CHICAGO, IL – Years before the Wright Brothers took to the sky and the contents of the size of a tube of toothpaste were weighed with anxiety-riddled passengers, people have seen strange things in the sky. The late 1800s, a time of innovation and change, brought with it a wave of mysterious aircraft sightings.
Originating in California, these tales of unidentified flying marvels stirred intrigue and wonder as they moved eastward, captivating the imagination of an entire nation. By April 1897, the phenomena reached a fever pitch in Illinois, especially around Evanston and the bustling streets of Chicago, where hundreds of residents reportedly stood in awe at the sight of an enigmatic airship for a total of three days.
Local papers, already a hive of curiosity and conjecture, insinuated the presence of “English spies” aboard these crafts. Their theories gained traction when a newsdealer managed to allegedly capture photographs of the baffling vessel. After meticulous examination, the local newspaper declared the images genuine, but since, original prints disappeared, deepening the mystery.
As tales spread of the airship’s dual cigar-shaped bodies, connecting girders, and its mesmerizing array of lights, questions about its origins and intentions loomed large. But what truly captured the public’s imagination were reports of its peculiar passengers. These individuals, appearing as normal people onlookers, added layers to the unfolding enigma.
Notably, in an incident in Texas, one such passenger allegedly sought out a handyman’s assistance for the airship from a local, further entwining the craft in a web of mystery.
The dawn of the 20th century brought significant advancements in aviation, demystifying much of the sky. Yet, the events surrounding the 1897 Illinois airships remain, positioning Chicago at the heart of one of America’s most tantalizing and unresolved aerial legends.