" from "Heaven" described in the Tulli papyrus offer plenty of material for controversy. Do you think that their strong resemblance with the biblical "Chariots of God" (Psalms, 68:17) described in the Book of Ezekiel (Chapter I, verse 16) as flying "wheels" is merely coincidental?
Flying vehicles from "Heaven" are often referred to in both mythological and historical records of several peoples of the world, and were frequently given symbolical and fanciful representations. For instance, observe the photo of this ancient statue of Horus from the temple of Edfu. Though they were two different deities, Horus was often represented in the form of a gigantic hawk called Mekhentiirty, connected with a forgotten astral myth, who was later given all his attributes and became his best known symbol. But what about the man whom we can see with the sacred image of the God? Surely he must have been a very important personage, for he was granted the privilege of being represented with Horus in a statue which was later placed inside the famous temple of Edfu. Who is this man? Surely be is not a pharaoh or a member of the Royal family, because the well-known image of the serpent, worn by all the Egyptian monarchs and their relatives, is not affixed to his head-dress. So far as I have been able to find, this "helmet-like" headgear not only shows that this man cannot be a priest or scribe (who are always bare-headed in all their representations), but also that he cannot be a courtier (who would have been represented with the "nemes" -- the Egyptian flax headgear -- on his head, in the same way as any other rich man). Since Horus was worshipped as a war god in Edfu (his deeds were commemorated on the walls of the temple there) some savants could suggest that our man is only a warrior. Nevertheless they would have to admit that the garments which we can see in well-known images of Egyptian military leaders or warriors, seem to be quite different from this.
Consequently all in all, I think we have in this statue a double representation of Horus, in his divine (the sacred hawk) and human (the man) nature. In other words, this is an image of Horus with Mekhentiirty, the sacred hawk with whom he was later identified, and whom many mythographers consider as the Egyptian equivalent of Garuda and Pushpaka, which in Vedic myth was the aerial chariot in which Kubera usually travelled. (In the Ramayana it is told how it was stolen by Ravana and later recovered by Rama -- Egyptian and Hindu legends evidently refer to the same mythical event, since we know that the "Eye of Horus" was also stolen by Set and later recovered by Thoth).
Therefore it seems safe to say that in our statue the hawk symbolizes the "Eye of Horus", the flying vehicle of the god, and the man its divine occupant, who is seemingly coming out of a door, as you see.
Such being the case, what shall we think? Is this statue a stylised image of an ancient spaceship and of its pilot? Remember that in the "Book of the Dead" (Chapter LXVI) Horus says : "...I leave like the sacred hawk who flies away and rests on the forehead of Ra (the Sun), on the prow of the Boat of Nu(n) (the boundless dark void in which everything was created, in other words cosmic space -- also considered as the birthplace of all Gods of Egypt)...
Those who are familiar with our subject will admit that these words could describe a scout ship (the "sacred hawk", or the "Eye of Horus") and its huge interplanetary spacecraft carrier orbiting a round Earth in outer space (the "Boat" of Nu(n). Can this be true?
Weigh the evidence -- then decide.
"...Scholars should not shrink from translating difficult text" Sir Alan Gardiner wrote in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology "...At the best they may be lucky enough to hit upon the right renderings. At the worst they will have given the critics a target to tilt at".
With the above speculative accounts as introduction, the following are considerably more-detailed stories of a various few pre-1947 reports, starting with an 1845 report in American Penny Magazine (sometimes known as Dwight's American Magazine) -- a New York publication which described itself as follows...
"The American Penny Magazine, and Family Newspaper, by Theodore Dwight, 112 Broadway, N. York... a safe, amusing, instructive, miscellaneous illustrated periodical work... It contains valuable sketches of recent travels, discoveries, inventions and important events, with anecdotes, historical and biographical accounts... and some matter especially designed for the young: tales, lessons, riddles, poetry, enigmas... It is printed on white paper: 16 large Octavo pages weekly, each number with several ornamental and illustrative engravings. It forms a large volume each year of 832 pages... The general plan and appearance of this paper are like those of the London and other Foreign Penny Magazines: but the number of pages is double, the variety of topics much greater, and the taste and circumstances of Americans are expressly regarded. A parent himself, surrounded by a family, in the midst of scenes existing in a large city, the editor endeavors to communicate to other similar circles, such interesting and valuable information as he deems most pleasing and useful."
It is from the November 1, 1845 edition that the following is taken...
Above: Page 619 of the November 1, 1845 edition of American Family Magazine, in which the following appears.
METEOR -- The Jersey Times says that a globe of fire, apparently of the dimensions of a good-sized balloon, was observed to move about from position to position, making its appearance now in one place, then in another. It might be seen at one moment blazing with all the lustre of the sun as it sets in the autumnal sky, in another shining with a full, clear and burnished light irradiating the whole aerial vault. Sometimes stationary. It would all of a sudden change its position, and locate itself upon a spot at a considerable distance. It remained for nearly an hour, when, in a second, becoming detached from the spot on which it was fixed, it flew with a tremendous velocity through the sky, and took refuge behind a dark and murky cloud.
Often such detailed accounts remained "undiscovered" until a century or more had passed, as with this startling and fascinating account from 1851...
Above: From the January 7, 1954 edition of the Adelaide, Australia, Chronicle.
He Saw The First Flying Saucer Over 100 Years Ago!
By Robert E. Wolters
American scientists are now studying a report on "Flying Saucers" made by an Austrian professor of geography in 1851 -- perhaps the earliest and certainly one of the most amazing Flying Saucer stories ever published.
THE first flying Saucer was seen by an Austrian teacher of geography, Professor Karl Schneider, on July 23, 1851.
I went to Vienna some weeks ago to talk to his great-grand daughter about his experience.
Professor Schneider, a teacher at a well-known school in Vienna, did not use the expression "Flying Saucer" to describe the fantastic object which he saw hurtling through the sky in the summer of 1851. He used a more poetical name -- "Sternenschiff" -- the "Ship from the Stars." He also described it as a "Flying Potter's Wheel."
People in Vienna dubbed him "the mad star gazer" and laughed at him when he walked through the cobblestone-paved streets of the capital. The scientists called him a liar, and the clergy a heretic.
Yet neither ridicule nor persecution, neither friendly advice nor gentle blackmail could shake his conviction that he had seen a fabulous space ship from another planet make a furtive inspection of mother earth in the after noon of July 23, 1851.
One cannot blame the scientists in Vienna who ridiculed his report. They were still another half century from the day when Count Zeppelin would make his ascent in a dirigible airship, and 58 years from the day when Bleriot would cross the English Channel in his clumsy box-kite aeroplane.
It all started when Professor Schneider, his wife and his two daughters went to Tyrol for their summer holidays in 1851.
They stayed in a small hotel at the foot of the snow-capped Grossglockner mountain.
The professor, then in his 43rd year, was a keen mountaineer.
In the second week he set out to climb the mountain, a feat which he had performed several times in the past. He started at 4.30 a.m. on July 23, 1851, and planned to spend the night in one of the small primitive huts erected to shelter mountaineers.
At 3 p.m. he reached one of these wooden huts, still some 3.000 feet from the summit.
The Ship From The Stars
"I WAS sitting on a stone outside the hut" (wrote Schneider four days later to his friend, the Viennese Doctor Salzer). "It was a brilliant afternoon, and the sky without a single cloud.
"Suddenly I heard a noise like a faint chord played on a distant organ. It grew in intensity until it became a loud humming.
"I looked up and there it was in the sky, the object that I shall call a "heavenly body," for want of a better term.
"It looked like a potter's wheel to me at first, flying through space, and it moved across the sky with unbelievable speed.
"It made a full circle, remaining in my view all the time, that is for the better part of a minute. It was silvery, but not made of silver -- but of a strange
unknown metal that glittered in the sunlight and dazzled my eyes.
"It was round in shape, but slightly narrowing at one point, and from this narrowing point came a thick fog that sometimes looked like ordinary smoke, sometimes turned milky white, and sometimes scintillated yellowish in the sun.
"After completing this circle, the thing twisted round all of a sudden, then rose vertically and with lightning speed. It climbed -- not like a bird, but in a brilliant flash, like lightning, though not so fast. I noticed now that it had a kind of snout, like a swordfish, and from its tail came blue and red flames.
"I cannot tell you its size -- it is so difficult to measure things flying about far away -- but I would say that it was about a 100 metres (roughly 330 feet) in diameter, but perhaps even more.
"How this monstrous thing kept in the air I do not know.
"As I wrote before, it first circled, a flat disc on an unearthly tour of inspection of the scene, then it shot up into the vastness of the sky, and I lost sight of it. ..."
