The Great Airship Flap of 1896

Copy drawn from an 1897 illustration
In 1896 and 1897 newspapers were reporting sightings of a strange and mysterious airship.  The story apparently began in April 1896 and spread back east and the last of the mystery airship stories appeared in November of 1897.

Two camps emerged concerning these stories. One said they were pure hoax and the creative work of bored newswriters competing in some vast tall tale competition.  A journalist whopper contest. 

The other point to the sightings as early day UFO's predating the more modern tales of Roswell , the '50's and beyond.

Most believe that there were no airships of the dirigible style that early.  Although records are not often clear or witnesses consistent, it is obvious the descriptions go beyond the balloon-and-basket style familiar since the Civil War in the United States.

Yet, looking at news stories from just before this 'flap' indicate there was a lot of talk of airships, air flight, and inventors working on designs or promoting development.

In 1890 a story appeared, "An Airship That Can Fly" (Washington Post 7/18/1890, pg.1) that told the story of a Professor Campbell who tested an airship with propellers and fly it in  New York for some short distance in and around Brooklyn.

In 1891 a story, "The Mount Carmel Airship" (Washington Post, 1/16/1891. pg. 1) referred to a Mount Carmel, Ill enterprise sending an airship to the Chicao exposition.  It was described as having a bouyancy chamber 24 feet long and 6 and 1/2 fee in diameeter, with propellers and rudder bringing it to 30 feet in length.  The inventor had contracted with James A. Fanning for a 12 week exhibitian for $100,000.  It would fly aound the exhibition and carry 2 passengers.  This long, thin profile fits the cigar shaped craft reported in many of the sightings.

Apparently, there were entrepreneurs busy with inventors attempting to create a brave new aerial travel world.  Some may have been scammers and con men but some... Out of Burlington, Iowa came a story in July of 1891, "Collapse of an Airship Enterprise" (Washington Post, 7/19/1891, pg.3).  The company had contracted to build "Dennington Airships" and had opened 2 months prior with "$10,000,000" but were now disolving due to a lack of stock investors. 

Although a mysterious man from Maine was cited in a San Francisco news story as being the source of the mystery crafts, most discounted it then and since.  After seeing the articles, as shown and others, maybe it was not too much off base.  It was apparent from the stories before, and the rapid development after the 'flap,' that someone had been working on developing the motorized airship, with lights, and ability to carry more than 2 passengers over a great distance.



Rock-a-Bye Baby Ghost: Near Georgia's Mysterious Mountain

It was late summer in Georgia and stories began to surface of something strange coming from the area of the Summit of Welsh Mountain, between Morgantown and Waynesboro. The story came from Rock Eagle
Just a pleasant outing.....
.  For two weeks, people reported hearing the cries of a child, just off the main road.  

Then on one Sunday evening in August 1875 two men and two women were traveling that way. Robert Gorman reported they heard "heartrending" cries as if someone was shamefully abusing a child.  The cries were terrible and brought the quartet to a state of great fear and unease.  Miss Elle Parker, from near Paoli, spotted the basket hanging high in the branches of a tree just off the main road.  It was swinging gently back and forth and the cries were coming from within.

As all eyes followed where she directed they were greatly spooked and disturbed by the danger facing the child.  Just as they began to plan how to retrieve the basket, the child gave a mighty piercing cry and the basket crashed downward.  Frozen, their eyes wide with shock, they saw the basket falling, saw the child within moving, and then the group saw it....suddenly back up in the tree where it had been and the child once more crying as before.

Totally terrified now, the group watched and basket swinging back and forth. The ladies were definite they saw the child move within the basket high in the branches.

The next day a search party of local officials and interested parties went out to investigate.  Mr. J.S. Peters, of Lancaster City, said he too saw the basket, saw the baby in it move, heard its cries and saw it disappear only be once more in the high branches.

"Welsh Mt." is thought to refer to "Fort Mountain" in Murray County.  One of the interesting things about this story is this is in an area where legends survive of blonde, light skinned and blue eyed Welsh explorers called 'Moon Eyed' because of their night vision.  There is almost a mythic changling element to this ghost story.  It is near an area of a strange rock wall snaking along a summit and is thought related to those Welsh legends.


("A Ghost in the Form of a Baby." The Atlanta Constitution, 25 August 1875, pg 2).


"Party Like An Irishman": Ethnic Stereotypes

I was pretty amazed the other day when I heard a St. Patricks Day ad for a local limo service boldly stating you could "party like an Irishman" in safety - just call them for a ride home. 

I immediately wondered where were the PC Police when you need them! Imagine, for a moment, had a similar ethnic slur been used for African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or Native Americans? Why is it open season on Irish-Americans? The short statured, red-haired, pug nose, poverty stricken, dance loving, poetry spouting, alcohol loving Irish lad or lassie has been  used in much the same way other ethnic stereotypes have been.  Just as Native Americans can take exception to the silent, noble savage image or African-Americans the watermelon ministral image, those of Celtic ancestry take exception to this drunken and stupid stereotype. 

Now, I must admit that the blood of the "auld country" runs in my veins (and my husbands). My ancestors came from such places as Athlone, County Mayo, Ulster and places we have yet to identify. My father grew up hearing the brogue still on the lips of his aged grandfather. My father was a shorter man and when he did a little jig he looked like a leprechaun! He loved to joke and have fun but drinking was not a big part of his life. The stereotype of the drunken Irishman does a dis-service to an entire people. When we traveled to Ireland a few years ago we met wonderful and fun people. They freely drank and sang songs in the pub but they did not get "drunk "- that seemed to be what the tourists did!

As we move into Spring Break it might be good to remember that getting drunk til you puke, flash people and have sex with total strangers seems to be an "American" phenomenon. Hyperpole alert: So maybe the offensive tag line should be "Party like a drunken American who hasn't a clue and uses any excuse to get soused." That would be far more accurate. 

We should be more concerned about why our young people are going to vacations spots with this false idea that getting drunk is somehow such a fun thing to do (vomiting gustily on streets, off balaconies or at the porcelin headrest and suffering from massive headaches are just a laugh a minute!).  That we do not try more to curb this odd behavior is probably a symptom revealing something far wrong in our larger culture.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you...and drink safely and wisely my friends!

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