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The Strange Case of an Alien Cow Abduction and Mutilation in 1897

One weird feature of the world of UFOs and aliens is that of the phenomenon of cattle mutilations. This is when cattle or other livestock are found dead and in very strange circumstances. The carcasses are usually cut up, drained of blood, missing soft-tissue organs or other extremities, dismembered, or otherwise mutilated in a variety of ways, always showing a surgical precision to the cuts not consistent with the attack of a predator such as a coyote or mountain lion. There are typically other oddities as well, such as a lack of flies or strange substances seeping from the wounds, which are sometimes even cauterized. Dead, butchered cattle will be reported miles away from where they disappeared or in inaccessible places. There is never any sign of tracks of any perpetrator around the body, no scuff marks or sign of a struggle, and sometimes there aren’t even tracks from the dead animal, as if it has just materialized there or been carefully placed from the air. Usually there is no blood at all, and a distinct lack of decomposition or damage from scavengers. Even insects are usually said to shun these mystery corpses. This is all usually found after the fact, with no explanation, but one case of cattle mutilation going back all the way to the 19th features a witness who saw this happening, and which has remained a controversial case to this day.

One of the only known reports of someone actually witnessing a cow being abducted by aliens, and which would become a spooky case of cattle mutilation, supposedly happened all the way back in 1897, in the rural area of LeRoy, Kansas, in the United States. One evening in April of that year, a local cattle rancher by the name of Alexander Hamilton and his son were apparently woken up at around 10:30 PM by the sound of a “noise among the cattle.” It was at first thought that this was just their dog up to some prankish behavior with the cows outside, but when Hamilton went to the window to look outside, he was astonished by what he saw. He claimed that he witnessed a very strange-looking and enormous “airship” hovering above the cow lot around 600 feet away, with “strange beings” visible within it, and he would say of what happened:

Calling my tenant, Gid Heslip, and my son Wall, we seized some axes and ran to the corral. Meanwhile the ship had been gently descending until it was not more than thirty feet above the ground and we came within fifty yards of it. It consisted of a great cigar-shaped portion, possibly three hundred feet long, with a carriage underneath. The carriage was made of glass or some other transparent substance alternating with a narrow strip of some material. It was brightly lighted within and everything was plainly visible-it was occupied by six of the strangest beings I ever saw. They were jabbering together but we could not understand a word they said. Every part of the vessel which was not transparent was of a dark reddish color. We stood mute with wonder and fright. Then some noise attracted their attention and they turned a light directly upon us. Immediately on catching sight of us they turned on some unknown power, and a great turbine wheel, about thirty feet in diameter, which was revolving slowly below the craft, began to buzz and the vessel rose lightly as a bird.

As the three of them looked on in absolute astonishment, the flying craft seemed to have taken an interest in the cattle below it. In particular, it seemed to float over to and hover above a heifer that it seemed especially drawn to. Then, a very bizarre sequence of events would play out. Hamilton would say:

When about three hundred feet above us it seemed to pause and to hover directly above a two-year-old heifer which was bawling and jumping, apparently fast in the fence. Going to her, we found some material fastened in a slip knot around her neck and going up to the vessel from the heifer tangled in the wire fence. We tried to get it off but could not, so we cut the wire loose to see the ship, heifer and all, rise slowly, disappearing in the northwest.

The following day, Hamilton went out to look for the cow, but could find no trace of it, not even any tracks. There were signs that the animal had been at that spot, but after that it seems to have just evaporated into thin air. The baffled rancher went around to other ranchers in the area, but no one had seen the missing animal. However, he would soon find someone who had made a rather gruesome find a few miles away, of which Hamilton would say:

Coming back in the evening I found that Link Thomas, about three or four miles west of LeRoy, had found the hide, legs and head in his field that day. He, thinking that someone had butchered a stolen beast, had brought the hide to town for identification, but was greatly mystified in not being able to find any tracks in the soft ground. After identifying the hide by my brand, I went home. But every time I would drop to sleep, I would see the cursed thing, with its big lights and hideous people. I don’t know whether they are devils or angels or what; but we all saw them, and my whole family saw the ship, and I don’t want any more to do with them.

Rather eerily, it was reported that the remains had no footprints around them, no sign of predator activity, in fact no signs of any struggle, as if they had just been carefully placed there from above. The whole sensational account would be published in the Yates Center Farmers Advocate and once it was out in the wild become big local news. At the time, the region was in the throes of a series of mysterious sightings of strange airships, often described as highly advanced flying machines covered with electric lights and well ahead of anything available at the time, often seen manned by very strange looking humanoid occupants. Such mysterious airships had been sighted in such far-flung places as the Midwest, California, Texas, and Utah, so they were already making the rounds in the news at the time, but Hamilton’s report was especially amazing. When the odd news hit, there immediately came in a deluge of witnesses saying they had seen the same ship in the area where the cow abduction had occurred, and Hamilton even had over a dozen high-profile, well-respected citizens sign an affidavit vouching for his tale and his honesty, including several Sheriffs, pharmacists, attorneys, a banker, a doctor, the State Oil Inspector, the Justice of the Peace, the Postmaster, and the Register of Deeds. Considering that at the time Hamilton was a very respected, upstanding citizen, a stock dealer and successful businessman, most people believed his story and it generated a lot of excitement. One statement made of his impeccable character reads:

Hamilton’s popularity in the community is unmistakable not only on account of his fidelity to duty in public office, but also because of his honorable business career, his fidelity to manly principles and his reliability in private life. During the long years of his residence in Kansas he has left the impress of his individuality for good upon the communities with which he has been connected and he feels just pride in the splendid advancement made by his adopted state. We have never heard his word questioned and that we do verily believe his statement to be true and correct.