THE Austrian professor of geography and history sat there rubbing his eyes and doubting his senses, dumbfounded. He decided to remain where he was for some time, probably the first aircraft spotter! And two hours later he saw the same object, this time only for a fleeting moment, much higher up and smaller to the eye, but "perfectly clear, eine schmale Scheibe vorwartsgetrieben im Weltall -- a small disc hurtling forward into space, covering an indescribable distance in the time of a heart beat."
The professor decided at once to return to his family to tell them about his experience.
During his first talk to his wife was born his theory of the Sternenschiff, the Ship from the Stars, a messenger from a distant planet visiting the Earth.
Two days later Frau Schneider accompanied her husband to a little hut high up in the mountain. They stayed there for several hours, scanning the sky and listening for the soft humming. They were disappointed and waited in vain.
On the silent descent to Heiligenblut, Frau Schneider probably became the first sceptic, the first disbeliever of many who later made the professor's life a misery.
THE story of the Sternenschiff was greeted with a howl or derision in Vienna.
The scientists dealt with it in no uncertain manner.
"Schneider was dreaming, he fell asleep exhausted by the difficult climb, the heat, and affected by the thin air so high up in the mountains," said one group. "He is a brazen-faced liar," said another. "He was probably drunk," said a third.
Some people believed that he had seen a meteor, or a cloud. Others put for ward the theory that he had been tricked by blood corpuscles moving in his eye.
The "swordfish snout" and the "flames from the tail" convinced even his friends that he had suffered a delusion, had been plagued by a hallucination. (Today the snout would be explained as a radar antennae [sic], and the flames as the exhaust gases from the jet-engines).
The Catholic Church used its immense influence in Vienna to prevent a public controversy over the Sternenschiff. In the St. Stephen's Cathedral the clergy preached against the wickedness of a heretic belief in the existence of "human intelligent beings in other worlds."
Schneider's colleagues pressed for his resignation. They also demanded that he should renounce his mad story which had "brought discredit to the entire school."
The professor did not yield to this pressure. If anything, he became more stubborn. "How can I deny what I saw with my own eyes, as clearly as I see you now," he told his colleagues.
Life became unbearable to him in Vienna, and he accepted a poorly-paid job as a teacher on a private school in Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol.
I think he was prompted by the hope to see the strange object again, but this time in the presence of reliable witnesses. He came back to the Grossglockner mountain every summer and it speaks for his honesty that he did not try to invent another Sternenschiff, but admitted sadly, in 1859: "The ship from the Stars has either left us, or has withdrawn to such heights that it cannot be seen any longer by human eyes."
DID Schneider really see what he described, or was he a victim of self delusion?
Even his own family was worn out by criticism and doubts.
"He was a lovable, kind and considerate man in everything, as long as you did not speak about his experience in the Alps," his daughter described him.
Yet Schneider's description tallies in important details with those given of Flying Saucers by experienced aircraft spotters using modern observational apparatus.
Modern scientists studying the "Schneider mystery" are surprised that he described his strange air ship as wingless. It would have been only natural if he had given it immense wings, beating the air rapidly as it circled the mountain range like a fabulous bird of prey.
The wingless disc looks more like a sister ship of the strange craft observed over White Sands (in New Mexico, USA) on a Sunday in April, 1949, when the Senior Officer, Commander Robert McLaughlin, reported that the "space ship" had been within the range of his telescope for a full sixty seconds. It was flying at a height of 56 miles, and its speed was 5 miles per second -- that is, 18.000 miles per hour.
What makes Schneider's story so intriguing is that he had no chance of mistaking conventional air craft for his ship from the stars, his Sternenschiff. In his days there were no radar target balloons with aluminium trailers scintillating in the sun, no meteorological balloons shot across the sky, nor did secret experimenting rocket stations fire guided missiles 250 miles up into the air at fantastic speed.
Did Professor Schneider fall asleep and dream in the rarified air of the mountain?
Or did he really see what scores of trained observers claim to have seen during the last few years -- the atomic-power space ship from another planet?
One cannot doubt the sincerity of his belief in his "Star Ship." And, unlike 1851, modern science does not dismiss it forthright as a "technical impossibility."
Often the most remarkable accounts are found in scientific journals and books, as in the following, from "Report of the Twenty-Second Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science", 1853, in which the following appeared...
Above: Title page of Report of the Twenty-Second Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1853, from which the following is taken...
No. 13 -- Communication from the Rev. W. Read, M.A., to Professor Powell.
"I have the honour to transmit an account of a singular phenomenon witnessed by myself and my family on the morning of the 4th of September, 1850.
"I was then residing at the Vicarage, South Mimms, Middlesex, in a situation peculiarly favourable for astronomical observation.
"I had been engaged for several consecutive days in observing the planet Mercury during his approach to the sun; partly to test the accuracy of my power of observation by the calculations of the Nautical Almanack, but chiefly to remark how nearly I could trace the planet in his course to the sun, before he should be wholly lost in his rays.
"For this purpose I used the most careful adjustments my instrument was capable of, and continued my observations without noticing anything peculiar.
"When, however, on the morning of the 4th of September I was preparing my equatoreal before it was fixed on the planet, I observed, passing through the field of view, in a continuous stream, a great number of luminous bodies; and I cannot more correctly describe the whole appearance, than by employing the same language which I used when I communicated the circumstance to the Royal Astronomical Society, in the Monthly Notices of Dec. 13, 1850, and Dec. 12th, 1851.
"When I first saw them I was filled with surprise, and endeavoured to account for the strange appearance by supposing that they were bodies floating in the atmosphere, such as the seeds of plants, as we are accustomed to witness them in the open country about this season; but nothing was visible to the naked eye.
"The sky was perfectly cloudless; and so serene was the atmosphere, that there was not a breath of wind through the day, even so much as to cause any perceptible tremor of the instrument; and I subjected the luminous bodies to examination by all the eye-pieces and coloured glasses that were needful; but they bore every such examination just as the planets Mercury and Venus did, both of which were frequently looked at by me, for the purpose of comparison, during the day; so that it was impossible I could resist the conclusion (much as I was early disposed to hesitate) that they were real celestial bodies moving in an orbit of their own, and far removed beyond the limits of our atmosphere.
"They continued passing, often in inconceivable numbers, from 1/2 past 9 A.M., when I first saw them, almost without intermission, till about 1/2 past 3 P.M., when they became fewer, passed at longer intervals, and then finally ceased.
"The bodies were all perfectly round, with about the brightness of Venus, as seen in the same field of view with them; and their light was white, or with a slight tinge of blue; and they appeared self-luminous, as though they did not cross the sun's disc; yet when seen near him they did not change their shape, or diminish in brightness.
"They passed with different velocities, some slowly, and others with great rapidity; and they were very various in size, some having a diameter, as nearly as I could estimate, about 2", while others were approaching 20".
"I tried various powers upon them, and used both direct and diagonal eyepieces; but with every one I employed they showed the same appearance, being as sharply defined as the planet Jupiter, without haze or spot, or inequality of brightness.
"I naturally anticipated some such appearance at night, but after 1/2 past 3 I saw nothing peculiar, though I waited till 11 P.M.; but have since been informed that at 1/2 past 11 (it is believed on the same night) a meteor of amazing brilliance and size, and passing in the same direction and about the same altitude, was observed by Mr. Baillau of Wrotham Park, in the immediate neighbourhood of South Mimms.
"I repeated my observations the following morning, and then saw one such single body pass in the same direction as those of the preceding day.
"They occupied a tolerably well-defined zone of about 18° in breadth; and, though with some exceptions, their direction was due east and west. Their motion was perfectly uniform, so far as I was able to follow them with the instrument at liberty; and they were observed continuously by myself and members of my family, accustomed to the use of instruments, both by day and night.
"The telescope I employed on this occasion is one of 3-1/2 feet focal length, and 2-3/4 inches aperture, by Mr. Dollond, of faultless performance and mounted equatoreally by Mr. Jones of Charing Cross, the circles divided by Mr. Rothwell of London, and reading off to 5".
"I understand that a similar phenomenon has been witnessed by Mr. Cooper of Markree Castle, County of Sligo, though I have not communicated with that gentleman on the subject; but I take the opportunity of subjoining a portion of the contents of a letter to me from Charles B. Chalmers, Esq., F.R.A.S., now residing at Jugon, Cotes du Nord, France.
"He thus writes: -- 'About the latter end of the year 1849, I witnessed a phenomenon similar to that which you saw in September 1850, in every respect, excepting that I thought some of the bodies were elongated, though certainly the majority were globular; and their brightness appeared to me about equal to that of Venus, as seen at the same time.
" 'I was then residing at Weston-Super-Mare, in Somersetshire; and the instrument with which I saw them was a 5-feet telescope, equatoreally mounted, in a fixed observatory.
" 'I was engaged similarly to yourself in observing the planet Mercury; about 1/2 past 10 A.M. I was at first inclined to believe it must be the seed of some plants of the thistle nature floating in the air, but from my position that could not have been the case.
