The Cigar Ship of 1909!
Nigel Watson

From MUFOB new series 10, Spring 1978

For his contribution to the tenth anniversary issue of MUFOB, Nigel Watson revealed some of the delights of historical ufology!

cigarshipAs a law-abiding citizen, I now and again partake of the duty of looking through musty old newspapers in search of items of Fortean or ufological interest. Recently I have been checking on the 1909 airship sightings which were recorded by Carl Grove in his two-part article entitled “The Airship Wave of 1909″ (Flying Saucer Review, Vol 16, no 6 and vol 17, no 1).

Despite a thorough search, the Lincolnshire Chronicle for May and June 1909 doesn’t bother mentioning the airship scare. The Doncaster Gazette and the Lincoln Leader both published similar items, except that the Leader‘s article was a little more detailed and also contained information on the more spectacular Caerphilly mountain episode and other Welsh sightings, (cases nos 30 and 31 in the Grove articles) which were barely discernible due to some fiend having hacked a piece out of this particular section. Unfortunately both papers only mentioned the sighting by PC Kettle of a powerfal light over Peterborough on 23rd March 1909, which they explained as a sighting of a light with a Chinese lantern attached.

The ‘hoax’ letter written by a Major Hayfield of Pinchbeck Road, Spalding (INTCAT no. 68) was given mention with some derision: We really cannot take any notice of it. It is too ludicrous”, said Canon Bullock. Apparently none of these papers received any sightings themselves, which was disappointing for my bleary eyes.

In 1909 Britain had an Empire with a capital ‘E’, so we took a dim view of any Imperialistic foreigners on the horizon. Since little green men and saucers from Mars were not too well though of in 1909, the phantom airship was regarded as a German Zeppelin spy-craft on a sinister mission… Or… it was regarded as a load of rubbish; as seems to be the view of the above papers, who tended to blame the scare on the London press.

Thoughtfully, the Lincoln Leader of the 5th June decided to reassure its readership with an item entitled “Mr Lupton on Air-Ships and Scare-ships”. Mr Arnold Lupton M.P., an authority on the use of explosives (essential knowledge for a politician, I should imagine) was interviewed by the (London) Evening News, where he claimed that

“If London was to be destroyed by bombs thrown from balloons it would require a fleet of 200,000 Zeppelin balloons, each costing not less than £20,000, or equal to £4,000,000,000. They would also need 600,000 devoted aeronauts to throw them.”

With such a reassuring Member of Parliament the Bulldog Breed could sleep safely, secure in the knowledge that technology had not yet caught up with the problem of the aeriel bombardment of distant targets on as effective scale.

There are probably many more ‘airship’ sightings to be discovered in the local papers from 1909 and 1913 (from preliminary findings there was more coverage of the 1913 scare) and such research is liable to reveal more useful information than that obtained by skywatches and the like.
The Caerphilly Mountain incident which involved Mr Lethbridge seeing a tubuar object with foreign speaking men next to it caused the biggest sensation in the press of the period, and was subjected to scepticism and laughter from the journalistic fraternity. Typically, Punch jumped at the opportunity given by this encounter, and the Lincoln Leader of the 29th May quoted, in its “Wit of the Week” column, the following lampoon:


Harpenden – A suspicious looking foreigner was seen here yesterday on the common. A watch was kept on him, and he was seen after dark in an un-frequented spot to be busy with a cigar-shaped looking object which had a brilliantly coloured band round the middle. Every now and then a light would appear at the end of the object and almost immediately to go out, to the accompaniment of gutteral expletives in a foreign tongue. The object is of a brownish colour, and seems to require constant attention from its owner. Three dozen wooden matches and a box with foreign words on it were found near the spot where the stranger was observed at work on the instrument described above, and it is though that he was engaged in making strenuous efforts to get it going. Intense excitement prevails.

Later – The coloured band referred to (which also has foreign words on it) has just been found and forwarded to the Board of Trade.

Venus With Her Trousers Down!
Nigel Watson and Granville Oldroyd

From Magonia 17, October 1984

WHILST researching newspaper files for reports of phantom airship sightings made between 1909 and 1913 some interesting incidental material has been collected. In particular we have noticed that the rumoured activities of German secret agents were very much linked in the public mind with the airship sightings [1,2]. This kind of link, and other stories recorded during these periods appears to be very similar to some of the more bizarre aspects of the contemporary UFO scene. For instance, Carl Grove has noted the case of two ‘foreign’ strangers who observed the home of an airship witness for several hours [3]. Also, we have revealed how a stranger who took an interest in chickens during the 1909 airship flap might easily be compared to some entities who were seen exploring chicken runs in a Puerto Rican yard during 1980 [4].

For some people the obvious conclusion to be made is that what were thought to be inquisitive strangers or German agents were in fact MIB. As most readers of this account will be aware, the MIB are regarded by the more credulous members of the UFO fraternity as terrestrial agents of the UFO forces, who are either aliens who disguise themselves in order to infiltrate human society, or they are ‘brainwashed’ humans who are controlled by the aliens.

An example of a MIB-type event which is worthy of mention, since it can easily be compared to a contemporary event, was exposed in the 11th March edition of the [Hull] Daily Mail. The report tells of how a stranger was given a room for the night at a Newport Inn, on Sunday 9th March. Apparently:

He had not been long in the house, when he bolted to the canal with no covering but his shirt. His host got him back to the house, and again
 made him comfortable on the couch for the night. No sooner was his benefactor asleep than he made off again, leaving all his clothes but his shirt behind. Information of the missing man was given to PC Jewett, who searched for the missing one until 6 o’clock on Monday morning. In the early hours of the morning he had knocked at the doors of several cottages in the North Cave district and asked for a pair of trousers. Temporary clothes were provided him and he was escorted by PC Jewett to Newport, where he again donned his own clothes, and as he had broken no law, he was allowed to go on his way.

North Cave is situated to the west of Hull. Over at Wavertree, Liverpool, in the spring of 1977, a woman called Mrs Lilian Owens saw a man with the same peculiar predilection for requesting trousers. It was 8.30 am when she saw the stranger at her kitchen doorway:

He wore brand new clothes, a small green check suit, white shirt and green tie, and had blonde hair, and piercing blue eyes. His skin had a deep tan (despite it being only spring). He said “Have you got any trousers?” a question Mrs Owens thought odd. She said “No”, and went to shut the door but he blocked it with a shiny new black shoe with a steel toecap. She said she would call her son (who was not in) and he left. She shut the door but on looking through the window he was not in sight [5]

Later, the same man suddenly appeared in her living room and asked her for a drink of water. As she went to telephone the police the stranger disappeared. In the summer of the same year Mrs Owens saw a UFO in the early hours of the morning.

Two reports in the Occult Review [6] relate to sightings of MIB which were seen in the early 1900s. The first involved a 13 year-old girl who was trimming a hat one Saturday night when:

As the clock struck twelve, the front door opened, then the parlour door, and a man entered and sat down in a chair opposite to me. He was rather short, very thin, dressed in black, with extremely pale face, and hands with very long thin fingers. He had a high silk hat on his head, and in one hand he held an old-fashioned, large silver snuff-box. He gazed at me and said three times, slowly and distinctly, “I’ve come to tell you.” He then vanished, and I noted that the door was shut as before.

Two years later a visitor to the girl’s home was given the same room to sleep in. At exactly the same hour he saw the same vision, and we are told that he had never heard of the girls earlier experience. A few years later the house was demolished and a skeleton with a silver snuff box was found beneath the room where the MIB had roamed.

These experiences, and those of Mrs Owens do not permit us to easily identify the stimulus for them. However, like the case of the North Cave trouserless stranger, the following incident was probably caused by a flesh-and-blood person rather than a ghoul from the Twilight Zone:

It was late at night. A deeply religious 23-year-old headmistress of a private school for girls was marking papers when a man called at her door. She said: He was well dressed, in black, and I thought he had probably come about placing a pupil with me. We began to talk about the school and my aims and methods. There was something about him that drew me out.

Recalling her troubles and anxieties to this quiet stranger cheered her up to such an extent that after he left she believed that he was the Lord Jesus Christ; consequently every time she prayed she visualised the mysterious stranger in her mind’s eye. Some time later she felt that her opinion regarding the identity of the man was confirmed when during a dream she said that her eyes:

were attracted to a place of glory, and there seated upon a throne was the man who had visited me and whom I had been praying to as the Lord Jesus Christ.

If this encounter happened today we might speculate that a young woman would interpret her visitor as a space brother whom she would later see inside a flying saucer in classic contactee fashion.

Just as modern-day ufologists have acknowledged the importance of ‘bedroom visitors’ [7,8] in perpetuating today’s UFO stories, we can make reference to several historical bedroom visitations.

The first, and most intriguing reports of such visitors are mentioned by the vicar of Weston, Yorkshire, Charles Lakeman Tweedale. In a book titled Man’s Survival After Death or the Other Side of Life [9a] he detailed the many bedroom visitations that were seen mainly by his wife at the vicarage. The first occurrence of this type was on the night of 19th December 1907. After being woken by a strong, cold breeze she perceived a shaft of cloudy white light at the foot of their bed which reached to the ceiling and illuminated the bed coverlet. The vicar noted that:

She described the light to me when I awoke as like a column of muslin wrapped in spiritual swathes, with a strong electric light in the midst and shining through it.

The sight of this phenomenon induced her to hide her head under the bedclothes until after a long period of time when she had the courage to look round the room again and discover the sight had vanished.

Approximately half an hour before dawn on the 7th April 1908, Mrs Tweedale woke and saw a light the size of a large orange on or enclosing the brass rail at the foot of the bed. It was positioned on her husband’s side of the bed. Over a period of a minute the light expanded to a height of 3 feet, and the width of a man’s body. Terrified at the sight of this bright light she shook her husband until he awoke. At that instant the light collapsed like a camera bellows and vanished from view. On searching the room the Rev. Tweedale could find nothing to account for the phenomenon.
The most dramatic incident happened at 5.30 am on the 8th November 1908. It began when Mrs Tweedale was woken by a blow delivered to the underneath or top of the bed. Thus alerted she sat up and saw at the foot of the bed:

The figure of a man dressed in black with a calm, grave face, his clenched hand resting upon the brass rail as if he had just struck it. [9b]

This apparition gave off a light which illuminated the room, and not surprisingly Mrs Tweedale quickly woke her husband. As before the phenomenon made its exit when he awoke. She saw the head and then the trunk of the figure resolve themselves into a luminous cloud which floated up to the ceiling and disappeared. But this time the Rev. Tweedale did wake soon enough to see the last part of this act. He claimed that on awakening:

At the bed’s foot was a beautiful cloud of phosphorescent light about four feet in diameter, suspended in the middle of the room. It was close to me, not more than five feet away. Even as my eyes rested upon it, it began to ascend just like a small balloon. With a steady motion it seemed to go straight up and right through the ceiling.

The vision reminds us of the man in black seen on three successive nights in her bedroom by a young woman. Her experience was associated with the 1904-05 Welsh Religious Revival when lights in the sky, a few MIB, and even a black dog were seen. [101


A "Spirit photograph" taken by the Crewe Circle, and the known paranormal hoaxer William Hope. Taken between world war I and II, this picture purportedly shows Reverend Charles L Tweedale, his wife, and the spirit of her deceased father.

