The Folklore Connection [1977]
Nigel Watson

From Magonia New Series 8, Autumn 1977

As Roger Sandell has rightly pointed out (1) there is much evidence to show that vehicle stoppages are not unique to UFO lore. Horse-drawn vehicles seem to have been prone to such stoppages as can be seen from the following quote:

“In days gone by the waggoners used to make sure to have a whipstock o’ wicken; and when a witch used to see a waggoner coming wi’ such a whip, she’d say “‘Ere comes the lad wi’ the wicken-tree gad:” and she couldn’t do owt agen ‘im. A witch could stop a team of horses wi’out saying a word, she could, and no one could make ‘em move while she wanted ‘em to; but if a lad wi’ a wicken tree gad just come along and touched each ‘orse it is whip, then the team ‘ud move on. (2)”

Bicycles also could be affected. Near a gateway about two miles outside Listowel, Eire, two IRA men were killed by British soldiers during a skirmish in 1918. Later in that same year, on a moonlit night, two young men were cycling home to Listowel, after having been to a circus at Abbeyfeale, five miles away. The time was about 1 am on a night in June; and Paddy Maloney aged 17, and his friend Moss Barney of Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, were anxious to get home. They had forgotten about the shooting incident, but when they reached the art of the road where the skirmish occurred, something stopped them going any further. However hard he tried Patrick could not ride from the spot. He said:

“It felt as if someone were at back of us, holding on to our bicycles. I felt clammy and moist, and the sense of a presence behind me trying to prevent me from going down that road was very strong. I had the sensation that someone was trying to keep us from running into trouble further down the road. I tried to cycle as hard as I could, but to no avail. Yet, the road was level, with a stretch of wooded section for at least 500 ft. I felt myself weaken, the cold sweat broke out all over me, I tried to tell Moss about my difficulty but found my tongue was paralysed. With a last surge of power I pushed on and finally broke away from the ‘thing’ behind me. As soon as we were out of the wooded section our bikes were free as before. We both jumped off and I started to tell Moss what I had experienced, only to find that he too had felt the same uncanny weight. He too was unable to talk for a while.”

Patricks last comment was “I’ll never ride this road again at night”. (3) More bicycle interference can be found in Haunted East Anglia, a book by Joan Forman. On page 53 she writes:

My father, when a young man was engaged to the miller’s daughter at Legbourne Mill. He was in the habit, when the working day was over of cycling out to Legbourne via Cawthorpe, taking the route by the plantation… He had a reasonably modern bicycle, as cycling was one of his hobbies; in those days modern did not extend to battery powered lamps. Both front and rear were acetylene lamps and had to be lit by hand. One one particular light my father rode his usual journey to the mill. He had turned into the plantation stretch which leads to Cawthorpe and was passing the gateway when his front lamp went out. He dismounted and relit the lamp, climbed back on and was about to move when the rear light went out. He got off the machine again, re-lit the rear lamp and once more prepared to ride off. At that point both front and rear lights were extinguished together.

No doubt the young man was thoroughly alarmed and discontented. As far as he could see there was no earthly explanation why one lamp, let alone both, should go out. Once more he re-lit both lights, jumped on the bike and pedalled hell-for-leather down the lane. Once out of the mysterious gateway both lights remained alight. He came home via the main road through Legbourne village and for several weeks gave the plantations a wide berth.

The above incident took place in Lincolnshire in about 1925. It is interesting to note that in both bicycle encounters, the incidents took place in gateways connected with violent death. The Lincolnshire plantation gateway was the scene of the murder of a drover who in the 1800′s was killed whilst bringing a herd of pigs from Louth. The gate has since been haunted by phantom footsteps followed by a phantom herd of pigs; and a scarf of mist is said to stretch out from the gateway – whatever the time of year.


  1. SANDELL, Roger. The Ghost in the Machine, MUFOB New Series 3.
  2. RUDKIN, Ethel. Lincolnshire Folklore, EP Publishing, 1973, first published 1936. “Gad” is Lincolnshire dialect for a whip; a wicken is a mountain ash.
  3. HOLZER, Hans. Lively Ghosts of Ireland. Ace Star Paperback, 1967. pp. 20-21.


