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Season 4, Episode 6 · 1 year ago

Episode 406 - Vision In The Sky

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

On a clear day in April, onlookers standing in Mt. Hope Cemetery were met with an astounding sight: Canada. This was the Rochester Mirage of 1871. Normally 400 feet below the horizon, the shore on the other side of Lake Ontario loomed closer than ever, with the lake itself seeming to have engulfed the northernmost half of our city. Or so the story goes. But what actually happened? And what can the Mirage tell us about the Rochester of that time, and about history as a whole?

On the entire North Sky as far as the angle or bison was lifted the blue waters of Lake Ontario, while reflecting from her Bozzom, could be seen the mountains, hills, valleys, Bays and rivers on the Canada shore inland for miles. The coast could be plainly seen over a stretch of fifty miles, and so perfect at one time at the forest could readily be distinguished. The reader can form some idea of its grandeur by knowing that a country separated from Rochester by a lake seventy to one hundred miles in width, was suddenly, by the hands of its Creator, painted upon the heavens so plain as to be seen from a standing point one hundred miles distant. The lake looked as though it had, by a great tidal wave, rolled upon Rochester, covered one higher half of the city, as no building could be seen north of main street or any land between the city and the lake. My name is on win and this is here you are. Rochester re told episode six, the Vision in the sky. The story you heard at the start of the episode was a first hand account published in the Rochester expressed almost exactly a hundred and fifty years ago, in April of one thousand eighteen seventy one, it was a sunny and cloudless Sunday and Rochesterians at the top of Mount Hope Cemetery weren't met with their usual vistas of the city. Instead, they saw the Canadian shore in detail, as though Lake Ontario had washed over all of Rochester north of main street and our Canadian neighbors to the North had gotten much closer. To get a sense of how amazing this was, the Canadian shoreline is usually four hundred feet below the horizon, so completely impossible to see normally because of the earth's curvature. To see whether there was more we were missing, we spoke to Michael Ny in a contributed to the Tucker of the town, a local history block. Nan wrote an article on the Mirage in two thousand and eighteen, one of the most thorough descriptions of the Mirage we came across. During his retirement, Michael has been keeping busy writing history articles in his free time, which is how he came across the story of the Mirage.

I just stumbled over. A few years ago I got involved with the Friends of the Mountain Hope Cemetery Group and I was digging through some of the old newsletters and there was a picture of this tower called the Fandango and gone for many, many years in mount hope and I got digging into that and ran across the story about the Mirage in one thousand eight hundred and seventy one and then found that that had been even though, oddly enough, I got very little coverage in Rochester, to get big coverage from at least one of the national periodicals. Really, what exists about the fan, about the Mirage itself? The fade of Morgana is a couple of lines, you know, the said in a couple of publication. That's it. No one ever expanded it, even though the claim is the thousands of people saw this. Well, we can't find where anybody wrote about it. We can't find anything other than too quick blurbs in the local papers about it and the national publication and then it just disappears, falls off. It falls off the scope. Nobody followed up behind. I'm surprised. There should be more information there for something that unusual. It just isn't. And many times in history things get lost because there's much there's more important history occurring at the same time, though the site of the Mirage today shares little resemblance to the mount hope of the seventeen century, we could still imagine how awestruck observers must have been to see such a changed landscape. News of the remarkable phenomenon spread around the town, allegedly drawing crowds of up to thousands to the cemetery. Despite the size of the reported crowd and the grandeur of the Mirage, no other eyewitness accounts besides the one you heard exist, and even that is uncertain. No name is attached to the story and the original version published in the Rochester Express is lost time. All that remains are republished accounts in various small papers all across the country,...

...sometimes published a month later, sometimes years later than the original event. And now, a hundred and fifty years later, no alternate sources remain to corroborate our eyewitnesses Florid version of events, which leaves us to wonder what actually happened on that clear Spring Day in one thousand eight hundred and seventy one. Of course, when we heard about this, the first thing we wanted to do was to go see the place where it happened. The site of the Fandango, an observation tower that once stood on the highest hill of the cemetery there. So I think this is a hill, this one. Yeah, I think it's the same. We too. Yeah, I think it's the exact same. It's just because there's trees blocking it, as you can't see it, shall we? We shall honestly, if you can see any part of this city for over here, any part of the city, a just literally anything, which seems like no, Oh, I mean you can't. I mean yeah, now, at this point it was clear that we could not see anything but the trees from where we were standing, so our researcher, Lily, decided to climb a nearby tree to get a better vantage point. So off here in this tree right now. What can you think? I definitely thank you. It is almost to the towel. I could definitely see, along with all the trees, a lot more. The Mirage soon disappeared, but the FANDANGO endured at least for a few more years, although we know it went to pieces sometime prior to one thousand eight hundred and eighty five. Although there are references to remains of the fandango still being visible in one of the cemetery's ravines. In reality, all traces have long since vanished. The fandango site on the heights of Mount hope is now simply a flat,...