" 'The wind on the day I observed the phenomenon was very slight; but such as it was it came from the sea. The bodies all appeared sharply defined, no feathery appearances that I could detect; and I did not observe any difference in their brightness during the time I observed them.'
"Mr. Chalmers, then, after offering some remarks on a communication made by Mr. Dawes to the Roy. Astron. Society's Notice in April 1852, says, 'My impression certainly is that the phaenomena observed by Mr. Dawes and myself were not similar, and I trust that future observers may throw a clear light on the subject; for though Mr. Dawes is a very high authority, he is not infallible'.
"I feel it right, myself, to notice, that in the paper referred to by Mr. Chalmers, Mr. Dawes conceives an appearance which he saw to have been produced by seeds floating in the atmosphere.
"No one, I am sure, would doubt the correctness of his observations on such subjects; but, excepting in the season of the year, there is so little real similarity, that they cannot be parallel cases; and in his concluding observation that 'had such a dense shoal of bodies so brilliant as those described by me, as seen in September, passed in the night, they would have sufficed to turn darkness into day;' no doubt but that would have been the case, as it was in the phaenomenon witnessed by Messrs. Olmsted and Palmer in America, as recorded by Capt. Smyth and Baron Humboldt.
"In conclusion, I may be permitted to say to the British Association, that I had been, at the time my family and myself witnessed what I now communicate, a careful observer with superior instruments for upwards of 28 years, but that I never saw such appearance before nor since that period.
"WILLIAM READ, M.A."
Another science-minded account is found in "Force and Nature", a book on atomic theory published in 1869. Its author was Charles Frederick Winslow, a Harvard-trained physician, born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1811. In 1862, Dr. Winslow was appointed United States consul at Payta, Peru, during which period the following events occurred. ...
Above: Title page of Force and Nature.
All general readers are familiar with the observations recorded by English tourists through the High Alps, of the electric light flashing from crags and icicles, accompanying even rains and mists, as I have already described similar phenomena to be generated in the sea. Both, and all these conditions, are more or less local and temporary; but they are secondary results of the fluctuating translations of telluric forces from interior regions to exterior ones, and vice versa, charging and discharging the envelopes of the planet, and displaying luminous phenomena by the subtle activity of such translations.
The luminous marsh-gases (known as ignes fatui) afford another species of evidence, however insignificant their weight, upon possible causes of cosmic light. But such or similar will-o'-the-wisps exist not alone in marshes, and are not the only examples of spontaneous aerial combustion or luminosity that have been seen. So remarkable a phenomenon of this class was witnessed by myself in South America, in May 1865, that I am induced to give it permanent record in this connexion, inasmuch as so important a fact is not only a contribution to knowledge, but may also excite more active inquiry into the nature and causes of such spectral lights. At the time mentioned, I was engaged in a geological reconnaissance along the coast region of the province of Piura, Peru, accompanied by two American companions, and an Indian attendant. We halted one day at dark, about half way between the river Piura, or town of Sachura, and Point Aguja, within sound of the waves of Sachura Bay. The leaden sky and damp bleak wind common to that locality between sunset and sunrise were chilling us long before we made our beds on the drifting sand of that Sahara-like region. Sleeping little, I observed for much of the night that the cloudy sky only broke sufficiently to permit occasional glimpses of the stars. Toward morning it was more densely overcast, and bleaker than ever. Tired of discomfort, I summoned my companions before daylight in order to get breakfast and prepare for an early start. We had barely risen, when one of them, an old resident of Paita, exclaimed, "Why, doctor, there is the British mail steamer bound south." I looked westward, over the Bay of Sachura; and there, sure enough, apparently a long way off, were two bright orange-coloured lights, each with a conspicuous train, and one just ahead of the other, resembling the flames or light from two smoke-stacks. But, as I regarded them intently, I was struck with the rapidity and inequality of their motion, which seemed to increase and waver from moment to moment. They appeared, indeed, to be chasing each other. They were moving horizontally at almost the same level, only a few feet from the surface of the land or water, and with greater rapidity than it was possible for any steamer to move. At first, supposing them far off at sea, I was surprised at the quickness of their motion and transient variations of relative distance; and soon became convinced that they issued from no steamship's funnels, but were luminous objects of some sort, one following or chasing the other, not many thousand yards, perhaps feet, away. I called the attention of my companions to these points; and they came to similar conclusions. What were these lights? Our curiosity became intensely excited. They would vanish for a moment as the low dunes toward the bay intervened, and appear again moving swiftly southward, sometimes almost coming together, then separating, and never more than ten or fifteen feet apart, and each showing bright yellow luminous trains two or three feet long; both objects strongly brilliant, but not defined with clear outlines. In a word, they resembled large flaming torches without smoke in hot pursuit one after the other, just above the surface of the earth and sea. They were visible many minutes, and suddenly vanished, while yet in full blast, behind what I supposed to be a range of hillocks on the edge of the bay. Of course I was on the qui vive for the same or similar phenomena to reappear. We observed in all directions. Some minutes elapsed, when one of my companions detected and followed for a while a small bright light in the south-west. He traced it; but I failed to descry it, to his great surprise. I patiently watched, while my companions busied themselves in preparing for the journey. The grey of dawn was beginning to steal into the eastern night, and I beginning to despair, when to my great delight another luminous object appeared, approaching from the south-west and sailing toward the north, higher in the air than those before described; and almost immediately there appeared another slowly following, but not violently chasing the first, as in the former phenomenon. These strange objects swept along at different heights, without trains, appearing like large irregularly-shaped bladders of light, sometimes near each other, then far apart, rising and falling as if moved by currents of air, or more like slowly sailing birds, and changing their motions in all directions. In aspect they were at first yellow and bright; afterwards, as daylight advanced, growing paler and blueish white, like the fumes of phosphorus seen in the dark. They were more defined in form than the first, less intensely brilliant, yet apparently shapeless, and varying from six to fifteen inches in their various diameters. They were strange "spectral" lights without definite forms or proportions; at moments almost lost to sight, then reappearing again more brightly, and apparently having some relative connexion with each other, like that of gregarious birds. They were a long time visible, and finally were lost in the daylight. They appeared to float over both the shores and waters of the bay. What were they? I know not. The recollection of them is a marvel to me to this day...
Another interesting account comes from Notes and Queries -- a publication almost as interesting as the account itself. Its description as given by Oxford University Press...
"Notes and Queries, founded in London in 1849 as 'a medium of intercommunication for literary men, artists, antiquaries, genealogists, etc.', carried brief reports on the research its readers and contributors had conducted across a range of humanities subjects, primarily in history and literature. The magazine, which appeared weekly, published this research in the form of short 'Notes' or 'Queries' on points of interest or uncertainty... All entries in Notes and Queries are short, some no longer than a substantial paragraph. The first article published explains why this format was favoured: ‘Can any man in his wildest dream of imagination, conceive of anything that may not be -- nay, that has not been -- treated of in a note? Thousands of things there are, no doubt, which cannot be sublimed into poetry, or elevated into history, or treated of with dignity, in a stilted text of any kind, and which are, as it is called 'thrown' into notes...' ".
The following is from the April 17, 1875 edition...
Above: Page 306 of the April 17, 1875, issue of Notes and Queries.
STRANGE LIGHTS IN WALES -- A gentleman writes from Pwllheli, a coast town in Carnarvonshire, to the Field newspaper of Feb. 20, as follows: --
"Some few days ago we witnessed here what we have never seen before -- certain lights, eight in number, extending over, I should say, a distance of 8 miles; all seemed to keep their own ground, although moving in horizontal, perpendicular, and zig-zag directions. Sometimes they were of a light blue colour, then like the bright light of a carriage lamp, then almost like an electric light, and going out altogether, in a few minutes would appear again dimly, and come up as before. One of my keepers, who is nearly 70 years of age, has not, nor has any one else in this vicinity, seen the same before. Can any one of your numerous readers inform me whether they are will-o'-the-wisps, or what? We have seen three at a time afterwards on four or five occasions."
Surely we are not going to have a repetition of the "Fiery Exhalation" mentioned by Evelyn in his Diary, 2nd April 1694, and fully discussed in Gibson's continuation of Camden. These "Mephitic Vapours," as they were called, occurred on the same coast.
Sometimes the accounts were vaguely sourced, but carried with them the imprimatur of a well-known scholar, as in this short excerpt from a Letter to the Editor in the August 14, 1884 edition of Nature, from W.M. Flinders Petrie, FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society), chair of Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London ...
Above: Page 360 of the August 18, 1884, issue of Nature, in which the following appeared.
