Chapter 1

UFOs in History

Samuel Rosenberg

1. Introduction
2. Ancient Theories of the Cosmos
3. Ancient Theories of the Rainbow
4. UFO Books
5. "Ancient" UFO Reports
6. The "Byland Abbey Sighting"
7. The "Book of Dyzan"
8. The "Tulli Papyrus"
9. Conclusion
BACK to Contents

NCAS EDITORS' NOTE: The author of this chapter wrote it as a long essay with no sub-chapters. In the interest of reader conveninece, we have placed internal links in the text, consistent with the style used in other lengthy chapters.

1. Introduction

In his summary of the work of the Colorado project, which appears as Section II of this report, Dr. Condon defines (at p. 13 supra) an UFO as follows:

An unidentified flying object (UFO, pronounced OOFO) is defined as the stimulus for a report made by one or more individuals of something seen in the sky (or an object thought to be capable of flying but seen when landed on the earth) which the observer could not identify as having an ordinary natural origin ... (emphasis--SR).

Dr. Condon's definition accurately mirrors the persistent, tantalizing inconclusiveness of all UFO reports, modern and ancient. In this chapter this definition will be applied to the past from which a sampling of "UFO reports" gathered from various books and records is readily forthcoming -- so readily, in fact, that a report of all such sightings of mysterious objects which the observer "could not identify" would fill the entire space devoted to the project report as a whole.

The wealth of ancient "UFOs" is due to a basic fact about man's perception of his contemporary universe. A concentrated glance backward in time quickly reveals that throughout our recorded history (and presumably before that), mankind has always seen UFOs and reported "sightings" that remained unexplained even after examination by persons believed to be competent. Our earliest ancestor gazed earnestly into terrestrial and outer space to witness an infinite variety of phenomena and -- understood virtually none of them. In fact, his entire universe, both "external" to himself, as well as "internal," was largely outside of his comprehension. He had only the most rudimentary pragmatic knowledge and was totally unable to explain factually or conceptually whatever he plainly saw. In short, to him everything was UFO.


This in no way prevented him from interpreting what he saw or utilizing his interpretations in a manner that seems to have been convenient to the needs of his contemporary society. A reminder of the social consequences of the ancient attitudes toward "things seen in the sky" may therefore be helpful in dealing with present-day reactions to UFO reports.

We know some of early man's UFO sightings as sun, moon, lunar halo, stars, constellations, galaxies, meteors, comets, auroras, rainbows, wind, rain, storm, tornado, hurricane, drought; others as sunrise, sunset, mirage, phosphorescence, lightning, etc., etc. In modern times, inductive scientists have given us rational explanations for a great many natural phenomena, or they have asked us to suspend judgments of the still vast unknowable, pending further investigation. But our inveterate impatience persists.

Perhaps the most persistent and dramatic early UFO sightings of the species that has with characteristic self-importance designated itself as Homo sapiens (intelligent man) were the "heavenly" lights he saw whenever he looked upward or outward into space. Without knowing what they were -- and what wild guesses were made! -- man was still able to use the moving points of light for his navigating, hunting or migrating orientations. But our ancestors could not endure living without immediate explanations for all of the natural phenomena that surrounded them. So, in the absence of scientific explanations for what they saw, they conjured up other interpretations equally satisfying to them: the poetic, the dramatic, the supernatural, the mythological, and even the nonsensical, or comic. Any explanation was better than none at all, because man, a part of nature, abhors a (mental) vacuum. Indeed the need to establish orientation by means of hastily improvised hypotheses or fantasies appears to be a fundamental, almost instinctual biological adjunct.

Bits of the vast accumulations of intuitive rationalizations concocted by early man while he waited impatiently for more accurate answers, still continue to satisfy our craving for poetry, drama and


other imaginative story-telling. Francis Thompson wrote: "Man was able to live without soap for thousands of years, but he could never live without poetry." So for multimillenia we have had poetry and allegory and all sorts of remarkably ingenious supernatural fantasies standing in for crucially needed, verifiable factual truth. Sometimes the interim quasi-sciences have served us pragmatically and have led to positivistic science and to some degree of environmental control. But, on balance, it becomes painfully evident from reading history that hasty, premature, wrong explanations -- however pretty or ingenious -- have led only to more wrong explanations, to a crippling of correct analytical functioning, to the substitution of dogma for fresh research, to the stifling of debate, to punishment for dissent -- and to frequent disasters.

There were always some isolated scientific experimenters who worked in many fields (usually in secret), but they did not make much headway against the politically entrenched supernatural theoreticians and their MIFOs - mistakenly identified flying objects. It was not until the end of the sixteenth century that emerging nationalistic power-politics and the new mercantile and manufacturing demands of Western Europe made scientific methods highly desirable and profitable.

Before that, for hundreds of thousands of years, most human procedures were based on magical interpretations of environmental phenomena. From remote times, magicians and astrologers were consulted before any political or military decisions were made; and justice was administered according to magical formulae. Until a moment or two ago in man's long history all natural phenomena were devoutly believed to be gods, angels, spirits, devils, fairies, witches, vampires, succubi and incubi; or omens of fortune, good and evil. What remains today as semantic residues, or charming fairy tales or myths, were once life-and-death formulations acted upon with the utmost seriousness. In many of the so-called "primitive" societies still extant, the magical interpretation of the world still prevails. Even today, most American newspapers print magical astrological predictions. In 1962, all governmental


business in India was suspended on the day when, for the first time in several hundred years seven of the major planets were lined up in conjunction. All of India heaved a collective sigh of relief when that fruitcake day ended.


2. Ancient Theories of the Cosmos

In their book Lure and Lore of Outer Space, Ernst and Johanna Lehner (1964) have compiled an illustrated review of the cosmos as it was understood and visualized by earlier cultures. The Lehners make it evident that the inventors of cosmic diagrams were convinced that their images of outer space were real and completely factual. Pseudo-explanations of the nature of the cosmos were at the very core of their religious and political ideologies; belief in them was mandatory and could be disputed only at the risk of imprisonment or death.

