UFO Patrol

The years 1879 and 1880 partook of the general spiciness of the era of the comets. The astronomical profession did not work up any major fracases, but then you cannot have a riot every year. However, things did happen.

There was the house whose roof suddenly took its departure on Easter Sunday of 1879 – a slate roof. It jumped up into the air suddenly and then fell back on to the ground. Beyond ten meters from the house nothing was disturbed. There wasn’t the least bit of wind. This was officially recorded in the French science magazine, La Nature 1879. There are other cases of roofs taking off without provocation. An American case was reportedly similar.

On July 10, 1880, the conservative Scientific American broke its editorial policy of reticence regarding abnormal events and noted that some men were working in a field in Ontario when they saw stones shooting upward – without the aid of a whirlwind or any other obvious cause. Something seemed to be disturbing gravity.

On April 9, 1879, slag was reported to fall in the city of Chicago.

There were many falls of ice in 1879 – some at Richmond England, was in chunks five inches long.

Bright spots or lights continued to be seen on the moon in 1879-80, and the disturbances on the surface of Jupiter were so noteworthy as to cause comment in Nature. There were five comets visible in 1879 and six in 1880, although not all were visible to the naked eye. A green thunderbolt was reported in the Scientific American, and we are thereby reminded of the spate of green thunderbolts over New Mexico during the past three or four years.

The sako Banjo meteorite, which fell in Eastern Europe in the quite incredibly active years of 1879 – 80, was a strange and startling new kind of meteoric stone, and there were darkness, sun darkening, and abnormally cold winter weather.
The Great Red Spot continued to evolve and to maintain its merciless drive around the great globe of that planet. Because of its peculiar shape and movement, one could almost imagine a great interstellar space ship landing and floating on Jupiter’s surface. Its size makes this a debatable hypothesis.

Would he believe it when he sees it?

But there was one astronomical event, which escaped general notice by being in the freak class. Only in retrospect is its significance revealed, for it was one of those dogs which seldom get reported except by naïve folk who think that what they see is what they see. There have been several reports of misty, fiery or cometary objects, which exhibited unusual motion. Often times, our attention is only attracted to them by unusually rapid movement, but even this has some statistical value and may signify the proximity of the object to earth. Such a report was telegraphed by Russian Astronomers in the early 1920’s and was said to be moving ten degrees per hour. However, some alert observers have been acute enough to note motion which was too erratic to partake of the normal characteristics of meteoric or cometary activity, and only now are we awakening to the possibility that such erratic movement may signify direction and control by intelligence.

One of the most outstanding examples of erratic celestial movement was that noted by observer Henry Harrison, of Jersey City, New Jersey, on the night of April 12 and 13, 1879. He took careful settings and times on an object whose motion is a revelation. Harrison reported this event to the Naval Observatory at Washington by telegram, but the notice was disregarded by Director Hall, with the proper professional aplomb; for verily it was without doubt an erratic on the periphery of the consummately damned.

Getting no response from the fount of authority, Harrison reported his discovery to the New York Tribune in a letter, and this was reproduced in the Scientific American May 10, 1879. It is to the everlasting credit of the very conservative editors that they could and did recognize this item, partially at least, for its true worth. After publication in the Scientific American, some of the more alert astronomers bedeviled Harrison for further details, while berating him for sloppy scientific reporting. Harrison, an astronomer of militantly unpretentious character, was depressed by the critics and embittered by the snubbing he received from the inner sanctum of the Naval Observatory.


But he responded with a letter under the date may 20, 1879. After some sarcastic remarks anent people who always see wonders in everything celestial, he says in part:

…I did not think that the above phenomenon was anything but of a meteoric nature…and it would have been XXXXXXX to have made a great outcry. Messages sent to Professor Hall were urged by a personal friend, whom I called into the observatory to see the object; otherwise it would this day only be known to my personal friends. The coolness with which my dispatch was received at the Washington Observatory, after great inconveniences in sending it, has compelled me to regret any publicity on my part. The presumption that I found Brorsen’s comet ought to have been abandoned immediately from the fact that Brorsen’s comet moved a little over a degree per day, whereas this object moved with a (variable) rapidity of two minutes of Right Ascension of one minute of time, passing the comet by about four degrees…There is one fact, however, which reconciles me to it, and that is the fact that the object was seen also by Mr. J. Spencer Devoe, on Manhattanville, New York, who published a letter to that effect.

After acknowledging indebtedness to his friend, Henry M. Parkhurst, for his interest, he gives the details of his observations:

He comments on the irregularity of motion.

Harrison concludes by hoping that Devoe will quickly publish his own observations for corroboration and confirmation, but as of the date of this writing I have not succeeded in finding any such report. The report from Devoe would be of considerable importance to the case for intelligently directed motion. Anyone reporting the reference will be making a worthwhile contribution to the Case for the UFO’s.


And unless we deny the veracity of Devoe, Harrison, and Parkhurst, or impugn their intelligence as observers – or both – there cannot possibly be any argument against manipulated objects of the misty or ethereal types in space.

With his letter to the Scientific American, Harrison sent a description and a sketch. He described it as looking like a planetary nebula, which has but slight resemblance to a comet, or any other celestial object. To us, however, there is value in his drawing. A planetary nebula is almost circular, and certainly not flat on one side. This object looked organic. We are vaguely reminded of some of the shapes of pyramids, bells, pears, etc., which have been reported for generations.


Clearly a nebulous or gaseous object, freely suspended in space, would assume a symmetrical shape and fuzzy edges. This thing did neither. Its appearance alone indicates that it was a UFO. Its motion clinches the argument. There are other similar reports in history of astronomy, but this one can be our prototype. It should be a classic, not only of observation but of how an inhabited and regimented science can pass up the most spectacular of discoveries.