Also of relevance to the folklore/UFO connection is this piece, which also appeared in Magonia New Series 8, in the ‘Notes, Quotes and Queries’ column:

The Hull Daily Mail of 10th August 1977r carries on its front page a report from which the following is extracted. (Cr: Derek Shelton)

“Early morning mist gave a 27-year-old police constable a ghoulish expetience while on patrol in East Hull. For, on spotting a sudden bank of fog on the playing fields near to Stonebridge Ave. at about 1.30 am PC David Swift decided to investigate, thinking it could be smoke. But the mist revealed three dancing figures who he at first thought to be drunks playing round. As he got nearer they all disappeared into air leaving a shaken police officer behind them.

“One of the figures was a man dressed in a sleeveless jerkin, and tight-fitting trousers, while the other two were women wearing bonnets, shawls and white dresses. All appeared to be dancing round a non-existent maypole as they each had an arm raised”

This story raises a number of interesting points. Firstly, one will have noted the strange mist, a feature of innumerable UFO and entity encounters, and a stock feature of fairy-lore. It is perhaps this latter which the whole incident most strongly resembles, with the theme of fairy revellers disappearing into thin air as the mortal witness tries to enter tie ring of dancers. The clothes that the beings are reported as wearing are curiously ambivalent, capable of bearing an interpretation both as traditional fairy dress (resembling some of the many Irish descriptions of the Sidhe), and as ghosts of 19th century country dwellers. We await a report from some local historian that tie field where the incident did in fact house a maypole in the last century. The incident will then be ‘explained’ as a ghostly visitation.

Indeed, not the least interesting aspect of the whole business is the way PC Swift speaks of it as a “ghostly sighting”, and neither he nor the newspaper feel it necessary to offer any sort of apologia for doing so, feeling, with justification, that its readers (and PC Swift’s senior officers) will regard this as a perfectly adequate explanation. Certainly it may be more acceptable to the citizens of Hull to believe that their policemen see ghosts, than that they see fairies!


“Fire in the Sky”
Film Review by Nigel Watson

walton_travisThis film review appeared first in Magonia 46, June 1993.

Aduction stories are not new to the cinema, indeed many SF films of the 1950s anticipated (helped create?) the obsessions that dominated the minds of ufologists since the 1980s. What makes Fire In The Sky different is that it takes UFOs seriously. Rather than use them as an excuse to wonder at the possibilities of life elsewhere, or reflect the paranoid concerns of Soviet invasion, atomic warfare, the progress of science, etc, Fire In The Sky plays an apparently straight bat.

Travis Walton and his fellow loggers are shown as ordinary blue-collar workers, and unlike the characters in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind they do not have any form of psychic union with the aliens, nor do they start wondering about the marvels of the universe. Though, for other reasons, mainly terrestrial, they are changed by their brush with the unknown.

Significantly, Travis (D.B.Sweeney) is revealed to be a carefree, dreamer. In contrast, his best friend and leader of the logging team, Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick), has financial problems and a rocky marriage. Completing their contract means more to him than it does to Travis.

As they travel to work their pick-up truck is a noisy technological invader of the natural world. The silence of the forest is filled with the noise of their transistor radio, their constant bickering, and by their lethal chainsaws. In particular, there is an ongoing feud between Allan Dallis (Craig Sheffer) and Travis, which culminates in them threatening each other with their chainsaws.

Earlier we are shown Travis trying to persuade Mike to join him in setting up a motorcycle business. On a crumpled piece of paper his dreams are depicted as the ‘MT Motor Shop’ with a picture of a motorbike – he makes a joke that MT stands for ‘empty’ revealing that he doesn’t have a great deal of confidence in this capitalistic vision. Mike, understandably, isn’t too keen on this idea.

