Strange and Wonderfull Newes

Gareth J. Medway and Mark McCann
Magonia 66, March 1999
The term 'flying saucer' was coined in 1947, but the year was by no means the first in which reports were heard of airborne kitchen utensils. On Wednesday 11 April 1651, a Mrs Holt was sitting in the doorway of Highway House, between Madely and Whitmore in Cheshire, with a little girl in her arms, when she "perceived the Sun to shine exceeding red, and casting her eyes upwards, she beheld a dark body over the sun, about the bigness of a half moon ...... and in short space, the said body divided into several parts, seeming numberless to her view, about the bigness of small Pewter dishes, which came swiftly towards her ... "

However, they did not land and drag her off for a medical examination: rather, what happened next was never more in accord with what people in that disturbed decade would have expected: " .. immediately the Court about the house seemed filled with armed Hands and Gauntlets, with swords; glittering and fighting (in their imagination) with another as great an Army, and it seemed to their view to be in the ayr above them."

Mrs Holt panicked at this point, and ran into the house, leaving the little girl to the mercy of the glittering thingummies. She found her maid, prayed with her a little to recover her composure, and then the maid, who seems to have been made of stem er stuff than her mistress, opened the door, stepped forth and took in the child "which had no harm":

" ... her Maid at first saw nothing, but after she had uttered these words, 'Mistris it may be the Lord will not suffer me to behold what you do', she immediately saw the same!"

After this the house became as dark as night, and Mrs Holt thought her end had come. "After which her Maid and she looked forth, behelf infinite [an infinity] of Horse legs and feet trampling, and great Canons and Ordnance on the other side of the House rear'd up together with the muzzels upward, and Houlsters hanging on them; this continued some space and vanished."

After a while the two women plucked up their courage and eventually opened the door to the courtyard, but, alas, their travails were not yet over: "Then she opened the door and went forth, and saw an beheld the likeness of one man onely, standing with the Court near to the mote, and immediately there arose a little Cloud or Vapour (as it were) forth of the miste whence issued a Bird about the bigness of a capon, with wings such as a Angel is usually protraided with, and a second and third followed and flew near to her and her Maid, having faces almost like owls, and something [somewhat] resembling a man, and after they had hovered about a while, they vanished in the vapour of Cloud; these birds were blewish red, or sanguine colour, but the Men, Horse, Swords, and canons, all like fire."

Eventually Mrs Holt recounted these unsettling happenings to the vicar, who told them to one William Radmore, who communicated them to his brother in a letter, whence they were puiblished as a pamphlet. Since it records various incidental details: "though I have not heard from you a long time ... hath made me fear ... you have taken somewhat unkindely to me ... I desire to hear fro you ... because of our aged mother, who takes it very heavily£, one feels it is a genuine letter, not something got up by the pamphleteer.

Five years earlier, on 31 May 1646, in Gravehage, Holland, a round plate was seen "about the bigness of a Table-board, like gray paper ... ". It is not clear whether this is the estimate of the actual or apparent size of the object. Once again, it was only the prelude to much more startling sights. We must, of course, bear in mind that 'flying saucer events' (leaving aside for the moment any consideration of what they 'really' are) would be perceived very differently in the Seventeenth Century from how they are today. For one thing the observers estimation of the actual size of a object seen in the sky depends upon his estimation of its distance, and vice versa. These in turn will determine the estimation of speed.

Most modern observers of UFOs assume, unconsciously for the most part, that the object they are looking at is about the size of an aeroplane, a flying machine they are familiar with. A Seventeenth Century observer, on the other hand, could not have seen a flying object larger than a bird, and might well guess that something that looked like a pewter dish was small and quite near to hand.

Following the plate, the first vision reported was of a lion fighting with a dragon and overcoming it. The second vision showed the lion and dragon "still in fight", together with "a multitude of Souldiers". The third was of "a King with 3 Crownes upon his head, sitting upon a Kingly throne", then the lion and dragon fought once more. The fourth: "a multitude of mens heads, the which also vanished then the Lyon and Dragon remaine as before standing in sight." Then: "There appeared also a man sitting upon a horse who kills himselfe and falls backward." The sixth vision showed "a mighty fleet of ships", whilst "the Lyon and the Dragon destroy one another, and fall backward, and then vanished." There remained nothing but a "great Cloud which before was not, and so drave forward away with the winde."

