New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





IT may be that we now add to our sins the horse that swam in the sky. For all I know, we contribute to a wider biology. In the New York Times, July 8, 1878, is published a dispatch from Parkersburg, West Virginia: that, about July 1, 1878, three or four farmers had seen, in a cloudless sky, apparently half a mile high, "an opaque substance."(1) It looked like a white horse, "swimming in the clear atmosphere." It is said to have been a mirage of a horse in some distant field. If so, it is interesting not only because it was opaque, but because of a selection or preference: the field itself was not miraged.

Black bodies and the dark rabbles of the sky — and that rioting thing, from floating anarchies, have often spotted the sun. Then, by all that is compensatory, in the balances of existence, there are disciplined forces in space. In the Scientific American, 44-291, it is said that, according to newspapers of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, figures had been seen in the sky in the latter part of September, and the first week in October, 1881, reports that "exhibited a mediæval condition of intelligence scarcely less than marvellous."(2) The writer suggests that, though probably something was seen in the sky, it was only an aurora. Our own intelligence and that of astronomers and meteorologists and everybody else with whom we have had experience had better not be discussed, but the accusation of mediævalism is something that we're sensitive about, and we hasten to the Monthly Weather Review, and if that doesn't give us a modern touch, I mistake the sound of it. Monthly Weather Review, Sept. and Oct., 1881 — an auroral display in Maryland and New York, upon the 23rd of September; all other auroras far north of the three states in which it was said phenomena were seen.(3) October — no auroras until the 18th; that one in the north. There was a mirage upon Sept. 23, but at Indianola; two instances in October, but late in the month, and in northern states.


It is said, in the Scientific American, that according to the Warrentown (Va.) Solid South, a number of persons had seen white-robed figures in the sky, at night.(4) The story in the Richmond Dispatch is that many persons had seen, or had thought they had seen, an alarming sight in the sky, at night: a vast number of armed, uniformed soldiers drilling.(5) Then a dispatch from Wilmington, Delaware — platoons of angels marching and countermarching in the sky, their white robes and helmets gleaming. Similar accounts came from Laurel and Talbot. Several persons said they had seen, in the sky, the figure of President Garfield, who had died not long before. Our general acceptance is that all reports upon such phenomena are colored in terms of appearances and subjects uppermost in minds.

L'Astronomie, 1888-392:(6)

That, about the first of August, 1888, near Warasdin, Hungary, several divisions of infantry, led by a chief, who waved a flaming sword, had been seen in the sky, three consecutive days, marching several hours a day.(7) The writer in L'Astronomie says that in vain does one try to explain that this appearance was a mirage of terrestrial soldiers marching at a distance from Warasdin, because widespread publicity and investigation had disclosed no such soldiers. Even if there had been terrestrial soldiers near Warasdin repeating mirages localized would call for explanation.

But that there may be space-armies, from which reflections or shadows or Brocken spectres are sometimes cast — a procession that crossed the sun: forms that moved, or that marched, sometimes four abreast; observation by M. Bruguière, at Marseilles, April 15 and 16, 1883 (L'Astro., 5-70).(8) An army that was watched, forty minutes, by M. Jacquot, Aug. 30, 1886 (L'Astro., 1886-71) — things or beings that seemed to march and to counter-march: all that moved in the same direction, moved in parallel lines.(9) In L'Année Scientifique, 29-8, there is an account of observations by M. Trouvelot, Aug. 29, 1871.(10) He saw objects, some round, some triangular, and some of complex forms. Then occurred something that at least suggests that these things were not moving in the wind, nor sustained in space by the orbital forces of meteors; that each was depending upon its own powers of flight, and that [165/166] an accident occurred to one of them. All of them, though most of the time moving with great rapidity, occasionally stopped, but then one of them fell toward the earth, and the indications are that it was a heavy body, and had not been sustained by the wind, which would scarcely suddenly desert one of its flotsam and continue to sustain all the others. The thing fell, oscillating from side to side like a disc falling through water.

New York Sun, March 16, 1890 — that, at 4 o'clock, in the afternoon of March 12th, in the sky of Ashland, Ohio, was seen a representation of a large, unknown city.(11) By some persons it was supposed to be a mirage of the town of Mansfield, thirty miles away; other observers thought that they recognized Sandusky, sixty miles away. "The more superstitious declared that it was a vision of the New Jerusalem."

