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Antique Saucer


[Excerpted from Strangely Enough by C. B. Colby]


    Flying Saucers or "UFOs" – Unidentified Flying Objects – are nothing new. They have been mentioned for hundreds of years in legends, tribal folklore, and even in print. Years ago, of course, "flying saucers" were not known by that name. They were called "wheels," "ships," "things," and assorted other descriptive names.

    One of the most unusual and best-documented "things" seen flying over the United States first appeared on November 22, 1896.

    It began one evening in San Francisco, when thousands of folks going home from work spotted a large, dark "cigar-shaped object with stubby wings" traveling northwest across Oakland.

    Within a few hours, reports began to come in from cities to the north. From Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Chico, and a place called Red Bluff, thousands of people reported seeing the same thing. They did not call it an aircraft or flying machine, for remember this was before the first plane was built. They usually just referred to it as the "thing," the "flying ship," or the "shape."

    A little over a week later it returned, moving steadily against the wind. This confounded those who had insisted that it was a balloon. The next four months were full of sightings of the strange object. It was reported in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Minnesota in April, and on April 10 it was over Chicago. Thousands of people saw and reported the huge cigar-shaped mystery in the skies. It wasn’t until April 20, 1897, that it was no longer reported.

    Those who did not see it screamed "fake," while those who swore to its existence frequently came to blows over this slur to their integrity. Even Thomas Edison refused to have anything to do with it. Interviewed by a reporter from the New York Herald, he said, "I prefer to devote my time to objects of commercial value." Referring to "airships," Edison said, "At best, airships would be only toys."

    We will probably never know what this mysterious thing really was, unless some little green man hops out of a modern saucer, takes a look around, and says in whatever language little green men speak: "Yup, it looks just about as my grandpappy said it did back in 1896!"

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