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UFOs in the daily Press:

Airship stories in the 1897 US Press:

This article was published in the daily newspaper The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, April 25, 1897.

Warning: the airship stories must not be taken at face value as "UFO sightings." Evaluation of such stories is under way here.

"Aeribarque"
That's Its Official Name
A Lancaster Gentleman Saw the Airship
And Had a Talk With Its Chief Engineer
Gave Him an Enquirer To Cheer Him on His Way
And Also Closely Inspected the Weird Machine
Details of a Stranger Story Than That Related of the Flying Horse in Arabian Nights

Special Dispatch to The Enquirer

Lancaster, Ohio, April 24 - A gentleman who is prominent in this city and well known throughout the state, but who positively declines to permit the use of his name, lest his friends should accuse him of "hitting the pipe," stated to The Enquirer correspondent today that he had not only seen the much bruited airship, but had pretty thoroughly inspected it, as well as conversed with one of its occupants.

His story, which he told in all seriousness, is a remarkable one, and argues either that he saw what he describes or possesses an imagination which ought to insure anyone a fortune.

"A few evenings since," said he, "I was on my way home between Baltimore, in the northeastern part of the county, and this city. It was between 8 and 9 o'clock. My horse, a very quiet one, suddenly exhibited signs of both fear and distress, and became greatly excited. On looking about for some explanation of the animal's unusual conduct, I saw slowly descending into a field near by an object which looked as large or larger than a full-grown elephant. Fore and aft it carried brilliant white lights, which illuminated the country for considerable distance like a pair of electric globes

"By this time I had become as badly rattled as my horse, and from the whirring, hissing noise of the descending object, I expected to hear a terrible crash when it struck the ground.

You can judge of my further surprise when I saw it come to the ground not a hundred yards distant without concussion or even a jar. In the scintillating lights, which still continued as brilliant as when I first noticed them, I saw the forms of two men, and heard them conversing in an unknown language.

"To my startled and abnormally enlarged vision, the aerial visitor, as it stood in the open field, looked as large as a barn. My first impulse was to whip up my horse, which had quieted down somewhat, and get out of the neighborhood. On further reflection, however, I concluded not to do so. Instead, I drove to a near turn in the road beyond a thick growth of underbrush where, out of sight of the machine, I securely tethered my horse, climbed the fence and went back to reconnoiter.

"I must confess that it was with considerable trepidation I approached the thing, and was soon face to face with the airship and its occupants, and in conversation with them.

One of them was clearly a foreigner, and it struck me that he was a Japanese, or belonged to some other Oriental race.

"He was apparently willing to talk, but his language was unintelligible to me. The other was an American, or, if not, then an Englishman, judging from his accent and pronunciation. He talked excellent English at all events, and evidently explained to his companion that I could not understand him. At all events the foreigner addressed me no further, but from time to time asked the other a question and once or twice seemed highly amused at his answers.

"The American talked freely enough, but gave me no real information. He wanted to know just where they were, and what the people and newspapers were saying about the object which stood before me. Happening to have a copy of The Enquirer containing several dispatches concerning the airship in my pocket, I gave it to him to read at his leisure. He was profuse in his thanks, and said that newspapers had been rather a scare article for some time, and that he was rather anxious to see what they said about it.

"'But why are you calling around in this mysterious way?' I inquired. 'Why don't you let the world know what you are doing?'

"'That's easily explained. We have discovered the principle, but there are, doubtless, many applications of it. If we were to appear in public, even after patenting our principle and discovery, with the appliances we now have, it would only be a little while until other men would probably discover better forms of application, and we would be compelled to divide the benefits of our discovery. We are on a tedious voyage of experimentation, and have been for more than six months. We often mingle with the world, but our discovery is hidden away, as it can be in a small compass, and no one suspects who or what we are. We pass as tourists among our fellow-men.

"'We are constantly making improvements. As soon as one is worked out we descend in some secluded sport, go to a town or city, and have the necessary mechanism made from drawings, adjust it and go on with further tests and experiments. At these times we are probably looked on as harmless cranks trying to invent perpetual motion. Six months hence we will probably have reached the limit of possible improvement. Then we will patent it in every country, and then in every manufacturing center they will turn out the aeribarque, which will revolutionize the world.'

"'Do you call this concern an aeribarque?"

"'That is what we call it. The name is exactly descriptive of the object.'

"'Will you permit me to inspect it?'

He turned to his companion, and after a short consultation, replied:

"'In a general way only. But I will explain nothing to you. If you can reason out how it ascends and descends, or is propelled, well and good, but I shall answer no questions. Look it over and draw your own conclusions.'

"The contrivance itself was a strange piece of mechanism, and stood from 12 to 15 feet high. The lower half, or car, was an oblong square 8 by 5 feet. The upper half, an elongated globe, apparently 8 feet at its greatest diameter, gradually diminished and terminating in rounded points, its extreme length being 15 or 18 feet. The frame appeared to be a wire net work, only the wires were of an immense size - an inch in diameter on the bottom and sides of the car, growing smaller as they ascended, until at the top of the elongated globe they were not more than a quarter of an inch.