The Chinese evolved a celestial globe completely different from the Western concept in which our earth was surrounded by the Four Supernatural Creatures presiding over The Four Quadrants of Heaven: the Azure Dragon over the East; the Vermilion Bird or Phoenix over the South; the White Tiger over the West; and the Black Warrior, or Tortoise over the North. These four quadrants are enclosed by the Pa Kua or Eight Diagrams, representing heaven, water, lightning, thunder, wind, clouds, mountains and earth. They are encircled by the 12 zodiacal animals which, in turn, are surrounded by the 28 Kung, or constellations of the Chinese Heaven: the Earth Dragon, the Sky Dragon, the Badger, the Hare, the Fox, the Tiger, the Leopard, the Griffon, the Ox, the Bat, the Rat, the Swallow, the Bear, the Porcupine, the Wolf, the Dog, the Pheasant, the Cock, the Raven, the Monkey, the Ape, the Tapir, the Sheep, the Muntjak, the Horse, the Deer, the Snake, and the Worm. (Lehner, 1964).

These were some of the UFOs seen by the ancient Chinese. The Egyptians following the universal rule of interpreting UFOs in terms


of the technology of the time -- depicted interstellar vehicles as "barges of the Sun" carried on the "star-studded back of Nut, the Heavenly Vault." Later, cosmic UFOs 'seen' by the Greeks and the Romans (and inherited by us) resulted in a fascinating heavenly attic chockfull of people, gods and goddesses, flora and fauna, mythological beasts, assorted seafood, furniture, equipment, and miscellaneous bric-a-brac. Here, from an American astronomical chart published in the 1830s, is a partial list of constellations that were visually extrapolated from a few randomly scattered points of light: Peacock, Herschel's Telescope, Cameleopard, Bird of Paradise, Hadley's Quadrant, Sun Dial, King Charles' Oak, Phoenix, Andromeda, Perseus, Centaur, Water Snake, Dog, Lobster, Painter's Easel, Cross, Bear, Cow. Most appropriately for this report, there were also three interstellar vehicles: Argo Navis (The Sailing Ship), The Chariot, and Noah's Ark. There are also other constellations in which Gods or Goddesses or beasts act as heavenly carriers: Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow, for example, carried sinners to perdition.

The worship of the sun was endemic in antiquity. In nearly every religion the sun was the supreme deity and in some societies was even given the ultimate tribute of human sacrifice. To the Greeks he was Helios; to the Egyptians Horus. For a time, in the guise of the Persian God Mithras, he very nearly became the predominant deity of the Western world before Christianity finally prevailed. The Incas and most other American Indians regarded the sun as their principal deity and worshipped the dominant astronomical phenomenon that was blindingly visible to everyone, but never properly understood. The sun was a veritable UFO sighting of the first magnitude.

But the concept of the UFO sun as deity was not merely metaphorical. Its identity as god was declared to be irrevocably Truth and Dogma and was backed up by courts of law, police and armies. In theocratic states, an avowed disbelief in the theological explanation of the relationship of the sun to our earth was tantamount to treason and punished as such. On 1 July 1968, the Catholic Church announced "that it might revise its


censure of Galileo Gallilei for his heretical statement that, contrary to the official Catholic dogma, the sun did not revolve around the earth, but vice versa." (New York Times, 1968). The article in the Times appears cheek-to-cheek with another news. story about some UFOs that turned out to be parts of Russian satellites that ignited as they re-entered the earth's atmosphere (see Section VI, Chapter 2). The juxtaposition of these two "news items" is not accidental: they are part of a persistent pattern of response to UFOs that have always been plainly visible to mankind - and misinterpreted.


3. Ancient Theories of the Rainbow

In The Rainbow, Carl Boyer writes:

Anaxagoras, the friend and tutor of Pericles, found a popular atmosphere in Athens which was hostile to natural science; and, when he asserted that the sun, far from being a divinity, was nothing but a huge white-hot stone, he was jailed for impiety. Anaxagoras also courageously questioned the divinity of Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow.

It seems that Iris has been a major UFO for many thousands of years, with a highly charged emotional effect upon those who witnessed the phenomenon. Some like the Hebrews, were delighted to see the rainbow, because they interpreted it as a sign of God's forgiveness of the few survivors on Noah's Ark after He had destroyed all other life on earth. But to the highly sophisticated Greeks and Romans, the rainbow was a terrifying sight because Iris was regarded as the harbinger of evil tidings. It was her special mission to come down to earth, after the storming thunder and lightning rages of Zeus, to inform men of their transgressions and to execute the penalties imposed by the Deity. Iris was ominously present after the great deluge of Deucalion, when Zeus decided that mankind was unredeemable and must be totally eliminated. His "final solution" was to be an extreme coldness that would freeze all humans to death. It was Iris who was sent to inform Menelaus of the elopement of his daughter, Helen of Troy, an act that started the Trojan Wars. Iris announced the tempest that


shipwrecked Aeneas. She severed the last slender thread that kept Queen Dido alive; and it was Iris who thereafter carried water from the River Styx and forced condemned sinners to drink. Shakespeare, steeped in Ovidian mythology, knew Iris well. In "All's Well" he called her "the distempered messenger of wet" and in "Henry VI, Part II," he had the Queen threaten the exiled Duke of Suffold: "For wheresoe'er thou art in this world's globe, I'll have an Iris that shall find thee out." There was no escape from the rainbow messenger and executioner.

