URECAT -> Homeclick!

Cette page en françaisCliquez!

URECAT - UFO Related Entities Catalog

URECAT is a formal catalog of UFO related entities sightings reports with the goal of providing quality information for accurate studies of the topic. Additional information, corrections and reviews are welcome at patrick.gross@inbox.com, please state if you wish to be credited for your contribution or not. The main page of the URECAT catalog is here.


Brief summary of the event and follow-up:

Ufology sources, including a catalog of close encounters of the third kind, say that in the region of Lake Superior, in Wisconsin, on 29 February 1916, at 04:30, dock workers observed a "big machine 50 feet wide and 100 feet long," passing rapidly above them.

It had three lights, one at each end and one in the middle and it carried a long rope or cable below.

Three men were visibles inside.

Only one ufology source studied this case from the local press of the time. It turns out that not only there was a "wave" of reports of "lights in the sky" by night or "mysterious aeroplanes" there at that time, but also, the case had been explained: some of the witnesses had finally recovered the remains of a home-made Chinese lantern craft, used for a prank.

Just like in the modern era, just like during the 1896-197 US airship sightings flap, Chinese lanterns were sent in the air by pranksters, and often mistaken for airships or aeroplanes and now for UFOs.

The dock workers who found the remains in this case are said to have reported they saw "pilots" on-board, and thought they heard an engine noise. But of course, planes also existed then.

Basic information table:

Case number: URECAT-001437
Date of event: February 29, 1916
Earliest report of event: February 29, 1916
Delay of report: Hours
Witness reported via: Not known, or told the Press.
First alleged record by: N/A.
First certain record by: Local newspapers.
First alleged record type: N/A.
First certain record type: Local newspapers.
This file created on: March 16, 2013
This file last updated on: March 16, 2013
Country of event: USA
State/Department: Wisconsin
Type of location: City, lake.
Lighting conditions: Night, uncertain.
UFO observed: Yes
UFO arrival observed: Not reported
UFO departure observed: Yes, no, crash
UFO/Entity Relation: Certain
Witnesses numbers: 2, 5.
Witnesses ages: Not reported. Adults.
Witnesses types: Not reported. Men, dock wardens.
Photograph(s): No.
Witnesses drawing: No.
Witnesses-approved drawing: No.
Number of entities: 3
Type of entities: Humanoid or human
Entities height: Not reported
Entities outfit type: Not reported.
Entities outfit color: Not reported.
Entities skin color: Not reported.
Entities body: Not reported. Pilots, passengers.
Entities head: Not reported.
Entities eyes: Not reported.
Entities mouth: Not reported.
Entities nose: Not reported.
Entities feet: Not reported.
Entities arms: Not reported.
Entities fingers: Not reported.
Entities fingers number: Not reported.
Entities hair: Not reported.
Entities voice: None reported.
Entities actions: Were in UFO.
Entities/witness interactions: None.
Witness(es) reactions: Observed, went, investigated crash.
Witness(es) feelings: Not reported.
Witness(es) interpretation: Mysterious airplane, possibly enemy bomber.
Explanation category: Chinese lanterns, maybe also planes.
Explanation certainty: High.





Duluth, Minn., Feb. 26 - The mysterious biplane which circled over Superior, Wis., elevators holding grain to be shipped to England, France and Russia for nearly an hour and a half today, and then disappeared in the direction of the United States Steel plant, west of Duluth, was being sought tonight by Superior and Duluth people.

Half a dozen employes of the Great Northern railway working in the shops near Allouez, described the aeroplane at length.

Several nights ago people in this city claimed to have seen moving lights in the sky and heard the explosions of a motor. There is no aeroplane known to be owned or operated in this district or on this side of the Canadian line.

One theory here is that these flights may be the operations of some amateur aviator who is trying out his machine, but who he is or where he is from, is not known here. But that an aeroplane flew over St. Louis Bay early today has been vouched for by many people.


