The inventor, a Mr. Wilson by name, came out to meet with intrigued townspeople. Sharing with them in a friendly conversation the secrets of his developments, he explained that his point of origin was a “little peaceful town in Iowa”. Yes, he was an American, born in Goshen, New York. An electrical system employing “highly condensed” electricity provided propulsive force for the craft. Mr. Wilson added that he had undertaken the construction of five other flying machines such as the one, which he flew.

Before leaving, he asked the sheriff, to give his regards to the local itinerant judge whom he knew by name. Asking only buckets of water “for his engine”, he entered the craft. Lifting out of view to the many cheers of those who watched, he passed into history never again heard. Dirigibles and other such flying crafts were already becoming a Patent registry revolution; Patent 565805 to Charles Abbott Smith (1896), and Patent 580941 to Henry Heintz (1897), being two typical examples.

Researchers who have investigated the all too numerous mystery airship sightings observe that modes of aerial travel very swiftly became an international obsession among all too numerous youthful engineers. Thereafter, the world beheld a new era of experimental daring, as aerialists played their soaring games before the skyward looking eyes of wonderstruck admirers. Lovely designs appeared, first on drawing boards, and then in the skies.

Cylindrical balloons were wrapped in netting or canvas, and firmly fixed to a “well aerated” gondola, slung underneath. Some of these designs were truly compact and efficient. Engines, propellers, and rudders were all controlled by levers and wheels. The problems of aerial maneuverability were solved by a brilliant little man, a physio-type perfect for the aerial arena. Alberto Santos-Dumont, the aerialist playboy, incorporated his own private dirigible design … for engaging young belles along the shores of the Seine.

Descending from the clouds with his butler-assistant, he brought champagne and succulent delicacies for an occasional “chance meeting”. Permission duly granted by governess attendants, butler was exchanged for belle, as the marvelous Monsieur Dumont flew away with his jewel. Never was the fairy tale more complete. The socially accepted aerialist was never refused. To refuse Santos-Dumont was to refuse an honor of the very “highest” sort. Wealthy, eligible, poised, and proper, the silk scarfed bandit of the Parisian skies made his daily appearance over and about the lovely Champs Elysees. Soaring aloft with his more adventuresome feminine admirers, he toured the Parisian skies. No one of these swooning mademoiselles could thereafter claim never to have been literally “swept off her feet” by a man. After a specified time, he easily settled his craft down again with the great skill and panache of an artistic lover. The damsels safely returned to their enthralled and permissive governesses, belle was sadly exchanged for butler. Hands were lightly kissed, a flower exchanged perhaps.

His timing was always impeccably precise. The “wrist-watch”, which his friend Cartier first designed for his exclusive aerial use, had already become the rage of Paris. Aerial crafts, strange glass-covered instruments, flying goggles, wristwatches, drooping moustache, and special flying suits … the short little serious-faced man cut a comic, but somehow dramatic figure. Imbued with a sense of the visionary future, women flocked to him. In truth, he remains an historic figure of bizarre aerial gallantry.

Alberto Santos-Dumont justifiably received the most public acclaim in the early days of aerial transportation, a master of the art. His performances greatly endeared aerial transportation to the public as a science, art, and sport. In one exhibition, he successfully maneuvered around and through the Eiffel Tower. Photographs of the event are startling. The art of dirigible flying was perfected in him, the strange little flying man for whom dreamers owe a strong gratitude. Vive Santos-Dumont!

A never-ending armada of aerialists, hoping in part to mimic Dumont, covered the aeroship mystery for most bewildered people of the day with their grand public displays. Forgotten were the phantom-like apparitions of vague form, mysteriously floating like visions across the worldwide skies. Despite the historical closed chapter on aeroships, a single mysterious note of the most exquisitely haunting variety followed the development and deployment of dirigibles.

The story focuses upon an elderly German gentleman, Dellschau by name. An early and forgotten researcher of aerial phenomena, he maintained records of all the aeroship sightings after 1850. The poor man clung to his precious notebooks until his passing at the remarkable age of 92. These books were later noticed at an aviation exhibition by an inquiring researcher (Navarro). The books are covered with drawings of dirigibles and other clippings, all from the middle 1800’s. Among the numerous and rare newspaper clippings were bizarre designs for airships. Far too massive for realistic flight, they may have been attempts to sublimate the apparitions.

There are indications that Mr. Dellschau was a member of a secret society, which, on further study of the arcane German dialect in which he wrote, had every aspect of a Jules Verne novel. According to the researcher who examined the notebooks, a group of sixty researchers and developers formed the core of this early Aero Club. The translation infers that aerial ships were tested and flown by the secret group in Germany during the 1850’s, and afterward in California.

This anomalous report would explain all the previous sightings, both in Germany and in America, were it not for more important details. On close examination, there were significant inconsistencies with the claims and the designs themselves. The designs each seemed more like rockets, their actual balloon sections being far too small to realistically lift the indicated weight. There are those who would believe Dellschau’s descriptions of “NB gas”, the “weight nullifying gas”, belong to a yet unknown lifting agent. Possibly obtained in the distillation of rare minerals, or in some electrical process, these bizarre explanations would be plausible for many who are aware of similar past discoveries.

Nevertheless, there is another explanation, which, having a more macabre fascination seems to be closest to the reality of both aeroship sightings and Dellschau himself. A reclusive visionary, he wrote in the manner of a mystic possessed by a great and awesome secret. The more extraordinary explanation for both European and American sightings seems to be found in recognizing that the sightings “followed” Dellschau himself wherever he traveled. May it never be said that dreams and visions, suffusing sufficiently empowered human beings, cannot spatially materialize.

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