Most history buffs who read about the frontier west don’t expect to encounter tales of “airships” and “strange lights.” However, if you’ve seen the film “Cowboys & Aliens,” and you believe everything you see on the big screen, you’ll know that these things do happen.
Once such event took place at the Silver Lake Mine, east of Kendall Mountain near Silverton, Colorado. According to the Silverton Standard April 24, 1897, the night watchman at the Silver Lake Mine reported strange lights, specifically, “two yellow lights about 8 feet distant from each other, apparently about 1000 feet from the ground…” The watchman, Mr. T.K. Holden, reported that, in the moonlight, he was able to make out the outlines “of a vessel or air-ship, which he judged to be about 24 feet in length by 8 feet in width.”
The airship, Holden said, sailed toward Mount Solomon going at least 60 miles an hour. When it reached the mountain, it rose and cleared the peak.
The Standard goes on to assure the reader that “Mr. Holden is a man of good standing…noted for his truth and veracity, and being at all times strictly temperate…”
The story of the lonely watchman might be dismissible, except that the day before, on April 23, 1897, the Aspen Daily News published a similar report, only this time the event was witnessed by a large group of miners coming off their shift. “The mysterious airship passed over Aspen yesterday morning at a few minutes after 1 o’clock. This fact is attested by over twenty miners on the Aspen and Durant mines…The only thing visible was a bright light resembling the headlight of a locomotive only larger. The night was dark and snow was falling, no stars being visible…”
These Colorado tales come amidst a rash of “airship”’ sightings across the country. Over a period of several weeks, newspapers reported sightings of a mysterious airship in Kansas, Missouri, and California. Colorado sightings included some in Denver and Cripple Creek. The Aspen Daily News made a point of naming a number of “reputable citizens” who saw the craft “passing over.” They quote a sighting in Cripple Creek by a T.J. Moynahan, who saw a “very bright light, like a star…about two miles high.” Moynahan described a “cigar-shaped thing, and it was moving slowly in a northerly direction.” He also reported seeing a “cloud of papers” falling from the thing. This sighting apparently happened during daylight hours, as he describes the “sun beating on the polished surface of the ship…”
Some attempted to explain the sightings by calling the thing a kite with a light and apparatus for taking readings of the weather; others claimed a genius inventor was at work.
The previous week, on April 17, 1897, reports came in that an airship had crashed in the town of Aurora, Texas. Supposedly, the pilot of the craft was killed and buried in the town cemetery. Later, many dismissed this story as a hoax perpetrated by a local man.