UFO Conjectures

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tall Tales

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.

Chris Aubeck provided an 1858 airship sighting in his book with Jacques Vallee, Wonders in the Sky [Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, New York, 2009, Page 325 ff.].

A Mr. Henry Wallace saw “a large and curiously constructed vessel…[with] A number of very tall people [aboard it],” which the recorder [Mr. Wallace] of the event believes was “a vessel from Venus, Mercury, or the planet Mars, on a visit of pleasure or exploration, or some other cause.” [Page 326]


Wallace elaborated: “The vessel was evidently worked by wheels and other mechanical appendages, all of which worked with a precision and a degree of beauty never yet attained by any mechanical skill upon this planet.” [ibid]

This was no phantom that disappeared in a twinkling [Wallace continued] … but this aerial ship was guided, propelled and steered through the atmosphere with the most scientific system and regularity, about sic miles per hour, though, doubtless, from the appearance of her machinery, she was capable of going thousands of miles an hour.” [ibid]

Mr. Aubeck indicates that the source of this story was Dr. William Earl, in The Illustrated Silent Friend, embracing subjects never before scientifically discussed (New York, 1858).

Mr. Aubeck also noted that he couldn’t verify the story, “the claim rest[ing] on the veracity of names that cannot be verified today.” [ibid]

This story would be (will be) dismissed by those who need more evidentiary proof.

Imaginative types will find it intriguing, not as a true account perhaps, but as an imaginative fiction or fantasy on the part of Mr. Wallace or Mr. Earl.

What is interesting, no matter what stance one takes about the account, is how the portrayer “reported” it: from a planet in our Solar System, with tall beings on board, and an advanced machine (although it is primitive by our flying craft configurations today).

Why tall beings?

Did Mr. Wallace actually see such beings? Or was his fantasy impregnated by what persons thought outer space beings would be like….tall and imposing, not short or weak looking, as the “grays” are depicted by fictive accounts today?

What changed in the human mind-set, from 1858 to 1961 (the Hill account)? Aside from the dwarf-like entities of the 1950s (mostly in countries outside the United States), most beings were either normal size (pretty much) – the Villas Boas case – or less than tall, with exceptions, such as Voronezh [1989].




Such reported details, as that of Wallace et al., could be used to determine what stories have a kind of veracity or indicate a made-up account, either duplicitously or because of a mental malfunction.

Is there any practical value in making such an effort?

An account of “tall beings” in 1858 can’t be proven as true, at this late stage of the game.

And reports of “grays” are besotted by the “little gray meme” now ubiquitous in the cultural consciousness so that pursuit can’t bear fruit, really.

What one ends up dealing with is the psychopathology of the cultural milieu in which being-reports accrue.

That is an anthropological query or pursuit, one which has little value, academically and no value practically.

Mr. Aubeck’s rendition titillates somewhat, that’s all.

It tells us what one person from the mid-Nineteenth Century thought about life beyond the Earth; it’s the Jules Verne approach to extraterrestrial life, which is for imaginations, not journalism or reality.

Today’s UFO reports have to be seen in the same way, as part of the collective meme, nothing more.

Beings from outer space, whether real or not (actually not), have no impact on human life, then or now.

Paying too much attention (or any attention) to such fantastic tales is not mentally healthy or imbued with human value.

Why we do it is a matter for the sociologist, not the recorder of what is meaningful for life, here and now….”meaningful” being the operative word here.



  • For what its worth:

    "But it would not be until 1852 that another French, steam engineer Henri Giffard, ordinarily regarded as the airship inventor today, built the first practical airship and flew it. At an impressive average speed of 6.7 miles per hour (10.8 km/h), he demonstrated powered flight, on September 24, 1952, flying from Paris to Trappe in an airship fitted with a suspended gondola and a 3 horsepower steam engine of his own design, for a total of 27 km (17 miles). The gas bag was 44 m (144 feet) long and 12 m (39 feet) in diameter, inflated with 2,500 m3 (88,000 cubic feet) of coal gas. Control was minimal and the engine very heavy."

    The above pulled from:


    This provides some context into the development of airships in the 1850s.

    It's not far fetched that Henry Wallace observed such a phenomena. His interpretation reveals that he was not aware of the reality of such airships and thus attributes the sighting as from Venus, Mercury or Mars...unfortunately omitting Earth from his planetary list.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Tuesday, July 30, 2013  

  • Aubeck, Tim, sees it as real reportage: Wallace told what he actually saw.

    And he may have.

    It's the tall beings that undermine the account, unless Wallace was a midget.

    In The New York Review of Books for June 6th, 2013 Julian Bell has a piece [The Angel of the Bizarre, Page 24 ff.] about Dark Romanticism, The Angel of the Odd, a rejuvenated art exhibit at The Musee d'Orsay in Paris, originally mounted at The Stadel Museum in Frankfort.

    Bell presents how artists were caught up in presenting the truly bizarre between 1780 and 1950.

    It forces us to see the 1858 Wallace sighting as part of that break with images that are real to accent that which is unreal.