Just before the British 1909 phantom airship panic reached its height, Mrs Tweedale on the 15th March 1909 saw the figure of a man standing next to her husband as he slept soundly beside her. On waking him the figure disappeared in a flash of light. After the airship panic on the 22nd June 1909, the Rev. Tweedale reported what looked like a man with a light brighter than a normal lamp in his hand, was seen in the passage of the vicarage at 11 pm.

Yet another apparition was seen when the Tweedales were in London on the night of 2nd June 1912. In their bedroom Mrs Tweedale saw star-like lights and a tall white form. Later, in the night, she told her husband she could see the lights again, and that “there is someone by the side of the bed trying to attract attention”. Looking round he was able to see what he detailed as “a bright, elongated light at the foot of the bed, but no distinct form”.

At other times, most notably on 10th December 1911 in front of seven witnesses, and on 4th October 1917 in front of two witnesses, strange bright lights were seen in the vicar’s study.

As the title of the reverend gentleman’s book suggests, he tended to regard these kinds of manifestations as proof that we can survive after death. In this state our spiritual bodies are able to materialise from a radiance of light into a solid, tangible being, and can return to a small point of light and disappear and disappear to whence they came.

To reinforce this view he mentions several incidents involving other people who saw lights in their bedroom which transformed into figures who had the appearance of dead or unconscious relatives. In two cases he claims that a luminous light was seen hovering over a person at night, who in the morning reported having met (or vividly dreamt of meeting) a dead relative. These were quoted from the Proceedings of the SPR, and from private contacts.

We should also add that not only lights and MIB were seen at the Weston vicarage: a whole variety of events were said to have occurred. Too many to recount here, but an idea of the type of events experienced may be gained from the statement:

…messages, consolations, warnings by the direct voice and unsought; things moving of themselves, marvellous singing and amazing manifestations at the moment of the ‘death’ of a relation of whose sickness we did not even know; sounds of beautiful music, instruments hanging high up on the walls playing by themselves; scores of articles thrown; hands melting in the grip when seized were just some of the things which presented themselves month after month. (11]

Not surprisingly the vicar was not too popular with his parishioners, who were not charmed by the reports of all these strange events, or by the fact that he was a convert to Spiritualism.

Another type of bedroom encounter was experienced by 32-year-old Samuel Flecknoe. He suffered from a paralysis of the legs for four-and-a-half years until the morning of Sunday, 19th January 1913. When he awoke in his Nottingham home: “Something seemed to tell me, ‘get up and walk downstairs’. So I did” [12,13] He walked for several days until the Friday evening, when he collapsed going to bed, though his doctors hoped he might walk again. [14, 15]

The power of belief can also be seen in a couple of stories from France at this period. When a woman went to clean a statue of the Virgin at the old cemetery in Beziers, it came alive. It return for the act of kindness the statue blessed the woman’s handkerchief. When she got home she placed it on the bed of her sick child who had been paralysed for several years; instantly her daughter got out of bed and walked. [16, 17] (Coincidentally, this happened the day before Flecknow arose from his bed).

What was called mystical madness caused the death of a woman during 1909 at St Julien, near Chalon-sur-Saone. After hearing a sermon about Jeanne d’Arc, she locked herself in a disused chapel, doused herself with inflammable spirit, and set fire to herself. Neighbours found her kneeling, praying amid the flames, but even their aid was unable to save her from an agonising death. [18]

Interestingly, the 1913 cases come at a time when another religious revival was said to have erupted in Wales. Miraculous cures were claimed, and an inspired message told an evangelist to hold meetings in Penylont, Radnorshire. [19, 20, 21]

If we make the mistake of lumping these cases together with the phantom airship sightings as a way of ‘proving’ that our contemporary knowledge of the UFO situation is accurate, we become the victims of our own biases. Instead, we prefer to highlight these cases in order to show that making order out of a chaos of disparate stories is very easily done, but is due to factors other than a grand UFO masterplan for manipulating humanity.

A case that could easily be connected with the phantom airship sighting of 1909, occurred on the morning of 22nd June. In a quiet part of Owder Lane, Canton, near Worksop, PC Swain found a young man. He was aged about 18 and was well-dressed. The policeman was unable to get any sense out of this person, whose ‘manner was very

 strange’. At Worksop Police Station he was examined by a doctor; apparently the man had lost his memory. No name or address was found on him and the police could only speculate that he came from the Sheffield or Doncaster region. He was consigned to the local workhouse.
If we accept the UFO manipulation theory, we might propose that this Yorkshire Kaspar Hauser could have been delivered to Earth by a UFO disguised as an airship – who would ever suspect that he was an alien up to no good!

Finally, a young person who did not mind being regarded as an alien was a three year old girl who was found in Willesden, London. She told the police that her name was Venus. When her parents claimed her as their own daughter it was revealed that her name was Mary Brown. [23] It is anticlimactic to discover she was not the Venus responsible for most of the British 1909 and 1913 phantom airship sightings!


1. WATSON, Nigel. ‘Airships and Invaders’, Magonia 3.
2. LOWE, Charles. ‘About German Spies’, Contemporary Review, Jan. 1910, pp.42-56.
3. GROVE, Carl, ‘The Airship Wave of 1909′, FSR, 16, 6.
4. WATSON, Nigel, ‘Are the Ufonauts Fowl Plotters?’, FSR, 28,1.
5. CHEVEAU, Danny, ‘A New MIB Encounter?’, Northern Ufology, 75.
6. Occult Review, March 1918, pp.129-31.
7. ROGERSON, Peter, and RIMMER, John, ‘Visions of the Night’, MUFOB, ns 4.
8. BASTERFIELD, Keith, ‘Strange Awakenings’, MUFOB, ns 13.
9a. TWEEDALE, Rev. Chas. Lakeman, Man’s Survival After Death, or the Other Side of Life (3rd Ed.) Grant Richards, London 1925, pp.235-42. The two earlier editions appeared in October 1909, and January 1920.
9b. See also Sunday Chronicle 30/3/1913.
10. McCLURE, Kevin and Sue, Stars and Rumours of Stars, privately published, pp.25-6.
11. The Wharfedale & Airedale Observer, 4 Apr. 1913, p.7.
12. Bradford Daily Argus, 24 Jan. 1913.
13. Nottingham Daily Express, 24 Jan 1913.
14. Ibid, 27 Jan 1913.
15. Ibid, 28 Jan 1913.
16. Sunday Chronicle, 26 Jan 1913.
17. Bradford Daily Telegraph, 21 Jan. 1913.
18. Louth and North Lincolnshire Advertiser, 29 May 1909.
19. Bradford Daily Argus, 11 Jan. 1913.
20. Ibid, 27 Jan 1913.
21. Nottingham Daily Express, 25 Feb. 1913.
22. Retford, Worksop, Isle of Axholme and Gainsborough News, 25 June 1909.
23. Hull Daily Mail, Hull Packet and East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Courier, 28 May 1909.


The Stranger in the City. Nigel Watson

Originally published in MUFOB New Series 14, Spring 1979

Messages from Beyond

“THIS EARTH is now under close surveillance and profound scrutiny by alien intelligences from distant star systems. I am not being silly, I know what I am saying and doing as well as you.”

So wrote Norman Harrison (1) when he first wrote to John Rimmer, editor of MUFOB In a letter dated 6th January 1978.

Norman – at present living in Sheffield and in his early thirties – then went on to outline the different races of beings which inhabit this galaxy. The first race populate the fourth and fifth planets of Epsilon Eridani, and are “4ft. tall on average, spindly and yellowish skinned and totally devoid of any hair. Their heads are disproportionately large due to further evolved brain capacity.”

A second race inhabits three planets orbiting Canopus; a third race derive from Proxima Centauri III and IV. A fourth in-habits the two planets of Capella. Describing these latter races, Norman wrote that they are quite similar to each other and that they are “over 7ft tall on average, powerfully built and extremely agile, [have] fine blonde hair and [are] musically and artistically gifted. These three are of one Root Race type, corresponding to Earth Nordic.”

The stars of Betelguese IV, V and VI in Orion are the location of the fifth race of aliens, and a sixth populates the constellations of Ursa Major and Casseiopeia. In particular this race occupies the solar systems of Merak, Alcor, and Dubhe in Ursa Major. The whole race is linked in a confederation and their colonies are densely populated. Other than being humanoid, Norman does not describe the appearance of these two races.

“All these aliens have spacecraft capable of exceeding light velocity several times over and have the facility to set up impenetrable force fields as well as invisibility shields. They make use of unimaginably advanced energy propulsion technology and have extremely powerful electromagnetic- gravitic devices at their disposal, all capable of effecting vital changes in this world. Force fields and rays are extensivlely utilised at enormous distances: in spite of the long distance these are resolved to fine focus and can be intensified as required to influence the course of events on Earth.

“Many of their Earth contingents are military task-force or scientific field operatives. The remainder engaged in collating or compiling vital information, making regular operational shuttle trips and submitting dataa reports to their base planets.”

Norman received this information about our galactic neighbours by way of telepathic communication from aliens. These communications began in 1975 and occurred with increasing frequency over the next three years. In a letter to me dated 17th March 1978 he wrote that: “these ‘contacts’ can occur virtually at any time… I still hardly know what to think about the whole business – if these are hallucinations, I don’t see how they could contain information about the Universe which I never had before.”

One communication which he received was a kind of poem as follows:

are Keys of Communication
Controllers of forces
Gravitic waves Impulses
Used in Invocation by Initiates
Who desired wisdom
One such Master was Qebsneuf” (2)

Apparently he does not hear or see things when having a “telepathic” communication, “The information comes through direct without any sensory impressions, vision or delusions Whatever.”

With regards to the above poem, he was rather tired and hungry when he wrote it down, “my mind wasn’t preoccupied with anything, I just felt more or less ‘neutral’ or indifferent. The words just flowed without any conscious direction on my part. This is always the case with either writings or drawings set straight down ‘automatically’. Very often the physically weaker or hungrier I feel, the more clearly the contacts are received.”

In fact, this poem appears to be the only example he has shown me of a literal form of ‘automatic’ writing. The majority of his ‘communications’ are nothing more than impressions which he translates into drawings.

In order that we can get a full perspective of Norman’s experiences, I intend quoting extensively from his letter of the 6th January 1978, sent to John Rimmer, as this describes in some detail the fate of humanity, as he interprets it.

He begins by writing about the ‘Observers’, who on the whole think that

“Human Western society is rapidly falling into catastrophic decline and Mankind is now falling into chaos and absolute folly. They believe there is virtually zero survival probability as a result of mental degeneration and moral decay combined with political corruption, greed and militarism. These and other factors, they feel sure now will destroy all human civilization within anothe half-century.”

This isn’t just pessimism or gloom-and-doom alarmism – these people are infinitely more intelligent, more truly civilized and more mature than any race on Forth, and have reached their conclusions via strict mathematical extrapolative calculus based in historical, social, psychological and economic FACTS. Most of these races have had an intimate exhaustive knowledge of Man for tens of thousands of years and the wisdom of their logic is undeniable.

