NZ Skeptic 17 (May 1990) included an item taken from the NZ Herald’s “100 Years of News”, published in 1963, looking back at the great New Zealand airship panic of 1909. This topic, and its parallels with more recent UFO crazes, was covered in more detail in NZ Skeptic 47.
Dunedin, July 27, 1909
Excitement has been created all over the country by a report that a mysterious light has been seen at night near Stirling, moving about in such a manner as to give the impression that something in the nature of an airship must be manoeuvring in the hills.
At noon on Friday the school children beheld in the air a strange machine which they described as shaped like a boat, with what appeared to be the figure of a man seated in it.
Oamaru, July 30
At eight o’clock this morning Mr H. D. Bailey, a farmer of Kauroo Hill, saw what he describes as a shape like a boat with a flat top speeding along at something like 30 miles an hour. After watching it for some time Mr Bailey ran in to obtain his glasses, but by the time he returned the airship had disappeared over the hills.
The airship was also seen by several people at Maheno and its reality cannot therefore be doubted.
Gore, July 31
Two dredge hands engaged in the night shift on the Syndicate No. 2 dredge were accorded a view of the airship at five o’clock this morning at close quarters. They state that the ship came down through the mist and circled round the vicinity, and that two figures were plainly discernible on board.
Wellington, August 6
A Waipawa resident gives a circumstantial, but uncorroborated, account of having seen an airship flying over Kaikoura last week. He says it was grey in colour, torpedo-shaped, and contained three men, one of whom shouted at him in a foreign tongue. The machine appeared to be under perfect control and it carried two bright lights.
Waihi, August 7
Lights were seen hovering over Waihi for two or three hours last night and half the town turned out to catch a glimpse of the “ship” and its aerial navigators. The more imaginative could plainly discern two of its occupants.
This morning a sequel was furnished in the discovery on the Tauranga road of an umbrella-shaped contrivance of tissue paper, which was apparently part of a four-kite parachute, usually described as the “novelty of the season” for garden parties, and sold at the modest figure of sixpence a box.
A resident of Waharoa sends the following account of a personal experience:-
“I had been out to spend a convivial evening with a friend and on my way home I saw a great airship sailing above me. When it was only two feet over my head I quite plainly saw the German Emperor and heard him discussing the native land question.
“Just at this point his German majesty caught sight of me and very rudely put his mailed thumb on his nose point and extended the other four mailed digits toward me. The ship then quietly sailed away in the direction of Berlin.
“I may say that I found an empty whisky bottle next morning, evidently dropped out of the airship.”