New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





THE climacteric opposition of Mars, of 1909 — the last in our records — the next will be in 1924 —(1)

Aug. 8, 1909 — see Quar. Jour. Met. Soc., n.s., 35-299 — flashes in a clear sky that were seen in Epsom, Surrey, and other places in the southeast of England.(2) They could not be attributed to lightning in England. The editor in the Journal finds that there was a storm in France, more than one hundred miles away,(3) For an account of these flashes, tabulated at Epsom — "night fine and starlight" — Symons' Met. Mag., 44-148.(4) During each period of five minutes, from 10 to 11.15, P.M., the number of flashes-- 16-14-20-31-15-26-12-20-30-18-27-22-14-12-10-21-8-5-3-1-0-1-0. With such a time-basis, I can see no possibility of detecting anything of a code-like significance. I do see development. There were similar observations at times in the favorable oppositions of Mars of 1875 and 1877. In 1892, such flashes were noted more particularly. Now we have them noted and tabulated, but upon a basis that could be of interest only to meteorologists. If they shall be seen in 1924, we may have observation, tabulation, and some marvellously different translations of them. After that there will be some intolerably similar translations, suspiciously delayed in publication.

Sept. 23, 1909 — opposition of Mars.

Throughout our data, we have noticed successions of appearances in local skies of this earth, that indicate that this earth is stationary, but that also relate to nearest approaches of Mars. Upon the night of Dec. 16-17, 1896, concussion after concussion was felt at Worcester, England; a great "meteor" was seen at the time of the greatest concussion. Mars was seven days past opposition.(5) We thought it likely enough that explosion after explosion had occurred over Worcester, and that something in the sky had been seen only at the time of the greatest, or the nearest, [213/214] explosion. We did not think well of the conventional explanation that only by coincidence had a great meteor exploded over a region where a series of earthquakes was occurring, and exactly at the moment of the greatest of these shocks.

In November, 1911, Mars was completing his cycle of changing proximities of a duration of fifteen years, and was duplicating the relationship of the year 1896. About 10 o'clock, night of Nov. 16, 1911, a concussion that is conventionally said to have been an earthquake occurred in Germany and Switzerland. But plainly there was an explosion in the sky. In the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 3-189, Count Montessus de Ballore writes that he had examined 112 reports upon flashes and other luminous appearances in the sky that had preceded the "earthquake" by a few seconds.(6) He concludes that a great meteor had only happened to explode over a region where, a few seconds later, there was going to be an earthquake. "It therefore seems highly probable that the earthquake coincided with a fall of meteors or shooting stars."

The duplication of the circumstances of Dec., 1896, continues. If of course this concussion in Germany and Switzerland was the effect of something that had exploded in the sky -- of what were the concussions that were felt later, the effects? De Ballore does not mention anything that occurred later. But, a few minutes past midnight, and then again, at 3 o'clock, morning of the 17th, there were other, but slighter, shocks. Only at the time of the greatest shock was something seen in the sky. Nature, 88-117 — that this succession of phenomena did occur.(7) We relate the phenomena to the planet Mars, but also we ask — how, if most reasonably, all three of these shocks were concussions from explosions in the sky, if of course one of them was, meteors could ever so hound one small region upon a moving earth, or projectiles be fired with such specialization and preciseness? November 17th, 1911 was seven days before the opposition of Mars. Though the opposition occurred upon the 24th of November, Mars was at minimum distance upon the 17th.

No matter how difficult of acceptance our own notions may be, they are opposed by this barbarism, or puerility, or pill that can't be digested:


Seven days from the opposition of Mars, in 1896, a great meteor exploded over a region where there had been a succession of earthquakes — by coincidence;

Seven days from the next similar opposition of Mars, a great meteor exploded over a region where there was going to be a succession of earthquakes — by coincidence.

*  *  *

The Advantagerians of the moon — that is the cult of lunar communicationists, who try to take advantage of such celestial events as oppositions and eclipses, thinking that astronomers, or night watchmen, or policemen of this earth might at such times look up at the sky —

A great luminous object, or a meteor, that was seen at the time of the eclipse of June 28, 1908 — "as if to make the date of the eclipse more memorable," says W.F. Denning (Observatory, 31-288).(8)

Not long before the opposition of Mars, in 1909, the bright spot west of Picard was seen twice: March 26 and May 23 (Jour. B.A.A., 19-376).(9)

