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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Mar > Mar 20

Re: Nebraska's Own Roswell In 1884 - Clark

From: Jerome Clark <jkclark.nul>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 09:11:51 -0500
Fwd Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 10:24:41 -0400
Subject: Re: Nebraska's Own Roswell In 1884 - Clark


>Source: The Daily Nebraskan - Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
>Nebraska May Have Had Its Own Roswell In 1884
>By John Wenz

>Very few people have heard of Max, Neb. A cursory look at the
>Google Map of the town shows just how small it is - under 20
>blocks, a blip in southwest Nebraska. It's just eight miles from
>the seat of Dundy County: Benkelman, population 914.

>But Max, the blip it may be, is the closest town to an incident
>in that occurred 1884.

>The Nebraska Nugget reported, "About 35 miles northwest of
>Benkelman, Dundy County, on the 6th of June (1884) a very
>startling phenomenon occurred. It seems that John W. Ellis and
>three of his herdsmen and a number of other cowboys were out
>engaged in a roundup. They were startled by a terrific whirring
>noise over their heads, and turning their eyes saw a blazing
>body falling like a shot to Earth. It struck beyond them, being
>hidden from view by a bank."

>The Nebraska State Journal reported on the event in 1887,

Nope. It was reported in early June 1884.

>The lack of physical evidence means there's nothing much left
>today, and John Buder, a field researcher with the Mutual UFO
>Network of Nebraska, said that the people of Dundy County shy
>away from talking about the event....

Jeez, I wonder why.

>"There has been a lot of studies made on UFO crashes," Buder
>said. "The people who I would claim know the most have not
>identified it as a hoax."

This is the sort of thing that makes any sober ufologist want to
hurl himself through a window, preferably a closed one. It
demonstrates that no matter how absurd or debunked a fable, it
will live on in the dreams of the ever-hopeful, which is to say
those who believe in everything but the existence of hoaxes.

In the real world:

The story was a joke and was recognized as such even in the
press of the period. The unnamed correspondent who wrote up
(i.e., invented) the yarn tipped his hand by noting that the
"queer object melted, dissolved by the water like a spoonful of
salt." Get it? Salt is the substance with which we are to take
the tale. That's why I titled my article on the subject (IUR,
November/ December 1986) "Spaceship and Saltshaker."

Please allow me the indulgence of quoting myself. Here's The UFO
Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., p. 260:


"In 1964 the (ostensibly serious) original story, though not the
(clearly comic) sequel [about the object's dissolving in salt],
was rediscovered by a Holdrege man, who sent a copy to the Omaha
World-Herald. Reporter Russ Toler asked his mother, Ida Toler, a
member of the Dundy County Historical Society, to investigate.
Mrs. Toler, born in 1897 and a lifelong resident of the county,
interviewed old-timers but could find no one who remembered it,
though John Ellis, on whose ranch the event supposedly occurred,
did exist. 'I grew up hearing pioneer stories, but never did I
hear this one,' she said [in a phone interview and
correspondence with me]. In her view, the tale grew out of a
'dull day at the newspaper office.... They needed a story so
some person concocted this tale.' Nebraska historian and
folklorist Roger Welsch also conducted inquiries in the area and
found that 'nobody had the foggiest notion' about it."


I dug into this story from time to time over a period of years,
seeking some evidence that anything at all, even a distorted
real event, might be behind the tale. Beyond the interviews
cited above, I corresponded with the Nebraska Historical
Society, whose representative was interested but could find no
evidence that the report had any historical foundation. (At one
time I went personally to the NHS library at the University of
Nebraska in Lincoln to check for myself.) There is every reason
to believe the story is fiction and no reason to believe
otherwise.

Only a relative handful of anomalists have spent a whole lot of
time reading 19th-C. newspapers. Only those of us who have put
in the effort can fully appreciate how often those old papers
published outright fantasy for the edification and amusement of
readers. The supposed UFO crash in 1884 is simply one of those.
It's notable, perhaps, as one example of period interest in the
notion of otherworldly visitors or as yet one more frontier tall
tale with which our hardy Northern American ancestors loved to
regale the credulous tenderfoot. But that's it.

I would like to think this is the last we'll hear of the
Nebraska crash. Sad to say, I know better. I can see it now:
cheesy cable-TV pseudo-documentaries, a book or two, an annual
community celebration to separate slack-jawed, bug-eyed tourists
from their dollars, and indignant responses to this posting for
my refusal to be so open-minded as to let my brains fall out of
my head.


Jerry Clark



Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast

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