The trepidations of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Elizabethan English were shared by primitive ufologists the world over. Africa tribal lore regarded the rainbow as a giant snake who, seeking a meal after the rain will devour whomever he comes upon. In the Americas, the rainbow was also a hungry god, fond of indiscriminately ingesting water, cattle, and tribesmen, especially the youngest members. The Shoshoni Indian believed that the sky was made of ice against which the serpent rainbow rubbed its back, causing snow in the winter and rain in the summer. It is not recorded whether the Shoshoni's heavenly serpent thus relieved some dorsal itch, but other primitive descriptions of the rainbow reveal a very thirsty god indeed: Plutarch describes Iris as having a head of a bull that drinks the water of rivers and streams, while Ovid also depicts her as distinctly bibulous. Other explanations of the rainbow include the hem of God's garments (Greenland); a hat (Blackfeet American Indians); a bowl for coloring birds (Germans); a camel carrying three persons, or a net (Mongol); and, in Finnish lore, a ''sickle of the Thunder-God.''

Homer may have been the champion literary projectionist of Greece. He too saw Iris either literally or figuratively as a serpent. The Great Visualizer of modern times, however, is beyond any doubt Professor Hermann Rorschach. That compulsive spiller of ink is surely the twentieth century's patron saint of visualization. The doctor of ink and blot has convinced psychologists that whenever we look at something that is disorderly, meaningless, amorphous, or vague, we immediately project upon something else. And that something else is an image withdrawn


from our internal picture library and projected onto the shapeless blob placed before us. It seems that we cannot tolerate vagueness and insist on replacing it with what we wish to see or what we dread seeing.

Some experts insist, however, that we pretend to see something in order to be kind to the earnest psychologists who try to be helpful by showing inky messes to total strangers. During World War II, I was present as an observer when a brilliant young lieutenant was being tested. He did quite well until he was handed an enormous inkblot and asked to describe what he saw. He gazed at it dutifully for quite a while, then handed it back, and said : "It looks like an inkblot to me sir." He was disqualified for his flagrant anti-social response, of course, and it served him right! I also looked at the configuration, and there plainly visible was a lovely picture of an old woman dressed all in black, riding her monocycle down a deserted country road.

And, speaking of tests, in 1875, after conducting a long series of experiments, the eminent physiologist Dr. Francis Galton published his discovery that a surprising number of "entirely normal and reliable" Englishmen he had tested habitually saw objects, colors, forms, and vivid kinaesthetic patterns involving mixed image and color not seen by others.

I offer these digressions with the suggestion that a great deal of work still remains to be done on the visualizing characteristics of the so-called "normal and reliable" people who have made "sightings" of all kinds. I do this not to challenge the validity of all UFO 'sightings,' but to call attention to the possibility that not very much is known about the nature of visualization. It has been generally assumed that if a man is a respected member of a respected profession (like a commercial jet-pilot) he is ipso facto free of any visualizing aberrations, and that he always sees the world and its phenomena as nakedly, as honestly as my young lieutenant saw it when he declined to play the inkblot game.

It is therefore hardly surprising that strange objects and phenomena of all kinds have been chronicled and reported for about 3,500 years,


and for thousands of years previously as oral tradition in systems of religion, mythology, and folklore. The number of reports of "strange phenomena" have increased steadily with time, as increase caused by the great proliferation of journals and newspapers since their start in the seventeenth century. As the new media increased in number, they gathered and printed more and more reports of strange happenings that would otherwise have remained localized and been forgotten. The current great interest in UFOs has resulted in a ransacking of religious literature, mythology, as well as the old newspapers and journals for UFO-like sightings and their inclusion in the current UFO literature. With the help of another researcher, I have gone through many old sources in search of new significant "UFO" material, but have found that the ufologists have covered the ground quite thoroughly not hesitating to graft new interpretations on the old reports.


4. UFO Books

Led by the genius poet-investigator, Charles Fort (1874-1932), who for about 40 years assiduously gathered reports of "strange phenomena" from scientific journals and news media, the ufologists have ferreted out and compiled many hundreds of reports of "UFOs" that were seen before the age of aviation and rocketry.

The use of selected UFO books -- with frequent spot checks of their sources and veracity -- serves a double purpose. It enables us to read the "ancient reports" in them and -- this is nearly as important -- it permits us to see what the modern ufologist selects from the past and how he utilizes and interprets the evidence he has compiled.

Such compilations pose some serious problems for the reader not already convinced of the existence of UFOs. They inflict mental fatigue and anxiety after the reading of each "report" because one is inevitably led into the same brain-numbing round of unanswered questions: Does the alleged book or manuscript in which the report was found really exist? Where is it? Did the writer actually see the original document or is he quoting a secondary source? Is the version presented here a faithful copy of the original or an accurate translation? Is the ''report'' in question a factual honest report of something actually seen, or is it a poetic, metaphorical, religious, symbolical, mythical,


political, fabrication made legitimately within its own social context, but one that is no longer viable or meaningful to us now? If the "strange phenomenon" was actually seen, then, we ask: "Was this "light," or fiery sphere," "wheel of fire," or "flaming cross," or "cigar-shaped object'' or ''saucer'' or ''disk'' seen by reliable witnesses? How reliable is the judge of their reliability? What did they actually see? Where did it come from? What was it made of? Who, if anyone or anything, was in it? And so forth, far, far, into the night. Inconclusiveness, the mental plague of ufology, invariably cancels out or suspends in mid-air the great majority of the fascinating reports and leaves the reader (this reader for sure) quite frustrated and disappointed.

It soon becomes clear that it would take years of full time research to track down and verify the thousands of "ancient' reports included in the nearly 1600 books and articles about UFOs. This means, then, that the general reader, who rarely ever bothers to verify what he reads, is merely given the option to trust or distrust the scholarly accuracy and motivations of the writers who offer him the impressive-looking lists of UFOs sightings. This becomes a very narrow choice indeed: one that is negotiable only in the arena of speculation provided by the writers who believe in UFOs. And, since to my knowledge, no one has written an impartial or objective book about ancient "UFO reports," the nature of the dialogue between an UFO author and his reader becomes that of a man convinced of the existence of UFOs and a reader whom he hopes to convert to his belief.

