Friday, December 25, 2015

A probable explanation for a recollection of a UFO during the historic Smith flight landing in Adelaide in March 1920

The 1947 recollections of the March 1920 Smith arrival in Adelaide   
from my report to a November 2011 Magonia Exchange & Project 1947 discussion

Keith Basterfield reported on February 1947 (not February 1946)  item back
in January 2011
I am pleased that Ole Jonny Braenne has drawn attention to the actual date
of the return of the Smith flight back to Adelaide as Tuesday March 23rd

I have now had the opportunity to look at the Adelaide Advertiser around
that date.  The coverage of the events leading up to the Vimy landing (The
Smith plane) suggests that the 1947 recollection by H.N. Wicks of the 1920
events may be confused.  The "two large black objects" may well have been
the biplanes being flown by Captains A.R. Moore and Captain Loftus.  These
planes eventually escorted the Vimy piloted by the Smiths - the stars of the
day's spectacle - called "Our Knights of the Air" by the local paper.
Elsewhere in the papers coverage we see reference Captain Butler having a
delayed take off, finally leaving sometime after 1pm.  The planes of Moore
and Loftus appear soon after, preforming "evolutions" over the aerodrome.
The Vimy was first seen at 1.45 pm not far from Mount Lofty.  It was soon
joined by the two local planes piloted by Moore and Loftus, finally landing
soon after 2.12 pm.  As for Captain Butler's plane, it seems his flight was
a matter of some anxiety.  He turned up at 2.45 pm, saying he had been
unable to "pick up" the Vimy, described elsewhere in the coverage as "a
mammoth compared with the other machines." He put his inability to find the
Vimy down to the mist in the hills.
So I suspect that the various observations of Mr. Wicks recollected in the
1947 letter to the editor, were of Captain Butler flying over the area and
the other two objects sighted were the two other local pilots Moore and
Happy to hear of any other suggestions.  So far I haven't picked up on any
March 1920 accounts or letters suggesting mysterious objects flying around
that day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Validation of the 1868 Frederick Birmingham story

In the latest "Ufologist" Robert Frola has done a great job of presenting my column devoted to the historical case of Frederick William Birmingham, which I have been researching since 1975!
Here are some extracts from the piece, the validating 1911 Hebert Rumsey letter, and a picture of Rumsey with one of his daughters.  I had the pleasure to recently speak with Hebert Rumsey's grandson.

Friday, December 18, 2015

"Sun pillar" as a possible explanation of King's "vision" of 1861

Following on from the introductory essay that describes King's "vision" of 1861 during the last days of the tragic and epic Burke and Wills expedition, Martin Shough, coauthor of the excellent book "Return to Magonia - Investigating UFOs in History" (Anomalist Books, 2015) suggested King may have witnessed a "sun -pillar".  This potentially would fit the circumstances of the sighting.  Of course the paucity of data and very limited met data available on the day in question prevents certainty.
The following information on "sun-pillars" highlights that they can be impressive and sometimes be viewed (in olden days) as "a sign of God."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

1880 - The "Roaring Moon" at Camelback Mountain near Grafton NSW - The Great Fortean Game of Cat & mouse

This is a post I did back in May, 2013:

The apparent witness to a strange event over Camelback Mountain - John Connell Laycock

The Magonia exchange has being doing a great job of focusing on historical UFO reports particularly utilising the growing number on digitised on line newspapers archives.  They are a rich source of UFO and other Fortean matters. 

Some of my work is included in my post on Australian historical UFO research.  Kay Massingill has been doing a wonderful job with her posts, many of which are on Australian pre-1947 cases.  I've been looking at these sorts of historical Australian and New Zealand cases since the 1970s, initially of course in the time honoured way of physically reading the originals or microfilm, etc.  Now we have a veritable goldfield of digitised newspapers increasingly coming on line - a researchers delight.  

Some cases really catch the eye.  For me the "Roaring moon" at Camelback Mountain in 1880 was one of them. Thank you Kay for picking up this one.  I missed it in my own long searching.  It was especially interesting for me as it was located about 45 km NE of my old home town of Grafton.  I canoed down the river at the very location back in the late 1960s and 1970s and alway passed the area on my way up to university at Armidale between1971 and 1974.  
The 1880 event is fascinating at many different levels so I thought I would try to did deeper.  Here is the fascinating letter to the editor of the Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser(Grafton, NSW), in its Saturday 19 June 1880 issue:
1880 Tuesday 22 June “Under the Arcade” column by the anonymous “Atlantes”:
1880 Saturday 26 June:
In the same issue in the "Under the Arcade" Atlantes comments, surely aware of "J.C. Laycock"'s letter:
Now things get curiouser & curiouser. 1880 Tuesday 29 June “Atlantes” reaction?:
1880, Tuesday 27 July 18 “Under the Arcade” column by “Atlantes”:
Mr. Laycock, a real historical family who had a place at Camelback, becomes an enigma.  Is there more than one? 
There was a junior & senior. , but it seems there was another? A literary "jokester"?
John Connell Laycock senior was apparently the original 12 June 1880 letter writer, born 1 December 1818, died 30 December 1897.
"J.C. Laycock" was a prolific letter writer but it seems at times mischief was afoot and a fine Fortean dance was to had?  
See the December 1863 letter:
and a February 1865 naming game:
So are we any closer to knowing if the original 19 June 1880 newspaper account is a legitimate story (the letter to the editor dated 12 June 1880)? Maybe? 
I have taken this up with some friends at the Clarence River Historical Society.  I will report further if I have any illuminations.
And thanks again for Kay for putting up this "Cheshire cat" and sending me down the "rabbit hole."
The game is afoot.
Bill Chalker


The mystery of a machine to go through the air 1868, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia

by Bill Chalker
COPYRIGHT 1998 - Bill Chalker

Fred Phillips in his library
Life is full of many little pleasures. One of mine during the mid 1970s was spending time with Fred Phillips and his wonderful library. Fred was then honorary president of the Sydney based UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC). While many of his ideas were a little quirky, he was a gentle soul and simply offered his thoughts as grist for the mind mill. Fred was also for me a link to the early days of Australian ufology and the possible occult dimensions of ufology, both of which he had extensive links to via his interests and acquaintances. So it was during one these reveries at his house in about 1975, that Fred asked me had I ever seen the document he handed me.

I had not seen it before. Fred was unsure of its origin, but the "copy" was found by him while he was organising papers for tax purposes for June Marsden, an acquaintance and local astrologer. On the copy was a hand written annotation - "Who sent this to me? Inside a New Zealand Trade Magazine, Dec (sic?) - 1958." This was written by June Marsden at the time she found it. The material, 15 pages of dotted type and sketches, described itself as a
"Copy from the Memorandum Book of Fred Wm. Birmingham, the Engineer to the Council of Parramatta. A machine to go through the air. A.D. 1873". The contents purported to be an account by one Frederick William Birmingham, described as both an engineer, surveyor and local council alderman, of his observation, in July, 1868, of a peculiar "machine to go through the air" - a flying "ark". Birmingham describes the machine landing in Parramatta Park and how he was taken aboard it by it's operator - a "spirit" - and shown papers that would months later be of significance to him. Strange events followed including a daylight sighting in 1873 of a strange object in the sky, all of which the Birmingham of the text, took to have some meaning in what had become a quest to unravel the mystery behind the flying machine in his strange UFO "vision" of 1868.

