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                         Flying Saucers

                      Extra-Terrestrial: Flying Saucers
                                  Their Lurid Past

                                                                                 by Richard S. Lambert

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 hallucinations.

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.

There 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.

Gaspe, 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 storms.

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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                                          Copyright 1997 Joseph Daniels, All Rights Reserved