When the shocked loggers, minus Travis, return to the town of Snowflake, they tell the police about their UFO encounter. Only Travis was foolhardy enough to run towards the UFO, the others wisely drove away in their pick-up truck. They are so scared that only Mike has the courage to drive back to see what has happened to Travis, but can’t find him.

The next day there is a massive police hunt The loggers take the sceptical police Lt. Frank Watters (James Garner) to where they saw Travis zapped by a beam of light from the UFO. They assumed that Travis was either killed or knocked unconscious by the beam. The UFO is shown as something like an upside-down volcano and has a passing resemblance to the spaceship in It Came From Outer Space. Although they state that there are traces on the ground nothing can be found, indeed no one is certain about the exact position of the encounter (shades of many real-life cases!).

On 12 March 1993, Philip Klass had a chance to voice his scepticism about the physical reality of the incident. On the Larry King TV show he thought the men had been lying, because, he said: “I’m afraid we have to say that on the basis of the physical evidence – physical evidence that should have been there but was not. Now you heard Travis and Mike Rogers claim that this beam from the UFO was like a grenade exploding, fire, flame… but Travis was knocked 10 feet back. And in his book, he [Travis] claims he hit his shoulders against the rocks. Now shortly after Travis reappeared, he was given a physical examination by two medical doctors in Phoenix… Dr. Kandell and Dr. Saults. They found no bruise marks. They found no burn marks. They found no physical damage. The only thing was like a needle mark in his elbow. So there was no physical evidence.” Travis laughed at this statement saying that Klass didn’t understand the nature of the evidence. In the film, Travis is shown quite badly scratched and bruised by his experience.

The police, and members of their small community think they are either “murderers or liars”. The constant personal disputes between Dallis and Travis, makes Dallis the prime suspect, but he is a gambling drifter who doesn’t care about what others think. It is Mike who is the most sensitive about local public opinion.

The morning after the UFO encounter Mike and his fellow loggers find themselves the centre of media and public attention. A creepy ufologist introduces himself as being from a group called A.F.A.R., and tells him to contact him if he wants to talk about the case. Mike’s wife is particularly upset by all this attention, and Mike becomes totally estranged from her. In addition, the logging contract is cancelled so his financial problems come to a head.

There are two major points where their story is directly challenged. The first, happens at a public meeting to discuss the affair. After initial scepticism Mike makes an impassioned speech that basically states that he and and his mates are telling the truth. Significantly, this speech is made before a stained glass window, which an earlier scene showed was of Christ being hit by a beam of celestial light. This discreetly (!) indicates that Travis can be regarded as a contemporary Christ-like martyr figure, and that his fellow loggers are reluctant disciples who have witnessed a miracle.

Secondly, there is a scene where the loggers each take a lie detector test. The examiner says that “charts don’t lie” but the results of these tests are inconclusive. The police want to take another set of tests but the men don’t want to go through this process again.

Besides being a good portrayal of the social and psychological reactions to a UFO case, the film is probably most important for its depiction of an abduction experience. Here we see (in flashback) Travis waking in a cocoon-like pod that is full of slime. When he breaks through the pod’s membrane he floats to the centre of a cylindrical cave-like room. He grabs a floating cable/rope giving the appearance of a newborn baby attached to its umbilical cord. These images of birth are then under-cut by an image of death – he floats back to a pod which contains a half-eaten human corpse. Since the sides of the room are full of pods, is this a food store-room for the aliens? This reminds us of the carnivorous habits of the aliens in the T.V. series V.

Escaping from the room he enters a brightly lit area full of floating comatose aliens that look distinctly like those described by Whitley Strieber. As he gets closer to them he realises that these are just space suits. Not only are we meant to remember the (in)famous cover of Communion and Transformation but the empty suits are also reminiscent of the suits in 2001 (in the scene where the two remaining astronauts get into a small `pod’ spaceship to get out of ear-shot of the computer HAL).