May have been a revelation of heaven, and for all I know heaven may resemble Sandusky, and those of us who have no desire to go to Sandusky may ponder that point, but our own expression is that things have been pictured in the sky, and have not been traced to terrestrial origins, but have been interpreted always in local terms. Probably a living thing in the sky — seen by farmers — a horse. Other things, or far-refracted images, or shadows — and they were supposed to be vast lions or soldiers or angels, all according to preconceived ideas. Representations that have been seen in India — Hindoo costumes described upon them. Suppose that, in the afternoon of January 17, 1892, there was a battle in the sky of Montana — we know just about in what terms the description would be published. Brooklyn Eagle, Jan. 18, 1892 — mirage in the sky of Lewiston, Montana — Indians and hunters alternately charging and retreating.(12) The Indians were in superior numbers and captured the hunters. Then details — hunters tied to stakes; the piling of faggots; etc. "So far as could be ascertained last night, the Indians on the reservations are peaceable." I think that we're peaceable enough, but, unless the astronomers can put us on reservations, where we'll work out expressions in beads and wampum instead of data, we'll have to carry on a conflict with the vacant minds to which appear mirages of their own emptiness in the sometimes swarming skies.

Altogether there are many data indicating that vessels and liv- [166/167] ing things of space do come close to this earth, but there is absence of data of beings that have ever landed upon this earth, unless someone will take up the idea that Kaspar Hauser, for instance, came to this earth from some other physical world. Whether spacarians have ever dredged down here or not, or "sniped" down here, pouncing, assailing, either wantonly, or in the interests of their sciences, there are data of seeming seizures and attacks from somewhere, and I have strong objections against lugging in the fourth dimension, because then I am no better off, wondering what the fifth and sixth are like.

In La Nature, 1888-2-66, M. Adrian Arcelin writes that, while excavating near de Solutré, in August, 1878, upon a day, described as superbe, sky clear to a degree said to have been parfaitement, several dozen sheets of wrapping paper upon the ground suddenly rose.(13) Nearby were a dozen men, and not one of them had felt a trace of wind. A strong force had seized upon these conspicuous objects, touching nothing else. According to M. Arcelin, the dust on the ground under and around was not disturbed. The sheets of paper continued upward, and disappeared in the sky.

A powerful force that swooped upon a fishing vessel, raising it so far that when it fell back it sank — see London Times, Sept. 24, 1875.(14) A quarter of a mile away were other vessels, from which set out rescuers to the sailors who had been thrown into the sea. There was no wind: the rescuers could not use sails, but had to row their boats.

Upon Oct. 2, 1875, a man was trundling a cart from Schaffhausen, near Beringen, Germany. His right arm was perforated from front to back, as if by a musket ball (Pop. Sci., 15-566).(15) This man had two companions. He had heard a whirring sound, but his companions had heard nothing. At one side of the road there were laborers in a field, but they were not within gunshot distance. Whatever the missile may have been, it was unfindable.

La Nature, 1879-1-166, quotes the Courrier des Ardennes as to an occurrence in the Commune Signy-le-Pettit, Easter Sunday, 1879 — a conspicuous, isolated house — suddenly its slate roof shot into the air, and then fell to the ground.(16) There had not been [167/168] a trace of wind. The writer of the account says that the force, which he calls a trouble inoui had so singled out this house that nothing in its surroundings beyond a distance of thirty feet had been disturbed.

Scientific American, July 10, 1880 — that, according to the Plaindealer, of East Kent, Ontario, two citizens of East Kent were in a field, and heard a loud report.(17) They saw stones shooting upward from a field. They examined the spot, which was about 16 feet in diameter, finding nothing to suggest an explanation of the occurrence. It is said that there had been neither a whirlwind nor anything else by which to explain.

It may be that witnesses have seen human beings dragged from their own existence either into the objectionable fourth dimension, perhaps then sifting into the fifth, or up to the sky by some exploring thing. I have data, but they are from the records of psychic research. For instance, a man had been seen walking along a road — sudden disappearance. Explanation — that he was not a living human being, but an apparition that had disappeared. I have not been able to develop such data, finding, for instance, that someone in the neighborhood had been reported missing; but it may be that we can find material in our own field.

Upon December 10, 1881, Walter Powell and two companions ascended from Bath in the Government balloon Saladin (Valentine and Tomlinson, Travels in Space, p. 227).(18) The balloon descended at Bridport, coast of the English Channel. Two of the aëronauts got out, but the balloon, with Powell in it, shot upward. There was a report that the balloon had been seen to fall in the English Channel, near Bridport, but according to Capt. Temple, one of Powell's companions, probably something thrown from the balloon had been seen to fall.