Despite how much it had been talked about, the Hamilton cow abduction story would eventually sort of fade away into obscurity until it was dug up again in the 1960s. Jacques Vallee would mention it in his book Anatomy of a Phenomenon (1965), and after that it would feature in a best-selling book by ufologist Frank Edwards in his book Flying Saucers—Serious Business in 1966, which really brought it into the limelight, after which it would be mentioned in various other books and magazine articles over the years. For a long time it was considered to be a very intriguing early UFO account and perhaps the only time a cattle mutilation had been actually witnessed by someone, but a 1977 article in Fate Magazine would take some of the wind out of its sails. Author Jerome Clark would uncover the fact that Hamiton had allegedly at the time been a member of a local “Liar’s Club,” in which prominent citizens would make up wild yarns to see which ones would make it into the news and fool people the most. Clark cited as evidence a 1943 article from a Kansas newspaper called The Buffalo Enterprise, which held the testimony on a Mrs. Donna Steeby of Wichita Kansas, who related how her 93-year-old mother, Ethel L Shaw, had know Hamilton, and that he had told her that it was all a big, wild yarn that had gotten out of hand. Shaw would apparently tell Clark of it all:

How well I remember that beautiful afternoon, almost as though it were yesterday. I, as a young girl about fourteen years old, was visiting in the Hamilton home with Mrs. Hamilton and their daughter Nell when Mr. Hamilton came home from town, put up his team and came into the sitting room where we were visiting. He pulled up a chair and almost immediately began relating this story by saying, ‘Ma, I fixed up quite a story and told the boys in town and it will come out in the Advocate this weekend.’

Not only that, but she also claimed that all of the ones who had signed the affidavit had been members of the very same Liar’s Club, and that he had hoaxed the other airship sightings in the area by using fake airships that he had crafted out of cleaning bags, candles and balsa wood. Clark also mentions the discovery of a Robert Schadewald, an American correspondent of the British publication Fortean Times, who in 1976 uncovered an article in the Buffalo Enterprise of January of 1943 an account by a man named Ed F. Hudson, who claimed that he had been the editor of the Yates Center Farmer’s Advocate and that Hamilton had admitted to faking the sighting and even claimed to have seen the workshop where he had been making his fake UFOs. Hudson would say of this:

I had just bought and installed a little gasoline engine, the first I believe to come to Yates Center, using it to run my machinery replacing the hand-power on the old County Campbell press and kicking the job presses. I invited many of my friends into the back shop to see the engine work. Hamilton was one of them. He exclaimed, ‘Now they can fly,’ hence the airship story that we made up. After we had published it, the story was copied in many of the largest newspapers in the country, England, France, and Germany, some illustrating it with pen-drawn imaginings by their staff artists. There were also hundreds of inquiries from every part of the globe. Soon afterwards there came the various experiments in flight, but I have always maintained that Alex Hamilton was the real inventor of human flight.

This all seems to be pretty damning, and the story has gone on to be seen as a big historical hoax largely thanks to Clark’s article, but there are those willing to defend Hamilton’s story and have raised some points in their defense over the years. For one, Hamilton never really publicly admitted to it all being bogus, and was long dead by that time and was in no position to defend himself. There also is the fact that this is a second-hand tale from an elderly lady, so who is to say that she really knows what she is talking about or is telling the truth herself? As for Hudson, how do we know we can believe him either? There is actually no hard evidence that Hamilton was a part of a Liar’s Club, or that the others who had vouched for him were, just these admissions uncovered long after the fact. Although the main consensus now is that Hamilton was indeed lying, what if he wasn’t? One argument from a defender of his was written by The Last Sisyphus on Medium, who says:

The vast majority of “experts” hold that it was a hoax. A couple thoughts on the issue. One reason “experts” disagree with Hamilton’s testimony is that he belonged to “The Liars Club.” There is no doubt that this was probably the case, but to suggest that Hamilton’s UFO testimony is an elaborate hoax because he was involved in a liar’s club raises questions. The first: Since he was a member of “The Liars Club,” we could, in theory, dismiss every word Hamilton ever said based on his involvement with the group. But that is not fair. Hamilton probably told the truth on a number of occasions despite being a part of a liars club. Why is it not possible that he told the truth about the UFO? (He is, after all, backed by [literally] countless UFO reports.) The second: Hamilton did not give the “hoax” up (if it was, indeed, a hoax). We have no evidence that he admitted his story was a hoax. Also: There were others who witnessed this phenomenon. Hamilton even signed an affidavit (which is not something to joke about — no matter how elaborate the prank) and was practicing law in Leroy, Kansas. The hyper-skeptics have no basis to dismiss this testimony. Nothing. The most radical position for them to hold — while maintaining consistency in their own logic and scientific worldview (ie we are not at the pinnacle of scientific discovery)— is to remain indifferent to Hamilton’s testimony. The wisest response for a skeptic is thus: “We simply do not have enough information to dismiss Mr. Hamilton’s testimony, therefore we must keep silent on the matter.”

While the Alexander Hamilton case has long been written off as a hoax, some people believe Clark’s debunking of it all, some people don’t. We are left to wonder, is this all just a ruse conjured up by the “Liar’s Club” or something more? It is all most certainly a hoax, but some people still seem to defend it, and it has taken on a life of its own and has made its mark. Whatever the case may be, it is still one of the earliest cattle mutilation reports on record, and the only one that seems to have been allegedly witnessed by someone, back in the day when UFOs weren’t really a thing, so true or not it is an intriguing case nonetheless.