    Something went haywire with people (which includes artists I suppose).

    They were imagining irrational images.

    Why? For what reason?

    There was a breakdown in aesthetics it seems.

    Dark, obscure fiction were in play.

    This exploded in the airship sightings, waned during both World Wars, where real horrors took place, and came back in full force in 1947, but with a patina of technology attached...probably because of the A-Bombings in 1945.

    There is a dark underbelly to UFO sightings, which isn't unique, as Bell has it, about art and the artistic visions he lists.

    No one has explored this underbelly.

    Joe McGonagle's bio-chemical examples are in the ball park, and should lead us to co-join with Mr. Bell's critical essay in looking for why humans, when they see odd things, have to put a fearful veneer on what they saw, even when their reports seem to be prosaic or benign.

    Or why some people imagine as they do.

    The topic is fecund with possible interpretations that clarify the human condition, but no ufologist gives a damn.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, July 30, 2013  

  • Rich: "Bell presents how artists were caught up in presenting the truly bizarre between 1780 and 1950."

    True, the Age of Enlightenment beginning in the late 18 century allowed artistic freedom. Let's not forget literature as we had the works of Shelley, Coleridge (hooked on laudanum?) and Stoker. All giving us the visions of Frankenstein, Dracula and a cursed albatross.

    Throw in Poe and Lovecraft into the mix and many others including numerous artist. Picasso? I still have a hard time figuring his stuff out.

    They all portrait a vision that catered to our inner fears yet as a group believed that the "new millennium" was being ushered based on world events as promised by prophecy (as they perceived).

    "Joe McGonagle's bio-chemical examples are in the ball park, and should lead us to co-join with Mr. Bell's critical essay in looking for why humans, when they see odd things, have to put a fearful veneer on what they saw, even when their reports seem to be prosaic or benign."

    I whole heartily agree. It was this angle that caused me to get "involved" in UFO sightings and close encounter experiences.

    Per Carl Jung, his initial belief was that the UFO phenomena was born out of our collective stress attributed to the Cold War...society going schizophrenic to a certain degree.

    It all seems to appeal to our dark side of how we view nature.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Tuesday, July 30, 2013  

  • "Beings from outer space, whether real or not (actually not), have no impact on human life, then or now."

    Not true, of course, if Corso's story is even remotely true.

    By Blogger Dominick, at Tuesday, July 30, 2013  

  • The creatures are always human-like with this or that aspect physically exaggerated as a type, and the types are a transient wave phenomenon in of themselves, the type of craft is always one step ahead of what is possible, another transient wave phenomenon. In the past I have coined these patterns, waves within waves.
    It seems what we would term exotic has a short lived consensus, technology wise and biologically and that the observer is influenced or contaminated by contemporary and preceding accounts in both literature and other witnesses of similar events. Behaviorally these creatures seem to driven by human behaviors that fit a exotic experiential reality.
    For a time, it seemed there was a wave of "alien breakdowns", beings seen handing each other screwdrivers or some such silly thing, or in the time of these airships they clambered down ropes looking for materials, etc. More recently, stealing pigs, fertilizer, with a counter intuitive lack of stealth. All of this is purposeless and without meaning in of itself in our terms, in our behaviors, in our motivations, our reality made upon repeating, stable contexts that produce predictable results in our behavior. I just did a post on cycles, open versus closed systems..and certainly neurology is stranger than we can assume it is, as well as the realities, we , at times, inhabit. None of this comes from nowhere. Even nothing has to be something to be nothing. That's what is intriguing.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Tuesday, July 30, 2013  

  • BTW..This fits into Koestler's Holon Theory ..
    Koestler also says holons are autonomous, self-reliant units that possess a degree of independence and handle contingencies without asking higher authorities for instructions. These holons are also simultaneously subject to control from one or more of these higher authorities. The first property ensures that holons are stable forms that are able to withstand disturbances, while the latter property signifies that they are intermediate forms, providing a context for the proper functionality for the larger whole.
    .."Finally, Koestler defines a holarchy as a hierarchy of self-regulating holons that function first as autonomous wholes in supra-ordination to their parts, secondly as dependent parts in sub-ordination to controls on higher levels, and thirdly in coordination with their local environment."

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Tuesday, July 30, 2013  

  • A. "Very tall" is a relative term (very tall compared to what - himself, a tree, a windmill?) that somewhat depends on Wallace's vantage point (which we'll never know) when observing the occupants. That description means nothing, one way or the other.

    B. Wallace specifically calls them "people", so it's probably safe to say there was nothing remarkable about them except his likely misperception of their excess height.

    C. It was probably a prototype airship. The bit about people from another planet on holiday was either a flight of fancy or a misreporting of his musing on how the vignette appeared to him.

    In 1858, anything man made sailing through the air under power would have stirred awe and titillated the imagination. So, Mr. Wallace should be forgiven his hyperbole.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Tuesday, July 30, 2013  

  • PG...

