UFO Conjecture(s)

Friday, November 08, 2013

An Authentic 1896 Airship Sighting by Bruce Duensing

Bruce Duensing has provided this newspaper account of an 1896 Airship sighting. His offering was too large for our comment section so, I've added it here:




Last evening between the hours of 6 and 7 o'clock, in the year of our lord eighteen hundred and ninety six, a most startling exhibition was seen in the sky in this city of Sacramento. People standing on the sidewalks at certain points in the city between the hours stated, saw coming through the sky over the housetops, what appeared to be merely an electric arc lamp propelled by some mysterious force. It came out of the East and sailed unevenly toward the Southwest, dropping now nearer the Earth, and now suddenly rising into the air again as if the force that was whirling it through space was sensible of the dangers of collision with objects upon the Earth.

That much hundreds of the people saw. That much caused consternation in the city last night among groups gathered to hear the tale. What follows some of the witnesses to the strange spectacle assert to be true as the circumstances stated.


Startled citizens last night living at points of the city along a rough diagonal line, yet far distant from each other, declare that they not only saw the phenomenon, but that they also heard voices issuing from it in midair - not the whispering of angels, not the sepulchral mutterings of evil spirits, but the intelligible words and merry laughter of humans.

At those intervals where the glittering object, as if careless of its obligation to maintain a straightforward course, descended dangerously near the housetops, voices were heard in the sky saying:

"Lift her up quick! You are making directly for that steeple!"

Then the light in the sky would be seen obeying some mystic touch and ascending to a considerable height, from which it would take up again its southwesterly course.
The light sailed along the line of K St., so it appeared from those in the eastern part of the city, although it appears that after it passed 14th St. it was wafted far south of K.

Laughter and words sounding strange in the distance, though fairly intelligible, fell upon the ears of pedestrians along the course of the light who had paused to look up at the novelty.


Last night's BEE contained a telegram from New York announcing that a man had perfected an airship and would on Friday of this week, accompanied by one or two friends, ascend from a vacant lot in the metropolis and go directly to California, which he promised to reach in two days. The description furnished in the telegram included an apparatus which was electrical to supply light and power to the astonishing contrivance. It is not regarded as likely, in view of the announcement carried in the dispatch, that last night Sacramento was overswept by this aerial ship. But here is the incident -- here the chronicle of words heard, of a strange spectacle witnessed. Whence the light, which was not a meteor all agree, came, whither it went, where it is now—these things it is not within the capacity of this article to deal with.


Charles Lusk, Cashier of the Central Electrical Street Railway Company, was at his home at Twenty-Fourth and O Streets, last evening when, having stepped outside, he saw the remarkable appearance in the sky. He went into the house and told the inmates of what he had seen.

This morning Mr. Lusk mentioned the incident to some of the Carmen, and was amazed to learn from them that they had seen such a light as he described while they were in the neighborhood of East Park. More than that, they heard music and voices. One voice distinctly said:
"Well, we ought to get to San Francisco by tomorrow noon."

The Carmen say they caught some faint idea of the shape of the object that was floating in the air. It was of balloon shape, and they concluded that it was a balloon.


Foreman Snyder of the Car Barn, Says it Was Not a Meteor

This afternoon, G.C. Snyder, foreman of the car house of the Electric Car Company, gave the following to the BEE:

"I assure you there is no joke about this matter, so far as I am concerned. Last evening, about ten minutes before 7 o'clock, I saw a light, which was then above, approximately, Twenty-Seventh and P Streets, sailing in a southwesterly direction. It rose and fell and swayed from right to left as if it were being propelled by some motor power. It was a white light, and was not a star or meteor, I am certain of that."

"Mr. Lowry, who used to be connected with the car company, told me that he saw the thing when it was directly overhead and that it had a wheel, which was going round."

"I don't think it was a balloon, for it was going in the southwest and a heavy wind was blowing from that direction. David Curl, a horsetrainer at the race track, told me he heard voices in the balloon or whatever it was."

"I learned that Michael Shelley, Carman on car 103 on the J. Street Line, distinguished the shape of the affair." 
Bruce sent this addendum (via e-mail):

 In terms of the state of technology available at that time lead me to the eye witness account of G.C. Snyder, foreman of the car house of the Electric Car Company. Snyder would have been intimately familiar with the  characteristics of carbon arc headlights used on interurbans \ streetcars at that time and this was the only lamp available at that time to produce such an effect as seen from the airship in the form of a searchlight.

Steam driven electric dynamos that would have needed to produce the current used to drive the airship searchlight had long since been perfected. Another consideration is that in 1897, gasoline engines had been perfected and while a gasoline engine to drive the dynamo was certainly possible, the availability of refined gasoline in terms of a long distance trip was a hugely formidable challenge, hence the consideration of a small steam plant.