It is just possible that this is the most important and revolutionary telescopic observation ever published, especially if we place as high a value on discovering and contacting a new racial intelligence as we do on finding new nebulae a few million lights years distant.

Before you get excited about that harmless little table of figures, and complain that I’m turning technical, I will give a modicum of explanation. Right Ascension (usually abbreviated RA) is the astronomer’s technical way of locating an object eastward among the stars, from an arbitrarily selected point in the sky, and corresponds to longitude on the earth’s’ surface. Declination is the distance north or south of the celestial equator, and corresponds to latitude on the earth’s surface. It really is not complicated.

We will better understand Harrison’s observation if we realize that an object hovering directly overhead will move among the stars at a rate of one minute of RA in one minute of time. Imagine yourself lying under a tree at night looking upward at the stars. As the earth turns on it axis the twigs above you move slowly eastward across the stars at exactly one minute of RA per minute of time. Harrison’s object was moving approximately three times that quickly.


These figures of Harrison’s are the very thing for which UFO protagonists have been praying. They are the scientific pay-off!

Three minutes of RA per one minute of time is much too rapid for a comet, and the object didn’t even look like a comet. Such a speed is impossibly slow for a meteor, not even a fraction of one per cent of meteoric velocity; and it certainly has less resemblance to a meteor than almost anything you could name. A comet very close to earth could move that rapidly, but a comet would not make sudden changes in direction. Under the laws of gravitation it could not.

It is important to note that during the first three hours the object did not move in declination. Hence it was not moving in a great circle, but around a parallel of declination, which in turn means that it was moving straight eastward, which, except at the equator, is impossible for uncontrolled motion – so it was directed.

But, then, it suddenly changed from one declination to another – an impossible maneuver for an uncontrolled body!

Harrison’s bell-shaped object was moving almost three times as fast as rotation of the earth would cause it to do. At first one hesitates to say that it was hovering, but a little mathematical deduction indicates an object merely drifting with currents of the upper air and at one hundred miles latitude would need to have but 2.4 miles per hour velocity over the ground, an at ten miles above New York and appearing in Dec. 37° north, it would be drifting only a quarter mile per hour and would have been but seven-tenths of a mile south of Harrson’s observing point an therefore directly over New York Harbor.

Furthermore, if the object was actually moving in a straight line, overhead, it would appear to speed up slightly when it crossed his meridian (the N-S line) and this is precisely what it did. And, assuming that it shifted its position slightly so as to pass nearly over the city, its shift of a little more than half a degree of declination would indicated height of from ten to one hundred miles.

Considered from ANY approach, this object appears to have been organic, intelligently operated and hovering over New York City!

The New York Tribune of April 26, 1879, published a letter from Mr. Devoe, dated April 17, in which he stated that he, too, had at first thought it to be a planetary nebula like one near Beta Ursa Majoris, but he was equally astonished at the rapid pace which carried it away so fast that he could not find it again after taking time out for coffee. A little can be gained from his letter. He says the object was wonderfully brilliant, and at least the size of the Praesepe star cluster, which is a well-known naked eye object, and was brighter than Praesepe.


It would, therefore, appear that it was brighter and larger as seen by Devoe than by Harrison, and if such a small difference in the site of observation could make such a difference in appearance, then the wanderer was indeed close to New York City. From Devoe’s rough description of the size, this object would have been about half a mile in diameter at an altitude of eight to one hundred miles, If I can find a more accurate report of Devoe’s observations, I could learn more about the size and distance of the object.

Whatever this thing was, and whatever may be the accuracy of our speculations as to its speed, distance and size, it exhibited motion inexplicable except as intelligent control.

There is a suggestion for us in this story of Harrison’s rambling object. Professional astronomers are not spending much time, if any at all, in searching the sky for comets or cometary objects. For more than a hundred years most of this has been done by amateurs, and today very little is done by anybody. We have seen that a minimum of quantitative observation by Devoe would have enabled us to determine the distance, altitude, speed and size of Harrison’s object. We do not know how many of the things there are near the earth, so why not start a UFO searching campaign among a coalition of UFO enthusiasts, amateur astronomers and radio hams?

Dr. Bone’s crude observation of the discoid object was of the greatest importance in confirming Dr. Gould’s discovery of 1882, and the observations of Bone and Tebbutt established the great parallax which has enabled us to show the proximity of those objects.

There are apparently two classes of dirigible UFO’s to look for. One is the planetary, disclike things seen near the sun and moon, as by Watson and Swift, and the other is the cometary type as seen by Harrison.

The cometary ones can be swept for, just as are comets, and with the identical equipment – special comet-seeking telescopes with structure, and lenses designed for that purpose. Any telescope can be used and there are many idle ones.
I do not believe that large numbers of cometary UFO’s will be found, although I am not sure. Observers near large centers of population, atom plants or industrial sites will probably have the most success. But while the number of expected objects is small, the searching is easier than for discs.

The planetary discs, like those of Watson, are difficult to see because they stay nearly in line with the sun and moon and are lost in the glare of sunlight. Even so, this assures that they will be in a very limited part of the sky. Why not devise ways to search the regions near both sun and moon, especially at new moon with telescopes and radar? Because of the glare, radar would seem to offer the most likely chances of success as it will not suffer interference from the sun.

