History of the Mystery Airship Sightings in the Late 1800’s

Last Updated on June 8, 2020 by admin

March 3, 1990


History of the Mystery Airship Sightings

in the late 1800’s


One of the  mysteries involving the work of John W. Keely involves

his Airship which was developed during the period of 1888 to 1893.

Keely flew his airship for the  first  time  in  1893.   We have a

drawing of the ship and it is very compact and has no hull.

A reporter inspecting the ship leaves us this record :

“The space  which  the propeller of the airship  occupies  in

Keely’s Laboratory comes within a radius of six feet square.

A small  space  for so powerful a medium – distributing over

1000 horsepower, as tested  by  experiment.   It consists of

over 2000 pieces and weighed in excess of 1000 pounds.”

A small stool was placed on the unit so that it faced  a keyboard.

Attached to the  keyboard  were  many  tuned resonation plates and

vibratory mechanisms.  Mr. Keely  said  that  when the plates were

polarized with “negative attraction” the airship  would  rise  and

float above the ground.

Keely could make  the  airship  accelerate to any desired speed by

damping out certain notes on the keyboard.

The Keely Airship was successfully  demonstrated  to  the U.S. War

Department in 1896.  The demonstration took place in an open field

where Keely brought  the  airship  from  zero to  500  MPH  within


Keely was sitting on the stool and before the keyboard.  There was

nothing to shield  him from the movement of the ship yet he seemed

to suffer absolutely no acceleration effects.

The War Department was impressed, yet stated they could see no use

for such a complex device.

Later versions might have added  a  hull  and  changed the size to

accomodate a payload.

Note also that the Airship Sightings began in 1897, one year after

Keely’s War Department demonstration.

It is quite  possible that a person or group might  have  financed

further improvements on the Keely Airship technology.

We cannot fail   to  notice  the  April  dates  on  the  following

sightings, especially since the first  sighting came on April 2nd,

one day after April Fool’s day.

Chicago Record…….Friday, April 2, 1897

See Great Airship

Kansas Missouri, Missouri people excited…..mystical black object

casting before it  red  light startled whole city for the last two


At last descended…ten-thousand   people   swear   they  have  no

hallucinations!  Scoffers and disbelievers claim  the  people have

been seeing the  planet  Venus  or  the  Evening Star, even though

according to the almanac this planet  should  have  set  below the

horizon at least an hour before!

Object appeared very swiftly, then appeared to stop and hover over

the city for ten minutes at a time, then after flashing its green-

blue and white lights, shot upwards into space….light  gradually

twinkling away and looking like a bright star.

Time : 8:15 PM


Everest, Kansas has sighted a strange airship.

Competent reporters state  that  this must be the airship that was

built in Oakland, California and  which  broke  away  at launching

time…this giant airship  hovered one half hour  at  a  time  and

descended at regular intervals very close to the Earth.

A giant searchlight  flooded  the  whole city with light from this

aerial monster which with the velocity  of  an eagle darted up and


Power source must have been attached to the light for it dimmed as

the ship went up and away.  One observer states that  there seemed

to be a  basket or car beneath a great dark object thought to be a

gas bag overhead…car was shaped like a canoe and had four wings,

two on each  side,  fore  and aft…light  was  greenish  or  blue

against the light  of  a  locomotive  in the rail  yard  that  was

yellowish.  Colored lights seemed to be all around the car.”


Chicago Record, April 3, 1897

Flying Machine Now in Michigan!

People of Galesburg  saw  a  brilliant  white  light approach from

SW…object appeared large  and  black  with  a  crackling,  sharp

sound.  It hovered close to the Earth.  Reporters  state that they

heard HUMAN VOICES from aloft…from the airship!

When the ship went off, it seemed to be tipped with flame.  (Local

comment was that the airship had caught fire!)

Time : 10:00 PM


Chicago Record, April 6, 1897

Airship Now Into Illinois

Seen first at  8:00  PM  in NW….large red light.  Suggestions of

balloon are refuted because airship  flew at tremendous speed INTO



Chicago Record, April 7, 1897

Airship seen many times last few weeks.  Large numbers  of  people

first hand witnesses.   One time, a motorman of a trolley actually

stopped his vehicle  so  he  and  passengers  could  look  at  the

wonderful sight…just ahead of his trolley, the ship seemed about

six-hundred feet up and about one-hundred feet long.

The motorman, Mr.  Newville,  says  it  was ellipsoid  with  large

projections fore and  aft.   There was a bright headlight in front

and a red light in the rear.”


From Hastings, Nebraska, came the  report  that  the “airship” had

been seen in  Grand  Island,  Oxford, York and Kearney.   Scoffers

claimed these people  had  seen  Venus, yet all the reporters were

people of substance and not given  to  reporting spurious stories.


Chicago Record, April 9, 1897

Airship Seen in Iowa

Between West Liberty   and   Cedar   Rapids  appeared   a   bright

light…giant airship…steel body.   When  leaving it appeared to

be a large star weaving about and  stars  do  not weave around the



Chicago Record, April 10, 1987

Airship Sighted over Chicago and Evanston!

