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How UFO Reports Change With the Technology of the Times
Smithsonian ^

Posted on 02/03/2018 12:19:06 PM PST by BenLurkin

In 1896, newspapers throughout the United States began reporting accounts of mysterious airships flying overhead. Descriptions varied, but witnesses frequently invoked the century’s great technological achievements. Some sources reported dirigibles powered by steam engines. Others saw motorized, winged crafts with screw propellers. Many recalled a flying machine equipped with a powerful searchlight.

As technologies of flight evolve, so do the descriptions of unidentified flying objects. The pattern has held in the 21st century as sightings of drone-like objects are reported, drawing concern from military and intelligence officials about possible security threats. While puzzling over the appearance of curious things overhead may be a constant, how we have done so has changed over time, as the people doing the puzzling change. In every instance of reporting UFOs, observers have called on their personal experiences and prevailing knowledge of world events to make sense of these nebulous apparitions. In other words, affairs here on earth have consistently colored our perceptions of what is going on over our heads.

Reports of weird, wondrous, and worrying objects in the skies date to ancient times. Well into the 17th century, marvels such as comets and meteors were viewed through the prism of religion—as portents from the gods and, as such, interpreted as holy communications.

By the 19th century, however, “celestial wonders” had lost most of their miraculous aura. Instead, the age of industrialization transferred its awe onto products of human ingenuity. The steamboat, the locomotive, photography, telegraphy, and the ocean liner were all hailed as “modern wonders” by news outlets and advertisers. All instilled a widespread sense of progress—and opened the door to speculation about whether objects in the sky signaled more changes.

Yet nothing fueled the imagination more than the possibility of human flight. In the giddy atmosphere of the 19th century, the prospect of someone soon achieving it inspired newspapers to report on tinkerers and entrepreneurs boasting of their supposed successes. The wave of mysterious airship sightings that began in 1896 did not trigger widespread fear. The accepted explanation for these aircraft was terrestrial and quaint: Some ingenious eccentric had built a device and was testing its capabilities.

But during the first two decades of the 20th century, things changed. As European powers expanded their militaries and nationalist movements sparked unrest, the likelihood of war prompted anxiety about invasion. The world saw Germany—home of the newly developed Zeppelin—as the likeliest aggressor. Military strategists, politicians, and newspapers in Great Britain warned of imminent attack by Zeppelins.

The result was a series of phantom Zeppelin sightings by panicked citizens throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand in 1909, then again in 1912 and 1913. When war broke out in August 1914, it sparked a new, more intense wave of sightings. Wartime reports also came in from Canada, South Africa, and the United States. In England, rumors that German spies had established secret Zeppelin hangars on British soil led vigilantes to scour the countryside.

In the age of aviation, war and fear of war have consistently fueled reports of unidentified flying objects. A year after Nazi Germany’s surrender, Sweden was beset by at least a thousand accounts of peculiar, fast-moving objects in the sky. Starting in May 1946, residents described seeing missile- or rocket-like objects in flight, which were dubbed “ghost rockets” because of their fleeting nature. Rockets peppering Swedish skies was well within the realm of possibility—in 1943 and 1944, a number of V-1 and V-2 rockets launched from Germany had inadvertently crashed in the country.

At first, intelligence officials in Scandinavia, Britain, and the United States took the threat of ghost rockets seriously, suspecting that the Soviets might be experimenting with German rockets they had captured. By the autumn of 1946, however, they had concluded it was a case of postwar mass hysteria.

The following summer, a private pilot by the name of Kenneth Arnold claimed to have seen nine flat objects flying in close formation near Mt. Rainier. Looking back on the event years later, Arnold noted, “What startled me most at this point was the fact that I could not find any tails on them. I felt sure that, being jets, they had tails, but figured they must be camouflaged in some way so that my eyesight could not perceive them. I knew the Air Force was very artful in the knowledge and use of camouflage.”

Given the name “flying saucers” by an Associated Press correspondent, they quickly appeared throughout the United States. Over the following two weeks, newspapers covered hundreds of sightings.

News of these reports circled the globe. Soon, sightings occurred in Europe and South America. In the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, atomic bomb tests, and tensions between the United States and the USSR, speculation ran rampant.

