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The Secrets of Dellschau
The Sonora Aero Club & the Airships of the 1800s, A True Story

by Dennis Crenshaw in collaboration with P.G. Navarro

Trade Paperback, 285 Pages, 89 Illustrations

$19.95, ISBN: 1933665351

Genre(s): UFOs Historical Mysteries

Charles A. A. Dellschau was born on June 4, 1830, in Brandenburg, Prussia, and immigrated to the United States in 1853, first settling in Texas. The historical record falls silent until 1860, when he is again shown living in Texas, where he marries Antonia Hilt the following year. The so-called “lost years” of the secretive Dellschau's life became a matter of controversy when his voluminous, illustrated notebooks surfaced nearly a half-century after his death in 1923 at age 93. 

Dellschau literally spent the last 20 years of his life closeted away in an attic apartment, creating a fantastical body of art that continues to fascinate. Indeed, today Dellschau is recognized as one of America's leading visionary artists, ranked alongside such world luminaries as Henry Darger and Adolf Wölfli. A single page of one of his notebooks now fetches thousands of dollars—and there are thousands of such pages, frenetic productivity being a hallmark of visionary artists.

But Dellschau's work—consisting of ink and watercolor illustrations of fanciful flying machines to which he frequently pasted newspaper clippings, or “press blooms” as he called them —appears to tell a coherent story of the Sonora (California) Aero Club. Using an anti-gravity gas purportedly invented by one of its members, The Club allegedly turned out a series of experimental aircraft some 50 years before the Wright Brothers first took wing.

The Secrets of Dellschau: The Sonora Aero Club & The Airships of the 1800s is the first book-length account of Dellschau's life and work.

About the Author:

DENNIS CRENSHAW, recently retired, uses his newfound time to edit a series of continuing research reports, “Unraveling the Secrets,” which can be accessed online at: He lives with his better half Marsha and their cat, Popeye, in Jacksonville, Florida.

PETE NAVARRO, a graphic artist, was instrumental in saving much of Dellschau's work from obscurity. Now 89, he is completing a collection of oil paintings based on his experiences in the Pacific Theatre during WWII. He lives with his war-bride, Millie, in The Woodlands, Texas.


***  Read the New York Times story:

"A Saddler Who Dreamt Of Flying Machines"

*** Dellscahu's works for sale by Stephen Romano


Prelude: A Bit of History According to Dellschau  
The Researcher and His Art  

Part 1 — Dellschau Discovered 

Chapter 1: Rescued from the Dump  

Chapter 2: Strange Orb of Light 

Chapter 3: A Quest Begins  

Chapter 4: Dellschau Remembered 

Chapter 5: A Crack in the Code 

Chapter 6: Three Books Become Four 

Chapter 7: Another Mystery Solved 

Chapter 8: Pete Breaks the Code and Fred Washington Gives In 

Chapter 9: German Translations  

Chapter 10: Press Blooms 

Part 2 — Dellschau’s Story 

Chapter 11: America Calling

Chapter 12: The Man From NYMZA  

Chapter 13: NB Gas and the Goose  

Chapter 14: Inventions and Intervention

Part 3 — In Search of The Truth 

Chapter 15: A Short Look at Aviation History 

Chapter 16: A Man Named Wilson 

Chapter 17: More Possible Connections 

Chapter 18: A California Trip 

Chapter 19: Water, Water Everywhere 

Chapter 20: Forbidden Science

Chapter 21: An Analysis of One of Dellschau’s Aeros 

Chapter 22: Secret Connections 

Chapter 23: Peter Mennis, Making it all Work …With Alien Technology?  

Chapter 24: Aero Fuel and Power Plants  

Chapter 25: Outside Interest 

Chapter 26: Th e Death of Peter Mennis 

Chapter 27: Dellschau: The Enigmatic Man 

by Jimmy Ward and Pete Navarro 

Chapter 28: Jimmy Ward, Psychic Findings and … Murder?

Chapter 29: Speculations and Ideas 

Chapter 30: New Homes

Chapter 31: Pete’s Dilemma and The Author Writes Himself Into the Story 

Part 4 – The Wonder Weavers Findings: “A Stock of Open Knowledge” 

Chapter 32: The Sonora Aero Club: Members Roster 
From P.G. Navarro’s Unpublished Manuscript: The Dellschau Books 

Chapter 33: Plate Notes 
From P.G. Navarro’s Unpublished Manuscript: The Dellschau Books  

Chapter 34: Insights into the Workings of The Sonora Aero Club and The Process Whereby an Aero Proposal Was Chosen for Further Study 
An Unpublished Paper By P.G. Navarro

Chapter 35: From P.G. Navarro’s Unpublished Manuscript: 
"The Riddle of Dellschau’s Books" 
And an Update on Missing Plates 


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What they're saying:

“…a book packed with interest, coming at a junction of several fascinating areas: outsider art, early flight, coded texts, alternative technologies and even a touch of trippy steampunk. It includes a brief resume of early flight in America and elsewhere (mostly balloon-based), [and] the UFO-like 'Great Airship Mystery' of 1896-7…interesting and puzzling tale of America’s early flyboys” — Phil Barker, Fortean Times

“When he died at the great age of 92 in 1923, Texas butcher Charles A. Dellschau left behind a secret and a mystery. These were a series of notebooks, filled with paintings of fantastic flying machines, which only came to light when his descendants had a clearout. By a process of serendipity, they came to the attention of graphic designer and ufologist Peter Navarro. By decoding and translating writings in and around the pictures, Narvarro pieced together a tale of Dellschau’s involvement in a secret society of inventors living in gold-rush California. He created a vivid cast of over 60 characters, and a range of Heath Robinsonish flying machines, the Aeros…They were the work of this secret group, The Sonora Aero Club, and its even more shadowy backer the NYMZA…Whether the audience is ufologist or art appreciator, this broken old man is leading us back into the realms of pure childhood imagination.” — Peter Rogerson, Magonia

“Crenshaw’s book on Dellschau is an authoritative source…a fascinating voyage of exploration that opened intriguing doors of possibility.” — James Heflin, Valley Advocate

“We love this book because it tells an utterly unique story which may well be related to the UFO mystery. Or, it may not… This is a wonderfully thought-provoking book…” — Jim Mosely, Saucer Smear



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