“MYSTERY AIRSHIPS IN 1896-97 AMERICA” and More Freaky True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Stories of people in the past looking to the skies to see UFOs are becoming more and more common as we learn more of our history. But there was some very strange goings on in 1896 and 1897 with some flying contraptions, weird looking people, bizarre languages, and even a close encounter of the third kind. (America’s Mystery Airships of 1896-97) *** From UFOs in 1896-97… to UFOs in 1966-67. But this time we add another element. Not only did a young man see a UFO, but the encounter appears to have taken him outside of time – and even changed his personality in the process! (Missing Time in 1966) *** In Blake Edward’s 1965 classic comedy film, ‘The Great Race’, the heroic Leslie and the despicable Professor Fate, engage in an epic automobile race from New York to Paris in the early 1900s. The film is actually based on a real race that took place in 1908 – and as hilarious as the ‘The Great Race’ movie was, the actual race took stupidity to a whole new level. (The Great Race to Stupidity)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“Coast To Coast AM” radio interview re: missing time, aliens, etc.: https://youtu.be/LWMYf0ijb_A
“America’s Mystery Airships of 1896-97” by Troy Taylor: https://tinyurl.com/y6yqdnzd
“Missing Time in 1966” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight: https://tinyurl.com/y4kptacw
“The Great Race to Stupidity” by Setareh Janda for Weird History: https://tinyurl.com/y67hjxkv
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Paranormality Magazine: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/paranormalitymag
Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/microterrors
Retro Radio – Old Time Radio In The Dark: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/retroradio
Church of the Undead: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/churchoftheundead
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Welcome, Weirdos – (I’m Darren Marlar and) this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
Stories of people in the past looking to the skies to see UFOs are becoming more and more common as we learn more of our history. But there was some very strange goings on in 1896 and 1897 with some flying contraptions, weird looking people, bizarre languages, and even a close encounter of the third kind. (America’s Mystery Airships of 1896-97)
From UFOs in 1896-97… to UFOs in 1966-67. But this time we add another element. Not only did a young man see a UFO, but the encounter appears to have taken him outside of time – and even changed his personality in the process! (Missing Time in 1966)
In Blake Edward’s 1965 classic comedy film, ‘The Great Race’, the heroic Leslie and the despicable Professor Fate, engage in an epic automobile race from New York to Paris in the early 1900s. The film is actually based on a real race that took place in 1908 – and as hilarious as the ‘The Great Race’ movie was, the actual race took stupidity to a whole new level. (The Great Race to Stupidity)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: AMERICA’S MYSTERY AIRSHIPS OF 1896-97=====
On November 17, 1896, it was a dark and stormy night in Sacramento, California, when a deputy sheriff named Walter Mallory spotted three bright, white lights in the overhead sky. The lights were moving, illuminating a dark, oblong shape that they seemed to be attached to. Over the next few minutes, hundreds of people saw the shape and estimated that it was about 350 yards above the city’s rooftops.
Five days later, the weird object returned. It was seen by thousands of people as it took nearly 30 minutes to cross the city. One man heard a shout coming from above. “Throw her up higher,” it said, “She’ll hit the steeple.” He claimed that he saw two men peddling a bicycle-type frame, which was attached to the object.
Later that night, it was seen above San Francisco, where it was observed by thousands. It traveled along the Pacific Coast, where it activated a brilliant spotlight that lit up a distance of more than 500 feet.
And then it was gone, as mysteriously as it came.
What was it? That seems to be a very good question – especially after the object, or at least one like it, began to be seen all over the country.
They were airships but were certainly not like anything that had been seen before. They seemed to have been built in mysterious cylindrical shapes that were constructed of weird metals and shiny steel. Reports of these airships circulated around the country, even though their construction, and very existence, was seemingly an impossibility at the time. No aircraft, save for hot air balloons, flew under their own power before the Wright Brothers left the ground at Kitty Hawk. So, what were these strange ships, who had constructed them and perhaps strangest of all, who was flying them?
