Eighteenth in our series to appear on the first Friday of each month: Boston Firsts Fridays. #BostonFirsts
First Realty Management Corp. was founded in Boston over 50 years ago. We are proud to call this wonderful city our home, and call focus to some of the events & innovations that happened FIRST in Boston.
BF#18 First UFO Sighting (1639) / First USO Sighting (1644)
It’s now October, and as the fall begins in earnest thoughts slide to Halloween and its spooky delights. (This may be at least partly due to the local efforts to add pumpkin to virtually every food product.) How fitting then that we turn our attention to some more extraordinary Boston Firsts…
The First Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) Sighting in the United States
Now before you roll your eyes, reflect on the source of this particular distinction; Governor John Winthrop, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop was governor four times, twice after the incident in question, so this is a credible reporter.
The account that Governor Winthrop recorded in his journal and later published in The History of New England, 1630-1639, was of three companions in a boat on the Muddy River (No, it’s not just a song they play after Red Sox victories) who witnessed some strange lights.
“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 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.”
In addition to claiming that they had seen a supernatural flying and possibly flaming pig, the witnesses reported that their boat had been moved physically backwards and they had lost track of time. Certainly the invention of tinfoil would have been a great comfort to these gentlemen, but it has to be said that other witnesses on land came forward so perhaps in this instance three men did indeed make a tiger. Or a pig, anyway…
In all reality, the men almost certainly were seeing the effects of mist on a marshy area, but this sighting of a flaming light occurred again in Boston in 1644. But by then we had other problems…
The First Unidentified Submerged Object (USO) Sighting in the United States
Yes, we have this one locked up, too. A mere five years after pigs recorded their first solo flight, mysterious bright lights again reared their head, this time rising from the water. This tale is a bit less amusing, however, as it involved the death of five men aboard an exploding ship.
Captain John Chaddock was reportedly a pirate and history is a little unclear on whether or not his ship was blown up intentionally in the North End in January 1644. Whether by accident or design, all aboard were killed and when strange lights appeared two weeks later, devilry was suspected.
“Exactly 16 days after the blowing up of Capt. Chaddock’s ill-fated ship and crew, and just at ‘the witching hour of midnight,’ as Shakespeare calls it, ‘when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes forth contagion in the air,’ three men in a boat, coming toward Boston—a strange hour for reputable puritans to be out—saw two bright lights rise out of the water, at the place where the vessel had been blown up, just off the North Ferry slip. They made the still more inexplicable [observation] that the two lights assumed the form of a man, and sailed leisurely off over the water to the south, keeping but a short distance from the shore, till it reached Rowe’s Wharf, where it vanished as suddenly as it had appeared just 15 minutes before.”
That’s once again the account of our friend Governor Winthrop, describing the strange incident. The apparition was presumed to be the ghost of one of the sailors, as the man claimed to be a necromancer. The additional fact that his body alone of the five sailors was never recovered certainly added to the fervor with which Bostonians increasingly spotted these moon-like lights. The good Governor himself claimed “all the bodies blown up were found but his, which never was. Hence it is left to be inferred that the master teacher of the black art of necromancy took away the body as well as the soul of his pupil, at the moment of the catastrophe.” Spooky, no?
As fascinating as all of these stories are, it’s entirely possible that this is the only UFO you are likely to see in Boston this month:
Fun fact: July 2nd is World UFO Day http://www.worldufoday.com/
Fun fact #2: Since the National UFO Reporting Center began collecting reports of UFO sightings, over 1500 sightings have been reported in Massachusetts.
Fun fact #3: You know, you get some very interesting hits when you search for UFO pictures…