The Great UFO Craze of 1897.

Starting in November of 1896, people started seeing large cigar-shaped airships with red and green running lights and propellors. Most of the sightings took place in Texas and the Midwest, particularly Michigan.

Many of the reports describe the airships' landings--the occupants were often described as bearded men, though young couples and Orientals occasionally appeared. One report from Vernon, Kansas accused the airship pilots of stealing a three-year-old-heifer.

And on April 17, 1897, an airship crashed in Aurora, Texas. It collided with a windmill and exploded, leaving "strange metal" debris, "papers in unknown hieroglyphics", and a dead pilot, described as "not an inhabitant of this world". The crash was forgotten until 1967 when an old news story about the crash was published in a UFO bulletin. Investigations by the Dallas Morning News indicated that the airship sightings were likely a prank pulled by bored telegraph operators, but in 1973, somebody went to the trouble of robbing the grave where the dead airship pilot was laid to rest, prompting accusations of a Roswell-style coverup.

Primary research: Suppressed Transmission: The First Broadcast by Kenneth Hite, "Up, Up, and Away (In My Beautiful Airship)", pp. 43-45.