People are tripping over themselves these days trying  to  get the

best look at  this  green and white-lighted giant airship that has

had the people all over the mid-west in a dither.

Some people think the end of the  world is near…Scientific minds

have explained the  whole  thing  away by now.  The  mystery  will

surely be cleared up in the next few days.  Mr. Carr, an aeronaut,

has built an  experimental  balloon  and is financed by a New York

theatrical wig manufacturing company…Mr. Carr states his machine

works marvelously, but  CANNOT  GO  AGAINST  THE  WIND…power  is

storage battery with propeller!

Professor Hough of Northwestern University and head  astronomer of

the observatory stated  when  asked  to train his telescope on the

object : ‘I am busy with sights  on  Jupiter  and  it would be too

troublesome to change to look at this new thing.’   The  next day,

Hough said: ‘The  thousands  of people that are reporting this so-

called strange airship are in reality  looking at Alpha Orionis in

the Constellation Orion!”


Chicago Record, April 12, 1897

Giant Airship Continues Over Chicago and Environs!

People all over  the  city are in an uproar, and while everyone is

viewing this grand  sight  on   the   south   side,   two  amateur

photographers who are news dealers in Rogers Park,  looked out and

saw the airship.

Their photo shows  the  north Western Railway station and above it

the reported airship!  The photographers  are  Walter  McCann  and

G.A. Overocker.  This airship was seen to come in  over  the  lake

and traverse the whole city for several days.”


The same report with an Omaha date line of April 11th says :

“A gentleman brags he has mystery airship problem solved.  He

is an  inventor  and  desires that he be allowed thirty-five

acres to demonstrate his airship  for  the Trans-Mississippi

Exposition.  The  gentleman didn’t sign his  name,  but  the

reporter hopes the dilemma will be settled by his promises.”


The same report  again, with a Fort Dodge, Iowa date line of April

11th says:

“Old German residents say that this very same type of airship

came over Germany THIRTY YEARS  before  and  the people were

scared to death…said the devil’s army was  approaching and

these were his vehicles.”


The same report  again,  with  a Milwaukee, Wisconsin date line of

April 11th says:

“The residents of Milwaukee cannot be talked out of what they

are seeing…thousands report  the  authenticity of a giant,

beautiful airship with colored lights…the  police  records

are full  of  the  story for they have been called to answer

what it is!”


Chicago Record, April 13, 1897

Airship Called a Hoax!

Several notable citizens  are   known   to   have  caused  airship

scene…remains of paper  and  wood  device in wreckage  in  their

yard.’  (No name given of the ‘notables’)


The above mentioned  device  was  supposed  to  have  been  in the

wreckage, but another column in the same paper said:

“Airship seen in Rock Island, Illinois and Elkhart, Illinois!”

How could it have been seen if it had been wrecked?


Chicago Tribune, April 12, 1897

“One chap knows all about the airship.   He says: ‘These thousands

of people didn’t see a steel hull because this is  the  airship my

friend built in  California  and  is  on  its way here to Chicago.

Although, I must say, he sure has  made good time for he isn’t due

until NEXT WEEK and the hull is PAPER, not steel.   My  friend, O.

Chanute is on  board  too  and  I will introduce all of you to him

when he arrives!”

The man who spoke the above  was  Secretary  of  the  Chicago

Aironautical Society, Max L. Harmar.


The same strange sightings were made at Sisterville, Virginia.


In 1897 and  other  years,  there were also amazing observances in


An excerpt  from  the book “Genesis” published by Dell and written

by W. A. Harbinson, copyright 1982  gives  more information on the

sightings from the late 1800’s:

“The first major UFO flap was in 1896 – about November of that

year –  and continued until May 1897.  This  was  five  years

BEFORE the  Wright  brothers  experiments, but there were, by

this time, various airship  designs  on the drawing boards or

in the Patent Office.

On August 11, 1896, patent number 565805 was given to Charles

Abbot Smith  of  San  Francisco  for an airship  he  intended

having ready  by  the following year.  Another patent, number

580941, was issued to Henry  Heintz  of Elkton, South Dakota,

on April  20, 1897.  However, while many UFO’s  sighted  were

shaped roughly like the patent designs, there is no record of

either airship having been built.”

“At that  time  the  general belief was that aerial navigation

would be solved through an  airship  rather  than  a heavier-

than-air flying  machine  –  so most of the  eariler  designs

looked like dirigibles with a passenger car on the bottom.

“What stands  out  in  the 1896 and 1897 sightings is that the

UFO’s were MOSTLY CIGAR-SHAPED,  that they frequently landed,

to talk to the witnesses, usually asking for  WATER FOR THEIR


“The most  intriguing of the numerous contact stories involved

a man who called himself Wilson.  The first incident occurred

in Beaumont, Texas on April  19,  1897, when J. B. Ligon, the

local agent for Magnolia Brewery, and his son Charles noticed

lights in the Johnson pasture a few hundred  yards  away  and

went to investigate.

