Tuesday, April 12, 2016



(Special to the [Wilmington] Messenger.)

            Williamson [Martin County]  N. C., April 14 [1897].—The mysterious airship seen at Wilmington and other points was observed here last night about 9 o’clock. When first noticed it appeared as a black mass against the moon-lit sky, going slowly from South to North. Its altitude was not great, being near enough to enable the observer to discern outlines of its rigging with the naked eye. As it passed over the town it ascended rapidly and a brilliant light was thrown out far ahead of it. The light was seen by some who could not, on account of the great height it had attained, catch the faintest glimpse of the aerial machine. If it should appear again there will be many to behold it as people are much interested and will watch for its re-appearance. — News and Observer (Raleigh, NC) 16 Apr 1897

            The airship was first seen in North Carolina at Wilmington [New Hanover County] about April 5, 1897. The Semi-Weekly Messenger of that city reported that hundreds of people watched as the brilliant mass floated from east to west across the sky. “Many persons saw net-work about the aerial wonder.” Watchers with field glasses observed its wires, ropes and rigging and all were amazed by its powerful searchlight.
            The mysterious airship was next seen at Goldsboro [Wayne County] about April 9th or 10th. The Press-Visitor of Raleigh [Wake County] said: “Those who saw the object describe it as a great light moving rapidly from east to west.”

Found at http://www.angelfire.com/ma4/oddities/airship.html

            On April 13 The Press-Visitor in Raleigh carried the following article:


Arrangements Made for Its Appearance Tonight.

            The Press-Visitor this afternoon completed arrangements by which the air-ship will appear over Raleigh at 3 o’clock tomorrow morning.
            Efforts were made to secure its appearance here on a dark night, but the dates were all taken save tonight. This will prevent Raleigh, owing to the moon-light, from having quite as good a view as some other towns.

            Apparently the mysterious airship had an identity by this time. The Press-Visitor reported that many saw the airship pass over the city. It was identified as “the first automobile dirigible balloon ever invented which is a success. It is simple in its construction. It consists of an elliptical gasbag 128 feet in length and a car weighing 45 pounds. It is constructed on the aeroplane system, and operates perfectly. [This is 6 years before the Wright brothers first flew an ‘aeroplane’ over the sandy beach of NC.] The machine is operated by an electric storage battery and propeller. Its lifting power depends upon the number of cubic feet of gas in the bag."
            This announcement this did not stop the speculation. The airship continued to be spotted and by the time it was seen over Kenly [Johnston, Wilson Counties] about April 22, watchers saw sails and (very clearly) two men. 
            The Kenly sighting was the last reported in local newspapers throughout the months of April and May of 1897. The excitement had run its course.

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