The cover page indicated that 5 people were ostensibly involved in its preparation in various ways. The "group" consisted of T.V. Homan ("Co-ordination"), Mrs N. de Launte ("Manuscript"), Majorie Esling ("Caligraphy" (sic)), David Esling ("Drafting") and Judith Lambert ("Transcription"). Only T.V. Homan was known to have been a member of UFOIC. He in fact was for some time a sightings officer for the group during the sixties. He was a rather eccentric and secretive character, and had what I termed the "bower bird" syndrome, namely if it was interesting, like the bird, he would take it and line his "nest" - in this case a factory site he owned. A minor legend developed in my early days with UFOIC.
Tas Homan
It was thought, not entirely without foundation, that Tas Homan had secreted away some of the "pearls" of early UFO investigations for his own purposes. There were attempts by a number of the "new blood" of the group to extract some of this material. Not knowing what he had was a problem. I had some success with a 1969 movie footage of a possible UFO landing site. It was evident that Tas had never even looked at the film, despite having coveted it for some 5 years. The Birmingham manuscript was more difficult to unravel. Tas Homan told me on a number of occasions that the "copy" was an authentic copy of the original manuscript. However, he declined or could not tell me more, and would not confirm if he had the original.

The undated copy I now had was at least known to have been produced during the 1950s. Although somewhat sceptical of the authenticity of the account, I decided to document sections of the "Memorandum Book" in an accessible form (partly in an attempt to draw comment and possible clarification). Although I had the "Memorandum Book" copy in my possession for some years, other activities always largely managed to prevent me from carrying out my desire to confirm the possible historical validity of the Birmingham account.

Still, I wanted to see whether there was something of substance behind the Birmingham account. I wanted to find out whether, in the account, we had a factual description of real events, objective or otherwise. Because of the nature of the account, it may be relevant to our understanding of modern day UFO "contact" and "abduction" accounts. Was I dealing with a copy of a legitimate historical document or a literary hoax perpetrated more recently.

So a historical detective odyssey unravelled. I must admit that when I finally saw Birmingham's name on a legitimate historical document in the State library, I was very excited. I had confirmed that there actually was a real Frederick Birmingham and the hunt was on. An exhaustive and extensive search unravelled the following evidence.
Tas Homan acquired the manuscript, when it was given to him by a Mrs N. de Launte. Mr Homan came to know the de Launte family during the fifties, apparently because of his fringe interest in matters occult and spiritual.
Mrs de Launte obtained the original memorandum book from a Mr Wallace Haywood, a teacher, who lived in the Park, Parramatta, a street which ran along the south-western perimeter of Parramatta Park.

How Mr Haywood obtained the memorandum book is unclear, but it is known that it was in his family for quite a long time, either obtained directly or indirectly. It may be significant that Haywood's home was situated within a few hundred yards of "the highest part of the Parramatta Park" - Parramatta Park Hill - ostensibly the landing site of the ark in Birmingham's vision.

I tracked down Mrs Majorie Esling, who was listed as one of the people involved in preparing the document copy. Mrs. de Launte was her mother. She told me of the history of the Birmingham manuscript, as she was able to best remember it. Apparently some time during the 1940s, her mother, as a qualified nurse, was looking after Mrs Haywood, the wife of the Parramatta schoolteacher, Mr Wallace Haywood. Out of appreciation, Mr Haywood gave Mrs de Launte a small black book, which consisted of a cover made of imitation leather/oil skin, with an inlaid cross on the front. It was estimated to be about 6" x 4" in size, hand-written with pen and ink and supplemented with rough sketches.

Mrs Esling remembers her mother showing her the "memorandum book" from time to time, but she was not (and still was not at the time I spoke with her in 1980) particularly interested in its strange contents. She recollected that the little book described how the writer saw a strange "aircraft" over Parramatta, but noted that the account did not refer to it as a "flying saucer." The manuscript was obviously an old one, consistent with the dating of the account (1868-1873). The "memorandum book" was placed in a drawer and largely forgotten for a number of years, until the family made the acquaintance of Tasman V. Homan during the early 1950s.

Homan was both intrigued and impressed by the manuscript since to him it was very meaningful as a provocative historical description of a modern mystery that fascinated him deeply - flying saucers!
Although the de Launte/Esling family often made fun of Homan's "flying saucer" beliefs, they were sufficiently impressed by the depth of his interest to consider giving him the Birmingham manuscript. Mrs de Launte did finally give Homan the "memorandum book." The manuscript may have drifted into obscurity had not the account of the Parramatta surveyor held such sway over Homan.

Homan eventually went to the trouble of producing a "copy" of it. Although he lists Mrs de Launte, her daughter, Majorie Esling, and David Esling as having assisted in the production of this "copy" the family cannot recollect taking an active part in it. Mrs Esling does, however, remember the original book and her mother making a gift of it to Mr Homan. "Transcription" of the "copy" was also attributed to a Judith Lambert, who it seems, was both a writer and an acquaintance of Homan. As far as I have been able to determine, Homan's copy of the "memorandum book" remained among a small close group of acquaintances.

It had certainly not found its way into the literature. The manuscript would have probably remained unknown, had it not been accidentally "rediscovered" by Fred Phillips. He subsequently passed it on to me and since then parts of the account have percolated into the literature. On a number of occasions I asked Homan whether he had the original document. Typically he was either vague or furtive in his answers. When I learnt that Homan had died in 1981, I was advised of an apparent beneficiary of his estate who was overseas for a while. After writing some letters and making contact with the son of the "beneficiary" I found I could only wait till his return.

When he finally did I was frustrated to learn that he had secured unrelated material from Homan's estate and he gave me the name of another person who had been in Australia all along and who would have acquired his factory and any material stored at this site. I was distressed to learn from this second "beneficiary" that, yes, there had been some material, but that he had destroyed it soon after he had acquired it! He couldn't specifically recollect the contents of the material but to him it was of no use.

I was depressed and unapproachable for days. So, the original memorandum book either was destroyed after Homan died, or it was long since lost, or more remotely, it remains to be found. Should you ever come across a small black book, about 6" x 4" in size, with a cover made of imitation leather/oil skin, and an inlaid cross on the front, containing hand-written notes with pen and ink and rough sketches about "a machine to go through the air" at Parramatta and dated between 1868 and 1873, make sure you let me know!


I found that "Fred Wm. Birmingham" was a real person. The manuscript told me a few things about Fred. Wm. Birmingham. In 1872, Fred. Wm. Birmingham describes himself as "The Engineer to the Council of Parramatta. C.E. & Lic. Surveyor, Parramatta." From at least 1868 to 1873, he was living alone in a rented cottage in Duck's Lane, Parramatta. Before 1868, he had been "twice elected alderman of Parramatta" and by 1869 was working for the Parramatta Council on "the water works scheme for supplying Parramatta with water." What was historically confirmable of all this?
Parramatta Council aldermen 1870

Surprisingly, all of it turned out to be confirmed after detailed historical research! Not only was it proven that Birmingham, an engineer and surveyor, did live in Duck's Lane, Parramatta, between 1868 and 1873, as alleged in the Memorandum Book, but a detailed chronology of the man emerged, which was consistent with the individual described in the Memorandum Book. I was even able to determined, much to my surprise, that in the "rented cottage Duck's Lane," in which Birmingham experienced his "wonderful dream" of 1868, still existed today!

