1800s -1940s alien beliefs, conspiracies, and alleged sightings

Do you think life exists – or has ever existed somewhere else besides earth?

With the potentiality of there being hundreds of billions of galaxies in space, it is a common belief that there has to be another form of life existing as we are.  

The first speculation about other life goes back to the atomist speculations popular among Epicurean philosophers in ancient Greece and their roman disciples. Democritus and Epicurus considered the universe to be the result of the jostling of atoms and regarded it as highly likely that there were other worlds that could potentially be inhabited. They considered that our world being the only one is as unlikely as “if a single ear of wheat were to grow on a vast plain.”

This all sounds very modern and extremely scientific to us, but we must realize that their concept of atoms was very different from ours today as was their conception of another earth. They definitely didn’t see these other earths as curling the stars, in fact, they had no conception of stars as potentially being another sun, or something close to it. These hypothetical other earths were systems beyond ours and remote from it, somewhat of the idea of multiple universes in our modern physics. Considering these thoughts were occurring in the 1840s, we should just let it slide.

Move forward a few years and then we start to get more and more sightings of unidentified flying objects, more commonly known as the UFO. Please note that all the events that are going to be listed will be pre-1900s for this portion of the article. Some of the most notable being objects seen above Tennessee college campus – 1853, The James Lumley case – 1865, The Great California Airship of 1896-97, and Aurora, Texas UFO Crash of 1897. Now of course there are probably dozens more along with some we will never know about. These specific sightings have been proven not to be hoaxes and have been extensively researched by professionals.

Object Seen Above Tennessee College Campus – 1853

On June 1, 1853, a luminous object was seen by many as it hovered over a Tennessee college campus. As the sun rose over the campus of Burritt College, numerous students—who apparently were early risers in those days, too—were startled to see two luminous objects in the sky. According to professor A.C. Carnes, who reported the incident in a letter to Scientific American, the first had the appearance of a small new moon, while the other resembled a large star. The small object then vanished, while the bigger one changed shape, first into a globe and then into an elongated shape parallel with the horizon. The smaller light then became visible again, and increased rapidly in size, while the other object shrank. The two objects continued fluctuating in a similar fashion for the next 30 minutes. “The students have asked for an explanation, but neither the President nor Professors are satisfied as to the character of the lights,” wrote Carnes. While he himself speculated that the occurrence might have been caused somehow by atmospheric moisture, the incident remains a mystery. 

The James Lumley Case – 1865

Reports of UFOs were recorded in newspapers of the 19th century. One of the most famous cases of the time appeared in the St. Louis Democrat, Oct. 19, 1865. That article also appeared two weeks later in The Cincinnati Commercial, bringing more public awareness to UFOs. The account was of an old Montana fur trapper by the name of James Lumley who saw a UFO fly over him and crash into the forest, “exploding like a rocket”.  Lumley reported that there was hieroglyphic writing and glass on the side of the craft which made this case extremely intriguing.

The Great California Airship 1896-1897

Not many people know that seeing unidentified lights in the sky goes back over a century when the first UFO “flap” (a grouping of UFO sightings made over a specific area within a few months) occurred over a hundred years ago in the waning years of the nineteenth century. It all began when a mysterious unidentified light was observed by hundreds of people moving slowly over Sacramento, California in November 1896, apparently moving against the wind at a leisurely thirty miles an hour. It was seen again a week later, this time over San Francisco; by the end of the year hundreds of reports of the thing were coming in from all over the Pacific coast, creating a media frenzy.

Texas UFO Crash of 1897

The Aurora UFO Incident that reportedly occurred on April 17, 1897, in Aurora, Texas, a small town in the northwest corner of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. The incident (similar to the more famous Roswell UFO Incident 50 years later) reportedly resulted in a fatality from the crash. The alleged alien body was buried in an unmarked grave at the local cemetery.


With the advancement of technology in the 1940s, information was starting to be able to be spread around easier than in the previous decades. The demands of war inspired new substances and materials such as the antibiotic penicillin, the insecticide DDT, and synthetic rubber.  New technologies such as radar, the jet engine, and electronic computers all were WW2 innovations. As well as the infamous atomic bomb.

Please note that all of the following events occurred in the 1940s.

Flying Saucers 


The first well-known UFO sighting occurred in 1947, when a businessman Kenneth Arnold claimed to see a group of nine high-speed objects near Mount Rainier in Washington whilst flying his small plane, a CallAir A-2. A Marine Corps C-46 transport airplane had gone down in the area recently, and there was a $5,000 reward for the person who found said wreckage.  

Arnold estimated the speed of the crescent-shaped objects as several thousand miles per hour and he said they moved “like saucers skipping on water.” They appeared to have a blue-ish tint. The news report following the event stated that the objects were saucer-shaped, hence the term flying saucer.

In the years to follow Arnold investigated reports of UFOs writing and speaking about the topic for years to come. 

Roswell Incident 

The Roswell Incident was the recovery of balloon debris from a ranch near Corona, New Mexico by the United States Army Air Force, and the conspiracy theories, decades later, claiming that the debris involved a flying saucer and that the truth had been covered up by the United States Government in 1947. 

On July 8, 1947, Roswell Army Airfield issued a press release stating that they indeed recovered a “flying disc.” The Army responded to the statement rather quickly and had said that the crashed object was a conventional weather balloon. 

This incident did not resurface until the late 1970s, when retired lieutenant colonel Jesse Marcel, in an interview with ufologist Stanton Friedman, said that he believed the debris he had retrieved was extraterrestrial. Ufologists began promoting a variety of increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories, claiming that one or more alien spacecraft had crash-landed and that the extraterrestrial occupants had been recovered by the military, which then engaged in a cover-up. 

In 1994, the United States Air Force published a report identifying the crashed object as a nuclear test surveillance balloon from Project Mogul. A second Air Force report, in 1997, concluded that the stories of “alien bodies” probably stemmed from test dummies being dropped from high altitude. 

Conspiracy theories about the event nevertheless persist, and the Roswell incident continues to be of interest in popular media. 

The city of Roswell, New Mexico has capsized on this event: the city’s official seal is now a little green man while the city contains countless ufology attractions, events, statues, and iconography. 

Project Mogul often referred to as operation mogul, was a top-secret project by the US Army Air Forces involving microphones flown on high-altitude balloons, whose primary purpose was long-distance direction of sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests. The project took place between 1947 until the early part of 1949, it was a classified portion of an unclassified project by New York University atmospheric researchers. 

Nazi UFO’s 

During World War II Americans thought that the opposing forces were using UFOs to kill the Allies. Of course, this is a conspiracy theory, but there are still some people who believe it. The German UFO theories describe successful attempts to develop advanced aircrafts/spacecraft prior to and during the second world war. This conspiracy theory also suggests that these ships survived after the war and were stored in secret underground bases in Antarctica, South America, or The United States along with their creators. According to these theories and fictional stories, various potential code-names or sub-classifications of Nazi UFO craft such as Rundflugzeug, Feuerball, Diskus, Haunebu, Hauneburg-Gerät, V7, Vril, Kugelblitz, Andromeda-Gerät, Flugkreisel, Kugelwaffe, Jenseitsflugmaschine, and Reichsflugscheibe have all been referenced.

This is also where the term foo fighter came from. The Foo Fighter is a term that allied aircraft pilots used to use for mysterious aerial objects or “UFOs” that were seen in the pacific or European skies. The term Foo Fighter quickly expanded to describe the mass majority of sightings during the time of World War II.


For the remainder of the year, I will be going through the rest of the decades until I reach current times of the beliefs of aliens. Thank you for reading… up next the 1950s!