ExploreSouthernHistory.com - The Arkansas Airship of 1897
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - The Arkansas Airship of 1897
Hot Springs, Arkansas
The occupants of the airship
expressed a desire to see the
hot springs, but said they
were short on time.
The Arkansas Airship Mystery of 1897
The Ouachita Mountains
Was a mysterious "airship" seen flying over the
Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas in 1897? Two
Arkansas lawmen claimed to have seen it and many
believe their story to this day.
A 19th Century UFO Report?
One of the most mysterious incidents in
Arkansas history was actually tied to a series
of similar reports that appeared around the
nation in the years 1897 and 1898.

The alleged incident took place on May 6,
1897 in the Ouachita Mountains near Hot
Springs.

As the story goes, Constable John J.
Sumpter, Jr., and Deputy Sheriff John
McLemore were investigating reports of cattle
rustling near the community of Jessieville
when they came across an unexpected sight.

The two men were riding northwest over Blue
Ouachita Mountain when they saw a bright
light in the sky. The light disappeared behind
the hilltops and the men continued their ride.

After a ride of a few more miles, they again
saw the light. This time it was much closer to
the earth and appeared to be descending. It
once again disappeared, but after a ride of
another half a mile, the men's horses
suddenly refused to continue.

Looking into the darkness, the two officers
quickly saw the reason why. People could be
seen moving around with lights. Drawing
their weapons, they approached to
investigate.

Demanding that the mysterious people
identify themselves, the two lawmen were
startled when a man with a beard
approached holding a lantern and
announced that he and two companions
were traveling the country in an "airship."

He showed them his unusual craft. They
reported it to be cigar shaped and about 60
feet long. The mysterious man tried to coax
them aboard the craft, but they refused to go.

When they returned by the same place later
in the night, no trace was seen of the airship
or its occupants.

Exactly what the men saw remains a mystery
to this day. Airplanes and powered blimps
had not yet been invented in 1897, yet
newspapers across the country were filled
with such reports.

Some speculation that the late 19th century
eyewitnesses saw a spacecraft from another
planet and aliens. Others believe in more
earthly explanations - either an experimental
aircraft that was still being kept secret or an
outright hoax.
It is interesting to note that a resident of the
Hot Springs area applied for a patent for a
"flying machine" at about the same time. He
did not receive his patent, but obviously was
experimenting with some type of aircraft.
Whether he ever actually constructed a flying
machine is not known.

Whatever the two lawmen saw in the
Ouachita Mountains that night remains
unidentified to this day. No claims of
responsibility for the incident have ever
surfaced.

Not long after the Arkansas incident, a man
in Mississippi reported a similar encounter
with the "airship" and described the craft in
much the same way.

Barring the discovery of more evidence, the
19th century Arkansas UFO sighting must
remain one of the mysteries of the Ouachita
Mountains for now.

Blue Ouachita Mountain is now part of the
Ouachita National Forest and can be seen
from
Scenic Highway 7 north of Hot Springs,
Arkansas. The exact landing site is unknown.
Area of the Airship SIghting
This view was taken from Hot
Springs Tower, looking
northwest in the direction of
the 1897 airship sighting.
The Mysterious Ouachitas
The Arkansas Airship is just
one of the mysterious that
surround the beautiful
Ouachita Mountains.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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