I was amazed to be able to stand on the verandah of the "rented cottage," under its "convex corrugated iron roof" and contemplate the reality of the "vision" on the night "of the 25th - 26th July Anno Domino, 1868."
Surprisingly, I found nothing in the "Memorandum Book of Fred. Wm. Birmingham... A.D. 1873," which was inconsistent with information known at that time in the 19th century. No apparent anachronism exists in the manuscript's text.

The allusion to Birmingham's surprise as to why the ark's furnishings were "extremely thick" and "very strong," and the references to rubber, steel, centrifugal pumps and "positive and negative electricity" are realistic for the period of the manuscript - 1868 to 1873.

Birmingham's surprise is consistent with the contemporary conviction that flight would only be achieved with lighter-than-air "machines," namely balloons, and later the "airships." Jules Verne in his prophetic book, "Robur the Conqueror" (or "The Clipper of the Clouds"), published in 1886, not only pre-empted the American "airship" waves in 1896 and 1897, but defined the future of "heavier-than-air" aerial machines.

The Memorandum Book is therefore consistent with the period in which it is based. Research has taken the established existence of the document, back at least to the early 1940s, when it was in the possession of the Parramatta school teacher. The case for the manuscript being what it purports to be - a Memorandum Book written by a Parramatta resident in 1873 - is, I believe, well established. The chance of it being a literary hoax perpetrated around the early 1940s or earlier, certainly seems quite remote.

(the headings throughout are mine):

The "Memorandum book, A.D. 1873" attributed to the hand of one "Fred. Wm. Birmingham, C.E. & Lic. Surveyor, Parramatta, Australia," gives an account of an "aerial machine" - "A machine to go through the air."
"On the night of the 25th - 26th July Anno Domino (original spelling) 1868, I had a wonderful dream - a vision..."
Birmingham described standing under the verandah of his rented cottage in Duck's Lane, Parramatta, when he saw up in the sky, to the north-east, the passage of a bizarre apparitional procession.

This consisted of "the Lord Bishop of Sydney's head in the air looking intently upon me in a frowning half laughing mood... I watched it intently and when it had travelled to the east it dimmed - just as one loses his focus by quickly drawing in or out the slide of a telescope." In the same manner, "the Premier's head twice appeared... this dimmed and again the Lord Bishop's head shone forth as it were looking intently and impeachingly upon me, and travelling southerly to about s.s-east." Birmingham dropped his gaze to ponder the extraordinary display.

"After some considerable time I determined to look at the head or heads again...," but they were gone. "A Machine to go through the Air." I retraced the course the head had taken and just in the spot where I first saw the head I saw an 'Ark' and while looking at it - moving along the same track as the head had taken - I said to myself aloud, 'Well that is a beautiful vessel.' I had no sooner ended the sentence than I was made aware that I was not alone, for to my right hand and a little to the rear of my frontage a distinct voice said, slowly - 'That's a machine to go through the air.'

"In a little time I replied - 'It appears to me more like a vessel for going upon the water, but, at all events, it's the loveliest thing I ever saw.' "I then felt that somehow or another the spirit and I were as it may have been spiritually on the highest part of the Parramatta Park." By this time, "the machine" had moved through the air in a zig-zag fashion, "then quite, stopped, the forward motion and descended some twenty feet or so as gently as a feather on the grass," at a distance of about 20 yards from Birmingham and the "spirit."

Birmingham described the ark in the following way: "...though a brown colour (rubber!) all over at a distance... its peculiar shapings are well impressioned upon my mind and the colour seemed to blend with faint, flitting shades of steel blue, below and appearing tremulous and like what one might term magnified scales on a large fish, the latter being as it were flying in the air, (the machine has not the shape of anything that has life)."

The "spirit" was described by Birmingham as being "like a neutral tint shade (white? - B.C.) and the shape of a man in his usual frock dress."

It said to him, "Have you a desire or do you wish to enter upon it?" Birmingham replied, "Yes."

"'Then come' - said the spirit, thereupon we were lifted off the grass and gently carried through the air and onto the upper part of the machine..."

Aboard the "Ark"

On the machine, the spirit showed Birmingham two cylinders, located at the front and back of it, indicating their purpose, "by downward motion of hand." The spirit beckoned the surveyor to enter the "pilot house" (as Birmingham termed a part of the machine) saying, "Step in." Birmingham described how he went down about three steep steps. They led into the pilot house room, which was about three and a half feet lower than the deck of the machine.

The only feature of the room was a table, about five feet by three and a half feet and two and a half feet high covered with material like oilskin, "or perhaps iron covered with rubber cloth tightly." About two feet separated the table and the walls of the room. Birmingham referred to how, "everything appeared very strong, the sides I noticed were extremely thick, about six inches - and I (then) wondered why they were so strong in 'a machine to go through the air'."

Standing alone at the rear end of the table, whereupon he rested one hand, Birmingham began to repent agreeing to "entering upon" the "ark." "I felt miserably queer - just like one who undertaking a billet or post he knows nothing of. So I remained for some considerable time, when I was aroused as it were from my reverie by the voice of the spirit on my right hand, who said, 'Here are some papers for your guidance'."

The hand of the spirit was resting on the table and within it were several printed papers. The first paper was covered with figures and formulae."...Thinking the formulae and figures of other kinds might be too intricate for my comprehension I said to the spirit - 'Oh! Will I want them?' The spirit replied slowly, but with marked emphasis, 'It is absolutely necessary that you should know these things, but, you can study them as you go on'."

Among the "figures and formulae," Birmingham saw, were the following: V = 550 + (500 aH)

"I again cast down my eyes between my hands as it were on the table and considering silently the words of the holy spirit and when I looked about I found I was alone in the ark! "So I fell, I suppose, into my usual sleeping state, and waking next morning deeply impressed with that vision of the night..."


Beyond the above experience, 1868 was "a most miserable year" for Birmingham. "I went about down hearted and with the remains of low fever - rheumatism, lumbago and the like." Early in 1869, Birmingham (formerly "twice elected alderman of Parramatta") was reading newly acquired engineering literature, to facilitate work on a report to the local council on "the waterworks scheme for supplying Parramatta with water" ("...many years surveying had made me quite rusty as to the little (engineering) I knew some 16 to 18 years before, I scraped up such useful information as I could speedily get or pay for").

Amongst the material he had bought and seen for the first time, were Molesworth's Engineering Tables for 1868. On page 137 of these tables, much to his surprise, Birmingham found the figures and formulae he had seen "in that vision of the night namely, 'July A.D. 1868'." They were present in connection with centrifugal pumps.

(Note: Janet and Colin Bord tracked down the Molesworth Tables for me. They could only find a 1863 edition, which had exactly the same equation on the same page number, so the possibility of precognition on Birmingham's part is not so apparent, although he wrote that he had not seen the tables before he acquired them after the vision - B.C.)

Birmingham pondered his "vision" occasionally but could only rationalise (to his own satisfaction at least) the first portion, namely that it reminded him "that I must serve God by conforming to the Christian doctrine and laws of his church. (Christ's Bride). As to the second portion of the vision I could not conclude what it meant - at least in any satisfactory way ('a machine to go through the air' - or in other words, the ark mentioned in the Book of Revelations!)"