Aeroplane Over Lakes

Authorities Puzzled at Mysterious Craft Seen Above Superior

DULUTH, Minn., March 1. –- Following reports that the mysterious aeroplane that has been hovering over Duluth and Superior was again seen Tuesday night [February 29], Commissioner Silberstein, head of the Duluth Safety Division announced that instructions will be given the police to be on the lookout for the air machine.

That an aeroplane really is flying over the American head of the lakes during the early hours of the morning is admitted by police here and in Superior.

Three men were aboard the big plane when it was seen over Superior.



Duluth, Minn., March 1. - With the capture of a toy balloon carrying three lights, Duluth's worry over being bombed from the air became less severe today. There's a faint chuckle running through the city today because it is thought a gigantic hoax has been worked.

It was learned a shipment of toy balloons was sent to Iron River, Wis., probably accounting for the sighting of aeroplanes over Ashland's munition plants. There are still several who still insist they heard the purring of the aeroplane's engines they originally reported over the city.


Superior Still Claims to Have Seen Aeroplane

SUPERIOR, Wis., March 3. –- Employees at the Great Northern Ore docks and at the Carnegie coal dock on Thursday continued to insist that they had really seen an aeroplane and many Superior residents are unwilling to believe that toy balloons explain the mysterious object seen soaring over the city. They called attention to the fact that the machine disappeared in the west. According to official records of the weather department, this would have been impossible had the object been a toy balloon, as the wind was from that direction and blowing a stiff gale, too.

[Ref. tp1:] T. PETER PARK:


by T. Peter Park

Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota, sister cities on opposite sides of the St. Louis River at Lake Superior's western tip, were gripped by a now almost forgotten UFO wave in February, 1916. Duluth and Superior citizens reported mysterious lights and "aeroplanes" in the sky, on one occasion seeing three "men" aboard the machine. It was in the middle of World War I, and while the United States was still neutral, the mysterious "aeroplanes" inspired fears of bombing. Back in 1916, very few people thought about extraterrestrial visitors, so strange aerial lights and contraptions were ascribed to secretive inventors or to foreign spies or bombers. Finally, in a curious anticipation of the Air Force's response to Roswell some 31 years later, the mystery was "solved" when a couple of Duluth watchmen found the remnants of a crashed home-made toy balloon, "proving" the lights and "aeroplanes" to have been a practical joke by pranksters perpetrating a hoax.

In Jerome Clark's Spring 2000 Anomalist article "From Mermaids to Little Gray Men," I saw a very brief reference to the "first credible-sounding CE3 from an American newspaper," published "in a Superior, Wisconsin, paper on February 29, 1916, during a local UFO wave." According to Clark's summary of the case, dock workers on Lake Superior around 4:30 A.M. that morning observed the passage of a large flying craft in which three "men" were clearly visible. As far as Clark knew, this was "the only report of UFO occupants to be published in the American press between 1897 and 1947, when the UFO age began" (Jerome Clark, "From Mermaids to Little Gray Men: The Prehistory of the UFO Abduction Phenomenon," The Anomalist, No. 8, Spring 2000, p. 19).

The 1916 Superior sightings have not so far been mentioned in any UFO or Fortean book or website, and a quite thorough search of the UFO literature and databases by Thomas M. Olsen, President of the UFO Information Retrieval Center in Tucson, Arizona indicated no references to the case (e-mail Thomas M. Olsen to T. Peter Park, October 18, 2003). However, I have now found some original newspaper reports of the 1916 Lake Superior UFO wave after some inquiries to Duluth and Superior newspapers and libraries. Julie Leving of the Duluth Public Library has sent me photostats of "aeroplane" stories from the Superior Telegram, February 29, 1916, and from the Duluth News Tribune, March 1 and March 2, 1916.The February 29 Superior Telegram story, "Mysterious Aeroplane Continues Nocturnal Trips Over Superior," is of course the article cited by Jerome Clark. The Duluth News Tribune stories, "Sky Rover Is Captured at Ore Dock" (March 1) and "Air Mystery Fully Solved" (March 2) are devoted to the Roswell-style "solution" of the mystery as a crashed home-made toy hot-air balloon found by two Duluth watchmen, but mention a whole wave of sightings of mysterious aerial lights and contraptions by Duluth and Superior residents during the previous week.

