Go Back Report # 1464





Passengers on a Lake Michigan Steamer Witness a Startling Phenomenon


Dispatch to the New York World


     The Detroit and Milwaukee [company1] steamer was more than halfway across Lake Michigan last night when the pilot saw a bright light off the starboard bow. He could not account for it and called the captain. The captain, too, was puzzled and thinking that the boat must have veered from her course and that the light was from Grand Haven, he ordered her headed for it.

     It was calculated that the light was fifteen miles ahead. After proceeding ten miles a companion light appeared some five miles to the westward. The passengers who had by this time been aroused gathered on the deck and watched these lights, which now began to flash at intervals.

     On went the steamer and as she approached the light, the passengers were obliged to hold up umbrellas and other objects to shade their eyes from the intense glare. So bright was it that Steward Walthew, over 80 years old, was enabled to read the Lord’s Prayer from the fine print of a Bible without his glasses.

     Suddenly a mountain of darkness seemed to rise between the boat and the light, but the blaze was flashed over its top. In a few minutes the mountain sank backward2 and the lights were seen, still too brilliant for the eye to endure.

     At just [2?] a.m. by the captain’s watch, the lights flashed, there was a terrific rumbling like a quadruple peal of thunder, and then the lights disappeared. Almost on the instant a tidal wave struck the ship and the phenomenon was over.

     No one attempts to explain the strange occurrence. The boat, which was fifteen miles out of her course, was over an hour late in arriving this morning.

     A commercial traveling man named Dunn, who was on the boat, said today that the glare was greater than two noon suns and that he really believed the end of the world had come.

     The captain has made an official report of the phenomenon to the secretary of the company, and these facts are taken from that report.


Reference for the above text is: Kansas City Star, January 27, 1895, p. 10.

My reference: E-mail from Chris Aubeck dated 12-28-2011. Thanks to Kay Massingill for finding the report.


Note 1: The actual name of the ferry is not mentioned. We only know that it was a steamer belonging to the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad and that it was part of the Milwaukee Cross-Lake Ferry Line and ran across the lake from Milwaukee to Grand Haven. –CF-


Note 2: To me (CF), this sounds like a large UFO about to leave the water, without its field on. The reason why I think this is so is because if the field were on, it would illuminate the water and the area of it outside the water. Being as close as it was to the ship, without the field’s rotational circulation relieving the pressure on the water, a large wave was formed. Its re-submergence might have been influenced by the audience witnessing the event.




North America – United States

Lake Michigan  Latitude 44-00-28 N, Longitude 086-45-52 W (D-M-S) [lake]

Milwaukee        Latitude 43-02-20 N, Longitude 087-54-23 W [populated place – Wisconsin]

Grand Haven    Latitude 43-03-47 N, Longitude 086-13-42 W [populated place - Michigan]

Reference: http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/f?p=154:1:1765846258792399

Note: If the “steamer was more than halfway across Lake Michigan” headed to Grand Haven from Milwaukee, it would not have been near the city of Detroit, which was only mentioned in the text as part of the name of the company which owned the unnamed steamer.


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