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History: ‘The One Before Roswell, March 26, 1880, Galisteo, New Mexico,’ part II

Submitted Photo Typical Japanese tea chests of the 19th century.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Noe Torres

and John LeMay

The following is the continuation of an excerpt from an upcoming book by Noe Torres and John LeMay, titled “The Real Cowboys and Aliens: Old West UFOs.” Part I one the story was published on Dec. 1.

Continuing their description of the ship, the article says, “The balloon was monstrous in size, and the car as near as could be judged, contained 8 or 10 persons. Another peculiar feature of the air machine was that the occupants could evidently sail at any height they choose, as soon after passing the junction, it assumed a great height and moved off very rapidly toward the east.”

As the witnesses watched the airship move rapidly closer, the voices they had heard earlier became more distinct, and they began hearing what sounded like persons shouting very loudly to attract the attention of others. “The party seemed to be enjoying themselves as laughter and occasionally screams of mirth were heard.” But, the strange thing about what they heard was that the language was totally unknown to any of the eyewitnesses.

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As the airship passed over the men and across the small town of Galisteo, several objects fell out of it or were thrown to the ground below. One of the fallen objects was “a magnificent flower with a slip of exceedingly fine silk-like paper, on which were some characters strongly resembling those on Japanese tea chests.”

Another item that fell from the sky was a cup “of very peculiar workmanship, entirely different to anything used in this country.” The cup, along with the flower, were kept by the train station operator who intended to put them on display for anyone who desired to see them.

However, on the following evening — March 27 — a passing collector of curiosities noticed the display of artifacts that fell from the airship and “offered such a sum of money for them that it could not be refused, and he became the possessor of them.” In taking ownership of the two items, the proud collector gave his opinion that the airship must have come from Asia or Japan, presumably because of the foreign-looking characters written on the silk paper found along with the flower.

Thus came to a close the strange episode of an airship that flew over Galisteo, New Mexico, on Friday, March 26, 1880, 17 years before mysterious airships became a common sight all over the United States and 67 years before another airship crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in what would become the world’s best known UFO case.

What are some of the similarities between the two cases, one might ask? The first is geography, as they occurred within 100 miles of each other. The second is that strange artifacts were found in both cases and some of the artifacts contained a strange writing — characters — that nobody could decipher. Third, the artifacts recovered both at Roswell and in Galisteo were taken away and never seen again. Fourth, both the Galisteo object and the Roswell UFO were generally moving from west to east when they were spotted. And, fifth, the construction of both objects was described as “entirely different to anything of the kind ever seen.”

So clearly, Galisteo’s UFO incident was New Mexico’s first big brush with the whole milieu of UFOs and aliens that later came to define the state so dramatically after the Roswell UFO crash of 1947. It started in Galisteo, and if the town had played its cards right, the state’s big UFO museum might have been established there, instead of 200 miles to the south, in Roswell.

The first volume, “The Real Cowboys and Aliens: Early American UFOs” is available online or at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Museum and Archives Facilities located at 200 N. Lea Ave. and 208 N. Lea Ave.


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