Tales UN­EX­PLAINED They came from above

What was the strange phe­nom­e­non in the skies over Amer­ica in the 1890s?

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See­ing fly­ing ob­jects in the sky is noth­ing un­usual nowa­days.

But, in the late 19th cen­tury, there were no planes or he­li­copters, only the oc­ca­sional hot-air bal­loon.

And what­ever first ap­peared in the US skies on 17 Novem­ber 1896 was no hot-air bal­loon...

It all started that dis­mal, rain-soaked evening in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia...

Sud­denly, a bright light showed through the black clouds, mov­ing west­wards to­wards the Pa­cific Ocean.

From streets and rooftop, hun­dreds watched the mys­te­ri­ous light fly­ing roughly 1,000ft above them.

Ac­cord­ing to one on­looker, it was ‘about 50ft long, of a cigar shape with two great mugs thrust out from each side’. It also had a steer­ing sail at the back, and a long beak at the front, like a ship.

Many ac­counts noted rows of what looked like win­dows along the side, giv­ing out smaller lights.

This mys­te­ri­ous ‘air­ship’, as it be­came known, caused quite a me­dia cir­cus.

Some pa­pers shrugged it off as the delu­sions of drunk­ards, or fool­ish fan­tasies.

Oth­ers were more open­minded – so many had seen some­thing that night and their de­scrip­tions ap­peared to match.

Peo­ple were left baf­fled. But then, five days later, the air­ship re­turned to the skies...

Thou­sands of wit­nesses, in­clud­ing a sher­iff and a dis­trict at­tor­ney, watched this ‘elec­tric arc light of in­tense power’ pass over the town for 30 min­utes be­fore it van­ished.

On the same night, the air­ship was spot­ted above San Fran­cisco, nearly 100 miles away. Hun­dreds of peo­ple, in­clud­ing the mayor, saw the ob­ject float to­wards the coast.

The harsh search­light so ter­ri­fied a group of seals that they plunged from their rocks into the ocean.

For months af­ter, the sky was air­ship-free – but, in Fe­bru­ary 1897, the sight­ings kicked off again.

Thou­sands of re­ports came in from Kansas, Ne­braska, Iowa, Min­nesota and count­less other states across the Mid­west. Ru­mours be­gan to spread. Some said a mys­te­ri­ous in­ven­tor was be­hind the air­ships – but no-one ever came for­ward. Then there were those who be­lieved the air­ships car­ried vis­i­tors from other worlds, and a se­ries of crashes seemed to con­firm this... On 15 April, a ship seen over Iowa crashed into a farmer’s field. The in­trigued towns­folk gath­ered around the smok­ing wreck­age, as one man was low­ered into the hole. De­spite the hor­rific crash, the in­te­rior of the craft was tidy and in­tact, he re­ported. It’s also claimed that dead alien crea­tures were dis­cov­ered in­side... Two days later, an­other such air­ship crashed in Aurora, Texas. The body of one pilot was found

This mys­te­ri­ous ‘air­ship’ caused a me­dia cir­cus

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