It may seem that the whole UFO craze began with the crash at Roswell, but newspapers have been talking about the possibility of aliens, specifically Martians, long before that. People in the early 1900s began speculating about contact with our neighbor planet and tried to determine how Martians might actually look, given the clues scientists had about the atmosphere and conditions of Mars. By the 1950s, belief in Martians turned to actual sightings and interactions with these beings, leaving people curious, excited, and above all, scared out of their wits.
10 The Martian Message
In December 1900, a beam of light was seen coming from the planet Mars. The light was observed by the Lowell Observatory in the US, and newspapers around the world began to report on the possibility of Martian contact.
Nikola Tesla himself believed that communication with Martians was possible and dedicated 50 years of his life to the endeavor. As far as he was concerned, this particular beam of light proved that there was indeed life on Mars. Furthermore, many people felt that the beam was an invitation to join in on some “interplanetary telegraphy.”
9 Intelligent Martian People
By 1906, the people of Earth were already making wild guesses as to what the people of Mars must be like. First and foremost, scientists automatically assumed that the Martians must be intelligent. Some went as far as to suggest that their intelligence far exceeded that of mere humans, owing to the fact “that we do not know how to control ourselves.”
Scientists also seemed to agree that Martians lived twice as long as humans, allowing the Martians to gather greater knowledge than those of us on Earth. Their strength, too, was reported as being greater than the lowly Earthlings. This news undoubtedly put the fear of God into a great many people who saw Martians as a threat and not as friendly neighbors.
8 Trade With Mars
Talk about getting ahead of ourselves. By 1909, there was talk of trade with the Martians, even though no contact had been directly made with them. According to one newspaper report, the Germans were already dreaming up ways that trade would be possible.
One futuristic plan for trade with the Martians involved shooting a hermetically sealed aluminum cylinder up into space and directly toward Mars. The cylinder would be filled with trade items from Earth, and of course, the Martians would have to shoot something back our way.
At the same time, there was also talk of piercing a hole directly through the Earth so that sunlight would shine through it and be seen on Mars. Then we humans would somehow Morse code the Martians by covering and uncovering the hole.
Of course, there was some wild speculation about what these Martians actually looked like. In 1912, a newspaper article reported that M. Edmond Perrier, the director of the French Botanical Society, believed that the Martians had a largely Scandinavian appearance.
According to him, the Martians were extremely tall because of the lack of gravity on their planet. They had large, blue eyes and nearly white hair. Their ears and noses would be large. For some reason, they would have no necks or waists, and their legs would be extremely thin and their feet very small.
Perrier also believed that plant life on Mars was very lush. The lack of atmosphere would allow the plants to grow freely without the weight of gravity.
6 Those Pesky Canals
There was a lot of curiosity about the “canals” on Mars, as astronomers watched them almost daily in order to spot any signs of activity. In 1912, it was reported that one of the canals had doubled in width over a few weeks, further providing proof that there was intelligent life on Mars.
In 1927, a newspaper report gave details that Professor Lowell, “the greatest student of Mars who ever lived,” believed that Mars was drying up. The Martians created these intricate canals to collect water from the frozen poles and irrigate the rest of the land. In a rather romantic view, the professor believed that during this period of severe drought, “all nations on Mars would have united together for this purpose. We picture them as desperately fighting, inch by inch, a losing battle against the grim spectre of thirst.”
5 Invasion Panic
The 1938 airing of The War of the Worlds on US radio stations sent a panic across the country, but in 1949, a “localized version” of the story was aired in Ecuador. The retelling of the story had the aliens landing in Cotocollao and some going straight for Quito. Listeners were scared, believing that the story was real. People hit the streets, and there was mass panic.
When they realized what was happening, the radio directors made a public announcement, assuring people that this was only a story and not an actual account. This ticked people off even more, and they went straight for the newspaper building from which the story was being broadcast. The mob began stoning the building, scaring the workers inside to the upper floors. Someone started a fire, and as the building burned, people jumped out of the windows to escape being burned to death.
Troops were sent in, along with tanks. Tear gas was used to settle the angry population. According to one newspaper report, 15 people died, and at least 15 more were injured.
4 After The Roswell UFO Incident
The famous Roswell incident happened in 1947, but weird things were still happening in the state of New Mexico in 1950. In one case, a group of deer hunters discovered a metallic sphere made of duralumin. The guys thought that they had discovered a small flying saucer from Mars. Instead, it was reported from top officials that inside the sphere was something “resembling a plastic flower pot with nylon shreds, a cheap alarm clock, and three packages of the kind of film used in Atomic research.”
An official statement from Washington announced that there was absolutely nothing to worry about concerning invaders from outer space, and the Navy assured people that the sphere was probably a device they had sent into the stratosphere to research cosmic rays.
Nothing to see here, folks.
3 Welcome To Australia
1954 was a busy year for our Martian neighbors. In January, “Martian saucers” were being seen all across Australia. Bored with visits to the US, they decided to start scouting out Australia. Thousands of reports were coming in about strange objects in the sky.
According to both astronomers and the Royal Australian Air Force’s Project “Saucer,” these objects could only have come from one planet: the “only one member of the solar system besides earth [that] is capable of supporting life, and that is Mars.” According to one calculation, the inhabitants of Mars were so far advanced that it would only take them four minutes to reach Earth from their planet.
2 A Martian In France
While the Martians were buzzing overhead in Australia, one Martian decided to mess with a farmer in France in 1954.
According to the farmer’s account, he was suddenly blown across the road and left paralyzed for ten minutes. While he was unable to move or scream, two pale blue lights came down, and a strange creature with green lights on either side of its head took a look at him. After a moment, the lights went out, and the short creature wearing a tight suit went across the road and vanished. When the farmer regained use of his limbs, his legs and hands ached.
Police visited the area of the encounter and found that the ground had been disturbed, but they found no Martian footprints.
1 The Scottish Encounter
Another Martian encounter happened in Scotland in 1954. This time, a British writer named Cedric Allingham “met a man from Mars.”
In Cedric’s account, a saucer landed, and a Martian jumped out and greeted him. He said that the Martian had brown hair and a tan. (Maybe from enjoying the Australian beaches?) The Martian was wearing a form-fitting suit that sort of resembled chain mail.
Somehow, the two had a conversation, and Cedric learned that interplanetary travel was quite popular among the people of Mars and Venus, which is no surprise, since there were also firsthand accounts of visits from Venusians in the 1950s.
Elizabeth spends most of her time surrounded by dusty, smelly, old books in a room she refers to as her personal nirvana. She’s been writing about strange “stuff” since 1997 and enjoys traveling to historical places.