A third example, similar to the others, came from Herefordshire A man named Banister was walking near his home town of Lemster (Leominster), on the 15 April 1679, an hour before sunset, when he "to his great Amazement
beheld the Earth to open not many Paces before him; at which he had for a Considerable time Admired: behold at last to his farther Amazement, he saw a Round thing proceed from that Gaping Part of the Earth, of a blew Colour, but in Form much reselbling a Gloab, which watching with great intendedness, he might discern it to move upwards, and Ascend into the Aire, till at length it got out of his sight, and hid it self among the sheltering Clouds".

Once again this was followed by a series of other sights. the earth opened again, "and out of its Dreadful Mouth Proceeded a Hand, an Arm, and pa of a Shoulder, about the bigness of those Parts of a Man. They appeare'd in a Threatening Posture, the Hand being half Grasped, and of a black mournful Colour, and Ascending up into the Sky". This same vision repeated itself, until Banister had seen the same objects rise out of the earth and ascend to the sky seven times over. They were followed by "a Thing in resemblance of a Sadle; of very deep Bloodcolour", six times over.

It was further reported that the next day three other men, whose names were Humphrey La~ence,Samuel Sho~d,and one Mr. Cornel, went out to the same field, and "beheld the Earth open several times, and the like things Ascending out of it, as Banister had seen before."

One thing is certain, that people in those troubled times looked ofr signs from the heavens, and the heavens obligingly provided them. the same month as the Gravehage visions, another pamphlet reported "Signes from Heaven OR SEVERALL APPARITIONS seene and heard in the Ayre, in the Counties of Cambridge and Norfolke, of the 21 day of May last past in the afternoone, 1646." These included three men seen struggling in the air above Newmarket; a "Pillar or Cloud ascending from the earth like a spire-Steeple, being opposed by a Speare or Lance downward"; and a "Navie or Fleet of Ships under Sayle". Also, a sound like "a whole Regiment of Drums beating a call" was heard within three miles of Kings Lynne; and at Sopham in Cambridgeshire, "a ball of wilde-fire fell upon the earth, which burnt up and spoyled about an Aker of Graine, and when it had rolled and runne up and own to the terror of many people and some Townesmen that see it, it dissolved and left a most sulpherous stinck behind it."

On the sights over Cambridge and Norfolk the pamphleteer commented piously: "The Lord grant that all the people of this Kingdome may take heed to every warning Trumpet of his, that we may speedily awaken out of our sins, and truly torn to the Lord", etc. In those unsettled time people looked to the skies, not for spaceships, but for visual signs sent from the Lord. Yet, in the first three cases, people first saw a flying dish or globe that meant nothing to them; and only secondly symbolic visions of the kind the expected.

However, such anticipated sights did not occur in the most remarkable flying saucer report of the 17th century, which was published by Richard Bovet in his Pandaemonium in 1684. Bovet heard the story from a Mr Edward Ansty of South Petherton in Somerset, who was by then very old, but his mind, Bovet said, still wholly lucid. His sighting had occured in his youth, about the year 1620.

Ansty had been at Woodbery-Hill Fair, and resolved to return home that night:

" ... coming to a place not far from Yeovil, noted by the name of Cuthedge, his Horse rushed very violently with him against one side of the Bank, snorting and trembing very much, so that he could by no means put him on his way, but he still pressed near to the Bushes: At length Mr. Ansty heard the Hedges crack with a dismal noise, and perceived coming towards him in the Road, which is there pretty wide, a large Circle of a duskish light, about the bigness of a very large Wheel, and in it he perfectly saw the proportion of a huge Bear, as if it had been by day-light; It passed near by him, and as it came over against the place where he was, the horrid Monster looked very gashfully [in a ghastly way] at him, shewing a pair of very large flaming Eyes. As soon as ever it was gone by, his Horse sprung into the Road and made homeward with so much haste, that he could not possibly rein him in, and had much ado to keep the Saddle."

If Ansty had reported seeing men fighting in the air, or fairies dancing in a circle, one could have supposed he had hallucinated, imagined or invented somethinmg that suited his own worldview But it is remarkable that he should have seen something so like a twentieth-century UFO report, even down to his horse stopping, paralleling modern cases where the car engine stalls just before the spacecraft appears. Neither he nor Bovet appear to have had any idea what to make of it, except that it was proof of the existence of the supernatural.

This article was take with permission of the authors from Talking Stick Magickal Journal, Issue 1, Volume 2, 1998