Some of you will remember that a long time ago I did a series in which I reviewed the ancient textual evidence presented by ufologists Jacques Vallée and Chris Aubeck in their 2009 compendium Wonders in the Sky. I stopped when I came to the Middle Ages because at the time I was most interested in ancient texts. In revisiting the book, I noticed that the more recent material collected in the volume is no more accurate than their fatally flawed earlier material. One of the key problems, as I outlined in the past, is that the two authors rely on faulty translations and secondary summaries rather than consulting the original texts. Thus, for example, because they know Charlemagne’s sorcery law only from its citation in the Rosicrucian novel Comte de Gabalis rather than the original Latin text, they present the law as though it banned space aliens and UFOs rather than weather-magic.
Today I read the following passage from Wonders:
May 1652, Near Rome, Italy
So, I obviously got out the journal and turned to page 234. That page is part of a long article on unusual weather phenomena, ranging from red rain to meteors. But there is no 80 meter luminous object from 1652, an no entry for 1652 at all. This is the actual text that appears on the page, the closest I can find to their citation:
1718, March 24. Gelatinous matter fell, with a globe of fire, in the Isle of Lethy, in India.--Barchewitz.
It’s clear that the authors never consulted the original or else they would have chosen from among the rich and varied listing of ancient, medieval, and modern sightings of various things in the sky presented in the endless list.
So how did the authors screw this up? Oh, that’s easy. They misread Charles Fort and didn’t bother to check the originals he cited. Here’s Fort writing in the Book of the Damned (1919):
According to Chladni's account (Annals of Philosophy, n.s., 12-94) a viscous mass fell with a luminous meteorite between Siena and Rome, May, 1652; viscous matter found after the fall of a fire ball, in Lusatia, March, 1796; fall of a gelatinous substance, after the explosion of a meteorite, near Heidelberg, July, 1811. In the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, 1-234, the substance that fell at Lusatia is said to have been of the "color and odor of dried, brown varnish." In the Amer. Jour. Sci., 1-26-133, it is said that gelatinous matter fell with a globe of fire, upon the island of Lethy, India, 1718.
Notice the way Vallée and Aubeck take a clear sentence about a meteor and turn it into a mysterious “single luminous objet, 80 meters in size” by screwing up the reports (misreading the semicolon after 1652, perhaps, and thus combining phrases about Lusatia [modern Brandenburg and Saxony] with the event at Rome) and adding a random measurement, 80 meters—one whose provenance I was unable to ascertain. It might even be made up. Surely, though, the fact that they quote the words gelatinous matter should have made them see that those words were attached to a different event! If you care, and I’m sure you don’t, Fort’s source, the Annals of Philosophy 12, says only that “1652, May.—A viscous mass, after a luminous meteor, between Sienna and Rome. Miscell. Acad. Nat. Curios.; ann. 9, 1690.”
3/9/2015 09:14:18 am
May 1652, Near Rome, Italy
3/9/2015 12:40:41 pm
I had to scratch my head at one, because I read "Yo Mama" as "Yo Yo Ma".
3/9/2015 01:26:28 pm
"A single luminous Yo Yo Ma, 80 meters in size, was seen in the air. A mass of "gelatinous matter" fell to the ground."
3/9/2015 10:47:42 pm
On a tangentially related subject, I caught the premiere of "Forbidden History" on the American Heroes Channel. It was another rehash of Nazis and experimental/UFO technology.
3/10/2015 05:29:57 am
One does get the sense that Bulter does not change his clothes much, smells, and is drunk a lot.
3/10/2015 08:25:34 am
I'm sure he at least showers for the hookers... :)
3/9/2015 11:14:27 pm
Jason, regarding wonders in the sky you may be interested in reviewing the critical analysis of Dominique Caudron (in French) http://oncle-dom.fr/paranormal/ovni/catalogue/chron-prod.htm
3/9/2015 11:24:41 pm
Correction, I meant "by Dominique Caudron of antique (BCE) prodigies." If you are looking for inspiration for future blog posts I would love to read your comments.
3/10/2015 07:10:12 am
3/11/2015 10:22:26 am
I misread Mentzer as Menzel as in Donald Menzel, the late skeptic of UFOs as other worldly technological spacecraft. I wonder how he would have thought of ancient astronauts?
3/12/2015 02:10:23 am
Could conceivably be the same family. Donald's grandfather Charles (i.e. probably Karl before he emigrated) was born in Potsdam in 1840.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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