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10 Fascinating Early UFO Sightings

by Ronald Eayre
fact checked by Jamie Frater

There have been many unidentified flying objects sighted throughout history. This list details some of the earlier sightings that have been written down or passed on. Some are exciting, and some are just plain weird. Several surprisingly big names have reported UFOs throughout history.

10 Edmond Halley

Edmond Halley

Photo credit: Richard Phillips

Astronomer Edmond Halley, who documented Halley’s Comet, has seen two unidentified craft in his career. The first was in March 1676. He described it as having a “vast body apparently bigger than the moon.”

By Halley’s estimations, the object was about 64 kilometers (40 mi) above him. He said it made a noise, “like the rattling of a great cart over stones.” After watching the distance it traveled in several minutes, he calculated that it was moving faster than 15,500 kilometers per hour (9,600 mph).

9 Alexander The Great

In 329 BC, Alexander the Great and his army were crossing a river during wartime. Then, his men saw silver shields, with fire around the rims, in the sky. The objects began repeatedly diving at the men until the war elephants and horses were spooked. Alexander and his men gave up trying to cross the river and waited until the next morning to cross.

8 Aurora, Texas

In 1897, many years before the Roswell UFO crash, the United States had another crash in Aurora, Texas. At around 6:00 AM, the ship crashed into Judge Proctor’s windmill and exploded into many pieces. While clearing the wreckage, some allegedly found alien writing that resembled hieroglyphics.

A badly disfigured “Martian pilot” was also recovered. The town decided to bury the body in their cemetery, where it still is today, although someone stole the grave marker.

7 Marseilles, France

Marseilles UFO

Photo via YouTube

On the evening of August 25, 1608, near Marseilles, France, a single spacecraft was seen flying erratically. After the craft stopped in midair, two beings got out and seemed to battle. The same scene was witnessed over Nice, France, also.

If that wasn’t remarkable enough, a similar UFO battle took place a few miles away in Genoa. The following week, a heavy, red rain fell. It’s interesting to see so many witnesses to the same event in a time when air travel did not exist.

6 Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg UFOs

Photo credit: Hanns Glaser

At dawn on April 14, 1561, many citizens of Nuremberg, Germany, saw a spectacle unfold in the sky. Two gigantic black cylinders launched many black and blue balls, bloodred crosses, and white discs. It ended an hour later, when several of the shapes flew into the Sun. Witnesses saw several objects fall to Earth outside the city.

A local newspaper wrote of the balls and crosses:

[ . . . ] approximately 3 in the length, from time to time, four in a square, much remained insulated, and between these balls, one saw a number of crosses with the color of blood. Then one saw two large pipes, in which small and large pipes, were 3 balls, also four or more. All these elements started to fight one against the other.

5 Basel, Switzerland

Basel UFO

At dawn on August 7, 1566, residents of Basel, Switzerland, saw black spheres engaged in a sort of aerial battle over the course of a few hours. Samuel Coccius, who cosigned the events in Basel’s gazette, wrote:

At the time when the sun rose, one saw many large black balls which moved at high speed in the air towards the sun, then made half-turns, banging one against the others as if they were fighting a battle out a combat, a great number of them became red and igneous, thereafter they were consumed and died out.

4 New Zealand

For about a month during the winter of 1909, New Zealanders reported to several newspapers about seeing “airships” of all different sizes. The reports came in from different locations across the country. The areas where the airships were seen the most became so popular that citizens would stare out at the night sky looking for the “phantom ship.”

The airship sightings were reported day and night but never had any witnesses closer than 30 meters (100 ft) away. During the times of the sightings, no airships were known to be in the sky over New Zealand. Going by the accounts of witnesses, the sightings started in the southern part of New Zealand and moved north before heading to Australia.

3 Boston, Massachusetts

In 1639, a strange light was spotted over Boston. It sped back and forth from Back Bay Fens, across the Charles River, and toward Charlestown. Governor John Winthrop even made a note about the event in his journal. The main witness was said to have good reputation, activity, and estate in Boston. The description of the event is as follows:

In this year one James Everell, a sober, discreet man, and two others, saw a great light in the night at Muddy River. When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square; when it ran, it was contracted into the figure of a swine: it ran as swift as an arrow towards Charlton [Charlestown], and so up and down [for] about two or three hours. They were come down in their lighter about a mile, and, when it was over, they found themselves carried quite back against the tide to the place they came from. Divers other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place.

2 Windsor Castle, England

Windsor Castle UFO

Photo credit: Ancient UFO

At 9:45 PM on August 18, 1783, four witnesses saw a luminous object in the sky from the terrace of Windsor Castle. What witnesses saw is actually how a meteor would be described at the time, except for the parts about staying still and changing colors. The following year, an account in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society related what witnesses observed:

An oblong cloud moving more or less parallel to the horizon. Under this cloud could be seen a luminous object which soon became spherical, brilliantly lit, which came to a halt; this strange sphere seemed at first to be pale blue in colour but then its luminosity increased and soon it set off again towards the East. Then the object changed direction and moved parallel to the horizon before disappearing to the South-East; the light it gave out was prodigious; it lit us everything on the ground.

1 Thutmose III

In the ancient Egyptian Tulli Papyrus is one of the earliest written accounts of a UFO sighting. The papyrus contains the annals of Pharaoh Thutmose III, who reigned from around 1504 to 1450 BC. The sighting was said to have happened around 1480 BC.

Chroniclers described a circle of fire coming from the sky. It emitted bad breath but had no head. It was one rod long and one rod wide. Confused, the scribes bowed down to it and reported it to the pharaoh. Thutmose meditated on the event, and days later, the UFOs were more numerous than ever. The pharaoh and his army looked on as the fire circles raised higher into the sky. Incense was burned, and the pharaoh told the scribes to remember the day as a day of importance.

+ Jose Bonilla

In 1883, Mexican astronomer Jose Bonilla saw objects pass in front of the Sun in a hazy mist. He recorded his encounter, writing down what he saw and taking photographs. Bonilla himself never tried to explain it.

Three years later, a French astronomy journal deemed the photographs as high-flying birds or bugs on the lens. In 2011, three Mexican astronomers suggested that it’s possible that Bonilla saw the pieces of a comet, since in his notes, he counted 447 fragments over a two-day period.

++ Christopher Columbus

On October 11, 1492, while patrolling the deck of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus saw “a light glimmering at great distance.” He quickly called for Pedro Gutierrez, who also saw the light. It vanished and reappeared several times in the night, moving up and down “in sudden and passing gleams.”

Columbus said the mysterious lights were a sign that they would find land. Four hours later, they did.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater