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UFO Crashes:

On June 6, 1884, Holdredge's weekly newspaper, the Nebraska Nugget published a story that had occurred to some cowboys from Dundy County, of a cylindrical object that crashed on the prairie and left bits of machinery and gear wheels behind, glowing from the heat.

1884 - UFO crash in Nebraska?

A terrifying noise in the sky drew their attention to a bright object diving towards the ground before it crashed, out of sight from where the cowboys were. They had then rushed over to it and discovered numerous burning hot "machinery parts" spread out all along a track left by the mysterious flying object. The heat was so unbearable that one of the witnesses, Alf Williamson, had even fainted. At one point of the track, the sand had melted over a surface area of about 6x22 yards.

"About 35 miles northwest of Benkelman, Dundy County, on the 6th of June [1884] a very startling phenomenon occurred. It seems that John W. Ellis and three of his herdsmen and a number of other cowboys were out engaged in a round-up. They were startled by a terrific whirring noise over their heads, and turning their eyes saw a blazing body falling like a shot to earth. It struck beyond them, being hidden from view by a bank."

The article goes on to say that the rancher found "fragments of cog-wheels, and other pieces of machinery" lying on the ground. The heat was so intense that "as to scorch the grass for a long distance around each fragment and make it impossible for one to approach..." The group found the main part of the wreck and one of them "fell senseless from the gazing at it at too close quarters. His face was blistered, and his hair singed to a crisp."

"Finding it impossible to approach the mysterious visitor [the UFO] the party turned back on it's trail. When it [the UFO] first touched the earth the ground was sandy and bare of grass. The sand was fused to an unknown depth over a space about 20 feet wide by 30 feet long, and the melted stuff was still bubbling and hissing."

The next morning, a group goes back to the site. Certain pieces are now cool enough to get close to. According to The Nebraska Nugget, the metal they are made up of resembles copper but is extremely light and resistant. As for the spaceship, of cylindrical form, the men estimate its length to be about twenty meters long by about 3.5 yards wide. It is in Lincoln's Daily State Journal of June 8 that an machine of extraterrestrial origin is seen for the first time:

"Unless the facts put forward are greatly exaggerated or misrepresented, this amazing strange object must be a spaceship which comes from another a planet and had gotten too far away from it and so wandered throughout space before being pulled in by Earth's gravitation and crashing into the ground."

However, two days later, the same newspaper published another article which put an end to the hopes of the amateurs in mystery: under a sudden and driving rain, the object's diverse elements having survived the crash, had literally dissolved in the presence of a dozen of witnesses, "like a spoon of salt in water."


Forgotten afterwards, the story is rediscovered by accident in 1964. However, various investigations do not manage to find, among the region's oldest inhabitants, someone who remembers what happened or had simply heard about it when he was young. Therefore, we will probably never know if this story has an element of truth.

Former FATE editor and author Jerome Clark, FATE author W. Ritchie Benedict believe this to be a hoax, and I tend to agree. The tip-off appears to be the reference to "gear wheels," which is a typical example of the Victorian fascination with machinery.

As for this reason to believe that the story is hoaxed, I do not fully agree: either UFO observations are made with the vocabulary and the conceptual and cultural limitations of the witnesses, in this case, it is normal that they describe "wheels" and "machinery", they are indeed unable to use words such as "antigravity propulsion" or "antenna", or we have a reason to give credit to modern era UFO encounters reports: in the recent cases, there is no or few witnesses who describe UFOS as having some normal characteristics. We do no read reports with descriptions of "antennas", "jet engines", "rocket" etc. Therefore, I do not see a reason to reject the case because and only because of this mention of "gear" and "machinery".

In viewing any article from 19th century newspapers we must be aware of the abundance of hoax journalism during that period. Newspapers didn't just report news, but also provided entertainment. Much of this was in the form of books that were serialized of a number of issues. Some of it was in another form that is little regarded now: The hoax news story. Both of the above are probably examples of this almost forgotten tradition.

I see in this case good reasons to regard it as a hoax: the journalistic habit to publish hoaxes in this period, the very accommodating "dissolution" of the parts of the machine, the failure of those who tried to find witnesses.

However, I also find some interesting aspects with this case: the precision of the journalistic account, the witnesses are named, the obvious and unusual physical effects on one of the witnesses, the traces on the ground, the material debris. The fact that it is not the witnesses or the Nebraska Nugget who put forth an assumption on the extraterrestrial nature of the object, but another newspaper makes me think that if there is hoax, its logic is unfinished. By intuition - and intuition only - I have the feeling that this affair "sounds" just correct.

In any case I do not see reasons to conclude this case for now. It would require at least to:


There is no established certainty concerning the nature of this affair: it is probably a hoax, but it is not a certainty. It could indeed be an account of a crash of a flying machine, inevitably extraterrestrial due to the event's date.


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This page was last updated on November 13, 2003.