The strategy for UFO proselytizing is predictable. In book after book, the reader is assured that UFOs are not a sudden, modern manifestation but that there have been numerous reports of similar visitations "down through the ages." The author then proceeds to list the most impressive and authoritative-sounding of the "ancient UFO reports," stressing those that most closely resemble modern accounts of "spacecraft sightings.

He also seeks to create an aura of believability and respectability for UFO phenomena by quoting and re-interpreting "UPO reports from the


Holy Bible," from ancient Roman authors like Pliny The Elder, from Shakespeare, from Hindu religious texts, from "ancient manuscripts found in monasteries," or as in one notable example, from a "papyrus manuscript found among the papers of the late Professor Alberto Tulli, former director of the Vatican Egyptian Museum."

This is a legitimate procedure, of course, and we know that many important scholarly discoveries have been made in church archives, (to take that example) because in many periods in history, the church did chronicle and preserve records of important events. But the presentation of such prestigious ecclesiastical material is used in UFO literature in order to bestow an aura of sanctity upon all UFOs, ancient and modern; i.e., to make them respectable by association.

Thus, for example, The Flying Saucer Reader, edited by Jay David (1967) self-described as "an anthology of the best and most authoritative (1968) of the incredible but undeniable phenomenon of UFOs," begins with "evidence" from Biblical times; and a chapter written by Paul Thomas in (1965) in which he declares that the famous "miracle of Fatima, Portugal" (13 October 1917) was actually a flying saucer that was mistakenly identified as the Virgin Mary. The book also includes excerpts from two books in which the authors describe their fluent communications with "extra-terrestrial beings" with the aid of: (1) a ouija board using a pencil taped to a water glass, and (2) "mental telepathy."

For the true-believing ufologist, the Holy Bible is a veritable treasure-trove of sacred and profane UFOs. In Chapter 13, verse 21 of the Book of Exodus, ". . . the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night." (Ufologist regard this as evidence that God sent a spaceship to guide the Israelites during their 40-year journey to the Holy Land.

The image from Exodus is repeated in the New Testament in the "Star of Bethlehem": According to St. Matthew, (2,9) "and, lo, the star, which they saw in the East, went before them, till it came and stood where the young child was." Though not regarded as an UFO, but a "star," it also behaved like some UFOs that start and stop.


There are, also, many "fiery chariots," "angels with wings," and "cherubim" in the New and Old Testaments, all of which have been claimed by the occultistic modern ufologists as UFOs.


5. "Ancient" UFO Reports

The selected list of "ancient" UFO reports that follows is taken mainly from various books written by contemporary ufologists. They are all writers who believe "flying saucers" really exist, and who offer various speculations on their origin, mode of "flight" and significance.

213 B. C. "In Hadria an 'altar' was seen in the sky, accompanied by the form of a man in white clothing. A total of a dozen such sightings between 222 and 90 B. C. can be listed, but we have eliminated many more sightings because we felt that they could best be interpreted as misinterpretations of meteors or atmospheric phenomena." (Vallee, 1965).

218 B. C. "In Amiterno district in many places were seen the appearance of men in white garments from far away. The orb of the sun grew smaller. At Praeneste glowing lamps from heaven. At Arpi a shield in the sky. The Moon contended with the sun and during the night two moons were seen. Phantom ships appeared in the sky." (Trench, 1966).

100 B. C. "Pliny mentions the strange shields in Natural History Volume II, chapter XXXIV: 'In the consulship of Lucius Valerius and Ganius Valerius (about 100 B. C.) a burning shield scattering sparks ran across the sky at sunset from east to west."' (Green, 1967).

742-814 A. D. "During the reign of Charlemagne, spacecraft took away some of the earth's inhabitants to show them something of the way of life of space people. These events are described in the Comte de Gabalis' Discourses." (Trench, 1966).

"However, when the space craft returned bringing back the Earth people they had taken away, the population were convinced that they were actual members of the spacecraft whom they regarded as sorcerers."

1270 A. D. Bristol England: "In Otto Imperialia, Book I, Chapter XIII, Gervase of Tillbury wrote about an aerial craft over a city. The craft caught an anchor in a church steeple and a occupant of the ship scampered down a ladder to free the device. The man was stoned


by a crowd and asphyxiated in the earth's atmosphere. The 'demon's body' was said to have been burned." This story is to be found in several UFO books, and is quoted here from Let's Face the Facts about Flying Saucers, (1967) by Warren Smith and Gabriel Green, President of the Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America.

1561 A. D. "In Nuremburg, April 14, 1561, many men and women saw blood-red or bluish or black balls and circular discs in large numbers in the neighborhood of the rising sun. The spectacle lasted one hour 'and appeared to fall to the ground as if it was all on fire and everything was consumed amid a great haze."' (Cited from a mediaeval text found in the Annals of Nuremburg by C. R. Jung).

7 August 1566 A. D. "People saw a crowd of black balls moving at high speed towards the sun, they made a half turn, collided with one another as if fighting. A large number of them became red and fiery and there after they were consumed and then the lights went out." (Quoted by Dr. Jung from the Annals of Basle.)

6 March 1716 A. D. "The astronomer Halley saw an object that illuminated the sky for more than two hours in such a way that he could read a printed text in the light of this object. The time of the observation was 7:00 P. M. After two hours the brightness of the phenomenon was re-activated 'as if new fuel had been cast in a fire.'" (Vallee, 1965).

There are hundreds of astronomical "sightings of strange lights," to be found in the modern UFO books. For example, Jacques Vallee, quotes the following from the Journal of Natural History and Philosophy:

I saw many meteors moving around the edge of a black cloud from which lightnings flashed. They were like dazzling specks of light, dancing and traipsing thro' the clouds. One of them increased in size until it became of the brilliance and magnitude of Venus, on a clear evening. But I could see no body in the light. It moved with great rapidity, and pasted on the edge of the cloud. Then it became


stationary, dimmed its splendor, and vanished. I saw these strange lights for minutes, not seconds. For at least an hour, these lights, so strange, played in and out of the black cloud. No lightning came from the clouds where these lights were playing. As the meteors increased in size, they seemed to descend...