The aliens that use these space suits are spindly bodied, with skin the texture and colour of a potato; they have a bump where their nose should be. Surprised by the appearance of one of these beings Travis greets it with a kick to the head. He runs down corridors scattered with the debris of former human abductees (e.g. a pair of abandoned spectacles), but is quickly captured by two beings who unceremoniously drag him to the obligatory operating table.

The examination scene is the film’s centrepiece. In a surreal nightmare fashion Travis is stripped naked and bound to the table with sheets of membrane-like material. After being smothered in this, the beings cut a hole for his mouth and his right eye. A glob of black goo is stuck in his mouth quickly followed by a flexible metal tube. A pin is snapped into the side of his neck, and it is connected to a cable. The ultimate in terror is a spherical object with nasty looking drills attached to it that descends from the ceiling. This seems to be aimed at his eyes but it drills near his eye sockets instead. Interestingly the interior of the craft seems almost biological – as in the film Alien – but the surgical instruments are very much like solid metallic terrestrial surgical/torture implements.

The purpose of this examination is never explained. The first flashbacks occur when Travis is taken to hospital, and the director deliberately parallels the experience of going to hospital with having an abduction experience.

When he is found, five days after his encounter, he is semi-conscious, crouching naked next to an ice-machine, reminiscent of the arrival of people/androids from the future in the Terminator movies. Smears of rain on a pane of glass remind of his attempts at breaking-out of the pod on board the UFO. He is terrified and withdraws from Mike who has come to collect him. The ufologist from A.F.A.R says he knows exactly what needs to be done, which means that he wants to get a urine sample! Apparently, the role of the ufologist was added to give a ‘David Lynch’ feel to the film but it seems more likely those involved are really taking the urine out of ufologists. This is typical of the media, which uses the cases ufologists make and help keep famous, engages their support, and then makes fun of them!

After all the fuss, and Travis’ safe reappearance Lt. Frank Waiters leaves the town with this mystery unsolved even though he strongly considers the case to be a hoax. In contrast, the local sheriff thinks there is something to Travis’ story.

fire in sky

“This is a story that speaks to human character and behaviour – about our inclination to presume the worst in someone before considering ideas that challenge our own skepticism.”

An epilogue is tacked onto the film, that tells us the state of affairs 20 years after the event. Now Travis has a smart blue estate car, has married his girlfriend, obviously happy with his life. Suddenly he stops his car near a billboard that states AN AMERICAN LEGEND beneath the picture of a motorbike. Travis’ MT dream has come into reality in a far different manner than he expected, but he is obviously an American Legend. On a whim he drives to his old friend, Mike, who has left his wife and is now living as a recluse in a lonely woodland cabin. They talk about the event that has given both of them nightmares. To comfort his friend, Travis assures him that “They won’t be back. I  don’t think they liked me.” On this note Mike says he will return to civilisation and communal/personal fears and re-build his life.

We have already seen that Klass has contested the physical reality of this encounter. We must also be wary of the ‘facts’ shown in the film even though it boasts it is “based on a true story”, and all the major percipients were consulted. Tracey Tormé, the film’s sceen writer and co-producer, confirmed that rather than depict what Travis reported, they had to conform to Paramount’s opinion that what he saw might be interesting to a handful of ufologists but they had to do something different from the Communion film and the Intruders TV mini-series. Since the Travis case is different from many of Hopkin’s modern-day cases. Tormé certainly doesn’t think it was a ‘real’ abduction incident. He explained: “I think it is more of a hit-and-run accident.. at doesn’t fit any of the other patterns as in the cases that were explored in Intruders. So my personal feeling is that it was really a one of a kind that doesn’t fall into the parameters of Budd Hopkina’ type abduction cases…”

This reveals the absolute faith in Hopkins’ scary abduction stories, so much so that if a case doesn’t conform to his data base it can’t be true! Tormé also acknowledges that most of the aspects of Travis’ experience as shown in the film are untrue or exaggerated or don’t fit Hopkins’ data: “When he [Travis] awakened [in the UFO] he was not paralyzed. He was not naked. He was not being experimented on medically. He has not had any experiences since then. He didn’t seem to have any [experiences] in childhood. He didn’t come back with a lot of scars or anything. So I think all those things break the mould and make this case unique.”

