|USA 1896 W.A
The Sacramento Bee, a local newspaper printed a letter from an alleged Martian known as
W.A. which stated that the Lord Commissioner of Mars had sent one of his electric aircraft
on an exploratory mission to earth and that it was this that people were seeing around the
country. This was an obvious hoax which was printed for amusement. The writer of the
letter made it apparent that he was, himself, from Mars.
USA 1896 Sacramento, CA
On November 17, 1896, the daughter of the Mayor of Sacramento at that time, reported
seeing a rather large glowing globe moving over Sacramento. Other witnesses of this
sighting reported the object to be moving against the wind at an altitude of 400 feet.
There was an impression of machinery behind the light which suggested there was a huge
dark colored object. There were other reports at this same time of voices being heard from
the object and even the sighting of a crew inside the craft.
USA 1897 Merkel, TX
Throughout the airship wave of 1896-97, there are several reports of airships trailing
anchors across the ground as they flew. One such report comes from Merkel, TX where a man
found an airship with an anchor caught on a railroad rail. There was a person descending
the rope in order to cut the anchor free. After the airship had gone on its way, the
anchor was retrieved from the rail and became an exhibit in the local blacksmith's shop.
On November 17, 1896, the daughter of the Mayor of Sacramento at that time,
reported seeing a rather large glowing globe moving over Sacramento. Other witnesses of
this sighting reported the object to be moving against the wind at an altitude of 400
feet. There was an impression of machinery behind the light which suggested there was a
huge dark colored object. There were other reports at this same time of voices being heard
from the object and even the sighting of a crew inside the craft.
On April 21, 1897, John M. Barclay's attention was drawn to an airship by its whining
noise and the barking of his dog. He watched the airship circle several times and then
land. The most striking feature of the airship was its bright light. A man disembarked
from the airship and approached Barclay, asking for tools, equipment and oil, offering
American money in exchange. Mr. Barclay went into town and purchased the items. He
returned and gave them to the man from the airship who called himself Smith. After a short
repair time, the airship lifted off and sped away at high speed. Another report from the
same area and about thirty minutes later came from a man named Frank Nichols who reported
hearing a deep whirring noise and seeing a brilliant light in the sky.
During the airship flap of 1896-97, there was much speculation as to the origin of the
airship(s). Many people believed that the airships were the invention of men who were
ahead of their time. One likely candidate was a Dr. E.H. Benjamin, a dentist who was
identified by an attorney named Collins who stated that he was representing Dr. Benjamin.
As likely as this sounds, it must be remembered that during the time of the airship wave,
the hobby of trying to identify the inventor was quite widespread.
In April of 1897, a Kansas farmer named Alexander Hamilton was awakened one night by a
loud noise coming from one of his fields. When he went out to see what it was, he saw a
strange sight. An airship which he described as being cigar shaped and about 300 feet long
was attacking his cattle. A rope had been lowered from the undercarriage of the airship
and had lassoed one of his cattle around the neck and was flying off with it. The
following morning, another farmer found the remains of the cow in one of his fields.
Apparently, the crew of the airship had butchered the cow and dropped the remains
In March of 1897, Robert Hibbard, a farmer near Sioux City, Iowa, found an airship with
its anchor dragging along the ground. Somehow he became entangled in it and was dragged a
considerable distance before he was able to free himself. There was apparently a farmer
who watched as one of his cattle became entangled in and airship anchor in a similar
During the airship wave of 1896-97, Professor George W. Hough of the Deerborn Observatory
at Northwestern University announced that he believed that the current airship wave was
attributable to misidentifications of the star Alpha Orionis. This explanation seems a
little unlikely given the sheer number of reports of a large, flying structure and the
detailed sightings that some people made of the craft(s).
There is a report of an SOS which was dropped from an airship. Three crew members
including Pierre Humbert of Boston, MA and C.D. Novina placed a note in a bottle and threw
it at a witness on the ground. The note said that the airship had not been able to land
for more than two weeks since landing in Kansas and that they had run out of food. It
appeared that they had lost control of their vehicle and did not know whether they would
survive the rest of the flight. It was not clear what the observer on the ground was
expected to do. There is no report of an airship crashing anywhere in that year, so the
final disposition of the crew is unknown.
On May 6, 1897 a deputy sheriff in Arkansas by the name of McLenore was riding horseback
with Constable Sumpter when they witnessed an airship landing. It began as a bright light
in the sky which disappeared and then reappeared closer to the ground. The airship was
cigar shaped and about 60 feet long. The officers rode near where the ship had landed and
saw several people moving around near it. When the officers asked who they were and what
they were doing, it was explained to them that they were travelling across the United
States in the airship. The officers inquired about the bright light and how they saw it go
on and off. They were told that the light used a lot of power and they only used it when
they had to. Given the credibility of the witnesses, this is probably a true account.
During the airship wave of 1896-97, there was much speculation as to the origin of the
airships. One likely candidate was E.J. Pennington who developed an airship in 1891. The
first acknowledged flight of an airship was in 1901, however, there is proof of the
existence of the Pennington airship as it was seen resting on the ground in Brown county
Indiana. This airship could not have accounted for all of the sightings, however, it was
in all likelihood, responsible for a large number of them.
USA 1897 April 17
In the small town of Aurora, Texas, on April 17, 1897, it is said that a strange airship
came crashing to the ground, exploding upon impact. The single occupant of the craft was
supposedly a Martian and the crashed vehicle was said to contain papers covered with a
strange sort of hieroglyphic text. The body of the "Martian" is supposedly
buried in a local cemetery and this airship case is widely regarded as a hoax. There is
one piece of interesting evidence which came to light much later, however. A small piece
of a peculiar metal alloy was found at the site many years later and resisted attempts at
metallurgy. The fragment was sent to the McDonnell Aircraft Company for further analysis.