We have some tremendous advantages for this type of research today. We note the essential necessity for simultaneous observation from at least two points. This can be ONLY accomplished through the help of the radio ham networks. Let us set up dozens of observational stations, with telescopes, and let us man them with at least one saucer specialist, let us add some radar observers, for triangulation can be effected by radar as well as with telescopes. Let us maintain instantaneous contacts via the ham networks so that if one station sees a suspicious object, other stations can be alerted immediately; let us report all of this to an established central office.


In this way we can track these erratic things to their source, be it the upper atmosphere, the moon, the gravitational neutral, or what have you. The UFO’s problem can be solved, despite the curtain of secrecy, by coordinated effort. If an observing station in, say Philadelphia discovered a fast mover, they could alert observers in Baltimore, Harrisburg, and Jersey City, and a quick, triangulation would tell just how far out the interloper was, how big, and its speed. This would be a new type of saucer patrol, and would doubtless result in some genuine comets being discovered as well as xzxxx suspicious characters. So much the better.

This would make a good cooperative program for all interest parties. A specially organized saucer club could sponsor it.

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The Height of the Puzzle

There is no way of estimating how many of these fast-moving space objects escape all notice, nor is there any way of knowing how many are seen but not reported for fear of embarrassment. We have found a few examples, and still further search of the literature would produce more.

Colonel Marwick, amateur in South Africa, saw an object near the moon on September 27, 1881 (not the concentration of these in 1881), like a comet but moving very rapidly. On August 28, 1883 Captain Noble saw something “like a comet, new and glorious.” On the nights of September 11, and 13, 1883, Professor Swift, at Rochester, saw an unknown object like a comet, and something was seen in Puerto Rico and about the same time in Ohio.

The most spectacular of these speed demons was seen by Captain Eddie, at his observatory in Grahamstown, South Africa, on October 27, 1890. It was called a comet, but almost certainly was not, for its description was much more like that of Maunder’s auroral object. In fact it has something of the appearance of an auroral arch bridging a quarter of the horizon, but moving with a deliberate speed very similar to the Maunder thing. This object of Captain Eddie’s sped 100 degrees across the sky in three-quarter of an hour. It made Harrison’s cometary whiffit seem to be hovering, which no doubt it was.


How far away was it and how high? What was its size? Who knows? But, a second observation from Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, East London, Port Elizabeth or Capetown would have located it definitely and determined the distance via parallax – and at that speed ??? we know it was close enough to exhibit great parallax – and thence we could sense its size and real speed, and perhaps its nature.

Another one of these celestail mavericks was seen by Professor Copeland, September 10, 1891, and Drayer saw it at Armagh Observatory and Alexander Graham Bell saw it or one like it in Nova Scotia the next night. If these astronomers made time measurements, and those measurements could be found, they would be invaluable to us today.

There were other things that were happening in 1879-80. There was reported a great waterspout at St. Kitts, in the West Indies, about the first of February 1880. It was called a waterspout and reported as though a single and unassociated entity. But while a solid mass of water of unknown origin was drowning St. Kitts, masses of water were deluging the Island of Grenada three hundred miles away.


And in the Island of Dominica, masses of water broke windows and roofs. Mud fell in tons. Rivers burped with the detachables of the island: trees, cattle, houses, people. Other nations and islands were hit by masses of water. Colombia and Salvador were among them. Beginning on October 10, and continuing until the catastrophe at Saint Kitts, there was deluge after deluge on the earth – in one zone of latitude, the north tropical area. It seemed that a swarm of meteoric lakes must have gotten in the way of a rotating earth.


To most of us such a thing “just could not be”. But it did happen, and it is doubtful if meteorologists have ever assembled all of the data on that series of floods. Maybe it was not as general as the world-wide deluge of 1913, but it was bad enough, and its very concentration within a limited belt of terrestrial surface is sufficient for us to conclude that extraterrestrial forces and materials were involved. These storms partook, of the ado of a very disturbed period in which we should have become aware of our spatial environment.

On May 15, 1879, Commander Pringle, of H.M.S. Vulture, saw luminous waves of pulsating water. They were under the surface, not above it, and passed beneath his ship. The appearance was that of a revolving wheel of light, with illuminated or luminous spokes. In fact there were two wheels, one on each side of the ship, and the phenomenon lasted more than half an hour. There have been several such reports, and most of them come from oriental waters.

About this time an enormous number of luminous bodies were seen to rise from the horizon in Germany. They shone with remarkably brilliant light and passed horizontally from east to west. A carbonacious (sic) mass like brown coal fell from the sky in Argentina. The red, blue and gray hailstones fell in 1880. An object of quartzite was reported to fall at Schroon Lake, New York. Ricco, at the Palermo Observatory, saw long parallel line of bodies crossing the sun. The wheels of light in the sea were seen again in May and June of 1880, reported from more than one vessel at sea.


The three lights moving in the ravine at St. Petersburg were seen on July 30, 1880. Luminous phenomena continued to appear on the moon throughout 1879-80, including a luminous line, cable or wall which was seen January 23, definitely dividing in half the very brilliant interior of the prominent lunar crater Aristarchus, which has been carefully studied for centuries by those who suspect the moon of harboring life in some form. This was seen and sketched by Trouvelot, one of the few skilled astronomical observers with artistic ability.

A dead “sea serpent” was found at sea in early 1880, and sailors danced on its upturned belly. Something similar, like a turtle sixty feel long and forty feet wide was reported in the New Zealand Times, in December 1883, and there were several reports of huge marine animals during the comet years.

The flying machine over Louisville, Kentucky was of 1880 vintage, and also the thing changing shape over Madisonville, Kentucky. The British trading ship, Atlanta, bound for Bermuda, was lost in 1880 – without trace in that region so well known today as the area of missing planes and ships.

