Airshipcat -> Airships -> HomeHome
Cette page en français


 Previous | Next | All 

Date:November 20, 1896
Place:Oakland, California


Oaklanders Who Believe an Airship Hovered Over Them.
Say That they Saw a Dark Body Above the Gleam.
It was Headed for San Francisco and Seemed About to Come to Earth

Oakland Office, San Francisco Call - 908 Broadway, Nov. 21. Someone must be operating an airship in this portion of the State. Twice within the past six weeks it has been seen by reputable residents of Oaklan, and on each occasion it has presented the same appearance.

Six weeks ago a young lady was riding a wheel on Telegraph Avenue when she saw a strange looking object in the sky. It carried a powerful headlight, sufficiently strong to send out long bright rays in to the darkness. It appeared to be going in a westerly direction and seemed to be gradually descending as it disappeared over St. Mary's college. She reported the affair to her brother, who is a motorman on the cemetery branch of the Piedmont road.

Last night a little after 5 o'clock, as a crowded car was going out towards Piedmont, the attention of the passengers was attracted to a peculiar-looking contrivance high up in the sky. The most peculiar feature of it was a powerful headlight and another light which seemed to be in the bottom of the machine and to shine directly on the earth. It came into view from the direction of East Oakland, passed over Piedmont, and according to the story of the passengers seemed to descend in such a manner as to indicate that it would land somewhere in San Francisco.

Many of the passengers took up their morning newspapers today expecting to see a full description of the peculiar object they had seen so plainly, and were surprised and disappointed to find no report whatever of it.

They were so convinced that it must have landed across the bay that some of them telephoned to San Francisco last night and made inquiries regarding it. As nothing was known of it it is presumed that it must have changed its course and landed somewhere else, for nothing can persuade those who saw it that it was not a genuine airship under full control.

All those who saw this strange object agree in its description and declare that it closely resembles the illustration that appeared in THE CALL last Thursday of the airship that scores of people witnessed as it passed over Sacramento last Wednesday night. Some of them distinctly saw the propelling arms and declare that they were in motion, but all are positive that the machine was brilliantly lighted, and that the lower light shed a large arc on the earth as it passed over, while the headlight could be seen for a great distance ahead of the machine.

One of the most mystified observers of the airship was Charles II. Ellis, the armorer of Companies A and F. Mr. Ellis is a middle-aged man and very deliberate in his manner of expression, and one not likely to be easily deceived. He declared this evening that he was skeptical as a man could be when he first read about the Sacramento airship. He also declares that he had no alternative but to believe his own eye sight.

"I was going home to my dinner about ball pas 5 last night," he said, "and was in the neighborhood of the Twenty-Fourth street and New Broadway, when I saw a strange looking thing in the sky. It was coming from the eastward and at first I could see nothing but a bright light. When I first saw it the two lights appeared to be one and I thought it was a brilliant meteor. It was getting dusk, but the sky was clouded and just dark enough to permit any one to see plainly. The sky was sufficiently dark to make a background which would render any such object visible."

"As it came nearer I could see that there was some dark object along with the light. When it was nearly overhead I could clearly distinguish that it somewhat resembled a balloon traveling end on, with a bright light ahead, another one beneath it and with what appeared to be wings both before and behind the light. It was at a great height above the earth, probably a thousand feet, but not so high as to make it impossible to distinguish what it was. I did not want to believe that it was an airship, as I had regarded the previous report of one in the light of a joke. This time, however, I had no alternative. I had to believe what I saw."

"As soon as it passed over St. Mary's bay, I was somewhat surprised this morning to see that no mention was made of it in the newspapers. I would really like to have that thing found, so that I could satisfy myself as to how it worked, for a more interesting thing I have never seen."

Miss Hagstrom, who resides on Telegraph avenue, saw the same object about six weeks ago. The feature that impressed her most was the bright light she distinctly saw. On returning home, she told her brother of what she had seen, but nothing more was thought of until she read recently that a similar object had been seen in another part of the State.

Charles Hagstrom, the brother of the young lady who witnessed this queer object in the sky, is also in the employ of Piedmont and Mountain View Railways.

"When my sister first told me what she had seen I treated it as a joke," he said this evening, "and placed little credence in her story, believing she had seen nothing more mysterious than a falling star or meteor. When I heard the same thing had been seen elsewhere last week and heard again last night of what was seen in that part of the town, I am now convinced that my sister saw the same thing. I have talked to several people today who witnessed the object last night, and they are all confident that it was more nor less than a genuine airship."

W.J. Rodda and his wife, who reside at a grocery store at 2042 Broadway, were also witnesses to the strange aerial visitor.

