Monday, October 03, 2005

A Strange Phenomenon 1878: Farmer Eyes 'Large Saucer' North of Denison

UFO Over Denison 1878
Trying to explain the 'unexplained'

By Donna Hunt Yeasterday
The Herald Democrat

     Having an interest in the "unexplained" for many years, my ears perked up when Gene Lenore called to tell me about a program he had watched last week on television's The History Channel that mentioned the "unexplained" in the Denison area and in the Bonham area.

     A little Internet research revealed the story Gene heard about Denison's "unexplained." A visit to the file cabinet revealed a column we wrote in 1991 that talked about the same incident.

     Watching programs about UFOs and the "unexplained" at the Hunt house isn't simple. My skeptical husband is just that, skeptical. And while my watching doesn't mean I believe everything I read and hear about them, I do find them interesting and there's always that chance that they are true.

     Our Denison story took place in 1878, several years before the Wright Brothers claimed their first flight. The daily newspaper of the day, The Denison Daily News, reported that a farmer, John Martin, who lived six miles north of Denison, claimed to have seen a dark disk in the sky. He described the object as a saucer.

     Now this "saucer" hadn't yet been associated with Unidentified Flying Objects and wouldn't become a part of the UFO craze for almost 75 years. But unexplained objects high up in the sky have been around a lot longer than that, at least in the North Texas area.

     The Denison Daily News article told how Mr. Martin was out hunting when he noticed a dark object high up in the northern sky. The odd shape and the speed it seemed to approach kept his attention and he strained his eyes trying to get a closer look.

     The article said that when Martin first noticed the object it looked about the size of an orange and continued to grow in size as he kept his eyes on it. He watched it for so long that he became blinded and had to look away to rest his eyes. When he looked back it was almost overhead, he said, and its size had really grown as it raced through space at a high rate of speed.

     When the object was directly over him it was about the size of a large saucer and he said it was at a great height.

     Martin said he thought it resembled a balloon and said it disappeared in the southern sky as quickly as it had appeared.

     A balloon is how similar objects have been identified by the government, usually a weather balloon. But in 1878? I doubt it. This could have been the first printed report of a UFO under the simple headline "A Strange Phenomenon."

     The newspaper editorialized saying "Mr. Martin is a gentleman of undoubted veracity and this strange occurrence, if it was not a balloon, deserved the attention of our scientists."

     Bonham in Fannin County had a sighting even before the 1878 one in Denison. According to an Internet timetable of "unexplained," in 1873 a huge cigar-shaped object swooped low over the town of Bonham on two occasions and in broad daylight, then disappeared quickly to the east.

     A Bonham farmer in June of that year said he looked up from his work and was astonished by what appeared to be an enormous flying snake, banded with brilliant yellow swipes, writhing and twisting in the sky above him. Could this have been that "huge cigar shape that someone saw scooping over the town?

     Another Internet article titled "Serpents in the Sky," goes into greater detail about the "sighting." It related that it was in broad daylight when the fast moving object appeared in the sky southwest of town. The people of Bonham first stared at it, not believing their eyes. They possibly had seen drifting balloons previously, but this was so large and traveling so fast that it was almost a blur, according to the article.

     Farmers were said to have dived under their wagons and townspeople ran inside. Only a few of the braver stood their ground and watched. It circled Bonham twice, then vanished. Its description varied by whom you talked to. Some said it was round, and others said oval to cigar-shaped.

     Twenty-four hours after the sighting, a device of the same description was sighted over Fort Scott, KS.

     Even closer to home is a story of a UFO being sighted on long range radar at Perrin Field in 1953. A Radar Technician at Perrin, Chandler Yergin, said he was performing routine maintenance on a Plan Position Indicator when he saw a huge blip in the New York area.

     He and an officer, who was the operator, watched as the Blip split into nine smaller ones, flying in formation. Radio contact told Denver and Salt Lake bases of the sighting and they confirmed it. Perrin, according to Yergin's report, was a long-range early warning base. F-86 Fighters from Perrin and others from Denver and Salt Lake were ordered to intercept and destroy. They were staggered at altitudes of 500 feet, to try to get a signal sighting.

     The formation seemed to be heading toward Dallas. Yergin said they watched as the fighters headed toward the objects that had crossed the border of Oklahoma into Texas. When the fighters got to about 20 miles from the object, it stopped, made a right turn and took off toward the Northwest at speeds calculated at about 8,000 mph. (That's correct, the article said 8,000 mph).

     Yergin said there were eight officer radar operators and three radar techs in his hut during the episode and within 10 minutes of the last sighting a group of about eight men in civilian suits and 14 uniformed armed guards came into the hut, separated the group and took them at gunpoint to a hangar on the back side of the field.

     He said they were interrogated for about four hours, during which they had to draw diagrams of what they saw and write a narrative of everything that took place. He said the "fear of God" was put into them to NEVER talk about it to anyone. In fact, he said they had to sign a document that threatened them with a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison for violating the Official Secrets Act.

     Yergin said the objects, whatever they were, violated the laws of physics and he doubted that they were from this earth.

     Yergin would be in his '70s or '80s now and has spoken in defiance of the document he signed. It's not known if he is still living.

     There have been other accounts of sightings in this area, one as recent as 1981 when at least seven persons reported seeing a UFO. One Denison man even drew a sketch of the object he said he saw with lighted porthole with fire streaming in sparks from the rear and green and yellow pulsating lights.

     Skeptic or believer, you have to wonder what all these people saw and if they were indeed flying saucers or some other objects from outer space.

* Special Thanks To Christian Macé

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