Lafayette Had Its First ‘Close Encounter’ in 1890’s
by Bob Kriebel May 4, 2018 (jconline.com)
• This is an account of a UFO sighting in Lafayette, Indiana as reported in the local newspaper, the Morning Journal, on May 9, 1897.
• A young man bicycling on a dark and deserted road near Stockwell IN on Saturday night, May 7th, between 8 and 9pm. He was startled by a loud hissing noise and an object passed over his head, so close that it blew his hat off. Reaching for his hat, he fell off of the bike. He looked up and saw in the sky a cigar-shaped craft, about 20 feet long and 8 feet in diameter. There was a box or car underneath the craft about 6 by 3 feet in dimension, suspended by a “network of tubular wires”. At either end of the cigar craft were bright, multi-colored lights.
• “Two men were standing on the ground by the side of the strange object and seemed to be busy with several of the wires leading from the lower part of the queer object to the upper part. They spoke occasionally and I heard one remark, ‘I wonder where we are?’ He spoke with a foreign accent and I thought at the time that he was some French scientist. His companion replied in excellent English and I supposed he was an American.”
• “I was still lying on the ground on my back and the strangers had not noticed me. I decided to go to the men and make some inquiries.” As soon as he stood, the two men saw him, the lights on the craft lit up on either end, and ‘in an instant’ the craft rose into the sky and flew away. “I watched it a moment and then rubbed my eyes to assure myself I was awake. Then I picked up my wheel, took a small pull at an amber-colored fluid I had purchased at Lebanon and then I pedaled for home as fast as I could.”
The phenomena of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, in America popularly dates back to the summer and fall of 1947 when cigar-shaped objects, blinking lights, strange sounds, odd creatures and what-have-you made headlines.
Many books have been written about UFOs over the years since then, a television series and one of the 1970s’ biggest hits, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” based on a fictional UFO sighting near Muncie, Ind.
The close student of history of Lafayette, though, would leap in amazement at a geniune UFO story printed in the Morning Journal on Monday May 9, 1897.
It is based on an account of a young man bicycling near Stockwell on Saturday night May 7.
Here’s the newspaper’s account:
A Strange Story
A Well Known Young Man Says He Saw the Mysterious Air Ship
“The strangest experience of my life,” said a well known young man in conversation with a Journal representative last evening, “came to me so unexpectedly Saturday evening that it startled me almost out of my wits for a moment.
“I had been out wheeling and was on my way home. I was on the road between Stockwell and Crane, the new name the post office had assigned to Culver station, and was treading at a pretty lively pace to get home in time to make a few purchases before the stores closed.
“Night had fallen and it must have been between 8 and 9 o’clock. The road was deserted and the only break in the monotony of my lonely ride was the occasional glimpse of a light shining fro the window of a farmhouse.
“My eyes were bent on the road in front of me and my thoughts were busy with matters common to the thoughts of most young men. I was conscious of the fact that it was dark, that I was alone and that I was moving. Beyond these conditions my mind had but little to do with the materiality of my surroundings.
“All at once there was a change in my mental status. I was brought back to a realization of earthly things by an unearthly occurrence. A loud, hissing noise very similar to the escape of steam from a locomotive sounded so near me that I was startled into alertness. I looked for a railroad and the headlight of an engine, expecting to see the latter at my elbow, but saw neither.
“Before I could get the engine idea out of my mind my hat was almost lifted from my head by the wind of an object passing over my head. I released my hold on the handlebars of my wheel and threw my hands to catch my hat. Just then my wheel struck a rock or something and I was dismounted in a trice, falling on my back on the road.
“As my eyes turned upward they met a sight that made me wish I had fallen into a deep hole with a cover on it. Only a few yards away to my right in a small meadow I saw the strangest object that any mortal has ever seen.
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