Please, redirect to the final version, with part II added as other chapters and English fixed.
The goal of this short article is to present the first elements toward a SocioPsychoCultural Explanation for the famous 1896/97 Airship wave; in other words, an explanation without the invocation of mysterious or Fortean entities, and in accordance with the economy of hypotheses principle (Occam's Razor).In previous entries here at this blog or in French and other sources, we have presented what we call cognitive transposition mechanisms (projective elaborations and transformations: cognitive processings, aka top-down processings in Cognitive Psychology): conventional stimuli are “saucerized” by some subjects. To support it (and among many other existing sources), we have previously presented drawings of the October 1963 space-re-entry or Edgar Wunder's experimental protocol. You can find more here, for example:
We will present evidence that before the airships wave started (November 1896) with the two principle sightings (Sacramento and San Francisco/Oakland), a cultural imagery of Airships was pre-existent at that time, but more so in California) where the wave started , and this pre-existent material appeared in the same media “recording” the wave: the area newspapers; e.g., local California people may have been already “prepared” culturally to see Airships which made it possible for them to see what they wanted to see or were expecting to see.
2) We suggest that the two principle sightings (San Francisco/Oakland 20 November 1896 & Sacramento 17 November 1896) highly met potentially matching and explainable conventional stimulus.
With these evidence, we show that local people saw what they expected to see and that the two principle sightings had a potential conventional candidate (conventional stimulus they have transposed, elaborated and transformed due to the favorable cultural ambiance and expectations in time and place of such sightings). We suggest that these two sightings, described by newspapers among California and other States launched a mass delusion (psychosocial contagion) which resulted in the 1896/97 Airship wave.
1) A pre-existing cultural imagery. Of course, Jules Verne's Roman “Robur the Conqueror” is considered as one the most famous pre-existing cultural images. It is easy to find it and it has already been presented in the UFO-skeptic community. But "I" will present another one (among others) from French investigator Dominique Caudron who made a research about the occurrences of the term “Airship” and how many times it appears in newspapers found in the Library of Congress until only: He found up to 1841 the following results — 49826.
In 1893, 3 years before the wave, there was this from Frank Reade, Jr. See for example:
More interesting for our concern, there is this picture, appearing before the wave in California where the wave started, in The San Francisco Call, 1 September 1896 and then other newspapers, generating the wave? :
Our research indicates that C.A. Smith deposed a patent in August 1896 (but again, we don’t endorse or think that such machines ever flew for several reasons of development).
We have presented evidence that a pre-existing cultural imagery of airships pre-existed the wave in time (just before the wave itself) and in the very same place(California) where the wave started and in the very newspapers which will “augment” the wave.
2) A potential and conventional candidate for the two principle sightings (Sacramento and San Francisco/Oakland) is the sighting in the very same newspaper as that of the previous C.A Smith picture, and text published on 22 November 1896, [p. 13]. Notice the object disappeared S.W.:
Sky reconstruction with Stellarium Software on 20 November 1896, 17H30 Pacific Time (i.e., the Charles Ellis sighting):
Venus… One of the Queens of misinterpretations. Notice please that the testimonies never mention Venus, or take Her as a landmark…
What about the famous Sacramento sighting of 17 November 1896?
The ship moved slowly away in a southwesterly direction …toward the southwest … moving in a southwesterly direction … its southwesterly course …
Again Venus appears as a highly potential and conventional candidate for the sighting. And this for the two famous sightings also.
In conclusion, a pre-existing cultural imagery and ambiance regarding the airships was taking place just before the wave and in the very same place, California, and with the complicity of Californian newspapers where the two principle sightings took place.
For the two of them, Venus appears as a good stimulus or candidate about which caused some people to have projected what they wanted to see – Airships.
A la Arnold, these two principle sightings were largely made tangible as airborne vehicles by newspapers. All was in place to generate a Mass Delusion.
(More to come).