Things did not end there for Fred. Wm. Birmingham.

The Opening Gate

On March 27, 1871, he was puzzled by what seemed to be opening and closing of the latch on his verandah gate by what seemed to be an unseen hand - poltergeist, spooks or just a coincidence? Birmingham continued to ponder the meaning of it all. "A thing to be accomplished" "Day by day and at night in my wakeful moments I have often rehearsed the wonderful dreams I have had, and coupling them one day with the vision of the Lord Bishop's head and the latch rising, I came down from the hill in the Parramatta Park firmly convinced that the vision was gradually unfolding itself and 'the machine to go through the air' was a thing (through God's mercy) to be accomplished.

"I sat down at the same end of the table where from I saw the latch rise, calculating pressures etc. and taking a match box in my hand and letting it drop on the table I said aloud 'But, how in the name of goodness can I overcome 'gravity'.' I instantly felt in my left air a sound like that produced by pressing a large sea shell close to one's ear, and the words 'Are not the sides greater than a third'.

Becoming excited and in great joy I said aloud, "Yes, and the sides and bottom working together can overcome the top'. This was the first practical clue as to forming the interior parts of the machine I saw in the vision of the aforenamed night 25th - 26th July, 1868. (About three years and nine months had passed away viz to the 15th April, 1872)."

"The most extraordinary cloud"
(And a UFO ?)

"My thoughts have been continually bent on unravelling and learning the matter, and the little monies I could spare went towards experimenting and each experiment learnt me something but, on the last of the three principal occasions, I was disappointed and felt unhappy and laid on my back on my 'couch' for a long time (some hours) thinking and when I had finished all of my thinking I said aloud to myself - 'Well, I don't care, I believe it firmly and try I will if I should fail a thousand times, to the day of my death I will believe in it'.

"So saying I threw myself on my feet and went out to the kitchen (at 7p.m.) and slowly took my evening meal. The sun was or had just set. My door was open and my eyes were toward the sky which was quite clear, excepting three small clouds of Van Dyke brown colour, in the south-west a little separate.

"The middle one being the largest, drew my attention and was without doubt, the most extraordinary cloud in its wonderful movements that I ever saw. I made a sketch of it which I keep because it is evidence that we are taught betimes by the great and good spirit." What followed has all the trappings of an unusual UFO sighting. It occurred on March 9, 1873, according to the memorandum book text.

Out of the middle "cloud" appeared two screw-like appendages, which projected downwards. Between these "screws" appeared a "second shape with like two flat necks on a turtle shaped body". How it came there puzzled Birmingham. The "necks" bent up as the screws rotated about seven times more. "As the screws reversed the neck(s) came down gradually to the horizontal position and after a few minutes (2 or 3 minutes) the screw part rotated the second time and reversed as before. After this double operation the 'turtle' disappeared, I then knew not where to.

"After a few minutes lapse of time I was astonished (and said aloud) 'Well I declare! The turtle is forming again', and sure enough, in the same shape and place it remained for a pause of a few minutes, and to my surprise the movements were exactly the same as the previous series, namely twice screwed and twice reversed all the same forms as before. "After a couple of minutes the turtle began to fade away and the last shred of it I saw winding around and going upwards to the middle cloud and to my surprise the two big three-threaded screws folded up like the arms of a bear and lost their shape in the middle cloud!

Just after this the whole three clouds which had remained stationary in the sky for, as truly as I can reckon, (without a clock or watch) twenty to twenty five minutes or so - moved quickly south-easterly, formed into one cloud and in about three minutes melted out of sight. This going away of the clouds was so quickly done that I had to rise quickly and step out of doors to watch them!" "There may be a meaning in all this"

"I thought silently over the thing that was shown one, and said I to myself 'How could these things be done!' So I concluded that the cloud material was worked upon by positive and negative electricity - for wind there was none seemingly - after some lapse of time I said to myself 'There may be a meaning in all this' - doubled over and twice each time. I then thought of Pharaoh's 'dream' of the fat and the lean kine - but said I (inwardly) 'Pharaoh's was a dream but this just now seen by me was in daylight!'

"It sunk as it were deep into my soul and I concluded that the thing was shown one by God, but I could not on that day unravel it - but my fixed belief then (and ever since) was that there was a meaning - a teaching for me in it."

There the account finishes.


I first presented my findings on my research into the Birmingham vision as a paper entitled "A UFO VISION? The mystery of "a machine to go through the air" 1873, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia" presented at a national Australian UFO Conference late in 1980. It was published in the UFO Research Australia Newsletter (Vol.3, No.1, Jan-Feb 1982).

What has interested me is that despite almost 2 decades having passed much of what I wrote then holds even more so now. Many aspects of the Birmingham vision are common to the rich harvest of "contactee" stories of the 1950s, other "contact" tales and even "abductions." Some of these elements include "the invitation," "levitation," tours of the "machine," "alien tutelage," ESP, precognition or other faculties, disorientation and bizarre "follow up" experiences.

By all accounts I believe it is fair to say that the Birmingham vision of 1868, and subsequent events, embodied many of the features that appear time and time again in modern contact, contactee and abduction accounts.

Perhaps Birmingham's account not only mirrors modern accounts. We encounter tales of invitations by strange entities to go into unusual realms in aspects of shamanism, the stories of "aerial people" of the Middle Ages, fairy lore and the visionary sphere (with the latter consider A.E.'s evocative "visions in the air" of 1893 in his 1918 work "The Candle of Vision").

The bizarre nature of the Birmingham vision (the dream-like quality of the account, floating heads, spirits, flying, instantaneous relocation, poltergeists, voices and not-the-least - visions - all elements of dreams, psychotic episodes, hallucinations or other realities, depending where your preferences lie), does not, in my mind, lessen its relevancy to modern UFO accounts of contacts, contactees, abductions and the like. The impossible and the totally absurd are no longer strange bed fellows in today's UFO accounts.

Is the vision of Fred. Wm. Birmingham objective or subjective in nature? Does the Memorandum Book record a real physical event or is it principally psychological in origin? Perhaps the event had some physical basis, but was embroidered by fantasy and imagination. Probably most contactee, contact and abduction events of the modern era beg the same questions. It may be easy to dismiss the Birmingham account, since it is of an historical event and, therefore, alludes real critical inspection.

Afterall, the account is obviously a dream, delusion, vision or hallucination, the argument would go. However, I do not believe we can escape the remarkable degree of correspondence with contemporary UFO events. What one applies to the Birmingham vision could perhaps be equally applied to UFO events.

For example, in an Omni article, "Cartographer of Consciousness", in September, 1980, Brian Van der Horst, quotes Dr. Ronald Siegel: "We've found an uncanny parallel between the experiences of UFO abductees and the phenomena of drug induced visions. "That's not to detract from the romanticism or novelty of these visions or their utility in inspiring creative endeavours or giving support to transcendental experiences. But it is to say that they are very similar for all people..."

Hallucinations of this nature can be brought about by a range of events apart from drugs, including hypnagogic and hypnopompic states, fever delirium, epilepsy, psychotic states, sensory deprivation, electrical stimulation, and dizziness. Recollect that for Birmingham "1868 (was) a most miserable year" in that he "went about down-hearted and with the remains of a low fever..."