“I have little to add, except that I am notified that a final terrible war will definitely take place (whether atomic or not) between East and West within three decades, and pollution poisoning will soon endanger all vegetation and animal species of the globe. All the most recent incidents positively indicate to me personally that the aliens are correct. We ignore and gloss over such dire warnings at our peril, and we have no-one but ourselves to blame for the destruction of our own world-home by our madness, ignorance and blind folly.” (3)

These ‘communications’, ‘transmissions’ ‘impressions’, whatever we might label them, were preceded by a UFO sighting, some time in 1974. (4)
Norman was then staying with a friend of his in the Beeston area of Leeds for a few days, when he saw his first and only UFO. His friend had just gone outside for a few minutes, the time was between 8 – 9 pm when Norman had a “distinct urge to get up and look out of the door.”


Opening the door, he saw between the doorframe and the rooftops of the houses across the road, a box-like shape silhouetted against the night sky. Upon it were banks of multi-coloured lights. The object was slanted at an angle towards the ground, and was moving from right to left in the direction of its central axis at slow speed. He heard no sound from this phenomenon, which he estimated to be gliding at a height of 1,000 feet. After twenty seconds it drifted out of view, although: “Why I did not step out into the street for a better look I don’t know.”

Norman’s reaction to the sighting was interesting, as he wrote that: “I wasn’t in the least bit frightened of it, but it did disturb me in an eerie way, as if hypnotic”

He went on to speculate as to what it might have been.

“It must have been a huge carrier vessel of tremendous motive power, capable of containing a number of smaller saucer type craft or several hundred passengers. By proportion and distance, I feel sure it was anything up to 300 feet long. A massive vessel like that must be able to traverse the whole galactic radius at speeds far in excess of light velocity who would logically build that big for merely planet to planet journeys. Who would employ that much propulsion and that scale of motive energy?

“My belief is that this ‘ship’ was from a giant planet in the hub of the Milky Way (Bigger than Texas!!!).”

Early Psi Experiences

Having read Norman’s correspondence with John Rimmer and having arranged to meet him, what could I expect on visiting his household? Norman had anticipated this question by explaining his circumstances in one of his letters.

“I must point out that I live in a working-class area and my house is not too beautiful, being a Victorian terrace council house and rather decrepit now. (I was away when my parents died and the old place was left empty for a year and bad weather and neglect have taken their toll. I’d do a lot but I’ve been unemployed for a long time and live only on State benefit)

“So my surroundings are not ideal for social contacts as you can imagine, I’m embarrased about this! I’ll probably sell the house before long and then I’d like to travel around – the Continent perhaps, who knows.”

When I first met Norman on the 26th February 1978, he told me about how he had experienced distinct impressions from 1968 through to 1969. He felt he had been picking up thoughts that were being powerfully projected towards him. However he could not pick up any words or language or such, but it was a “kind of thought expression that doesn’t rely on language. And not a true voice that you could hear… but the sensation of words virtually spontaneously,” he said. Usually he had these experiences when in a state of meditation, when sitting down of before going io sleep. Norman described his condition as in a “diminished state” when he had these experiences, but not a condition like a trance or under the influence of drink or drugs. On most occasions he was on his own when this phenomena happened but once he was walking along a city street when he felt that he could tell what people were thinking.

On another occasion during this period he and a friend visited a Spiritualist Church in Sheffield, when he was “awakened to Christian faith”. The Church was quite full whan they entered and the minister was delivering a sermon. As the minister spoke Norman felt a knot of tension build up in himself. They stood to sing a hymn and half way through it he felt a distinct physical sensation of a twisting knot of tension in the area of the solar plexus.

“I felt this oppressive, almost hostile, precense in the church, I felt a strong hostility, a threat…” he explained. At this juncture, a nearby usher approached Norman and his companion, and said in a quite voice to them: “Would you mind leaving please, I’d like you to go”.

“Just before he approached me this thing was building up to a real climax … as if something was tearing me inside out, literally”, and he added that, “This man sensed that there was something amiss.”

Norman’s friend experienced nothing untoward in the church, and was no doubt puzzled as to why they were asked to leave.

In 1966 Norman knew a girl called Angela who lived in London. He took her out for about four months, and was very serious about her, and “cared an awful lot for her”. However, in due course they went their separate ways. Later in a period when he was feeling emotionally low, very depressed anxious, physically depleted and under-nourished (6) he saw Angela’s face distinctly in front of him, as he was lying down one evening. She seemed to be speaking to him, but he cannot now remember what she was saying, except that the might have been asking him what he was doing, where he was, had he been thinking about her, had he missed her, etc.

Alien Intervention

After relating his experiences of extra-sensory type phenomena he then went on to tell of his UFO sighting of 1973. The details of this are essentially the same as described in his letter of the 4th February 1978. Then he went on to tell me about the extraterrestrial communications he had been receiving.

“I’ve had occasions, not just recently but I should say over the last two or three years, when I’ve been walking outside in the open, in a sort of park or recreation area (8) something like that. The more open air the better. If I was in a large crowd of people… nothing. But on occassion I thought ‘Oh, that’s a daft idea, where did I get it from?’, and then I’d suddenly realise that it’s not an idea, but it’s information. I’d have a sort of powerful influence to get a pen and notepad and jot it down. On some occassions I did this; I didn’t keep the notes, but there have been times… when I’ve drawn pictures, and I’ve had these images which were very clear when I draw them, what I myself perceived was not very clear at all, but in the act of drawing it came through with clarity. And it seemed to me that I’d sort of acted as an unwitting unconscious intermediary and I’ve had this distinct sensation that someone is using me in order to transmit knowledge.”

In particular there are three figures of which he has frequently had recurring impressions.

“None of them sort of stand on the ground, they all seem to be just suspended in space, and there are no buildings or anything recognisable around them at all. As though they were suspended in vacuum. They all have a powerful projection and I’ve not been personally intimidated, it doesn’t seem to me that they are threatening me or in any way warning me, but they have an air of warning or admonition, if you like. Sort of ‘take care’, or ‘watch it’, pay attention.”

The three figures are:


Aroniel. This personage is a “tall figure very straight, dressed in a long yellow robe, a flowing yellow robe with a high collar and he looks oriental. He wears a medallion in the centre of his forehead, and his own colour, his skin colour, is yellowish or shall we say golden and he’s like a sort of gold appearance generally…. He carries a book in one hand and the other is raised as if in greeting. The books looks like some sort of old book”


Mik-Ael. “This is an image of what you might call something like a Crusader or armoured knight figure; chain mail with a tabard or tunic. It’s a white tunic with a broad belt which looks metallic and has buttons on, and the tunic has a … red cross on it. He’s like a crusader, but the helmet is rather strange … it completely conceals the features, you can’t make out the face. It’s not like an ordinary visor but it’s a solid, transparent sort of plate with a division in the middle. At the bottom (of it) there is a little round disc thing with a wire. He has… full sleeves and gauntlets, heavy gauntlets and he’s carrying a sword in one hand.

“He sort of stands very powerfully with his legs apart. He presents either a challenging or shall we say an extremely aggressive, intimidating strength or just an image of strength. Its an intimidating sort of an agressive image. His sword has
 a sort of red radiance… and he himself is surrounded with red, a deep scarlet or crimson. I should say it is crimson actually. It’s like an aura or radiance all around him.”


Uriel. The third figure “has long, flowing robes, blue and green, and has like a blue or greenish-blue sort of radiance around him… this third one has white hair and apparently normal skin colour or slightly blue tinge and a white beard and white hair, and he also looks big, powerful but not in a military or a Crusader knight-in-armour fashion, but he looks as though he’s sort of… tremendously ancient, tremendously, you know, tremendous power at his disposal. He doesn’t seem to carry anything, he’s got like a sash around the waist and he wears something like… one of the old fashioned robes of the middle east.”

Later during the interview he explained that the colours of the figures were directly linked with the type of energy they were emitting. He also claimed that he saw these figures in a kind of sequence, sometimes he would ‘see’ them fleetingly for only two – three seconds, other times they would appear for two or three minutes.

Usually the first figure to appear is the one who has supremacy over the other two. Then maybe a few letters or geometrical symbols will appear.

“They seem to be attempting to express relationships, but as I say, some of it isn’t in any sort of expressed language, but there seems to be a logical sequence or progression. It’s not logical to me, I don’t know it, but it’s logical to them.”

Many of the letters he has seen are from Greek and Hebrew sources: “I’ve seen the trianlge over and over again,” he said about the recurring image he has seen over the past four or five months, and has included in many of his drawings, “I’ve seen a triange with an eye in the centre, and I’ve seen this as a visual image, quite literally as though it was suspended in front of my eyes, in broad daylight when I was fully wide awake and stone cold sober – I hardly ever drink.”

This triangle is seen as red coloured with an eye in the centre, which is not like a real eye, but looks effectively like a bright red line drawing of an eye.

He then went on to describe the population of the galaxy, how at the hub there are regions of incalculable amounts of radiance and electromagnetic energy, where discarnate, disembodied ‘beings’ of ultimate intelligence reside. Radiating outwards from the hub, the state of evolution, culture, civilization and society diminish until we reach the very fringes of the galaxy where Neanderthal type beings populate the planets. These lesser planets, including Earth (as our Solar System is much closer to the fringe than the hub) are watched closely by the more superior races who take a parental interest in their evolution. Apparently at the present time there has been a resurgence of interest in our planet.

This renewed interest might bebecause: “Man is a very disobedient wretch and keeps veering off, and getting side-tracked one way or another. The guiding hand keeps bringing him back to dead centre there’s this guidance all the way. There is one definite path of evolution of the spirit and mind.”

According to him, mankind is being constantly helped by outside, alien forces. It was their influence which partly established some of the most ancient of all the Oriental religions. He claims that many early religious figures such as Buddha and Moses were inspired by the influence of the extraterrestrials. Even today, a small number of adepts, who have a profound understanding of metaphysical philosophy, and live in very remote regions of the world, are in direct telepathic communication with alien people.

Through alien intervention, and there are dozens, hundreds of alien races, some of which are almost immortal, the human mind has been triggered off to experience ESP, telepathy, clairvoyance, prophecy, predictions, etc. However, we have misused the forces and energy sources available, claims Norman, and distort things for our own greedy ends. We have probably, in the past, been punished for it afterwards. He quoted the examples, among others, of Atlantis and Babylon, and stated that global disasters are initiated from the outside and convey the alien moral stand-point. These purges occur because the bahaviour of mankind can become offensive and noisily wrong.

“Man has destroyed himself as a living specimen at least six times in a row, cataclysm after cataclysm. There have been several cycles of biological life, gradually slowly, painstakingly developing, then flourishing, reaching an apex then declining…

“The Golden Age has long passed, none absolutely none of the 20th Century is anything like the Golden Age. It is a period now of the pinnacle of machinery, it’s a pinnacle of mechanical contrivance, ingenuity is totally materialistic, physical things. It’s a period of total stagnation and decadence in what you might call things of the spirit. There is a complete decline in the ability to understand higher matters… in religious doctrine or philosophical things. Where are the people like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle? Where is the architecture, sculpture and art of Leonardo or Michaelangelo?”

He answers himself by explaining that the difference between them and modern contemporaries is “self evident.”


In the February of 1974. Norman had his first premonition. This was of a plane exploding in mid-air with people from the city of Leeds on board – an event which occurred three weeks later over France.

During August 1974 he was living in London when he had a premonition of the Moorgate tube disaster, which happened in April 1975. He also ‘knew’ that the IRA would be posting letter-bombs to people in London in 1975.