Nov. 16, 1910 — an eclipse of the moon, and a "meteor" that appeared, almost at the moment of totality (Eng. Mec., 92-430).(10) It is reported, in Nature, 85-118, as seen by Madame de Robeck, at Naas, Ireland, "from an apparent radiant just below the eclipsed moon."(11) The thing may have come from the moon. Seemingly with the same origin, it was seen far away in France. In La Nature, Nov. 26, 1910, it is said that, at Besançon, France, during the eclipse, was seen a meteor like a superb rocket, "qui serait partie de la lune."(12) There may have been something occurring upon the moon at the time. In the Jour. B.A.A., 21-100, it is said that Mrs. Albright had seen a luminous point upon the moon throughout the eclipse.(13)

*  *  *

Our expression is that there is an association between reported objects, like extra-mundane visitors, and nearest approaches by the planet Venus to this earth. Perhaps unfortunately this is our expression, because it makes for more restriction than we intend. The objects, or the voyagers, have often been seen during the few hours of visibility of Venus, when the planet is near- [215/216] est. "Then such an object is Venus," say the astronomers. If anybody wonders why, if these seeming navigators can come close to this earth — as they do approach, if they appear only in a local sky — they do not then come all the way to this earth, let him ask a sea captain why said captain never purposely descends to the bottom of the ocean, though travelling often not far away. However, I conceive of a great variety of extra-mundanians, and I am now collecting data for a future expression — that some kinds of beings from outer space can adapt to our conditions, which may be like the bottom of a sea, and have been seen, but have been supposed to be psychic phenomena.

Upon Oct. 31, 1908, the planet Venus was four months past inferior conjunction, and so had moved far from nearest approach, but there are vague stories of strange objects that had been seen in the skies of this earth — localized in New England — back to the time of nearest approach. In the New York Sun, Nov. 1, 1908, is published a dispatch, from Boston, dated Oct. 31.(14) It is said that, near Bridgewater, at four o'clock in the morning of Oct. 31, two men had seen a spectacle in the sky. The men were not astronomers. They were undertakers. There may be a disposition to think that these observers were not in their own field of greatest expertness, and to think that we are not very exacting as to the sources of our data. But we have to depend upon undertakers, for instance: early in our investigations, we learned that the prestige of astronomers has been built upon their high moral character, all of them most excellently going to bed soon after sunset, so as to get up early and write all day upon astronomical subjects. But the exemplary in one respect may not lead to much advancement in some other respect. Our undertakers saw, in the sky, something like a searchlight. It played down upon this earth, as if directed by an investigator, and the it flashed upward. "All of the balloons in which ascensions are made in this State were accounted for today and a search through southeastern Massachusetts failed to reveal any further traces of the supposed airship." it is said that "mysterious bright lights," believed to have come from a balloon, had been reported from many places in New England. The week before, persons at Ware had said that they had seen an illuminated balloon passing over the town, early [216/217] in the morning. During the summer such reports had come from Bristol, Conn., and later from Pittsfield, Mass., and from White River Junction, Vt. "In all these cases, however, no balloon could be found, all the known airships being accounted for at the time." In the New York Sun, Dec. 13, 1909, it is said that, during the autumn of 1908, reports had come from different places in Connecticut, upon a mysterious light that moved rapidly in the sky.(15)

Venus moved on, travelling around the sun, which was revolving around this earth, or travelling any way to suit anybody. In December, 1909, the planet was again approaching this earth. So close was Venus to this earth, upon the 15th of December, 1909, crowds stood, at noon, in the streets of Rome, watching it, or her, (New York Sun, Dec. 16).(16) At 3 o'clock, afternoon of December 24th crowds stood in the streets of New York, watching Venus (New York Tribune, Dec. 25).(17) One supposes that upon these occasions Venus may have been within several thousand miles of this earth. At any rate I have never heard of one fairly good reason for supposing otherwise. If again something appeared in local skies of this earth, or in the skies of New England, and sometimes during the few hours of the visibility of Venus, the object was or was not Venus, all according to the details of various descriptions, and the credibility of the details. The searchlight, for instance; more than one light; directions and motions. Venus, at the time, was several hours after sunset, slowly descending in the southwest: primary maximum brilliance Jan. 8th, 1910; inferior conjunction Feb. 12th.

