Fifty years before Roswell
Fifty years before Roswell made headlines about crashed UFOs, and even a few days before Aurora, Texas, did the same in April of 1897, there was a UFO crash in Kalamazoo, Michigan: on Sunday, April 11. Compared to Roswell and Aurora, it is relatively forgotten. The article reporting the crash stated, “If reports be true, the airship, that ghostlike and meteoric wanderer through realms of the western sky, which has startled and awed the mighty west for several months, is now a thing of the glorious past. The dull thud did it. It came, it was seen, and it blew up; so report says.”
The two witnesses, George W. Somers and William Chadburn, were a couple of “old soldiers” who witnessed the ship crash. The paper reports that, “They remained up that night until a late hour in attendance upon a suffering horse. Now the descriptions they give of the airship are somewhat at variance, though they agree in the assertion that the craft illuminated at both ends and moved through space with wonderful rapidity.”
Unfortunately, the reporter doesn’t bother to list these “variances” in the account, but for witnesses to both pick up on different details during a high excitement situation is not uncommon.
“The men had scarcely time for a glimpse of the flying machine when a dull explosion was heard, and the craft disappeared. They declare the report was like that of a heavy cannon, and was immediately followed by a distant sound of projectiles flying through the air.
“Wondering greatly, and sad at heart at the inglorious end of the pride of the west, the two men proceeded to the house, where they passed an excited and sleepless night. While Somers and Chadburn are the only ones who witnessed the dying agonies of the airy visitor, there are many corroboratory circumstances. Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, who live nearby, say they heard the explosion distinctly, but thought it was thunder.”
This detail calls to mind the Roswell Incident, where rancher Mack Brazel also heard a loud, thunderous boom as a crashing spacecraft exploded over a ranch in Corona, New Mexico.
Also like Roswell, there was evidence of the crash in Kalamazoo. “Then the discoveries of the morning go a long way toward establishing the veracity of the two actual observers of the explosion. In one place, two miles from Scotts, there was found a large coil of heavy wire, evidently a part of some electric appliance. At another point a propeller blade of some very light material was discovered in a partially fused condition.
“Three men engaged in shingling a barn in Comstock Township affirm that, upon resuming work on the morning following the occurrence, they found the house covered with minute fragments of steel which had in some instances penetrated the shingles and entered the boards beneath.”
Encouragingly, this is not the end of the Michigan airship saga. The next night, another distressed airship was glimpsed. From this, we may gather that perhaps the first airship did not actually crash. It may have suffered an accident but managed to stay airborne.
Philip Rife reprinted a sequel story that he found in his book “It Didn’t Start with Roswell” on page 28:
“A well-to-do farmer who resides five miles northeast of this city claims to have found the wheel of the alleged airship that passed over lower Michigan Tuesday night.
“George Parks, of Pennfield, and his wife were crossing a field when their attention was drawn to a very bright object that appeared to be about 100 feet from earth and swiftly approaching. Mr. Parks thought from its light and the humming sound it made that it was a meteor. As it passed over them, a little to their left, a part of it fell to earth and buried itself in the ground. Mrs. Parks, who was somewhat frightened, would not let her husband go near where it fell.
“The next morning, Mr. Parks and his brother, Benjamin, dug it up and found it to be a large wheel made of aluminum, about three feet in diameter and a turbine in shape.
“Mr. Parks says it is the first time he ever heard of a meteor having wheels. He will keep the wheel as a memento, and it may be seen at any time at his farm in Pennfield.”
Unfortunately, none of this tantalizing evidence exists today. Or, if it does, it is probably stored away in an old barn with its unique history forgotten.