Children dressed up in alien masks at Hutchins Street Square on Friday afternoon and science fiction fans were set to enjoy a showing of Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” It was a way for the City of Lodi to celebrate National Alien Abduction Day.

The reason: Lodi has its own connections to aliens and spaceships.

Lodi, in fact, was the site of one of the first documented claims of attempted alien abductions in the 1890s.

Col. H.G. Shaw, a Civil War veteran and journalist, wrote of his first-hand experience in The Evening Mail on Nov. 27, 1896. It’s been one of the most widespread accounts of aliens and UFOs.

If anyone personifies Lodi’s alien interest, it is local artist and retiree John Callahan.

He’s been researching the history behind the Colonel Shaw account for several years as he works to complete a book on the subject.

“I’m interested in what happened in Lodi and getting to the facts of the story and the full explanation of everything,” he said.

The colonel’s story was vividly recounted.

Shaw and his companion, a young man named Camille Spooner, were leaving Lodi for the Fresno Citrus Fair when they came upon three strange visitors near the Woodbridge canal.

These beings were 7 feet tall and very slender with small hands, fingers without nails, and feet that twice as long as normal and functioned similar to a monkey’s feet, according to Shaw’s description.

After the aliens failed to carry away Shaw, he said they fled into their airship and disappeared.

“I have a theory, which of course, is only a theory, that those we beheld were inhabitants of Mars, who have been sent to the earth for the purpose of securing one of its inhabitants,” Shaw wrote.

Callahan has been gathering biographical information on Shaw and Spooner and historical information on the period to better understand the events leading up to the Evening Mail article. He became interested after he first heard the story mentioned in a more recent news article.

Originally from Rio Vista, Callahan moved to Lodi as a child and grew up near the canal.

“I was living not more than a quarter mile from where this event happened,” he said. The irrigation canal in questions runs near a section of Lower Sacramento Road near the present-day Raley’s shopping center.

He has combed through microfiche archives of old newspapers to compile information.

Through ancestry records and family documents of the descendants of Shaw and Spooner, Callahan is hoping to give a detailed depiction of who these individuals were. He plans to finish writing a book on his historical findings within the next six months.

“I’ve gotten quite an enormous amount of background. Colonel Shaw has become more of an interesting person. He was quite a hero in the Civil War. When I was researching Spooner, I found he was connected to Spooners of Spooner Summit up in Lake Tahoe, which was named after his father. The Spooners were prominent people,” Callahan said.

Since 1896, there have been other recorded sightings in the area

Callahan has also found recorded sightings in places such as Rio Vista.

The newspaper there, the River News Herald, reported on May 20, 1964 about a woman who had seen strange objects in the sky.

It wasn’t the only sighting at the time.

“There was a huge UFO wave in Rio Vista in the ’60s,” Callahan said.

Those accounts remain unexplained.

However, a more recent alleged sighting in 2012 was debunked after people mistakenly believed searchlights from a Lodi carnival in a parking lot were extraterrestrial in nature.

In the meantime, Callahan will continue his research. He expects to receive more information by the end of the week as he continues writing his book.

For those interested in learning more about the 1896 incident, Callahan has posted the full newspaper account by Shaw on his blog

Contact reporter Christina Cornejo at


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