The film neatly uses ideas from contemporary ufology and contemporary films. Its first portrayal of Frank Watters shows him about to encounter what we are led to believe is a UFO, which is a copy from Close Encounters… where Roy Neary is shown in his pick-up truck being followed by a “UFO”. In the diner/saloon where the witnesses tell their story to Watters, the camera pans down from a stuffed owl which implies knowledge of Strieber’s `screen memories’ of owls (see Communion Arrow Books, 1988. p30-31). This will dissatisfy those who want a pure documentary about a real UFO encounter, and it will disappoint those who want the mythologic al hyperbole and action of Close Encounters… but it does aptly meet the intentions of its producer, Joe Wizan:

“This is a story that speaks to human character and behaviour – about our inclination to presume the worst in someone before considering ideas that challenge our own skepticism.” On that basis Fire In The Sky works magnificently and it provides  powerful images of abduction, imprisonment, torture/examination,, birth, death, horror, nightmare, mental breakdown and  As I have already noted in the context of Martin Kottmeyer’s analysis of Invasion of the Star Creatures (in Talking Pictures No. 7, April/May 1993), ‘Rather than being a source of real knowledge the media makes us scared of terrible things, people and events that might be out there, or even worse, within ourselves’. With the success of Fire In The Sky at the U.S. box office we can expect it to help fuel and justify abduction experiences, and we can expect such films and TV shows to help shape such accounts in their image.


The Devil and The Disc.
Nigel Watson

From  Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 6, number 2,  August 1973.

As I touched on the negative side of UFO stories in MUFOB a few issues back (1), I should now like to touch upon the negative side of UFO “entities’. The aim of this article is to show the resemlblance of the many hundreds of representations of the Devil depicted in our churches to that of so-called Ufonauts or Humanoids.

lincoln-impOne of the most famous devils is the Lincoln Imp. A good coverage of his history was given by a popular magazines as follows: “The Lincoln Imp is a medieval sculpture in Lincoln Cathedral. Legend has it that this imp, or demon, flew round on the wind while the cathedral was being built. He flew inside to try some mischief to prevent the building being finished, but had a spell cast on him by the angels which turned him into stone”

A very similar devil is to be seen in Louth Parish Church. If readers compare the drawing of the Louth devil, made by Mr P Cowley who is interested in this subject, with some humanoid reports there is some resemblance.

For instance the report on the little man of Norrbotten (2) springs easily to mind. Gordon Creighton (3) compares the little man of Norrbotten with a UFO and occupant report made in the US: The description of the occupants was thus: “Their faces were oval, with rough skin heavily pitted and creased. They had small round eyes, straight slit-like mouths and large ears standing high on hairless heads”. This, no doubt, is also a, good description of our Louth devil, or the Lincoln Imp.

The Lincoln Imp also compares with Springheel Jack. (4) Interestingly enough, Roger Sandell mentions that in the Illustrated Police News of November 3 1877, there is the following: “For some time Newport, near Lincoln, has been disturbed by a man dressed in sheepskin or someething of the kind. The man has springs on his boots and can jump to a height of 15 feet.” Sandell compares Springheel Jack to some South American cases involving hairy, agile dwarfs. Dare I say it, but the Lincoln Imp, too, has hairy body (On the sign of the Lincoln Imp public house he is depicted without hair, so this could be a matter for debate!could be a matter for debate.) also the Lincoln Imp is depicted standing on one leg, an indication of a hopping or springing motion?

Mr Cowley writes: (5) “There are a great many grotesque representations in stone, wood, or wall paintings in our churches which might be called ‘imps’ or ‘devils’. There are even ‘green men …”

“The Judgement Porch of Lincoln portrays hairy devils. High up on the South wall at Torksey there is a strange figure with thin legs, And there are a great many gargoyles on church towers which could fall into the category. But, of course, these are set off enormously by the thousands of angels in stone, wood and stained glass.”

