PrintE-mail Written by Nigel Watson

Passport to Magonia was a groundbreaking book by computer scientist Jacques Vallee, who looked at the links between folklore and modern-day UFO sightings. The title of his 1969 study highlighted the mythical land of Magonia, a country or region beyond the clouds that people in the Middle Ages believed was the home of flying ships seen in our skies. Since then ufologists have used the term Magonia to take account of the historical and cultural context of UFO sightings.

Return to Magonia follows Vallee’s lead (it even includes a foreword by him) but this time it employs the latest Internet and research tools to examine whether these cases have any reality to them or not. For over a decade Chris Aubeck has been responsible for sharing digital information about historical aerial anomalies on the private Magonia Exchange Yahoo group, which has trawled the immense mass of documentary material made available through the Internet. As he notes, we can now easily search for these reports without having to physically visit libraries and archives, plus the authors employ digital planetarium software, online genealogical records and digital maps to pinpoint further information about these cases.

The British Mirabilis Annus (Year of Wonders) trilogy published between 1661 and 1662 or the Spanish El ente dilucidado. Tratado de monstruos y fantasmas (‘The entity elucidated. Treaty on monsters and ghosts’) published in 1676, proved to be useful early sources for stories about all types of miraculous events. However, many of these accounts were used for political or religious reasons to indicate “God’s opinion of current activities on earth.”

Some are pure inventions or rumours, so the authors have concentrated on cases that provide specific names, times and locations. They were surprised to find “many accounts recognisably depicting a planetary conjunction and other natural phenomena, despite their origin as religious superstition, and despite the publishers’ political agenda.”

The following chapters look at clusters of similar types of sightings, such as flying triangles, discs and saucers, fiery exhalations, UFOs emerging from the sea, globes of fire, unusual clouds, lunar conundrums and flaming objects associated with entities, dark objects, mystery balloons, aerial machines, graveyard UFOs, airborne coffins, oblong lights and mystery airships. This just shows the huge scope of aerial visions since the 17th Century right up to pre-flying saucer era that began on 24 June 1947. They also examine in detail some specific cases like the report of an electric disc seen in October 1899, a huge starfish UFO observed in 1901, the Aldeburgh Platform sighting of 1917 and the wave of giant flying eggs seen in February 1947 over Australia.

In Chapter 2, they unearth an early example of a ‘flying saucer’ sighting. Fishermen on 8 April 1665 near the Baltic city of Stralsund, said they saw ships battling in the sky above them, and then they observed “...a flat round form, like a plate, looking like the big hat of a man... Its colour was that of the darkening moon, and it hovered right over the Church of St. Nicolai. There it remained stationary until the evening. The fishermen, worried to death, didn’t want to look further at the spectacle and buried their faces in their hands. On the following days, they fell sick with trembling all over and pain in head and limbs.”

The authors look at different explanations for this sighting, from flocks of starlings, sun dogs, clouds, smoke, tornados to ice crystals. In the end they conclude, due to the length of time it was seen, that it is a “remarkable case” that given the association with physiological effects can be easily equated with saucer sightings of today!

This is an excellent collection of reports that shows the rich variety of aerial anomalies that have been seen (or imagined) flitting about our skies. In an attempt to penetrate the cloud of religious, political, folkloric and superstitious interpretations that have been attached to them, they do a good job of trying to scientifically explain these sightings. Despite this they do find it hard to pin down mundane explanations for some of these cases, which might indicate as yet undiscovered or poorly understood natural phenomena. Some UFO enthusiasts will be sad to learn they were unable to detect any concrete evidence for the “work of an alien intelligence” behind these sightings.

A great book showing that flying saucers are nothing new.



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