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(originally published Nov 2012)

Saucer Kite.jpg
Circa 1900


Imagination is the highest kite that one can fly.  And kites have surely ignited the imaginations of many, leading them to falsely believe that they have witnessed the unearthly – a UFO. 


In fact the lowly and unconsidered kite may account for a hugely substantial number of such sightings throughout the world – and for well over a century!  


A review of the hidden history of kites – and an investigation into today’s secret world of high technology kite play – is insightful. It shows that from the Great Airship Mysteries of long ago to present-day flying saucers and black triangles, kites have played a role in the phenomenon until now not fully appreciated. Kites must now rank with balloons, remote-control aerial toys and CGI in their ability to deceive even the most discerning when it comes to things UFO.




The early ingenuity of kite design and performance rivals those of the 21st century. From the early 1800’s to the early turn of the 1900’s, gliding and soaring was a global obsession. Their fascination with flight is hard for us to fathom today given that we live in a jet age. It was from this yearning that the fabled “Great Airship Mysteries” of strange flying contraptions was borne.


From Dr. Alexander Graham Bell to Marconi, many men of note (as well as hundreds of “amateurs” across the country) had developed a very intense interest in “extreme” kites. They created and flew extraordinary, confounding kite configurations that surely bewildered anyone at the time that had the fortune to cast their eyes upon them.

Dr. Bell's Kite.jpg
Dr. Bell’s Radial Kite (1901)


This perplexing, 12-sided, radial-winged, gigantic kite was tethered aloft to great heights by the man who invented the telephone.

Kite 1904.jpg
The French Like Their Kite


This kite craze was not relegated to the US alone. In the late 1800’s and through the next two following decades, the French designed light frames that were sent aloft that were breathtaking in their very conception.

Pictured above is a kite demonstration in Biarritz, in the South of France in 1904, with the seaside class delighting in such aerial art spectacle.

Man Kite 1.jpg
Man Kites


This 1905 Biplane Glider Kite could carry a small sized person above the earth for short distances, akin to early hang gliders.

© 2017 Anthony Bragalia
Triangle UFO kite
A “Black Triangle” in 1900!

Baffled-cell construction allowed for ultra-rapid ascent. “All-wing” and experimental triangular designs were of special interest from very early on in the optimization of kite configurations.  Here, we see Alexander Graham Bell flying one of his tetrahedral designs.




As early as the 1880’s, pioneering inventor Laurence Hargrave had perfected and flown dihedral and cellular kite configurations. Some of these were of considerable size and went far-reaching into the skies above. In 1900, even Marconi began building prototypes for transatlantic kite gliders.


It is then easy to understand that this dizzying array of amazing aerials confused those at that time in human history who may not have known just exactly what it was that they were witnessing. 


These contraptions were so high up, and so far away from their range of everyday experience, that those who saw them projected onto them what was within their imagination.


  • The fact is that such early, fantastic kites and aero-foils as depicted in this article were largely meant to be seen for only the invited or privileged few – the learned, those of leisure and the scientific community. In an age before TV or widespread photography, there would be no frame-of-reference for those who saw these kites unbeknownst and if they had never had previous exposure to such things (which at the time was most all of America and Europe.)

  • If such extraordinary aerial devices were seen high in the skies above them without seeing the man holding the strings behind the hill and out of their view, for instance, they may well have believed that they were viewing a “Mystery Airship.”

  • And if such kite configurations were seen from a very far distance; or at certain deceptive perspectives or forced angles; or at dusk or at night; or in extreme sun glare; or in fog or in haze (or in any less-than-ideal viewing conditions) then even highly educated individuals at that time would have not been faulted if they reported that they had witnessed a “Mystery Airship.”

  • And certainly not all such kites were able to be retrieved after their demonstration and field experimentation. These wonder kites did escape, as kites escape from us today. They came off of their tethers. They sometimes broke away from the grasp of their handlers. They then became airborne to points far and wide. And they surely would have been beheld as an “airship” by those below.



Engineered kites, or “high tech kites” may represent the truth behind far more sightings of flying saucers than the UFO community may ever care to consider. Such advanced light sail forms are now equipped with programmable LED lights, onboard computers and cutting-edge navigation and control systems. They are often configured in ultra-large, novel shapes. They can even appear to change shape, rapidly change color and disappear and reappear instantly in another part of the sky.

High Tech Night Kite in Vancouver Fools Many

Two years ago hundreds were duped by an aero-geek’s LED UFO kite stunt. A confession was later obtained by a resourceful and inquiring local TV reporter.

Kite Caper Causes UFO Stir in Shanghai


$500 is what reporters say that it cost a hoaxer to build his LED craft, which stunned residents of one of China’s largest cities.

Physically Impossible Flight Maneuvers Made Possible with “Extreme Kites”


Beginning at 0:58 of this short film one can see gravity-defying aerial movements that, if they were piloted craft, would break bones.  If such a craft were aloft a couple of hundred feet above the earth at night and lit properly with LEDs, it would instantly wind up on YouTube and millions would “believe.”


Exploring the underbelly of the internet will yield search results to “kite clubs” with forums whose members advise one another on the latest illusions, visual effects, technologies and techniques to fool the unsuspecting. I suspect these sites are largely populated by enterprising science students or young engineers. These pranksters, like their brethren geek before, know the secret of the kite: 


Kites make us look up.

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