I know that many readers no longer find it surprising when a fringe author gets caught making things up or failing to do legwork, but I find it fun to find out the truth behind these claims. I selected another passage from Jacques Vallée and Chris Aubek’s Wonders in the Sky (2009) today because this one surprised me for how the authors’ laziness undercut their argument. The following text is what the two authors purport to be an account of a UFO in England in 1322, taken from the Flowers of History, from the continuation of the medieval work of that name by Roger of Reading:
In the first hour of the night there was seen in the sky over Uxbridge a pillar of fire the size of a small boat, pallid, and livid in color. It rose from the south, crossed the sky with a slow and grave motion, and went north. Out of the front of the pillar, a fervent red flame burst forth with great beams of light. Its speed increased, and it flew thro’ the air...Many beholders saw it in collision, and there came blows as of a fearful combat, and sounds of crashes were heard at a distance.
However, despite the fact that the authors correctly cite pages 210-211 of the published edition of the Latin text (but don’t specify whose translation they give) the actual Latin isn’t quite the same. In fact, the translation they use, which was published on the internet as far back as 1999, attributed to Reader’s Digest Mysteries of the Unexplained, is somewhat wrong and very much abridged. So, I will translate the text to see what it says. The translation is a little rough since I did not have a lot of time for it:
On the fourth day of November, in the first hour of the night, in the western area outside the city of London, near the village of Ruystebrugge (Uxbridge?), many miraculous signs appeared in the sky to onlookers. For a fiery funeral pyre of the size and form of a small ship, pale and grayish in color however, rose up from the south, crossed the sky with a slow and ponderous motion, and turned its path to the north. From this burning pyre burst forth a different very hot fire of red color and a greater magnitude, though proceeding from a form not dissimilar, sowing flames and running off through the air with great fury. And by turns approaching each other, with their numerous collisions a dire battle commenced, from which battle echoing sounds were heard by observers from a great distance, though it was not possible to discern the form of any living things whatsoever. Thus fighting among themselves for a long time, the northern pyre defeated the southern pyre, and the defeated one escaped to the south, from which it had come, taking a long time, and it was no longer visible. But the northern pyre, on the shore from which it was departing, at once kept itself back.
The word rogus means funeral pyre in Latin, but those who discuss this passage translate it as pillar, which I think somewhat alters the meaning since a rogus was four-sided and in the shape of an altar. Alexander built one for Hephaistion some 225 feet high, and hte last Assyrian kind had one 400 feet tall. Some had multiple levels like a step-pyramid. While it might have the general form of a pillar if it is taller than it is wide, it would not have been the long, skinny, round shape that pillar implies.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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