The specific content may differ, but the basic components of these visions will be the same for "Aboriginal men of high degree" (aboriginal shamans), a Parramatta surveyor in 1868 or 20th century UFO abductees. Contactee, contact and abduction experiences may be only human responses to the more objective aspects of the UFO phenomenon. I have little doubt that there are objective phenomena involved in the UFO mystery but, as researchers, we must be very cautious in deciding just where that stepping off point occurs between real objective physical events and the realms of imagination, fantasy and elsewhere.

However, I wrote in 1980 and I emphasis again now, until acceptable and testable physical evidence emerges for the reality of contactee, contact and abduction events, I prefer caution and suggest an open minded, but critical approach. I think known hypotheses such as psychological processes (that are well attested) should be seriously considered before we accept that such events represent "technology." At the moment, the evidence seems to be suggesting that the best fit hypothesis for these events will have some significant faculty of the human mind as its basis.

Some evidence suggests a rather strange reality may be involved that may go beyond the human condition.

With caution we may eventually be able to decide unambiguously whether contact and abduction accounts are genuine extensions of the apparently more objective manifestations of "mainstream" UFO activity. It is a quest for which any number of possibilities may eventuate. We should not rush towards judgement as the material we have before us is both fascinating and complex. The looking will surely be fascinating.

Here once I fancied that the twilight made
All things unreal. The unearthly spell
Changed sloping lawns to meads of Asphodel,
And woes and joys in spirit-forms arrayed
Gave selfsame shadows through each darkling glade,
Till night dissolved them as it slowly fell.
- Hubert Young, 1933 Cumberland Argus
Quoted in "Focus on Parramatta" by Doris Sargeant (1972)

"...aghast the Children of man
Stood on the infinite Earth & saw these visions in the air...
But many stood silent, & busied in their families.
And many said, 'we see no visions in the darksome air'..."
- William Blake, 1797

"Now I a fourfold vision see,
And a fourfold vision is given to me:
'This fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulah's night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From single visions & Newton's sleep."
- William Blake, 1802


"Like a mirage that shows a magnificent city, the images of hallucinations are actually reflected images of real objects located elsewhere. The city is no less intriguing and no less worthy of study because it is not where we think it is. Further experiments will help localise it."
- Dr Ronald K. Siegel, Scientific American, October 1977

"The machine then, quite stopped, the forward motion and descended some twenty feet or so as gently as a feather onto the grass at P.P. (Parramatta Park)."
- Fred. Wm. Birmingham, Parramatta Park, 1868

The holder of Australia's first aerial pilot's licence was William E. Hart, a Parramatta dentist. He taught himself to fly a Bristol biplane well enough to qualify for the Royal Aero Club's Aviator's Certificate in November 1911. On June 29, 1912, Hart won Australia's first air race. He challenged the visiting American flier, "Wizard" Stone, to a twenty mile race for a stake of 250 pounds. Stone lost his way, landing at Lakemba, but Hart, a much less experienced pilot, finished the flight in 23 minutes and landed as planned in Parramatta Park.
Sir Hudson Fish's magnificent 1912 photo 
of William Hart chasing a train 
(State Library of NSW)
More than 4 decades earlier a Parramatta surveyor had contemplated the meaning of a different "machine to go through the air" - one with striking implications for a modern day mystery that has taken hold - the UFO mystery and particularly the alien adbuction experience. "...I came down from the hill in the Parramatta Park firmly convinced that the vision was gradually unfolding itself and 'the machine to go through the air' was a thing (through God's mercy) to be accomplished."
- Fred. Wm. Birmingham, 1873.

The Search for Historical (pre- 1947) UFO Reports in Australia

The Search for Historical UFO Reports in Australia
by Bill Chalker
(from an article published originally in the Ufologist magazine (Australia), Vol.15, #6, March-april, 2012)
Back in 1978, in an article entitled “Historical reports in Australia,” I included a reference to a possible UFO sighting during the 1861 Burke and Wills expedition, around June 23rd.  Within days both Burke and Wills would be dead, victims of an expedition gone wrong and paying the ultimate price in the harsh conditions of the Australian outback at Coopers Creek. 2011 was the 150th anniversary of the epic and tragic Burke and Wills expedition.
While death was only days away William John Wills recorded in his journal dated Tuesday June 23, a strange apparition witnessed by John King, who would ultimately be the sole survivor of the cross-country expedition party.  King at 22, a “veteran” (1857-1859) of the Indian Mutiny, brought to the expedition his expertise with camels.  Health problems would seem to have made him an unlikely choice, but he soon distinguished himself as “a versatile and capable member of the party…. Always calm and reserved, with a strong sense of duty, King melted into the background and got on with his job.  His reward was a place in the forward party.” (pgs. 183 – 184, “The Dig Tree”, Sarah Murgatroyd, 2002) 