Some of these have their origin in Greek or Egyptian mythology, which if traced back could send us many centuries back into human history. We might say that our devils symbolise the dark side of Magonia (6) and perhaps were the prototype of the modern day Men in Black.

The world of Magonia is far from dead in Lincolnshire, as can be seen by the many reports of the Black Dog which were made in this county and collected by Ethel Rudkin (7) and her collection of hauntings (8,9). She also relates the story of the Jenny On (Hurn) Boggard (10,9) which was a pygmy-sized man with a face like a seal, wearing long hair, who was reported to cross the River Trent in a pie dish sized craft, rowing with oars the size of teaspoons.

As Peter Rogerson states (11) it is a question of finding the relationship between the ‘real’ and the ‘mythological’. Another example of iconography is the little green man. Heraldry has many examples of these wild men of the woods. As a tailpiece I offer the following; (12)

“The church at Cadney, south of Brigg, has no devils but it does have a strange leaf mask, known as the ‘little green man’, carved on one of the pillars. Not a devil exactly, but it may just possibly represent the ‘green mam’ of Mayday rites, and thus be a link with paganism. The little green man has probably been there for 700 years or so, but Cadney Church was already old when he was carved. The very pillar that supports him is Norman, and so is much of the church. The church is believed to be built on top of a prehistoric burial mound. Pre-Christian burials have been found. It may not be too fanciful to suspect that (as happened in many places) a pagan holy place was deliberately Christianised when Cadney got its first missionaries back in the dim ages”.

Although these are just a few notes on the subject perhaps more learned researchers could look into iconography related to UFO entities.



  1. Watson, Nigel. Identifying UFOs. MUFOB 5,5.
  2. Franzen, Ake. The Little Mann of Norrbotten. FOR Case Histories, Supplement 6.
  3. Creighton, Gordon. Possible Resemblances. FSR Case FSR 17 (1)
  4. Sandell, Roger. ‘Springheel Jack: Victorian Humanoid?’. FSR 17 (1)
  5. Letter to the author, 14 June 1973.
  6. Rogerson, Peter. The Mythology of UFO Events and Interpretations, MUFOB 5 (3)
  7. Rudkin, Ethel. ‘The Black Dog’, Folklore, Vol. 49, 1938.
  8. Rudkin, Ethel. Lincolnshire Folklore. Folklore, Vol. 44, 1933.
  9. Rudkin, Ethel. Folklore in Lincolnshire. Folklore, December 1955.
  10. Ibid.
  11. See reference 6.
  12. From “Town and Country”, Scunthorpe Evening News, 2 February, 1973.



After writing my original piece on the Devil and the Disc, I decided to draw up the listing below (not in chronological order in which witnesses have given descriptions of humanoids which give a similarity to imps or devils. I also include separately references to the little being types cases.