There is an amusing befuddlement to clear away first. Upon the night of September 8, 1909, a luminous object had been seen sailing over New England, and sounds from it, like sounds from a motor, had been heard. Then Mr. Wallace Tillinghast, of Worcester, Mass., announced that this light had been a lamp in his "secret aëroplane," and that upon this night he had travelled, in said "secret aëroplane," from Boston to New York, and back to Boston. At this time the longest recorded flight, in an aëroplane, was Farman's, of 111 miles, from Rheims, August, 1909; and, in the United States, according to records, it was not until May 29, 1910, that Curtiss flew from Albany to New York City, making one stop in the 150 miles, however.(18) So this unrecorded [217/218] flight made some stir in the newspapers. Mr. Tillinghast meant his story humorously of course. I mention it because, if anybody should look the matter up, he will find the yarn involved in the newspaper accounts. If nothing else had been seen, Mr. Tillinghast might still tell his story, and explain why he never did anything with his astonishing "secret aëroplane;" but something else was seen, and upon one of the nights in which it appeared, Tillinghast was known to be in his home.

According to the New York Tribune, Dec. 21, 1909, Immigration Inspector Hoe, of Boston, had reported having seen, at one o'clock in the morning of December 20, "a bright light passing over the harbor" and had concluded that he had seen an airship of some kind.(19)

New York Tribune, Dec. 23 — that a "mysterious airship" had appeared over the town of Worcester, Mass., "sweeping the heavens with a searchlight of tremendous power."(20) It had come from the southeast, and travelled northwest, then hovering over the city, disappearing in the direction of Marlboro. Two hours later, it returned. "Thousands thronged the streets, watching the mysterious visitor." Again it hovered, then moving away, heading first to the south and then to the east.

The next night, something was seen, at 6 o'clock, at Boston. "The searchlights shot across the sky line." "As it flew away to the north, queries began to pour into the newspaper offices and the police stations, regarding the remarkable visitation." It is said that an hour and a half later, an object that was supposed to be an airship with a powerful searchlight, appeared in the sky, at Willimantic, Conn., "hovering" over the town about 15 minutes. In the New York Sun, Dec. 24, are more details.(21) It is said that, at Willimantic, had been seen a large searchlight, approaching from the east, and that then dark outlines of something behind the searchlight had been seen. Also, in the Sun, it is said that whatever it may have been that was seen at Boston, it was a dark object, with several red lights and a searchlight, approaching Boston from the west, hovering for 10 minutes, and then moving away westward. From Lynn, Mass., it was described as "a long black object," moving in the direction of Salem, and then returning, [218/219] "at a high speed." It is said that the object had been seen at Marlboro, Mass., nine times since Dec. 14.

New York Tribune, Jan. 1, 1910 — dispatch from Huntington, West Virginia, Dec. 31, 1909 — "Three huge lights of almost uniform dimensions appeared in the early morning sky, in this neighborhood, today. Joseph Green, a farmer, declared that they were meteors, which fell on his farm. An extensive search of his land by others who saw the lights was fruitless, and many persons believe that an airship had sped over the country."(22)

In the Tribune, Jan. 13, 1910, it is said that, at 9 o'clock, morning of Jan. 12, an airship had been seen at Chattanooga, Tenn.(23) "Thousands saw the craft, and heard the `chug' of its engine." Later the object was reported from Huntsville, Alabama. New York Tribune, Jan. 15 — dispatch from Chattanooga, Jan. 14 — "For the third successive day, a mysterious white aircraft passed over Chattanooga, about noon today. It came from the north, and was travelling southeast, disappearing over Missionary Ridge. On Wednesday, it came south, and then on Thursday, it returned north."(24)

In the middle of December, 1909, someone had won a prize for sailing a dirigible from St. Cyr to the Eiffel Tower and back.

St. Cyr is several miles from Paris.

Huntsville, Alabama, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, are 75 miles apart.(25)

An association between the planet Venus and "mysterious visitors" either illumines or haunts our data. In the New York Tribune, Jan. 29, 1910, it is said that a luminous object, thought to be Winnecke's comet, had been seen, Jan. 28, near Venus; reported from the Manila Observatory.(26)

I have another datum that perhaps belongs to this series of events. Every night, from the 14th to the 23rd of December, 1909, if we accept the account from Marlboro, a luminous object was seen travelling, or exploring, in the sky of New England. Certainly enough it was no "secret airship" of this earth, unless its navigator went to extremes with the notion that the best way to keep a secret is to announce it with red lights and a searchlight. However, our acceptance depends upon general data as to the de- [219/220] velopment or terrestrial aeronautics. But upon the night of December 24th, the object was not seen in New England, and it may have been travelling or exploring somewhere else. Night of the 24th — Venus in the southwest in the early hours of the evening. In the English Mechanic, 104-71, a correspondent, who signs himself "Rigel," writes that, upon Dec. 24, at 8.30 o'clock in the evening, he saw a luminous object appear above the northeastern horizon and slowly move southward, until 8.50 o'clock, then turning around, retracing, and disappearing whence it came, at two minutes past nine.(27) The correspondent is James Ferguson, Rossbrien, Limerick, Ireland. He writes frequently upon astronomical and meteorological subjects, and is still contributing to the somewhat enlightened columns of the English Mechanic.(28)