The following account I have received from a lady at Bruhl near Cologne, July 26: -- "8.22. A large fireball of scarlet fire almost as large as a harvest moon just sailed along and upwards, at a varying but mostly very rapid rate, until, at a great height, it remained for some minutes almost or quite stationary; then after some uncertain movements rose again, and rising, became smaller, until it finally disappeared. ... Every one who saw it seemed petrified with amazement." This is of interest from the long time that the ball was visible, and its being seen by several people. I described some time ago some fireballs which I saw slowly moving at a distance during a storm in Egypt, which were then put down as illusory results of a flash (NATURE, vol. xxiv. p. 284), but now many similar cases have been lately reported...
Although the following account from 1886 makes no mention of the sighting of any object -- aerial or otherwise -- the circumstances are still extraordinary in their potential implications...
Above: Page 389 of the December 18, 1886, edition of Scientific American. The following letter appeared in the bottom right of the page.
Curious Phenomenon in Venezuela.
To the Editor of the Scientific American:
The following brief account of a recent strange meteorological occurrence may be of interest to your readers as an addition to the list of electrical eccentricities:
During the night of the 24th of October last, which was rainy and tempestuous, a family of nine persons, sleeping in a hut a few leagues from Maracaibo, were awakened by a loud humming noise and a vivid, dazzling light, which brilliantly illuminated the interior of the house.
The occupants completely terror stricken, and believing, as they relate, that the end of the world had come, threw themselves on their knees and commenced to pray, but their devotions were almost immediately interrupted by violent vomitings, and extensive swellings commenced to appear in the upper part of their bodies, this being particularly noticeable about the face and lips.
It is to be noted that the brilliant light was not accompanied by a sensation of heat, although there was a smoky appearance and a peculiar smell.
The next morning, the swellings had subsided, leaving upon the face and body large black blotches. No special pain was felt until the ninth day, when the skin peeled off, and these blotches were transformed into virulent raw sores.
The hair of the head fell off upon the side which happened to be underneath when the phenomenon occurred, the same side of the body being, in all nine cases, the more seriously injured.
The remarkable part of the occurrence is that the house was uninjured, all doors and windows being closed at the time.
No trace of lightning could afterward by observed in any part of the building, and all the sufferers unite in saying that there was no detonation, but only the loud humming already mentioned.
Another curious attendant circumstance is that the trees around the house showed no signs of injury until the ninth day, when they suddenly withered, almost simultaneously with the development of the sores upon the bodies of the occupants of the house.
This is perhaps a mere coincidence, but it is remarkable that the same susceptibility to electrical effects, with the same lapse of time, should be observed in both animal and vegetable organisms.
I have visited the sufferers, who are now in one of the hospitals of this city; and although their appearance is truly horrible, yet it is hoped that in no case will the injuries prove fatal.
U. S. Consulate, Maracaibo, Venezuela
November 17, 1886.
In the following, Frank H. Schofield -- future Rear Admiral in the United States Navy -- describes a shipboard sighting of "Remarkable Meteors" in 1904. This is the same one mentioned in the Air Intelligence Digest article, above, but note that this is not a personal sighting, but rather what was reported to Schofield...
Above: Page 115 of the March, 1904, edition of Weather News.
1. I have the honor to report that three somewhat remarkable meteors were observed from this ship at 6:10 a.m. (Greenwich mean time 3 hours 12 minutes) February 28, 1904, in latitude 35° 58' north, longitude 128° 36' west.
By Lieut. FRANK H. SCHOFIELD; U.S. Navy.
2. The meteors appeared near the horizon and below the clouds, traveling in a group from northwest by north (true) directly toward the ship. At first their angular motion was rapid and color a rather bright red. As they approached the ship they appeared to soar, passing above the clouds at an elevation of about 45°. After rising above the clouds their angular motion became less and less until it ceased, when they appeared to be moving directly away from the earth at an elevation of about 75° and in direction west-northwest (true). It was noted that the color became less pronounced as the meteors gained in angular elevation.
3. When sighted, the largest meteor was in the lead, followed by the second in size at a distance of less than twice the diameter of the larger, and then by the third in size at a similar distance from the second in size. They appeared to be traveling in echelon, and so continued as long as in sight.
4. The largest meteor had an apparent area of about six suns. It was egg-shaped, the sharper end forward. This end was jagged in outline. The after end was regular and full in outline.
5. The second and third meteors were round and showed no imperfections in shape. The second meteor was estimated to be twice the size of the sun in appearance, and the third meteor about the size of the sun.
6. When the meteors rose there was no change in relative positions; nor was there at any time any evidence of rotation or tumbling of the larger meteor.
7. I estimated the clouds to be not over one mile high.
8. The near approach of these meteors to the surface and the subsequent flight away from the surface appear to be most remarkable, especially so as their actual size could not have been great. That they did come below the clouds and soar instead of continuing their southeasterly course is also equally certain, as the angular motion ceased and the color faded as they rose. The clouds in passing between the meteors and the ship completely obscured the former. Blue sky could be seen in the intervals between the clouds.
9. The meteors were in sight over two minutes and were carefully observed by three people, whose accounts agree as to details. The officer of the deck, Acting Boatswain Frank Garvey, U.S. Navy, sighted the meteors and watched them until they disappeared. He sent a messenger to me who brought an unintelligible message. When I arrived on the bridge the meteors had been obscured for about one-half of a minute.
There have been many articles and chapters in books concerning the "airship" seen over the United States in 1896-1897. But much lesser-known is an "airship" mystery in New Zealand in 1909 -- as found in the November-December, 1964, issue of Flying Saucer Review...
Above: First page of article.
The New Zealand "Flap" Of 1909
It is highly important that saucer students should have at their disposal records of sightings that precede that of Kenneth Arnold in 1947 which made the term "flying saucer" widely known. It cannot be denied that in 1909 most of the present day rationalizations were not available and New Zealand was remote both in time and place from the latest developments of the great industrial powers situated in Europe or in America. This article is reproduced by kind permission of Mrs. Hinfelaar from their journal SPACEVIEW (May-June issue) published from P.O. Box 21007, Henderson, New Zealand.
THROUGH the excellent co-operation of a reporter on our main daily newspaper, we have been able to unearth a series of sighting reports that would make any sceptic think twice in regard to the existence of unidentified flying objects.
The period in which these sightings were recorded was devoid of any air traffic other than the earliest efforts of the Wright brothers and Count Zeppelin. The former made their first flight in 1903, while the latter launched his first dirigible in 1900. The second ship of this type was destroyed in 1905, during an emergency landing. Although airship traffic dates from 1909, and was later used for bombing purposes in World War I, none of these dirigibles are known to have visited New Zealand skies.
At any rate, the flying range of these craft was so restricted that they had difficulty in making the return flight from Germany to England. Moreover, these ships were cumbersome and their manoeuvrability was low.
Having regard to these facts, it was therefore startling, to say the least, when in the year 1909 cigar-shaped flying objects were reported all over New Zealand. The first of these sightings was observed in the last week of July, and the last sighting was reported in the first week of September. For a solid six weeks hundreds of eyewitnesses continued to report the presence of "phantom" airships in our skies. Sightings were not merely restricted to the craft themselves, but also included (in many cases) their occupants. Dozens of accounts were reported to the local newspapers and in all but a couple of cases the actual sightings could be corroborated by several witnesses.
As far as localities go, the objects were seen in the North as well as in the South Island, covering an area from Dargaville to Invercargill, a distance of approximately 850 miles. Sightings occurred during the day -- as well as at night, and the most outstanding feature in nearly all reports was the description of the unidentified flying object. Never at any stage was more than one object sighted at the same time. The shape of the object was usually described as being elongated ("torpedo", "boat", "cigar" or "codfish").
In some cases, always at night, the objects carried strong searchlights (with reflectors) which lit up the landscape for miles. The speed of the craft was varied and ranged from a cruising speed of 30 m.p.h. to great velocity. Their passage through our skies was frequently described as the sailing of a boat (rather majestically) or as the rising and falling of a bird in flight. Some of the craft put on quite a display while dipping from 2,000 ft. to 1,000 ft. and circling around.
A cigar-shaped object
In one instance two local residents of Gore (South Island) reported having seen, at night, a boat-shaped object carrying two large fans and three lights -- which at times were covered by the fans. Two other residents (dredge hands) in the same locality reported an object shaped like a boat with an open top that came down through the mist in the early morning. The dredge hands swear they could discern two figures on board the craft. A similar airship was seen by several school children at noon. They stated it had the figure of a man seated in it. The manager of a firm in Dargaville observed a cigar-shaped object which moved along the coast, five miles from the shore. He watched it for 15 minutes while it sailed on majestically.
Although in one particular case the papers took great delight in reporting an obvious hoax, in all other cases ridicule and rigid cross-examination failed to shake the accounts as reported by hundreds of witnesses.
Curiously enough, during the beginning of the month of August, the planet Mars was approaching its closest proximity to Earth, and its unusual brilliance gave rise to several reports of mistaken identity.