Finding themselves on the front line of the Cold War, Germans on both sides of the Iron Curtain considered the United States the most likely culprit. West Germans thought the discs were experimental missiles or military aircraft, while Germans in the communist Eastern bloc considered it more likely that the whole thing was a hoax devised by the American defense industry to whip up support for a bloated budget.

Others had more elaborate theories. In 1950, former U.S. Marine Air Corps Major Donald Keyhoe published an article and book titled The Flying Saucers Are Real, in which he contended that aliens from another planet were behind the appearance of the UFOs. Based on information from his informants, Keyhoe contended that government authorities were aware of this, but wished to keep the matter a secret for fear of inciting a general panic.

Such a claim about UFOs was new. To be sure, at the turn of the century during the phantom airship waves, some had speculated that the vessels spotted might be from another planet. Already at that time, people were deeply interested in reports of prominent astronomers observing artificial “canals” and structures on Mars. Evidence of Martian civilizations made it seem conceivable that our interplanetary neighbors had finally decided to pay us a visit. Still, relatively few bought into this line of reasoning.

But by going further, Major Keyhoe struck a chord in a timely fashion. In the aftermath of World War II and over the course of the 1950s, it seemed that science and engineering were making remarkable strides. In particular, the development of guided rockets and missiles, jet airplanes, atomic and hydrogen bombs, nuclear energy, and satellites signaled to many that there were no limits—not even earth’s atmosphere—to technological progress. And if our planet were on the verge of conquering space, it would hardly be a stretch to imagine that more advanced civilizations elsewhere were capable of even greater feats.

But all this raised a question. Why were the extraterrestrials visiting us now?

Keyhoe believed that aliens had been keeping us under observation for a long time. Witnessing the recent explosions of atomic weapons, they had decided the inhabitants of planet Earth had finally reached an advanced enough stage to be scrutinized more closely. Still, there was no reason for alarm. “We have survived the stunning impact of the Atomic Age,” Keyhoe concluded. “We should be able to take the Interplanetary Age, when it comes, without hysteria.”

The flying saucer era had begun. Not everyone would remain as sanguine as Keyhoe. As concerns over global nuclear annihilation and environmental catastrophe grew during the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, claims about UFOs took on ever more ominous tones.

Times changed. And so, again, did the UFO phenomenon.

KEYWORDS: bigfoot; donaldkeyhoe; falsememorysyndrome; frankedwards; q; qanaon; ufo; ufoufos
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1 posted on 02/03/2018 12:19:06 PM PST by BenLurkin
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To: BenLurkin

In before the pic of the guy with wild hair and goofy look on his face !

2 posted on 02/03/2018 12:29:11 PM PST by snooter55 (People may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do)
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To: BenLurkin
Nevermind that the U.S. kinda helped in the UFO sighting stuff with experimental suff ?

3 posted on 02/03/2018 12:43:27 PM PST by stylin19a (Best.Election.of.All-Times.Ever.In.The.History.Of.Ever)
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To: snooter55

4 posted on 02/03/2018 12:46:19 PM PST by Larry Lucido (Take Covfefe Ree Zig!)
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To: BenLurkin

(rolls eyes)

It is a well-known fact that alien ‘visitors’ mimic the current technology of whatever the mudball has as they visit.

So balloons, blimps and now, flying saucers are the drones released by the Aliens who monitor this Eden.

5 posted on 02/03/2018 12:52:26 PM PST by ASOC (Having humility really means one is rarely humiliated)
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To: snooter55

Wow, I see a resemblance there !!


6 posted on 02/03/2018 12:58:48 PM PST by snooter55 (People may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do)
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To: BenLurkin

The look of the aliens as well, first they were Angels, Demons, elves. Now, since an outer limits episode showing some big eyed aliens, we have big eyed alien sightings... the
phenomena is a cultural one.

7 posted on 02/03/2018 1:16:26 PM PST by Paradox (Don't call them mainstream, there is nothing mainstream about the MSM.)
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There are even a few eccentrics who mimic things that don't fly

8 posted on 02/03/2018 1:19:19 PM PST by jmcenanly ("The more corrupt the state, the more laws." Tacitus, Publius Cornelius)
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To: Paradox
the phenomena is a cultural one.

