Saturday, September 7, 2019

Aerial Lights Seen Flitting in San Fernando Valley -- September 7, 2019

San Francisco Call, 30-November-1896

There were many sightings of unidentified flying objects in the United States during the late 1890s. I wonder what people saw. John L Davie, a Populist, was Mayor of Oakland from March, 1895 to March, 1897. 

This is our ninth report from the San Francisco Call.

18-November-1895: "Claim They Saw a Flying Airship"
23-November-1896: "The Great Airship That is Startling the People of Many Cities"
24-November-1896: "The Apparition of the Air"
25-November-1896: "Mission of the Aerial Ship"
26-November-1896: "The Mystery Again Seen at the Capital"
27-November-1896: "It Is to Be Used to Destroy the City of Havana"
28-November-1896: "Attaches a Balloon to the Warship of the Air"
29-November-1896: "Viewing the Mysterious Aerial Lights From the Dome of the State Capitol"

Aerial Lights Seen Flitting
in San Fernando
Brief Review of the Remarkable
Developments of the Past
Sees No Cause for Surprise in the
Claim That Aerial Navigation
Is Possible.

It is now about ten days since the first report regarding the elusive and mysterious aerial lights came from Sacramento. Since then developments in reference to them have been rapid and sensational, but mystery still surrounds the object and the human agency that are said to be responsible for ther appearance.

At this time the history of the myth, phenomenon, airship or whatever it may prove to be, will bear a brief review. This is given that the readers of THE CALL may the more readily and intelligently grasp the present situation.

Incredulity, deep and general, greeted the first report which credited the lights to an aerial voyager. Next it was announced that George D. Collins, an attorney of this City, was the legal representative of the inventor and manipulator of the wonder of the starlit sky. This honor Mr. Collins did not disavow, but was unconquerably obdurate when it came to a question of disclosing the name of his client, the location where the marvel was put together, or the place where it found exemption from the eyes of the curious.

The knowledge that this interesting information was lodged in his legal custody caused him to be besieged by newspaper reporters, speculators, investors, cranks and a horde of curiosity-seekers. Under the pressure thus put upon his time and patience, be made numerous statements relative to the matter that was absorbing public attention and his connection therewith.

Unfortunately these statements, as published in the various newspapers, did not fit together quite as accurately as a scientifically constructed edifice should. Among other things he allowed it to be inferred that a Dr. E. H. Benjamin had aided in the construction of the invention.

Meanwhile reports continued to come to hand daily of strange and luminous visions. Men well and most favorably known in scientific, official, professional, business and educational circles claimed to have seen these nocturnal visitations of moving lights at great altitudes. None, however, appear to have secured a clear view of the body to which it was supposed these aerial lights were attached, though most observers of the phenomenon stood ready to assert that they were guided in their course athwart the horizon by human power. Sacramento, Oakland and San Jose furnished the most frequent and startling descriptions of the mystery,

Suddenly came the news that ex-Attorney-General W. H. H. Hart had been substituted for Mr. Collins as the legal custodian of the secrets and destinies of the reputed airship.

This was followed by the announcement, on the authority of General Hart, that the airship mystery was only incidental to a full-fledged and extraordinary filibustering scheme for the capture or destruction of Havana, the stronghold of the Spanish authorities in Cuba, by the use of dynamite. He further informed the startled public that the aerial warship to be used in this enterprise would be designed to carry half a ton of dynamite, in addition to its necessary appurtenances and crew. He also, over his own signature, averred that two airships were now in readiness to sail the ethereal blue, and that another, on modified and improved plans, was in course of construction. As soon as this last-mentioned craft was completed and the crew made thoroughly acquainted with its handling it was to take flight, he said, to Havana, there to aid the Cubans in their struggle for independence.

For his advocacy of the use of dynamite General Hart was taken to task by the Bulletin, which was tentatively abetted by the Examiner. This attack elicited a spirited and martial-toned rejoinder. The fear in the public mind now is that the scene of war may be transferred from the carnage-stained fields of Cuba to the unoffending columns of the local newspapers.

Shortly after the name of Dr. E. H. Benjamin appeared in connection with the mystery of the air he disappeared from his lodgings at 633 Ellis street, where he had lived for two years, leaving nothing more than a carefully locked trunk behind. Yesterday morning he called for his bag and then "flew the coop," as the detectives phrase it, leaving no trace as to his future movements, but on the contrary taking precautions to cover his tracks.

Saturday night reputable people of Alameda aver that they saw the floating lights, and an electrician states it bore all the characteristics of an electric light.

Anderson, a town about ten miles south of Redding, lays claim to the honor of a visit from the aerial nondescript on Saturday night.

Mayor Davie contributes some pertinent philosophical reflections to the literature of the topic of the day.

Dispatches from Los Angeles last night state that the strange lights have been seen in the neighborhood for the past few days.

General Hart had something further to say yesterday on the use of dynamite in war.

"In the event that an airship could be made to destroy a city," he said, "that in itself would firmly establish the peace of the civilized world. It would be realized that it would be no use to fight against such means. The very fact that such a thing could be done would bring about universal peace. The result would be that the nations would resort to arbitration in all matters of international differences. It would no longer be a matter who has the biggest cannon and who can shoot the farthest. There would be no use for navies or fortifications, and thus would be brought about absolute peace."