The pilots – according to that early witness in California – seemed to be human. They were not your average citizens, though. Later on, it seemed that most of them carried extraordinary messages to the people on the ground, while others seemed to have superior intelligence, odd skin tones and colors, and weird speech patterns.
On the day after the airship was seen in San Francisco, it was spotted in Tacoma, Washington, followed by a stop in San Jose, California. Then, it went dark for a while, finally turning up in the skies over Nebraska on February 2, 1897. On March 27, it was spotted over Kansas.
On April 3, it appeared over Illinois. The first sightings were in Evanston and in several other communities near Chicago. The local newspapers quickly spread the news that the airship was filled – inexplicably — with “English spies.” It remained over Evanston – in full view of more than 500 people – for 45 minutes.
One description stated that the airship was “composed of two cigar-shaped bodies attached by girders,” and others claimed that it had wings and sails. Still others scoffed at the news. Professor G.W. Hough of the Dearborn Observatory admitted that he didn’t even bother to look at the airship when it was over his headquarters in Evanston. He was sure that it was merely the star Alpha Orionis.
The airship reportedly stayed in the Chicago area for three days and was there long enough to be photographed by a newspaper dealer named Walter McCann. He was picking up his daily newspapers at the Northwestern Railway depot when he saw the ship coming toward him from the south. A short time before, his son had won a camera in a contest for getting newspaper subscribers, and McCann ran into his store and snatched it up. He ran back outside and snapped a photo of it. He then ran down the railroad tracks and took another photo a few minutes later. After the plates were developed, McCann gave copies of the photos to all the newspapers who requested them, but he refused to sell the negatives. The staff artists and etcher for the Chicago Times-Herald subjected the photos to acid tests and proclaimed them authentic. Sadly though, the photos have since been lost.
After departing from Chicago, the airship began a tour across Illinois. It was spotted in dozens of cities, and there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to its route. It appeared in both northern and southern Illinois, being in one region on one day and the other on the next. For instance, on April 5, it made an appearance in the southwestern Illinois town of Nashville, and on April 8 was seen up north in Dixon, Rock Island, and Sterling.
According to newspaper reports, the craft buzzed over Elgin, Jerseyville, Kankakee, Taylorville, East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Jacksonville, Ottawa, Quincy, Decatur, Lincoln, Hillsboro, Peoria, and many other locations. Even if we discount many of the reports as being merely excitement or practical jokes that were generated by newspaper stories, there are still scores of credible and very similar accounts.
Several of the Illinois accounts from April 1897 stand out as even stranger than mere sightings of the airship itself. One of the encounters took place about two miles outside of Springfield when two farmlands reported that the airship landed in a field where they were working. The occupants of the ship — two men and one woman — came out and told the field workers that they would make a report to the government about their journey “when Cuba is declared free.” Modern readers who are confused about this should note that this period of history was marked by the Spanish-American War over the issue of Cuban independence. After their bizarre announcement, the occupants of the airship waved to them and climbed back into the craft. It lifted off again into the skies.
The aircraft was seen again near Mt. Vernon a few days after this. The city’s mayor was looking at the sky with his telescope when the ship came into range. In addition to the airship, he also claimed to see one of the occupants of the craft hovering in the sky around it. He said that the man had some sort of device strapped to his back that allowed him to fly about and apparently make repairs to his ship.
The airship landed several more times over the next few days in Nilwood, Downs Township, and Green Ridge, but the occupants always quickly climbed back aboard and lifted off when they were approached by witnesses. In two of the cases, the passengers were seen checking over some of the machinery on the airship before they departed. Could they have been experiencing some technical difficulties connected to the repairs that were taking place near Mt. Vernon?
Soon after, a report was made that claimed that two witnesses saw an airship crash near where they had been watching it. They said that the airship vanished, leaving a man standing alone at the crash site. The man – presumably the pilot – showed the men a small device that supposedly allowed him to shrink the airship to a size that would fit into his pocket.