“All these premonitions seemed to me personally that they are being transmitted to me from an outside source,” said Norman, who related that he felt no conscious control over these premonitions.

He also felt certain that mankind would have some crucial contact with extraterrestrials in the near future. It will be with somebody like the Archbishop of Canterbury, or other such celebrity, and their reaction to the encounter will have far reaching consequences.
After my visit and Interview with Norman, he wrote to me on the 17th March, and stated: “I feel quite sure now that these telepathic communications are only the beginning – there must be something more to follow in the future; I have a ‘hunch’ about it”.

In the same letter:

“Although there have been no new telepathic transmissions or impressions since you came over, I have received a warning in the form of one pen sketch which showed a big explosion. It involves highly inflammable chemicals and will happen in Britain within another month. I have no more exact location than that, but I do know this much – it will involve loss of life and will be caused by criminal negligence and carelessness. This forboding is very strong and I know it comes from an outside source. The accident must be connected with a big chemical company like ICI or one of the fuel firms like Esso, or North Sea oil.” (9)

“I hope it doesn’t happen because it will be a horrible tragedy – it could be averted if only there were proper preautions taken.”


On the 2nd April 1978, Roger Hebb and myself visited Norman. During this visit he gave me a book of sketches he had drawn and he showed me the book he had been writing. He had started the book several months previously and it was contained in three large exercise books. The contents consist of many different chapters on a wide range of occult, fortean and ufological subjects, all of which have been synthesised from books he has obtained from the public library.

As with the first visit Norman delivered a victual monologue on the glories of past humanity and the doom laden future. In the letter of the 17th March (after my first visit) Norman seemed to be in an optimistic mood; he planned to buy a typewriter in order to type out his book, and wrote: “I’d like to contribute in any way I can towards fresh understanding and knowledge, it’s become very important to me to devote as much of my attention and spare time as possible towards that end.”

After my second visit he went into a more apprehensive frame of mind as can be observed in the following quote (from a letter to me dated 18th April 1978):
“I’m starting to feel a bit scared: Not really frightened but uneasy, apprehensive. I don’t know what’s causing it, but it’s like a premonition or as if I were neurotic or anxious. I’ve felt like this before, years ago, a vague sensation that passed after a week or so: this time it isn’t very strong, but there’s a definite tension in the air.”

Later on in the letter he adds,

“I can’t pinpoint anything, that’s what gets me, but I sense a threat, a menace; it could be directed at so personally or it could be something much more widespread, some terrible trouble brewing somewhere.”

On the 30th April, Shirley McIver and I visited Norman. Hs was in a more pessimistic mood than usual, and besides a reiteration of much he had said before, claimed that he had “become anaesthetised, I mean 30 years of the constant threat of the atomic bomb is enough to anaesthetise anybody against anything.”

In order to reply to that last statement Shirley McIver joined in the interview, and the conversation continued as fo;;ows:

  • SM: I can’t agree with the acceptance of that state of mind, I think that to live on the defensive, to live with a defence
    mechanism, to sit there and…
  • NH: It is only by total acceptance that I find life tolerable at all. If I failed to accept anything of it I would go completely berserk and throw myself in the river.
  • SM: Well at least that would be a positive act?
  • NH: No, no, that’s a gesture of ultimate defeat, that is saying I have given up. Suicide – I would prefer to live rather than commit suicide and say I have failed. That is the ultimate gesture of defeat.

Earlier in the same interview we discussed his views on religion, and that conversation was as follows:

  • NH: If you have imagination you can concoct your own heaven, and if you’re satisfied with tht, well that’s your fantasy world. Everybody needs a little fantasy this sort of thing does go on. Man is a drug addict, he’s addicted to food, and drink, and sex, and everything else.
  • NW: Your views on life in other systems, do you think that perhaps that’s your fantasy?
  • NH: I recognise in myself a desire to believe in such things, because I have a religious personality. I think of my self as a Christian… I’m not much of one at all. In fact I fall very far short of just about everything that Paul and Jesus said in the Gospels.
  • NW: Were your parents religious?
  • NH: Both parents died years ago. Neither of them were Christian believers. No, they didn’t have any… they kept the Bible in the house and never even looked at it. I prefer to believe in a deity and a supreme being rather than not believe. I take the lesser of what I consider two evils… it’s the prong of the fork. Which is better, to believe or not? And I think – I choose to believe I think it’s better than to be atheist for me personally. I think man has some inborn instict to look out and beyond himself and seek some kind of perfection elsewhere, something that’s greater than himself.
  • NW: But you don’t think much of any forms of established religion?
  • NH: How many people do nowadays? There is so much disillusionment, disappointment in the world because people have lost their sense of direction. There doesn’t seem to be much purpose in life any more.


To put this case into any kind of perspective we need to review Norman’s social and psychological background.

At the age of sixteen he had ambitions of becoming an art or English teacher, however his ambitions were thwarted by his father who made him pursue the totally materialist goal of having to earn a living. So he left school and became an apprentice in the printing trade, then followed a succession of dead-end jobs. Currently he is unemployed and has been so for quite some time. Even now he seems to have a resentment for his father who prevented him from gaining any educational qualifications and a satisfying profession. (10)

As recounted in the main text, Normans parents are now dead and he lives in theirold terraced house, which is located in a grim area of Sheffield. Apparently he has no friends whatsoever in the neighbourhood whose he can converse with or relate to, and having been abandoned by Angela in 1966 he has now become emotionally ‘anaesthetised’. So in effect he is now a virtual recluse (11).

With this state of affairs it is not surprising to learn that he has suffered four nervous breakdowns and is obsessed by the fate of humanity. Having met him on three occasions I can vouch for the fact that he is very verbose, and passionately intense about what he believes to be the gloomy and cataclysmic future of mankind. This fear is not generated by any love he might have for mankind; on the contrary, his fear is for himself.

We might with some justification speculate that his forbodings of some apocalyptic disaster are warnings from his own psyche; the cataclysm being his own mental degeneration and breakdown.

When we consider that he hates what modern science has created – a world of atomic bombs and pollution – yet venerates the very Classical and Renaissance scholars who helped create the foundations of modern science, we can only explain this paradox by quoting Clark and Coleman who wrote that our age “has destroyed the mystical, nonrational elements (of mankind) which (has) traditionally tied him to nature and his fellows. It has emphasised rationality to the exclusion of dreams, male to the exclusion of female, machines to the exclusion of mysteries” (12).

Living as someone who regards himself as being isolated and different from the rest of humanity, it is not surprising that he has transposed his ideas and imagination into an “‘extraterrestrial’ framework.

His concept of the galaxy – pure energy and ultimate intelligence at the hub, Neanderthal beings on the edge – corresponds to concepts of heaven and hell, Jekyll and Hyde or unconscious and conscious, with the mortal Human pivoted between the two.

Even worse, we do not have full control over our destiny: the aliens have intervened throughout human history in order that we follow the “one definite path of evolution of the spirit and mind”. Yet mankind cannot come up to this ‘parental’ expectation (13) so we are punishedd for our morally offensive behaviour.

To conclude, we might surmise that the messages of the aliens to Norman are metaphorical and symbolic expressions of Norman’s own feelings of guilt, isolation, alienation and emotional stagnation, which have emanated from his own psyche. It is no wonder that he fears the impending cataclysm.



  1. Real name and address on file.
  2. Norman concluded that this poem might be connected with some form of black magic ritual, and that the three words are analogous to Classical Greek. “Qebsfeuf” he claims must have been an Egyptian high priest or prince.
  3. This theme is repeated in a letter dated 4th February 1978, when he relates that: “I feel that we of the struggling Western world are now approaching the brink of the most crucial and perhaps decisive period in the last ten centuries of human history. It could turn out to be the brink of a terrifying chasm: I fear so, but I hope not. Much will be learned soon that  has previously only been guessed. Some will understand, but many will be blind and foolish and destructive.”
  4. It is interesting to note that people who have had unusual UFO contacts, appear to have had a UFO sighting preceding their later, more bizarre experiences by several years. In the case of Paul Bennett (see MUFON NS 11 & 12) he saw a UFO three years before he had more frequent and stranger sightings. Another case in my files concerns a Mrs Josephine Elissah who observed a UFO in 1964, and then ten years later began to write down ‘messages’ from the space people. Similar time lags can be seen in the UFO literature. Perhaps after the initial observation the witness needs to assimilate the implications of their sighting and put it in some form of context.
  5. This comment in brackets is a rather curious statement.
  6. In a later interview it seems that he was at this time in Pentonville Prison for not paying a fine he incurred when found guilty of being in possession of cannabis. He was given a three-month sentence, which was reduced to eight weeks with remission.
  7. This experience took place when he was confined to a solitary detention cell. Norman had hoped to marry Angela, but because her parents disapproved of him their relationship collapsed. However this telepathic communication did make him feel a lot better and he was able to cope with his imprisonment afterwards.
  8. On one occasion he was walking through a park in Sheffield when he heard a kind of telepathic communication between a mother and son. They seemed to be separated over a long distance and Norman described this experience as akin to tapping in on a telephone conversation.
  9. This tragedy never came about.
  10. When asked why he didn’t do anything constructive in the field of art, he listed all the obstacles and problems involved. The fact that he doesn’t own a typewriter seems to be a major stumbling block for any progress with his book.
  11. The fact that he has spent considerable amount of time writing his book and communicated with John Rimmer and myself were signs that he was attempting to emerge from his seclusion. But after my third visit to him, he felt that any further visits by myself would in effect be a waste of tine. Since then I have not heard anything more from him.
  12. Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. The Unidentified, Warner, 1975. p.240.
  13. Just as Norman was unable to fulfil the expectations of his own father or the expectations of Angela’s parents.

Down to Earth – UFO Investigation 1897 Style. Nigel Watson

From Magonia 44, October 1992.

It is hard to believe but spaceships and odd flying machines are constantly crashing onto the surface of our planet. This unusual form of pollution is not a new phenomenon and it does not seem all that rare either. At best the operators of these aerial contraptions seem to be reckless and incompetent navigators of the air, but before we protest to the government for new legislation to crack down on these menaces we had better look at the evidence. 

One of the first incidents occurred in Peru, sometime in 1878. A person who described himself as “A Seraro, Chemist,” told the South Pacific Times of Callao, Peru, that he found a huge aerolite. After digging through several layers of mineral substance he arrived at an inner chamber. Inside this he found the dead body of a 4 1/2-foot tall alien and beside it was a silver plate that was inscribed with hieroglyphics. This writing indicated that the vehicle and its pilot had come from Mars. The New York Times repeated this story for the benefit of its readership but it regarded the story as a poor lie, because:

 Undoubtedly, the Peruvians mean well, and tell the best lies that they can invent. Indeed, it can be readily be perceived that the heart of the inventor of the aerolite story was in the right place, and that his faults were those of the head. The truth is that the Peruvians have never been systematically taught how to lie. Very probably, if they had our educational advantages, they would lie with intelligence and affect, and it is hardly fair for us … to despise the Peruvians for what is their misfortune, rather than their fault. (1,2,3,4.) 

A similar story, in La Capital, describes the discovery of an egg-shaped rock near the Carcarana River, Santa Fe, on 13 October 1877. (5) Two geologists, Paxton and Davis, drilled into this curiosity and found: 

some cavities inside the hard rock. In one of them the men saw several objects such as a white, metallic hole-ridden amphora-like jar with many hieroglyphics engraved on its surface. Under the floor of this cavity they discovered another one which contained a 39 inch (1.2 metre) tall mummifiedbody covered with a calciferous mass. (6,7.) 