The February 29 Superior Telegram piece began by describing that morning's Superior waterfront sightings of a huge "aeroplane" with three "men" aboard. It continued with brief summaries of aerial light and machine sightings over Duluth and Superior the previous several nights, mentioning the wartime bombing fears inspired by the mysterious overflights. A quote by one February 29 waterfront witness about his previous skepticism about "aeroplane" reports from Allouez in eastern Wisconsin and elsewhere suggests that the mystery craft may have been seen over a large area of the western Great Lakes states in the previous few days or couple of weeks--unless the Allouez referred to Allouez Bay, an alternate name for Superior Bay. In any case, the Telegram makes it quite clear that the early morning dockside sighting was not an isolated incident, but rather the most spectacular incident in a whole wave of puzzling sightings.

Five watchmen at the Globe Elevators, the Great Northern Elevator, and the Carnegie Coal Dock on Superior's St. Louis River waterfront saw an "aeroplane" with 3 lights carrying 3 passengers fly from east to west over the docks and elevators between 4:30 and 4:45 AM on the morning of Tuesday, February 29, 1916. The witnesses heard "roaring" or "purring" engine noises coming from the sky, and saw a big "aeroplane" with 3 lights and 3 "men" aboard, at a height of 600 to 1,000 feet in the air, trailing a long rope or cable with a large block or object at the end, heading up the St. Louis River and vanishing to the west. John Gustavson, watchman at the Carnegie Coal Dock, estimated its altitude at 1,000 feet and added that he had thought news reports of people seeing an "aeroplane" at Allouez (Allouez, Wisconsin? Alloez Bay?--TPP) and other places were a "joke," until he himself saw the craft at 4:35 that morning. John Tullyson, head watchman at Globe Elevators, described the "aeroplane" as "flying along very fast" with a "roaring noise" about 4:30, and estimated altitude at about 600 feet. He described it as 50 feet wide and 100 feet long, with 3 lights, one at each end and one in the middle. He saw one of the 3 "men" sitting near the front of the machine, "probably running it,: the other two a little behind him and seemingly "looking around." Two other Globe Elevator night watchmen did not see the machine which had disappeared behind an elevator, but heard its engine noise. A night watchman at the Great Northern Elevator who wished to remain anonymous heard a "purring noise in the sky" about 4:30 or 4:45 and saw an "aeroplane" passing over to the west, with 3 lights "of a sort of reddish color."

Several people in Superior and Duluth had seen "aeroplanes" or moving lights in the sky the previous evening and night, February 28th, according to the Telegram. About 8:30 on Broadway in Superior, Telegram employees George Sims and O.A. Bergstrom, and local tailor Richard Powers, saw a moving light in the western sky, moving up and down, back and forth. "It was cloudy in the west and for that reason it could not have been a star that they saw," they told the Telegram. William Berg at the Superior Floral Company also saw the light moving about in the west around the same time. Northern Pacific Railroad fireman Eugene Bolanger and some other train crewmen at the South End switching yards saw a light moving about in the west that night, apparently over the steel plant. .In Duluth, L.K. Johnson called the Duluth police after midnight that night to declare that he, his wife, and his mother-in- law had watched two "aeroplanes" with red lights circle over Duluth, over their own house, toward Superior, over Superior's coal and grain elevators, and finally out west. "Can't something be done?," demanded Johnson, adding "We are afraid of bombs." At least three other Duluth residents telephoned the police that night to report seeing the machine, "each demanding that the flights be stopped, and each expressing fear of bombs." Already the previous Saturday night, February 26th, Superiorite Paul Domsch had seen moving lights over the Great Northern's Belknap Street shops and West End freight yards, through the window of his Truax Block shop. "The lights moved around and at one time seemed to be right over the roundhouse," Domsch told the Telegram on the 29th. "That is all I have seen of anything that might be an aeroplane."