That's an eye opener...

Seriously, the article and your comment hit on the most significant point. We see what we are conditioned to see by our culture.

9 posted on 02/03/2018 1:21:51 PM PST by pfflier
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To: pfflier

Apparently biased misleading unresearched article- There are several archival reports of Revolutionary War soldiers seeing bright UFO`s in 1776 flying over battle areas... I researched this for 10 years and found a lot of reports in newspapers, archived journals, diaries in Canada/USA and Native Americans` accounts via oral histories by the talkers, etc., about fast and slow flying stars, lights, etc. and in the colonies, back to 1600`s. These writer guys are very lazy, never do their homework.

10 posted on 02/03/2018 1:42:50 PM PST by bunkerhill7 ((((("The Second Amendment has no limits on firepower"-NY State Senator Kathleen A. Marchione.")))))))
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To: BenLurkin

Were paintings of UFOs blurry?

11 posted on 02/03/2018 2:04:38 PM PST by fso301
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To: BenLurkin
12 posted on 02/03/2018 2:09:18 PM PST by Zeneta
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To: jmcenanly

What’s that green thing to the right? It has a face but it’s not smiling.

13 posted on 02/03/2018 2:11:21 PM PST by PLMerite ("They say that we were Cold Warriors. Yes, and a bloody good show, too." - Robert Conquest)
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To: bunkerhill7

In the middle ages if you saw a light in the sky, you knew it was a lantern on the end of a witch’s broomstick.

14 posted on 02/03/2018 2:12:40 PM PST by PLMerite ("They say that we were Cold Warriors. Yes, and a bloody good show, too." - Robert Conquest)
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To: fso301

Some of them are blurry - others are pretty clear!

15 posted on 02/03/2018 2:14:44 PM PST by 21twelve (
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To: PLMerite

My data only goes back to 1621 in America.

16 posted on 02/03/2018 2:21:02 PM PST by bunkerhill7 ((((("The Second Amendment has no limits on firepower"-NY State Senator Kathleen A. Marchione.")))))))
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To: bunkerhill7
The article simply states that observers see what their culture knows then describes the sighting in those terms. I don't think it is denying the presence of UFOs.

The brain doesn't know what it doesn't know

Basic research on hallucinations will tell you that the brain tries to fill in the gaps created by the unknown by substituting the known.

Regardless of what they saw, it would be no surprise that someone in the 1600's would see an aerial sailing ship or falling star where someone in the early 1900's might see some form of airplane or airship and someone in the 1960's a rocket or spaceship. An SLBM in San Diego last year had people describe seeing a worm hole. Has anybody but Morgan Freeman seen any of those lately?

17 posted on 02/03/2018 2:26:06 PM PST by pfflier
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To: BenLurkin

Humans see something unusual in the sky and try to equate it within their range of knowledge. Remember the Superman intro - “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s . . .”?

IMO, Biblical Ezekiel saw something way outside of his experience and still gave a pretty accurate description of an aerial device and outlanders coming to earth. I particularly like the “Wheels with a wheel” analogy. He must have seen cart/chariot wheels spinning rapidly (think cowboy movies and racing stage coaches with their wheels having the “wheels within a wheel” optical illusion.)

18 posted on 02/03/2018 2:27:07 PM PST by Oatka
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To: stylin19a

Not so fast!

From the source (

All of these photos are computer generated forensic composite illustrations. None of them are official USAF photos. Since the USAF seems very reluctant to de-classify these birds, these illustrations were created to give people an idea of what they looked like. Yes, they really did exist, but due to some stability problems, this particular model was scrapped.

19 posted on 02/03/2018 2:35:47 PM PST by Alas Babylon! (Keep fighting the Left and their Fake News!)
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To: Alas Babylon!

hey...thanks !
I just looked for photos cause I had recently ran across one of this saucer plane photos.
It looks like the story backs up the photos ?

20 posted on 02/03/2018 3:05:44 PM PST by stylin19a (Best.Election.of.All-Times.Ever.In.The.History.Of.Ever)
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