According to Fabio Picasso a couple of trips to the site were made by ufologists in the late 1970s. They found some blocked off tunnels that might be hiding the object, though what happened to the alleged remains is unknown. Picasso traces this story back to the 17 June 1864 edition of La Pay which tells of a Paxton and Davis who made an identical discovery near Pic James, Arrapahaya province. (8) 

The idea of a crashed spaceship, with chambers containing the remains of a small ‘Martian’ pilot and artefacts inscribed with hieroglyphics, obviously is a hoax or tall story. Newspapers simply used it as a filler-item and did not take it seriously. 

The form of this story can be seen as the template for the famous Aurora crash case. As noted in more detail below it features a dead pilot and the obligatory hieroglyphics. Furthermore, we can see these historical cases as being templates for contemporary crash/retrieval cases. (9,10.) Since so much interest is being generated by the Roswell, crash case (the Fund for UFO Research has funded research into this case to the tune of at least 30,000 dollars), and by the British Rendlesham forest incident(s), we should at least be cautious of these tales in the light of this historical material. 

The alleged Aurora crash case took place during the American 1896-1897 airship scare at the village of Aurora, Texas. (11) The story was first revealed on page 5 of the 19 April 1897 edition of the Dallas Morning News. It was written by S.E. Haydon a part-time correspondent to the newspaper and a cotton buyer. Titled ‘A Windmill Demolishes It’ . The full text went on to say that at: 

Aurora, Wise County, Texas, April 17. — (To The News) — About 6 o’clock this morning the early risers of Aurora were astonished at the sudden appearance of the airship which has been sailing through the country.

It was travelling due north, and much nearer the earth than ever before. Evidently some of the machinery was out of order, for it was making a speed of only ten or twelve miles an hour and gradually settling toward the earth. It sailed directly over the public square, and when it reached the north part of town collided with the tower of judge Proctor’s windmill and went to pieces with a terrific explosion, scattering debris over several acres of ground, wrecking the windmill and water tank and destroying the judge’s flower garden.

The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one on board, and while his remains are badly disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world.

Mr. T.J. Weems, the United States signal service officer at this place and an authority on astronomy, gives it as his opinion that he was a native of the planet Mars.

Papers found on his person – evidently the records of his travels – are written in some unknown hieroglyphics, and can not be deciphered.

The ship was too badly wrecked to form any conclusion as to its construction or motive power. It was built of an unknown metal, resembling somewhat a mixture of aluminium and silver, and it must have weighed several tons.

The town is full of people to-day who are viewing the wreck and gathering specimens of the strange metal from the debris. The pilot’s funeral will take place at noon tomorrow. 

This explosive encounter was largely forgotten until 1966. Then Dr. Alfred E. Kraus, the Director of the Kilgore Research Institute of West Texas State University, made a couple of visits to the crash site. Using a metal detector he found some 1932 car license plates, some old stove lids, and a few horse-bridle rings. There was nothing to indicate that several tons of unusual metal was still lurking anywhere in the vicinity. 

In the same year Donald B. Hanlon and Jacques Vallee took an interest in the case. (12, 13.) As a result of this a friend of Dr. J. Allen Hynek visited the site. (14) He found that judge Proctor’s farm had been transformed into a small service station, which was owned by Mr. Brawley Oates. Although Mr. Oates was neutral in his opinion about the incident he did send the investigator to Mr. Oscar Lowery who lived in the nearby town of Newark. 

Mr. Lowery revealed that T.J. Weems the alleged ‘authority on astronomy’ had been Aurora’s blacksmith, Jeff Weems. Even more damning was the fact that Mr. Lowery, aged 11 years-old at the time of the crash, remembered nothing of the incident. Furthermore, there had never been a windmill on the site. So even if the spaceship had existed the windmill had not! Mr. Lowery’s conclusion was that the whole story had been created by Haydon. 

Undaunted Hynek’s investigator went to the cemetery where he thought the pilot might have been buried. This was scrupulously maintained by the Masonic Order, and none of their records mentioned any Martian grave. 

The story of the Aurora crash now seemed to be destined to rot in the obscurity of UFO investigators’ files. Not surprisingly, the case failed to remain buried for long. On 21 June 1972, Hayden C. Hewes, Director of the International UFO Bureau, Inc. (IUFOB), said that his organisation decided to:

  • Determine if the event did occur;
  • Locate any fragments;
  • Locate, if possible, the grave of the UFO astronaut. (15) 

This research fired Bill Case, an aviation writer for The Dallas Times Herald, into a frenzy of activity. Beginning in March 1973, he published a series of articles that created a worldwide interest in the case. 

In the very first article he quoted the previously reluctant crash site owner, Mr. Brawley Oates, as saying that he thought there was some substance to the story. Indeed, he said that in 1945 he had sealed a well that had been beneath the windmill. As he worked on this task he found several metal fragments. He said: 

The pieces were about the size of your fist. But we didn’t think and simply junked them. Later we capped the well and drilled a new one, then we built a brick wellhouse on the site.

Next to this was placed a chicken coop. Thus, this historic location was hidden in a very rustic disguise. 

By mid-1973 Bill Case had obtained three eyewitness accounts of the crash which Flying Saucer Review writer Eileen Buckle regarded as ‘the most convincing evidence that an unidentified flying object crashed at Aurora in 1897′. (16) 

At Lewisville Nursing Home, 98-year-old Mr. G.C. Curley’s memory of the event was obtained. His statement appeared in the 1 June edition of The Dallas Times Herald: 

We got the report early in Lewisville. Two friends wanted me to ride over to Aurora to see it. But I had to work. When they got back on horseback that night they told me the airship had been seen coming from the direction of Dallas the day before and had been sighted in the area. But no one knew what it was. They said it hit something near Judge Proctor’s well. The airship was destroyed and the pilot in it was badly torn up. My friends said there was a big crowd of sightseers who were picking up pieces of the exploded airship. But no one could identify the metal it was made of. We didn’t have metal like that in America at that time. And they said it was difficult to describe the pilot. They saw only a torn up body. They didn’t say people were frightened by the crash. They couldn’t understand what it was. 

Then, 91-year-old Mary Evans said in a UPI report: 

That crash certainly caused a lot of excitement. Many people were frightened. They didn’t know what to expect. That was years before we had any regular airplanes or other kind of airships. I was only about 15 at the time and had all but forgotten the incident until it appeared in the newspapers recently. We were living in Aurora at the time, but my mother and father wouldn’t let me go with them when they went up to the crash site at Judge Proctor’s well. When they returned home they told me how the airship had exploded. The pilot was torn up and killed in the crash. The men of the town who gathered his remains said he was a small man and buried him that same day in Aurora cemetery. 

Charles Stephens, an 86-year-old resident of Aurora, added that his father Jim Stephens had seen the spaceship plummet from the sky. 

The validity of all three statements was undermined by Hayden Hewes who said that when his organisation checked them they were found to be false. Mr. G.C. Curley was actually called A. J. McCurley, who had been a teacher in Oklahoma at the time of the incident. Charles Stephens denied that his father had seen the crash, and Mary Evans said, ‘They wrote that up to suit themselves. I didn’t say it this way’. (17) 

In 1966 nothing more than scrap metal had been found at the crash site but during May 1973 a person from Corpus Christi called Frank Kelley found some unusual metal fragments there. 

Hot on the trail of this lead Bill Case noted in the 31 May issue of The Dallas Times Herald that samples had been sent to the North Texas State University, the American Aircraft Co.’ and the National Research Institute, Ottawa, Canada. 

According to Dr. Tom Gray of the North Texas State University, three of the fragments given to him consisted of common metals. But the fourth sample looked ‘as if it had been melted and splattered on the ground’. He went on to say that: 

First analysis shows it to be about 75 per cent iron, and 25 per cent zinc, with some other trace elements. But it lacks properties common to iron, such as being magnetic. It is also shiny and malleable instead of being dull and brittle like iron. 

In support of this analysis the American Aircraft Co., said that one of the seven samples given to them was unusual because it too was shiny and non-magnetic. 

According to Hayden Hewes, his group was unable to find Frank Kelley, and he believed that all the fragments he found was composed of ordinary iron. It was his contention that they were merely used to get the maximum publicity for the story. 

The Aerial Phenomena Research Organisation (APRO) was also highly sceptical about the claims surrounding the metal fragments. They said some of them were just bits of aluminium alloy with no special qualities. Another reason for their scepticism was the fact that the metal allegedly left in the ground for 76 years looked in too fine a shape for this to be true. 

In contrast, the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and the National Investigations Committee for Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) thought there was an element of truth in the case. 

Members of MUFON using metal detectors even found a grave in the local cemetery that gave similar readings to the metal given to Dr. Tom Gray. This encouraged the elusive Frank Kelley to speculate that the body of the spaceman was clothed in a metal suit. 

On the heels of this discovery came the revelation that the grave had a tombstone with a cigar-shaped vehicle drawn on it. That the drawing could easily have been caused by a scrape from a metal object did not discourage anyone. Someone, or some group, thought the ‘tombstone’ was valuable because early in the morning of 14 June 1973, it was stolen. In addition, the thieves dug-up the metal fragments that had apparently caused the earlier metal detector readings. 

Meanwhile Hayden Hewes and IUFOB had been trying, through proper legal channels, to exhume the body. This legal action, the publicity, and the crowds of visitors, did not please the Aurora Cemetery Association. Their attorney, Bill Nobles, said ‘We have no desire to stand in the way of scientific research’. Butwhen IUFOB persisted in wanting to locate and retrieve the body, he told them in a letter dated 18 March 1974: 

Please be advised that as in past instances the Cemetery Association feels obligated to resist any attempt to disturb the Aurora Cemetery grounds by any third parties seeking to investigate the alleged airship crash in 1897, and to reaffirm our position that any such attempt will be resisted with whatever means are available to the Association.

Even a request by IUFOB to examine the grave with a radar detection device was turned down by the Association. (17) 

None of the people involved in this story came out of it very well. If we return to the original 1897 report we might ask why S.E. Haydon concocted the story in the first place. The answer is that Aurora needed to attract tourists and business. By 1897 it had become the largest town in the county and had a population of about 3000. Unfortunately its prosperity was declining due to the effect of cotton crop failures, the bypassing of the railroad, a downtown fire and a spotted fever epidemic. By the 1970s Aurora had a population of less than 300. 

It might be thought that such a fantastic story would have attracted as much interest in 1897 as it did in 1973 – it is not every day that a spaceship drops out of the sky! The reason it was ignored was due to the hundreds of phantom airship sightings appearing in the press at that time. Alongside the Aurora report the Dallas Morning News of 19 April 1897 diligently recorded a long series of sightings and encounters. 

The newspaper files of the period contain several horrifying accounts of meteors crashing into the earth, causing damage to property, animals’ and humans. Ignoring them, the April 1897 newspapers hold many airship crashes that have not received much attention from ufologists but are equally valid (or should I say invalid?). 

