New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





OUT from a round, red planet, a little white shaft — a fairy's arrow shot into an apple. June 10, 1892 — a light like a little searchlight, projecting from the limb of Mars. Upon July 11 and 13, it was seen again, by Campbell and Hussey (Nature, 50-500).(1)

Aug. 3, 1892 — climacteric opposition of Mars.(2)

Upon August 12, 1892, flashes were seen by many persons, in the sky of England. See Eng. Mec., vol. 56.(3) At Manchester, so like signals they were, or so unlike anything commonly known as "auroral" were they, that Albert Buss mistook them for flashes from a lighthouse. They were seen at Dewsbury; described by a correspondent to the English Mechanic, who wrote: "I have never seen such an appearance of an aurora." "Rapid flashes" reported from Loughborough.

*  *  *

A shining triangle in a dark circle.

In L'Astronomie, 1888-75, Dr. Klein publishes an account of de Speissen's observation of Nov. 23, 1887 — a luminous triangle on the floor of Plato.(4) Dr. Klein says it was an effect of sunlight.

In this period, there were in cities of the United States, some of the most astonishing effects at night, in the history of this earth. If Rigel should run for the Presidency of Orion, and if the stars in the great nebula should start to march, there would be a spectacle like those that Grover Cleveland called forth in the United States, in this period.

So then — at least conceivably — something similar upon the moon. Flakes of light moving toward Plato, this night of Nov. 23, 1887, from all the other craters of the moon; a blizzard of shining points gathering into light-drifts in Plato; then the denizens of Aristarchus and of Kepler, and dwellers from the lunar Alps, each raising his torch, marching upon a triangular path, [172/173] making the triangle shine in the dark — conceivably. Other formations have been seen in Plato, but, according to my records, this symbol that shone in the dark had never been seen before, and has not been seen since.

About two years later — a demonstration of a more exclusive kind — assemblage of all the undertakers of the moon. They stood in a circular formation, surrounded by virgins in their nightgowns — and in nightgowns as nightgowns should be. An appearance in Plinius, Sept. 13, 1889, was reported by Prof. Thury, of Geneva — a black spot with an "intensely white" border.

March 30, 1889 — a black spot that was seen for the first time, by Gaudibert, near the center of Copernicus (L'Astro., 1890-235).(5) May 11, 1889 — an object as black as ink upon a rampart of Gassendi (L'Astro., 1889-275).(6) It had never been reported before; at the time of the next lunation, it was not seen again. March 30, 1889 — a new black spot in Plinius (L'Astro., 1890-187).(7)

The star-like object in Aristarchus — it is a long time since latest preceding appearance, (May 7, 1867).(8) Then it can not be attributed to commonplace lunar circumstances. The light was seen Nov. 7, 1891, by M. d'Adjuda, of the Observatory of Lisbon — "a very distinct, luminous point" (L'Astro., 11-33).(9)

Upon April 1, 1893, a shaft of light was seen projecting from the moon, by M. de Moraes, in the Azores. A similar appearance was seen, Sept. 25, 1893, at Paris, by Mr. Gaboreau (L'Astro., 13-34).(10)

*  *  *

Another association like that of 1884 — in the English Mechanic, 55-310, a correspondent writes that, upon May 6, 1892, he saw a shining point (not polar) upon Venus.(11) Upon the 13th of August, 1892, the same object — conceivably — was seen at a short distance from Venus — an unknown, luminous object, like a star of the 7th magnitude that was seen close to Venus, by Prof. Barnard (Ast. Nach., no. 4106).(12)