Earlier in the year 1909, to be exact on May 18, at Caerphilly, Wales, a Cardiff man, named Lithbridge* was walking through the mountains when he came across a large cylindrical construction parked beside a lonely road. Inside it he saw two peculiar looking men, dressed in some kind of fur coats. On his approach they gabbled excitedly in a foreign language. The next minute the machine rose in the air and flew away. It had no wings and made little noise. A depression was found in the grass at the place he indicated. It was the first report in this century of a landed UFO.
There is no evidence to suggest that the year 1909 produced any UFO landings in New Zealand. To most witnesses the six weeks' flurry of sightings was, however, convincing enough to accept that intelligently controlled alien craft of an unknown identity had been visiting New Zealand skies.
The sighting flap ended as abruptly as it started. The last reported UFO sighting for the year is given here in full:
New Zealand Herald, September 10, 1909. "The Airship mystery again cropped up at Gore about 4.30 p.m. on the 1st instant (says the Dunedin Star). An object resembling an airship was seen manoeuvring in an undulating fashion in the direction of the Tapanui Hills and it gradually disappeared over the horizon towards Kelso. The gentlemen who reported the occurrence are two well-known residents of Gore, and their veracity is beyond question. They describe the object as of cigar shape, with a car attached to it, but they are unable to speak as to its occupants. They state that it was moving with great velocity. At first they believed it to be a balloon, but on closer vision they saw that it was of airship type. It remained in view for some minutes."
The Gore correspondent of the Southland Times telegraphed: -- "The sensation caused in Gore by the reported sight of the airship on the 1st instant, has been greatly intensified by the appearance this afternoon of the mysterious object, it being seen by a considerable number of persons in different parts of the town. Whether it is an aeroplane or not, on the strength of what has been more or less widely seen, there is no doubt that there is something of singular shape and size in the sky. Between 5.45 p.m. and 6 p.m. it appeared in view, coming over the hills on the eastern side of the town Otaraia. It apparently sailed backwards and forwards at a great pace and, turning around, gradually disappeared over the same hills, although it was subsequently seen in the direction of Gore racecourse. The children of a prominent resident saw it, and stated that it was of cigar shape. They were so certain of it that they telephoned their father in his place of business to advise him to look out from his office at the object. The father, however, had just left the building. Reliable testimony to the sight is also born by a party of golfers who were on their way home from the golf links when they saw it. They include the two gentlemen who viewed it previously. One of the party, however, thought it was a large kite, but he was unable to account for its rapid movements and manoeuvres. The others are of decided opinion that it was an airship which met their gaze, and they describe it as resembling a large codfish, and plunging in its movements. Many other persons corroborate the latter description, and Gore is intensely excited."
*See The Books of Charles Fort, p. 631. The correct spelling of this witness's name is Lethbridge. For a further account of this contact see FLYING SAUCER REVIEW, March-April, 1960, p. 19.
The later periods through the 1930s brought with them varying aerial mystery reports, but those were also eras in which conventional aircraft of the time and transitions in techniques of mass-communication obscure the nature of both the objects and the reports -- which when combined with latter-day agenda-driven "retellings" make it difficult to achieve any clear picture of what was being reported at best, and leaving such "retellings" as suspect at worst.
One such example comes from 1916, as found in the 1925 book "The German Air Raids On Great Britain 1914-1918", written by Captain Joseph Morris, Director of the Air History Branch (AHB). First established in 1919, the AHB was responsible for creating the Official History of British Air Operations in the First World War. In his book, he tells of a Zeppelin raid on England, which contains one curious description which remains open to many interpretations...
Above: World War I public warning poster showing the comparative silhouettes of German and British aircraft and airships.
IT WAS DURING 1916 THAT Germany attempted to reap the harvest of many years of patient and persistent endeavour. She had achieved a type of craft which no other nation either possessed or could build. With her rigid airships she had been pre-eminent in peace and their tryout in war was not unpromising. She had learned that for successful results from air bombing continuous and unremitting attacks must be kept up. She had also learned with some chagrin that even improvised defences had a limiting, if not crippling effect on the boldest of raiders. Could she but succeed in rapidly breaking the morale of the British nation anything would be worthwhile. What is the loss of a few airships and their precious crews if a war of nations is to be won? This was Germany's temper when she launched in the spring of 1916 a sequence of raids with hammer-blow regularity, which were to reduce England to a state of prostration and impotence with no breathing space for recovery or for the perfecting of counter weapons, if indeed any such did exist...
The Germans started the 1916 campaign with a very serious attack, but not on London. The improved defences had had their effect and London was not attacked again until the beginning of April. The air raid of the 31st January, 1916, was undoubtedly a belated effort to attain Liverpool, which project had been abandoned in the preceding fall. It marked the occasion on which German airships penetrated to the farthest westerly point in England ever reached by them, and was the most ambitious effort which the naval service had as yet attempted, the entire available squadron of new airships being employed...
Nine airships crossed the North Sea -- L.11, L.13, L.14, L15, L.16, L.17, L.19, L.20 and L.21 -- these representing the whole force of naval ships of the new standardised type then available. They appeared off our coast in successive groups, the first group, L.13 and L.21, arriving shortly before 4.50 p.m. off the Norfolk coast, while L.17 and L.20 which had the whole length of the Wash to traverse, did not come over the land till 7.10 p.m. ...
Over and around London there was thick ground mist. Of the sixteen pilots who had gone up from stations in the vicinity of the capital three were injured, two, unfortunately, so seriously that they subsequently died. They were Majors L. da C. Penn-Gaskell and E.F. Unwin; both highly experienced officers whom we could ill-afford to lose. Penn-Gaskell was in charge of the training squadron at Northolt. When warning came through for aeroplanes to go up, if weather permitted, Penn-Gaskell gave instructions for nobody to leave the ground until he himself had had a "chukker round" in the fog to ascertain if the conditions were such as to warrant him sending up the pilots in his charge. In a very heavy ground mist he took off at a quarter to seven. Scarcely had he left the aerodrome when he was observed to crash. His machine had struck a tree on the outskirts of the aerodrome. He received severe injuries to which he succumbed five days later. Unwin went up from Joyce Green at about a quarter to eight and like Penn-Gaskell, blinded by the mist, he crashed into a tree almost at once. He died from his injuries two months later, on the 23rd March. The Royal Flying Corps suffered irreparable losses when these two gallant and highly-efficient officers died in the performance of duties which they considered too dangerous to delegate to their juniors.
There was a chase of a phantom airship that night. Flight Sub-Lieutenant J.E. Morgan, who went up from Rochford at about a quarter to nine, was at 5,000 feet when, according to his report, he saw a little above his own level and slightly ahead to starboard, "a row of what appeared to be lighted windows which looked something like a railway carriage with the blinds drawn." Morgan thought that he had sighted a hostile airship only some 100 feet away, so he fired at it with his Webley Scott pistol, whereupon he says that "the lights alongside rose rapidly" and disappeared...
After the experience of aerial bombardment in World War I -- and the subsequent German strategic bombing of civilians during the Spanish Civil War -- by the 1940s unknown aerial intruders were a particularly sensitive mater. Frist came the devastating suprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. Then, on February 23, 1942, a Japanese submarine shelled an oil refinery outside Santa Barbara. This was followed in the early morning hours of February 25, 1942, with the event now known as "The Battle of Los Angeles"...
Above: Two-page spread in Life magazine.
Army Guns Open Up At Unknown "Foe"
Thirty-two hours after the shelling of Ellwood's oil fields, something touched off anti-aircraft units in the Los Angeles metropolitan district. At 2:22 a.m. Feb. 25, lights blacked out from Santa Monica to Long Beach. Searchlights poked long silver fingers into the cloudless sky. Golden-yellow tracer bullets and high-explosive shells raced toward the stars, banged and came down like hail on slumbering roof tops. No enemy planes were hit, but at least two houses were badly damaged, many windows were smashed, and two civilians were killed by cars during the blackout.
In Washington next day Navy Secretary Knox declared it was all a false alarm. War Secretary Stimson promptly retorted that at least 15 unidentified aircraft had been involved, suggested they might have been private planes operated by enemy agents. Californians, and Americans everywhere, wondered once again why the Army and Navy didn't get together.
Although the "Bermuda Triangle" is often the subject of a different kind of mystery, there is one incident from 1945 which has often found its way into UFO lore -- to the point of kicking off the heart-pounding opening minutes of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the following excerpt, from the February, 1964, edition of Argosy magazine, "The Lost Patrol" (it was actually a training flight, not a patrol) is part of an article entitled The Deadly Bermuda Triangle -- written by Vincent Gaddis -- who with this article introduced the term "Bermuda Triangle" to the reading public...
Above, top: TBM Avenger torpedo bombers in WWII. Second: A Martin Mariner flying boat of the U.S. Coast Guard. Third: The USS Solomons. Bottom: 14 crew members of Flight 19. Not pictured: 13 crew members of Martin Mariner rescue flight.