This observation was made by John Staveley, an astronomer, at Hatton Gardens, London, on 10 August 1809 and reported in the Journal of Natural History and Philosophy and Chemistry. (Vallee, 1965).

1820. Francis Arago, in Annales de chimie et de physique, wrote "concerning observations at Embrun, France: 'numerous observers have seen, during an eclipse of the moon, strange objects moving in straight lines. They were equally spaced, and remained in line when they made turns. Their movements showed a military precision.'" (Vallee, 1965).

"Lights in the dark of the moon" are considered to be UFO spacecraft by many ufologists. Fort cites many, and here are some:

November 1668. A letter from Cotton Mather to Mr. Waller of the Royal Society dated "at Boston, November 24, 1712" (now in the Library of Massachusetts historical Society, Boston) refers to "ye star below ye body of ye Moon, and within the Horns of it . . . seen in New England in the Month of November, 1668." (Lowes, 1927).

1783. In Philosophical Transactions (Volume LZZVII) for 1787, the great astronomer reports a "bright spot seen in the dark of the moon . . . which seen in the telescope resembled a star of the fourth magnitude as it appears to the natural eye." (Lowes, 1927).

1794. In Philosophical Transactions, 1794, a total of seven letters in Volumes XXVI and XXVII, reporting "lights in the dark portion of the moon." The principal sighting was communicated by the Astronomer Royal, the Reverend Nevil Maskelyne, on the "observations of Thomas Stretton, who saw the phenomenon in St. John's Square, Clerkenwell London. In another letter to the Royal Society, a Mr. Wilkins reports his "sighting" in terms exactly like those used by many who claim to have seen UFOs. "I was," writes Wilkins, "as it were, rivetted to the


spot where I stood, during the time it continued, and took every method I could to convince myself that it was not an error of sight, including the testimony of one who passed and said it was a star." (Lowes, 1927). "I am very certain," he adds in his third letter, "of this spot appearing within the circumference of the moon's circle." Mr. Stratton declared that it was a "light like a star, as large asa star, but not so bright, in the dark part of the moon." (Lowes, 1927).

July 1868. In Lo! by Charles Fort, as quoted by Jacques Vallee (196S) "at Capiago, Chile, an aerial construction emitting light and giving off engine noise was interpreted locally as a giant bird with shining eyes, covered with large scales clashing to give off a metallic noise."

22 March 1870. "An observation was made aboard the 'Lady of the Lake' in the Atlantic Ocean. The object was a disk of light grey color. What appeared to be the rear part was surrounded by a halo, and a long tail emanated from the center. This UFO was viewed between 200 and 800 elevation for half an hour. It flew against the wind and Captain Banner made a drawing of it." (Vallee, 1965).

24 April 1874. "On the above date, a Professor Schafarick of Prague saw 'an object of such a strange nature that I do not know what to say about it. It was of a blinding white and crossed slowly over the face of the moon. It remained visible afterwards."' (Astronomical Register XXIII, 206 quoted by Vallee, 19 ).

15 May 1879. "On the above date, at 9:40 p.m. from 'the Vultur' in the Persian Gulf, two giant luminous wheels were observed spinning slowly and slowly descending. They were seen for thirty-five minutes, had an estimated diameter of forty meters (130 feet) and were four diameters apart. Similar 'giant wheels' were seen the year after, again in May, and in the same part of the ocean, by the steamer 'Patna."' Quoted by Vallee, (1965) from Knowledge, a journal.

This list of "strange phenomena" could easily be extended over hundreds of pages. The reader, if he wished, can consult the writings of Charles Fort (1941) and others. At the end of all this reading, he will probably find that the mysterious phenomena remain mysterious.


He can then exercise his option to believe that the strange phenomena reported down through the ages are reports of extra-terrestrial visitors from planets whose civilizations are infinitely older and superior to ours. On the other hand, his curiosity may be aroused in quite a different direction. The citations of "ancient UFO reports" by the ufologists have one hauntingly familiar common characteristic: the authors are uniformly highly uncritical of the authenticity of these reports, so much so that their presentations of them falls well outside the boundaries of normal scholarly skepticism.


6. The "Byland Abbey Sighting"

Let us take as an example one particular "UFO case history" given credence and awesome attention in books by Vallee, Green, Trench, Desmond and Adamski, Jessup, and Thomas. The report is an alleged "observation made in 1290 at Byland Abbey, Yorkshire, of a large silvery disk flying slowly, a classical one and [one that] can be found in a number of books" (Vallee, 1965). Each of these authors quotes it from one of his colleagues but none has taken the precaution of checking on the "manuscript scroll that was discovered several years ago (1953) in Ampleforth Abbey in England.

After deciding to check on the "Byland Abbey sighting on 1290," I backtracked through the various books and read the complete transcript of the "Ampleforth Abbey UFO sighting of 1290" as it is given in Desmond and Adamski's Plying Saucers Have Landed (1953):

oves a Wilfred suseptos die festo sanctissorum Simon is atque Judae asseverunt. Cum autum Henricus abbas gratias redditurus erat, frater guidam Joannes referebat. Tum vero omnes eccuccurerunt et ecce res grandis, circumcircularis argentea disco quodom haud dissimils, lente e super eos volans atque maciman terrorem exitans. Quo tempore Henricus abbas adultavisse (qua) de causa impius de...

"Mr. A. X. Chumley," who supplied the information, gives the following translation:

...took the sheep from Wilfred and roast them in the feast of SS. Simon and Jude. But when Henry


the Abbott was about to say grace, John, one of the brethren, came in and said there was a great portent outside. Then they all went out and LO! a large round silver thing like a disk flew slowly over them, and excited the greatest terror. Whereat Henry the Abbott immediately cried that Wilfred was an adulterer wherefore it was impious to...

