Magonia 22, May 1986
If, ten years ago , you had been a subscriber to the highly reputed Phenomenes Spatiaux, you would have been pleased to find that dramatic sightings were not confined to the sensational media. For here was a case which, while there were no indications of a UFO, certainly seemed to involve an entity not of this world. As so frequently happens, the case dated from thirty years earlier; though as happens less rarely, the witness gave interesting reasons for the delay, as we shall see.Regrettably it was a single-witness observation: on the credit side was the fact that the solitary witness was the local curé, know in the report at the Abbé X. He served as parish priest in the small village of Renève, a village of fewer than 400 inhabitants near Dijon, from 1936 to 1947. This was his account:
On a fine afternoon in April 1945 I went out hunting for mushrooms. Towards 6pm I was on my way home when I saw a likely-looking spot, and I was actually on my knees for a closer inspection when I suddenly saw a little fellow 15 to 17 cm tall, running swiftly to one side of me, He seemed out of breath and alarmed, though not so much so as to prevent him passing within 30cm of me, giving me an intense look as he did so.My first reaction was to grab hold of him, but I didn’t because of a sort of stalk or spike which he carried, which was taller than him by about 2cm. He disappeared into a nearby copse, without my being able to stop him, much as I would like to have entered into communication with him. I returned home kicking myself for not having made more of my opportunity.
He planned to return the following day either in hope of seeing the entity again, or at least of seeing if there were any traces, but bad weather prevented him. He described the entity as ‘a miniature man’, with a man’s proportions, seemingly of 70 to 75 years of age. It was grey-haired, bearded, chubby-cheeked and with a very expressive face. It was wearing a one-piece suit, seemingly of rubber, although thirty years later he felt it might have been plastic.
The entity made no sound during the twenty seconds the sighting lasted. The priest had the impression that it was both nervous of and curious about himself. He never felt any doubt that he had seen something ‘real’ – not a ghost or a visionary being, not a robot.
What did he think it was? At the time, influenced by recent reading on the subject of evolution, he felt that he had seen some kind of primitive being related to man, that had failed to evolve. But when he told his story he was met with indifference, even scepticism. “It’s no fun being considered mentally sick or subject to hallucinations,” he said, so he gave up trying to tell people about his experience; but he always hoped that one day a learned society might take an interest in the case.
“Had anyone reported a flying saucer or something of that sort in the area,” he said in 1975, “I would have thought along different lines, and not been sidetracked into thinking it was some offshoot of the human species; instead I would have concluded that this remarkable apparition was an extraordinary being. In such a case, of course I should have behaved quite differently – I’d have hurried to report it to the gendarmes, so that they could investigate it formally.”It was a great relief to him when, having learnt of the existence of GEPA, the French group which publishes Phenomenes Spatiaux, he found people ready to listen seriously and sympathetically to his story and, moreover, provide him with a plausible explanation for what he had seen.
But just how plausible was that explanation?
Reneve falls within the area covered by ADRUP, the Association Dijonnaise de Recherches Ufologiques et Parapsychologiques. ADRUP consists of a small group of enthusiastic researchers who interest themselves in anomalous happenings of all kinds, publishing their findings in Vimana 21, an excellent review which combines lively writing with solid documentation.
Apart from coping with new cases as they come in, ADRUP also reviews outstanding cases of the past, and carries out such counter investigation as may be feasible. The last time anything remarkable happened at Renève was back in the sixth century, when a Visigothic princess named Brunehaut was punished for her misdeeds by being dragged naked behind an untamed horse until she died. The more recent case of the Abbé X seemed more susceptible to re-examination.
ADRUP’s members felt that GEPA had come somewhat prematurely to their conclusion that the priest had encountered an extraterrestrial. After all, no UFO had been seen, the entity had never left the surface of our planet; and that though creatures of that size do not normally wear clothing, many dog-owners provide their pets with winter coats, to say nothing of organ-grinders’ dogs and other showbiz canines.
