IN a pamphlet entitled Wonderful Phenomena by Curtis Eli, is the report of an occurrence, or of an alleged occurrence, that was investigated by Mr. Addison A. Sawin, a spiritualist.(1) He interpreted in the only way that I know of, and that is the psychochemic process of combining new data with preconceptions with which they seem to have affinity. It is said that, at Warwick, Canada West (Ontario), Oct. 3, 1843, somebody named Charles Cooper heard a rumbling sound in the sky, and saw a cloud, under which were three human forms, "perfectly white," sailing through the air above him, little higher than the tree-tops. It is said that the beings were angels. They were male angels. That is orthodox. The angels wafted through the air, but without motions of their own, and an interesting observation is that they seemed to have belts around their bodies — as if they had been let down from a vessel above, though this poor notion is not suggested in the pamphlet. They "moaned." Cooper called to some men who were laboring in another field, and they saw the cloud, but did not see the forms of living beings under it. It is said that a boy had seen the beings in the air, "side by side, making a loud and mournful noise." Another person, who lived six miles away, is quoted: "He saw the clouds and the persons, and heard the sounds." Mr. Sawin quotes others, who had seen "a very remarkable cloud," and had heard the sounds, but had not seen the angels. He ends up: "Yours, in the glorious hope of the resurrection of the soul." The gloriousness of it is an inverse function of the dolefulness of it: Sunday Schools will not take kindly to the doctrine — be good and you will moan forever. One supposes that the glorious hope colored the whole investigation.
Some day I shall publish data that lead me to suspect that many appearances upon this earth that were once upon a time interpreted by theologians and demonologists, but are now supposed to be the subject-matter of psychic research, were beings and objects that [123/124] visited this earth, not from a spiritual existence, but from outer space. That extra-geographic conditions may be spiritual, or of highly attenuated matter, is not my present notion, though that, too, may be some day accepted. Of course all these data suffer, in one way, about as much distortion as they would in other ways, if they had been reported by astronomers or meteorologists. As to all the material in this chapter, I take the position that perhaps there were appearances in the sky, and perhaps they were revelations of, or mirages from, unknown regions and conditions of outer space, and spectacles of relatively nearby inhabited lands, and of space-travellers, but that all reports upon them were products of the assimilating of the unknown with figures and figments of the nearest familiar similarities. Another position of mine that will be found well-taken is that, no matter what my own interpretations or acceptances may be, they will compare favorably, so far as rationality is concerned, with orthodox explanations. There have been many assertions that "phantom soldiers" have been seen in the sky. For the orthodox explanation of the physicists, see David Brewster's Letters on Natural Magic, p. 125: a review of the phenomenon of June 23, 1744; that, according to 27 witnesses, some of whom gave sworn testimony before a magistrate, whether that should be mentioned or not, troops of aërial soldiers had been seen, in Scotland, on and over a mountain, remaining visible two hours and then disappearing because of darkness.(2) In James Clarke's Survey of the Lakes (fol. 1789) is an account in the words of one of the witnesses.(3) See Notes and Queries, 1-7-304. Brewster says that the scene must have been a mirage of British troops, who, in anticipation of the rebellion of 1745, were secretly manoeuvring upon the other side of the mountain.(4) With a talent for clear-seeing, for which we are notable, except when it comes to some of our own explanations, we almost instantly recognize that, to keep a secret from persons living upon one side of a mountain, it is a very sensible idea to go and manoeuvre upon the other side of the mountain; but then how to keep the secret, in a thickly populated country like Scotland, from persons living upon that other side of the mountain — however there never has been an explanation that did not itself have to be explained.
Or the "phantom soldiers" that were seen at Ujest, Silesia, in [124/125] 1785 — see Parish's Hallucination and Illusions, p. 309.(5) Parish finds that at the time of this spectacle, there were soldiers, of this earth, marching near Ujest; so he explains that the "phantom soldiers" were mirages of them. They were marching in the funeral procession of General von Cosel. But some time later they were seen again, at Ujest — and the General had been dead and buried several days, and his funeral procession disbanded — and if a refraction can survive independently of its primary, so may a shadow, and anybody may take a walk where he went a week before, and see some of his shadows still wandering around without him. The great neglect of these explainers is in not accounting for an astonishing preference for, or specialization in, marching soldiers, by mirages. But if often there be, in the sky, things or beings that move in parallel lines, and, if their betrayals be not mirages, but their shadows cast down upon the haze of this earth, or Brocken spectres, such frequency, or seeming specialization, might be accounted for.
Sept. 27, 1846 — a city in the sky of Liverpool (Rept. B.A., 1847-39).(6) The apparition is said to have been a mirage of the city of Edinburgh. This "identification" seems to have been the product of suggestion: at the time a panorama of Edinburgh was upon exhibition in Liverpool.
Summer of 1847 — see Flammarion's The Atmosphere, p. 160 — story told by M. Grellois: that he was travelling between Ghelma and Bône, when he saw to the east of Bône, upon a gently sloping hill, "a vast and beautiful city, adorned with monuments, domes, and steeples."(7) There was no resemblance to any city known to M. Grellois.
In the Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, 21-180, is an account of a spectacle that, according to 20 witnesses, was seen for two hours in the sky of Vienne dans le Dauphiné, May 3, 1848.(8) A city — and an army, in the sky. One supposes that a Brewster would say that nearby was a terrestrial city, with troops manoeuvering near it. But also vast lions were seen in the sky — and that is enough to discourage any Brewster. Four months later, according to the London Times, Sept. 13, 1848, a still more discouraging — or perhaps stimulating — spectacle was, or was not, seen in Scotland.(9) Afternoon of Sept. 9, 1848 — Quigley's Point, Lough Foyle, [125/126] Scotland — the sky turned dark. It seemed to open. The opening looked reddish, and in the reddish area, appeared a regiment of soldiers. Then came appearances that looked like war vessels under full sail, then "a man and a woman and a swan and a peahen." The "opening" closed, and that was the last of this shocking or ridiculous mixture that nobody but myself would record as being worth thinking about.
"Phantom soldiers" that were seen in the sky, near Banmouth, Dec. 14, 1850 (Rept. B.A., 1852-30).(10)
"Phantom soldiers" that were seen at Buderich, Jan. 22, 1854 (Notes and Queries, 1-9-267).(11)
"Phantom soldiers" that were seen by Lord Roberts of Kandahar (Forty-One Years in India, 30th ed., 218), at Mohan, Feb. 25, 1858.(12) It is either that Lord Roberts saw indistinctly, and described in terms of the familiar to him, or that we are set back in our own notions. According to him, the figures wore Hindoo costumes.
Extra-geography — its vistas and opening and fields — and the Thoreaus that are upon this earth, but undeveloped, because they cannot find their ponds. A lonely thing and its pond, afloat in space — they crossed the moon. In Cosmos, n.s., 11-200, it is said that, night of July 7, 1857, two persons of Chambon had seen forms crossing the moon — something like a human being followed by a pond.(13)
"Phantom soldiers" that were seen, about the year 1860, at Paderborn, Westphalia (Crowe, The
Night-Side of Nature, p. 416).(14)