For example, on the same day as the Aurora crash, 17 April 1897, Sam McLeary was travelling next to the Forked Deer River near Humboldt, Tennessee, when he came across an object that had crashed into some trees. Part of the craft was fixed into the ground and the rest of it was still lodged in the trees. The newspaper report claimed that: 

The larger portion consisted of a thin shell of bright white metal about 100 feet in length by 30in diameter, running to a point at each end. A tubular rib extends along each side and from this is suspended a framework carrying the machinery, with enclosed compartment for passengers or crew. The solitary occupant was unable to tell his story for though the weather is not cold his body and his water barrel were solid blocks of ice. The machine had evidently reached too high altitudes, and its manager had succumbed to the pitiless cold and for want of his control had fallen to the earth. 

Its engines were of strange and unknown construction. Screw propellers above and at each end and horizontal sails or wings at each side seem with the buoyant skill to combine all the principles of sea and air navigation … This much has been ascertained from observation and meagre notes found on board, but who or whence the solitary captain has not yet been discovered. (19) 

An even more intriguing sky craft exploded to the west of Lanark, Illinois, at 4.0 am on 10 April. This woke the inhabitants of the town who saw a bright ruby light shoot into the sky. The light got dimmer but it encouraged about 50 men to dress and ride out into the snowstorm to see what it was. It did not take them long to track it down to Johann Fliegeltoub’s farm which was half-a-mile to the west of the town. Here they found the frightened farmer’s family being shouted at, in a foreign language, by a person dressed in strange clothes. Nearby was the wreck of the airship and the mangled remains of two bodies. A third of the craft had driven itself into the ground. The ship: 

was cigar shaped and made of aluminium, about thirty feet long by nine feet in diameter, and the steady red glow came from an immense electric lamp that burned upon that part of the strange craft that projected from the ground. There were four side and one rear propellers on the machine, with a fin-like projection above it, evidently the rudder. An immense hole was torn in the under side of the ship, showing that an explosion had occurred, caused probably by a puncture from a lightning rod on the Fliegeltoub barn, as one of them was slightly bent. 

The strange creature who in some marvellous manner escaped from the wreck, is now unconscious. He or she is garbed after the fashion of the Greeks in the time of Christ, as shown by stage costumes, and the language spoken was entirely unknown to any one here, though most people are familiar with high and low Dutch, and even one or two know something of French and Spanish. 

The remains of the two persons who were killed were taken to the Fliegeltoub barn and straightened out on boards. It is firmly believed here that the airship was that of an exploring party from either Mars or the moon… (20) 

In the next report, filed by General F.A.Kerr, we are informed that by the afternoon Herr Fliegeltoub was charging a dollar a head for anyone who wished to see thewreckage in his barnyard. General Kerr only had to flash his press card to gain admittance, but within a few moments the import of the spectacle bore down on his mind. To steady himself he injected himself with a grain and a half of morphine, and swallowed three cocaine tablets. These soothed his jaded nerves and he was able to note that the previous report described the craft accurately. Inside it: 

was divided into four apartments, one large or general room containing the machinery of the ship, the principal part of which was a powerful electric dynamo, and there was also a tank of air compressed into a liquid. There were windows of heavy glass on each side of the room. Two of the other apartments were fitted up as sleeping rooms and the third was a bath room. There were many bottles of little pills in a cabinet in the large room, evidently condensed food. (21) 


The crowd was awestruck by the proceedings. I myself, to whom nothing is strange, returned to Lanark and securing a room at the hotel, sat up all night smoking opium and eating hasheesh to get in condition to write this dispatch

Walking from the ship to the Fliegeltoub house the reporter had to take a few more drugs. Here he:

found the unknown wanderer lying on a lounge, and I approached and examined him closely. He was about medium height and of athletic build, with long curled hair, dark brown in colour, and an extremely handsome face. He wore a white tunic reaching to his knees, and on his feet were sandals strapped with tin foil-wrapped braid. The tunic was embroidered with a coat of arms over the breast, a shield with a bar sinister of link sausages and bearing a ham sandwich rampant. 

A few minutes after I entered the room he awoke and sat up. Immediately everyone fled from the room except myself. After looking around for a minute he said in a language that I at once knew to be Volapuk, “Where am I?” I answered, “Near Lanark on the earth” and he said he was glad to be there and asked how it happened. 

I explained the circumstances to him and we had a long conversation, a report of which I reserve for another dispatch, but in brief he told me that he and his companions were an exploring party from Mars, who had been flying about over this country for some weeks.

About midnight he expressed a desire to see his wrecked machine and I went with him to visit it. When he saw the hole, with his fingers he bent the torn metal into its proper position, and stepping inside brought a pot of pasty looking stuff, which he spread over where the rent had been. He then ran hastily to the barn, picked up the bodies of his companions and carried them to his ship. Stepping inside he pulled a lever which set the propellers whirring, and the machine dragged itself from the ground. The operator then reversed the machinery, and shouting a farewell to me slammed the door and the airship rose rapidly into the air and finally disappeared into the night, though the red light was for a long time visible. 

The crowd was awestruck by the proceedings. I myself, to whom nothing is strange, returned to Lanark and securing a room at the hotel, sat up all night smoking opium and eating hasheesh to get in condition to write this dispatch. (21) 

We should warn our readers not to try this at home! Obviously the story was meant as a joke at the expense of the airship spotters, but it does have the detail and tone of “classic” contactee stories of the 1950s. The reporter, like the contactees, is the only person brave enough or privileged enough to talk to the alien; the being has superhuman strength; advanced techniques to repair the craft; the craft is a spaceship for the purpose of exploring planet earth; the alien takes away all the physical evidence. 

Lanark was the venue for another crash story only a few days later. At 3.35am on the morning of 12 April, the local telegraph operator heard a sound like a cyclone and looking out the window he saw a huge object slowly landing. The wings of the ship gently flapped and it would have settled without incident if the rudder had not demolished the wing of a frame house. After observing this the operator rang the alarm bells. Then: 

Soon after its landing a man not more than two feet in height came out of the ship. He wore an immense beard of a pinkish hue and his head was ornamented with some ivory like substance. He was heavily clothed in robes resembling the hide of a hippopotamus. His feet were uncovered near the ankles, but lashed firmly on the soles were two immense pieces of iron ore. About his neck was a string on which were 234 diamonds. 

When asked where he came from he made no reply, being apparently deaf. He said nothing and made motions, indicating he wanted something to eat or drink. He drank two buckets full of water and ate three sides of bacon, after declining to takeham, which had been tendered for him. A short time after three other persons, similar in stature and similarly attired, came out of the air ship by means of long peculiar ropes, which reached to the ground. They could not speak or hear. One carried a staff of gold. (22) 

Special trains were packed with expectant people including at least two ex-governors and 56 newspaper reporters.

 Unfortunately, a short note from W.G.Field of the Lanark Gazette timed at 3.10 pm on 12 April, succinctly stated that, ‘The air ship story is a fake.’ (22) 

In the state of Iowa two crashes into bodies of water occurred. The first incident was reported by John Butler and recorded in the 13 April editions of the Iowa State Register and the Evening Times-Republican. Although both carry the same account the dateline is different, so the incident either occurred at 11 p.m. on Friday 9 April or Saturday 10 April. It was on one of these nights that the citizens of Rhodes saw a bright light coming from the southwest. Crowds came out to see the heavenly vision and: 

It soon came so near that the sound of machinery could be heard, which soon became as loud as a heavy train of cars. All at once the aerial monster took a sudden plunge downward and was immersed in the reservoir of the C.M. & St. Paul railway, which is almost a lake, covering about eight acres of land. No pen can describe what followed. The boiling lava from Vesuvius pouring into the sea could only equal it. The light was so large and had created so much heat that the horrible hissing which occurred when the monster plunged into the lake, could be heard for miles, and the water of the reservoir was so hot that the naked hand could not be held in it. As soon as the wreck is raised out of the water a full description of the machine will be sent. 

Not long after dusk on 13 April, another strange meteor was seen by people in Iowa Falls. As it streaked across the sky it made a whirring noise. Apparently: 

The light and the dark form which seemed to follow it approached the earth at a terrible speed and parties living near the river declare that it struck the water and immediately sunk out of sight. Those who reached the point of the object’s disappearance first claim that the water was churned into a whirlpool and that for a long distance the water was seething and boiling. The theory advanced by many is that the airship while passing over this section became unmanageable and in the efforts of the people aboard to land shot downwards and plunged headlong into the river and after striking the bottom the propelling power of the ship dashed the waters into foam. Nothing can be seen from the surface and nothing has come to the surface that might indicate the nature of the ship or its occupants, and the supposition is that the occupants were killed or drowned and with them the secret of the ship. Searching parties are now being organised to search the river and if possible raise the wreck. Thousands are expected here every hour by special trains from all parts of the compass and the whole matter has caused a big sensation. The field is a green one for enterprising correspondents and the advance phalanx is expected in the morning. 

Any adventurous UFO investigators might profit from dredging the Iowa river or the C.M.& St. Paul railway reservoir. Though perhaps this is not as attractive a proposition as lurking in the Aurora cemetery! 

The Austin Daily Statesman of 20 April, no doubt tongue-in-cheek reported the statements of a ‘mystery man’. He proclaimed: 

It is my opinion that the airship, so-called, is nothing more nor less than a reconnoitring aerial war car from warlike Mars, investigating the conditions of the United States to see what reinforcements we’ll need when the country is invaded by the allied armies of Europe, the Mars soldiers having no confidence whatever in the American jingoes as real fighters. 

Asked, ‘With these soldiers of Mars cavorting around over our heads, do you think there is any danger to us of the earth?’ He replied: 

I most emphatically do. Last Thursday night (15 April) one of their aerial boats exploded and scraps of steel and pieces of electric wire were found on a school house, the roof of which workmen were repairing. They heard an explosion during the night, and just before it took place the aerial vehicle was seen sailing through the air. There is great danger in venturing out these nights. What if one of these fellows from Mars should tumble out and fall on you? 

Probably the best crash landing story was published in the 2 May 1897 issue of the Houston Post. In El Campo, Texas, an old Danish sailor called Mr. Oleson claimed that his traumatic encounter occurred in September 1862. He told John Leander that he had been a mate on the Danish brig Christine which was sailing in the Indian ocean when a storm wrecked it. He and five other members of the crew were washed onto a small rocky island. One of the men died of his injuries and they huddled together at the foot of a cliff as the storm continued to rage. It was then that: 

another terror was added to the horrors of the scene, for high in the air they saw what seemed to be an immense ship driven, uncontrolled in the elements. It was driving straight toward the frightened mariners, who cried aloud in their despair. Fortunately, however, a whirl of wind changed the course of the monster and it crashed against the cliff a few hundred yards from the miserable sailors. 

When they got to the wreckage they found that the craft was as big as a battleship and had been carried aloft by four huge wings. Furniture, and metal boxes with strange characters inscribed on them which contained food, were amongst some of the things they found in the jumbled mass. 

Then they came across the dead bodies of the ship’s crew. Altogether twelve of them dressed in strange garments were found. Their bodies were bronze coloured and were twelve feet tall. They were all male bodies, and they had soft and silky hair and beards. 

The stranded sailors were so shocked by their discovery that one of them was driven insane and threw himself off the cliff. The rest of them deserted the wreck for two days but hunger drove them back to it. After feasting on the ship’s strange food, they unceremoniously threw the dead bodies of the giant aliens into the sea. Emboldened by this activity they then built themselves a raft. 

