The origins of the “Flying saucer”

Zim here.

flying-saucerWhen you hear the word “UFO”, what do you imagine? If you’re normal, the picture in your that appears is something like a giant, multi-colored Frisbee flying in the air. What you’re picturing is what’s commonly called a “flying saucer”. Why? Why do we all think of ufos as discs in the sky? One comment critic of ufologists is that the idea of a flying saucer arose out of some desire to imagine something that looks unlike any planes. Anti-ufologists look to the 1950s and the Red Scare as evidence of a time where anything weird was labeled commie Red. In that time and place, Allied, good natured airplanes all looked like natural, democratic birds in the sky. Circles, on the other hand, would be downright devious! So, the anti-ufologist claim would be that all this talk of saucers came directly out of that era. One could even claim that Roswell, the incident that many look to as the beginning of the UFO revolution, was itself a result of McCarthy era pink fear. To all this, I Zim, reply heartily, “Hah!”

For this Hall of Fame article we look down the time glass all the way back to 1878. And, amazingly enough, we don’t even have to leave the United States of anti-communists to find archival evidence for the cause. As it turns out, the birthplace of the term ‘flying saucer’ comes from just about the most anti-communist place on Earth; Texas!

On January, 25th, 1878, a farmer, a one Mr. John Martin, arose that winter morning to see a round object in the sky, about the size of an orange, moving rapidly towards him. It grew and grew as it sped across the sky. Martin realised as it neared, to some amount of relaxation, that the object was not, in fact, heading towards him precisely, but above him. The specter soared directly above him, high up in the sky. As it crossed his line of sight directly above his head, Martin noted that it was the ‘size of a large saucer’, yet moving at tremendous speed. Martin described the disc itself as big and dark. Martin was also described as having stared so long at this object in the sky that his eyes went momentarily blind – so riveting this unimaginable thing was.

We know this story because it captured the attention of the local paper, the Denison Daily. The story concludes by stating:

“When directly over him it was about the size of a large saucer and was evidently at great height. Mr. Martin thought it resembled, as well as he could judge, a balloon. It went as rapidly as it had come and was soon lost to sight in the heavenly skies. Mr. Martin is a gentleman of undoubted veracity and this strange occurrence, if it was not a balloon, deserves the attention of our scientists.”

 So, from this we’ve inherited the term, ‘flying saucer’. Thirty plus years before man achieved flight, and fifty before communism found a home in the Soviet Union, mankind had already verified accounts of circular discs soaring at extreme speeds in the skies.  Chew on that for awhile.


“A Strange Phenomenon”, article in newspaper Denison Daily News, January 25, 1878.

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1 Comment

  1. John Hosking

    Saucer shape reported in Australia 1893 plus CE3 (tazers or ray guns).

    A farmer claimed that a saucer shape landed in one of his paddocks. As he approached the object, a man in strange clothing emerged from it. The farmer walked towards the man, who shone some kind of “torch” at him, threw him to the ground and stunned him. When he came to, the man and the object had gone. The hand where the “torch beam” had hit him, has been parallyzed since. Source: Australian (14/15/16.05.69)

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