...grassy open space bordered by the graves of the Bowens, the simpsons, the red fields and, perhaps most appropriately, that of Gideon Cobb, who gave his name to the only Taller Hill in the city. With the help of these descriptions from Michael's article, we had a general idea of where to set out. Also said it was your bed around, but it should be it sciences. It was of the high I guess is this is where, yeah, power would have been. Yeah, could something like that actually happen, like within science and reason, or was this just some hallucination or hoax magnified by time and the media? Some Mirages are real, explainable phenomena. This is Lily Hutton, our lead researcher. During normal atmospheric conditions, light doesn't bend towards the Earth and instead head straight, either hitting the round or going off into space, and it becomes obvious that there is no way for that light to reach anyone who is below the horizon. However, if light were to curve or say, be refracted down towards the earth, then it can travel much further around the earth's curvature and reach even the eyes of people below the horizon. Close Your eyes and imagine it's a bright spring day over Lake Ontario. Warmer air from the shores move over the cold lake and the air layer closest to the water surface is cooled. Light Bends into colder air, so it will bend away from the warm air at the top and towards the cold air at the bottom. Thus light is bent downwards towards the earth and travels in a courage path around the round earth. Thus, on April sixteenth one thousand eight hundred and seventy one, the light that reflected off the shore of Canada could have been bent downwards, traveling across the lake all the...

...way to the top of an observation tower on the highest hill in Mount Hope Cemetery. So this means that the Mirage could have theoretically happened, but we still don't definitively know that it did or what impact it had on the people who saw it. As Michael points out, historical researchers are often left putting together a puzzle with multiple missing pieces. It is important to note that this event took place during a tumultuous time in American history and at a point locally that centered around industrial success and modernization in Rochester. So perhaps the rage did get lost in the abundance of newsworthy events at the time, as Michael suggests. To get at this, we talked with Dr Camden Bird, Assistant Professor of history at Eastern Illinois University, an expert on nineteen century Rochester, really from the late eight s to the early twenty century, which perhaps in your research you found, I believe, is a bit of a blind spot in the history of Rochester New York. Most city histories tend to focus on industrial pasts, and so I think of much of Nineteen Century Rochester history tends to get completely demolished. Whence you get to the age of Kodak. I think that completely reset the meaning of the city and for many people today it's still is sort of a fixture of how they relate to the past. Right you have PRECODEC and you have POSTCODAC. I think Codex ability to transform not only the city is itself, but to also transform the people, the way that people construe reality and construct memory. If you have a visual documentation it becomes stronger evidence than other forms of instant perhaps if Kodak had popularized cameras just a bit earlier, even just a decade earlier, we would have had more of a record of the Mirage and the event would have made a more permanent mark. It's just sort of an interesting history that is this this moment of weird...

...climactic nuance meets this quick moment in time and all of a sudden it's gone right sort of. It's this ephemeral vision from the top of Mount Hope. How do you think the Mirage impacted Rochester Society? I think it would have led to this larger culture of curiosity. The second half of the nineteen century is it's an air of tremendous change. At the start of our research we had considered what if the Mirage never actually happened? What if it was all a hoax? We pose this question to Michael. I don't think it's possible as a complete fake. Is it possible that it was an exaggerated which might explain why the local newspapers didn't give him much coverage? While our hope for new information didn't materialize, there was still more to be said about the Mirage, not through history but through historical fiction. My name is Prince Coom will be less. I am a playwright who's now also working in television. In two thousand and eighteen, the La Bass playwright wrote a play commissioned by the Giva Theater Center titled Panorama. It takes place in Rajas one thousand hundred seventy one, with the Mirage a focal point of the play. I use this event as a way of looking at the lives of several people in Rochester, including a black cemetery groundskeeper, new employee whose Chinese, a queer woman who's the top of the town and ultimately, the play is really about the importance of storytelling and preserving history, especially history that's outside of the Stream. When the play was commissioned as a part of the Jeeva Theaters Rochester Stories Program Princes only directive was to dig into and write about Rochester history. There, as you know, there's not a lot of information about the event. As I had to dig deeper into Rochester and since this event happened just six years after the civil war. To me, I knew that had to be a part...

...of the somehow, and that's when I really start to uncover, you know what I call these hidden histories and uncovered, particularly war stories that I've never do. But it also gets me thinking about these pieces of history that if not for so yeah, so I think that ultimately the Rochester Mirage served as a foundation, but wasn't. Wasn't the whole story. Documentation is completely gone forever, you know what I mean. One of the reasons we wanted to talk to prince was because we were grappling with a moment in history that was largely inaccessible to us because of time, because of lost or never existent records. So we wondered, what is history anyway? How do you represent a time that is so far removed? And even if you have primary sources, would that even be a good representation of what it was really like? Maybe fiction is a better way to represent history. I think what fiction can do is capture the spirit and emotion, in the feeling of the time in ways that a dry kind of historical textbook necessarily can. So if you look at the one article on the Rochester Mirage, it's just the recounting of a fact and it says nothing to the way that it could have affected people's understanding of reality. You know, because when you're you're faced with something that seems so out of the ordinary, how does that affect you when you're asking about capturing history and have capturing history through fiction? You know, there's a there's a part in the play near the end where Althea is talking about the editor of the Rochester daily U and she talks about how there is no objective history, like all history and all news is, is subjective. But she says that it's not only that, it's not it's not just in the way that you...