The whole epidemic of mysterious light and aircraft sightings had been mass hysteria set off by a few pranks, the Duluth News Tribune crowed on March 1 and again on March 2 after Duluth ore dock watchmen John Dormedy and Albert Dalduc found fragments of a crashed home-made hot air balloon. If you "have seen the mysterious aeroplane," the News Tribune began by sarcastically reminding its readers on March 1, then "maybe you have seen the Cardiff Giant," as "lots of people saw it years ago," referring to a notorious 19th century hoax. "What probably will be handed down in the annals of the Head of the Lakes as the Great Aeroplane Mystery of 1916," the News Tribune proclaimed the next day, had been "cleaned up" by Dormedy and Dalduc. However, the March 2 News Tribune also ran a short sidebar, "Floating Light Is Seen Above Duluth," describing a sighting shortly before midnight the previous night of a soundless aerial craft with a green light floating high in the sky slightly to the west of the city by Duluth pedestrians for several minutes before it either burned away or floated out of sight.

A bit more seriously after its Cardiff Giant allusion, the March 1 News Tribune noted that "hundreds of people" had seen "phantom flyers a-flitting over Duluth and Superior" within a week, and "wondered and worried about them." As with post-1947 UFO waves, "numerous theories" had been "advanced to explain these sky visitors" over 1916 Lake Superior. "Some thought an attack on the Duluth steel plant was contemplated," wile others were "convinced that the powder plant at Barksdale, Wis., was to be bombed."One "old timer" even suggested geese flying north from the Gulf coast, who had rested in Akansas and got their feet smeared in the phosphorus beds there, so that they were now "wheeling their way north with their feet just like a pair of lamps," in an interesting anticipation of one 1951 "Lubbock Lights" explanation blaming plovers! Other "old timers," however, scoffed at the suggestion, declaring it was "too early for northern flights." The previous night (February 29), indeed, Duluth's Police Operator Ralph Lutz received 27 calls about the mysterious aerial craft, variously bearing red, white, or green lights, some in groups of two or three flying machines, hovering and circling over Duluth and its vicinity, "threatening to scatter destruction and disaster." In West Duluth, many local residents saw a "rover"come in from the northwest around 8:30, hover over a power plant for half an hour, and disappear to the east, returning around 9:30 for its second visit. The West Duluthians agreed that the "wanderer" carried three lights, one green, one red, and one bright white light.

That same night, however, John Dormedy and Albert Dalduc, night watchmen at Duluth's Missabe ore dock, had seen fragments of one of the flying machines, a homemade toy balloon, drop on the end of the dock. For over a week, since the "first rumors of the phantom sky-riders started to make their rounds," the News Tribune (March 1) quoted Dormedy, he and Dalduc had been watching the mysterious yellow lights leaving the earth somewhere on the Wisconsin shore every night, rising gradually, and disappearing in one direction or another. Around 10:30 on the night of February 29, they closely watched one of the "celestial wanderers" start on its "celestial cruise" and disappear toward the west. Soon they saw a second light leave the ground at the same point where they had seen the first one. However, instead of bearing westward, it came straight across the bay toward Dormedy and Balduc. They could hear the roar of the engine exhausts and the excited shouts of the passengers. "Something was going wrong," Dormedy told the News Tribune. A "sheet of flame" surrounded the wildly circling and swooping machine, which landed on the end of the dock, 100 yards from Dormedy and Dalduc. "Scared badly," the watchmen rushed out to "pick up the maimed and mangled victims, no matter what their nationality might be," and take them to the hospital. However, "there was nothing but the machine left." The "aviators" were "gone completely." Dormedy and Dalduc found only "a cute little wire frame, a few fragments of tissue paper, and some charred excelsior," the remnants of "a toy balloon, a big one...but a tissue paper one just the same." It "brought back memories of the last Fourth of July celebration," Dormedy remarked.