*  *  *

Nov. 19, 1912 — explosive sounds reported from Sunninghill, Berkshire. No earthquake was recorded at the Kew Observatory, and, in the opinion of W.F. Denning (Nature, 9-363, 417), the explosion was in the sky.(29) It was a terrific explosion, according to the Westminster Gazette (Nov. 19).(30) There was either one great explosion that rumbled and echoed for five minutes, or there were repeated detonations, resembling cannonading — "like a tremendous discharge of big guns" according to reports from Abingdon, Lewes, and Epsom. Sunninghill is about ten miles from Reading, and Abingdon is near Reading, but the sound was heard in London, and down by the English Channel, and even in the island of Alderney. In the Gazette, Nov. 28, Sir George Fordham (H.G. Fordham) writes that, in his opinion, it was an explosion in the sky.(31) He says — "The phenomena of airshock never have, I believe, been fully investigated." His admissions and his omissions remain the same as they have since the occurrences of the year 1889. He does not mention that, according to Philip T. Kenway, of Hambledon, near Godalming, about thirty miles southeast of Reading, the sounds were heard again the next day, from 1.45 P.M. to 2 P.M. Mr. Kenway thinks that there had been big-gun firing at Portsmouth (West. Gaz., Nov. 21).(32) In the London Standard, a correspondent, writing from Dorking, says that the phenomena of the 19th were like concussions from [220/221] cannonading — "at regular intervals" — "at quick intervals, lasting some seconds each time, for five minutes, by the clock."(33)

It develops that Reading was the center over which the detonations occurred. In the Westminster Gazette, Nov. 30, it is said that the shocks had been felt in Reading, upon the 19th, 20th, and 21st.(34) Only from Reading have I record of phenomena upon the 21st. Mr. H.L. Hawkins, Lecturer in Geology, of the Reading University, writes that according to his investigations there had been no gun-firing in England, to which the detonations could be attributed. He says that Fordham's explanation was in accord with his own investigations, or that detonations had occurred in the sky. He writes that, inasmuch as the detonations had occurred upon three successive days, a shower of meteors, of long duration, would have to be supposed. How he ever visualized that unerring shower, striking one point over this earth's surface, and nowhere else, day after day, if this earth be a rotating and revolving body, I can not see. If he should say that by coincidence this repetition could occur, then by what coincidence of coincidences could the same repetitions have occurred in this same local sky, centering around Reading, seven years before? The indications are that this earth is stationary, no matter how unreasonable that may sound.

In the Westminster Gazette, Dec. 9, W.F. Denning writes that without doubt the phenomena were "meteoric explosions."(35) But he alludes to the "airquake and strange noises" that were heard upon the 19th. He does not mention the detonations that were heard upon the following days. Not one of these writers mentions the sounds that were heard in Reading, in November, 1905.

London Standard, Nov. 23, 1912 — that, according to Lieut. Col. Trewman, of Reading, the sounds had been heard at Reading, at 9 A.M., upon the 19th; 1.45 P.M., the 20th; 3.30 P.M., the 21st.(36)


1. The opposition of Mars was on August 23, 1924. The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac for the Year 1924. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1922, 681.

2. "Observations of sheet lightning at Epsom, August 8, 1909." Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society of London, 35 (1909): 298-9.

3. Typographical error: hundred miles away. For an account....

4. Spencer C. Russell. "Lightning storm of August 8th, 1909." Symons' Meteorological Magazine, 44, 147-8. The account of the flashes, as given in this article, is, as follows: 16-14-20-31-15-26-12-20-30-18-27-22-14-12-10-21-8-5-3-1-0-1-0-0. Correct quote: "The night was fine and starlight...."

5. The opposition of Mars was on December 10, 1896. The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac for the Year 1896. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Equipment, 1895, 491.

6. Montesses De Ballore. "The so-called luminous phenomena of earthquakes, and the present state of the problem." Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 3 (December 1913): 187-90, at 190. Correct quote: "...or of shooting stars."

7. "Notes." Nature, 88, 116-21, at 116-7.

8. W.F. Denning. "Large meteors from Scorpio." Observatory, 31 (1908): 287-8. The meteor was observed at 11:12 A.M. Correct quote: "...the solar eclipse more notable...."

9. "The white spot west of Picard." Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 19, 375-80, at 376-7. The observations were made by R. Hodge and A. Noël Neate, on May 23, and, by Neate on March 26, 1909.

