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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
(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,
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:
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
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.
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.
(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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
Back to Contents
A Note on
THE CASE FOR THE UFO
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
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
Reports of the British Association
for Advancement of Science
Monthly Notices of the Royal
American Journal of Science
Journal of Astronomical Society of the Pacific,
...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.
Back to Contents