SEEN any flying saucers lately?
A great many Canadian have: Canadians who are not the type one would suspect
of having optical illusions. Reports are coming from veteran airmen, long
acquainted with conventional types of aircraft, and from astronomers.
The fact that these reports are not being pooh-poohed by official
sources indicates that Canadian scientists and air force officials are
alert to the possibility that there may be something in them.
Sightings have been reported recently
from North Bay, where on April 12 two airmen reported a bright amber disk
that stopped, hovered, then changed direction and zoomed away at terrific
speed. Two other airmen saw a reddish-orange ball on the night of January
1, moving at supersonic speed at a height estimated to be above earth's
atmosphere. Dim orange lights were seen moving over Toronto on the night
of April 20.
These enigmatic "flying saucers" that
have forced their attention, by five years of persistent manifestation
(2), on the U.S. Air Force, the RCAF and the research scientists of both
countries, are beginning to be taken seriously, even at high government
levels. We have Dr. O. M. Solandt of the Defence Research Board, Dr. C. J.
Mackenzie of Atomic Energy Control Board, Dr. Peter Millman the
astro-physicist and Dr. Helen Hogg the astronomer all agreeing, according
to recent newspaper reports, that the saucers are no laughing matter and
must be closely investigated. What is the man in the street to think
of them? Russian secret weapons? A new source of energy unknown to science
and outside the present laws of physics? Or visitors from another world?
A glance at history eliminates the
first of these hypotheses and throws a suggestive light on the others.
Flying Saucers -- that is, cigar-shaped elliptical or round objects, with
or without "tails" that move through the air with great speed and high
luminosity -- are not new phenomena, seen only by our generation. They, or
their prototypes, have been recorded for centuries past, in all quarters
of the globe. Usually they were ascribed to occult causes, or to
In seventeenth-century Quebec,
luminous phenomena were carefully noted, not only by the Indians but also
by the Jesuits and others, who saw in them signs of divine displeasure.
was a marked epidemic of such phenomena in the St. Lawrence Valley in
1662-3. The Jesuit Relations for the fall of 1662 record the
appearance of "fiery serpents" in the sly, and a ball of fire rushing down
from the moon with a noise like thunder and bursting behind Mount Royal.
Next summer, August 1663, Mother Marie de l'Incarnation tells us of voices
heard in the sky, noises like bells and cannon shots, fires, torches and
fiery balls falling to earth or dissipating in the air, and a special fire
in the sky resembling a man breathing flames through his mouth. Meteorites
and comets, the modern astronomer would label them, no doubt.
R. S. LAMBERT Is Supervisor of Educational Broadcasts for the CBC.
These larger luminous phenomena were uncommon enough to deserve special
mention in the diaries of the time. But countless smaller, purely local,
phenomena of the same kind were seen much more often by habitants
who, not being literate, could not describe them in writing. For these
appearances they had a traditional name -- "feux follets" or
"fi-follets" (3) -- wandering lights that
were supposed to be evil spirits or the souls of wicked living men that
had abandoned their bodies to roam at night in the devil's service. To
encounter one was a sure omen of approaching death.
in Les Anciens Canadiens, tells us that one day in 1806, when the sun was shining
brightly outside, a fire-ball of this type entered the manor house where
his family was seated at table, and exploded without doing any harm. The
"Journal of American Folklore" quotes many instances of similar happenings
in Ontario -- for example, and old woman who was followed by a fire-ball
as she walked along the road at night. It stopped whenever she did, and
went ahead when she resumed her walk.
Alexander Ross in "Fur Hunters of the
Far West" (1855) repeats a voyageur's story of a journey by boat along the
North shore of Lake Superior. During a storm three gigantic fire-balls of
pale reddish hue settled on the top of the mast and yardarms of the vessel
and hung there motionless for half an hour. Anitquarians classify these as
"St. Elmo's Fire", which is a glow supposed to be caused by discharges of
static electricity, appearing as a tip of light on pointed objects during
Probably the most curious case of
spectral fires in Eastern Canada was the "Marsh Point Ghosts", near
Cornwall, Ont., in 1845. When the 12-mile Cornwall Canal was built between
Dickenson's Landing and Cornwall, it cut off a number of headlands which
had formerly been part of the mainland, and turned them into islands lying
between the river and canal. On one of these islands was a little village
-- Mille Roches -- near which stood a secluded farmhouse known as Marsh
Point, inhabited by two old women, Granny Marsh, 80, and her daughter
Clara, 60. They lived alone and were practically recluses.
One night in September, 1845, a
farmer passing by on the mainland side of the Canal saw, across the water,
the old farmhouse surrounded by a number of bright moving lights. He
jumped to the conclusion that some accident must have occured to the two
old ladies, and next morning hurried around to express his sympathy. What
was his surprise to find Granny and Miss Clara in the best of health and
spirits and quite unaware of any unusual occurrences in or near the house.
Soon the phenomena were seen again.
The lights appeared more and more frequently, almost nightly in fact. The
neighboring farmers clubbed together to keep watch, two at a time, to
unravel the mystery. But they never did.
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