A man examines strange marks in a pasture -- marks that were possibly left by a UFO landing.

Fortean Picture Library

The 1884 Nebraska Crash

On June 6, 1884, as a band of cowboys rounded up cattle in remote Dundy County, Nebraska, a blazing object streaked out of the sky and crashed some distance from them, leaving (according to a contemporary newspaper account) "fragments of cog-wheels and other pieces of machinery . . . glowing with heat so intense as to scorch the grass for a long distance around each fragment." The light was so intense that it blinded one of the witnesses.

This incredible event was recorded two days later in Lincoln's Daily State Journal, which printed a dispatch from Benkelman, Nebraska, by an anonymous correspondent. The correspondent wrote that prominent local citizens had gone to the site, where the metal now had cooled. He reported, "The aerolite, or whatever it is, seems to be about 50 or 60 feet long, cylindrical, and about 10 or 12 feet in diameter." A State Journal editor remarked that this must have been an "air vessel belonging originally to some other planet."

But on June 10 an anticlimactic dispatch came from Benkelman. In a heavy rainstorm the remains had "melted, dissolved by the water like a spoonful of salt." The obvious message: Take the story with a grain of sodium chloride. The State Journal, red-faced, dropped it then and there.

In the 1960s a copy of the first newspaper article resurfaced, and reporters, historians, and ufologists rushed to Dundy County. Lifelong residents of the area assured them no such thing had ever happened. Later, even after the telltale follow-up dispatch was uncovered, one humorless author theorized that the "storm was artificially created so that a UFO concealed within the clouds could retrieve the wreckage of the crashed UFO."­

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