Upon August 24, 1895, in the period of primary maximum brilliance of Venus, a luminous object, it is said, was seen in the sky, in day time, by someone in Donegal, Ireland.(13) Upon this day, according to the Scientific American, 73-374, a boy, Robert [173/174] Alcorn, saw a large luminous object falling from the sky.(14) It exploded near him. The boy's experience was like Smith Morehouse's. He put his hands over his face: there was a second explosion, shattering his fingers. According to Prof. George M. Minchin, no substance of the object that had exploded could be found. Whether there be relation or not, something was seen in the sky of England a week later. In the London Times, Sept. 4, 1895, Dr. J.A.H. Murray writes that, at Oxford, a few minutes before 8 P.M., August 31, 1895, he saw in the sky a luminous object, considerably larger than Venus at greater brilliance, emerge from behind tree tops, and sail slowly eastward.(15) It moved as if driven in a strong wind, and disappeared behind other trees. "The fact that it so perceptibly grew fainter as it receded seems to imply that it was not at a great elevation, and so favors a terrestrial origin, though I am unable to conceive how anything artificial could have presented the same appearance." In the Times, of the 6th, someone who had read Dr. Murray's letter says that, about the same time, same evening, he, in London, had seen the same object moving eastward so slowly that he had thought it might be a fire-balloon from a neighboring park.(16) Another correspondent, who had not read Dr. Murray's letter, his own dated Sept. 3, writes from a place not stated that about 8.20 P.M., Aug. 31, he had seen a star-like object, moving eastward, remaining in sight four or five minutes. Then someone who, about 8 P.M., same evening, while driving to the Scarborough station, had seen "a large shooting star," astonishing him, because of its leisurely rate, so different from the velocity of the ordinary "shooting star." There are two other accounts of objects that were seen in the sky, at Bath and at Ramsgate, but not about this time, and I have looked them up in local newspapers, finding that they were probably meteors.

In the Oxford Times, Sept. 7, Dr. Murray's letter to the London Times is reprinted, with this comment — "We would suggest to the learned doctor that the supposed meteor was one of the fire-balloons let off with the allotments show."(17)

Let it be that when allotments are shown, balloons are always sent up, and that this Editor did not merely have a notion to this effect. Our data are concerned with an object that was [174/175] seen, at about the same time, at Oxford, about 50 miles south east of Oxford, and about 170 miles northeast of Oxford, with a fourth observation that we can not place.

And, in broader terms, our data are concerned with a general expression that objects like ships have been seen to sail close to this earth at times when the planet Venus is nearest this earth. Sept. 18, 1895 — inferior conjunction of Venus.(18)

Still in the same period, there were, in London, two occurrences perhaps like that at Donegal. London Morning Post, Nov. 16, 1895 — that, at noon, Nov. 15, an "alarming explosion" occurred somewhere near Fenchurch Street, London.(19) No damage was done; no trace could be found of anything that had exploded. An hour later, near the Mansion House, which is not far from Fenchurch Street, occurred a still more violent explosion. The streets filled with persons who had run from buildings, and there was investigation, but not a trace could be found of anything that had exploded. It is said that somebody saw "something falling." However, the deadly explainers, usually astronomers, but this time policemen, haunt or arrest us. In the Daily News, though it is not said that a trace of anything that had exploded had been found, it is said that the explanation by the police was that somebody had mischievously placed in the streets fog-signals, which had been exploded by passing vehicles.(20)

Observations by Müller, of Nymegen, Holland — an unknown luminous object that, about three weeks later, was seen near Venus (Monthly Notices, R.A.S., 52-276).(21)

Upon the 28th of April, 1897, Venus was in inferior conjunction.(22) In Popular Astronomy, 5-55, it is said that many persons had written to the Editor, telling of "airships" that had been seen, about this time.(23) The Editor writes that some of the observations were probably upon the planet Venus, but that others probably related to toy balloons, "which were provided with various colored lights."

The first group of our data, I take from dispatches to the New York Sun, April 2, 11, 16, 18.(24) First of April — "the mysterious light" in the sky of Kansas City — something like a powerful searchlight. "It is directed toward the earth, and is travelling east at the rate of sixty miles an hour." A week later, something [175/176] was seen in Chicago. "Chicago's alleged airship is believed to be a myth, in spite of the fact that a great many persons say that they have seen the mysterious night-wanderer. A crowd gazed at strange lights, from the top of a downtown skyscraper, and Evanston students declare they saw the swaying red and green lights." April 16 — reported from Benton, Texas, but this time as a dark object that passed across the moon. Reports from other towns in Texas: Fort Worth, Dallas, Marshall, Ennis, and Beaumont — "It was shaped like a Mexican cigar, large in the middle and small at both ends, with great wings, resembling those of an enormous butterfly. It was brilliantly illuminated by the rays of two great searchlights, and was sailing in a southeasterly direction with the velocity of the wind, presenting a magnificent appearance."