There was an invasion of insects – flies – in 1880. Clouds of them, millions and millions appeared over Havre, France, as though from the Atlantic. On August 21, they blackened the air and seemed exhausted when they fell. The same day a cloud of long, black flies, so large that it took twenty minutes to pass, blackened the sky over Nova Scotia. Another cloud on September first. East or west, they seemed to come from the mysterious Atlantic. In November, a host of flies overwhelmed a schooner off the coast of Norfolk, England, lasting over five hours and driving the crew below decks. On September 4 the steamboat Martin was swarmed by a cloud of flies that reached as far as the eye could see; a drift of black snow. On the fifth a cloud of black flies appeared over Gusboro, Nova Scotia; took over half an hour to pass.

According to the New York Times, a woman was killed in 1880 in a closed room which nobody had entered. Explanations were that she had been killed by lightning, but bedposts were chopped as by a hatchet.

There seems almost always to be poltergeist activity in England, but an especially cirulent (sic) case broke out in October, 1880.

The year 1880 was in the midst of what we have chosen to call the years of the comets. There were six comets in the skies of 1880. The 19th century as a whole showed increasing activity in comet discovery, and in the number of bright comets. In part this can be attributed to increasing interest in telescopic work, and to improved availability and quality of small telescopes suitable for amateurs who made up a growing body wishing to participate in astronomical research, but lacked the great, fine-quality instruments of the large observatories.


But such activity cannot in any way account for the very bright, very spectacular comets of 1880, 1880, and 1882, with their attendant phenomena, many of which can conservatively be described as abnormal. One had two tails; one aft and one forward, and appeared to have nuclei exhibiting independent motion within the head or the coma.

The peak at 1877-81 is very noticeable, without taking into consideration the number and size of the naked eye comets of mid-decade. What with comets, red spots, Hyginus N, will-o-the-wisps like Harrison’s lights on the moon, and objects crossing the sun, the decade of the 1880’s was, for certain, ushered in with a blaze of celestial glory, and it ended with a fanfare of puzzles.

The light of comets has been seen to fluctuate in rather remarkable manners. This was especially true of Pon’s comet during its return in 1883-84, at which time it manifested the spirit of the times and presented some eccentric behavior. Its brilliance, for example, increased thirty-forty-fold above that explainable from merely becoming closer to the sun. In addition there were hour-to-hour fluctuations of one hundred percent and more, and concomitantly the nucleus experienced some tortuous changes in shape and structure, as such as we will note again in the great comets of 1881 and 1882.

In the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, there is detailed description of all of the six comets of 1880, and there is added the following:

In addition to the six comets, an object was observed by Mr. Swift, of Rochester, New York, on April 11, 1880 in the constellation Ursa Major (Big Dipper) in RA 11h 28m and Declination 68º, and supposed by him to be a faint comet. However, no motion was detected in one hour. It was not a nebula for it could not be found again after a period of bad weather.

Like Harrison’s object, this was farther north than usual for a comet and quite far from the sun. If a comet, it should have manifest motion in an hour. The fact that it did not, yet moved away later, is indicative of controlled motion. Its stationary position suggests hovering.

Meteors came in for their share of attention during these years. The Royal Astronomical Society had a committee which assembled meteor data for a long period of years, and published it regularly as a part of the permanent records of the Society. Many of these meteors were of remarkable characteristics.

For instance, in the Monthly Notices of December 1880, W.F. Denning describes a very “slow” meteor which took fifteen to twenty seconds to cross the sky and mentions a “stationary” meteor which seemed to be approaching the observer in a sinuous track. There are many references to unusual meteors during these years, and there are hundreds of drawings showing meteor trains, explosions, zigzag paths and erratic movements.

On the night of April 18, 1880, a storm of unprecedented severity passed over Missouri and adjacent states. Local whirlwinds, probably tornadoes, developed, and at least one town was completely destroyed. Everywhere along the track there was evidence of a wave of water flowing in the rear of the cloud spots, and in places debris was carried over obstacles of considerable height. The direction of the currents was always uphill. One man and his family were deluged by a wave of water and they said the wave was about fifteen feet high and was icy cold. Stones weighing several hundred pounds were lifted from the ground and carried along for some distance. There is an accredited statement that a stone weighing two tons fell from this storm into a field belonging to Mr. S. Rose, but it was impossible to determine from whence it came.

These six UFO’s were seen and drawn by Astronomer Barnard, October 14, 1882, and were only 6º from the head of the great comet of 1882. They were accompanied by a spindle-shaped object, looking like a “mother ship” only a few degrees away. This comet had a tail which preceded it, and a complicated head which contained moving parts. Schmidt, at Athens, saw a number of these nebulous UFO’s move away from the comet into space.


Now, there is a storm for you! It covered parts of several states. The two-ton stone is a problem, and where did all the water come from, since there are surely no waterspouts in Missouri—and it was icy cold water!

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The Case is Proved!

