The Crawfordsville Air Monster

Evening Gazette de Cedar Rapids (Iowa), Friday, September 11, 1891
s1Clark, J.: "flying monsters, Crawfordsville 1891, Chicago 1849", Magonia Exchange, 22 août 2007

EDITOR GAZETTE: -- The article which appeared in THE GAZETTE of Tuesday, Sept. 8, in regard to the mysterious monster in the air, seen at Crawfordsville, Ind., brings to my mind an occurrence of a very similar character which took place in Chicago in the spring of 1849. Although I was a small boy at the time I remember the incident very distinctly. The first appearance of this "monster" was between 9 and 10 o'clock at night. People who were on the streets were amazed and terrified by the strange and unearthly sight and noise out over the lake [Lake Michigan]. What met the sight appeared to be a luminous coffin of gigantic proportions, while beneath it was the most diabolical head and face conceivable. From the mouth and eyes fire seemed to be issuing, while from the distorted lips came the most blood-curdling shrieks. The effect was startling, and excitement in many cases merged into frenzy. Several nervous women fainted, and others were thrown into hysterical spasms. It was reported, I known not how correctly, that a devout priest got out his book and bell, and went through the rite for exorcising the devil, of course without success. One thing is certain, there was the "devil to pay" in Chicago that night and the succeeding one. The Millerites were jubilant, accepting it as proof positive that the end was at hand. I listened to selections from Revelations [sic] and comments by excited people till my young life was nearly frightened out of me.

It seems the second manifestation was too much for some members of families whose graceless sons had been interested in getting up the scenic display, and in order to restore their mental equipoise, were obliged to give the snap away. It was simple enough when explained. Some of the young men had built a huge kite of the six-corner pattern, making it very long which gave it the exact shape of a coffin lid. Before sending it up, which they did from boats out on the lake, the kite was smeared with phosphorous. The diabolical face was simply a jack-o'-lantern made of a pumpkin, and the music (?) was supplied by an unfortunate kitten which was tied by the tail to the tail of the kite, and very naturally remonstrated against the whole proceedings in feline fashion.

Now I have no doubt that the Crawfordsville horror, if sifted, would turn out to be, like this, the work of some fun-loving boys. When God or his angels appear to proclaim the end of time it will not be confined to any one section, and it is only to set aside superstitious fears that I have related this incident which is true in every particular.

Shell Rock, Iowa. J. R. MARTIN