Combine these three elements of the searchlight as well as Snyder’s discounting of any other natural source makes for an interesting read in terms of what he thought he saw could have been feasible.

Another interesting element was the straight line trajectory across Sacramento as well as this occurred before nightfall in the early evening hours.

One final oddity that struck me was the “set up” of this event by the telegram as it could have easily been planted as well as either coincidental or anticipatory as well as the sender being unnamed. According to the procedures of sending a telegram, it would have been impossible to hoax from whence the message came, so it’s likely this message did come from out of state. If this was a hoax or trick telegram and there was no airship to appear, what is the point of  the expense of specifically notifying the newspaper in advance of a non event? Odd.



  • Bruce,

    You are funny...

    This newspaper article and the drawing was originaly in the link of my article you criticazed here, http://ufocon.blogspot.com/2013/11/cracking-189697-airships-mystery-toward.html (direct link to the link inserted in my original article:

    It was with the directions indicated in this original paper we proposed Venus... (ie: The ship moved slowly away in a southwesterly direction ...toward the southwest ... moving in a southwesterly direction ... its southwesterly course ...).

    Maybe I'm not interresting or difficult to read (I understand it), but it seems you criticazed my article or without reading it attentionnaly, and not opening the links it contained...

    That's ufology ;)

    Best Regards,


    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Friday, November 08, 2013  

  • Gilles
    your assumptions are incorrect and you might have more accurately posed them as a question. The post by Rich of a correspondence of myself to him
    (as he indicated) was to provide a context to my comments to him regarding that sighting and had nothing to do with you. Sorry to disappoint you but not everything revolves around Gilles.
    Rich ( I assume) thought it interesting enough to post. All of this is in the common public domain, so your comment strikes me as overly self invested..in terms your article which didn't reveal anything new except that goofy conclusion of Venus..

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Friday, November 08, 2013  

  • BTW..To think that Mr Snyder who was well acquainted with carbon arc lighting mistook a searchlight for the planet Venus is patently absurd..but thats pathological skepticism.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Friday, November 08, 2013  

  • To think that Mr Snyder who was well acquainted with carbon arc lighting mistook a searchlight for the planet Venus is patently absurd..but thats pathological skepticism.

    Hello Bruce,
    Pathological and patently absurd yourself ;)

    Again in 2013 the sophism of argument from authority (Argumentum ab auctoritate) used by an UFO-proponent!
    We call it in France the myth of the ideal witness.

    IFOlogy have for long time demonstrated that pilots, civil or military, you (Bruce) will naively considerate as experts of flying stimuli can misinterpretate conventionnal stimuli as UFO (meteor, space reentries, missiles, Venus or celestral ones, balloons, and so one...).

    But free for you to be a defender of the myth of the ideal witness, another myth defended by the so-called ufology ;) Normal: that's ufology after all...



    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Saturday, November 09, 2013  

  • Gilles
    Here is my unvarnished opinion of your opinion since that is all we have at our disposal and what I mean by that there is a stream running throughout such mysteries that are the two extremes, or, if you will, two ends of a spectrum, both of which do not acknowledge agnosticism and both represent belief.
    My sense of this is based upon probabilities, the probability that all the technology was present to make this craft feasible, the probability that Mr Synder was intimately familiar with incandescence and it's luminosity versus the planet Venus. Another factor of this is the probable observable transit of an aircraft versus a planet over a small footprint. That is not to say I am willing to jump the shark as you have and declare a definitive answer.
    In terms of witnesses and their capabilities to observe in relation to their background is best exemplified by an airline pilot with 20 or more experience flying observing an unknown object versus your truly. In other words some are more discerning that others, and as a relation of a former homicide detective, I can tell you with the utmost sincerity, some witnesses "get it right" Have you ever seen a Thomas Houston arc headlight illuminated?
    These are the same lights used for Hollywood premieres etc until fairly recently..they produce brilliant, powerful beams thatv far outshine the reflected light of Venus even on a clear night. The same light used on street railways at that time for which Mr Snyder was responsible for. Recall Occam's razor in this case. I am not evangelistic in my view and so this will be my last comment on this matter. If your point is to dissuade me then you require to provide a better basis to do so. For me, this is a moribund exercise anyway as I was not there when it occurred..

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Saturday, November 09, 2013  

  • What I am vainly attempting to do is to address common sense. Do you think the altitude of the light in relation to multiple witnesses hearing specific snippets of conversation were a factor or do you think this is a case of coincidence that you had multiple cases of auditory hallucinations? Quite a case of beating the odds in having a crowd of schizophrenics gathered in such a small vicinity. No, my friend, your lack of an open mind, has left out common sense.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Saturday, November 09, 2013  

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