The Book of the Damned
A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book
Edited and Annotated by Mr. X
NOTES and Queries, 5-3-306:(1)
About 8 lights that were seen in Wales, over an area of about 8 miles, all keeping their own ground, whether moving together perpendicularly, horizontally, or over a zigzag course. They looked like electric lights -- disappearing, reappearing dimly, then shining as bright as ever. "We have seen them three or four at a time afterward, on four or five occasions."
London Times, Oct. 5, 1877:(2)
"From time to time the West Coast of Wales seems to have been the scene of mysterious lights....And now we have a statement from Towyn that within the last few weeks lights of various colors have frequently been seen moving over the estuary of the Dysynni river, and out to sea. They are generally in a northerly direction, but sometimes they hug the shore, and move at a high velocity for miles toward Aberdovey, and suddenly disappear."
L'Année Scientifique, 1877-45:(3)
Lights that appeared in the sky, above Vence, France, March 23, 1877; described as balls of fire of dazzling brightness; appeared from a cloud about a degree in diameter; moved relatively slowly. They were visible more than an hour, moving northward. It is said that eight or ten years before similar lights or objects had been seen in the sky, at Vence.
London Times, Sept. 19, 1848:(4)
That, at Inverness, Scotland, two large, bright lights that looked like stars had been seen in the sky: sometimes stationary, but occasionally moving at high velocity.
L'Année Scientifique, 1888-66:(5)
Observed near St. Petersburg, July 30, 1880, in the evening: a large spherical light and two smaller ones, moving along a ravine: visible three minutes; disappearing without noise.
That, at Yloilo, Sept. 30, 1886, was seen a luminous object the size of the full moon. It "floated" slowly "northward," followed by smaller ones close to it. [282/283]
"The False Lights of Durham."
Every now and then in the English newspapers, in the middle of the nineteenth century, there is something about lights that were seen against the sky, but as if not far above land, oftenest upon the coast of Durham. They were mistaken for beacons by sailors. Wreck after wreck occurred. The fishermen were accused of displaying false lights and profiting by wreckage. The fishermen answered that mostly only old vessels, worthless except for insurance, were so wrecked.
In 1866 (London Times, Jan. 9, 1866) popular excitement became intense.(7) There was an investigation. Before a commission, headed by Admiral Collinson, testimony was taken. One witness described the light that had deceived him as "considerably elevated above ground." No conclusion was reached: the light were called "the mysterious lights." But whatever the "false lights of Durham" may have been, they were unaffected by the investigation. In 1867, the Tyne Pilotage Board took the matter up. Opinion of the Mayor of Tyne -- "a mysterious affair."(8)
In the Report of the British Association, 1877-152, there is a description of a group of "meteors" that traveled with "remarkable slowness."(9) They were in sight about three minutes. "Remarkable," it seems is scarcely strong enough: one reads of "remarkable" as applied to a duration of three seconds. These "meteors" had another peculiarity; they left no train. They are described as "seemingly huddled together like a flock of wild geese, and moving with the same velocity and grace of regularity."
Jour. Roy. Astro. Soc. of Canada, Nov. and Dec., 1913:(10)
That, according to many observations collected by Prof. Chant, of Toronto, there appeared, upon the night of Feb. 9, 1913, a spectacle that was seen in Canada, the United States, and at sea, and in Bermuda. A luminous body was seen. To it there was a long tail. The body grew rapidly larger. "Observers differ as to whether the body was single, or was composed of three or four parts, with a tail to each part." The group, or complex structure, moved with a "peculiar, majestic dignified deliberation." "It disappeared in the distance, and another group emerged from its place of origin. Onward they moved, at the same deliberate pace, in twos or threes or fours." They disappeared. A third group, or a third structure, followed.
Some observers compared the spectacle to a fleet of airships: others to battleships attended by cruisers and destroyers. [283/284]
According to one writer:
"There were probably 30 or 32 bodies, and the peculiar thing about them was their moving in fours and threes and twos, abreast of one another; and so perfect was the lining up that you would have thought it was an aerial fleet maneuvering after rigid drilling."
Nature, May 25, 1893:(11)
A letter from Capt. Charles J. Norcock, of the H. M. S. Caroline:
That, upon the 24th of February, 1893, at 10 p. m., between Shanghai and Japan, the officer of the watch had reported "some unusual lights."
They were between the ship and a mountain. The mountain was about 6,000 feet high. The lights seemed to be globular. They moved sometimes massed, but sometimes strung out in an irregular line. They bore "northward," until lost to sight. Duration two hours.
The next night the lights were seen again.
They were, for a time, eclipsed by a small island. They bore north at about the same speed and in about the same direction as the speed and direction of the Caroline. But they were lights that cast a reflection: there was a glare upon the horizon under them. A telescope brought out but few details: that they were reddish, and seemed to emit a faint smoke. This time the duration was seven and a half hours.
Then Capt. Norcock says that, in the same general locality, and at about the same time, Capt. Castle, of the H. M. S. Leander, had seen lights. He altered his course and had made toward them. The lights had fled from him. At least, they had moved higher in the sky.
Monthly Weather Review, March, 1904-115:(12)
Report from the observations of three members of his crew by Lieut. Frank H. Schofield, U. S. N., of the U. S. S. Supply:
Feb. 28, 1904. Three luminous objects, of different sizes, the largest having an apparent area of about six suns. When first sighted, they were not very high. They were below clouds of an estimated height of about one mile.
They fled, or they evaded, or they turned.
They went up into the clouds below which they had, at first, been sighted.