The Lost Patrol
Whatever this menace that lurks within a triangle of tragedy so close to home, it was responsible for the most incredible mystery in the history of aviation -- the lost patrol. Here is the amazing story:
Early on a Wednesday afternoon, five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers lined up on runways at the Fort Lauderdale (Florida) Naval Air Station. The date was December 5, 1945.
Normally, the Avengers carried a crew of three -- a pilot, a gunner and a radio operator. One crewman, however, failed to report this day.
The bombers had been carefully checked and fueled to capacity. The engines, controls, instruments and compasses were in perfect condition, according to later testimony. Each plane carried a self-inflating life raft and each man was equipped with a life jacket. All fourteen men had flight experience ranging from thirteen months to six years.
At two minutes past two p.m., the flight leader closed his canopy, gunned his engine, and the first plane roared down the runway. The others followed in quick succession, climbing up into the clear sky and heading east over the Atlantic at 215 m.p.h.
It was a routine patrol flight. The navigation plan for the formation was to fly due east for 160 miles, then north for forty miles, then back southwest to the air station, completing a triangle. The relatively short flight would require about two hours.
The first word from the patrol came to the base control tower at three forty-five, but the strange message did not request the expected landing instructions.
"Calling tower, this is an emergency," the patrol leader said in a worried voice. "We seem to be off course. We cannot see land ... repeat ... we cannot see land."
"What is your position?" the tower radioed back.
"We are not sure of our position," came the reply. "We can't be sure where we are. We seem to be lost."
Startled, the tower operators looked at one another. With ideal flight conditions, how could five planes manned by experienced crews be lost?
"Assume bearing due west," the tower instructed.
There was unmistakable alarm in the flight leader's voice when he answered. "We don't know which way is west. Everything is wrong ... strange. We can't be sure of any direction. Even the ocean doesn't look as it should."
Let's suppose that the patrol had run into a magnetic storm that caused deviations in their compasses. The sun was still above the western horizon. The flyers could have ignored their compasses and flown west by observation of the sun.
Apparently not only the sea looked strange, but the sun was invisible.
During the next few minutes, the tower operators listened in as the pilots talked to one another. The conversation progressed from bewilderment to fear, verging on hysteria.
The Pilot's Bewilderment
Shortly after four p.m., the flight leader suddenly turned over flight command to another pilot.
At four twenty-five p.m., the new flight leader contacted the tower.
"Tower," he said, "we are not certain where we are ... we think we must be about two hundred and twenty-five miles northeast of base. It looks like we are ..." The message ended abruptly.
That was the last word from the doomed patrol.
Tower operators signaled a rescue alarm. Within a few minutes, a huge Martin Mariner flying boat with full rescue and survival equipment and a crew of thirteen men was on its way.
The tower tried to call the Avengers to tell them help was en route. There was no reply.
Several routine radio reports were received from the Mariner. About twenty minutes after it left the base, the tower called the flying boat to check its position. There was no answer.
What was happening out there over the sea 200 miles away?
By this time, it was dusk. Alarmed, operations at Fort Lauderdale notified the Coast Guard at Miami. A Coast Guard rescue plane covered the flying boat's route and reached the last estimated position of the missing patrol. There was not a sign of the six planes.
Navy and Coast Guard vessels joined the search. Through the long night, they watched for possible signal flares from life rafts. But no lights broke through the darkness above the black sea.
The Scale of the Search
At dawn, the escort carrier Solomons moved into the area and dispatched its thirty planes in an aerial search. Within a few hours, twenty-one vessels were combing the sea. Above the ships were 300 planes flying in grid search pattern. The British Royal Air Force pressed every available ship into service from the nearby territorial islands. All during the day, the sky and the sea were methodically criss-crossed over an ever-widening area.
The intensive search continued on the following day, not only between Florida and the Bahamas, but 200 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Twelve large land parties searched 300 miles of shoreline from Miami Beach to St. Augustine. Low-flying planes checked beaches south to Key West and north to Jacksonville. But not a scrap of wreckage or debris was found.
Military experts were baffled. How could six airplanes (including the large Mariner) and twenty-seven men totally vanish in such a limited area?
Did the planes eventually run out of fuel? While the Avengers were not especially buoyant, the Navy said they would remain afloat long enough for life rafts to be launched, and the crewmen "shouldn't even get their feet wet." All the missing men were trained in sea-survival procedures and had Mae West life jackets. After similar ditchings, Navy crewmen had existed for days, even weeks, in open sea.
Each plane had its own radio facilities. Why was no SOS received from at least one of the planes?
Commander H.S. Roberts, executive officer at the base, suggested that his fliers might have been blown off course by high winds. The Miami Weather Bureau reported that there had been gusts up to forty mph in the general area where the patrol was last reported. These winds would not seriously influence flying.
A waterspout would affect only a low-flying plane. But if a freak waterspout had struck the patrol, there would certainly have been debris.
And what about the Mariner? Did it meet the same fate as the patrol?
All these theories disregard the puzzling circumstances reported by the flight leader: the curious observations and the strange inability to determine location.
On the night of the disappearance, the S.S. Gaines Mills, a merchant ship, notified the Navy that it had observed an explosion high in the sky at seven-thirty p.m. No wreckage or oil slicks were found at the location given. But the explosion occurred more than three hours after the last radio message from the patrol, and it is unlikely that there is a connection. It may have been an exploding meteor.
"They vanished as completely," an officer of the Naval Board of Inquiry said, "as if they had flown to Mars."
A study reveals some possible clues.
"A hole in the sky?"
If the patrol had flown west, they would have reached Florida or the Florida Keys. If they had flown east, they would have seen the Bahamas; Grand Bahama is almost twenty-five miles long. Southeast were the Great Abaca and Andros islands. Open areas were north and south, but on such a clear day, islands and the mainland should have been visible part of the time.
We can only conclude that the patrol planes were flying in a circle between Florida and the Bahamas. This would mean that all five compasses were thrown off erratically to the same degree. If the errors had been constant, they would have flown straight and seen land somewhere.
Something affected the compasses; and it may also, later, have silenced the patrol's radios. The twin-engine Mariner not only had the usual radio facilities, but a hand-cranked generator for emergencies.
Combine these facts with the strange appearance of the sea, plus inability to see the sun, and a possible theory is an unknown type of atmospheric aberration. This aberration might be called "a hole in the sky." Its exact nature and why it is localized to semi-tropical waters within and near the Bermuda Triangle are not known.
Officially, the Navy does not go along with this theory. Captain E.W. Humphrey, co-ordinator of aviation safety, puts it this way: "It is not felt that an atmospheric aberration exists in this area, nor that one has existed in the past. Fleet aircraft-carrier and patrol-plane flight operations are conducted regularly in this same area without incident."
The fact that patrol operations are made without incident is no evidence against the phenomenon. It is obvious that it occurs only occasionally in the well-traveled triangle area, without warning, but frequently enough to be alarming...
Finally, the following seminal article appeared in the December, 1945, issue of American Legion magazine. Published just four months following the end of World War II -- and 18 months before "flying saucer" would first enter the American lexicon -- it is notable for its pristine description of aerial encounters over Europe and Asia by pilots in the midst of war...
Above: Cover for the December, 1945, edition of American Legion magazine, and first page of article.
The Foo Fighter Mystery
The riddle of the balls of fire encountered by our night-flying planes over Germany and,
later, over Japan
By Jo Chamberlin
DURING THE last months of the war the crews of many B-29s over Japan saw what they described as "balls of fire" which followed them, occasionally came up and almost sat on their tails, changed color from orange to red to white and back again, and yet never closed in to attack or crash, suicide-style.
One B-29 made evasive maneuvers inside a cloud, but when the B-29 emerged from it, the ball of fire was following in the same relative position. It seemed 500 yards off, three feet in diameter, and had a phosphorescent orange glow. No wing or fuselage suggesting an aerial bomb or plane was seen. The ball of fire followed the B-29 for several miles and then disappeared just as mysteriously as it had appeared in the dawn light over Fujiyama.
Some B-29 crews said they could readily lose the ball of fire by evasive maneuvers, even though the ball kept up with them at top speed on a straight course; other B-29 crews reported just the opposite.
Nobody could figure it out.
Far to the south, a B-24 Liberator was at 11,000 feet over Truk lagoon, when two red lights rose rapidly from below, and followed the B-24. After an hour, one light turned back. The other kept on -- sometimes behind, sometimes alongside, sometimes ahead about 1,000 yards, until daybreak when it climbed to 15,000 feet and stayed in the sun, like a Jap fighter seeking game, but never came down. During the flight, the light changed from red to orange, then white, and back to orange, and appeared to be the size of a basketball. No wing or fuselage was observed. The B-24 radioed island radar stations to see if there were any enemy planes in the sky.