10. W.H.L. "The total eclipse of the Moon, and a celestial visitor: November 16-17, 1910." English Mechanic, 92 (December 9, 1910): 430-1.

11. "The total eclipse of the Moon, November 16." Nature, 85 (November 24, 1910): 118-9.

12. "L'éclipse totale de Lune." Nature (Paris), 1910, 2 (November 26): 415.

13. "The eclipse of the Moon, 1910, Nov. 16." Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 21, 99-100.

14. "Is it a mysterious airship?" New York Sun, November 1, 1908, p. 1 c. 2.

15. "Tells of marvellous flight." New York Sun, December 13, 1909, p. 3 c. 1.

16. "Venus outshines the sun." New York Sun, December 16, 1909, p. 1 c. 6.

17. "See Venus's charms." New York Tribune, December 25, 1909, p. 1 c. 6.

18. In 1909, Henry Farman won the Michelin Cup, which included a $4,000 prize, for breaking airplane duration and distance records, on November 3, by travelling for 4 hours, 17 minutes, and 35 seconds, over a distance of 144 miles. Earlier in August, Farman had won the Grand Prix de Champagne, at Rheims, by breaking the world records for distance, (over 111 miles), and duration, (over 3 hours and 5 minutes). Glenn H. Curtiss won a prize of $10,000 and was hailed by state and city officials for his achievement of flying from Albany to Governors Island, at New York City, with two stops: at Camelot for gasoline, and at 214th Street and Broadway, for oil. "Farman wins $10,000 by 111-mile flight." New York Times, August 28, 1909, p. 1 c. 5 & p. 2 c. 1-3. "Farman up over four hours." New York Times, November 4, 1909, p. 1 c. 6. "Farman flights win cup and new record." New York Times, January 1, 1910, p. 4 c. 1. "Curtiss flies, Albany to New York, at the speed of 54 miles an hour." New York Times, May 30, 1910, p. 1 c. 5-7, and, p. 2.

19. "Tillinghast out again?" New York Tribune, December 21, 1909, p. 3 c. 4.

20. "Airship stirs city." New York Tribune, December 23, 1909, p. 1 c. 6. Correct quote: "...a searchlight of very high power. The news of its presence spread like wild fire and thousands thronged the streets to watch the mysterious visitor."

21. "Hundreds see night flier." New York Sun, December 24, 1909, p. 1 c. 3.

22. "Another mysterious airship." New York Tribune, January 1, 1910, p. 2 c. 4. Correct quote: " airship sped over the country."

23. "Airship stirs South." New York Tribune, January 13, 1910, p. 1 c. 4. Correct quote: "...heard the `chugging' of the engine."

24. "That Southern airship again." New York Tribune, January 15, 1910, p. 1 c. 2.

25. Huntsville and Chattanooga are about 80 miles apart by air.

26. "Comet seen at Manila." New York Tribune, January 29, 1910, p. 7 c. 4.

27. James Ferguson, (Rigel). "Irish notes...." English Mechanic, 104 (August 18, 1916): 71.

28. For an identification of James Ferguson, as "Rigel": James Ferguson. "Irish notes: Mysterious phenomenon." English Mechanic, 111 (April 2, 1920): 120. His address is given as Rosbrien, Lisnalta, Limerick.

29. "Notes." Nature, 90 (November 28, 1912): 364-8, at 365. "Notes." Nature, 90 (December 12, 1912): 416-20, at 417.

30. "Earthquake or — ?" Westminster Gazette, November 19, 1912, p. 14 c. 1.

31. "Air quake." Westminster Gazette, November 28, 1912, p. 8 c. 4. Fordham gives two examples of his own investigations as exceptions to his statement, being the shocks observed in England on November 20, 1887, and in Switzerland on June 20, 1890. Correct quote: "The phenomena of air-shock have never, I believe...."

32. "Earthquake or — ?" Westminster Gazette, November 21, 1912, p. 8 c. 3.

33. "Was it an earthquake." London Standard, November 22, 1912, p. 9 c. 4. "Was it an earthquake." London Standard, November 23, 1912, p. 5 c. 4. Also: "Strange occurrence near Ascot." London Standard, November 20, 1912, p. 7 c. 6.

34. "Air or earthquake." Westminster Gazette, November 30, 1912, p. 14 c. 4.

35. "Detonating fireballs." Westminster Gazette, December 9, 1912, p. 7 c. 1.

36. "Was it an earthquake." London Standard, November 23, 1912, p. 5 c. 4.

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