John King - witness to an 1861 "UFO vision" during the final days of the tragic Burke and Wills expedition. Source: From the La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, via Sarah Murgatroyd, "The Digg Tree", 2002, pg. 180. 
William John Wills, the expedition astronomer. Source: From William Strutt, Dixson Library, State Library of NSW, via Sarah Murgatroyd, "The Digg Tree", 2002, pg. 77.
Wills wrote:
“Near daybreak King reported seeing a moon in the east with a haze of light stretching up from it to be quite as large as the moon and not dim at the edges. I am so weak that any attempt to get a sight of it was out of the question; but I think it must have been Venus in the Zodiacal light that he saw, with a corona around her.”
Maybe Wills was right. After all he was the surveyor and astronomical observer for the ill-fated expedition. Between 1858 and 1860 Wills had worked as an assistant at Melbourne's Flagstaff observatory.  His written instructions included, “All astronomical phenomena of particular interest should be observed, if the means at the disposal of the astronomer do admit of such observation …. Observations on the Zodiacal Light may be made with a great facility and advantage for science…. A good look out should be kept for meteors.” (pg. 306, “Burke & Wills – The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition,” edited by E.B. Joyce & D.A. McCann, 2011)
In his 1976 Boyer lecture historian Manning Clark stated:
"The story of Burke and Wills could be told to illustrate many things about life. Like all great stories it had everything.... To feel the full force of that tragedy one has to stand on the banks of Cooper’s Creek at the spot where Wills died. Right to the very end Wills had believed, like Mr Micawber, that something might turn up.... The most difficult thing of all for a historian is to learn how to tell his story so that something is added to the facts, something about the mystery at the heart of things."
Well, something may indeed have turned up. Astronomy software reconstructing the early morning sky for the period in question suggests that Venus was below the sunrise horizon, and the moon was in the west. So if these tentative reconstructions are correct we have a mystery on our hands. I suspect it was something prosaic that the lone expedition survivor - John King - saw that morning, more than 150 years ago. Perhaps given the dire and tragic circumstances closing in on the 3 men, precision in observations may have understandably started to lapse. Perhaps King had a hallucination due to the severe condition he was in?
The excellent 150th anniversary book “Burke & Wills – The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition,” edited by E.B. Joyce & D.A. McCann, highlights William John Wills “as scientist”, as an excellent observer even to his dying days. I wonder if Wills had had the strength to look and verify King’s observations whether the mystery would have continued.
What did John King see? - Hallucination, Venus, the moon, a UFO, or something else?
I first read John Wills account of King’s “vision” back in 1975 when I read Alan Moorehead’s account of the expedition, “Cooper’s Creek.”
I have been interested in historical UFO events in Australia and the near region ever since I began my interest in UFOs. My initial conclusion back in 1978 was, “Australia like many other counties has a rich crop of UFO sightings long before the modern popularisation of the mystery.  The UFO phenomenon seems to be as old as man himself.” In my original account I used “UFO phenomena”to equate with the likelihood that many things come together that are collectively called the UFO phenomenon, but I prefer to have the latter linking directly to the “core” unexplained and alien phenomenon.
The only pre-1947 UFO event supported by a photograph I had come across was a sighting I briefly described in my 1996 book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO Story.” The account of it I have been able to find was the story in the U.F.O.I.C. Newsletter No. 21, December, 1968:
Sighting and UFO photo back from 1935 Only now, a report and a negative of a UFO photographed in 1935 have been received and investigated by UFOIC. As the case was, the person concerned wondered at the time what the object might have been but has only recently become aware of the extraordinary nature of his experience and the significance of the photograph which he took. That year, Mr. Patrick A.M. Terry of Mosman, Sydney, was stationed with the military at Newcastle and on the night of 10th October he went fishing to Nobby’s Head. The sky was overcast and there was no moon. At about 10 p.m., while sitting on the rocks, he noticed a flash of light in the sky out over the sea. Then a steady light appeared. It was brighter than a full moon and was hovering about a mile away and possibly 10,000 feet high. It was yellow – bright on the lower part gradually diminishing through three dark bands into grey. The whole complex appeared actually as a tremendously large mush-room-shaped object, consisting of three floors, smaller supporting the larger one, and the light from the bottom floor illuminating all three upper sections. The object then suddenly descended to a height of about 5,000 feet and remained stationary for a few seconds. It then moved quickly back to its original position. At that time Mr. Terry’s curiosity and surprise were fully aroused and while he had a Kodak Brownie box camera with him, he took a snapshot at 1/25th sec. exposure. After about 10 minutes of hovering, the object began revolving with increased speed and moved away, disappearing towards the north and out of sight in seconds. The photos later showed a definite circular object with details seen well at enlargement. (The photo will be published in the next Review).
The report refers at one point to “photos” but only one seems to have been taken. The next Review – the Australian UFO Review (UFOIC edition), No. 10 - did not appear until December, 1969. There was no account or photo of the 1935 incident in the issue. The magazine did report on the accidental death of UFOIC’s long time energetic president Dr. Miran Lindtner. Not reported was a story I had heard a few times from various sources that a UFOIC committee member had allegedly been bombarding Dr. Lindtner’s widow about retrieving some trivial items. The alleged insensitivity of the UFOIC member apparently led to the widow disposing of some UFOIC items in a backyard bonfire. If this story had any validity it may be a depressing explanation for the non-appearance of the 1935 photo in the UFOIC Review magazine. Another piece of UFOIC folklore also refers to its sighting officer being a bit of a “bower bird” when it came to unique and significant UFO related items. In other words one didn’t tend to leave items of this nature for his attention as they would disappear into his alleged “private collection.” When I joined the UFOIC group committee in 1975 I came across evidence of this man’s “bower bird” activities (lining his “private UFO nest” with “bright” (important) items as a bower bird does in nature). Unfortunately I was not then aware of the 1935 UFO photo story. When I did find out of it a number of years later I made attempts to locate the photographer and any evidence for it, unfortunately without success.
If anyone has any knowledge of the 1935 incident or Mr. Terry I would be pleased to hear of it.
There have been a number of other early Australian photos that show items that look like UFOs, but these do not have any related UFO story. For example the Australian magazine Ufologistreproduced one taken of Brisbane Hospital in the late 1800s, courtesy of Gordon Bagnall, in their Vol.9 No.4, 2005 issue. It shows a black disk shaped “object.” It is not clear if the people in photo are noticing anything unusual. The dark item may even be a photo defect or from some other prosaic source. The lack of any UFO related sighting narrative makes the photo interesting but not of any strong probative value.
My friend Paul Cropper, who shares my passion for searching out old records for unusual Fortean type material, drew my attention during 2011 to another early “UFO” photo which has an accompanying contemporary narrative. Our decades’ long searching for this sort of material has more recently been greatly assisted by the increasing digitisation of old newspaper archives available on-line. Paul’s discovery was of an interesting 1931 Queensland newspaper report of a “strange light” which also carried a photo. Now it could be of a meteoric sourced “trail” of light or the result of the luminous trail its passage left behind. The details supplied are not sufficient to have certainty with regard to an explanation, so we will give it a tentative label of “UFO.” I will note that 4 months earlier Francis Chichester had his curious airborne encounter off the Australian coast over the Tasman Sea – “the dull grey-white shape of an airship … like an oblong pearl,” as described in his 1933 book “Seaplane Solo” (also published as “Alone Over the Tasman Sea”).
From the Rockhampton newspaper the Morning Bulletin of Wednesday 21 October 1931, various independent observers reported a curious sky phenomenon in the Winton district. One described “a strange trail of light, seen in the western sky between 6.30 and 7 pm, on Saturday evening, October 17th. When first seen, this trail of light was shaped like a capital “T” or a figure “7,” then it changed into a long wavy line like a great serpent. Much brighter and bigger at the lower end. It stayed in the sky about twenty minutes and then suddenly disappeared.” The correspondent sent two photos with time exposures of one minute, taken at 6.45 pm. Only one photo was carried in the paper (reproduced here).
1931 Winton Queensland photo sourced from the  Rockhampton Morning Bulletin,
Wednesday, 21 October, 1931. Located by Paul Cropper.
Another observer, a stockman, reported the “dazzling affair. The sun was down a good time and the moon’s light not very bright. The time must have been a little past 7 o’clock. The affair resembled a thick snake, head downwards, all brilliantly white, while several clouds nearby were quite black. In fact, there was not another white cloud in the sky.”
The stockman further described, “It held its shape for quite a while. Then the tail changed and it started to pale, turning quite pink as it did so. The head stayed strong and pink to the last. I had no watch, but before it paled I had ridden a mile watching it all the time. I have an idea that it came on suddenly, as I shut a gate several minutes before and saw nothing. Superstitious people will be wondering what it fortells. I’m trying to believe our long delayed rain is close at hand.”
The paper’s Winton correspondent reported that many residents saw the phenomenon as dusk was approaching. The correspondent wrote, “It took the form, when first observed, of a pencil of white steam-like substance. It was located in the sky, south of Winton, at an altitude of about halfway between the horizon and the zenith, close to the pointers of the Southern Cross.”
“This mysterious white streak stood almost vertical and unravelled slowly downwards, at the same time growing thicker, until it was about the length (to the eye) of the distance of the Southern Cross pointers.
“After about ten minutes it began to bend as if blown by an air current, and gradually lengthened, the tail growing fainter and assuming the shape of a reversed mark of interrogation. The lower end was now in the shape of an arrow head and drifted lower and in a westerly direction, until, as darkness came on, it faded from view.”
The newspaper account ends with a possible source of the aerial phenomenon: “An enormous meteor or shooting star, which fell in a north-westerly direction, was observed in the Winton district. It reached the dimensions of a huge electric light, and had a brilliant red sword-like tail.”
Several Australian studies and reports have focused on the earlier historical phase of sightings, i.e. reports that preceded the beginnings of the modern era of UFO sightings which began in late June 1947 with the famous Kenneth Arnold sighting in the USA.