“They came  upon  two men standing beside a large, dark object

which neither of the witnesses  could  see  clearly.   One of

these men asked Ligon for a bucket of water,  Ligon let these

men have it, and then the man gave his name as Mr. Wilson.

“He then told Ligon that he and his friends were travelling in

a flying  machine,  that  they  had  taken a trip ‘out of the

gulf’, and they were returning to the ‘quiet Iowa town’ where

the airship AND FOUR OTHERS LIKE IT had been constructed.

“When asked, Wilson explained  that  ELECTRICITY  POWERED  THE

PROPELLERS AND WINGS OF THE AIRSHIP, then he  and his friends

got into the airship and Ligon watched it ascending.

“The next  day, April 20, Sheriff H. W. Baylor of Uvalde, also

in Texas, went to investigate  a  strange light and voices in

back of his house.  He encountered an airship  and  three men

-and one of the men gave his name as Wilson, from Goshen, New


“Wilson then inquired about one C. C. Akers, former sheriff of

Zavalia County,  saying  that he had met him in Fort Worth in

1877 and  now  wanted to  see  him  again.   Sheriff  Baylor,

surprised, replied that Captain Akers was now  at Eagle Pass,

and Wilson,  reportedly  disappointed, asked to be remembered

to him the next time Sheriff Baylor visited him.

“Baylor reported that the  men  from  the airship wanted water

and that  Wilson requested that their visit  BE  KEPT  SECRET

FROM THE TOWNSPEOPLE.  Then he and the other men climbed back

into the  airship  and, quote, “its great wings and fans were

set in motion and it sped  away northward in the direction of

San Angelo.’ The county clerk also saw the airship as it left

the area.

“Two days  later,  in  Josserand,  Texas,  a   whirring  sound

awakened farmer  Frank  Nichols, who looked out of his window

and saw ‘brilliant lights  streaming  from a ponderous vessel

of strange  proportions’  in  his  cornfield.   Nichols  went

outside to investigate, but before he reached the object, two

men walked  up to him and asked if they could have water from

the well.

“Nichols agreed to this – as farmers in those days usually did

– and the men then invited  him to visit the airship where he

noticed that there were six or eight crew  members.   One  of

these men  told  him that the ship’s motive power was ‘HIGHLY


BEEN CONSTRUCTED in ‘a small town in Iowa’  with  the backing

of a  large  stock company IN NEW YORK (close to Philadelphia

where Keely had his laboratory!!….Vangard).

“The next day, on April 23, witnesses described by the HOUSTON

POST as ‘two responsible  men’  reported  that an airship had

descended where they lived in Kountze, Texas, and that two of

the occupants had given their names as Wilson and Jackson.

“Four days  after  this incident, on April 27,  the  GALVESTON

DAILY NEWS  printed  a  letter  from C. C. Akers, who claimed

that he had indeed known  a  man  in Fort Worth named Wilson,

that Wilson  was  from New York, that he was  in  his  middle

twenties, and  that  he was ‘OF A MECHANICAL TURN OF MIND AND



“Finally, early  in  the  evening  of April 30,  in  Deadwood,

Texas, a  farmer named H. C. Lagrone heard his horses bucking

as if in stampede.  Going  outside,  he  saw  a  bright white

light circling around the fields nearby and  illuminating the

entire area  before  descending  and  landing  in  one of the


“Walking to the landing spot,  Lagrone  found  a  crew of five

men, three of whom talked to him while the  others  collected

water in  rubber  bags.   The man informed Lagrone that their

ship was ONE OF FIVE that  had been flying around the country

recently, that  theirs  was  in fact the SAME  ONE  that  had

landed in  Beaumont a few days before, that all the ships had

been constructed  in  an interior  town  in  Illinois  -which

borders Iowa -and that they were reluctant to say anything

else because  they had NOT YET TAKEN OUT ANY PATENTS.  By May

of that same year, the sightings ended….”

(Don’t forget to include the  Aurora  Hoax  perpertrated  by  a

reporter for a local (Ft. Worth) newspaper at that same time)


Notes from Vanguard…

We also have heard of a group which existed in California during

this period.  They were said to have some form of  flying machine,

not based on lighter-than-air technology.  The flying machine they

built was supposed  to  have  been taken out for an “unauthorized”

joy ride by a member of the group  and  crashed.  Nothing is known

after this point.

To our knowledge, there is no record of the nature  of  propulsion

or lift for the groups’ flying machine.

As a final  note,  a  friend  tells  us  that  in the 60’s, he was

visiting the headquarters of an old organization in Chicago.

While wandering through the building, he chanced upon a vault door

which was partially open.  Peeking inside, he saw what he believes

to be the original Keely Airship as shown in the picture we have.

An officer of the organization came  in, closed the vault door and

ushered him out of the area.


We are currently working on scanning a picture file  of  the Keely

Airship to be included in our future Images section.

The equipment for  such  projects  takes  money  which  comes from

personal funds, so it might be a  while before we can do this.  It

would surely be  nice  if we could have such equipment  to  spread

this stuff around more easily.