"They were joined together at close intervals and in both directions across the bottom, and ran up perpendicularly 5 or 6 feet, then curved inward till they nearly met. Then outward, upward and over till they formed the complete circle of the outer frame of the elongated globe or 'cigar shaped' apparatus spoken of in the papers. Inside of this upper network was a bag or a balloon, just fitting it and partially inflated.

"A very little testing convinced me that the supposed wires were tubular contrivances, composed either of steel or aluminum or some new metal, clearly of great strength and exceeding lightness. A series of these tubes ran horizontally around the lower part of the car at close intervals, joined into the upright tubes to a height of three feet. They were safety or guard rails. At the forward end the uprights were turned abruptly right and left at the height of 18 inches, and then brought together near the upper half, forming an entrance and exit to the car something like two feet wide. At this end the guard rail came no higher than the abrupt angle of the uprights, while at the other end they were uniform with the sides. At every point of contact these tubular wires were inserted into each other, while one nearly an inch in diameter, coming up independently from below, was inserted into the lower part of the balloon centrally.

"Thrown on the bottom of the car were several Oriental rugs, while all sorts of luggage, blankets, coats, canned goods and the like were stowed away at convenient points, or suspended overhead. Near the rear end of the car was a small box-like table on the top of which were a number of knobs or buttons, very like the appliances we see in electrical establishments.

"As I was not permitted to enter the car, nor even thrust my hand inside, I could only guess as to the purpose of this table. It seemed clear, however, that it was the motor or controlling principle of the aeribarque.

"The gentleman with whom I had been conversing seated himself at the table and said:

"'Take hold of the cross bars and lift the aeribarque or turn it over, if you can.'

"I made the attempt but failed.

"'You are weak and excited. Calm yourself an try again when I tell you.'

"He touched one of the points on the table, and there was a hissing sound like escaping steam or compressed air. He touched another, and a tremor ran through every part of the machine, and the balloon expanded perceptibly.

"'Now try it again.'

"I grasped the cross bars and threw all my strength into the effort, but this time machine, men and baggage didn't seem to weigh a pound. With one hand I could lift it above my head. I begged him to tell me how the attraction of gravitation had been overcome, but he paid no heed to me, except to say:

"'Wait till the proper time comes.'

"He touched a third button and the lights disappeared, a fourth and they reappeared, one vivid green, the other white: then he alternated them with the other colors. In the meantime, I discovered that he was changing the temperature of the tubular frame from temperate to extreme cold and then to 200-degrees or above.

"Just below the points of the elongated globe, I had noticed what looked like two folded window shades of different sizes or shapes depending from metallic projections. He touched two buttons at once. The forward one unfolded into a rudder, the rear one into a fan-like propeller.

"'Explain to me, my dear sir,' I said, 'these remarkable mysteries.'

"'Wait a moment.'

He touched a series of buttons in rapid succession. There was the hiss of escaping air: the tremor through every line of the frame work; the balloon filled with a hissing sound till it bulged through the metallic network, and the aeribarque rose like a startled bird.

"'Good night!'

"This was called down from a height of a thousand feet: the propeller expanded: the rudder dropped into place and swung around, changing the ship's course at an acute angle, instantly, and more quickly than it takes to tell it it had disappeared in the direction of Newark.

"And what conclusion do you draw?" asked The Enquirer man.

"Why, sir, some one has got on the inside of nature at last.

Don't you know that this thing is constructed on the principle of a bird, in every essential? The frame of a bird is a combination of light, strong tubes or bones and quills. The strongest and longest flyers have the largest proportionate bones and quills.

"We know, as a general principle, that a bird is capable of expelling all in the atmospheric air from its bones and quills, or tubes, and supplying, in some unknown way, a volatile substance.

"This overcomes the attraction of gravitation, and enables it to rise in the air with the aid of its wings, and fly away at will.

"When it wants to descend it ballasts with the atmospheric air the tubes from which it lately excluded it. Kill a bird instantly on the wing and it drops perpendicularly, if the wind is not blowing. Wound it seriously and it falls at an angle. In one instance the attraction of gravitation becomes ascendant instantly - in the other gradually, hence the angling float.

"I am convinced that this airship not only embraces all the principles of the flight of birds, but another more wonderful and incomprehensible. The expulsion of the air from the tubular framework, supplying its place with some volatile substance: the expansion of the balloon compartment, with probably the same substance, and the lifting factor: the light, the heat, and the motive power for the machinery, I am convinced all come from the same source, and are produced and modified at will.

"Whether this be electricity or some more subtle and powerful principle in nature, I have no idea. But seeing what I did leaves not a single doubt in my mind as to the feasibility as well as the reality of the airship. It is really less improbable than the telephone and Edison's discoveries were a score of years ago. The men I saw have evidently unlocked one of nature's profoundest secrets.

W.A.T.

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