...tell a story or tell history or tell news, but it's also what news or what history or what stories choose to be told, what people choose to tell about it, that actually probably has more influence than the way you tell a story. It's what story you choose to tell. The News, he said, is about being objective about this passionately recording bass. Oh yeah, I know what I said. I said I still before him like a preseman of hope. It like I was a liberal of the most glorious holy congregation ever heard and hear what you choose your port, Sir the fact you left print the story of you decide to tell. There's no opportunity that at all. But we know, as history isn't me, my Wede, know what is and telling people about it. History is made by choosing what to look at and because you have powered choice, because you have the power directing people's attention, history shape through your eyes. And is that not a very definition of subjective and his book silencing the past, power in the production of history, a Kell Rolf trio discusses the process of historical production. Trio posets silences are created at four points during historical production, when the instance occurred, when information about it is archived, when the narratives about it are created and when it's retrospective significance is determined. In the case of the Mirage, silences were created when the Mirage first appeared in the sky, when the event was documented in newspapers, when this information was retrieved to retell the story and now, as we create this podcast and we try to retroactively determine the Mirage is significance to us. Silences are inevitable. It is how we address them that is...

...important. Just like with the Mirage, each episode in this season grapples with the silences surrounding the events and our first episode about the Milk Bureau, the mystery of what was making children sick in Rochester eventually led to debates about germ theory and infection. Raw Milk was a central cause to many of the sicknesses. For this knowledge is left out of earlier histories, for our prohibition. In POW episodes, the locations are known, but no traces of them remain. How can such significant parts of the city's history completely vanished from the physical realm and the lady in White and urban myth is treated as just a fun ghost story to tell on Halloween, but in disregarding its historical significance, we overlook the cultural history of family trauma and social anxiety and cold war era middle class Rochester. And lastly, Rochester's abandoned subway system and the graffiti scene that flourishes their reminds some of a more prosperous time, while others see it as a new beginning. How can a marginal, overlooked space serve both as a symbol of failure and rebirth? These are all just snippets of a much bigger story, one that weaves throughout generations, through war and triumph, with wellknown voices and hidden histories. We have chosen to highlight these stories that there are hundreds more that could have taken their place. So, yeah, some people might see the Great Mirage as this weird moment, this this odd trajectory in an otherwise sort of like long history of a city, but I think it gives us insight into sort of the lived experience of those individuals who have the opportunity to see this, who talked about it to their friends, their family members, who tried to make meaning out of this because they likely didn't understand...

...the atmospheric science behind what was happening. How do people of the past understand their world? And in that sense, I don't know that there is such a thing as uncommon history, because at the end of the day, we're trying to explore and understand the past and all of its varied meanings. That's that's historical empathy. Right as we've been thinking about what this episode and the season as a whole represents, something we've thought about is that this podcast is our alternative narrative. It doesn't seek to be comprehensive, it doesn't seem to be anything more than just snapshots from history that provide almost a retelling of Rochester and Monroe County, fully embracing the fact that what we're doing is simply what we choose to do. Like Althea says, it's not objective at all, it's very subjective. It's the stories that we find interesting, the ones that call to us or resonate with us, and how we see these events. And many of these stories have already faced the same subjective creation of history, except that the first time they were lost, forgotten or silenced. For Prince, these stories can tell us more than we think about the past. Like to think of history as a Hologram, so you know how like if you break up a holographic plate apart, every piece of the holographic plate will actually contain the whole Hologram. So I think that every piece of history, also every small piece of history, could potentially tell us far more than we think about about history. Each story in our season is only an infinitesimal sliver of the past, but perhaps through listening to each story we can access just a bit more of our lost history. Like our Mirage, history only lingers in the air for a second and then it's gone forever, except in the minds of those who choose to remember and those who choose to tell the story the fragmented Holograms of the past. Here you are is a podcast created by students...

...at the University of Rochester. This episode was produced by on Newen, Lilly Hutton, Justin froment Sel, and Cold Benoir. Our engineer was cold Benoir. The music used on this episode was performed by cold case, migration and Vermont. Would also like to think Michael Nigan, Camden Bird and Prince Como villas for their interviews. Here you are is created using faders, a collaborative online audio production workstation. It offers browser based audio recording and editing, all within an easy to use interface, all for free. Go check it out at fader's the IO. The coordinating producer for this season of here you are is Celia Cuno. The executive producers are Thomas Fleishman and Steven Wrestler, and be sure to check out the other episodes of here you are. Season Four. Rochester retold at here you arecom.

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