Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Tyrone Mystery Man

My apologies for the lack of material over the last few weeks; long hours at a dull job combined with the malaise caused by the long hours at a dull job have seriously derailed my routine. Anyway, as a peace offering, I’m posting a couple of phantom attacker reports from January 1942.  Enjoy!
A series of nocturnal and mysterious incidents which have occurred in Fintona and district recently have plunged the peaceful town into a state of extreme fear and dread. The first incident occurred to a maid who was on her way home at night from her employer’s house, and when passing through Kiln Street a light was shone suddenly on her face and she was struck on the cheek. The frightened girl returned to her employer’s house, where she was provided with an escort, but the mysterious assailant had disappeared.
Next the mystery man was seen in the hours of darkness, to enter and leave a local ambulance on several occasions, although the doors had not been opened. On one occasion the mysterious visitor, wearing a long light-coloured coat, was observed standing against a high hedge, but when the person to whom he appeared flashed a strong torch on his face the light failed to reveal anyone.
On resident declares that he saw the same figure in broad daylight walking right through an iron shed and entering by and emerging from unbroken walls.
He has been seen in several streets of the town, but he does not confine his activities to these, as his latest exploit was to pull a lady of her bicycle on the Barr Road, and when she called to her husband, who was ahead of her, no man could be discovered although a thorough search was made.
One of the most fantastic versions is that he has appeared on several occasions with the light coat but appeared to have no head at all. Many ladies are afraid to go out after dark.
Two weeks later, the Derry Journal provided the following update.
Latest reports show that there is still no solution to the mysterious happenings in the district by the appearance of a tall man with long white coat, whose doings have been agitating the public for several weeks. One resident thought he had discovered a clue to the hiding place of the mystery man when he noticed that straw provided for livestock had been carried away. This was traced to a vacant cottage in Ecclesville Demesne, where a bed of straw was found, but there is no sign of a man in the vicinity.
It would seem that the mysterious visitor has been guilty of minor assaults on his victims.
A report has come to hand that the mystery man was set upon by a resident of Tonagh, who got the better of the fight and left him hors-de-combat on the roadside. The Tonagh man went to a house for assistance to bring him to a place of detention, but when he returned the mystery man could not be found.
While no one yet would appear to have got a close-up view of his face, in every instance he is described as tall, with a light-coloured overcoat, muddy boots and a cap.
Sources:
  • Derry Journal, 2 & 16 January 1942

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Tree of Lights at the Bog Chapel

On 21 August 1879, fifteen people witnessed an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist on a wall of the Church of Saint John the Baptist, in Knock, County Mayo.
Regardless of what was actually behind the event, 137 years later, 1.5m pilgrims make the journey to Knock each year. In 1979, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass there, as well as praying at the apparition wall. Mother Teresa even visited. In 1985, this small village even got its own airport.
I mention this because I want you to spare a thought for the Bog Chapel in Kilmallock, County Limerick - and all the other small, rural Irish churches you’ve never heard of - whose own strange events came in the shadow of the events in Knock.
The following comes from The Derry Journal of 15 September 1880.
The Catholic Church near Kilmallock, known as the Bog Chapel, in which supernatural appearances are stated to have been seen on more than one occasion during the past week, is nightly resorted to by hundreds. Respectable and intelligent persons allege that they have seen distinctly apparitions of the Blessed Virgin.
On Saturday night there could not have been less than eight hundred people at the church. Preaching on the gospel of the day at the church, the Rev. Mr Fitzgerald, one of the clergymen, impressed upon the extraordinarily large congregation present the obligation of loving and adoring above and before all things God in the blessed Sacrament. He told them that in the fervour and enthusiasm of their devotion to His Blessed Mother they should always bear in mind that great precept. At the same time he told them that there was no surer or better means of obtaining grace from God than through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.
The parish priest, the Rev. Mr Clory, fearing an accident might result from overcrowding, has deemed it advisable to close up the building every evening at 6 o’clock, but the people congregated outside. Whether the weather be inclement or otherwise they keep watching for hours together, reciting the rosary and litany of the Blessed Virgin.
During the whole time the most intense religious fervour prevails. The clergymen generally leave the church as soon as the doors are closed, but the majority of the people remain until midnight, and many do not leave for their homes until morning is breaking.
A labourer named Torpey, a very intelligent man of his class, states that on Wednesday week he saw lights distinctly in the church at the Blessed Virgin’s altar like stars. On returning from the church some of the party who were with him saw something like stars in the trees. He also saw them. They then went on their knees and recited the rosary. The man who offered up the rosary then asked, if it was God’s will, that they should be favoured with some manifestation such as was seen elsewhere by other people.
The word, he says, was not out of his mouth, when the whole yard shone with a frightful light, and he never saw anything like it before. He went into the chapel every night since, but he did not see either lights or figures, though others state they have seen them.
A tree in which the lights are stated to have been originally seen has been chopped to bits by the country people in order that they might take pieces away.
Source:
  • The Derry Journal, 15 September 1880