A balloon is lost near or over the sea. If it should fall into the sea it would probably float and for considerable time be a conspicuous object; nevertheless the disappearance of a balloon last seen over the English Channel, can not, without other circumstances, be considered very mysterious. Now one expects to learn of reports from many places of supposed balloons that had been seen. But the extraordinary circumstance is that reports [168/169] came in upon a luminous object that was seen in the sky at the time that this balloon disappeared. In the London Times, it is said that a luminous object had been seen, evening of the 13th, moving in various directions in the sky near Cherbourg. It is said that upon the night of the 16th three customhouse guards, at Laredo, Spain, had seen something like a balloon in the sky, and had climbed a mountain in order to see it better, but that it had shot out sparks and had disappeared — and had been reported from Bilbao, Spain, the next day. In the Morning Post, it is said that this luminous display was the chief feature; that it was this sparkling that had made the object visible. In the Standard, Dec. 16, is an account of something that was seen in the sky, five o'clock, morning of Dec. 15, by Capt. Mc. Bain, of the steamship Countess of Aberdeen, off the coast of Scotland, 25 miles from Montrose.(19) Through glasses, the object seemed to be a light attached to something thought to be the car of a balloon, increasing and decreasing in size — a large light — "as large as the light at Girdleness." It moved in a direction opposite to that of the wind, though possibly with wind of an upper stratum. It was visible half an hour, and when it finally disappeared, was moving toward Bervie, a town on the Scottish coast about 12 miles north of Montrose. In the Morning Post it is said that the explanation is simple: that someone in Monfreith, 8 miles from Dundee, had, late in the evening of the 15th, sent up a fire-balloon, "which had been carried along the coast by a gentle breeze, and, after burning all night, extinguished and collapsed off Montrose, early on Thursday morning (16th)." This story of a balloon that wafted to Montrose, and that was evidently traced until it collapsed near Montrose does not so simply explain an object that was seen 25 miles from Montrose. In the Standard, Dec. 19, it is said that two bright lights were seen over Dartmouth Harbor, upon the 11th.(20)

Walter Powell was Member of Parliament for Malmesbury, and had many friends, some of whom started immediately to search. His relatives offered a reward. A steamboat searched the Channel, and did not give up until the 13th; fishing vessels kept on searching. A "sweeping expedition" was organized, and the [169/170] coast guard was doubled, searching the shore for wreckage, but not a fragment of the balloon, nor from the balloon, except a thermometer in a bag, was found.

In L'Astronomie, 1886-312, Prof. Paroisse of the College Bar-sur-Aube, quotes two witnesses of a curieux phénomène that occurred in a garden of the College, May, 22, 1886 — cloudless sky; wind tres faible.(21) Within a small circle in the garden were some baskets and ashes and a window frame that weighed sixty kilogrammes. These things suddenly rose from the ground. At a height of about forty feet, they remained suspended several minutes, then falling back to the place from which they had risen. Not a thing outside this small circle had been touched by the seizure. The witness said that they felt no disturbance in the air.

Scientific American, 56-65 — that in June, 1886, according to the London Times, "a well-known official" was entering Pall Mall, when he felt a violent blow on the shoulder and heard a hissing sound.(22) There was no one in sight except a distant policeman. At home, he found that the nap of his coat looked as if a hot wire had been pressed against the cloth, in a long, straight line. No missile was found, but it was thought that something of a meteoritic nature had struck him.

Charleston News and Courier, Nov. 25, 1886 — that, at Edina, Mo., Nov. 23, a man and his three sons were pulling corn on a farm.(23) Nothing is said of meteorologic conditions, and, for all I know, they may have been pulling corn in a violent thunderstorm. Something that is said to have been lightning flashed from the sky. The man was injured slightly, one son killed, the other seriously injured — the third had disappeared. "What has become of him is not known, but it is supposed that he was blinded or crazed by the shock, and wandered away."

Brooklyn Eagle, March 17, 1891 — that, at Wilkesbarre, Pa., March 16th, two men were "lifted bodily and carried considerable distance in a whirlwind."(24) It was a powerful force, but nothing else was affected by it. Upon the same day, there was an occurrence in Brooklyn. In the New York Times, March 17, 1891, it is said that two men, Smith Morehouse, of Orange Co., N.Y., and William Owen, of Sussex Co., N.J., were walking in Van- [170/171] derbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, about 2 o'clock, afternoon of the 16th, when a terrific explosion occurred close to the head of Morehouse, injuring him and stunning Owen, the flash momentarily blinding both.(25) Morehouse's face was covered with marks like powder-marks, and his tongue was pierced. With no one else to accuse, the police arrested Owen, but held him upon the technical charge of intoxication. Morehouse was taken to a hospital, where a splinter of metal, considered either brass or copper, but not a fragment of a cartridge, was removed from his tongue. No other material could be found, though an object of considerable size had exploded. Morehouse's hat had been perforated in six places by unfindable substances. According to witnesses there had been no one within a hundred feet of the men. One witness has seen the flash before the explosion, but could not say whether it had been from something falling or not. In the Brooklyn Eagle, March 17, 1891, it is said that neither of the men had a weapon of any kind, and that there had been no disagreement between them. According to a witness, they had been under observation at the time of the explosion, her attention having been attracted by their rustic appearance.