On April 10, 1897, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a story reporting that W.H. Hopkins encountered a grounded airship near the outskirts of Springfield, Missouri. The vehicle was apparently propelled by three large propellers. When he approached the craft, the crew appeared – a beautiful woman and a bearded man – and both of them were naked. Hopkins tried to communicate with them, and after several tries, the crew finally understood that he was asking where they had come from. Both pointed to the skies and “uttered something that sounded like the word Mars.”
On April 16, 1897, a group of “anonymous but reliable” witnesses saw an airship sailing overhead. The craft had many passengers and among them was a woman tied to a chair, a woman attending her, and a man with a pistol who was apparently guarding their prisoner. Before the witnesses thought to contact the authorities, the airship was gone.
An account from Aurora, Texas, appeared in the Dallas Morning News on April 19, 1897. It reported that a couple of days before, an airship had smashed into a windmill belonging to a Judge Proctor, then crashed. The occupant of the ship was dead, but the story reported that the presumed pilot was clearly “not an inhabitant of this world.” Strange “hieroglyphic” figures were seen on the wreckage, which resembled “a mixture of aluminum and silver … it must have weighed several tons.” The story ended by noting that the pilot was given a “Christian burial” in the town cemetery.
Sound hard to believe, right? Well, in 1973, it was discovered with metal detectors that a quantity of foreign material was buried under the stone marker where the airship pilot had been buried. Investigators weren’t allowed to do any digging at the site, and when they returned several years later, the gravestone – and whatever metallic material was buried under it – was gone.
What was this mysterious airship? Or was it more than one airship, causing panic across the country at the same time? Was it a hoax, a case of mass hysteria? Perhaps, but this seems unlikely based on the unrelated and completely unconnected witnesses who spotted and reported it.
If the impossible ship was real, then who were the passengers? They had strange messages to pass along and seemed to be almost constantly at work on their vessel. During one encounter that took place in Texas, an airship passenger actually asked for help in repairing his craft. He handed the witness current American money and asked him to get supplies from the local hardware store. But how could materials from the 1890s function in the baffling airships that seemed to come from another time and space?
That mystery remains unsolved. The airship could not have been built by any mechanical means of the time, and yet it apparently existed. The passengers on the ship appeared to be normal humans, taking what seemed to them to be a normal trip, aboard a machine that could not exist – and yet did.
One of the more compelling possible solutions to the mystery was proposed by author J. Allan Danelek, who believes that the airship was the work of an unknown inventor, possibly funded by a wealthy investor from San Francisco. His goal was to build an airship prototype as a test vehicle for a later series of larger, passenger-carrying airships. Danelek even demonstrated how the craft might have been built using materials and technologies available in 1896. Built in secret to safeguard its design from patent infringements – and to protect investors in case it failed – the inventor initially flew over California and then later, over the Midwest. He speculates that the inventor was making a series of short test flights, moving from west to east, and following the main railway lines for logistical support. These experimental flights inspired many – though not all – of the newspaper accounts of the era. Some of the wilder ones were undoubtedly hoaxes.
This seems possible – as does the reason he may have stopped and why the airship was never heard from again. At some point in late April 1897, the craft may have met with disaster, ending the experiment and allowing the sightings of it to fall into the category of an unsolved mystery.
Coming up… From UFOs in 1896-97… to UFOs in 1966-67. But this time we add another element. Not only did a young man see a UFO, but the encounter appears to have taken him outside of time – and even changed his personality in the process!
Plus… in Blake Edward’s 1965 classic comedy film, ‘The Great Race’, the heroic Leslie and the despicable Professor Fate, engage in an epic automobile race from New York to Paris in the early 1900s. The film is actually based on a real race that took place in 1908 – and as hilarious as the ‘The Great Race’ movie was, the actual race took stupidity to a whole new level. These stories when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: MISSING TIME IN 1966=====
There are many UFO sightings on record, but ones that are accompanied by missing time are particularly interesting. Perhaps not least as they might suggest something more akin to alien abduction than just a mere sighting.