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Moneymore Man Manhandles Mystery Machine While Wife Watches in Wonder - The Anniversary

I can’t believe that I failed to acknowledge the 60th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s best UFO incident. To be honest, I don’t think it was acknowledged anywhere. But that’s no excuse. I’m genuinely ashamed.
To make amends, I’m posting a shortened version of an article I wrote for UFO Matrix in 2011. I’m also posting a news report of a possible earlier sighting of the object.

The Man Who Caught a Flying Saucer

Northern Ireland is not normally associated with UFOs. A recent release of MOD files seemed to underline this fact, with only two sightings recorded here over a ten year period. However, this should not be taken as evidence of an absence of interesting UFO cases here. Northern Ireland has had some curious UFO incidents over the last few decades, and one in particular is so quirky that its absence from the literature is a mystery.
At noon on Friday, 7 September 1956, Thomas and Maud Hutchinson saw an object drop from the sky and land in an area of bog land, about 200 yards from their home in Moneymore, County Derry. They both ran from their house to investigate.
When they arrived at the site they found a motionless, red, egg shaped object with a saucer shaped base. It was three feet high and one and a half feet in diameter. It had three dark red stripes and dark red markings at each end. 
Thomas Hutchinson’s curiosity could not be sated by just observing this strange object. After watching it for a few minutes he kicked it over. However, the device immediately righted itself to its original position. Unperturbed, Hutchinson got down on his knees for a closer look – which was when the object began to spin.
Hutchinson grabbed the spinning object with the intention of taking it to the police station in nearby Loup village. According to Thomas Hutchinson: ‘The police station was the only place for such a wicked looking thing as this and I started to carry it there.’  As Hutchinson carried the device his wife walked along with him. Maud recalled: ‘Ah, it was a terrible thing. My husband warned me not to go near it, but you know a woman’s inquisitiveness, I just couldn’t keep back.’
They reached a hedge and Thomas set the device town to make his way through. It was at this point that his strange prize escaped. According to Maud: ‘Then all of a sudden the monster rose and it nearly pulled my husband off his feet when he tried to hold it. I started to panic and then I ran home and prayed.’ After escaping Thomas’ clutches the device rose quickly and disappeared within a few seconds.

Our Old Friend the Weather Balloon

According to the ‘Derry Journal’ of 10 September 1956, ‘experts’ were of the opinion that what the Hutchinsons had encountered was a stray meteorological balloon. An unnamed RAF officer, stationed at nearby Aldergrove Airport (now Belfast International Airport), was ‘nearly certain’ that the object encountered by the Hutchinsons was a weather balloon. According to this officer, these balloons are sometimes red, and can fall to the ground when they’re wet - taking off again as they dry out. And while this particular weather balloon didn’t belong to them, he suggested that it may have originated at another weather station. However, he didn’t say which station this balloon may have come from or that any efforts had been made to contact other stations to confirm his missing balloon theory.
While the weather balloon theory is certainly plausible, the RAF officer was unconvincing; and, importantly, he was unable to confirm that the Moneymore object was a weather balloon. In addition, the weather balloon theory does not adequately account for the behaviour of the device encountered by Thomas and Maud Hutchinson.
Interestingly, while the official police position was to accept the balloon theory put forward by the RAF, the police at Loup village were unconvinced. According to the desk sergeant there: ‘Thomas Hutchinson is a level-headed God fearing chap. He’s not the sort of man who would imagine he seized a flying saucer if, in fact, he didn’t have one.’ It’s also worth noting that according to the ‘Grimsby Evening Telegraph’ of 8 September 1956, another unnamed RAF officer had said that the Hutchinson device definitely wasn’t one of theirs – and he couldn’t ‘even hazard a guess’ at what it might have been.

