Frankfurt, 3rd May 1937
My dearest Charlotte,
You asked me once how it all began for me. I never did tell you. Something happened. Something was always happening.
I don’t know why I should have thought of this now, but as there is a good half hour before we take to the air I thought I would write it down and catch the post.
Much of my time in those days was spent on my bicycle. I was a small, skinny child and not much in favour with my contemporaries. Bicycling was a great escape and a chance to have adventures.
I still have nightmares about it, focussed on that sphere. They always start as that day started, sunny and calm. I had bicycled down to the beach as the tide was out and there would be space to race about.
When I got to the beach, there was something unusual going on. Several men stood looking at a large object on the waterline. I made my way down in time follow them part way up the beach. They were staggering under the weight of something and one, a wild looking chap with untidy hair and a beard was dragging a chain.
Losing interest in them, I turned and went back down to the large object from which they had come. It was a sphere. Rather, it was spherical on the inside, but the outside was a regularly faceted polyhedron. On the top, I could make out what appeared to be a hatch.
Curiosity got the better of me. I propped my bike against the thing and clambered up. The whole thing was like a series of windows, so when I popped my head in the entrance, I could see the interior quite clearly. It was a mess. Tins of food, blankets, clothing, all in a big heap on the bottom.
Set into the inner surface there were panels with switches that looked intriguing, but I don’t expect anything would have happened if I hadn’t lost my balance and slid right in, crashing on to the pile of stuff on the bottom.
I wasn’t worried. The circular entrance was in easy reach. Once in, of course, I began to poke around, absorbed by everyday items in their unusual surrounding. I had no idea what the sphere was at that point, but it didn’t seem to matter.
There was no way of knowing how long I spent in there, rooting around, but it was clearly long enough for the tide to start back in. I had lost myself in a copy of Tit-Bits that was lying in there, much creased. When I finished and stood up, the sphere, now afloat, rolled. The hatch cover, with a horrible inevitability, slid into the entrance and sealed it.
Suddenly worried, I tried to push it open, but succeeded only in making the sphere roll about in the water. I clung to the interior of the hatch and it turned in its thread, tightening all the while in what was probably the only fortuitous episode of the whole sorry affair.
When it stopped turning, sealing me in, I lost my grip and fell. Of all the directions I could have gone, it was perhaps inevitable that I should fall against the panel of switches. For a happy second I thought nothing had happened. Then shutters moved swiftly across each glass panel shutting out the light. The sphere lurched and I fell.
At the time, I thought it had rolled in the water again. I was soon to learn otherwise.
I have travelled to many places, my dear Charlotte, seen many strange things and had some remarkable adventures, but I have encountered nothing that has scared me half as much as that moment when I realized I was weightless and the view through the one open panel was full of stars.
They are beginning to prepare for departure, so I must leave the rest of the tale for another time, or maybe as we travel. I will be in Lakehurst on the 6th and will travel on to New York. Once I am settled I will send a wire.
I am already counting the days before my return. Take care.
With all my love,
Private letter from Thomas Simmons to Charlotte Cornelius.