  1. “He looked like a person like we are. A little bit shorter than me. “To me at that time he looked like a devil. He had no hair at all. I could see through the sort of glass helmet. His head was sort of cylinder form. A very high forehead with big eyes. You could see lots of little eyes in the two big eyes. It seemed to me it looked like the eyes of a fly. No nose at all, just two holes, He had a very small slit for a mouth. It looked like he had skin, it was sort of white. There were two holes for the ears. His skull was very large.  The torso was round, kind of like a tin can. The legs were of proportionate length. His arms were a little shorter than our arms, I would say. His hands seemed to be three long fingers. I couldn’t see any neck, but he was wearing material that was like silver but wasn’t shiny. This covered all of him except the heady which had on the helmet. He didn’t look at me at all”. (Bowen, Charles. ‘Fantasy or Truth – a new look at an old contact claim’. FSR 13 (4).)
  2. “According to Masse’s testimony the creatures were less than four feet tall, and were clad in close fitting grey-green clothes, but without head covering. They had pumpkin-like heads, high fleshy cheeks, large eyes which slanted away, mouths without lips, and very pointed chins. (Michel, Aime and Bowen, Charles. ‘A Visit to Valensole’. FSR 14 (1).)
  3. “Apparently the being was of small stature and was dressed in something like evening (smoking) dress.` He had a misshapen bald head, no mouth, and two enormous eyebrows”. It is possible that he had a slit-like mouth. (Bowen, Charles. ‘More Unusual Humanoids’. FSR 14 (3))
  4. Peter Rogerson pointed out this article to me, and it is interesting in regard to the way the Lincoln Imp stands on one foot. Also the legend concerning the Imp flying around the Cathedral before being turned into stone is interesting. Several of the “tiny being” reports refer to them having the capability to fly. See “Tiny Entity” listing: (Creighton, Gordon. ‘On Unipeds and Asparagus and not to mention Penguins’. FSR 15 (3); also see Creighton, Gordon. ‘More on Unipeds’. FSR 16 (6); Greenwell, Richard, ‘The Experience of Senor C.A.V’. FSR 16 (5); Mailbag, ‘More Unipeds’. FSR 16 (5); Mailbag, ‘More on Mystery Footprints’. FSR 14 (2); Lyall, George. ‘Did a Laser Create the Devil’s Footprints?’ FSR 18; Mailbag, ‘Devil’s Footprints’. FSR 13 (6)
  5. The monster of the forest of Mouliere “had a horrible human head surrounded by enormous horns” (Baillon, Jean-Claude. ‘Eerie Night at the Chateau des Martins’ FSR 16 (4).
  6. A very interesting article to read is “Similarities in UFO and Demon Lore”, by Janet Bord, published in FSR 17 (2) and by contrast is “Angels and UFOs”9, by Colin Bord, published in FSR 18 (5). Imps and devils of yesterday could well be in some cases the UFO entities and humanoids of today. John Keel gives sone interesting accounts of ‘mini people’ in connection with the ‘fairy’ frame of reference and the UFO frame of reference. This is given in his article ‘The Superior Technology’, printed in FSR 15(5).


With this in mind I thought it would be useful to compile this short listing of references to tiny entity reports published in Flying Saucer Review in the past few years.

  1. Daniels, Wilfred. A Staffordshire Creature Report, FSR 13 (3).
  2. Keel, John. The Little Man of Gaffney, FSR 14 (2).
  3. Stross, Brian. The ‘?HK’ALS [sic.]. FSR l4 (3).
  4. Creighton Gordon. Middle American Creature Reports. FSR 14 (3)
  5. Mesnard, Joel and Pavy, Claude. Encounter with ‘Devils’ . FSR 14 (5).
  6. Mailbagg. The Disappearing Scarecrow, FSR 15 (1).
  7. Ribera, Antonio. Humanoid in Majorca patio. (World Round-up) FSR 15 (1).
  8. Creighton, Gordon. Physical Examination by ‘Miniature Martians’ . FSR 5 (5).
  9. Eraud, R. The Stone Collectors. FSR 15 (6).
  10. Legarde, F and Mirtain, J. Pyrenean Humanoid Report. FSR 15 (6).
  11. Mesnard, Joel. Puy-de Dome ‘UFO Soldier’. FSR 16 (1).
  12. Liljgren, Anders. Mariannelund UFO and Occupants. FSR 16 (6).
  13. World Round-up. Very Little Man. FSR 16 (6).
  14. Buhler, Walter. The Landing at Quipapa. FSR 17 (2).
  15. Farish, Lucius, A Report from Old Mexico. FSR 17 (3).
  16. World Round-up. A 19th Century Landing. FSR 17 (4).
  17. Creighton, Gordon. 48 Hours in a Flying Saucer. FSR 17 (6).
  18. Creighton, Gordon. Uproar in Brazil. FSR 17 (6).
  19. Mailbag. ‘A Case of Elf Burn?’ FSR 18 (1).
  20. Conti, Sergio. The Cennina Landing of 1951. FSR 18 (5).
  21. Mesnard, Joel. The Little Singing Creatures of Arc-sous-Cicon. FSR 19,(1).