Authors Desmond and Adamski comment: "What probably happened is that a flying saucer did, in fact, pass over Byland Abbey at the close of the thirteenth century and that the astute Abbott Henry seized the opportunity to admonish Wilfred for his carryings on, and the community for their lack of piety."

Then, in Paul Thomas's Flying Saucers through the ages (1965), we read the following: " Yorkshire, a flat shining disk flew over the monastery of Byland. (Translater's note: There are grave doubts on the genuineness of this. Two Oxford undergraduates admitted to me in 1956 that they forged this document for a joke -- but there is nothing to prove that they really did so!) (emphasis--SR).

After wondering why the translator did not, in the nine years between 1956 and 1965, seek to verify the ancient manuscript by means of a visit, letter or phone call to "Ampleforth Abbey", I began my own investigation. The British information Service in New York verified the existence of Ampleforth Abbey, now a Benedictine College, in York, England. Then, I cabled a friend, Mr. John Haggarty, in London, and asked him to verify the existence and contents of the "Byland Abbey manuscript." Haggarty cabled promptly:


Such a fabricated "UFO report" has been used for the greater glory of the new mythology in Let's Face the Facts About Flying Saucers, (Green, 1967).

The authors have offered their own enlarged and embellished version of the "Byland Abbey sighting," complete with some nifty, monk-type


dialogue (not in the original fabrication); and some 'inner thoughts' of the monks -- also absent from the 'original.' They have even pinned the heinous crime of "sheephiding" on "Wilfred, the adulterer":

Brother John's Medieval Saucer

It was an early afternoon in October, A. D. 1250 (Jacques Vallee writes that it occurred in 1290), and the monks at Byland Abbey in Yorkshire, England prepared to celebrate the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude. Henry the Abbott had previously discovered that Brother Wilfred had hidden two fat sheep on the Abbey grounds. The abbot confiscated the sheep from Wilfred and their succulent carcasses were roasting over a roaring fire in the dining hall.

The brothers were in a jovial mood. "I wish thee would till the fields as willingly as thee would watch the mutton," one said to an eager friend.

"Black bread and cheese do not compare with mutton," answered his companion.

As the brothers assembled for their evening meal, they heard a noise in the doorway Brother John stood in the doorway with a terror-stricken look on his face.

"What happened, Brother John?" inquired the abbot.

"I was walking towards the abbey from the fields and thinking about the roast mutton dinner. A strange noise overhead scared me. I looked up in the sky. A large silver plate is up there in the sky."

The monks forgot their dinners and dashed into the yard.

"There it is," shouted Peter.

"Mother of God!" said a brother.

Henry the Abbott and Brother John stepped from the dining room. A giant flying disk hovered in the sky and drifted slowly in the clouds. The monks were panic-stricken.


They fell to their knees with shouts of "Judgment Day", and " 'tis the end of the world" punctuating their frantic prayers.

The shaken monks turned to Henry the Abbott for clarification. "What does the appearance of this mean?" they inquired.

"Wilfred is an adulterer and must be punished," snapped the abbot.


7. The "Book of Dyzan"

A second "spot-check," made of one of the more spectacular "ancient UFO reports," has produced some fascinating results. It is the "UFO legend" offered by Mr. Frank Edwards in his Flying Saucers -- Serious Business (1966). In his opening chapter entitled "What Goes On Here?" Edwards, from a source not mentioned, gives us the following awesome account:

A chronicle of ancient India known as the Book of Dzyan is in a class by itself, not only because of its age, but because of a surprising account therein. The Book is a compilation of legends passed down through the ages before men were able to write, and finally gathered by the ancient scholars who preserved them for us.

They tell of a small group of beings who came to Earth many thousands of years ago in a metal craft which first went AROUND Earth several times before landing. "These beings," says the Book, "lived to themselves and were revered by the humans among whom they had settled. But eventually differences arose among them and they divided their numbers, several of the men and women and some children settling in another city, where they were promptly installed as rulers by the awe-stricken populace."

The legend continues:


"Separation did not bring peace to these people and finally their anger reached a point where the ruler of the original city took with him a small number of his warriors and they rose into the air in a huge shining metal vessel. While they were many leagues from the city of their enemies they launched a great shining lance that rode on a beam of light. It burst apart in the city of their enemies with a great ball of flame that shot up to the heavens, almost to the stars. All those in the city were horribly burned and even those who were not in the city -- but nearby -- were burned also. Those who looked upon the lance and the ball of fire were blinded forever afterward. Those who entered the city on foot became ill and died. Even the dust of the city was poisoned, as were the rivers that flowed through it. Men dared not go near it, and gradually crumbled into dust and was forgotten by men.

"When the leader saw what he had done to his own people he retired to his palace and refused to see anyone. Then he gathered about him those of his warriors who remained, and their wives and their children, and they entered into their vessels and rose one by one into the sky and sailed away. Nor did they return."

This would seem to be an account of an attempt by some extra-terrestrial group to establish a colony on Earth in the distant past. Like so many colonizing attempts by man, it appears to have ended in dissension and conflict. The most interesting portion of the story is the description of the great "lance that traveled on a beam of light," which bears a surprising resemblance to a modern rocket and its jet of flame. The effect of this so-called "lance" brings to mind a rather detailed picture of a nuclear blast and its catastrophic sequels. If


this is a mental concoction of some primitive writer it is at least remarkable. If it is a reasonably accurate piece of factual reporting, then it is even more remarkable. Since it is unverifiable, we must at this late date classify it as "interesting, but unproved."

This most impressive, goosepimply account of extra-terrestrial colonists who once waged nuclear war on our planet and then left has only one thing wrong with it -- it is completely spurious.

To begin with, the so-called Book of Dzyan is not, as Edwards writes, "a compilation of legends passed down through the ages . and gathered by scholars who preserved them for us." The "Book or Stanzas of Dzyan" made their very first appearance in 1886 in the famous book The Secret Doctrine, written by the high priestess of Esoteric Theosophy, Madame Helene Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891). The stanzas are the basis of her preposterous Atlantean "Theory of Cosmic Evolution." An unauthorized biographer declares that: "the mysterious 'Dzyan manuscript' like the 'Senzar' language they were written in, seem wholly to have originated in Madame Blavatsky's imagination." (Roberts, 1931).

