Is This the Oldest Known UFO Photo? One NH Researcher Finds Out
Ryan Mullahy, a UFO writer and researcher, set out to either verify or discredit the photo.
If you look closely at this old stereoscopic image, you can see a dark, cigar-shaped object that seems to be flying in the clouds over Mount Washington.
Wherever the image might have been over the years, it showed up on eBay one day in 2002. It was bought for $385, and soon after cropped to show a close-up of the cigar-shaped object and touted as "the oldest known UFO photo." The owner, Samuel M. Sherman, said the photo would be submitted to scientists for detailed analysis, and the results made available to the public.
The photo hit the Internet like lightning, crackling from one UFO site to the next. Ryan Mullahy, a UFO writer, researcher and founder of the website NH UFO Research, saw it but wasn't convinced: "As fascinated as I was by the photo, I didn't think it was a UFO." Mullahy set out to determine whether it was.
He says he does "real, classic research" on UFO reports to establish their authenticity so people can take the incidents seriously: "I don't have a bias to prove a case true or not. I simply seek out information and put out what I find."
When he started his research on the "oldest known UFO photo," the only image available was a heavily cropped, low-resolution version on the Internet.
After six years of off-and-on digging, he found an important clue: a 2003 Weirs Times newspaper article unearthed by Kathy Brisendine, another UFO researcher. The article identified the photographers of the stereoscopic image as Amos Clough and Howard Kimball. The image had been taken in the winter of 1870-71 during a meteorological expedition, which he would learn later included a study of frost architecture.
Mullahy googled the expedition and discovered that the New York Public Library had a copy of the original high-resolution, uncropped photo (see above) in its digital library, along with a number of photos from the same set. After examining them closely, he decided his initial reaction was right: "The object in the photo is not in the cloud, but on the surface of the mountain itself. In the original photo, there is a clear distinction between the surface of the mountain and the sky above the mountain range. The brown object is lying on, or suspended in, the snow on the mountaintop." He says it could be a wooden ruler used to measure the snow or to show scale, but definitely is not a UFO.
"I don't claim to have cracked the case myself," Mullahy says. "Others found little pieces of the puzzle too." But, because he takes his UFOs seriously, "I'm happy to get rid of a case that clearly was not credible so we can provide a clear picture of what the actual history is."