Launching themselves on to a now calm sea, they tried to head for Vergulen Island. After sixty hours they came across a Russian ship heading for Australia, but their adventure had taken such a strain on them that only Mr. Oleson survived to reach land and safety. 

The newspaper report concluded by noting that: 

Fortunately as a partial confirmation of the truth of his story, Mr. Oleson took from one of the bodies a finger ring of immense size. It is made of a compound of metals unknown to any jeweller who has seen it, and is set with two reddish stones, the name of which are unknown to anyone who has ever examined it. The ring was taken from a thumb of the owner and measures 2 inches in diameter. 

Now Mr. Editor, many people believe those airship stories to be fakes. They may be so, but the story now told for the first time is strictly true. While Mr. Oleson is an old man, he still possesses every faculty and has the highest respect for truth and veracity. Quite a number of our best citizens, among them Mr. Henry Hahn, Mr. H.C. Carleton, Green Hill and S. Porter, saw the ring and heard the old man’s story. 

Having looked at cases which seem to involve an extraterrestrial dimension it is worth chronicling crash incidents that suggested that the experiments of a secret inventor had gone badly wrong. Our first example, published on 1st April 1897 in the Daily News-Tribune (Muscatine, Iowa), tells of a bright light seen at 2.30am by a night watchman and traveller. They were at the High Bridge when they saw a bright light, that changed white, red, purple, blue, white, in the southwest. It seemed like a ball of fire with a large, dark, conical object behind it. The thing dipped into the top of trees on the Illinois side of the river but managed to pass the bridge before it crashed with a thunderous roar. 

After a moment’s suspense a faint cry for help was heard, and then another still fainter, and when the watchers had recovered their frightened senses they both got into the wagon and drove hurriedly across the bridge, where they leapt out and ran to the place where the light was seen. There, in among the trees, was what looked to them like a painted boat with sails badly wrecked, while a man lay beneath groaning in great pain. He was carried to the cabin boat near by, inhabited by Henry Atwald, from Fairport, and made as comfortable as possible, he suffering such agony as to have it deemed inadvisable to remove him to town. 

Our informant quickly hurried back for a physician, he only being able to ascertain that the man was Prof. De Barre, of Tuscan, Arizona, and that the strange craft was his own invention, he being on his way to Chicago and that his accident was due to the steering apparatus becoming unmanageable in the high wind. 

1 April 1897, not surprisingly, was a good day for airship sightings. One was seen to crash into a large sycamore tree, on that day, in the Upper Cottonwood valley. One of the occupants was killed but the other one recovered long enough to talk about his adventures on board the airship, and that he had come from Topeka. The Chanute Tribune of 3 April 1897 indicated this was a hoax by a local gentleman, Colonel Whitley. 

This type of story was not exactly new, a very similar account is contained in the San Francisco Examiner for 5 December 1896. This edition declared: 

The hull of an airship is in a ditch on the ocean side of Twin Peaks, and for a time at least church steeples, clock towers and factory chimneys are safe from all but the soaring imaginations of the men who believe that “the prostrate leviathan of the air crashed down from dizzy heights and met all but complete annihilation in the bed of a foaming mountain torrent.” 

The man who built this craft, a Mr. J.H. de Gear, said he had worked according to the plans of an inventor who wanted to stay anonymous. Mr. de Gear had been trying to fly the craft when a strong wind made him crash. The ship, merely an iron cylinder divested of any machinery, was conveniently close to a saloon which enjoyed a boom due to this story. 

Much publicity was given to this crash case but the San Francisco Chronicle of 5 December 1896 revealed that it was a fake constructed by press agent Frank de Gear. The nearby Sunnyside Inn had paid him for his efforts at drumming up business. His brother, Jefferson de Gear, said he helped with the fake and that: 

“I was simply employed as an expert cornice-maker to build the machine and put it where it was found. Yes, it was built for exhibition purposes. It took over three bundles of galvanised iron to construct it, and the thing weighed over 400 pounds. I built it in two nights and one day, and had eleven men working on it Wednesday night. I think I deserve credit for the job: it was a good piece of work.” 

Another story, in the Daily Herald (St.Joseph,Missouri), of 6 April 1897 said that: 

Bethany, Mo., April 5. – (Special to the Herald.) Last night about 10.30 o’clock an airship was seen coming from the southwest at the rate of about 25 miles an hour, and looked to be about one-half mile high. It stopped for a few seconds over the court house, and then moved on toward the northeast, and went out of sight. This morning two men, John Leib and Ira Davis, living six miles east, brought word to town that an airship had fallen on J.D. Sims’ farm and a man was found dead. The coroner has gone to hold an inquest. 

More details are given in the Daily Herald’s 9 April 1897 edition. This says that two men who were operating the craft were killed and mutilated beyond recognition. The craft that ‘resembles a cigar in shape, and has three propellers on either side’ had come to grief against Sims’ flag post. Letters found in the pockets of the victims indicated they had come from San Francisco or Omaha. The ship was taken to a warehouse in Bethany for exhibition to the curious crowds. Just when we are about to believe this story the author of the report had to spoil things by signing himself “A TRUE FAKIR”.

This story possibly inspired a report from Highland Station that featured an airship that exploded there on the night of 15 April 1897. The Globe (Atchison, Kansas) of 17 April, went on to say that the injured pilot was found and he claimed he was Pedro Sanchez of Cuba. He conveniently took the airship wreckage away the next day. 

Near Philo, Champaign county, Illinois, there came a more graphic account of death by airship. A cone shaped craft was seen fighting against a heavy west wind at 10pm on 15 April 1997. The Daily Gazette (Champaign, Illinois), of 16 April 1897, continues the tale:

When just south of Bouse’s grove the craft became unmanageable and came down with a crash on Jeff Shafer’s farm, about 100 feet from where George Shafer was disking. The team took fright and ran away, throwing Young Shafer in front of the harrow which passed over him, cutting him all to pieces. In the wreck of the ship, which covered a space nearly 100 feet square, were found the mutilated remains of three persons. They were partially imbedded in the soft ground and covered with blood, so that it was impossible to identify them, but from what McLoed (Norman McLoed was a witness to this event – N.W.) could see he judged to be Japanese. 

The report filed by “W.J.Wilkinson” concludes by saying that many are going to the site of the crash, and that more will be known once an inquest has been conducted. The game is given away, however, by this postscript: 

The Gazette has been unable to find out who this man “Wilkinson” is, and from all accounts, there is no such man living in Philo. The names of the people he uses in the account are genuine, and those of prominent people, but it is evident that they were not consulted before the account was sent away. 

I was intrigued by another crash story that sounded very promising. This related how a reporter had got to the summit of New York mountain, where he saw a fifty-foot-long cigar-shaped vessel ‘plunged deep into the mountain top.’ With the aid of ropes the reporter and fellow rescuers got to the broken ship wherethey found a badly injured old man. This was exciting news but the account in the Avalanche (Glenwood Springs, Colorado) of 4 May 1897 blows its cover by saying the man came from the North and is called “Santa Claus”, and the reporter wakes from his dream. 

There are many other crash stories which have variable reliability. The Jefferson Bee of 15 April 1897 said that an airship had crashed near the town on 10 April. A terrible sound was heard and the next day a craft was found. This contained four bodies that were mashed to a pulp, despite this it was ascertained that they had two faces, and two sets of arms and legs, and they were taller than earth people. This was acknowledged to be a hoax by the newspaper staff. 

A better case which received a good deal of publicity came from Pavilion township. This said that two old soldiers saw an airship in the sky followed by an explosion. The next day, 12 April, wreckage was found in the area and at Comstock township. (23) 

On the 17 April 1897 a flying drugstore was seen at Park Rapids. As it went over Fish Hook Lake it exploded and legs and arms were seen to fly everywhere, causing the fish to crawl out of the lake for some peace and quiet! (24) 

An abandoned cigar-shaped airship, with a broken propeller was found by Mr. Thurber, near Mead at the mouth of Dead Man Creek. (25) Someone calling himself “xxx” said an airship hit his friend’s windmill near Elmo. (26) There are many accounts of things falling from airships, and some of them are nearly as silly as the story in the Livermore Gazette of 16 April 1897. This claimed that the good citizens of the town made an airship crash so that they could use parts from it to decorate the place.

These accounts show that ufological holy grails such as Rosweil are far from being a new phenomenon. In the context of the airship wave as a whole crash cases were generally treated as a joke, but we can see that ufologists were ready to absorb such cases as the Aurora crash into the body of ufological lore because of their similarity to modern-day cases. In the airship wave people did not expect their accounts of crashes to be believed, their motive was to ridicule and shock into rationality the believers of the airship myth. In terms of the flying saucer myth it has taken time for serious ufologists to wholeheartedly believe in crash cases and retrievals of bodies, but those who have swallowed this pill must beprepared to accept that it has probably been poisoned by their own gullibility and by the work of “liars” who are unconsciously carrying-on a great American tradition.  


  1.  New York Times 17 August 1878.
  2.  New York Times, 14 August 1878.
  3.  Mr. X, Res Bureaux Bulletin, No. 17,12 May 1977, pp 2-3.
  4.   A detailed account of this story is contained in: Zerpa, Fabio and Plataneo, Monica L., “The Crash of a UFO in the 19th Century”, unpublished, circa 1979. They tried to find the location of the aerolite and the body of the alien, but their report concludes by saying, ‘this whole thing has the “ring” of an old Spanish “tale” from beginning to end. Much repetition, drawn out suspense, and no concrete evidence.
  5.  La Capital, (Rosario) 13 and 15 October 1877.
  6.  Picasso, Fabio, “Infrequent Types of South American humanoids”, Strange magazine No. 8, Fall 1991, p.23 and p.44.
  7.  Zerpa, Fabio and Plataneo, “La Caida de un OVNI en Pleno Siglo XIX”, Cuarta Dimension Extra September 1981, pp. 2-12.
  8.  Charroux, Robert, Archivas de Otros Mudos, Barcelona, Plaza y Lanes, p.341.
  9.  Nickell, Joe, “The ‘Hangar 18′ tales – a folkloristic approach”, Common Ground No. 9, pp. 2-10.
  10.  Roberts, Andy, “Saucerful of Secrets” in UFOs by John Spencer and Hilary Evans, Fortean Tomes, 1987, pp.156-159.
  11.  Also see: Simmons, H.Michael “Once Upon A Time In The West”, Magonia No. 20.
  12.  Hanlon, Donald B. “Texas Odyssey of 1897″, Flying Saucer Review, Sept. – Oct., 1966.
  13.  Hanlon, Donald B. and Vallee, Jacques, “Airships Over Texas”, Flying Saucer Review, Jan-Feb 1967.
  14.  Hanlon, Donald B. and Vallee, Jacques, letter in “Mail Bag” column, Flying Saucer Review, Jan. – Feb., 1967. 
  15.  Hewes, Hayden C. “The UFO Crash of 1897″, Offlcial UFO Vol. 1, No. 5, Jan. 1976.
  16.  Buckle, Eileen, “Aurora Spaceman”, Flying Saucer Review, July – Aug 1973.
  17.  Hewes, Hayden C.
  18.  ibid, p.30.
  19.  Nashville American, 18 April, 1897. T.B. p.209:2.
  20.  Daily Democrat, 10 April 1897.
  21.  Daily Democrat, 12 April 1897
  22.  Daily Times (Dubuque, LA) 13 April 1897
  23.  Evening News (Detroit), 13 April 1897
  24.  Hubbare Clipper (CA), 22 April 1897
  25.  The Chronicle of Spokane, 16 April 1897
  26.  Albany Ledger (MO), 21 May 1987

Most of this material is available in Eddie Bulard’s ‘The Airship Files’ and its Supplements I and II. Other excellent sources are Robert G. Neeley’s ‘UFOs of 1896/1897: The Airship Wave’ (both published by the Fund for UFO Research

Invasion of the Barbarian Monsters from Heaven and Hell

From Magonia 54, November 1995.