The answer was: "None."
A curious business, and one for which many solutions have been advanced, before the war was over, and since. None of them stand up. The important point is: No B-29 was harmed by the balls of fire, although what the future held, no one knew. The Japanese were desperately trying to bolster up their defense in every way possible against air attack, but without success. Our B-29s continued to rain destruction on Japanese military targets, and finally dropped the atomic bomb.
Naturally, U.S. Army authorities in Japan will endeavor to find the secret -- but it may be hidden as well as it appears to be in Europe. The balls of fire continue to be a mystery -- just as they were when first observed on the other side of the world -- over eastern Germany.
This is the way they began.
At ten o'clock of a November evening, in late 1944, Lt. Ed Schlueter took off in his night fighter from Dijon, France, on what he thought would be a routine mission for the 415th Night Fighter Squadron.
Lt. Schlueter is a tall, competent young pilot from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, whose hazardous job was to search the night sky for German planes and shoot them down. He had done just this several times and had been decorated for it. As one of our best night fighters, he was used to handling all sorts of emergencies. With him as radar observer was Lt. Donald J. Meiers, and Lt. Fred Ringwald, intelligence officer of the 415th, who flew as an observer.
The trio began their search pattern, roaming the night skies on either side of the Rhine River north of Strasbourg -- for centuries the abode of sirens, dwarfs, gnomes, and other supernatural characters that appealed strongly to the dramatic sense of the late A. Hitler. However, at this stage of the European war, the Rhine was no stage but a grim battleground, where the Germans were making their last great stand.
The night was reasonably clear, with some clouds and a quarter moon. There was fair visibility.
In some respects, a night fighter plane operates like a champion boxer whose eyesight isn't very good; he must rely on other senses to guide him to his opponent. The U.S. Army has ground radar stations, which track all planes across the sky, and tell the night fighter the whereabouts of any plane. The night fighter flies there, closes in by means of his own radar until usually he can see the enemy, and if the plane doesn't identify itself as friendly, he shoots it down.
Or, gets shot down himself, for the Germans operate their aircraft in much same way we did, and so did the Japanese.
Lt. Schlueter was flying low enough so that he could detect the white steam of a blacked-out locomotive or the sinister bulk of a motor convoy, but he had to avoid smokestacks, barrage balloons, enemy searchlights, and flak batteries. He and Ringwald were on the alert, for there were mountains nearby. The inside of the plane was dark, for good night vision.
Lt. Ringwald said, "I wonder what those lights are, over there in the hills."
"Probably stars," said Schlueter, knowing from long experience that the size and character of lights are hard to estimate at night.
"No, I don't think so."
"Are you sure it's no reflection from us?"
Then Ringwald remembered -- there weren't any hills over there. Yet the "lights" were still glowing -- eight or ten of them in a row -- orange balls of fire moving through the air at a terrific speed.
Then Schlueter saw them far off his left wing. Were enemy fighters pursuing him? He immediately checked by radio with Allied ground radar stations.
"Nobody up there but yourself," they reported. "Are you crazy?"
And no enemy plane showed in Lt. Meiers' radar.
Lt. Schlueter didn't know what he was facing -- possibly some new and lethal German weapon -- but he turned into the lights, ready for action. The lights disappeared -- then reappeared far off. Five minutes later they went into a flat glide and vanished.
The puzzled airmen continued on their mission, and destroyed seven freight trains behind German lines. When they landed back at Dijon, they decided to do what any other prudent soldier would do -- keep quiet for the moment. If you tried to explain everything strange that happened in a war, you'd do nothing else. Further, Schlueter and Meiers had nearly completed their required missions, and didn't want to chance being grounded by some skeptical flight surgeon for "combat fatigue."
Maybe they had been "seeing things."
But a few nights later, Lt. Henry Giblin, of Santa Rosa, California, pilot, and Lt. Walter Cleary, of Worcester, Massachusetts, radar-observer, were flying at 1,000 feet altitude when they saw a huge red light 1,000 feet above them, moving at 200 miles per hour. As the observation was made on an early winter evening, the men decided that perhaps they had eaten something at chow that didn't agree with them and did not rush to report their experience.
On December 22-23, 1944, another 415th night fighter squadron pilot and radar-observer were flying at 10,000 feet altitude near Hagenau. "At 0600 hours we saw two lights climbing toward us from the ground. Upon reaching our altitude, they leveled off and stayed on my tail. The lights appeared to be large orange glows. After staying with the plane for two minutes, they peeled off and turned away, flying under perfect control, and then went out."
The next night the same two men, flying at 10,000 feet, observed a single red flame. Lt. David L. McFalls, of Cliffside, N.C., pilot, and Lt. Ned Baker of Hemat [sic, should be Hemet], California, radar-observer, also saw: "A glowing red object shooting straight up, which suddenly changed to a view of an aircraft doing a wing-over, going into a dive and disappearing." This was the first and only suggestion of a controlled flying device.
By this time, the lights were reported by all members of the 415th who saw them. Most men poked fun at the observers, until they saw for themselves. Although confronted with a baffling situation, and one with lethal potentialities, the 415th continued its remarkable combat record. When the writer of this article visited and talked with them in Germany, he was impressed with the obvious fact that the 415th fliers were very normal airmen, whose primary interest was combat, and after that came pin-up girls, poker, doughnuts, and the derivatives of the grape.
The 415th had a splendid record.
The whole outfit took the mysterious lights or balls of fire with a sense of humor. Their reports were received in some higher quarters with smiles: "Sure, you must have seen something, and have you been getting enough sleep?" One day at chow a 415th pilot suggested that they give the lights a name. A reader of the comic strip "Smokey Stover" suggested that they be called "foo-fighters," since it was frequently and irrefutably stated in that strip that "Where there's foo, there's fire."
The name stuck.
What the 415th saw at night was borne out in part by day. West of Neustadt, a P-47 pilot saw "a gold-colored ball, with a metallic finish, which appeared to be moving slowly through the air. As the sun was low, it was impossible to tell whether the sun reflected off it, or the light came from within." Another P-47 pilot reported "a phosphorescent golden sphere, 3 to 5 feet in diameter, flying at 2,000 feet."
Meanwhile, official reports of the "foo-fighters" had gone to group headquarters and were "noted." Now in the Army, when you "note" anything it means that you neither agree nor disagree, nor do you intend to do anything about it. It covers everything. Various explanations were offered for the phenomena -- none of them satisfactory, and most of them irritating to the 415th.
It was said that the foo-fighters might be a new kind of flare.
A flare, said the 415th, does not dive, peel off, or turn.
Were they to frighten or confuse Allied pilots?
Well, if so, they were not succeeding -- and yet the lights continued to appear.
Eighth Air Force bomber crews had reported seeing silver-colored spheres resembling huge Christmas tree ornaments in the sky -- what about them?
Well, the silver spheres usually floated, and never followed a plane. They were presumably some idea the Germans tried in the unsuccessful effort to confuse our pilots or hinder our radar bombing devices.
What about jet planes?
No, the Germans had jet planes all right, but they didn't have an exhaust flame visible at any distance.
Could they be flying bombs of some sort, either with or without a pilot? Presumably not -- with but one exception no one thought he observed a wing or fuselage.
No, the 415th was well aware of their behavior. They ascended almost vertically, and eventually burst.
Could the lights or balls of fire be the red, blue, and orange colored flak bursts that Eighth Air Force bomber crews had reported?
It was a nice idea, said the 415th, but there was no correlation between the foo-fighters they observed and the flak they encountered. And night flak was usually directed by German radar, not visually.
In short, no explanation stood up.
On Dec. 31, 1944, AP reporter Bob Wilson, was with the 415th and heard about the foo-fighters. He questioned the men until 4 a.m. in the best newspaper tradition until he got all the facts. His story passed the censors, and appeared in American newspapers on January 1, 1945, just in time to meet the customary crop of annual hangovers.
Some scientists in New York decided, apparently by remote control, that what the airmen had seen in Germany was St. Elmo's light -- a well-known electrical phenomenon appearing like light or flame during stormy weather at the tips of church steeples, ships' masts, and tall trees. Being in the nature of an electrical discharge, St. Elmo's fire is reddish when positive, and blueish when negative.
The 415th blew up. It was thoroughly acquainted with St. Elmo's fire. The men snorted, "Just let the sons come over and fly a mission with us. We'll show 'em."
Through January, 1945, the 415th continued to see the "foo-fighters," and their conduct became increasingly mysterious. One aircrew observed lights, moving both singly and in pairs. On another occasion, three sets of lights, this time red and white in color, followed a plane, and when the plane suddenly pulled up, the lights continued on in the same direction, as though caught napping, and then sheepishly pulled up to follow.
The pilot checked with ground radar -- he was alone in the sky.
This was true in every instance foo-fighters were observed.