‘Flying Saucer Captured in the Land of Leprechauns’

Initially the story provoked some interest across the Atlantic and appeared in newspapers across the United States. Much was made of the location of the strange encounter: ‘… a bleak, boggy land near Lough Neagh, where leprechauns, ghosts and witches have been reported sighted through the ages.’
One USA paper recognised the uniqueness of the event in Moneymore: ‘To see a flying saucer is no longer unusual. There have been those persons who claim to have ridden in them and talked to their occupants. But to wrestle, even if the match was a losing one, with a flying saucer, this is a new twist.’
But despite this new twist, the Moneymore incident failed to excite the press in Northern Ireland. Even though something quite unique, and of international interest, had taken place in a small corner of our country, the newspapers that did actually cover the story contented themselves reporting the views of the unnamed RAF officer. As far as I can find, no follow up enquiries were ever made.

Update: A Possible Earlier Sighting?

The following comes from the Belfast News-Letter. 
The object tallies in its description with that seen over the Stormont area of Belfast for more than two hours on Wednesday night.
On that occasion Mr Richard Lapham, who lived in Thornhill Park, almost opposite the main entrance Parliament Buildings, reported that from 9pm until until after 11pm he and neighbors watched a strange object in the sky which seemed to turn alternately from black to red.
So far as Mr Lapham could judge, its size was about the same as the object reported yesterday. Both Mr Lapham, who served in an A.A. regiment during the war, and a nieighbour, who was in the R.A.F., were completely mystified as to the identity of the object.
Mr Lapham told the “News-Letter” last night : “It is strange that Mr Hutchinson, without having any connection with us, has a very good description of what we saw.”
Sources:
  • UFO Matrix, Volume 2 Issue 1, 2011
  • Belfast News-Letter, 8 September 1956

Monday, 21 November 2016

Scene in the Sky

At 6:30am on 14 December 1850, in the parish of Dunboe, County Derry, the family of a “most respectable farmer” watched an unusual brightness above the eastern horizon. And as they watched, “two large vessels of the line” appeared in the brightness.
After a while the ships disappeared, “and the eastern hemisphere became occupied by a grand panoramic representation of two armies approaching in warlike conflict.” As the armies neared each other, an officer from each came forward and engaged in single combat. According to the Northern Whig, “so distinctly visible was the representation, that their actual manoeuvres  could be distinguished.”
The entire episode lasted until 8:00am.
Ten years later, on Sunday, 2 September 1860, there was a very similar incident in neighbouring County Donegal. Another family was walking on a hill near Quigley’s Point “when their attention was attracted by a wonderful appearance in the heavens.” In the north, they saw several ships “sailing across the face of the sky from east to west.”
The line of ships appeared to be five miles in length, and they seemed to be “sailing down a river, whose high banks could be made out behind the ships.” Some of the ships were moored close to a “fortress, built on a rock.”
Like the Dunboe event, the Quigley’s Point witnesses were astounded by the clarity of the scene - “sailors pulling at the ropes were made out with ease.” But it was a shorter event, lasting only 30 minutes.
According to the Coleraine Chronicle, these incidents, though “very startling”, were not infrequent along the shores of the northern counties. To illustrate, they recounted an earlier incident.
About twelve years ago we recollect a very curious instance of mirage, which was seen in Lough Foyle [which lies between County Derry and County Donegal]. Some fishermen had been out at night with their nets. The face of the heavens was overcast and black, when the clouds suddenly parted, leaving a bright gap of clear sky in the zenith.
Across this space the astonished fishermen saw some thousands of soldiers pass, rank after rank, and regiment after regiment, and so near did the phenomenon appear that the dress of the officers could be clearly distinguished from that of the men.
It was two hours before the marching ceased, or rather before the clouds closed in, and shut out the scene from view.
Sources:
  • Northern Whig, 31 December 1850
  • Coleraine Chronicle, 8 September 1860 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