There is an interesting merging here of the findable and the unfindable. I suppose that no one will suppose that someone threw a bomb at these men. But enough substance was found to exclude the notion of "lightning from a clear sky." Something of a meteoritic nature seems excluded.


1. "What a West Virginia farmer saw." New York Times, July 8, 1878, p.2 c.5. The distance given to the object was said to be a half mile away (distant, not above), from the observers.

2. "Visions in the clouds." Scientific American, n.s., 45 (November 5, 1881): 291. Correct quote: "...exhibit a mediæval condition of popular intelligence in the rural districts scarcely less marvelous."

3. "Atmospheric electricity," and, "Optical phenomena." Monthly Weather Review, 9 (September, 1881): 24-6. "Atmospheric electricity," and, "Optical phenomena." Monthly Weather Review, 9 (October 1881): 21-2.

4. The Solid South was published in Warrenton, Virginia, (not Warrentown).

5. "A phenomenon." Richmond Daily Dispatch, October 7, 1881, p. 4 c. 2.

6. "Mirages?" Astronomie, 7 (1888): 392-3.

7. The phenomenon was observed at Vidorec, Hungary.

8. "Passage d'un essaim de corpuscles devant le Soleil." Astronomie, 5 (1886): 70-1.

9. "Passage d'un essaim de corpuscles devant le Soleil." Astronomie, 5 (1886): 70-1. Jacquot, at Havre, observed round black bodies cross the sun's disc on July 15 and 16, 1886; but, there is no mention of August 30, of 40 minutes duration, nor of parallel lines.

10. "Passage d'un essaim de corpuscles noirs devant le Soleil." Année Scientifique et Industrielle, 29 (1885): 8-10.

11. "Mirage in Ohio." New York Sun, March 16, 1890, p. 19 c. 6. Correct quote: "...superstitious declare that...." "A city in mid-air." Philadelphia Times, March 14, 1890, p. 2 c. 1.

12. "Saw the fight in the air." Brooklyn Eagle, January 18, 1892, p. 4 c. 7.

13. Gaston Tissandier. "Etude sur les trombes." Nature (Paris), 1888 v.2, 65-7, at 66-7. Adrien Arcelin, (not Adrian), and ten labourers, (not a dozen), made the observation in August of 1873, (not 1878).

14. "Gust of wind." London Times, September 24, 1875, p. 7 c. 2.

15. "Bodily injuries from falling meteors." Popular Science Monthly, 15 (August 1879): 566-7.

16. "Trombe d'air instantée." Nature (Paris), 1879 v. 1 (May 10): 366. Sic, trouble inouï.

17. "Curious phenomenon." Scientific American, n.s., 43 (July 10, 1880): 24.

18. E. Seton Valentine, and, F.L. Tomlinson. Travels in Space. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1902, 227-8.

19. "The missing balloon." London Standard, December 16, 1881, p. 3 c. 1-2. The correct name was McBain, (not Mc. Bain). Correct quote: "...the light at the Girdleness."

20. "The missing balloon." London Standard, December 19, 1881, p. 5, c. 7.

21. G. Paroisse. "Singulière petite trombe." Astronomie, 5 (1886): 312-3. Paroisse interviewed Comte, in whose garden the phenomenon was obseved by Comte; the "window frame" was a cold frame of iron and glass used in the care of young plants; and, the objects remained suspended about two minutes before falling back to the earth.

22. "Struck by a meteor." Scientific American, n.s., 55 (July 31, 1886): 65. For the original article: "Remarkable accident." London Times, June 17, 1886, p. 10 c. 2.

23. "A fatal lightning stroke." Charleston News and Courier, November 25, 1886, p. 3 c. 2.

24. "Caught in a whirlwind." Brooklyn Eagle, March 17, 1891, p. 6 c. 5. Correct quote: "...carried some distance and thrown against the trees."

25. "Hurt most mysteriously." New York Times, March 17, 1891, p. 1 c. 5.

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