Darrell Ridenour is an old friend and the best commercial printer we’d ever worked with in Columbus Ohio ... or anywhere else, for that matter.  That winter night, Jo and I had planned to meet Darrell in a small coffee house on the city’s south side for fun conversation about old times.  We hadn’t seen Darrell for several years.

     Darrell had not yet arrived.  Our conversation drifted strangely toward whether or not the coffee shop actually existed, when the front door opened as if by itself, and a chill wind blew swirling snow in from the darkened street.

     A strange sight it was!

     A portly figure in a chair floated in with an odd vacant space between itself and the wooden floor.  Benjamin Franklin’s short white-stockinged legs and buckled shoes dangled in thin air several inches above the floor.

     I must have looked like I’d seen a ghost. After bolting across the floor, Franklin bobbed and hovered close to our table. He immediately went into an apologetic explanation about how he’d discovered that the chair he’d invented was not only capable of flying over the forgotten streets of Philadelphia ... but could also fly laterally across time.

     As though Franklin had specifically made this apparent time-travel trip simply to tell us this, he spun round in thin air and shot at high speed toward the entrance, through the door and into the blustery night outside.

     Explaining this to Ridenour later was no easy task.


Benjamin Franklin

and the

Remarkable Flying Chair

It never made it into the history books.

     Maybe because it was absurd.

     Maybe because it happened at a time of so many pivotal,

epic changes ... and at a turning point in history.

     It’s not that it wasn’t important.  Or epic.

or a turning point in history.

     The Continental Congress was convened in Philadelphia.

Honorable Citizen Benjamin Franklin took his place immediately among the Founding Fathers.

     The buzzy murmur had not yet evolved into the order of a meeting when Franklin was seen to rise, chair and all, from the wooden floor ... eight inches, then ten inches he rose, levitating until his legs dangled in thin air and a curious empty space hung between the chair and the floor.  Sheepishly, he nodded with a thin smile.  The chair rotated 90 degrees, then moved effortlessly through the air toward ...  and then out the open door.

     A strange episode, indeed!

     But merging with the convulsive times and the traumatic birth of the new nation, it evoked little lasting notice.  Franklin, like his peers, became known for more tangible feats.  By day, he flew low in his flying chair, just high enough to avoid ruts and the litter of Philadelphia’s byways.  By night, he was the explorer, soaring high over the crooked rooftops of old Philadelphia in silver moonlight.

     Benjamin Franklin’s reasons for not sharing his Secret of the Flying Chair have baffled historians for two and one half centuries.


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