He also took occasion to explain that the 120-mile flight referred to in yesterday's CALL was made with the larger airship. The smaller one, he added, is capable of moving much more rapidly. By going with the atmospheric currents and using the electric power at the same time, he claimed, it can attain a speed of forty to fifty miles an hour.

One point that has been noticed is that Attorney Hart intimated several days ago that the course of the airship would be southerly and dispatches confirmatory of this were last night received from Los Angles.

The Mysterious Lights Made Their
Appearance on Saturday
Night Last.

Alameda had another spell of excitement over the airship on Saturday night, when the mysterious light that has been puzzling residents of the towns about the bay made its appearance over the southern portion of the Encinal city.

Shortly after dark the family of a gentleman living at Versailles station, while observing the heavens from the southern windows of the house saw a big white light suddenly appear high in the air about over Bay Farm Island. It seemed to flare out in a second as though something that had obscured it had suddenly been removed. All watched with breathless interest while it rose, passing rapidly westward meanwhile to a greater height, where it seemed to pause for an instant. It then turned toward the south and passed on in that direction.

It appeared about the size of a man's head when first seen, but grew smaller and smaller until it passed out of sight. The time that elapsed between the first appearance and the disappearance was about twenty minutes, and all agreed that it seemed to lurch from side to side as it went southward.

A gentleman visiting at the house, who has had considerable to do with electric light power, and who saw the aerial mystery, is convinced that it could have been nothing else than an electric light of great power.

Her Citizens Claim to Have Seen
the Aerial Mystery In Its

REDDING, Cal., Nov. 29. -- Anderson, located about ten miles south of Redding, is either in line with other cities of the coast or else her citizens have the same "night owl" proclivities, for it is current talk that the aerial monster passed over Anderson last evening about 20 minutes past 8. Her citizens claim to have seen the stranger in its flight.

It was first observed from the corner of East Center and Ferry streets by a reputable citizen noticing a peculiar light in the westward. He called the attention of others to the seeming phenomenon, and quite a crowd collected. It was generally conceded that this must he the long-talked-of airship. Its course was south and west, and the lights soon disappeared in the south. The light was large and brilliant and seemed to move in a steady course.

Mayor Davie Says Some Pointed
Things About a Current
Topic of Interest.

OAKLAND, Cal., Nov. 29. -- Mayor Davie has seen a phase of human inconsistency during the past week that has amused him. It is best told in his own words:

"Whether there be an airship cruising nightly over this neighborhood," said his Honor to a little group of friends yesterday, "is only a secondary matter with me at this time. If there be not one now, I am convinced that the problem of aerial navigation will soon be solved. What is now interesting me is the peculiarities of some newspapers and some newspaper readers.

"Early Sunday, as you all know, we find on our doorsteps small libraries which are called daily newspapers. We look through them and find that a good portion of them is occupied with the marvelous things that scientists perfect and prophesy. During the past few months this has been more the case than ever before. The newspapers publish all these things as facts, profess to believe them, and the majority of their renders accept them as truth. Being somewhat of a scientist myself, I am led to believe in many things that now appear improbable. But I have a precedent for it.

"A year ago if any one had told me that they could produce a ray of light that would photograph my watch through a wooden box would I have been called an ass for doubting him? Yet I have seen this very thing done. We have all read of the progress of aeronautics, and yet when a thousand reputable citizens declare that they have seen some kind of a machine navigating the skies, and believe their eyesight as proof that some one has done what the newspapers have told us for years is only a matter of time, most of those papers try to make us believe that they have been fooling us with their probabilities, and that their stories of scientific prophecies are all fool stories.

"Several years ago there was an old inventor named Dr. Seering who lived in this city. One day I hear a conversation between him and the late Walter Blair, who built the Piedmont cable road. Seering told Blair not to think of putting his fortune into an expensive trench in the ground as in a short time electric-cars would be running all over Oakland. Blair laughed at the idea, put his trench in the ground and put his fortune into it, and electricity was substituted on his system after the road had been sold by the Sheriff.

Dr. Seering fell dead on the street here about two years ago, but a few weeks before his death he told me that with aluminum and electricity an airship would soon be a certainty. I don't say this as proof that there is a successful airship now in use, but I will say that if I were to read in to-morrow's paper absolute proof that one has been constructed, I should not be any more surprised than Walter Blair was after he saw his mistake."

The Aerial Wonder Appears to the
People of San Fernando

LOS ANGELES, Cal., Nov. 29. -- The operator of the California airship seems to find the climatic conditions south of Tehachapi very favorable for the evolutions of his bird-like machine.

Persons whose occupations keep them up late into the night relate experiences of having seen strange and peculiar lights during the past three nights moving about near the summit of the mountains or crossing the valleys at a rapid rate.

These visitations have heretofore been witnessed by only a few persons, but to-night scores of residents of East Los Angeles saw the flitting light in the direction of Pasadena moving along the foothills toward Santa Monica.

A CALL correspondent took great pains this evening to verify the reports about the lights, and is now thoroughly satisfied that some very unusual spectacle was seen by a large number of persons, all of whom gave substantially the same description of what they saw, and there can no longer be any question but that some figure of huge outline and carrying a light has been seen, in the San Fernando Valley and along the foothills extending from the valley to Santa Monica.

Motorman Millsap of the Downey avenue car line, which runs into East Los Angeles, gave the best description among the many interviewed. He is quite sure that what he saw is an aerial machine operated by a human being.

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