The first Flying Saucer (the term UFO came later) hit the headlines in 1947. But, as researchers were later to discover, these things had been seen for a great many years before 1947, but had not been recognised for what they were.
Take, for instance, a report from Japan in 1361. “An object shaped like a drum and about [20 feet] in diameter” was seen to fly low over the Inland Sea. Another Japanese report, this time from May 1606, records that a “gigantic red wheel” hovered over Nijo Castle for some minutes, then began to spin and flew off.
Meanwhile other records show odd flying objects were active in Europe. In 75bc a Roman priest recorded that “A spark fell from a star and grew larger as it approached the ground to become as large as the moon and as bright as the sun seen through thin clouds. On returning to the sky it took the form of a torch.”
On 5 December 1577 a number of “flying objects shaped like hats” that were “black, yellow and bloody” flew over Germany, and at least one of them landed temporarily. Given the date and place, the objects would seem to have been round with a low, domed shape and a flange around the base.
On 15 August 1663 another odd object was seen in the skies over Robozero, Russia. It was about 11.30am and the local peasants were gathered in the church when “a great crash sounded from out of the heavens and many people left the church of God to assemble outside on the square. Now Levka Pedorov [a farmer who dictated this account to a local government official] was amongst them and saw what happened. To him it was a sign from God. There descended upon Robozero a great ball of fire from the clearest of skies, not from a cloud. Moreover it came from the direction from which we get winter and moved across from the church to the lake. The fire was about [45 metres] on each side and for the same distance in front of the fire there were two fiery beams. Suddenly it was no longer there, but about one hour of the clock it appeared again, above the lake from which it had disappeared before. It went from the south to the west and was about [500 metres] away when it vanished. But once again it returned, filling all who saw it with a great dread travelling westwards and staying over Robozero one hour and a half. Now there were fishermen in the boat on the lake about a mile away and they were sorely burnt by the fire. The lake water was lit up to its greatest depths of nine metres and the fish fled to the banks. The water seemed to be covered with rust under the glow.”
Although the physical descriptions of many of these early reports clearly fit them into what we would today categorise as being UFOs, the witnesses of the time had quite different explanations. In September 1235 a Japanese nobleman named Yoritsume saw strange lights in the night sky. The lights were bright, round and moving in circling or swaying paths to the southwest. Yoritsume summoned the scientific experts of his day, described what he had seen and asked for an explanation. After some days of debate, the scientists came back with the answer that Yoritsume had seen the wind blowing the stars about.
This is an extract from UFOs by Rupert Matthews