In November of 1896 residents of California watched a mysterious bright light—often described as being suspended beneath a “cigar shaped” craft of considerable size—pass slowly over their cities on several occasions, sparking a media frenzy. A few months later, what appeared to be the same craft was seen in the skies over the sparsely populated prairie states of the Midwest making its way methodically eastward and appearing to literally hundreds—if not thousands—of witnesses. Then, as suddenly as the reports began, they abruptly ended, leaving a mystery that has never been satisfactorily explained by either science or historians to this day. Was it evidence of a nascent technology, appearing a full decade before Von Zeppelin began building the first of his behemoths in Germany, or was it all merely a media hoax generated by the yellow journalism of the time in an effort to increase sales? Or, most provocative of all, was it a visitor from outer space, making an early appearance?
Each theory is examined in turn before J. Allan Danelek finally presents his provocative theory that the mysterious vessel was a terrestrial craft years ahead of its time that may have been destroyed just as it was on the verge of being publicly acknowledged. Admittedly controversial, the hypothesis leaves it for the reader to decide for themselves whether the history of aviation is complete as we know it or it it’s merely waiting for the final chapter to be written.