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<   No. 2312   2009-05-26   >

Comic #2312

1 Martian 2: To recruit an Earthling to help us, we'll need to visit Earth.
2 Martian 1: We'll use the Mystery Airship that our advance scouts used for reconnaissance just before the failed invasion.
3 Martian 1: Nobody on Earth will suspect a thing.
3 Martian 2: Brilliant!
4 Martian 1: And before we go, we'll give ourselves the immortality treatment.
4 Martian 2: Even more brilliant!

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If you thought UFOs were a recent phenomenon, you might be surprised to learn of the mystery airships of the late 19th century.

In 1896 and 1897 there was a spate of sightings of strange "airships" in the skies above the USA. Not only were these cigar-shaped objects seen in the skies, but one allegedly crashed in Aurora, Texas, 50 years before Roswell. Contemporary reports speak of strange metal debris, papers written in unreadable hieroglyphs, and a dead pilot who was "not of this world".

The really weird thing is that, in 1973, a team of modern-day UFOlogists investigated the case and found the grave site where the other-worldly pilot had supposedly been buried. But soon after this find, the cemetery was desecrated and whatever was buried there was removed. To this day, nobody knows who dug up the grave and removed the contents - nor what those contents were.

Another interesting aspect of the whole phenomenon is that in 1967, journalist Frank Tolbert of the Dallas Morning News investigated the historical airship sightings. He came up with fairly convincing evidence that many of the original sighting reports were deliberate hoaxes generated by telegraph operators on the railroads, to alleviate boredom in remote postings. To add credibility to their reports, they misappropriated the name of a respected and well-known sceptic of the times, adding his name to the reports to make them seem more believable.

The name of that late 19th century UFO sceptic? Joseph E. Scully.

I kid you not.

2022-06-11 Rerun commentary: If you want to go back even further into UFOlogy, check out the 1561 celestial phenomenon over Nuremberg, the 1566 celestial phenomenon over Basel, and the Utsuro-bune incident in Japan in 1803.

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