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*The REALL News*

"It's a very dangerous thing to believe in nonsense." -- James Randi

Volume 6 Issue 3 March 1998

In This Issue

Features Departments


The Illinois UFO Mania of 1897

Why We Should be Leery of Modern-Day UFO Reports

by Robert Bartholomew

Between November 1896 and May 1897, scores of Americans became convinced that one of their citizens had perfected the world's first heavier-than-air flying machine. As this widespread belief spread, airship mania swept across the United States. This little-known episode in American history was extraordinary, in that at the height of the rumors, it is estimated that tens of thousands of Americans in many states actually reported that they had seen the craft in various points across the nation — thousands of miles apart — at the same time! The maneuvers described by witnesses, were far above any technology of the period — even by today's standards. While the episode in general has been examined as a case of "mass hysteria," in this article I will document the airship wave in Illinois, and suggest an explanation. It was typically described as oval or cigar-shaped with an attached undercarriage, having a powerful headlight and giant fans or wings protruding from both sides. Some observers even claimed that the wings slowly flopped up and down like a bird! MoreMore


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