12 January 2023

OF THINGS SEEN IN THE SKY

Chris Aubeck,  Alien Artifacts: The Forgotten Story of How We Came to Believe in Visitors from the Stars .Volume 1: From Antiquity to 1880. Independently published, 2022.

In Wonders of the Sky co-authored with Jacques Vallee and Return to Magonia co-authored with Martin Shough, Chris Aubeck has provided us with plenty of information and analysis of historical UFO-like events and encounters. Now we get Alien Artifacts which is the first in Aubeck’s ambitious three-volume project to chart ‘the forgotten story of how we came to believe in visitors from the stars’ right up to the dawn of the flying saucer era in 1947.
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This volume charts the history of the concept of life on other planets and worlds, aliens as a religious experience, the genesis of the phenomenon, cosmic messages, ancient aliens and tales of the unexpected.

Chris notes: "The main goal, though, has been to be as direct and thought-provoking as possible about my findings. It’s deliberately thought-provoking and touches on so many themes, including (necessarily) racism, so I hope it helps start a debate there. It’s also the first book to ever show the true origins of the ancient astronaut theory. 2023 marks 200 years since the first ever book on alien ancestors, something absolutely nobody knew before Alien Artifacts”

Aubeck convincingly shows that the concept of aliens was a continuing theme of literature, philosophy and religion. By the period 1847 to 1880 numerous ET claims appeared in print that Aubeck points out echo the UFO mythology of today. Many of the literary references to extraterrestrials are in the form of satire that mocks our Earthly ways or our particular political or religious viewpoints.

As early as 1798, a comic novel by French playwright Louis-Marin Henriquez, has a 330 feet tall alien called Frondeabus from Uranus, collect humans and curiosities to take back to his home planet. This is much like the modern-day viewpoint that aliens regard us as specimens or their property. Aubeck notes that the story has an even closer connection to abduction stories of today in that one woman wakes up ‘screams and stands on a large table, surrounded by giants looking at her with microscopes.’ If only Budd Hopkins was alive then!

Newspapers were another source of alien stories, and the Moon was often regarded as their home. As an example, the New York Sun in August 1835 serialised reports allegedly from Sir John Herschel, who claimed seeing trees, oceans and animals including unicorns and bat-like humanoids on the lunar surface. It was a clever hoax but it did sell thousands of newspapers and was the first large-scale media stunt that showed you can make money from what people want to believe.

The lesson was learnt by Dr Henry Monnett who published The Magic Monitor and Medical Intelligencer in 1857. The first chapters dealt with pregnancy, illnesses and herbal remedies but from Chapter 11 it delved into astrology, how to become invisible and how to look into the future. He also writes about a sighting of a vessel worked by wheels and appendages built ‘with a precision and a degree of beauty never yet attained by any mechanical skill upon this planet.’ A large number of twelve--foot tall people were seen on the deck of the craft by a group of gentlemen at Jay, Ohio. Monnett regarded this as a visitation from other planets and claims there are thousands more similar cases on record. 

On investigating the author, Aubeck found he was a fraudster called Oliver Phelps Brown who specialised in selling self-help books, remedies and get-rich-quick schemes. Not surprisingly, no evidence could be found to support the vessel in the sky story, but Aubeck does note that The Magic Monitor was frequently republished and makes him wonder if Kenneth Arnold or other early flying saucer witnesses were inspired by it.

Ships in the sky were nothing new, as fleets of them were reported in 218 B.C. and 173 B.C. and over Scotland in 80 A.D. Such craft also travelled down from the mythical land of Magonia in the Middle Ages, and Aubeck supplies a similar story from China in 1523 of two ships descending from the clouds containing a monk-like figure and several crew members who are only 24 inches tall. Many of these sightings could have been of Fata Morgana mirages, but the accounts are an intriguing mix of ghost ship, fairy folk and beings from distant unknown realms. The phantom airships with their improbable mechanical appendages, propellers and sails of the great US wave of 1896-97 are just a short step from such stories.


Along with ships in the sky there have been ancient stories of meteors delivering spirits and people to our planet. One legend from Alaska tells of a white fire seen in the sky followed by the rumbling of the ground. Out of this some travellers saw a young man emerge from this fire who was regarded as the spirit of the meteorite, and he went on to marry an Eskimo woman and had a daughter who had stone patches on her skin. There are other legends of meteors and comets bringing gods to our Earth, including Helen of Troy who was said to have been dropped from the Moon. There is even a connection between women seeing celestial phenomena and shortly afterwards becoming pregnant, indeed the story of Christ is one of an immaculate conception and the tracking of a strange star.

Following such legends and beliefs, newspapers and novels recounted stories of meteorites being found with ‘hieroglyphic’ messages inscribed on them, and even the discovery of a piece of alien building that fell on Jamaica in 1862. The structure was made of an artificial cement superior to our own, and when cleaned depicted an alien landscape with caterpillar-like beings. Newspapers frequently repeated the tale, but it was another hoax.

A recurrent theme is that real locations, meteor sightings, people and events are often embroidered into these hoax stories so that they at first sight seem credible. Aubeck expertly unravels such claims and shows how they are at the root of our current interest in wrecked  saucers, aliens and hieroglyphic messages.

Not only are crashed saucers nothing new, but Aubeck provides us with many historic examples of whom we would now regard as contactees. He identifies New Englander William Denton (1823-1883) as the very first modern contactee. His 1863 book The Soul of Things tells of how he and his family held meteorites in their hands and meditated. This brought about ‘visions’ of ancient civilisations that the meteorites came from and how they were collected on Earth for religious ceremonies. In 1874 with the publication of Volume III, there were stories of the Denton family having visions of the planet Venus, the Sun, comets, asteroids, Jupiter and inevitably Mars. On Mars, William sees a snake winding up a tree and a seaside, then he encounters statues of dark coloured people who have four fingers, yellow hair and cat-like blue eyes. 

It was in 1869 Sherman Denton, aged 12, psychically went to Mars where he saw people with springs on their hands and feet, to enable them to go faster, and they also rode two-wheeled scooters that could fly above the ground. Other family members joined in with ever more complex visions of life and existence on Mars. There were no flying saucers or telepathic communications but as Aubeck writes, "it shows how children and adults alike could dream up science fiction landscapes and be taken completely seriously…"

Using his own research, presenting ‘fragments’ of accounts from a variety of sources, and looking at recurring themes in religion, literature, philosophy, Aubeck effectively puts the history of ufology in a far wider context. Anyone remotely interested in the subject should own this book and see that UAPs are just a new variation of long-held beliefs and the power of our imagination when contemplating things ‘out there.’
  • Nigel Watson

The book is available from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0BL4VTB4B/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4

2 comments:

Simon said...

Looks like an indispensable book for anyone interested in pre-1947 UFO cases!

Terry the Censor said...

Voltaire published his novella Micromégas is a 1752. I read it in...1792? I have forgotten the details. Wikipedia: "The tale recounts the visit to Earth of a being from a planet circling the star Sirius, and of his companion from the planet Saturn."