These include:
In 1958, Jack Kunst, a reporter, and Ken Hatton, an airline navigation officer, both members of the UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC), compiled a listing of “Australian Sightings” from 1874 to 1958. 4 pre-1947 sightings were included: 1874 Oct 11 Beechworth Victoria, 1942 Feb 26 Timor Sea, 1944 Feb Bass Strait, and 1946 Grenfell district.
In 1965 Australia’s first flying saucer book appeared – “Flying Saucers over Australia” by James Holledge.  It also lists the 4 historical sightings described by UFOIC’s Jack Kunst and Ken Hatton.  Holledge reports “From their own research, Australian ufologists believe that the first published report of an unidentified flying object in this country occurred as far back as October, 1874, at Beechworth in Victoria.” Around 1975 I located newspaper references related this event.During October, 1874, a “celestial display” of considerable magnitude was observed over a wide area.  The Sydney Morning Herald of October 8 and 9, 1874, documents the story.  The event occurred on October 4 at about 6 p.m., and involved “a meteor of great size, (which) suddenly flashed in the western heavens immediately over where the sun had set, and bursting like a rocket into numerous brilliant spangles, left behind it a straight silvery line resembling a streak of lightning.  This line shortly afterwards, seemed to assume a sinuous or spiral shape, the folds of which gradually contracted or became as it were compressed till they presented somewhat of a zig-zag appearance, the angles being particularly bright and silvery.”  The phenomenon lasted for about 20 minutes over Victoria.  One witness suggested it might be “Venus transmitting a telegram to the sun (about) her approaching transit.  Whatever it was certainly a most beautiful as well as a most extraordinary occurrence.”  The event was probably of a celestial nature – a striking meteor with a pronounced and enduring tail, seen over a widespread area, such as Beechworth, Victoria, and Goulburn, Gosford and Wagga in NSW.
In 1969 Michael Hervey mentions a few further historical cases in his book “UFOs over the Southern Hemisphere.”  Hervey made an undated reference the 1879 “remarkable meteor” at Freemantle, W.A.  While writing the book Hervey made some public requests for reports.  Amongst the numerous letters he received were a number of historical cases, which were listed as “First Hand Reports”.  These included 1931 - Baradine, NSW; during the war years – Sale, Victoria; 1936 – Willow Bark, Queensland; and 1934 Ashley Clinton, New Zealand.
“Items from the Australian flap, 1909-1910” by Paul Norman, FSR (Flying Saucer Review), Vol.22, No.6, 1976. This was a one page piece which referred to the 1910 account of the crew of the “Wookata” near Althorp Island near Cape Spencer, South Australia. The account recovered from an old newspaper lacked the date, but it was widely reported in Australian newspapers on or about August 3 or 4, 1910.  Norman also included a brief mention of some of the well known New Zealand 1909 “airship” reports, but with no reference to the 1909 Australian reports.
“Historical reports in Australia” prepared by me in 1978 was expressed in various forms between 1978 and 1979 in the “LGM” – the little green magazine - as the ACOS (Australian Co-Ordination Section of the Center for UFO Studies) Bulletin was often called, along with some other brief historical collations.  It was the first focused piece that discussed historical Australian UFO sightings including circa 1830s – Oven River region of eastern Victoria; 1861 – Coopers Creek, central Australia; 1868 – Parramatta, NSW; 1879 – Freemantle, WA; 1881 – at sea between Melbourne and Sydney; 1890s – Orrorro and Moonta, SA; 1893 – central NSW; 1902 – eastern Australia “fireball” epidemic; 1902 – Adelaide SA observatory; 1909 “airship” & “mystery light” reports in New Zealand and Australia; before and after 1912 – Boulia, Qld with the Min Min reports; 1925 – near Moora, WA; 1931 – Francis Chichester’s Tasman sea sighting; 
1932 0r 1933 – near Nambour, Qld; mid 1930s – central Qld; 1935 – Nobby’s Head, NSW “UFO photo”; 1944 – Bass Strait; and 2 events from 1947 – Greta Army camp, near Maitland, NSW, and near Newry, Victoria.  Those 19 references spanning the1830s to 1947 started a major quest by me to locate further reports. 
My “Historical reports in Australia” article was reprinted a number of times including in the ACUFOS (Australian Centre for UFO Studies) Journal, Vol.2. No. 1 to 4, 1981, and in “UFOs over Australia” edited by Mark Moravec & John Prytz (1985).
In 1981 I circulated a “Preliminary listing of Australian Historical UFO Events - Prehistory to 1949” to try to ignite interest in historical UFO cases. This sighting material was largely put together from diverse sources by Paul Cropper and me.  I choose the end year of 1949 because it seemed based on research at the time that 1950 marked the significant beginnings of the Australian UFO experience.  I listed the year, location and a few words about over 110 events, plus 56 New Zealand “airship” events from 1909, as well a few more Fortean or apparitional phenomena.
1770 - near Timor possible “Aurora” during Cook’s voyage; circa 1830s – the Oven River area “ghost light”; 1861 – Burke & Wills, 2 events from 1862; 1866 – “atmospherical phenomena”; 1868 – Birmingham’s Parramatta “UFO vision”; 1868 – sailor killed by “meteor” off Queensland; 4 further “singular phenomena” in 1868;  1869 – 4 separate “supernatural” events, the most extraordinary being a white object turning into an 8 foot spectre near Young, NSW; 1870 – 5 separate events, 3 being of strange “meteors”, the others ghost type events; 1871 – 3 events; 1872 – “ghost”; 1873 – Birmingham’s “daylight disc” over Parramatta’; 1874 – 5 separate events, including the Beechworth “meteor”; 1875 – 3 events;  1876 – 3 events; 1877 – 2 events; 1878 – 3 events;  1879 – the Freemantle event; 1881 – the “ghost ship” sighted by crew of the “Bacchante”;  1881 – the great “comet” debate; 1883 – a light near sun with beam seen from Perth, and one in New Zealand; 1885 – fireball falls into the Pacific; 1890 – a strange “cloud” over Raymond Terrace; 1890s – “ghost lights” at Orrorro and Moonta, SA; 1893 – central NSW “paralysis” case; 1896 -  “airship” over Bass Strait. 
With the 20th century: 1902 – the “fireball epidemic; 1902 “daylight disc” at Adelaide, SA; 1904 – flying “cigar” at Nildottie, SA; 1908 – mystery lights in New Zealand Southland; 56 reports from the 1909 airship wave in New Zealand and 18 for Australia.  A further 2 events from New Zealand in 1909 occurred after the main wave.  1909 – Rockhampton, Qld; 1910 – 2 reports; 1911 – 4 reports; the 1912 nexus of the Boulia Min Min light reports; 1914 – mystery plane over Savernake, NSW; during World war I – a “close encounter” at Rushworth Victoria; 1919 – an “entity” case in rural NSW, and a “landing” at Greendale, New Zealand; 1920 – “flare” reports possibly linked mystery disappearances in Bass Strait; 1921 – the apparent debut of the Qld Blairmore Station “ghost light”; 1924 – strange light over Melbourne; circa 1924 – Moora WA “landing” with physical trace; during the 1920s & 1930s – “ball lightning” events at Rooty Hill, in Sydney; 1928 – “auditory phenomena” on the Dorrigo plateau – a curious possible forerunner of the Tyringham area “phantom truck” noises that played out during an intense UFO flap in 1973; circa 1928-1929 – a recurring “fireball” at Coffs Harbour, NSW; between 1923 – 1929 – a recurring nocturnal light at Tinonee, near Taree, NSW; circa 1930 – a “zeppelin” over Port Moresby, PNG; 1931 – the Chichester UFO sighting over the Tasman Sea; 1931 – flying “disc” at Berrigal Creek; 1932 – the Guilford “dirigible” and “meteoric hole”; late 1920s – 1930s, UFO sightings at Dalma Road Qld; during the same period further “ghost light” traditions are established – the “Yatton”, the “Quinn”, the “Malchi” and “One Tree Plain” lights; circa 1932 – 1933 – the Nambour Qld “mini-UFO” encounter; 1934 – “daylight disk” in NZ; 1933-1935 – “black planes” and “mysterious balloons” over the Pacific Islands; 1933 – “brilliant fiery mass” in SA; 1935 – Nobby’s Head “UFO photo”; 1936 – the first of mystery light sightings at Crows Peak, Oberon Dam, NSW; 1936 – Willow Bark encounter and “aerial observation” at Scots Head; 1936 – aerial phenomena over Melbourne, and Manilla, NSW; early World War 2 – “daylight discs” at Sale and Korrumburra; 1942 – Colin Norris’ “nocturnal light” at Geraldton, WA; 1942 – the Timor Sea RNN Tromp ship encounter; 1942 – alleged UFO tale off Tasman Pennisula; circa 1944 – Beaufort encounter over Bass Strait; 1944 or 1945 – Christchurch NZ entity UFO encounter, and 1946 – Grenfell UFO sighting.  In 1947 – UFO sightings near Newry in Victoria, Vaucluse in Sydney, and Bondi, Sydney.  In 1948 – Scone, NSW, Berridale, Tasmania, off Cairns from Army ship Tarra, and Semaphore Beach. In 1949 - a close encounter off North Palm Island and a nocturnal light display over the Melbourne suburbs.
I had thought with this extensive historical UFO sightings listing considerable interest would have been ignited.  Instead apart from some researchers passing on a small amount of material, generally speaking interest was non existent.  Rather than put out a detailed document at that point I chose instead to concentrate on detailed case studies of select compelling cases. From this approach emerged the 1868 Birmingham “UFO vision” and 1927 Fernvale documents:
“A UFO Vision? The mystery of ‘A machine to go through the air’, 1873, Parramatta, NSW, Australia”, by Bill Chalker, UFORAN, Vol.3, No.1, Jan./Feb.1982. I also wrote a separate article on the 1868 affair for Fortean Times, “Encounter in the Outback”, September, 2002.
“The Terror Down Under”, by Bill Chalker, Fate, September, 1988 (re 1927 Fernvale, NSW, UFO milieu). A much more detailed account was to appear in the Fortean Times special issue devoted to the Mothman, but for whatever reason (possibly length) it did not appear despite being listed in 2 issues as coming in the next issue.  Further details passed onto me by Cecil McGann (the primary witness of the 1927 events) before he passed away, were incorporated into an extended document.
Further material on historical cases emerged in a fragmentary way, including: 
Robin Northover wrote a short piece for Australiasian Post magazine in 1982, entitled “Seeing things way back.”  It described 4 events – 1873 – a sea event, 1893 – the NSW “paralysis” encounter, the Minderoo Station “airship” event erroneously dated as 1909 (an error I continued with my account of the event in my book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO Story”, until it was corrected to 1910 in Brett Holman’s excellent on-line series “Scareships over Australia” at 
“An Old Australian Phenomenon” by John Auchettl, appeared in the VUFORS publication “The Australian Annual Flying Saucer Review” (undated but apparently 1983) and was reproduced inRobert Frola's The Jarrold Listings (1990).  It listed 18 events: early1800s – no location; 1868 – Parramatta, NSW – the Birmingham “UFO vision” I had documented; 1873 – S.A; 1874 – Beechworth; 1885 – 2 events in the Pacific; 1893 – central NSW “paralysis” event; 1909 – 4 events from New Zealand “airship” wave; 1909 (should be 1910) Minderoo Station event; 1910 – the Wookata sighting off SA; 1911 – Ballarat “airship”; 1919 – central NSW (with erroneous reference); 1920 – Sydney; 1920 – “rockets” in Tasmania and 1925 – Moora, WA.
“UFOs in Australia and New Zealand through 1959”, by Bill Chalker, pages 333 -356 in Jerome Clark's “The UFO Encyclopedia”, Volume 2, “The Emergence of a Phenomenon”, Omnigraphics/Apogee, February, 1992.
“Early Australian historical encounters” by Bill Chalker, on the Project 1947 web site for over a decade, now at:
“Australian 1947 UFO cases” by Bill Chalker, in “Project 1947” by Jan Aldrich, 1997.
In 1996 my book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO story” listed more than 19 historical UFO events: 1793 – Sydney; 