This angry article prompted the highly-respected American UFO author Jerome Clark to write a Forum piece for Fortean Times magazine (Oi! Investigator, Shut It!- FT88) bemoaning the cynical state of sceptical UFOlogy. He was promptly set upon by Magonia’s own Nigel Watson and Peter Rogerson in FT’s letters pages.

UFOs are the key to discovering Heaven and Hell. It is appropriate that our modern technological societies have incorporated the old Gods and religions into ‘new’ technological belief systems. Since the 1950s the question ‘Was God An Astronaut?’ has been put forward and popularised. From there it didn’t take a genius to equate reports of UFOs in our own time with The Return of the Gods. The ‘scientific’ ufologists have usually wanted to ignore such elements, whereas from the very beginning, the beings encountered by the contactees are thinly disguised religious entities who make bland religious statements that will help ‘save our planet’. Even those who have only seen lights in the sky have often reported numinous feelings that can easily lead to more complex encounters.

The mastery of space exploration and the culminating Space Race quickly made us wonder if we were evolving into Gods ourselves. In Kubrick’s 2001. A Space Odyssey humanity’s technology leads to evolutionary change, in TV’s Star Trek we would become secular rulers of the universe (and spiritual leaders in The Next Generation). By the early 1970s people felt that poverty, famine and disaster could be eradicated if as much effort was put into these problems as the Apollo moon project. The power of money, science, technology, indeed the whole military-industrial complex, also had its dark-side that revealed how false these hopes were; that dark-side was the Vietnam debacle. Watergate only emphasised that the forces of human Government were conspiratorial and far from democratic.

It is no wonder that virtually all 1970s movies had to have gloomy, down-beat endings. Nature and science seemed to conspire against civilisation, the common person was trapped in a web of conflict and disaster. In the cinema, the answer was to look to the skies. Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind showed the emptiness and superficiality of suburban existence which is contrasted by the power and majesty of the UFO craft and their benign Ghandi-like occupants. At the same time Star Wars showed that life amongst the stars is adventurous and dangerous. Luke Skywalker, the main protagonist, has to learn the difference between good and evil. Star Wars clears the slate of modern-day anxieties and puts us in a period where there are obvious goodies and baddies – a concept that was to be Reagan’s main inspiration. Andrew Britton puts it this way:

The Reaganite space and horror cycles…answer to one another. In the one case, Good is affirmed through the spectacle of its robustness and it’s pre-given triumph, and in the other through the spectacle of its terrible vulnerability to appalling alien forces or the punishment of deviations from it. The banality of the films derives from the undialectical conception of Good and Evil, and the reduction to the level of routine of the contest between them…. (1)

This regeneration of belief in space exploration and contact with extraterrestrials is highly paradoxical since in reality the Space Race was the direct outcome of the Cold War and the race to develop ever-more powerful and sophisticated weapons of mass destruction. The same can be said of Ufology in general; we believe in the absolute power of these spiritual saviours from the skies who treat us like easily duped children (or cattle) yet they use vehicles that are always falling out of the skies. Our new Gods have feet of clay. Indeed, our ability to build space craft and atomic bombs seems like a route to understanding or at least invoking these Gods. We can learn from the new Gods who have perfected their technology without killing themselves off. Equally, we can learn from the Gods who have ruined their own planet and plan to invade our blessed planet (as in Wells’ War of the Worlds or the ‘factual’ case of the Janos People).

Having lost faith in our own leaders the space visitors represent new leaders who can show us how to use advanced technology without destroying our planet. This blind belief in the space visitors reverts us to an immature level as defined by Immanuel Kant in his attempt to define ‘What is Enlightenment?’. He wrote, ‘Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity…Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another’. (2) By extension the belief in UFOs represents an immature view of the world which denies us the ability to resolve our own problems. In our increasingly compartmentalised and alienating societies we feel powerless to change things, it’s far better to leave it to the space visitors to save us.

As Keith Tester notes:

If enlightenment means making sense of the world for oneself, without a belief in ghosts in the machine, then the operation of the culture industry means that a belief in such ghosts increases.’ (3)

His argument is that the culture industry (newspapers, TV, radio, films, books, etc.) has a tendency to be barbaric in a moral and cultural sense. The culture industry revels in rendering its audience to the level of immature imbeciles. We are not meant to think, we are to indulge in the passive absorption of media images to pass the time and escape from the cruel realities of day-to-day life. The only response that is required is to keep viewing and buy the products advertised.

UFOs fit neatly in this scenario. In terms of the culture industry UFOs are an entertaining sideshow. The cheap tabloids shamelessly exploit the popularity of such subjects and the broadsheets stay aloof. Criticism and analysis is at best ill-informed. This is especially true of the broadcast media which is more interested in debating whether ‘they’ are true or not. This constant emphasis on ‘believers’ and ‘sceptics’ misses the opportunity to look at the subject in a wider context.

The bottom line is that books, articles and programmes have to play to the believers; they are the ones who are willing to part with their cash. The sceptics can say that such material is rubbish but they are usually buried under the banner headlines and sensational snapshots of alien autopsies. The few facts that do exist are the cheese in a media game of cat and mouse.

The culture industry takes the UFO cases away from the ufologists and turns it into sophisticated forms of high-action entertainment (The X Files is a good example of this phenomenon) or it dramatises this material , often with the help of ufologists, in ‘factual’ programmes or films (e.g. Strange But True, Fire In The Sky, Communion).
Ufologists are more likely to ‘investigate’ cases that conform to those already defined by the culture industry and therefore have the potential for exploitation.. In the rush for headlines any old rubbish will pass-muster if it feeds the media with sensational copy and (preferably) pictures (the Roswell film footage springs immediately to mind). Indeed, many ufologists never publish any of their findings in any useful form, they are just publictity/money obsessed saucer chasers who enjoy playing with the media. Other characters are foolhardy enough to publish endless reports about their investigations which usually show how much they have distorted the facts to conform to their pre-fixed ideas. The whole subject is riddled with sad believers or cynical exploiters who justify their money-raking by saying that it will fund their more serious research endeavours.

The following statement by Adorno (4) is about astrology but it can be equally applied to ufology:

While the naive persons who take more or less for granted what happens hardly ask the questions astrology pretends to answer and while really educated and intellectually fully developed persons would look through the fallacy of astrology, it is an ideal stimulus for those who have started to reflect, who are dissatisfied with the veneer of mere existence and who are looking for a ‘key.’ but who are at the same time incapable of the sustained intellectual effort required by theoretical insight and also lack the critical training without which it would be utterly futile to attempt to understand what is happening.

This might seem unnecessarily harsh but with a subject like ufology we should be more critical of the evidence because it is so contentious. In reality the reverse seems to happen. You just tell a well-known ufologist that you have had an encounter similar to one in their latest book, and next thing you know, you’re in their abduction support group or documentary programme.

What happens when your cast-iron evidence is proven to be as watertight as the Titanic? Does it sink without trace? Well, there are several strategies to cover this contingency, you can say that you were just presenting the facts in good faith and were not aware of any duplicity. Usually the faith in the reality of UFOs is unbroken because there are millions more cases out there that will provide the necessary proof. Another tactic is to say it’s part of some plot to discredit yourself and the witness(es) and that it’s all true, honest. You either believe or you don’t, any evidence pro or con seems irrelevant, since there’ll always be new twists to the UFO stories to titillate the public.

Andrew Britton makes this statement about contemporary cinema productions:

Entertainment tells us to forget our troubles and to get happy, but it also tells us that in order to do so we must agree deliberately to switch life off. (5)
This can be easily changed to state that ‘UFO stories are there to forget our earthly troubles’ in the sense that we are not expected to do anything about the problems of the world because the UFO entities have absolute control over us and our Governmentts.

As Britton goes on to argue:

Entertainment asks us to believe that it is supremely wonderful, as it must do if its main claim to represent one of the capitalist system’s rewards, one of the tokens of that system’s superiority to other systems, is to carry weight. (6)

By the same token UFOs are used by the culture industry to show that it is one with popular beliefs and it rewards us with wonderful visions of UFOs on our TV and cinema screeens. In this sense Britton’s statement that ‘Entertainment helps one to feel normal” is helpful with regard to UFO material, as it shows that you are not mad if you see, or believe, in UFOs.

The culture industry gobbles-up UFO material that is shovelled into it by willing ufologists, then it is crapped all over us whether we like it or not. As such the very spirit of wonder and defamiliarisation with the everyday that UFOs might inspire only serves to feed the dominant socio-economic structure. Ufology is a proto-religion or techno-religion that has sold its soul to commerce. UFO material can then be regarded as nothing more than a product to be consumed rather than as something to be analysed and studied.

At this stage it would be easy to invoke capitalism (which is at the root of the culture industry) as the nasty Devil that has corrupted ufology and brought the space Gods crashing down to earth. That is an easy line-of-thought but like most aspects of ufology things are more complicated and paradoxical. In our society we all need money and if research, or sightings of UFOs can generate it, that is obviously helpful to the people concerned. That doesn’t mean to say the research or the sightings are invalid, though it does provide a powerful incentive for elaborating UFO cases for the sake of financial gain. This is obviously a greater motive in the USA than anywhere else (in Britain very little money is earned from Ufology – ask my bank manager for ample evidence of this!).

A greater motive, I think, is that the investigator or witness has a strong belief that they want to promote to the world at large. The belief is that there is something beyond everyday reality but the problem is that the believer cannot quite put their concepts into an adequate structure. That’s why most messages from the space visitors are garbled reflections of our own worldly concerns. In contrast, the scientific investigator believes they are presenting hard-won facts to the scientific community when they wouldn’t know ‘science’ from a plastic trog. Indeed, I prefer the contactee-type cultists in the sense that they at least try to peddle some sort of message for the greater good, whereas the abductees and the rest of the abductee industry tries to sell us the idea of nasty, merciless space beings with all sorts of hidden agendas and preconceptions mixed-in for good measure.

The will-to-believe in visitors from beyond our everyday realm is strong but at the same time it takes us into the grip of the culture industry that firmly imprisons us in the everyday. The beings that pilot the flying saucers are as substantial as today’s headlines.



Britton, Andrew, ‘Blissing Out: The Politics of Reaganite Entertainment’, Movie, Winter 1986, No 31/32, page 11.
Kant, Immanuel, 1970 ‘An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?’ in H.Reiss (ed.), Kant’s Political Writings, Cambridge University Press, page 54
Tester, Keith, 1994, Media, Culture and Morality, Routledge, page 49.
Adorno, Theodor, 1974, ‘The Stars Down to Earth, The Los Angeles Times Astrology Column’, Telos, No 19, pages 87-88.
Britton, ibid., page 4.
Britton, ibid., page 4.