By Chris Capps
There's a long history to the UFO phenomenon. Some of the cases leave much to be answered, with a suggestion that there may be something else out there in this vast universe looking in on us and occasionally visiting. And then there are the hoaxes. But what was the first UFO hoax ever committed? If you think the first UFO hoax was in the 20th century, you may be off by a bit. The first widely accepted hoax is said to have occurred in 1897.
It was a brisk April morning in 1897 in Leroy, Kansas, when the Yates Center Farmer's Advocate first printed a story recalling the events of the 19th when Alexander Hamilton (not to be confused with the former Secretary of the Treasury) allegedly saw a UFO. The craft reported hovering in the sky was seen directly over his property hovering soundlessly with a long rope dangling down from a small box beneath it. The device Hamilton was describing would be the spitting image of the Derigibles that would begin appearing in skies a little over three years later. And the occupants of the craft were trying to steal his cattle!
Hamilton saw the cattle being raised from the ground with a rope around its neck, pulling it up into the sky. The cow was allegedly caught on the fence among the wires there. Try as they might to get the rope off the cow's neck, they could not and instead freed it from the fence so it would be able to float off. They would later attempt to track it down. Days later the remains of the creature were found in what many would describe as one of the earliest cattle mutilations in recorded history.
Hamilton went around and gathered signatures from all those around him, and each swore to the veracity of the story. It was reprinted in newspapers throughout the west. It would have been left alone to the history books as the first ever recorded cattle mutilation on record if not for one woman in 1976, who claimed to have overheard Hamilton bragging about it all being for laughs.
But while the case once again appears closed, it should be remembered that this incident took place during one of the largest UFO flaps of that century. From 1896 to just after the turn of the century, hundreds of witnesses came forward reporting mysterious ships with strange passengers on them. Just as with UFO sightings today, the sightings of the 1890's appeared to be piloted by strange beings - often described as strangely dressed people - and be far faster and more maneuverable than anything seen in the skies at the time. While it's difficult to imagine aliens could have piloted helium filled balloons to a distant world, the descriptions did occasionally include alien visitors. Among these were a few claiming to have hailed from Mars.
And so even in this story widely thought to be a hoax, there seems to be something more. It's almost as though the UFO phenomenon were itself somehow testing itself out, coming out of the woodwork and showing us that there is something else out there far beyond our understanding or technological abilities.