One of the most fascinating New Hampshire UFO cases I have come across in my research is the 1896 close encounter that two Naval officers reportedly had with a luminous UFO while guarding ships on the docks of the Portsmouth Naval yard.
The article, "Navy Shot at UFO in 1896" , was written by Art Champoux, and appeared on the UFO Digest website in March of 2007. According his account, after being approached by the UFO, the Naval officers shot at the glowing craft with their rifles as the object flew overhead. They heard the sound of their bullets hitting the object before it increased in brightness and flew out to sea.
In an attempt to obtain documentation of the original source of the article, it appears I have stumbled upon a major discrepancy in what is purported to be the original source of the story.
Champoux references the Portsmouth Herald newspaper as being his source for his article, saying: " I read the report of this sighting in the archives of the Portsmouth Herald Newspaper dated November of 1896."
I began my inquiries by contacting the Portsmouth Library regarding the Portsmouth Herald archive and was referred to special collections librarian, Nicole Cloutier.
In speaking with Ms.Cloutier, she informed me that the known archives of the Portsmouth Herald only went back as far as 1898, and that there is a local mystery surrounding the birth date of the newspaper. She also mentioned a recent Seacoast Online article "Portsmouth Herald Seeks Its Own Birth Date" , which delves into the murky beginnings of the Portsmouth Herald and the hunt for the first issues, and the newspaper's accurate birth date.
In addition, Ms.Cloutier reviewed the microfilms for the November 1896 issues of both the Portsmouth Gazette and Portsmouth Journal in the event that the author had mistaken his source, but she was unable to find any articles pertaining to the UFO sighting.
Considering all these facts, this leads us to two possible conclusions: Either a.) author Art Champoux was mistaken about the date or which newspaper was his source. This is quite possible, but seems unlikely. The date is in the title of the article and is mentioned more than once in the body of the article, so one would think the author would be sure of this important detail of the story, and his source. Or b.) the source and story were fabricated, and the encounter never happened.
I contacted the editor of UFO Digest, Robert D. Morningstar regarding the discrepancy of Champoux's source for his article, and was told that they were unable to contact Champoux. It was also suggested by Mr. Morningstar that I address the discrepancy with Champoux myself. This I declined, because I feel it is an editor's responsibility to handle issues regarding the credibility of any articles they publish. Follow up emails sent to UFO Digest have gone unanswered.
Since my correspondence with UFO Digest, Champoux has published additional articles on UFO Digest.com, and "Navy Shot at UFO in 1896" remains on UFO Digest's website.
If true, this UFO encounter is an incredible part of New Hampshire's UFO history. If the source discrepancy is an honest mistake, it is an opportunity for Champoux to provide the correct source, and allow for further research into the case. Until proper documentation of the source is provided for this case, the credibility is greatly diminished and will weigh heavily in my gray basket.
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Champoux, Art. ""Navy Shot at UFO in 1896", UFO Digest [cited 2012] URL: http://www.ufodigest.com/news/0307/portsmouthufo.html
Robinson, J. Dennis. "Portsmouth Herald Seeks Its Own Birth Date" Seacoast NH.com [cited 2012] URL: http://www.seacoastnh.com/History/History_Matters/Portsmouth_Herald_Seeks_Its_Own_Birth_Date/