How Can Such UFO Reports as These Be Explained, Rationally?
In 1897, two Arkansas lawmen allegedly had a face-to-face encounter with a UFO and its pilot.
Constable John J. Sumpter, Jr. and Deputy Sheriff John McLemore were investigating reports of "cattle rustling" in Hot Springs when they watched a bright light descend behind some trees. After trekking through the woods, they eventually found the source of the light.
Approaching with their guns drawn, a bearded man emerged from the forest and told them that he and his crew were travelling the country in an "airship". The stranger then showed Sumpter and McLemore his vessel: a cigar-shaped amalgamation of blimp and balloon that was nearly 60 feet long The pilot even offered them a ride, but the officers refused.
Bidding farewell to their new acquaintance – who said he was on his way to, of all places, Nashville – the two officers left. Forty minutes later, they returned, but found no trace of the pilot or his mysterious airship.
Sumpter and McLemore's account isn't without precedent. It was one of many reported "airship" sightings that swept the country in the late 19th century
Detailed here: http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/arkansasairship.html
Or these sightings in the Kenneth Arnold 1947 time-frame:
About 1:00 p.m.. A V-formation of UFOs seen by a group of people on a Sunday either at the end of June or early in July. The date, believed to be June 29, had not been definitely established. A group of people west of Medford, just above the California border. The formation was traveling northwest toward Medford, east of the observers. There were nine objects. According to one witness, when first seen the objects were "as white as snow geese"; as they came closer they became blue-white, "like a fluorescent-bulb light." They were sharply outlined and seemed to be solid; "also translucent, like a light, pebbled, frosted bulb." The size of the individual objects was estimated as more than twice the diameter of the full moon -- presumably when the objects were nearest to the witnesses, although this is not stated definitely.
About 1:15 [1:20?] p.m. Rocket scientist-engineer Dr. Carl J. Zohn, Admin Asst., Rocket Sonde Section, USN Naval Research Lab (NRL) temporarily assigned to White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG), NRL scientist Curtis C. Rockwood and his wife, and WSPG technician John R. Kauke, were driving in a car from Las Cruces to WSPG headed NE when they saw to their right front [E] a rotating silvery or shiny disc or sphere with no appendages, wings, tail, propellers, reflecting sunlight [pulsating?], crossing the sky at high speed heading N at about 8,000-10,000 ft which suddenly disappeared in mid-air in a clear cloudless sky. Kauke had stopped the car and briefly saw a short vapor trail at one point not reported by the others. Zohn on the passenger side rolled the window for an unobstructed view. Nearly 60-secs. (FOIA; cf. Ruppelt, p. 20; FUFOR Index; Randle-Schmitt; Bloecher 1967; etc.)
Taken from the NICAP web-site http://www.nicap.org/waves/1947fullrep.htm
Credible accounts, surely.
But what did these people actually see or experience?
There is no indication of delusional behavior in these reports nor a mistaken observation of Venus.
What explanations -- within the parameters of the information contained in the reports themselves -- can be proffered?