At the same time, ADRUP saw no reason to doubt that the Abbé had indeed seen a very real ‘something’. Their investigations established that the priest was still alive, though no longer living at Reneve; and they were able to interview him. What bothered them was a certain ambiguity about what he thought he had seen. Though he had abandoned the ‘unevolved human’ hypothesis in favour of the ‘extraterrestrial’ according to the report in Phenomenes Spatiaux, and though he now referred the ADRUP investigators to the article there – “You’ve only got to read what M. Fouéré has written, it’s very good” – this seemed to be contradicted by something else he said, to the effect that it hadn’t been an extraterrestrial: “You mustn’t think of it as a little green man”. In other words, even if the entity had come from a flying saucer, it was essentially human in appearance. Even if he had managed to grab hold of it, he told ADRUP, he wouldn’t have exhibited it at fairs, it was a human being …
On the way home, turning over in their minds what the priest had said, the investigators’ minds began to consider possible alternatives. And perhaps it was his remark about fairs which got them thinking on the lines of a monkey that might perhaps have escaped from a circus. For the appearance of some kinds of monkey is remarkably human, and moreover, human in the way that a very old man looks, grey-haired and bearded.
So ADRUP started looking into the possibility that there had been a circus in the Reneve area. But letters to every possible source of information produced negative replies. 1945 was, after all, the final year of the war in Europe, and few if any circuses had got going, and there were none reported in the Dijon area. Additionally, the kind of monkey most often featured in circuses wasn’t the most likely one to match the Abbé’s description.
But further talks with the villagers opened up another line of investigation. M. Huot the butcher, knife in hand, told them that in 1945 a regiment from French North Africa had been stationed in the neighbourhood. A new train of thought suggested itself: African regiment … African continent.. exotic animals… monkeys … What about a regimental mascot?
The next task was to establish which African regiment had been stationed near Reneve; which brought them up against bureaucracy as only the French know it. Each department they contacted dodged the question on grounds of official secrecy or some such, until eventually they found themselves back where they began.Then luck came their way. A local historian, who had previously said he was unable to help them, phoned to say he’s just remembered that there had been a girl of the district who had married a soldier from the regiment that had been stationed locally. The wedding had taken place at a church 7km north of Renève. A visit to the mayor not only confirmed the marriage but produced the present whereabouts of the couple. And a letter brought them some suggestive information.The husband, then in Regiment CTA 154 of the Armée de l’Air, had been stationed at Reneve from the end of 1944, through the early months of 1945 (the Abbé had had his experience in April 1945). And yes, there had been a regimental mascot - a German Shepherd dog.
Bur the dog had been stolen (Query: who in their right minds would steal a German Shepherd dog from a regiment of tough soldiers? But we’ll let that pass …) and to replace the dog they’d found a monkey.
And not just any old brand of monkey, but one of the marmoset type which was most liable to resemble the Curé’s ‘little man’. The grey hair, the beard, the wrinkled face but chubby cheeks, the frightened but inquisitive eyes, all matched. The sticking up spike could have been the creature’s tale; and as for the clothes, yes, said the soldier, they would often dress it up in clothes. And he added that it was perfectly possible that the monkey might have escaped from where he was kept in a mill not far from where the priest had seen his entity.It was, to say the least, a remarkable coincidence that, at the time of the priest’s sighting, there should have been in the vicinity a monkey of the kind most likely to be described as ‘human’ in appearance, wearing clothes, liable to be wandering around on its own, and just the right size.
So ADRUP send their dossier to the Abbé for his comments. He wrote back, politely but firmly: “Your theory is ridiculous, and stems from pure imagination. I am sorry to be in total disagreement with your theory, which quite simply doesn’t ring true. So let your little monkey rest in peace, and let the little humanoid of Reneve rest in peace …”Oh yes, there is a moral there.