An incident in the autumn of 1966 in Nebraska could be just such a case. A journey that should have taken no longer than five minutes seemingly took over half an hour. And what’s more, the witness to these strange events seemingly had no recollection of the events.
It is perhaps interesting that the incident we are about to examine occurred on an otherwise lonely road. Many potential and apparent abduction cases occur in similar locations around the world. Does this suggest a deliberate targeting of exposed individuals? Or might it be the locations themselves, perhaps built on or near locations that are energetically charged and flowing with paranormal activity?
The account wasn’t reported until decades later in 2004 and entered the public arena through the files of Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC). It is from those files that the following account is based.
The witness was 17 years old at the time of the incident, although it was his ex-wife (who was his girlfriend at the time) who would eventually make a report in 2004. On the night in question on 5th September 1966, the unnamed teenager was riding on his motorcycle to his girlfriend’s house to meet her parents in Columbus, Nebraska.
He was due to arrive at around 9 pm and was around a mile away from his destination when he noticed something truly out of the ordinary overhead. He could see a bizarre object which was “completely circular” and was around 100-feet above him. It also had a combination of green, red, and yellow lights on the underside. He would further recall how a pattern on the underside reminded him of the spokes on a wheel.
Although he could make out the shape of the object, due to the darkness of the evening he could not see any further detail such as the color, or any specifics on the top side. He did recall, though, that it made a “low humming sound” – a sound that “resonated” through him.
By the time he realized that the object was not moving and was, in fact, stationary, he increased the speed of the bike. However, then things turned even more bizarre.
The engine of the bike was indeed raging, and the wheels below were spinning as they should. The bike and consequently himself, though, remained in the same place on the road. Due to his familiarity with the road, he knew this was not something he was imagining. For example, he knew he should have passed certain locations on the roadside by now.
He increased the speed even more. Still, the bike remained where it was, working, but seemingly frozen.
The next thing he knew, he was traveling (and moving) once more along the road. However, he had the distinct impression that he was missing something. What’s more, despite going nearly 70 miles per hour only seconds ago, he was now seemingly coasting along at around 25 miles per hour.
He took a moment to clear his mind and then, while still very much concerned and unnerved, he continued on his journey.
By the time he arrived at his girlfriend’s parents’ house, he was around 30 minutes late. The journey itself should have taken no more than 5 minutes. As he pulled up the property, his girlfriend immediately saw how pale he looked and how jumpy he was acting. In fact, he was distinctly quiet for the rest of the evening. This change, while discreet, was something that didn’t leave him for some time, at least according to the recollections of his (then) girlfriend.
It wasn’t until a month or so later that he would eventually reveal to her what had happened that strange night at the start of September.
It was while the pair were on a night out around four weeks after the missing time episode when things began to make a little more sense to the witness’s girlfriend. They decided to park their car near a radio tower in a quiet part of the town. They had been before and many of their friends did the same. However, on this evening, things took a sudden change.
After only being there for several minutes, the witness suddenly declared they had to leave. As his girlfriend tried to calm him and find out what the matter was, he would suddenly blurt out what he had seen a month earlier on the way to her parent’s home. He still, though, could not account for the missing 30 minutes. Or why his bike was seemingly frozen in the same spot for such a prolonged period of time.
The pair would eventually marry and have children. However, they would divorce several years before the report of the incident was made. His wife also claimed that his constant state of fear and occasional panic would last for many years. And even at the time of their divorce, he would refuse to speak of the night in question.
1966 and 1967 were both big years for UFO sightings, in particular 1967 which would see a wave of UFO activity around the world. However, the build-up to that wave of incidents began in the fall of 1966. More specifically, there were several such incidents around the same time as the Nebraska missing time case which are very much worth mentioning here.