    You're too kind.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, July 30, 2013  

  • My personal take on the case is a little different. I do not necessarily defend the idea Wallace or his neighbours saw anything that day and for an important reason this did NOT happen in the 1850s.

    The following are my unpublished notes for a future book. The system does not allow me to post it all in one go because of a character limit, so I'll break it down.


    The account in question appears on page 253 of Earl's guide to health and social matters, The Illustrated Silent Friend (“Being a Complete Guide to Health, Marriage and Happiness, Embracing Subjects Never Before Scientifically Discussed”). Mr. Henry Wallace and his neighbors in Jay, Ohio, stated that one sunny day "a shadow was thrown over the place where they were." They naturally looked up at the sky, "where they one and all beheld a large and curiously constructed vessel, not over one hundred yards from the earth." There was a large group of people on board, averaging some twelve feet tall. "The vessel was evidently worked by wheels and other mechanical appendages, all of which worked with a precision and a degree of beauty never yet attained by any mechanical skill upon this planet." Earl fully expected to be mocked. "Now, I know that thousands will, at this recital, cry humbug, nonsense, lunacy, &c., but I know that there are other thousands who will read and reflect. It is for these latter thousands that I write."

    By Blogger Chris Aubeck, at Wednesday, July 31, 2013  

  • (2)


    No biographical information is available on William Earl though a glance at the book's other contents leaves no doubt this "MD" was not a typical family doctor. In 382 pages Earl covers a wide range of matters, from popular medical remedies and occult wisdom to dodgy (even dangerous) advice about personal relationships. Opening it randomly we find articles on "To Cure Baldness" and "To Fatten Fowls in Four or Five Days," "To Change the Color of the Eyes" and "How to Make Any Person Always Awake." The section on aliens from space follows "How Ladies and Gentlemen May Be Made to Throw Off Their Cloaks, Coats, Etc." and "Charms Against Curious Beasts." In publishing this was known as a Pow Wow book, handy DIY witchcraft manuals brimming with popular wisdom, spells and health tips.

    Even so, his idea - “that this ship which Mr. Wallace and others saw, was a vessel from Venus, Mercury, or the planet Mars, on a visit of pleasure or exploration, or some other cause” - reads like something from another time. The ship, he wrote, had been propelled through the air “with the most scientific system and regularity, at about six miles an hour, though, doubtless, from the appearance of her machinery, she was capable of going thousands of miles an hour, and who knows but ten thousand miles an hour…”

    The location, “Jay, Ohio” no longer exists. The Ohio Historical Society was able to confirm a post office functioned there from March 14th 1839 to March 23rd 1842 but its whereabouts had become NN (“not known”) from the moment it shut down. Fortunately an inquiry to Sandusky library produced another source: local historian Henry Timman once mentioned Jay in his popular weekly column, *Just Like Old Times*. It was, he said, “on the township line between Milan and Huron.” Meanwhile the post office was either “near where Route 13 intersects Scheid Road, or else where Scheid Road intersects the Huron-Avery Road.” Nothing marks the spot today.

    As we saw in Chapter Two, a post office town could be a large community, a small hamlet or just a crossroads with a house or two. Prospering communities could become more stable *townships*, but Jay lasted just a few years. There was no trace of it after 1842, which means the alleged UFO had been seen almost twenty years before Earl published his book.

    I checked federal census records for signs of the witness. A man named Henry C. Wallace lived in nearby Erie County in 1850, but in 1842 he would have been just seven years old. Had the witness been a child? Another local Henry Wallace was an Irish sailor who settled in Ohio eight years after Jay had vanished, in 1850 – too late to see the flying ship.

    A question mark will forever hang over the story but its existence proves without doubt that by 1858 — between the artifact that fell at [redacted] and [redacted] — at least the notion of extraterrestrial visitation was no longer too outlandish to contemplate.

    By Blogger Chris Aubeck, at Wednesday, July 31, 2013  

  • I tend to doubt the nuts and bolts accounts based on the range of the sightings, which in turn, required well planned logistics and the use of reciprocating steam, especially in light of the weight of water, coal, and cylinder lubrication oil. These aspects lead to the reasonable supposition of short range flights that require a base. And so , if this airship existed, based on a short range, why wasn't it seen on the ground? Another issue is tethering the beast, especially in windy conditions where it took a ground team to safely navigate an airship to a mooring device. The often cited grappling hook would not cut the mustard, especially in an emergency. There, was at one time, or still is, a "lost photograph" of this airship over Chicago. A drawing was made from this photograph for a newspaper, and the drawing today resides in the archives of the Chicago Historical Society. The photograph is yet to be rediscovered. The first UFO photograph? Another issue is power control in terms of the propeller RPM, which most know the control of which is essential and steam engines use two methods simultaneously, which are cylinder steam cut off and notched throttles, the use of which is an art form but far from being precise enough when more power is needed ( or less) Then since there are no brakes on a airship, long range flights that require logistical ground support, and the lack of aerial maps, let alone decent navigation maps, to maneuver precisely to a designated refueling spot, the mind boggles.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Wednesday, July 31, 2013  

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