Madame Blavatsky's own account, and those of her disciples, or the origin and meaning of the "Dzyan Stanzas" quickly show that they were concocted for an "occult" audience with a very low threshold of mental resistance.

That the "Stanzas of Dzyan" exist only in Madame Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, or in commentaries written by her disciples is clearly stated in the foreword of the only separate edition of the "Stanzas" published by the London Theosophical Society in 1908:

For the information of readers into whose hands these Stanzas may now fall, it is desirable to give some brief account of their source, on the authority of the Occultist Madame Blavatsky who translated and introduced them to the world of modern thought. The following particulars are derived from Madame Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine and Voice


of The Silence; which Madame Blavatsky tells us form a part of the same series of long-concealed manuscript treasures in which the Stanzas of Dzyan belong.

Book of Dzyan is not in the possession of any European library, and was never heard of by European scholarship: nevertheless it exists and lies hidden, even from the enterprising war correspondent, in one of the mysterious rock libraries that the spurs of the Himalayas may yet contain. (emphasis--SR).

In her own inimitable style Madame Blavatsky adds: "In the Tsaydam, in the solitary passes of the Kuen-Lun, along the Altyn-Tag" [this "Tibetan" word sounds German: "Alten-Tag" or "olden days"--SR] whose soil no European foot has trod, there exists a certain hamlet lost in a deep gorge. It is a small cluster of houses, a hamlet rather than a monastery, with a poor temple on it, and only one old Lama, a hermit, living near to watch it. Pilgrims say that the subterranean galleries and halls under it contain a collection of books . . . too large to find room even in the British Museum" (Introduction to The Secret Doctrine, Madame Blavatsky).

The preface of the London Theosophical Society's edition of the "Stanzas" explains more about them:

The Stanzas of Dzyan... are written in a language unknown to philology, if indeed the word "written" is applicable to ideographs of which they largely consist, and this associated with the use of a colour system of symbology.

They are given throughout, in their modern translated version, as it would be worse than useless to make the subject still more difficult by introducing the archaic phraseology of the original with its puzzling style and words. The terms used were non-translatable into English, are Tibetan and Sanskrit, and... will frequently be a stumbling


block unless reference is made to The Secret Doctrine where the commentaries on the text will generally be found to supply the meaning (London Theosophical Society, 1908).

A thorough search of the Stanzas in Madame Blavatsky's books and those of her commentators has failed to divulge the enthralling "legend from the Book of Dzyan" quoted by Edwards. Now since the Stanzas exists only in The Secret Doctrine, and they, in turn, exist only "in the imagination of Madame Blavatsky," then the question arises: Where did the additional long account of "extra-terrestrial colonists"-- come from? It seems that Edwards had "been had" by one of his sources, and has innocently passed on to his readers a fabrication superimposed on a gigantic hoax concocted by Madame Blavatsky.


8. The "Tulli Papyrus"

Then there is the "UFO sighting" sometime "during the reign of Thutmose III, (1504-1450 B. C.)," cited by Trench (1966):

Among the papers of the late Professor Alberto Tulli, former director of the Egyptian Museum at the Vatican, was found the earliest known record of a fleet of flying saucers written on papyrus long, long, ago in ancient Egypt. Although it was damaged, having many gaps in the hieroglyphics, Prince Boris de Rachewiltz subsequently translated the papyrus and irrespective of the many broken sections he stated that the original was part of the Annals of Thutmose III, circa 1594-1450 B. C. The following is an excerpt:

"In the year 22, of the third month of winter, sixth hour of the day... in the scribes of the House of Life it was found a circle of fire that was coming from the sky... it had no head, the breath of its mouth had a foul odor. Its body was one rod long and one rod wide. It had no voice. Their bellies became confused through it: then they laid themselves on their bellies... they went to the Pharoah, to report it... His Majesty


ordered... has been examined... as to all which is written in the papyrus rolls of the House of Life. His Majesty was meditating on what happened. Now after some days had passed, these things became more numerous in the sky than ever. They shone more in the sky than the brightness of the sun, and extended to the limits of the four supports of the heavens. Powerful was the position of the fire circles. The army of the Pharoah looked on with him in their midst. It was after supper. Thereupon these fire circles ascended higher in the sky to the south. Fishes and volatiles fell down from the sky. A marvel never before known since the foundation of their land. And Pharoah caused incense to be brought to make peace on the hearth... and what happened was ordered to be written in the annals of the House of Life... so that it be remembered for ever.

As I read, reread, and compared the "Tulli Egyptian papyrus" (c. 1500 B. C.) with the Book of Ezekiel, written about 900 years later (c. 590 B. C.), I became aware of a number of striking similarities between the texts. The most celebrated and oft-quoted of the ancient "UFOs" is "Ezekiel's wheel of fire, (Old Testament, Ezekiel, Chapter One, King James Version):

1: Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.

4: And I looked, and behold a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.


5: Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures... they had the likeness of a man.

6: And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.

10: As for the likeness of the faces, they four had the face of a man, the face of a lion... and the face of an eagle...

13: ...their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures, and the fire was the fire bright and out of the fire went forth lightning.

15 : Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.

16: The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of beryl; and they four had one likeness; and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.

17: When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.

18: As for their rings, they were so high they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.

19: And, when the living creatures were, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels lifted up.

20: ...for the spirit of the living creatures was in them.


The Book of Ezekiel consists of 48 chapters, most of which are devoted to Jehovah's bitter complaints about the immorality of his own people; and his lengthy tirades against all of Israel's enemies, especially the Pharoahs of Egypt.

29,1: In the tenth year, in the twelfth day, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying... Prophesy against... Pharoah, King of Egypt.