For example, on the same evening as the alleged encounter above, in Minnesota at Finland AFS, a sighting of an oval-shaped object was reported. What’s more, the object had red, yellow, and green lights on the underside – the same as the lights seen in Nebraska around an hour earlier. As well as being seen visually, it was also picked up on the radar signal. So convinced that something untoward was in the skies above the region a decision was made to scramble two F-89 jets from nearby Duluth. However, as shows up in other similar reports, as soon as the fighters approached the object it disappeared with lightning speed.
Only two nights earlier, on the evening of 3rd September in Harlingen, Texas, a local resident would notice significant disturbance on his television. When he went outside to inspect what the matter was, he witnessed a “fantastic spinning light” that illuminated the entire area below. Unfortunately, the report does not say what colors the lights were, only that the object hovered there for some time. And furthermore, it had been seen in the area on other occasions.
Whether the above accounts are connected or not is obviously open to debate. They are, however, extremely interesting when considered against the missing time account in Nebraska. And perhaps even more so when considering the wave of UFO encounters that would occur in 1967.
Did the anonymous witness suffer an alien abduction that evening on a lonely road in Columbus, Nebraska?
All the signs are certainly there, not least the missing 30 minutes of time. Was he taken on board the strange circular craft before being sent back on his way on his motorcycle? Was this incident really wiped from his mind? Or might it be possible that he very much recalled the events of that half an hour? However, he simply refused to speak about it? Might that have been why he would act as fearful for his life when returning near to the location a month later?
Or might that fear have been something in his unconscious? Something that doesn’t provide memories. But instead only evokes emotions such as distress, desperation, and outright terror.
Without hearing the witness’s side of the story there is so much left unanswered here. And it is not likely that we shall be able to fill in those gaps. Did the witness, for example, suffer any similar incidents in the years that followed? Did he recall any further memories of the night in question? And if the incident wasn’t a case of alien abduction, just what did happen during those 30 minutes? And what technology or energy caused the apparent standstill of his bike?
It is certainly an intriguing account. And one that, if we can assume the credibility of the person who made the report for a moment, certainly suggests something a lot more out of the ordinary than a mere sighting of strange lights in the sky. Just what did happen that September evening in Columbus, Nebraska, though, will likely remain a mystery.
In an episode of radio’s “Coast to Coast AM” George Noory interviews author Rosemary Ellen Guiley about alien abductions and the missing time phenomena a little further. I’ll place a link to the YouTube video in the Essential Web Links of the show notes.
STORY: THE GREAT RACE TO STUPIDITY=====
The New York to Paris auto race of 1908 may have been one of the most ambitious races in history – but it was also one of the stupidest. At a time when automobiles couldn’t be trusted to travel across a town, let alone a country, a group of adventure-seekers felt compelled to drive them across the world. Over the course of several months, six international teams raced westward from New York City to Paris, driving over mountains, plains, forests, and swamps in North America, Asia, and Europe. Whoever reached the City of Light first won bragging rights that their country produced the world’s finest vehicle.
The race began in Times Square on February 12, 1908. Six teams represented four countries that put forward their best automobiles: one German team drove a Protos from Berlin; one Italian team drove a Zust from Milan; three separate French teams drove a De Dion-Bouton from Paris, a Motobloc from Bordeaux, and a Sizaire-Naudin from Courbevoie; and an American team drove a Thomas Flyer from Buffalo. Only three teams made it to Paris several months later. Ultimately, the winner was the American Thomas Flyer. It rolled into Paris on July 30, 1908, more than five months after the race began.
From epic mishaps to unfortunate breakdowns, the New York to Paris race proved to be as zany as the film it inspired decades later: Blake Edwards’s 1965 comedy classic The Great Race.