New York Herald, April 11 — that, at Chicago, night of April 9-10, "until two o'clock in the morning, thousands of amazed spectators declared that the lights seen in the northwest were those of an airship, or some floating object, miles above the earth....Some declare they saw two cigar-shaped objects and great wings."(25) It is said that a white light, a red light, and a green light had been seen.

There does seem to be an association between this object and the planet Venus, which upon this night was less than three weeks from nearest approach to this earth. Nevertheless this object could not have been Venus, which had set hours earlier. Prof. Hough, of the Northwestern University, is quoted — that the people had mistaken the star Alpha Orionis for an airship. Prof. Hough explains that astronomic effects may have given a changing red and green appearance to this star.(26) Alpha Orionis as a northern star is some more astronomy by the astronomers who teach astronomy daytimes and then relax when night comes. That atmospheric conditions could pick out this one star and not affect other brilliant stars in Orion is more astronomy. At any rate the standardized explanation that the thing was Venus disappears.

There were other explainers — someone who said that he knew of an airship (terrestrial one) that had sailed from San Francisco and had reached Chicago.

Herald, April 12 — said that the object had been photographed [176/177] in Chicago: "a cigar-shaped, silken bag," with a framework — other explanations and identifications, not one of them applying to this object, if be accepted that it was seen in places as far apart as Illinois and Texas.(27) It is said that, upon March 29th, the thing had been seen in Omaha, as a bright light sailing to the northwest, and that, for a few moments, upon the following night, it had been seen in Denver. It is said that, upon the night of the 9th, despatches had bombarded the newspaper offices of Chicago, from many places in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

"Prof. George Hough maintains that the object seen is Alpha Orionis."

April 14 — story, veritable observation, yarn, hoax — despatch from Carlensville, Illinois — that upon the afternoon of the 10th, the airship had alighted upon a farm, but had sailed away when approached — "cigar-shaped, with wings, and a canopy on top."(28)

April 15 — shower of telegrams — developments of jokers and explainers — thing identified as an airship invented by someone in Dodge City, Kansas; identified as an airship invented by someone in Brule, Wisconsin — stories of letters found on farms, purporting to have been dropped by the unknown aëronauts (terrestrial ones) — jokers in various towns, sending up balloons with lights attached — one laborious joker who rigged up something that looked like an airship and put it in a vacant lot and told that it had fallen there — yarn or observation, upon a "queer-looking boat" that had been seen to rise from the water in Lake Erie — continued reports upon a moving object in the sky, and its red and green lights.

Against such an alliance as this, between the jokers and the astronomers, I see small chance for our data. The chance is in the future. If, in April, 1897, extra-mundane voyagers did visit this earth, likely enough they will visit again, and then the alliance against the data may be guarded against.

New York Herald, April 20 — that, upon the 19th, about 9 P.M., at Sistersville, W.Va., a luminous object had approached the town from the northwest, flashing brilliant red, white, and green lights.(29) "An examination with strong glasses left an impression of a huge [177/178] cone-shaped arrangement 180 feet long, with large fins on either side."

My own general impression:

Night of October 12, 1492 — if I have that right. Some night in October, 1492, and savages upon an island-beach are gazing out at lights that they have never seen before. The indications are that voyagers from some other world are nearby. But the wise men explain. One of the most nearly sure expressions in this book is upon how they explain. They explain in terms of the familiar. For instance, after all that is spiritual in a fish passes away, the rest of him begins to shine nights. So there are three big, old, dead things out in the water —


1. W.J.S. Lockyer. "Bright projections on Mars' terminator." Nature, 50 (September 20, 1894): 499-501.

2. The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac for the Year 1892. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Equipment, 1891, 487.

3. H. Thomson. "Aurora Borealis." English Mechanic, 56 (August 26, 1892): 12. W.H. Wood. "The August meteors — Approximate paths and orbit of two fireballs — The aurora — Entity or phantom (?) example." English Mechanic, 56 (August 26, 1892): 12. E. Reginald Blakeley. "Fireball of August 9th — Peculiar auroral phenomenon." English Mechanic, 56 (August 26, 1892): 15-6. Correct quote: "I have never heard of such an appearance of aurora...." Albert Alfred Buss. "Auroral Borealis." English Mechanic, 56 (September 2, 1892): 37.

4. "Lueur observée dans le cirque lunaire de Platon." Astronomie, 7 (1888): 75-6.

