were, "He's given the subject some thought but his explanations are not the panacea."
And there were other widely publicized theories. One man said that they were all skyhook balloons, but we knew the flight path of every skyhook balloon and they were
seldom reported as UFO's. Their little brothers, the weather balloons, caused us a great deal more trouble.
The Army Engineers took a crack at solving the UFO problem by making an announcement that a scientist in one of their laboratories had duplicated a flying saucer in
his laboratory. Major Dewey Fournet checked into this one. It had all started out as a joke, but it was picked up as fact and the scientist was stuck with it. He
gained some publicity but lost prestige because other scientists wondered just how competent the man really was to try to pass off such an answer.
All in all, the unsolicited assistance of theorists didn't help us a bit, I told the panel members. Some of them were evidently familiar with the theories because they
nodded their heads in agreement.
The next topic I covered in my briefing was a question that came up quite frequently in discussions of the UFO: Did UFO reports actually start in 1947? We had spent a
great deal of time trying to resolve this question. Old newspaper files, journals, and books that we found in the Library of Congress contained many reports of odd
things being seen in the sky as far back as the Biblical times. The old Negro spiritual says, "Ezekiel saw a wheel 'way up in the middle of the air." We
couldn't substantiate Ezekiel's sighting because many of the very old reports of odd things observed in the sky could be explained as natural phenomena that weren't
fully understood in those days.
The first documented reports of sightings similar to the UFO sightings as we know them today appeared in the newspapers of 1896. In fact, the series of sightings that
occurred in that year and the next had many points of similarity with the reports of today.
The sightings started in the San Francisco Bay area on the evening of November 22, 1896, when hundreds of people going home from work saw a large, dark, "cigar-
shaped object with stubby wings" traveling northwest across Oakland.
Within hours after the mystery craft had disappeared over what is now the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, the stories of people in other northern California
towns began to come in on the telegraph wires. The citizens of Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Chico, and Red Bluff -- several thousand of them -- saw it.
I tried to find out if the people in these outlying communities saw the UFO before they heard the news from the San Francisco area or afterward, but trying