Automobiles – which date from the mid-1880s – were still a relatively new invention when the race was held in 1908. Though they were becoming increasingly popular, they were not the most efficient way of traveling long distances. A top-of-the-line Mercedes could get up to 53 miles per hour under ideal conditions.
The problem: Conditions on the New York-to-Paris race were seldom ideal, and rough roads contributed to various mechanical issues. Between breakdowns and extreme weather conditions, horses remained a more reliable mode of transportation.
The American team drove a 1907 Thomas Flyer Model 35 automobile. Like most cars at the time, it had an open cab and no windows of any kind – not even windshields – due to the understanding that glass on a vehicle was a safety hazard. Since the race began in February, teams would have to ramble through wintry conditions without any real protection from the elements. The cars’ lack of heating systems made driving even more perilous.
Ironically, the race began in February to avoid some of the most extreme weather conditions, such as summer flooding in Siberia.
Racers immediately hit a snag, running into a blizzard in New York’s Hudson Valley. Since tread tires had only recently been introduced, the cars weren’t hearty winter machines. The teams struggled in the snow; they had to dig their way through roads and rely on planks for traction.
Their pace slowed to about a mile an hour as they crawled their way across the Eastern United States.
Racers didn’t have the benefit of detailed maps to help them navigate the roads on multiple continents; travel-sized road maps weren’t in widespread use in 1908.
Instead, racers used other means of figuring out where to go. Compasses were essential. American mechanic and driver George Schuster even used a sextant that he crafted himself. He also relied on the traditional method of stargazing to help him navigate.
Among the biggest hazards racers had to contend with were the roads themselves. Paved roads were a rare luxury, especially in the remote regions that served as the setting for the majority of the race. Somes places didn’t have any roads at all. In such instances, teams opted to drive on railroad tracks. Roads in France were the exception, since French roads were famously easy to drive on.
The original route for the race included an ambitious, icy crossing of the frozen Bering Strait. However, the teams spent more time than anticipated in the United States. By the time they reached the West Coast, the spring thaw was beginning to set in and roads in Alaska were virtually impassable. The plan fell apart. “Our adventure on ice will not happen,” lamented Antonio Scarfoglio of the Italian team.
The racers instead shipped their cars from Seattle to Asia.
Tensions inevitably erupted due to the high-stress stakes of the race. However, they weren’t always between rival teams – sometimes, teams squabbled among themselves.
One such incident involved Hans Hendrick Hansen, a member of G. Bourcier de St. Chaffray’s French team. To say Hansen clashed with a French teammate would be an understatement. The team’s De Dion got stuck in a snowdrift, and Hansen was unable to get the automobile out of it. This led to an argument, which led to Hansen challenging St. Chaffray to a duel. Instead, St. Chaffray fired Hansen, who shortly thereafter found a new home with the American team.
The road conditions weren’t only challenging for the cars racing to Paris – team mechanics also had to contend with a variety of natural hazards.
One of the mechanics for the United States team was George Schuster, a Thomas employee from Buffalo, NY. He kept the Thomas Flyer in working order under dire circumstances. While attempting to cross a creek in Nevada, the car broke a gear and was bogged down in quicksand that coated the bottom of the stream bed. Schuster had to travel 75 miles for a replacement part. He managed to fix the issue, allowing the car to continue the race.
While driving across Germany, the American Thomas car accidentally hit a pigeon. The impact was bad enough to break one of the vehicle’s headlights. By the time the crew cruised down the streets of Paris, their car was no longer street legal. According to city law, all vehicles in Paris had to have working headlights at night.
When a policeman threatened to arrest the American team for breaking the law, a spectator came to the rescue: His bicycle, which had a working light, was strapped to the hood of the car.
The American racers claimed they encountered the worst roads in the United States. However, the spring thaw in Siberia made roads challenging there, as well. Cars frequently got bogged down in the mud, slowing down their pace significantly.
The conditions in Russia were so bad that the French team driving the De Dion car dropped out of the race.