"Brap Brap" Goes the Weasel

Weasels [actually, they’re Irish stoats, but we insist on calling them weasels] are my favourite fortean creatures. They’re hard as nails and are always up for a ruck. The following stories illustrate this perfectly.
In October 1954, Patrick Bonner of Crickamore, County Donegal, was crossing a field near his home when he saw a rabbit being attacked by a weasel. Bonner intervened and – if you’ll excuse the expression – “beat off” the weasel. The weasel, needless to say, was vexed. Putting its tail in its mouth, it whistled – “frantically,” calling out his weasel buddies, who immediately set upon Mr Bonner. Bonner struggled for some time to fend them off, and it was only the arrival of his dog – alerted by Bonner’s cries - that tipped the balance.
Thomas Ward of Ardara, County Donegal was cycling home around midnight, on an April night in 1951. He was about a quarter of a mile from his village when he came across a pack of weasels walking four abreast on the road. Unable to avoid them, he clipped one with the front wheel of his bike. Not having the benefit of Fortean Ireland to warn him of such folly, he got off his bike “to investigate.” He was attacked, of course. Fortunately, he was able to shake them off and cycle his way to safety.
On the morning of Sunday, 11 October 1840, “a poor man was attending his cow” at Ardnagannon, near Killygordon, County Donegal. He took “a Testament” from his pocket and began to read. A weasel appeared, grabbed the book and scarpered. The man chased the weasel, caught it, and recovered his property. This caused the weasel to chatter loudly, which is never good. Fortunately, the weasel’s call for back-up went unheard.
According to the Dublin Evening Mail, what was remarkable about this incident was that the man was reading “the 9th verse of the General Epistle of Jude” at the time. [From what I can gather, via Google, the 9th verse is: “Yet Michael the Archangel, when he strove against the devil, and disputed about the body of Moses, durst not blame him with cursed speaking, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” I’m happy to hear from anyone who gets the relevance of this!]
One day in August 1953, John Cairns was cutting turf on Eilaught Bog, County Tyrone, when he spotted a weasel carrying a bird. As Cairns watched, a hawk swooped out of the sky and lifted the weasel into the air. But, within moments, both fell to the ground. The weasel made off into the heather. The hawk lay dead.
Despite appearing to be invincible, weasels are mortal. On Friday, 21 July 1939, Dan O’Donnell of Upper Keadue, Burtonport, County Donegal, was working on Belcruit Mountain, moving turf from the bog to the side of the road, when he came across a large group of weasels. They were gathered round a piece of turf. On closer inspection, O’Donnell could see that the turf had been hollowed out, and in it lay a dead weasel. O’Donnell believed the weasels were holding a wake. It could have been a funeral. But the weasels chased O’Donnell away before he could see more.
Sources:
  • Derry Journal, 28 July 1939, 6 April 1951, 14 August 1953 and 29 October 1954
  • Dublin Evening Mail, 23 October 1840

Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Five Investigators and the Mystery of the Cowled Figure

The following appears to be either a fabulous urban legend, or the synopsis of a Three Investigators story. But I’ve included it for two reasons: it was reported as news in May 1929; and I have fond memories of The Three Investigators.
Two years ago a distinguished a distinguished Dublin citizen purchased a house and fishing rights in a desolate part of County Wicklow. When he went to reside there during the summer months weird occurrences began by night. Bells rang without apparent cause, doors supposed to be locked were heard slamming, and ghostly figures flitted through the rooms and corridors. The wife of the owner of the house awoke one morning to find three lighted candles arranged around her bed. A few mornings later six lighted candles, similarly arranged, were found round a maid’s bed. This was more than the occupants of the house could stand, and they promptly returned to Dublin.
Last Christmas the son of the owner of the house set out with four friends, resolved to pierce the mystery. Nothing happened till one of the party left the house to recover something he had left behind in the motor car outside. Then from a dark window overhead he saw an old-fashioned blunderbus pointing at him, and as he crouched for shelter he observed a cowled figure leave the house and go towards the out-offices. He got the impression that the stranger did not open the door on leaving the dwelling.
While the young man and his companions were discussing this puzzling manifestation there came loud reports as of gunshots discharging, doors banging, and furniture falling. Then the cowled man appeared before them, a terrifying apparition described as having a luminous face, malevolent expression, and ghastly gaps in his teeth, two of which were exceptionally large.
The startled investigators saw the cowled man go upstairs. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery they endeavoured to follow, but were driven back by bottles and other missiles which clattered downstairs with an awful din. Eventually they procured lights, and worked their way to the top of the house, where through a trap door giving access to an attic they saw the apparition of the cowled man hanging head downwards. The investigators thereupon decided it was time to go home.
One suggested explanation is that the strange figure is what is known in Germany as a poltergeist - an evil spirit full of malicious tricks. There are many more stories of the strange doings of this queer manifestation, but this one is especially worth recording. One of the youthful investigators made as soon as he got home a sketch of a cowled figure with the intention of showing it to his father. His companions agreed that it was an excellent likeness, and he put it in his pocket. When, however, the youth later took the sketch from his pocket the drawing had disappeared, and the paper was blank. Other people intent on solving the mystery have since visited the house, but the ghost did not turn up for examination.
Source:
  • The Derry Journal, 3 May 1929