The first real clue came with the last appearance of the exasperating and potentially deadly lights. They never kept 415th from fulfilling its missions, but they certainly were unnerving. The last time the foo-fighters appeared, the pilot turned into them at the earliest possible moment -- and the lights disappeared. The pilot was sure that he felt prop wash, but when he checked with ground radar, there was no other airplane.
The pilot continued on his way, perturbed, even angry -- when he noticed the lights far to the rear. The night was clear and the pilot was approaching a huge cloud. Once in the cloud, he dropped down two thousand feet and made a 30 degree left turn. Just a few seconds later be emerged from the cloud -- with his eye peeled to rear. Sure enough, coming out of the cloud in the same relative position was the foo-fighter, as though to thumb its nose at the pilot, and then disappear.
This was the last time the foo-fighters were seen in Germany, although it would have seemed fitting, if the lights had made one last gesture, grouping themselves so as to spell "Guess What" in the sky, and vanishing forever.
But they didn't.
The foo-fighters simply disappeared when Allied ground forces captured the area East of the Rhine. This was known to be the location of many German experimental stations. Since V-E day our Intelligence officers have put many such installations under guard. From them we hope to get valuable research information -- including the solution to the foo-fighter mystery, but it has not appeared yet. It may be successfully hidden for years to come, possibly forever.
The members of the 415th hope Army Intelligence will find the answer. If it turns out that the Germans never had anything airborne in the area, they say, "We'll be all set for Section Eight psychiatric discharges."
Meanwhile, the foo-fighter mystery continues unsolved. The lights, or balls of fire, appeared and disappeared on the other side of the world, over Japan -- and your guess as to what they were is just as good as mine, for nobody really knows.
1. The oft-quoted descriptions of Ezekiel and Zechariah, in this instance as given in the summation in Air Intelligence Digest, ignore the problems in relying on any translation of the passages in the Tanakh (the Hebrew scriptures). For instance, the 1985 Jewish Publication Society translation of the relevant portion of Ezekiel reads:
As for the appearance and structure of the wheels, they gleamed like beryl. All four had the same form; the appearance and structure of each was as of two wheels cutting through each other. And when they moved, each could move in the direction of any of its four quarters; they did not veer when they moved. Their rims were tall and frightening, for the rims of all four were covered all over with eyes. And when the creatures moved forward, the wheels moved at their sides; and when the creatures were borne above the earth, the wheels were borne too. Wherever the spirit impelled them to go, they went -- wherever the spirit impelled them -- and the wheels were borne alongside them; for the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels. When those moved, these moved; and when those stood still, these stood still; and when those were borne above the earth, the wheels were borne alongside them -- for the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels.
Contrast the above with the translation found in the King James' version, generally found in Protestant denominations...
The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
...or in the English version of the Latin Vulgate, generally used in Catholic services...
The wheels and their construction sparkled like yellow topaz, and all four of them looked the same: their construction seemed as though one wheel was inside the other. When they moved, they went in any of the four directions without veering as they moved. The four of them had rims, high and fearsome -- eyes filled the four rims all around. When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved with them; and when the living creatures were raised from the ground, the wheels also were raised. Wherever the spirit would go, they went. And they were raised up together with the living creatures, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. Wherever the living creatures moved, the wheels moved; when they stood still, the wheels stood still. When they were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up with them. For the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
Nor do the ancient Hebrew texts exist in one standard form. For instance, see the Wikipedia entry on Masoteric Text.
2. The text of the letter in the 25 May 1893 issue of Nature mentioned in the Air Intelligence Digest article was found online at Before They Were UFOs...
An Atmospheric Phenomenon in the North China Sea
During a recent wintry cruise in H.M.S. Caroline in the North China Sea, a curious phenomenon was seen which may be of interest to your readers. The ship was on passage between Shanghai and the western entrance of the famous inland sea of Japan. On 24th February, at 10 p.m., when in latitude 32° 58' N., longitude 126° 33" E., which, on reference to the map, will be seen to be sixteen to seventeen miles south of Quelpart island (south of the Korean peninsula) some unusual lights were reported by the officer of the watch between the ship and Mount Auckland, a mountain 6,000 feet high. It was a windy, cold, moonlight night. My first impression was that they were either some fires on shore, apparently higher from the horizon than a ship's masthead, or some junk's "flare up" lights raised by mirage. To the naked eye they appeared sometimes as a mass; at others, spread out in an irregular line, and, being globular in form, they resembled Chinese lanterns festooned between the masts of a lofty vessel. They bore north (magnetic), and remained on that bearing until lost sight of about midnight. As the ship was passing the land to the eastward at the rate of seven knots an hour, it soon became obvious that the lights were not on the land, though observed with the mountain behind them.
On the following night, February 25th, about the same time, 10 p.m., the ship having cleared Port Hamilton, was steering east, on the parallel of 34°, when these curious lights were again observed on the same bearing, at an altitude of 3° or 4° above the horizon. It was a clear, still, moonlight night, and cold. On this occasion there was no land in sight on a north bearing when the lights were first observed, but soon afterwards a small islet was passed, which for the time eclipsed the lights. As the ship steamed on at a rate of seven knots an hour, the lights maintained a constant bearing (magnetic) of N.2°W, as if carried by some vessel travelling in the same direction and at the same speed. The globes of fire altered in their formation as on the previous night, now in a massed group, with an outlying light away to the right, then the isolated one would disappear, and the others would take the form of a crescent or diamond, and hang festoon-fashion in a curved line. A clear reflection or glare could be seen on the horizon beneath the lights. Through a telescope the globes appeared to be of a reddish colour, and to emit a thin smoke.
I watched them for several hours, and could distinguish no perceptible alteration in their bearing or altitude, the changes occurring only in their relative formation, but each light maintained its oval, globular form.
They remained in sight from 10 p.m. until daylight (about 5.30 a.m.). When lost sight of the bearing was one or two points to the westward of north. At daylight land 1300 feet high was seen to the north and north-north-west, distant fifty miles, the mirage being extraordinary.
Thus, these lights were seen first in longitude 126° 33' E., and last in longitude 128° 29' E. At first the land was behind them, but during the greater part of the distance run it was forty-five or fifty miles away to the north; and the bearing of the lights for at least three-fourths of the distance did not change.
On arrival at Kobe I read in a daily paper that the "Unknown light of Japan" had, as was customary at this season of the year when the weather is very cold, stormy, and clear, been observed by fishermen in the Shimbara Gulf and Japanese waters. The article went on to say that these lights were referred to in native school-books, and attributed to electrical phenomena. On mentioning the matter, however, to the leading Europeans in Yokohama and Tokio, they appeared to have no knowledge of the matter.
Captain Castle, of H.M.S. Leander, informed me that, not long ago, the officers of his ship saw lights in the same locality which they thought at first were caused by a ship on fire. The course of the vessel was altered at once with a view of rendering assistance, but finding that the lights increased their altitude as he approached, he attributed them to some volcanic disturbance, and being pressed for time, resumed his course.
The background of high land seen on the first night dispels all idea of these extraordinary lights being due to a distant volcano. The uniformity of the bearing renders the theory of their being fires on the shore most improbable. I am inclined to the belief that they were something in the nature of St. Elmo's fires. It is probable that there are travellers among the readers of your interesting journal who have seen or heard of this phenomenon, and will be able to describe its origin and the atmospheric conditions necessary for its appearance.
Chas. J. Norcock, H.M.S. Caroline, Hongkong, April 10.
3. In the Air Intelligence Digest article it is noted that, "An 1870 letter to the Times is our cover picture this month." Unfortunately images of the August, 1952, edition in which it appeared are not readily available. However, it apparently refers to the following letter, dated 26 September 1870 from Berlin, Germany, and published in the Times on 30 September 1870:
As I was last night examining the constellation Lyra through my 4-1/2-inch achromatic, with a power of 46, I observed a luminous object, with a distinct comet-like tail, pass slowly through the field of my glass, apparently starting from Vega and falling in the direction of Epsilon Lyrae. The hour by my watch was 12:15, Berlin time. The time occupied by this object in its transit across the disc of the glass was about 30 seconds, but before it had reached its edge it disappeared suddenly from view. I at first thought it was a falling star, but on reflection it appeared to me that a falling star would never have remained so long visible in the telescopic field.
The above was quoted from Wonders in the Sky by Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck. They give the name of the letter-writer as "Mr. Barbazon".
4. The complete article by Capt. Ruppelt from the August, 1952, issue of Air Intelligence Digest may be read at An Insider's Guide to Flying Saucers, published in January 2012 at this site.
5. The quotations given in the articles by W.R. Drake leave much room for interpretation. For just one example, see Nuremburg 1561 UFO "Battle" Debunked.
6. The opening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind -- depicting the discovery of the planes of Flight 19 -- may be seen here. Unfortunately, its aspect ratio has been distorted.
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