Their unison of movement. [284/285]
But they were of different sizes, and of different susceptibilities to all forces of this earth and of the air.
Monthly Weather Review, Aug., 1898-358:(13)
Two letters from C. N. Crotsenburg, Crow Agency, Montana:
That, in the summer of 1896, when this writer was a railroad postal clerk -- or one who was experienced in train-phenomena -- while his train was going "northward," from Trenton, Mo., he and another clerk saw, in the darkness of a heavy rain, a light that appeared to be round, and of a dull-rose color, and seemed to be about a foot in diameter. It seemed to float within a hundred feet of the earth, but soon rose high, or "midway between horizon and zenith." The wind was quite strong from the east, but the light held a course almost due north.
Its speed varied. Sometimes it seemed to outrun the train "considerably." At other times it seemed to fall behind. The mail clerks watched until the town of Linville, Iowa, was reached. Behind the depot of this town, the light disappeared, and was not seen again. All this time there had been rain, but very little lightning, but Mr. Crotsenburg offers the explanation that it was "ball lightning."
The Editor of the Review disagrees. He thinks that the light may have been a reflection from the rain, or fog, or from leaves of trees, glistening with rain, or the train's light -- not lights.
In the December number of the Review is a letter from Edward M. Boggs -- that the light was a reflection, perhaps, from the glare -- one light, this time -- from the locomotive's fire box, upon wet telegraph wires -- an appearance that might not be striated by the wires, but consolidated into one rotundity -- that it had seemed to oscillate with the undulations of the wires, and had seemed to change horizontal distance with the varying angles of reflection, and had seemed to advance or fall behind, when the train rounded curves.(14)
All of which is typical of the best quasi-reasoning. It includes and assimilates diverse data: but it excludes that which will destroy it:
That, acceptably, the telegraph wires were alongside the track beyond, as well as leading to Linville.
Mr. Crotsenburg thinks of "ball lightning," which, though a sore bewilderment to most
speculation, is usually supposed to be a correlate with the old system of thought: but his
awareness of [285/286] "something else" is expressed in other parts of his letters, when he says
that he has something to tell that is "so strange that I should never have mentioned it, even to my
friends, had it not been corroborated...so unreal that I hesitated to speak of it, fearing that it was
some freak of the imagination." 
1. A.R. "Strange lights in Wales." Notes and Queries, s.5, 3 (April 17, 1875): 306. Correct quote: "We have seen three at a time afterwards on four or five occasions."
2. "Mysterious lights." London Times, October 5, 1877, p.10 c.2. Correct quote: "...in a northern direction...."
3. "Éclairs en boule observés à Vence, en Provence." Année Scientifique et Industrielle, 21 (1877): 45-6.
4. "Astronomical discovery." London Times, September 19, 1848, p. 4 c. 5.
5. "Éclairs en boule à Saint-Pétersbourg." Année Scientifique et Industrielle, 32 (1888): 66-7.
6. Thomas Higgin. "Electrical phenomenon." Nature, 35 (December 23, 1886): 173. Correct quote: "...northwards."
7. "False lights of the Durham coast." London Times, January 9, 1866, p. 10 c. 2. Correct quotes: "...considerably elevated above the land," "...these mysterious lights...," and, "false lights on the Durham coast."
8. "The alleged false lights." London Times, January 1, 1868, p. 10 c. 5. "The alleged false lights." London Times, January 6, 1868, p. 5 c. 5. Mr. Hutchinson, of Whitburn, (not the Mayor of Tyne), "said it was a very mysterious affair." "The alleged false lights off Whitburn." London Times, January 15, 1868, p. 4 c. 2.
9. Glaisher et al. "Report on observations of luminous meteors during the year 1876-77." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1877, 98-193, at 152. The meteors fell on December 21, 1876, along a path from Kansas to Pennsylvania and Western New York. Correct quote: "A remarkable feature of the meteoric group was the slowness of its apparent motion; while it was variously estimated, most of the observers think that its time of flight could not have been less than three minutes."
10. C.A. Chant. "Further information regarding the meteoric display of February 9, 1913." Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 7 (November and December, 1913): 438-47. No observations at sea are reported in this article. The following quotations come from a previous article: C.A. Chant. "An extraordinary meteoric display." Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 7 (May and June, 1913): 145-215, at 147-8, 206. Correct quotes: "Some observers state that the body was single, some that it was composed of two distinct parts and others that there were three parts, all travelling together and each followed by a long tail...," "Before the astonishment aroused by this first meteor had subsided, other bodies were seen coming from the north-west, emerging from precisely the same place as the first one." The "one writer" was J.G. MacArthur, in Toronto, who wrote: "There were 30 or 32 bodies, and the peculiar thing about them was their moving in fours, three and twos, abreast of one another, and so perfect was the lining up you would have thought it was an aerial fleet manuvring after rigid drilling."
11. Chas. J. Norcock. "An atmospheric phenomenon in the North China Sea." Nature, 48 (May 25, 1893): 76-7. The observation was made on February 24, 1893, at 32 58' N., 126 33' E., south of Cheju Do (Quelpart Island); and, the mountain was Halla San (Mount Auckland). Correct quote: "They bore north (magnetic)...."
12. Frank H. Schofield. "Remarkable meteors." Monthly Weather Review, 32 (March 1904): 115.
13. "Ball lightning." Monthly Weather Review, 26 (August 1898): 358. Correct quotes: "...midway between the horizon and the zenith," "It was so very strange...," and, "...some freak of my imagination."
14. "Not ball lightning." Monthly Weather Review, 26 (December 1898): 565.
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