by Charles Lear
Linda Zimmermann, who specializes in UFO sightings reports from New York’s Hudson River Valley, has often mentioned her amazement at how much activity there was in her “own back yard.” That got me to wondering what there was in my back yard. I live in Queens, so Hudson River Valley is my north 40 and my backyard is Long Island. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this area, Manhattan is across the Hudson River, east of New Jersey and Brooklyn and Queens are across the East River east of Manhattan on the western tip of Long Island. It turns out that Long Island is a great place to be for someone with an interest in UFOs, with plenty of sightings and a lot of craziness.
A very old classic case reported Sept. 12, 1880 in The New York Times involved not a flying object but a flying man. The article begins, “One day last week a marvelous apparition was seen near Coney Island. At the height of at least a thousand feet in the air a strange object was in the act of flying toward the New Jersey coast. It was apparently a man with bat’s wings and improved frog’s legs. The face of the man could be distinctly seen, and it wore a cruel and determined expression.” It goes on to speculate as to who the mystery flyer might be and settles on a “Mr. Talmage.” Alex Wallach, who writes for untapped cities, investigated and concluded that the person referred to was probably Thomas Dewitt Talmadge, a notorious preacher in Brooklyn Heights known for his “acrobatic” preaching style, who was trained in gymnastics and promoted physical fitness. There are articles from the time period mocking him in various ways and when reading the entire New York Times piece with this in mind, it seems that this is one of those and that the flying man was an invention by the writer to this end.