When Superior was informed that night of Dormedy and Dalduc's solution of the mystery at the Duluth ore dock, people immediately began tracing the balloons, and by 1 A.M. on the morning of March 1 they had succeeded, according to that day's News Tribune. A number of toy balloons had been taken from the Russell Brothers' store, and sent up from a vacant lot in the rear. It was not known how many nights the "gang" had been sending them up, but it was done before the previous night, one of them admitted. F.S. Beers, manager of the Dupont munitions factory near Washburn, was quoted as regretting that anyone would play such pranks, which were causing much trouble at his plant. "Our employees are getting letters from parents, wives, sweethearts and friends urging them to abandon their jobs and hurry home before the plant is blown up," Beers complained, so that they were "unable to do their work." Beers found it "utterly absurd" to "suppose that if a representative of a belligerent nation wished to destroy the plant, he would advertise his approach by flying night after night over the country with everyone talking about seeing his machine." Beers believed the "lights" were "nothing more or less than toy balloons." He made these statements "hours before developments proved his guess the true solution." Beers' theory was "borne out" by Hayward police chief Andrew Hanson, who saw some burning waste fall from a flying light he was watching, and "undoubtedly" considered the "falling flame" part of the "stuffing" of the balloon. "But at any rate residents of the Head of the Lakes may sleep in peace now," the News Tribune concluded. Despite "roarings of engine and lines trailing bombs, and trios of passengers," the sightings had "simmered down to less than nothing." It was "Some prank, neighbors!"

"Air Mystery Fully Solved: Dock Watchmen Recover Remnants of Big Paper Balloon From Ice," was the next day's News Tribune headline. The "Great Aeroplane Mystery of 1916" had been "cleaned up to the last remnant" the previous afternoon (March 1) by Dormedy and Dalduc, the dock watchmen "who blew the first hole in the aeroplane scare." Late on the afternoon of March 1st, they had ventured out on the ice of the channel opposite end of the dock, and brought in the main framework of the balloon, fragments of which had landed on their dock on Tuesday night, February 29th. "The red and green lights are explained," the article remarked. The framework of the balloon was about 5 feet high, 3 feet wide at the top, and constructed of heavy wire. The paper that had evidently covered the balloon was completely burned off. A small red lantern was suspended by a thin wire 8 feet from the bottom of the framework. The glass globe was not even broken by the fall, though the framework was slightly bent. The "contrivance," the News Tribune continued, "hangs in the dock office and the watchman cannot pass it without giving vent to a hearty laugh."

Even after the "solution" was published in the previous day's News Tribune, the article remarked, there had still been "those who maintained it couldn't have been a balloon because it sported a red or green light." Now, however, "gone absolutely are the ‘war-scare' advocators," while "happy indeed are the scoffers and the ‘I told you so's.'" Few now would "even admit they ever believed an aeroplane or aeroplanes were skylarking around Duluth and Superior." They "knew they were balloons all the time." Dormedy and Dalduc were quoted as declaring the balloon was a type not to be found in stores, but home-manufactured to be sturdy and withstand buffeting by the elements. They believed it was made and sent up as a prank by watchmen employed on some of the boats wintering in the harbor.

The New Tribune also quoted a local storekeeper, R.A. Mannheim, who had sent up two balloons on February 17th to amuse his boys. Further investigation revealed the fact that, "about a week ago" (i.e., around February 24th), a resident of Iron River, Wisconsin had purchased three balloons in Superior and taken them away with him. However, the "watchmen who saw an aeroplane with three passengers, and distinctly heard the roar of the engine" on February 29th were "still sticking to the story," according to the News Tribune. "Maybe after all, there is an aeroplane hanging around," the article concluded, "but it is in an off season."


Albert Rosales indicates that in Lake Superior area, Wisconsin, on February 29, 1916, at 04:30 a.m., "Dock workers observed what one called a "big machine 50 feet wide and 100 feet long," pass rapidly overhead. It had three lights, one on each end, and one in the middle and carried a long rope or cable trailing below. Three men were visible inside of it."

Albert Rosales indicates that the source is "Jerome Clark, The Unexplained".