"When I first saw it," said Mrs Rodda to-night, "we thought it was a balloon, and if it were not for the bright light I should still be inclined to think it was a peculiarly shaped balloon, but I never heard of a balloon to carry bright lights and travel at nighttime the way it did. I could not see any more myself, but others say that they most undoubtedly saw the propellers which seat the thing along. As it passed over it angled downward, and if it kept on the same direction it should have landed somewhere across the bay. I at once concluded that it was the same machine that had been seen in Sacramento. I believe that airship will be brought to perfection, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to hear that some one had already built a practical machine of that kind and was operating with it in this neighborhood."

Many of the passengers on Yost's car live out at Piedmont, and all are of the opinion that they saw a real air ship.

An Oakland artist who crosses to San Francisco every day said this evening that the airship was seen from Golden Gate Park yesterday afternoon. "I was coming home last night," he said, "in company with a friend who had been out to Golden Gate Park. He told me that he and others had seen an airship during the evening that closely resembled the picture published in THE CALL. He said that they tried to explain it by all kinds of means, but they came to the conclusion that it was the same machine. It was dusk when they saw it and the remarkable brilliancy of the lights on it attracted their attention. I shouldn't have thought any more of it, but to-day in this city I heard several people discussing it."

It is the prevalent opinion that some one in Alamedia or neighboring counties has solved the problem of flying in the air, and has been for some weeks putting his experiment to a practical test.


Some kind of Air Craft Seen by a Man near Tulare

TULARE, Cal., Nov 21. -- That airship is cavorting through the atmosphere that overhangs this vicinity. D.H. Risdon, who was working in an orchard near Tagus, four miles north of this place, sighted a mysterious object passing over at a considerable elevation yesterday afternoon.

A tramp was near at the time, and re- [...] [1]

"... These three cities [Sacramento, San Francisco and Oakland] are again visited by a "flying cigar" four days after [November 18, 1896] ..." [2]

"November 20 [1896]: In the evening, a sort of balloon with a headlight at the front, a mobile projector at the bottom and two pairs of wings at the front and at the back is observed in the sky of Oakland (California). Alleged inventors of the machine are not long in claiming paternity of it. However, several arships would keep on flying over California until the end of the year, as well as some flying lights." [3]

"One of the earliest of these was seen over Oakland on the evening of November 22, [20] 1896. The strange display began, witnesses said, with a brilliant flash of light that unfolded with an odd slowness over the bay. The aircraft then lumbered into view, 300 feet off the ground. Charles H. Ellis, a local businessman, recalled that "it hovered over us and looked like a giant bird with four pods with rotor devices on them." Another, William Rodda, said: "It was uncanny. I thought it might have been a big balloon with lights, but some intelligence was controlling the device. I think it landed in San Francisco Bay." From here, the airship seems to have gone to Sacramento, and after that, reports of sightings spread rapidly eastward." [4]

Jerome Clark indique que les passagers d'après-midi sur une un tramway de Oakland ont vu "une occurence d'apect étrange" avec un phare à l'avant et un projecteur sur le dessous. Un témoin a indiqué qu'il "a légèrement ressemblé à un ballon voyageant dans le mauvais sens ... et avec ce qui a semblé être des ailes à l'avant et à l'arrière de la lumière (du dessous) indicate that the passengers of a street car in the afternoon in Oakland saw "a strange occurrence" with a headlight with front and a projector on the lower part. A witness indicated that it "slightly resembled a balloon travelling in the bad direction... and what seemed to be wings at the front and at the back of the light (on the lower part)" (San Francisco Call, November 22). [5]


  • [1] Article in the newspaper "San Francisco Call", November 22, 1896.
  • [2] "Le mystère des OVNIS", book by Paul Mauclair, Vernoy publisher, 1979.
  • [3] Jérôme Beau,
  • [4] "Weird America - a guide to places of bystery in the United States", book by Jim Brandon, Dutton publisher, 1978.
  • [5] "The UFO Book", Book by Jerome Clark, Visible Ink Press, 1998.
Explanation:Unexplained, or newspaper invention.


Type of report:Second hand from local newspaper.
Number of witnesses:Several to many.
Number of named witnesses:3.
Witnesses occupations:1 grocer.
Type of location:Not indicated.
Coordinates:Lat. 38°31'N Long. 121°30'W
Coordinates precision:10 kilometers.
Description of "UFO":Dirigible. Dark object with powerful headlight and light at the bottom.
Description of "manoeuvers":Not indicated.
Occupants keywords:N/A
Weather:Not indicated.
Observation devices:None.
Explanation(s) at the time:An airship.

Feedback  |  Top  |  Back  |  Forward  |  Map  |  List |  Home

This page was last updated on January 11, 2006