First off, the 1890s wave of mystery airships over the U.S. never quite convinced me that something extraordinary was going on back then that
couldn't be explained by early airborne vehicles of the time (eg. ballons, blimps or experimental craft).
... until I looked into some of the old articles myself, that is. That's when I noticed some very interesting parallels that seem to tie in rather
well with later UFO reports and the ways how to "deal" with the phenomenon on behalf of the government. But before going into the details, let's
have a look at the frontpage opener published in "The San Francisco Call" on 29 November 1896:
Full Frontpage & Articles
The above newspaper articles represent a climax in the wave of sightings which previously had become more and more frequent up to the point where it
was just too obvious that something very unusual was up there in the skies troubling U.S. citizens over an extended period of time.
In November 1896, a sufficient amount of reliable witnesses was finally available to verify the existence of unknown aerial vehicles over densely
populated areas in the U.S.:
Witness Testimony by Professor M.S. Cross:
What's interesting here is that Professor Cross was a recognized capacity across the U.S. and dean of the University of the Pacific. In the above
quote he clearly rules out
that the observed phenomenon is a balloon or any other type of known craft that moves in a similar way. He does
remain open and confident that a new type of airship could have been around. However, the details of maneuverability he associates with the object
indicates a technological level that far surpasses the engineering possibilities of the time.
Professor Cross' account is even more striking when considering that the first successful motorized flight (heavier-than-air) over a few meters took
place only years later. Concepts for rigid airships
were very primitive at the time and IMO not even close to performing
the maneuvers over vast distances as described by various witnesses across the states during the 1890s wave of sightings. But the most interesting
part is yet to come ...
Witness Testimony by Mr Hooson:
Now here's a description that really rang a bell with me: electrical white light (as reported by many other witnesses) suddenly turns into red and
green lights emitted by the craft
. This is not only a 100% match with many UFO reports from the 1950s to present but also defies any explanation
as to why aerial vehicles of the time should have changed colors at all.
Also, green and red lights were reported hundreds of times in more recent reports when UFOs were in a state of accelerating, ascending or descending
(also see here
, p. 148). IMO, a very interesting parallel! But it gets even better ...
Attorney General William H. Hart's Cover-Up Attempt:
Out of the blue, and at the height of the 1896 sightings, General Hart comes forward and claims to know one of the assistants of the airship inventor
as well as all of the details related to the mystery craft. Coincidence? I don't think so. It's just too obvious, but let me explain: ever since
articles were published during the 1890s wave, citizens were startled and puzzled by the mystery invaders in the sky. No explanation was at hand, but
people wanted to know what's going on. Introducing Gen. Hart to this game seems to be just the right step to assure everyone that everything's OK
and under control.
Clearly, official public institutions could never admit to not having a clue about
what's troubling their citizens. The same is true for a feeling of not being "in control" of what's roaming the U.S. skies. A cover-up is needed!
Just like in Roswell years later, we're here confronted with an official spokesperson, publicly stating that everything is alright (although Gen.
Hart admits that the inventor must be insane to not promote his "airships" in order to get further funding for future developments).
Apparently, Hart's claims were not very convincing because citizens and witnesses
were again very startled and completely baffled when the wave continued in 1897 with ever new reports about 'something' in the skies above the
United States. Alternative explanations for these sightings reach from a secret & privately financed blimp project (aiming to develop safe passenger
air travel via 'testflights') up to military projects that were to 'drop' bombs over Cuban territory. Whatever the case, nobody ever saw any of
these things come down nor was there any direct evidence for these things being blimps or semi-rigid airships.
Utlimately, I think most of the above mentioned 'patterns' regarding both the observations as well as the behaviour of the local government are
very similar to modern reports about flying saucers and the way of 'officially' dealing with UFOs.
So, is this just another episode of misunderstood technology or something more intriguing? You be the judge ... !
Sources & Links:
1. Mysterious Lights, The San Francisco
Call, 29 November 1896
Strikes Kansas, Sacramento D.U., 28 March 1897
3. Airship Visits
Spokane, The San Francisco Call, 16 April 1897
4. Many See an Airship, The San
Francisco Call, 10 April 1897
5. NICAP: UFO Color Change Cases, P. 148-152
6. Short Biography of William H.H. Hart
7. Mystery Airships in the 1890s