(B & Jemi)

In the summer of 1881, a routine announcement appeared in the form of a letter to the editor of the German Astronomical publication, Astronomishce Nachrichten:

While scanning the western sky on the evening of (May 22nd) with the unassisted eye, I detected a hazy-looking object just below the constellation Columba, which, for my familiarity with that part of the Heavens, I regarded as new. On examining it with a small marine telescope I found it half and five and one-half magnitude…and the head of a comet…and telegraphed (the news) to Mr. Ellery at Melbourne… This announcement was signed:

John Tebbutt

Observatory Windsor, N.S. Wales, 1881, June18th

This seems to be an entirely normal and innocuous communication, and would have been except for certain complications. Astronomers of the Southern Hemisphere immediately started making measurements of the comet’s position. It would be a few weeks before the fuzzy object moved far enough north to be seen from observatories in Europe and North America.
Because of the shorter distance for mail, the following communication arrived in Germany ahead of Mr. Tebbutt’s letter and appeared in Astronomische Nachrichten:

On June 9th, I sent you the series of observations which I made of the bright comet which has now passed to the North…the weather has been exceptionally bad and only two additional observations have been obtained. The first of these was on the 10th, (compared) with a star which I have not yet been able to identify. (My italics) It is, however, with regard to the second…June 11th, that I now write you…On that evening the comet was found with but little difficulty…although it was quite pale in the bright twilight…I obtained a preliminary determination of its position…for the purpose of identifying some comparison star, when I discovered one in the field…It was blurred by the thick haze and mists near the horizon. I believe it to have been as bright as second magnitude.


On attempting to identify the star I found it in none of the catalogues. On the next evening I scrutinized the region without finding any visible star. A glance at the comet, which had moved nearly 3 northward, showed no visible object (accompanying it). I send you the observations as they were made:

The whole observation seemed to me so improbable that I have hesitated a good deal before sending it to you, fearing some gross error…But I have discovered none. Cordoba, 1881, June 16th.
B.A. Gould.

(A “comparison” is the measurement of the location of a moving object such as a comet as related to a fixed star. It is the manner in which orbits are determined. It is not always easy to find a known star close enough to make a good comparison.)

Let us review Dr. Gould’s statements. He had bad weather which handicapped him in seeing both comet and stars, and made all objects somewhat hazy. He made a comparison on June 10, but failed to find his companion star in any chart or star catalog. This item was overlooked by all correspondents in the controversy which followed, including the astute editors of the Astronomische Nachrichton, the Monthly Notices, and Nature. Do not forget it; for it is important to the Case for the UFO’s.

A comet, or any other celestial body, moving under the natural forces of gravitation, traverses a smooth curve, and while its velocity may vary, it does so smoothly and gradually. Dr. Gould, a skilled observer whose Argentine Star Catalogues have been accurate reference material for eighty years, was deeply concerned because his observation of the comet indicated erratic motion. Later he was even more seriously troubled because he could neither identify his companion star nor relocate it. Nobody, much less an astronomer, likes to make a fool of himself, and to be frank this whole set of observations looks like mincemeat. It took courage to report this melee and a man of lesser standing than Dr. Gould would have been brushed off.

The observations speak for themselves. There is little change in RA but such as there is reverses itself in the fourth comparison. In declination there was rapid motion (too rapid for this comet), the outright reversal, then rapid motion again. Such a thing is unheard of and, as Dr. Gould indicates, it is enough to shake an observer’s confidence in his own ability. It is very difficult to escape the conclusion that one of these objects was moving erratically, and since there is no reason to suspect the comet, and since the “star” could not be found at later times, the “comparison object” must have been moving rapidly and erratically.) An explanation occurs to us, but in 1881 such explanations were of such heretical nature that no one even thought of them, much less put them on paper.)

Dr. Krueger, editor of the Astronomische Nachrichten, calculated the position of the comet for June 11, using orbital elements determined in the meanwhile, and analyzes the whole situation. His analysis was translated and published together with still further editorial discussion. Since Dr. Gould’s position for the comet agrees well enough with the calculated position, the erratic motion is attributed to the star. After considerable mathematical deduction, the conclusion of the European astronomers was that a second comet had been mistaken for a star. This, however, did not account for the irregular motion.

Normally, this would have closed the discussion. But they reckoned without the intrepid amateur from Australia, the active and competent Mr. John Tebbutt. He immediately took pen in hand to address the editor as follows:
I have read the letter of Dr. Gould, dated June 16th, with much interest. It is quite obvious from the change in the relative declinations of the comet and the bright star of comparison, that the latter could not be a fixed star, and the only feasible conclusion is that it was a companion comet. But that this object had no existence a short time previously to Dr. Gould’s observation is I think, shown by negative evidence in my journal: “The horizon being clear before sunrise yesterday morning I rose to observe the comet. The diffused twilight and full moon… prevented me seeing any stars near the comet for comparison.

There was certainly no star of brighter than seventh magnitude…it will be found that (my) observation preceded the first comparison at Cordoba by only 1h 29m…” I feel confident that, at my last observation, no such object as that described by Dr. Gould could have been in the field with the comet…P.S.: Could Dr. Gould, by any possibility, have observed the blurred images of the stars, BAC 1592 and 1597, and if so is the former a variable star? (The difference in position is about the same, and different magnitudes have been assigned to BAC 1592 by different observers) John Tebbutt, Observatory, Windsor, N.S. Wales.

There are two vital points in Tebbutt’s letter. First, he establishes that he was observing the comet only one and one-half hours before Gould, for, because of the difference in longitude the evening of June 11th in Cordoba was the morning of the 12th at Windsor, New South Wales, Australia. He then states that the object used by Gould for comparison was definitely not visible at Windsor an hour and one –half before it was seen at Cordoba.

The second point is the suggestions that Dr. Gould, by mistaken identity, observed a pair of stars which, by strange coincidence, have about the same distance and direction from each other as the comet and “object.” Except for a rather supercilious assumption of Dr. Gould’s incompetence as an observer, Tebbutt’s suggestion is not without merit. Yet there is one rather deplorable flaw in Mr. Tebbutt’s letter; and we quote: “but that this object had no existence a short time previously to Dr. Gould’s observation is, I think, shown by negative evidence…”

This is an unjustified and ill-considered conclusion and statement. True, Mr. Tebbutt did not see the object, under conditions in which it should have been seen according to his viewpoint. His assumption was, of course, that the object or star was as distant from the earth as the comet, if, in fact, it did exist. Therefore, if Gould saw it, Tebbutt should have seen it. Tebbutt didn’t see it…ergo, it wasn’t there!

