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Richelle Hawks lives in Salt Lake City with her teenage son. Next year, she will be moving to a small town in upstate New York, where she has just purchased a house with her longtime partner, the paranormal writer Stephen Wagner. She has been practicing bodywork for nearly a decade, and maintains a large full time private practice. She also maintains an online bookstore, makes and sells art items, and homeschools her son. Richelle attended Washburn University, the University of Utah, and the Utah College of Massage Therapy. Her writings on the paranormal, UFOs, legends, the occult, and healing therapies can be found at . Her blog is found at She also contributes to the Women in Esoterica blog,, and has a weekly column at Binnall of America.

On The Right Track: Toward Solving the Mystery of the First Known UFO Photograph
by Richelle Hawks
(Copyright 2007, Richelle Hawks - All Rights Reserved)

11:50 January 4, 2008

On The Right Track: Toward Solving the Mystery of the First Known UFO Photograph

I first saw the image of what has come to be known as the first known UFO photograph many years ago, when someone in a chat room posted a link to it, or otherwise produced it. How odd and anachronistic the object looked in the very vintage photograph, among the scenic background of the snowy mountains. And more strangely, inspecting it closely, I noticed what looked like a swastika emblazoned on its side!

Checking the date, 1870, I felt a relief. Had the photo been taken over a half century later, there could be a sinister association with the mystery. But, as most know, the swastika, prior to its appropriation by the Nazis, was an ancient pan-cultural cross symbol, often associated with sun lore. I still felt an uneasiness though; the obviously mechanical craft displaying a recognizable symbol against the pristine American Victorian backdrop clearly seemed to show one of the notorious ‘mystery airships’ of the time.

Recently, I came across the photograph again, and decided to inspect it further. To my surprise, it seemed quite different; perhaps time has allowed graphics so much more resolution, or maybe I am just more discriminating and less wowed. But even at first glance, the photograph did not even seem to depict a UFO in the air—rather, an object encased in snow on the mountainside. I was disappointed, but felt I was absolutely correct in my assessment.

Looking very closely, the mountain and clouds are fairly easy to discern, and the white area directly below and to the sides of the object is definitely snowy mountain opposed to fluffy cloud. Small shadows that can be seen immediately to the left side of the object, as well as within the snow itself, support this idea. There’s also some kind of vertical, indented ‘track’ in the snow to the left of the object.

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Recent Articles by Richelle Hawks:
Taking it Literally: Indulgent Musings on UFO Craft Shapes and Sexual Dynamics
The Box at the End of the World: Homespun Efforts to Contact the Spirit World
Yabba Dabble Doo: How Aleister Crowley Introduced the Iconic Gray Alien
A New Vision: The Virgin Mary Tree of Salt Lake City Gothic Desert

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