[Ref. jb1:] JEROME BEAU:


Mar 29

at night/first hours in the morning In Duluth (Minessota) and Superior (Wisconsin), observation of a mysterious big "aeroplane" with 3 men on board flying over the city.

The source is indicated as "'Aeroplane Over Lakes', Light of San Antonio (Texas), Wednesday Mars 1, 1916".

[Ref. ud1:] "UFODNA" WEBSITE:

The website indicates that on 29 February 1916 at 04:30 in "Superior, Wisconsin, USA", the "Dock Workers incident" occurred:

"In Superior, Wisconsin at 4:30 a.m. several dock workers observed the passage of a large flying machine in which three men were clearly visible. Dock workers observed passage of large flying machine in which three "men" were clearly visible. An object was observed. Occupants of the craft were seen. One object was observed by several male witnesses at a lake. Three humanoids were seen."

The source is indicated as "Anomalist, The Anomalist".

[Ref. js1:] JEAN SIDER:

The author indicates that on February 29, 1916 at 04:30 a.m., at the Lake Superior, Wisconsin, United States, workers of the floating docks on the lake reported having seen what they described as "a big machine fifty feet wide and one hundred feet long," which quickly passed above their heads. The thing had three lights, one at each end and a third in the middle at the end of a long rope or cable which hangs below. Three men were distinguished on board.

He indicates as source "Clark 2, p. 26".

He adds that Jerome Clark did not specify where he got the report from, "an inexcusable mistake for a researcher of his reputation."

Points to consider:

In this "mini-wave" in Duluth and Superior, it should be noted that there is nothing "alien", everything is "terrestrial", the "pilots", the "engine noise" and "lights", everything can be explained by conventional causes, there is no "strangeness" special, no "impossible maneuvers" not unknown "shape", no "little occupants" in space suits, nothing like that.

It is clear that home-made Chinese lanterns, and probably commercial ones (those that shops sold for parties, like nowadays) are one indisputable explanation, perfectly valid since the very people who had seen the "mysterious airplane" are those who find it was a Chinese lantern as it eventually fell and they found the debris.

On the other hand, Chinese lanterns obviously have nor pilots neither engines.

But nothing forbids that on one or the other occasion, a plane was seen!

We are in 1916, planes exist and fly in the USA.

One of the newspaper source claimed there were no known planes in the area, though admitting an amateur pilot could be flying there. Actually, on February 26, 1913 already, pilot Oliver Andre Rosto flew his "Duluth One" plane, taking off from the ice on the lake. Near the immediate vicinity of Third Avenue East, pilot Rosto "rose like one of the early spring birds. He went for a quarter of a mile and the flying was fine, if rather cold," said the Duluth Herald on February 27, 1913. During the winter of 1913, he successfully made 12 flights from skis off the frozen Duluth harbor and Lake Superior, as there were no airports. His monoplane reached a speed of 40 mph and a height of 100 feet.

Monoplan Rosto de 1909.

Curtiss 1916 plane.

Curtiss bomber plane in 1916.

New York Times plane in 1916.

Modern Chinese lantern.

As it happens in such "waves", when an original report is publicized in the press, people who read about it would sometimes also report things they saw and could not explain, or in this case interpreted as possibly the "mysterious aeroplane" mentioned in the Press. And here, what they may have seen goes to real airplanes to celestial bodies such as Venus and of course Chinese lanterns.

List of issues:

Id: Topic: Severity: Date noted: Raised by: Noted by: Description: Proposal: Status:


Chinese lanterns, maybe also planes.

Sources references:

* = Source I checked.
? = Source I am told about but could not check yet. Help appreciated.

Document history:


Main Author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editor: Patrick Gross

Changes history

Version: Created/Changed By: Date: Change Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross March 16, 2013 Creation, [sp1], [sa1], [sp2], [jn1], [tp1], [ar1], [jb1], [ud1], [js1].
1.0 Patrick Gross March 16, 2013 First published.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict

 Feedback  |  Top  |  Back  |  Forward  |  Map  |  List |  Home
This page was last updated on March 16, 2013