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Mar 22, 2013 — By Leslie McCarty
While looking at the current issue of the Kentucky Explorer Magazine, there was listed a newspaper clipping about a stray balloon that had flew over Daviess County and mysteriously crashed. The only date given for this was December 1887. I checked our archives of the Owensboro Messenger and found three articles that cover this strange incident. The first article was listed on Sunday December 11, 1887.
According to the article, “the citizens of the eastern portion of the city yesterday discovered a balloon to the northward, passing slowly from east to west. It was an immense affair and was sailing at a great height. After being in sight for some time it began wavering in the wind and finally began to descend, falling slowly at first and at last taking a desperate plunge earthward and passing out of sight. Nothing has been heard of a balloon ascension, and it is not known where it came from, or whether or not an aeronaut was in charge of it. It will probably be heard from within a day or two.”
According to two follow-up articles in the Owensboro Messenger on Tuesday December 13, 1887, “late Saturday evening an immense balloon was seen on the opposite side of the river and some distance back in Kentucky. It was sailing slowly at an immense height from west to east and after being in sight for some time, it began wavering in the wind, and finally commenced falling. It plunged toward the earth below the timber tops. This morning a search party went out from Hawesville to look for the balloon, and after a search of several hours they found, and to their horror, also the remains of a man a few feet away from the basket, which was partially torn from the balloon. No papers or evidence were found to indicate the identity of the unfortunate aeronaut. No balloon ascension has been heard of and the affair is a mystery. The general accepted theory is that he was dead before the balloon hit the earth and that he died in the upper regions of the atmosphere.”
Who was the man and where did he come from? Was he flying for pleasure or other purposes? Does ownership of the balloon indicate that he may have been wealthy? Our questions to this mystery may never be answered.