The ability we now have to search back issues of local newspapers on-line is allowing researchers to unearth intriguing little nuggets of forteana. Here are two items which Peter Rogerson has uncovered in his latest trawl through the haunted wing of the newspaper archives.
Dundee Courier, September 22, 1926.
VISITORS FROM MARS
In a short time the planet Mars and the earth will be in opposition. This will be the inevitable signal for a revival of the time-worn question: Is communication between two worlds possible? Scientist and layman alike demand. Can man visit Mars?" Is Mars inhabited " Can the Martians visit us?"
But it has been left to an American to raise novel aspect of the question. In a New York newspaper this advanced thinker, a Mr Fort, boldly asks, "Have the Martians visited us?" Note the difference. Mr Fort has doubts about the existence of men on Mars; or about their ability to make the transuniversal journey: his question is simply, "Have the men of Mars already visited us? and his answer is in the affirmative. Of course—Mr Fort hastens to add—of course the Martians have not actually made landing on our earth. Otherwise, should have heard more shout 't. There would have been full accounts and interviews in our newspapers, and historic crowds would have gathered to fete the cross-ether victors.
It may be, suggests Mr Fort, that the men of Mars foresaw this, and purposely avoided landing from dislike for sensationalism. But that they have been very close to us. cruising a few miles above our heads, Fort has not the slightest doubt. His reasons for thinking lie in those mysterious moving lights which appear from time to time in our skies. early as in 1909 such a light is reported have cruised. about in the heavens—a short distance over Boston harbour and the City Of Worcester. Mass. This, Mr Fort says, could not possibly have been an airship. Nor was it a meteoric phenomenon.
Therefore, he concludes, it was probably an expedition from Mars, making near reconnaissance the earth. Mr Fort's letter was penned and his theory propounded, before the recent celestial sensation occurred over Great Britain, when, it will be remembered, a mysterious light, was seen in the heavens which scientists found difficulty in explaining. No doubt Mr Fort now smiling at our scientists' laboured explanations, but what are content to call the mystery meteor he has accepted, corroboration of his own theory and interpreted return visit from Mars.
Fort would have appreciated this hoax:
AN AMERICAN METEORIC MYSTERY
Manchester Evening News 24 September 1887.
A phenomenon unparalleled in the annals of astronomical science, says a Clayton (Ga.) correspondent in the local Courier Journal, occurred here one day last week, which, from the light it throws upon the hitherto open question of the habitability of other planets, will prove of great value to scientists. At 7.45 p.m. there fell near this town a spherical metal ball or terolite, on the service of which appear graven characters, which give conclusive evidence of its having been moulded by intelligent hands. Dr. Seyers, in whose possession it now is, said this evening:
"I was returning from a patient's house situated some seven miles from the town, where I had spent the latter part of the afternoon. I was ascending a long hill, when my horse suddenly pricked up his ears, and on glancing ahead, my eyes were dazzled by a brilliant white flash, resembling a lightning stroke, and immediately following came a sharp hiss, as of escaping steam. 1 knew that an aerolite had fallen, for had the flash been electrical there would have been a clap of thunder. Driving on up the hill, I noticed that steam was issuing from the ground some few rods back from the road, and on hastening to the spot, found a hole about 4 inches in diameter, from which arose considerable heated vapour. I drove home as rapidly as possible, and taking a pick and shovel, returned to the spot.
After half an hour's hard digging I came upon the object of my search at a depth of about five feet. It was still too hot to handle, but I succeeded in getting it to my carriage by lifting it on my shovel. 1 noticed that it was remarkably heavy, but not until I reached my barn and removed the adhering soil did I realise what a prize I had. Instead of a rough mass of meteoric iron there appeared a smooth, perfect sphere of steel blue metal, with polished surface and engraved with pictures and writings.
There upon the surface of the terolite was a deeply graven circle, within which was a four-pointed star, a representative of a bird or reptile, resembling in a measure our extinct archaeopteryx, and a great number of smaller figures resembling those used in modern short-hand. The metal of which the ball was composed was unlike anything I had ever seen, being about as hard as copper and entirely infusible in my Bunsen blow-pipe. I filed off some small bits and sent them to a chemist, who made the following report:
"Sir, I have made an analysis of the filing you sent. The metal is fusible only in the electric arc. It is a new element. Examined by the spectroscope its vapour gives three fine yellow lines to the left of the D line of sodium, a broad green one to the right of the line of barium, and an innumerable number of very fine purple ones. H. Randolph Stevens, Analytical Chemist.''
The ball is now in the possession of Dr. Seyers, but it will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution in a short time, when an official report will be made.