Winged Creatures.
Nigel Watson.

From MUFOB New Series 4, Autumn 1976


Winged entities are not uncommon in the UFO literature. Perhaps John Keel has done most to bring this phenomenon to our attention, particularly with the publication of his investigations into the activities of the enigmatic “Mothman”. Pre-Mothman sightings are listed in Peter Rogerson’s INTCAT. (1)(2) More recently, we have a sighting report from Vietnam, where three US soldiers on duty saw:

“What looked like wings, like a bat’s only it was gigantic compared to what a regular bat would be…”

The witness who reported the incident, Earl Morrison, went on to describe the creature he saw:

“….it looked like a woman, a naked woman. She was black, her body was black, the wings black, everything was black. But it glowed.” (3)

This account prompted another winged entity report (4). A Mr V K Arsenyev heard “the beating of wings. Something large and dark emerged from the fog and flew over the river.” According to the account, this took place on July 11th, 1908, at the mouth of the River Gobilli. In many ways the winged entity functions as a archetype. Several examples spring to mind. There is the famous vampire legend:

“The belief in vampires, or blood-sucking ghosts is a very ancient one and appears to have emanated from Eastern Europe. A vampire is believed to be the soul of a dead man, which leaves the body by night in the form of a bat, bird, or spider to suck the blood of the living, who slowly decline and die.”

Bram Stoker’s Dracula arose from these legends and later the film-makers cashed in, with a never ending series of blood-filled drama!

However there are many more legends connected with winged beings. Tribes of Central Australia believe the eagle-hawk is a form of wizard and the Apaches claim there are spirits of divine origin in the eagle and other birds. And in many other ancient cultures, spirits assume the bird form in many of their adventures, Other cultures believe the demon of depth assumed the form of a fly.

The winged being can also be the bringer of superior insight. Carl Jung had a vision of a figure he named ‘Philemon’. He first appeared to Jung in a dream, which he described thus:

“There was a blue sky, like the sea, covered not by clouds, but by flat brown clods of earth. It looked as if the clods were breaking up, and the blue water of the sea were becoming visible between them. But the water was the blue sky. Suddenly there appeared from the right a winged being sailing across the sky. I saw that it was an old man with the horns of a bull. He held a bunch of four keys, one of which he clutched as if he were about to open a lock. He had the wings of a kingfisher, with its characteristic colours.”

Further on Jung states that:

“Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce but which produce themselves and have their own life.” (5)

In the UFO frame of reference we have the contact experience. Mollie Thompson has written about her own contact with an entity of great wisdom: “The contact was telepathic and the name Philemon was agreed upon because human mind required this as a focal point.” (6) Surprisingly we do not learns great deal from this rather banal version of Philemon.

To Jung, Philemon was the bringer of superior insight, a type of messenger angel, who helped and guided him and possessed the key to the lock of life. For centuries man has dreamed of flight. The creatures that have this power, be they birds or extensions of mans psyche, are regarded as superior beings who command our respect or fear. Unable to conquer something in reality, man tries to master it in imagination and in dream.

NOTE: The article by Jaques Vallee, occupant Symbolism in Phoenecian Mythology, (FSR 19,1) is recommended as further reading. Three of the cylinder seals pictured there depict winged beings or priests with winged garments taking part in rituals connected with winged discs.



  1. KEEL, JOHN. Strange Creatures from Space and Time. Neville Spearman, 1974; KEEL, JOHN. West Virginia’s Enigmatic
    Bird. Flying Saucer Review, 14,4.
  2. ROGERSON, PETER (Comp.) International Catalogue of Type I Reports. MUFOB. Cases numbered 5, 9, 188, 191, 272 and supplementary cases Al and A4.
  3. WORLEY, DON. The winged Lady in Black. FSR Case Histories, No. 10
  4. PETRENKO, YURIJ. Mailbag. FSR 19,2.
  5. JUNG, CARL. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  6. THOMSON, MOLLIE. Discussions with Philemon. Gemini, vol. 1, nos. 3, 4, 5


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