Classic Mysteries—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, May 2022
The 1873 UFO, MIB, and horseless buggy in Ohio case?
by: Brent Raynes
Chris Aubeck and Kay Massingill on location in Ohio
“Men in Black were a staple of folklore and religious visions long before their association with flying saucers in the late 1940s,” wrote Chris Aubeck, co-author with Martin Shough, of their book Return to Magonia: Investigating UFOs In History (2015). “However, all these elements combined, plus circumstantial evidence that lifts it a little above the level of a mere tale, means that the case of Thomas Inman and the alien who drove away should figure among the most significant UFO encounters documented in the 19th century.” Here's this thought-provoking story, beginning with an original newspaper account, as it appeared back in 1873, and which is detailed in Return to Magonia, presented in chapter 12 with the title, “The Alien that Drove Away.”
Zanesville, Ohio, April 5, 1873
To the Editor of the Herald
A most extraordinary phenomenon was observed near the village of Taylorsville, a few miles from this city, about a week ago. Mr. Thomas Inman, whom your reporter can vouch for as a respectable farmer of unquestionable truth and veracity, related the circumstances to the writer, and, with his son, who was also an eye witness, is willing to make oath to the truth of this statement.
One evening about two weeks ago, while Mr. Inman and his son, a young man, were returning to their home from Taylorsville, they said a light, which they describe as looking like a "burning brush pile," near the zenith, descending rapidly towards the earth, with a loud, roaring noise. It struck the ground in the road a short distance from them. The blazing object flickered and flared for a few moments and then faded into darkness, as a man dressed in a complete suit of black and carrying a lantern emerged from it. The man walked a few paces and stepped into a buggy, which had not been observed before by either Mr. Inman or his son. There was no horse attached to this supernatural vehicle, but no sooner had the man taken his seat than it started to run, noiselessly, but with great velocity along the highway and this it continued to do until it reached a steep gully, into which it plunged, when buggy, man, and lantern suddenly disappeared as mysteriously as they came.
This phenomenon is certainly an extraordinary and unexplained one, and sounds more like the vagary of a crazed brain than anything else. But both Mr. Inman and his son, who are sober men and not given to superstitious notions, agree precisely in their statements and maintain that they are strictly true. If it was an optical delusion, super induced by a meteor or "Jack o' lantern," is it not strange that the same fancied appearances could be conjured up in the minds of two men at the same time? Here is a chance for scientists to explain the fantastical optical and other illusions and delusions which follow in the train of, and are suggested by, some strange and unexpected sight or occurrence.
- "very like a whale," at New York Herald, April 8, 1873, pg. 7
UFO historian Chris Aubeck of Caceres, Spain, founded the online Magonia Exchange back in 2003. This group explored newspaper articles, books, and other sources of information that described UFO-related material that predated the well-known Kenneth Arnold UFO report of June 24, 1947, regarded by many as the beginning of the modern flying saucer era. While Chris has admitted that this 1873 story “contains all the elements we associate with the most dramatic UFO sightings – the Hynek category ‘CEIII’ or ‘Close Encounter of the Third Kind’” he also noted “horseless carriages already existed in folklore, drawn by supernatural beings or spirits of the dead.” Also because the account was in close proximity to April 1st, one had to consider an April Fools prank, and gave the example of one that was reported in London’s The Examiner back in 1809 how on a beam of light an egg-sized bubble descended to earth from the moon. However, there was no evidence to indicate this case was a prank. In a Danish blog called Vomanomalous (1) after attending a UFO conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in July 2019, an author named Thomas sought out and interviewed one of the speakers, who just happened to be Chris Aubeck. Of the Magonia Exchange’s efforts, this Thomas noted, “Accounts of things like crashed spaceships and abductions by aliens, which everyone thought were largely a recent phenomenon, have shown instead to extend quite far back in time. And not only that; they have had a much larger impact on our culture and society than we think and collectively remember. This realization has only happened due to the recent advances in digitization and increase in online resources, and Chris Aubeck has been on the forefront of this evolution, setting new standards not only for historical UFO study, but for research in general.” Chris also wrote in that same chapter about this 1873 caper of other noteworthy cases, including one from Jay, Ohio, reported by a Henry Monnett, M.D., who described how a huge vessel with giant sized “inhabitants of other planets” paid their town a visit, witnessed by several. This appeared in a popular book on folk medicine and other curios (instead of a newspaper).
Kay Massingill, mentioned in Chapter 12 of Return to Magonia, has been busily researching historical reports herself for a number of years. She joined Magonia Exchange in 2009. Kay had been a nurse in Mississippi and it was while she was doing genealogy on the side that she discovered something else of interest. “I would see strange reports in newspapers and other ephemera I was working in and started saving them.” In October 2014, Chris took such a strong interest in Kay’s 1873 report from Ohio that he decided to take things to the next level. “He came from Spain and we drove up to investigate it,” Kay shared with me. “We did a complete investigation that Chris Aubeck wrote up. We visited the site where it happened.” They also did genealogical research to validate the people mentioned. W.A. Taylor turned out to be a very well-known and respected Ohioan named William Alexander Taylor, who was a local historian who wrote several books on the history of Ohio, plus historical articles in the local and national press, even became a newspaper publisher, a lawyer, and served in the military during the Civil War. Chris and Kay did not see him as someone likely to engage in public pranks. They also researched Thomas Inman and details of his life as a farmer and family man, born around 1833 near Hacking, Ohio.
Kay, who now lives in Georgia, currently maintains a Facebook page entitled historical Aerial Phenomena, which has over 700 members. She routinely posts a wealth of unique data there. She now uses the last name of Cog.
“I believe all Fortean and true UFO events are all part of the same mechanism,” she explained to me. “After reading Vallee’s books I agree with him that it is not ‘them’ but an ‘it.’ I do not know its purpose and we probably will never know. It may be a slow tweaking of mankind or of individuals as experiences seem to change a person’s thoughts and perceptions.”
In a brief contact I had with Chris Aubeck back in December, he explained that more was to come on this case, that a “very different reevaluation of the story” was in the works for 2022.