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Journalist and the Poltergeist

In July 1910, a poltergeist moved into a room in a boarding house on John Street, in Enniscorthy, County Wexford. The room was already occupied by “two young men and a boy,” and, according to the Dublin Daily Express, they had lived there for “a considerable time” without incident.
One night in July [no date is given by either source] the boarders went to bed at their usual time. At midnight, one of the men was awoken by the sound of tapping. It came at intervals, and from different parts of the room.
But he paid little attention to it.
Then, the bedclothes were pulled slowly off the bed. He thought that the others were playing a joke and asked them to stop.
The tapping started again.
Now that everyone was awake, they lit a candle and searched the room. Finding no one else in the room, they locked the door, put out the candle and went back to bed.
The tapping started immediately. They lit the candle again. The tapping stopped. They extinguished the candle. The tapping started.
This went on for two hours.
In the morning, they found that what would become known as “the haunted bed” had been moved across the room.
The next night followed the same pattern, prompting the haunted bed’s regular occupant to refuse to sleep in it. Which, given what happened next, was a very wise choice. As he and his friend cowered in one bed, the haunted bed floated to the ceiling, flipped over, and was then gently lowered to the floor.
That was their last night in the room.
After their departure, the room remained unoccupied. It was checked each morning. And each time it was checked, the furniture in the room was found to have been rearranged.
“The occurrences have caused much surprise in the town, and their cause is still a matter of mystery,” wrote the Dublin Daily Express.
A few days later, a local journalist arrived to investigate. He examined the beds, the floor and the walls. “Everything was found to be in perfect order, with no sign of a trap in any place.”
That night, accompanied by a companion, the journalist went to bed in the haunted room. They extinguished the candle at 11pm; and at 11.30pm the infamous tapping began.
It grew quicker and quicker.
From the other bed, the journalist heard his companion shout: “The clothes are going off me. Good God, they are going off me.”
On lighting the candle, the journalist could see the bedclothes being slowly pulled from his companion’s bed. His companion was terrified, and seemed unable to move.
When the room was calm again, the candle was put out. The tapping started immediately. And once more his companion cried out: “They are going again. They are at me. Something is shoving me. I am going.”
Once more the journalist reached for his matches. This time he found his companion on the floor, with a sheet under him and a quilt over him, “as if he had been carried from the bed.” He was white, trembling, and dripping with sweat.
Despite the terror at least one of the men was experiencing, they stayed in the room for about four hours.
“The watchers left at three o’clock in the morning, having secured absolutely no clue to one of the most weird occurrences that has startled the town and district for many years.”
Sources:
  • Dublin Daily Express, 30 July 1910
  • Derry Journal, 5 August 1910

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Phantom Car of Barnes Gap

A phantom car was haunting a section of road between Gweedore and Letterkenny in 1936. Sightings began in December 1935, but by January 1936 the car was appearing nightly, and the area - an isolated beauty spot known as Barnes Gap - was crawling with curiosity seekers from Donegal and Derry.
The following is from the Derry Journal of 20 January 1936.
Considerable attention is still being attracted over a large area of Donegal by the recent report in the “Derry Journal” of the appearance of a phantom motor car at Barnes Gap on the main road from Letterkenny to Gweedore. The car which has made its appearances practically every night during the past two months, has been seen regularly by motorists, carters, pedestrians and cyclists. It is usually observed coming at great speed with headlights illuminating a considerable stretch of the road, but when within a few yards of the observer the lights are extinguished and the car seems to vanish completely, no trace of it remaining.
Accompanied by a number of companions, a “Journal” representative visited Barnes Gap one night last week, in order to find out for himself what amount of truth was in the reported occurrence. Meeting a resident of the district, our representative questioned him regarding the nocturnal visitor. This man said that he had seen the car on several occasions and once while on the road with a horse and cart he drew his horse to one side in order to allow the passing of a swiftly moving car but when it drew almost level with him it vanished without a trace. He also informed our representative that on one occasion a car appeared to a lady unexpectedly in the middle of the Gap, and that she could clearly see the head and face of a man sitting at the wheel, but when she approached to the spot where the stationary car sat, all trace of it disappeared in an instant. While the story of the phantom car continues to spread and draw hundreds of people nightly to the Gap, in the hope of seeing the mysterious visitor, our representative was not rewarded by the sight of anything unusual, but he hopes to repeat the visit at an early date.
The same issue carried a possible explanation for the phenomenon.
A theory has been advanced by Mr J Gorman, a mail car driver in the Derry and Lough Swilly Railway Co., who has gained much experience of motoring conditions on the Donegal Roads.
He is of the belief that, owing to heavy fog and mists, the headlights of cars recently have been reflected in such a manner as to deceive observers, and that, as it is very often the practice for motor drivers to shut off their lamps when going through the Gap, the apparent disappearance of the vehicle may be thus explained.
Memories are short at the Derry Journal. This wasn’t Ireland’s first experience of a phantom car; six years earlier, Drogheda in County Louth was being haunted by an invisible car, and the Journal covered the story.
A phantom motor car, which recently was alleged by several residents of the locality to be haunting the Tullyallen district, a country village two or three miles outside Drogheda, has now invaded Drogheda. It passes generally late at night, and while such trifles as brilliant lights and an old woman sitting at the wheel have been added in the telling of the original story, those persons who have heard the ghost are positive in their statements that it can only be heard and not seen.
A Drogheda man told a “Sunday Independent” representative that on Friday night when going home a bit late but perfectly sober, he was operating his hall door when he heard the roar of a motor car coming, he thought, over the street. He waited at the door to see the car pass, but nothing passed, and on looking down the street he saw that it was deserted.
A possible explanation of the mystery would seem to be that the Shannon Scheme high power cables acts under certain conditions as wireless receiver, and carries the noise of distant motor cars to places where there are none, and in this way creates the impression that a phantom motor car has passed.
Sources:
Derry Journal, 10 March 1930 and 10 January 1936

