Thursday, January 11, 2007

Nebraskans Witnessed A Flaming Flying Machine Crashing Down Out Of The Sky...

In 1887

"Fragments Of Cog Wheels...Glowing As To Scorch The Grass.."

I can't verify that the article is real, as I don't have access to the original newspaper files from this period, and they are not digitally archived online. But certainly the style of writing fits the era.

Whatever. It's an amazing tale, and all the more interesting as a possible newspaper hoax story in that it preceded a flood of alien spacecraft science fiction stories (or scientific romances as they were then known) in the US and England by more than a decade.

The follow-up article is even more bizarre. Metal that melts in the rain? Fantastically bizarre.

Read on and enjoy :

The Nebraska State Journal, July 7-9, 1884.


A Startling and Curious Story from the
Ranges of Dundy County.

It is Evidently a Machine of Human

All Particulars that are Yet Learned.

Special to The State Journal.

BENKELMAN, June 7. -- A most remarkable phenomenon occurred about
1 o'clock yesterday afternoon at a point thirty-five miles northwest
of this place. John W. Ellis, a well known ranchman, was going out
to his herd in company with three of his herders and several other
cowboys engaged in the annual roundup. While riding along a draw
they heard a terrific rushing, roaring sound overhead, and looking
up, saw what appeared to be a blazing meteor of immense size falling
at an angle to the earth. A moment later it struck the ground out of
sight over the bank. Scrambling up the steep hill they saw the
object bounding along half a mile away and disappear in another

Galloping towards it with all their speed, they were astounded to
see several fragments of cog-wheels and other pieces of machinery
lying on the ground, scattered in the path made by the aerial
visitor, glowing with heat so intense as to scorch the grass for a
long distance around each fragment and make it impossible for one to
approach it. Coming to the edge of the deep ravine into which the
strange object had fallen, they undertook to see what it was. But
the heat was so great that the air about it was fairly ablaze and it
emitted a light so dazzling that the eye could not rest on it for
more than a moment.

An idea of the heat may be gained from the fact that one of the
party, a cowboy named Alf Williamson, stood with his head
incautiously exposed over the bank, and in less than half a minute
he fell senseless. His face was desperately blistered and his hair
singed to a crisp. His condition is said to be dangerous. The
distance to the aerolite, or whatever it is, was nearly 200 feet.
The burned man was taken to Mr. Ellis' house, cared for as well as
circumstances would allow and a doctor sent for. His brother, who
lives in Denver has just been telegraphed for.

Finding it impossible to approach the mysterious visitor, the
party turned back on it's trail. Where it first touched the earth
the ground was sandy and bare of grass. The sand was fused to an
unknown depth over a space about twenty feet wide by eighty feet
long, and the melted stuff was still bubbling and hissing. Between
this and the final resting place there were several like spots where
it had come in contact with the ground, but none so well marked.

Finding it impossible to do any investigating, Mr. Ellis returned to
his house and sent out messengers to neighboring ranches. When night
came the light from the wonderful object beamed almost like the sun,
and the visitors who went out to see it were entirely powerless to
bear the glow.

This morning another visit was made to the spot. In the party was E.
W. Rawlins, brand inspector for this district, who came into
Benkleman tonight, and from whom a full verification of particulars
is obtained. The smaller portions of the scattered machinery had
cooled so that they could be approached, but not handled. One piece
that looked like the blade of a propeller screw of a metal of an
appearance like brass, about sixteen inches wide, three inches thick
and three and a half feet long, was picked up by a spade. It would
not weigh more than five pounds, but appeared as strong and compact
as any known metal. A fragment of a wheel with a milled rim,
apparently having had a diameter of seven or eight feet, was also
picked up. It seemed to be of the same material and had the same
remarkable lightness.

The aerolite, or whatever it is, seems to be about fifty or sixty
feet long, cylindrical, and about ten or twelve feet in diameter.
Great excitement exists in the vicinity and the round-up is
suspended while the cowboys wait for the wonderful find to cool off
so they can examine it.

Mr. Ellis is here and will take the first train to the land office
with the intention of securing the land on which the strange thing
lies, so that his claim to it cannot be disputed.

A party left here for the scene an hour ago and will travel all
night. The country in the vicinity is rather wild and rough, and the
roads hardly more than trails. Will telegraph all particulars as
fast as obtained.

Here's the follow-up story from the Nebraska State Journal, June 10, 1884.


It Dissolves Like a Drop of Dew Before
the Morning Sun.

The Most Mysterious Element of the
Strange Phenomenon.

Special to The State Journal.

BENKELMAN, June 9, 1884. Your correspondent has just returned from
the spot where the aerial visitor fell last Friday. It is gone,
disolved into the air. A tremendous rain storm fell yesterday
afternoon beginning around 2 o'clock. As it approached, in regular
blizzard style, most of those assembled to watch the mysterious
visitor fled to shelter. a dozen or more, among them your
correspondent, waited to see the effect of rain upon the glowing
mass of metal. The storm came down from the north, on it's crest a
sheet of flying spray and a torrent of rain. It was impossible to
see more than a rod through the driving, blinding mass. It lasted
for half and hour, and when it slackened so that the aerolite should
have been visible it was no longer there. The draw was running three
feet deep in water and supposing it had floated off the strange
vessel the party crossed over at the risk of their lives.

They were astounded to see that the queer object had melted,
dissolved by the water like a spoonful of salt. Scarcely a vestige
of it remained. Small, jelly-like pools stood here and there on the
ground, but under the eyes of the observers these grew thinner and
thinner till they were but muddy water joining the rills that led to
the current a few feet away. The air was filled with a faint,
sweetish smell.

The whole affair is bewildering to the highest degree, and will no
doubt forever be a mystery.

Alf Williamson, the injured cowboy, left yesterday for Denver,
accompanied by his brother. It is feared he will never recover his
eyesight, but otherwise he does not appear to be seriously injured.

There has been a continued stream of investigators here for the past
two days, among them a number of members of the press.

There's something really beautiful about the writing style from the late 1800s. This was before journalism developed a clipped, clinical style. It's chatty, loose and colourful. Curiously, it reminds me a lot of the first person reports that made up the HG Wells 'War Of The Worlds'. Still one of the greatest science fictions stories of all time.

Fantastic stuff.

I've e-mailed two libraries in Nebraska to see if they have these two issues of their newspaper in their archives. Hopefully it won't take too long to hear back from them. While I don't doubt this is an actual article from the late 1800s, it would be nice to get a scan of the original stories.

I'll let you know what I found out.

This is the online source for the articles.


Iran has reportedly had a year long wave of objects falling from the sky over its territory and crashing in fiery heaps.

Here's a few paragraphs from a Fars Agency report :
Eye-witnesses assure that the explosion has been caused as a result of the crash of a radiant unidentified flying object onto the ground.

Meantime, an informed source told FNA that the object has been on fire and there has been thick smoke coming out of it prior to the crash, concluding that the object couldn't have been a meteor as meteors do not smoke.

The source also said that the crash has been witnessed by people in several cities, and mentioned that the rendezvous point is located 100 kilometers from the provincial capital city of Kerman.

He said that people in the city of Rafsanjan also reported to have witnessed a similar incident several days ago.

Similar crash incidents have been witnessed frequently during the last year all across Iran, and officials believe that the objects could be spy planes or a hi-tech espionage device.

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