1868 – the Birmingham “UFO vision”; 1873 – Birmingham’s “daylight disc”; 1878 – Goulburn “ghost light”; 1879 – Freemantle, WA; 1890s – Orrorro & Moonta SA “ghost lights”; 1893 – central NSW “paralysis” event; 1902 – Adelaide observatory “daylight disc” sighting;  1902 – “fireball” epidemic; the 1909 “airship” in New Zealand; 1909 – Australian reports; 1909 (should be 1910) Minderoo Station event; 1927 – Fernvale NSW events; 1931 – Chichester sighting; 1933 – abduction of aboriginal woman at Discovery Wells, WA (courtesy of Rex Gilroy); 1930s – WA aboriginal “entity” encounter; 1935 – Nobby’s Head “UFO” photo, and 1944 – Bass Strait; 1944 or 1945 – Christchurch NZ “entities”.
Even Keith Basterfield’s prolific and helpful cataloguing activities caught up with historical cases with his 2011 document “A catalogue of pre 24 June 1947 Australian Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” listing 38 events.
The increasing availability of on-line digital newspaper archives and related web sites has created a marked increase in the number of researchers taking an interest in uncovering accounts of possible historical UFO events.  The excellent Magonia Exchange List has been a striking manifestation of this, but its focus on encouraging somewhat ad hoc almost daily declarations of 0n-line “discoveries” has been difficult for me to regularly participate in.  Instead I sent them some of my document collations, and occasional “discoveries” when time and resources permitted.  The irony is that many of the online discoveries made more recently have already been found through “old-fashioned” direct methods years ago.  Never-the-less the increasing coverage of on-line digital newspaper archives is a definite asset to historical UFO researchers.
For me the 1868 Birmingham “UFO vision” and the 1927 Fernvale affair were the 2 standout historical Australian reports. They allowed very detailed research and investigations.  Of course many of the historical reports may be about natural or prosaic phenomena (these have a value all of their own), but many provocatively suggest indications of a much earlier UFO history than the watershed year of 1947.