Like contemporary vehicles, early automobiles relied on radiators to prevent their engines from overheating. But once temperatures dropped low enough, the water in the radiators risked freezing, a common problem in frigid winter months. At the time of the race in 1908, antifreeze was not yet used for automobiles; that development wouldn’t happen for a couple of decades.
To prevent their radiators from freezing over, mechanics had to manually drain them at the end of each day.
The six cars that initially left Manhattan first made their way into Upstate New York – just in time for a blizzard. The automobiles simply weren’t equipped to plow through multiple feet of snow.
Near Syracuse, the French team got bogged down, and a team of six horses had to free the car. Snow continued to be a problem in the Midwest. The American Thomas Flyer automobile relied on a team of 14 Clydesdales to pull it through snow in Indiana.
Racers often toed the line of the rules. Though teams couldn’t outright take the train, for example, the American Thomas car used the rails as a makeshift road. The team even had the support of the Union Pacific Railway, which dubbed the car Train #49. Because of this, some of the other teams claimed the Americans were cheating.
Sometimes, teams were officially called out for cheating. The German team broke the rules by taking the train and enjoying shortcuts that shaved off more than 3,200 miles. The Germans were penalized for cheating by having 15 days added to their race time.
By the time the cars proceeded to Russia, the American and German teams were in a neck-and-neck race to the finish. With such a close contest, one wrong turn or breakdown could have significant consequences.
Without detailed maps, it was easy to get lost. The American Thomas Flyer – with mechanic George Schuster driving – repeatedly got lost in Russia as the team navigated muddy roads and encountered language barriers with locals. On one occasion, they ended up traveling 15 hours out of their way by mistake.
Racers often found themselves in remote locations where the nearest town was dozens – if not hundreds – of miles away. Deprived of telegraphs, they had to use simple means of communicating their progress with friends, family, and sponsors.
The Americans came prepared: They had a small collection of homing pigeons at their disposal. However, they soon discovered that using the pigeons wasn’t easy. When the team released one from Alaska, it was promptly hunted down by a hungry seagull.
When it was clear that it would be impossible to drive the automobiles across Alaska and the Bering Strait, officials made the decision to ship the teams to Asia instead. All of the teams were instructed to sail across the Pacific from Seattle.
The teams found unexpected challenges during the transpacific crossing. American mechanic George Schuster discovered that some of the ship’s crew had pilfered the Thomas Flyer’s leather fenders and used it to craft shoes for themselves. Schuster’s team had to make do with the canvas replacement the captain of the ship offered.
Hazards along the way ranged from treacherous roads to actual bandits that hoped to kidnap and ransom the drivers. Many of the teams were thus appropriately armed. American mechanic George Schuster even purchased a side arm in Wyoming after weeks on the road.
Teams sometimes threatened to turn their pieces on each other. When race stress reached its pinnacle in Russia, Hans Hendrick Hansen – a Norwegian adventurer who had joined the American team after starting the race with a French group – fixed his side arm on Schuster, his teammate, and threatened to fire at him. Another member of the team defused the situation by pointing his own side arm at Hansen and keeping it there until he backed down.
The sheer audacity of the race attracted a number of larger-than-life adventure-seekers. Chief among them was Hans Hendrick Hansen, a Norwegian explorer. Embracing his Nordic heritage – one of his biggest boasts was that he sailed to the North Pole in a Viking longboat.
Hansen’s experience in the Arctic meant he was enlisted to outfit the car and prepare his crew for winter travel. But seeing as he started off on the French team that eventually had to drop out, it obviously didn’t help much.
Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
“America’s Mystery Airships of 1896-97” by Troy Taylor
“Missing Time in 1966” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight
“The Great Race to Stupidity” by Setareh Janda for Weird History
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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” – Psalm 16:8
And a final thought… “Life is not about the stuff that happens to you; it’s what you do with the stuff that happens to you.” – Darren Marlar
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.