Not satisfied with a somewhat reserved statement in Astronomische Nachrichte, Tebbutt sent a scathing letter to Observatory (1882) in which he reiterated all of his arguments, belittled Gould sarcastically, and postulated that one of the pair of stars which he thought was observed by Gould was sufficiently variable in light to have been mistaken for second magnitude while normally appearing as sixth or seventh magnitude. It would be hard to find more irrelevant data.

Mr. Tebbutt was quite honest in his conviction that Dr. Gould had made some kind of crude and unpardonable error in observing. The coincidence of a double star, the components of which have about the same relative position as Dr. Gould’s two objects, had let Mr. Tebbutt completely astray, and his indignation at what he considers stupidity caused him to make the unnecessary insinuation that Gould was careless. Tebbutt went so far as to invoke a temporary outburst of light in one star to account for Gould’s confusion.

Up to this point, nobody, including the cooler and more objective astronomical editors in Europe, had tried to explain why one skilled observer saw an object which was plainly there to be seen, while another experienced man did not see it. All efforts went toward proving one of them wrong.

But the confusion was only well started. A new astronomical knight-errant entered the celestial jousting. In a publication of the Royal Astronomical Society, January 1882, we find a letter to the editor from W. Bone, M.D., another amateur in Australia. Dr. Bone deposed as follows:

On June 10th, 1881, whilst measuring the position of the comet (at this time it was called comet 1881b) I noticed a peculiar discordance in each succeeding measure, and at length found that the star (?) from which I was measuring, was a rapidly moving body. At first I was inclined to believe it (the star) was the result of refraction, but this would have affected both the comet and the star nearly equally. On more careful inspection, I found it was somewhat discoid, but its light, although bright, was diffused and hazy. It moved through 6’ of arc in 34m 34s of time, in a northerly direction. I telegraphed to the Melbourne Observatory and asked instructions. Bad weather prevented me from searching for it next morning and in the evening I could not succeed in again picking it up, neither could I find it where seen on the previous evening. I never received any answer from the Melbourne Observatory. This struck me as so remarkable that I decided to send you my records,


Castelmaine, Victoria, 1881, October 22nd

W. Bone, M.D.

In a subsequent letter, Dr. Bone says that his stray object moved about 24s in right ascension in the same interval of time, and that he estimated it at about 2.5 magnitude in brightness, which agrees closely with Gould’s estimate of his object. Bone quotes his telegram and concludes that both he and Gould have seen some peculiar type in addition to comet 1881b.

We are now sufficiently remote in time to have an objective view, and we can see more in this correspondence than met the eye in 1881-82. Hark back to Dr. Gould’s announcement. Not only did he fail to relocate his comparison star on the 11th, but he admits that his observations on the 10th also failed for the same reason. Now, Dr. Gould, producer of the Uranametria Argintina, was too experienced a man to make this sort of blunder as a matter of habit. Something more than carelessness is demanded to explain.

Dr. Bone made the same error, if it can be called an error, and at not too different a time, on the 10th. His comparison star disappeared also. It, too, was moving rapidly during the period of observation.

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that something was moving around in the sky, which Bone and Gould thought was a star, or at least as distant as the comet, and which some other equally capable people did not see at all. The element which was consistently overlooked was the possibility that the wayward cometary object(s) was close to the earth and not as distant as either comet or stars. Even Dr. Bone, in his belated statement, failed to see the connection between his abortive observation of the 10th and Dr. Gould’s similar debacle.

It seems obvious that the illusive thing used by Bone for comparison was moving rapidly enough that it come into line with the comet as seen from Cordoba a few hours later, and thus appeared to offset the effect of the rotation and revolution of the earth in causing parallax. This can only mean that the position of the object was being maintained on a line between earth and comet, which (the comet being close to the sun) was very close to being the line between the earth and sun, and hence through the neutral. Rotation of the earth brought first Bone and then Gould into this line, the revolution of the earth on its axis around the sun being offset by the object revolving with the earth around the sun.

The apparent movement of the object quite rapid as seen by both observers, was a movement relative to the stars (including the comet) and was a natural consequence of the object maintaining its position between earth and sun as seen from the earth. This, if our analysis and reasoning are even partially correct, proves intelligent control and space navigation!

The fact that Dr. Gould saw something again, on the 11th, from Cordoba, indicates either that there was a second object, or that the first one was still maintaining its position in the line of sight. That Tebbutt did not see it during the morning of the 12th, at Windsor, Australia, is obviously due to parallax of a very high order, and this established the proximity of the object to the earth rather than to the comet. Anything closer than the moon might very well fulfill these conditions, and since the gravitational neutral of the earth-sun is within the moon’s orbit, it becomes not incomprehensible that the object was maintaining itself at “the neutral,” or thereabouts, and perhaps even adjusting itself to the gravitation of the moon at the same time.

But Mr. Tebbutt’s sense of scientific proprietary had been outraged. He wrote again to the Editor of Observatory:

Sir: No sooner had Dr. Gould’s mysterious observation of comet 1881b been, as I conceive, satisfactorily explained, than another bone of contention (italics by Tebbutt) is presented to astronomers in the shape of two papers in the Monthly Notices, but it is one which I trust may soon be disposed of…

Tebbutt then goes on to point out that the comet was only sixteen minutes of arc south of the star 8 Leporis when observed by Bone, and that at about that very moment the comet was being compared with that star by the astronomers at Melbourne only a few miles away. He says that the last of Mr. White’s comparisons must have corresponded very closely with Dr. Bone’s observation, and that Mr.

