What did the Gerber twins witness flying overhead in 1923?
What did the twin Gerber brothers witness flying over their farm in the summer of 1923?
The following account of their experience is a reprint from the Fall, 2019, issue of the Swiss Community Historical Society of Bluffton and Pandora “Newsletter.”
At the bottom of this story, we’ve added one suggestion of what the brothers may have seen.
This story is part of a book to be released later this summer titled “Where Bluffton’s Ghosts Sleep.” The book is a collection of ghost stories and other unusual and unexplained events that took place in our community. Fred Steiner has compiled the book.
The story follows:
Only the sky is the limit. Happening 24 years before a flying saucer crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, twins Vernon and Vilas Gerber became admonished by their mother not to make up stories when they told her about something they said hovered in the sky one summer afternoon in 1923.
The twins, born in 1912 on the family farm in Riley Township, Putnam County, would have been around 11 at the time.
Vilas described the event this way: It happened in 1923 on a farm three miles from Pandora, where we grew up.
On this farm were two large cherry trees. We loved cherries, so my twin brother and I climbed up in the trees. Vernon sat in one and I in the other ready to reach for a cluster of cherries.
While in the trees I suddenly saw an object. It was cylindrical, cigar shaped, perhaps four feet in diameter. Its length I never saw or don’t remember. It appeared metallic in structure, dull gray in color. It had no wings, made no noise and just hung motionless in the air about 15 feet off the ground, 20 feet from the tree.
Two men were sitting in the cockpit looking out at us through a window in the door, smiling at us. They appeared human, not at all like travelers from outer space as presented in newspapers and theaters.
They were there for only 15 or 20 seconds, then disappeared in a flash. I don’t remember much else about them, but what I saw appeared real. Each one of us saw the same thing. We climbed down off the trees, ran into the house and told mother what we saw.
She said: “Ach, boobah, deer musit setligee shichtly nit uf macha,” meaning “Boys, you must not make up such stories.”
One possible explanation
Simply looking for explanations of what the boys saw, one possibility is a flight of the U.S. Navy airship USS Shenandoah. It was constructed in 1922-23 and first flew in September 1923.
It was destroyed in an accident in Ohio in 1925. At a length of 680, it could travel at speeds up to 70 miles per hour, and it was cigar shaped.
Click here for more details on the airship and its flights over Ohio. The website is Touring Ohio.