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Fun with Kites

I’ve covered mystery lights recently, but the following stories really tickled me. The first appeared in The Ballymena Observer on 14 January 1878.
On Friday night last an incident which may be considered somewhat amusing occurred in Monaghan. About half-past nine o’clock the inhabitants were thrown into a state of consternation by a phenomenon which appeared in the heavens in the shape of a large blazing star. The star kept shooting from right to left, up and down, and performing numerous pantomimic “capers,” which in no slight degree terrified the nervous people of the town. At times it would soar high up in the sky, and then suddenly dive down as if it were determined to reach the earth and consume it. Large crowds had assembled, the city fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers had congregated in groups to view and comment upon the singular phenomenon. Some persons were wondering, others, others were predicting the rapid approach of the Day of Judgement and the burning of the earth. The local astronomer was sent for, and his advice eagerly sought. The sage reviewed the object of the people’s terror, looked extremely wise, thought at first he could explain, but afterwards confessed that he was unable to do so; that he had never beheld anything so extraordinary. People were in a dreadful state of excitement, and were patiently awaiting what they considered inevitable – the burning of the earth – when the object raised itself in the heavens, and then, with one sweep, directed its course in the direction of the assembled multitude, who ran helter-skelter, terror in their very hearts. At last the star rested on terra firma, and those present were awaiting something terrible to ensue, but the blaze began to die out. One young man, more courageous than the others, approached, though cautiously, the fading blaze; and after a good deal of reconnoitring stepped forward and lifted a large kite, with a lighted turf suspended to the tail by means of a piece of wire. This discovery caused no small amount of satisfaction, and every person breathed more freely after it.
The people of Monaghan were lucky to have had their mystery solved in an evening. Some have had to wait a hell of a lot longer, if this item from the Belfast Evening Telegraph of 1873 is to be believed (it seems plausible – until the last sentence, that is).
Sixty years ago considerable excitement was caused at Brattleboro, Vermont, in the United States, by a strange meteor which appeared one dark night, and, after hovering in the sky for about twenty minutes, suddenly vanished with a loud explosion. Many persons considered the phenomenon to be a supernatural omen, and so mysterious and striking was the occurrence that it has never been forgotten in the district, and the story of this wonderful light in the heavens has been handed down from one generation to another as one of the most remarkable events of the present century. The mystery has at last been solved. An old gentleman has lately died at Brattleboro, and, according to a Vermont paper, on his deathbed he confessed that when a boy, in 1811, he made a kite and attached a paper lantern to it, in which he put a candle, arranging the contrivance so that when the candle burned out it would explode some powder in the bottom of the lantern. He kept the secret entirely to himself, and, choosing a dark night when nothing but the coloured lantern was visible, managed unobserved to get his kite into the air, thus producing the sensation which so profoundly affected the district. Having made this confession, without which he could not die comfortably, the old gentleman turned his face to the wall and expired in perfect peace.
Sources:
Belfast Evening Telegraph, 6 January 1873
The Ballymena Observer, 14 September 1878