White did not see any such object as was described by Dr. Bone.

So great was the interest in the debate that the editor of Nature, March 30, 1882, made another comprehensive survey of all available reports, including a very able defense on the part of Dr. Gould, acted as arbitrator and tried to calm the troubled waters. This controversy must have appeared to contemporaries as a tempest in a teapot, and perhaps meaningless, but to us, of the UFO age, it is important, for it represents real observations bearing on a real problem.

The Editor’s dissertation is long and somewhat technical. Too much so for our use here. It boils down to a rather hesitant conclusion that Tebbutt’s explanation of Gould’s observation is the most reasonable one available, and poor Dr. Bone is pushed aside, with the assumption that he used the star 8 Leporis for comparison and was deceived by differential refraction of light in the earth’s atmosphere.


It was considered that Bone’s object simply could not have existed without being noticed by the professionals at Melbourne, neglecting the fact that Bone estimated the brightness at thirty times as bright as 8 Leporis and of definitely disclike shape and size.

COMET “B” OF 1881

No one was happy about this tentative settlement, but Dr. Bone saw something-nobody denied that. He describes what he saw as discoid. A comet does not have a disclike appearance even under good “seeing’ conditions, and under adverse conditions a star becomes comet-like rather than discoid, due to haze and turbulence.


We have to conclude that Dr. Bone saw something large enough and near enough to the earth that its disclike shape was not lost in the haze conditions. That is even closer than the moon, and is very probably within our own atmosphere.

But there is another powerful factor to consider. If this celestial object was even approximately as far away as the moon it would not have sufficient parallax to take it out of sight of the Melbourne observers while Dr. Bone was observing at Castelmaine, only three minutes of longitudinal distance away. Therefore, it was so close to Dr. Bone’s observatory that it was completely out of the line of sight at Melbourne. To have been seen as a disc, to move so much more rapidly than a comet, and to have only an infinitesimal part of the velocity of a meteor, this object had to have been controlled and navigated.

Little wonder remains that all astronomers were puzzled by this thing, or series of things, for such proximity to the earth was unthought of in those days – and is unrecognized and unspoken today.

In Nature, the patient editor breathed a sigh of relief as he rendered a final account of the Gould-Tebbutt imbroglio. He follows his usual policy and quotes almost verbatim from Dr. Gould’s final letter of rebuttal against Tebbutt:

…we gave an account of Dr. Gould’s observation on June 11th of last ;year, and it was mentioned that Mr. Tebbutt had suggested that the objects were 60-Eridini and Bradley 718. This explanation was considered a probable one and the same view was taken by the Editor of Astronomische Nachrichten, which has occasioned a further communication from Dr. Gould who rejects Mr. Tebbutt’s solution. Dr. Gould says the appearance of the comet precluded the slightest doubt as to its identity; “The verist tyrp could recognize it as a comet…” no jar of the telescope took place.


The field of the telescope was fully under control from the beginning, the declination clamp remaining tight. No account of blurring could have given such an aspect to a fixed star, though it was far brighter 60-Eridini. Dr. Gould doubts if a star of the sixth magnitude would have been visible under the circumstances. He concluded:

“I can only suppose another comet to have been in the field. That it is not a companion comet is manifest, not only from the relative motion, and for examination next day, but from later abundant scrutiny in the Northern Hemisphere. That it was not a fixed star was evident from the beginning.”

Thus (says the Editor) is the matter left by Dr. Gould, who, it must be admitted, is by far the most competent judge of the probable explanation of the difficulty.

Again, the matter should have rested, but Mr. Tebbutt was to be heard from again, and Gould replied with a final rebuttal to all of them.

The Parthian shot came from a surprising source. Dr. Piazzi Smith, Astronomer Royal of Scotland, wrote in Nature, as follows:

While there seems no doubt that the honor of being the discoverer of the great Comet of 1881 belongs without doubt to that life-long and most persevering observer, as well as successful computer of comets, in Australia, Mr. John Tebbutt, three communications which have chanced to arrive here this morning from different countries, containing the most diverse ideas of the nature of that portion of the comet’s light which universal spectroscopic observation proves inherent to the comet itself, which is quite different from the reflection of solar light.

The rest of Smith’s letter is too technical for this book, but it will suffice for our purpose to say that this comet was a most remarkable object and appeared to contain incandescent materials. Piazzi Smiths’ explanations of the electrical nature of the comet’s condition are about on an intellectual par with his soaring hypothecations on the portents of the Great Pyramid. All we need to know is that Tebbutt’s comet partook of the generally anomalous celestial turbulence of the Comet Years, in which it was one of the most exotic displays, and helps to establish that there are more things between th earth and Heaven than meet the unwary eye of our proud but ignorant race.

No one has yet fully explained the fact that a body, so ethereal as a comet, does, at time emit light which is apparently of it own generation; nor have the apparently self-generated movements of the inner particles of the comet’s nucleus been explained. No one, thus far has suggested that these lights and great tails might offer a means of signaling over distances of a few billions of miles – to the Red spot of Jupiter, for instance.

It matters not the Dr. Bone’s findings were criticized. The fact that he did see the object (or one of them if there were two) established two things:

(1) it confirmed Dr. Gould’s observations of erratically moving, nearby objects on two nights instead of one

(2) it demonstrates parallax of a pronounced amount, and hence the very close proximity of at least one object, and we are very forcibly reminded of the discoid things seen by Watson and Swift

If Dr. Bone did not provide completely scientific and accurate comparisons, it is indeed no matter, for such observations on a transient object, not supported by a series of other observations from other locations, could have been only qualitative at best.