5. C.-M. Gaudibert. "Nouveau cratère dans Copernic." Astronomie, 9 (1890): 235.

6. "Nouvelles de la Lune." Astronomie, 8 (1889): 275-6.

7. "Un nouveau crater dans l'arène de Plinius." Astronomie, 9 (1890): 187. The spot was observed on January 28, 1890, (not on March 30, 1889).

8. Flammarion observed what he identified as "earth light" reflect upon the dark side of the Moon, on May 6 and 7, 1867; but, in the region of Aristarchus, "the light was more intense than it generally appears." Camille Flammarion. "Is the Moon inhabited?" Scientific American Supplement, 7 (March 29, and, April 5, 1879): 2696, 2711-2.

9. "Societe Astronomique de France. Séance du 2 decembre 1891." Astronomie, 11 (1892): 32-6, at 33.

10. "La Lune bossue." Astronomie, 13 (1894): 34. The observation in the Azores was made by de Moraès Pereira, (not de Moraes).

11. P.H. Kempthorne. "Venus." English Mechanic, 55 (May 27, 1892): 310. For the phenomenon in 1884: "Is there a snow cap on Venus?" English Mechanic, 40 (October 10, 1884): 129-30.

12. E.E. Barnard. "An unexplained observation." Astronomische Nachrichten, n. 4106, c. 25-6.

13. Venus was at "greatest brilliancy" on August 13, 1895. The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac for the Year 1895. Washington, D.C., 489.

14. George M. Minchin. "A fire ball." Scientific American, n.s., 73 (December 14, 1895): 374. George M. Minchin. "Personal injury from a fire ball." Nature, 53 (November 7, 1885): 5-6. Only Robert Alcorn saw the explosion and object, though others heard the explosion, at Culdaff; but, at Redcastle, about eight miles away, a bright object, thought to be a fireball, was seen on the same day.

15. "Remarkable meteoric (?) appearance." London Times, September 4, 1895, p. 3 c. 5. Correct quote: " had not a very great elevation, and so far favours a terrestrial origin, though I am quite unable to conceive how anything artificial could present the same appearance."

16. "Remarkable meteoric appearance." London Times, September 6, 1895, p. 8 c. 6.

17. "Remarkable meteoric(?) appearance." Oxford Times, September 7, 1895, p. 5 c. 8.

18. The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac for the Year 1895. 1st ed. Washington, D.C., 1894, 489.

19. "Alarming explosion in the city." London Morning Post, November 16, 1895, p. 2 c. 5.

20. "Explosions in the city." London Daily News, November 16, 1895, p. 3 c. 1.

21. W.E.P. "The comets of 1896." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 57 (February 1897): 273-6, at 276. The observers were G.J. Van Dyk and du Celliée Muller, but the object was seen nowhere else.

22. The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac for the Year 1897. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Equipment, 1894, 490.

23. "Air ships." Popular Astronomy, 5 (May 1897): 54-5. Correct quote: "It is evident that these little `whale backs' are provided with various colored lights...."

24. "Mysterious light in the sky." New York Sun, April 2, 1897, p. 1 c. 4. "Airship was a balloon." New York Sun, April 11, 1897, p. 1 c. 5. Correct quote: "...say they have seen...." "Easy to see an airship." New York Sun, April 16, 1897, p. 9 c. 3. The date of the report was April 15; and, the location may have been in Denton, Texas, (not Benton). "Searchlights on the airship." New York Sun, April 18, 1897, p. 3 c. 4. Correct quote: "...a magnificent spectacle."

25. "That airship now at Chicago." New York Herald, April 11, 1897, 2d ed., sec. 1, p. 9 c. 3.

26. Alpha Orionis is better known as Betelgeuse.

27. "Snap shots of the air ship." New York Herald, April 12, 1897, p. 5 c. 1-2. Correct quote: "Prof. George Hough, of Dearborn Observatory, Northwestern University, Evanston, and Sherbourne W. Burnham, maintain that the object seen is Alpha Orionis."

28. "Air ship seen by daylight." New York Herald, April 14, 1897, p. 8 c. 6. The alleged airship encounter occurred at Carlinville, Illinois, (not at Carlensville), on the afternoon of April 11, 1897, (not on April 10).

29. "Hovered over an Ohio town." New York Herald, April 20, 1897, p. 7 c. 3. Correct quote: "...left the impression...."

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