The "Tulli papyrus" and Ezekiel show so many exact similarities of style, language and detail in sequence, that one wonders whether, despite its alleged time priority, the "Tulli papyrus" may be taken from the King James version of the Book of Ezekiel. Or, if the "Tulli papyrus" is genuine, and its translation by Prince de Rachewiltz is accurate, then the Book of Ezekiel may have been plagiarized from the Annals of Thutmose III!

A tabulation of the similarities follows:

Egyptian Ezekiel

"the House of Scribes" "the House of Israel"
"was coming in the sky" "the heavens were opened"
"it was a circle of fire" "always referred to as wheel of fire"
"it had no head" " heads with four faces" - "everyone had four faces"
"It had no voice" "I heard a voice that spake"
"Their hearts became confused through it: then they laid themselves on their bellies" "When I saw it, I fell on my face."
"His Majesty ordered... written in rolls" "and God spread a roll before me and it was written..."
" towards the south" "out of the north"
"the brightness of the sun" "and a brightness was about it"
"it was after supper" "cause thy belly to eat."
This all takes place allegedly in Egypt during the reign of Thutmose III "in the land of Egypt." "I am against Pharaoh, king of Egypt"
" Fishes and volatiles fell down from the sky." 29:5, 3: "thee and all the fishes: thou shalt fall upon the open fields."


These dozen sequential similarities are so remarkable and raise so many questions as to the authenticity of the "Tulli papyrus," that a cable was despatched to the Egyptian section of the Vatican Museum seeking more information about both the "papyrus" and the "de Rachewiltz translation." The reply follows:

Papyrus Tulli not propriety [sic] of Vatican Museum. Now it is dispersed and no more traceable.

The Inspector to Egyptian Vatican Museum

(signed) Gianfranco Nolli

Citta del Vaticano 25 Luglio 1968

Skepticism being the mother of persistence, we nevertheless decided to trace it as far as we could. Dr. Condon wrote Dr. Walter Ramberg, Scientific Attache at the U. S. embassy in Rome. Dr. Ramberg replied:

...the current Director of the Egyptian Section of the Vatican Museum, Dr. Nolli, said that . Prof. Tulli had left all his belongings to a brother of his who was a priest in the Lateran Palace. Presumably the famous papyrus went to this priest. Unfortunately the priest died also in the meantime and his belongings were dispersed among heirs, who may have disposed of the papyrus as something of little value.

Dr. Nolli intimated that Prof. Tulli was only an amateur "Egyptologist" and that Prince de Rachelwitz is no expert either. He suspects that Tulli was taken in and that the papyrus is a fake...

Do these startling coincidences or downright hoaxes mean that all such "ancient UFO reports" are fabrications? No, it does not. But they do indicate that the authors of at least seven UFO books have attempted to build up the argument for the existence of UFOs with


"case histories" taken from secondary and tertiary sources without any attempt to verify original sources, and that they orbit around each other in a merry UFO chase of mutual quotation. If any scientist or scholar had behaved similarly, he would have long since been hooted out of his profession. My conclusion: all accounts of "UFO-like sightings handed down through the ages" are doubtful - until verified.


9. Conclusion

There is a positive side to all of this, however, The low-grade controversy generated by "devout believers in the existence of UFOs" (book ad in The New York Times) has attracted a great deal of attention in the news media of the world. A lot of rubbish about UFOs has been printed, and the entire field of speculation remains chronically inconclusive, but attention has also been drawn to a profound question: Are we alone in the universe? Is there life on other planets? And indirectly all of this has led to support and interest in governmental space programs.

But what of UFOs, ancient or modern? The best proposition I know for evaluating any hypothesis was offered 40 years ago by Bertrand Russell in Skeptical Essays:

There are matters about which those who have investigated them are agreed: the dates of eclipses may serve as an illustration. There are other matters about which experts are not agreed. Even when all the experts agree, they may well be mistaken. Einstein's view as to the magnitude of the deflection of light by gravitation would have been rejected by all experts twenty years ago. Nevertheless, the opinion of experts, when it is unanimous, must be accepted by non-experts as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion. The skepticism that I advocate amounts only to this: 1) that when experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain; 2) that when they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by


a non-expert; 3) that when they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exists, the ordinary man would do well to suspend his judgments. These propositions seem mild, yet, if accepted they would revolutionize human life.

The revolution is not yet, but as a very ordinary non-expert and a card-carrying skeptic, I will begin it by regarding no opinion as certain.




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Blavatsky, H. P. The Secret Doctrine, London: London Theosophical Society, 1888.

Blavatsky, H. P. The Voice of Silence, New York: B. B. Page, 1899.

Boyer, Carly B. The Rainbow, New York: Thomas Yosalef, 1959.

David, Jay. The Flying Saucer Reader, New York: New American Library, 1967.

Desmond, Leslie and George Adamski. Flying Saucers Have Landed, New York: British Book Centre, 1953.

Edwards, Frank. Flying Saucers -- Serious Business, New York: Lyle Stuart, 1966.

Fort, Charles. The Books of Charles Fort, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1941.

Galton, Francis. Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development, London: J. M. Dent and Co., 1908.

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Hynek, J. Allan. Christian Science Monitor, (23 May 1967).

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New Testament, King James Version, Book of Matthew, 1604.

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Old Testament, King James Version, Book of Ezekiel, 1604.

Pliny, The Elder. Natural History, Vol. II, Chapter XXXVIV, Cambridge: Harvard Press, 1962.

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Russell, Bertrand. Skeptical Essays, New York: Norton and Co., 1928.

Thomas, Paul. Flying Saucers through the Ages, London: Spearman, 1965.

Trench, Brinsley Le Poer. The Flying Saucer Story, London: Spearman, 1966.

Vallee, Jacques. Anatomy of a Phenomenon, Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1965.

Wilkins, H. T. Flying Saucers on the Attack, New York: Citadel Press, 1954.