The drift of at least one of these unknown objects was comparable in speed with that of Harrison’s wayward widget, so there is some little indication here of one object very close, perhaps within our atmosphere, and another some thousands of miles out; one rotating with the earth (seen by Bone but not by White). and the other (?) maintaining position in line between the earth and the sun (seen by Gould, but not by Tebbutt). This is as we have surmised in the case of Watson and Swift in 1878.

Could all of these astronomers, professionals and competent amateurs, have conceived of a body being so close to the earth, yet moving slowly, maybe within our atmosphere, they would have realized that they had a new and awesome problem on their hands – perhaps the key to many a celestial enigma.

Both Gould and Bone had valuable clues within their own observations, in consideration of the erratic movements and the circularity of the objects described by them, showing that the objects were neither stars nor comets. Nor could they have been intra-Mercurial planets because they were illuminated neither crescentically nor gibbously. Parallax was the ultimate kingpin of the tangle, and rules out all of these possibilities. It may even be that these were the selfsame two objects seen by Watson and Swift. It may be that they are the two objects sought today by Army ordnance and Dr. Lapaz. It may be that today’s amateurs can find them if they will look toward the sun.

In any case, we have here recorded verified proof, when properly analyzed, of the existence and location of UFO’s. Inherent in this proof, too, is conclusive evidence that intelligence and control exits (sic) in the UFO’s.

Let us rest our Case for the UFO’s with a provocative episode which took place at the same time the strange “comet” was born…1881!

The British ship Ellen Austin, in mid-Atlantic, encountered an abandoned derelict in perfectly seaworthy condition. A salvage crew was put aboard the strange wanderer, with instructions to make for St. John’s Newfoundland, where the Ellen Austin herself was bound. The two ships then parted company in foggy weather. But a few days later they met again.
Like their unknown predecessors, the salvage crew had vanished…forever…without a trace!

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A Note on Sources for

Those readers of The Case for the UFO, who have a flair for research, or who may desire to study the background phenomena in more detail than can be offered in such a short volume as this, may wish to consult source material directly. Such material is of vast extent, and to merely list it here would be impossible. In addition nobody knows the real extent of material related to space life and space activity, for it appears in a multitude of very diverse publications.


In most of the records, the persons noting observations did not recognize the basic causes, and therefore had no categories into which they could place their data, so that much of it appears in the public press and in general magazines.

For instance, when we look for data about activity on the Moon we find it scattered through practically all of the volumes of several series of scientific journals, including

  • Observatory and The Selenographical Journal

  • Nature

  • Science

  • English Mechanic

  • Knowledge

  • Astronomical Register

  • Reports of the British Association for Advancement of Science

  • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

  • Astronomische Nachrichten

  • Sirius

  • L’Astronomie

  • Popular Astronomy

  • Intellectual Observer

  • Science Monthly

  • Philosophical Magazine

  • American Journal of Science Scientific American

  • Journal of Astronomical Society of the Pacific, etc.

...not to speak of innumerable serial publications of various Universities and Observatories, and many popular treatises such as Proctor’s Astronomy, and Webb’s Celestial Objects.

Some of these series have been published continuously for more than one hundred years, and some, such as the English Mechanic, may average close to 1,000 pages per volume. Scanning them, even superficially, becomes a stupendous job. We have cited some specific references, and some general ones. The serious investigator could make a worth-while contribution to the Science of the UFO by selecting any one of dozens of serial publications and intensely perusing all of its volumes from Vol. 1, No. 1, clear through to yesterday, and reporting his findings.

There is absolutely no general rule as to what kind of publication to look in. The nuggets of information may appear any place at all, including old almanacs. But within any publication or series of periodicals, there is one best place to look: Letters to the Editor. These can be published without the Editor having to commit himself to belief or disbelief in the report.
Readers who live in small communities are urged to scan old files of their local papers for news of things falling from the sky. It is altogether possible that, if enough persons make searches, we can find more than ample material to prove the case for the UFO once and for all. If you live in a small community, it may well be that your facilities for research are better than those of the large cities.

One should note local historical sketches as an important source. There are hundreds of such publications from every locality of the United States. They were very prevalent in the 19th century, especially circa the stunning decade of the 1880’s. They were prone to report peculiar storms, abnormal weather, and unexplainable occurrences. Almost every County in the U.S. published one of these histories in the latter part of the 19th century or the very early part of the 20th.

Rural people are much more weather-conscious than city folks. So, in our quest for records of falling masses of water, we are most anxious to have data from rural records.

One field of research which we do not believe to have been worked is sportsman’s magazines such as Field and Stream. The correspondence columns of such magazines should supply some data on singular clouds, storms, UFO’s and erratics from space.

The most general and intangible of all the categories for search is probably that extensive list of old books and magazines of general character which contain stories of local events and records and diaries of famous men, as well as legends and traditions. Much valuable material is buried in these, and often in single, isolated paragraphs with no headings or warning or what is coming. Most of these items will be picked up by accident by alert readers whose interests attracted by the novelty of the statement or the perplexity of the original writer.

The listing of ALL astronomical references bearing on UFO is utterly impossible in this book.

Such a bibliography would require a volume to itself. In the series of the Astronomical Register (British), alone, there are several hundred page and paragraph references. Doubtless, it is due to our previous lack of comprehension as to the nature and broadness of the UFO problem that such data have not been recognized for their true worth and import. For this book, the astronomical records were fairly well searched for a brief period of about fifteen years centered around the “Comet Years”—say 1870 to 1885 - with spot checks at other dates.


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