Or Not

In today’s world many misconceptions have been perpetuated—becoming modern day “facts”—when, in reality, myths and hearsay have taken over. Sorry to burst your bubble, but in this weekly column, Ripley’s puts those delusions to the test, turning your world upside down, because you can’t always…Believe It!

Today: Did Roswell start America’s fascination with UFO’s? 

America’s First UFO Sighting?

Many Americans believe the first UFO sightings occurred in 1947 at Mount Rainier in Washington and then Roswell, New Mexico. These reports of flying saucers caused a sensation in American newspapers and have led to decades of speculation. But were these really the first UFO sightings in North America? According to the Puritans, the answer’s a firm no.

roswell ufo incident

Strange Happenings in New England

The first recorded UFO sighting occurred in 1639 near present-day Boston and was recorded that same year by John Winthrop, the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. His journal entry dated March 1st gives a detailed account of the strange events that set New England abuzz.

john winthrop

Winthrop’s story stands apart from his other, more conventional entries wherein he recorded the real-life successes and challenges facing the Puritans. But on March 1st, his writing described bizarre, otherworldly happenings.

From inexplicable lights to missing hours of time, the X-Files has nothing on this 17th-century tale of unidentified flying objects and even possible alien abduction. But instead of FBI agents, the “Men in Black” in this story wore the costumes of God-fearing Pilgrims.

“As swift as an arrow…”

Winthrop relates that James Everell, “a sober, discreet man” was rowing in a boat with two other men in the Muddy River, which emptied through a swamp into a tidal basin of the Charles River.  All of a sudden, a great light came into view. According to the men, the light both hovered and then flew at high speed back and forth between their vessel and the village of Charlestown two miles away.

john winthrop

As Winthrop describes it, “When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square: when it ran, it contracted into the figure of a swine: it ran as swift as an arrow towards Charlton [sic], and so up and down about two or three hours.” Captivated by the sight, Everell and his companions watched the speeding light for hours. Yet, the strangest part of the story still awaited them…

According to Winthrop’s account, as the men watched the light event, “they were come down in their lighter (boat) about a mile” pushed by the tide. Yet, when the light vanished, the men realized their boat had returned to its original location. They had no memory of rowing against the tide or dropping anchor. They speculated that the light somehow transported them back to where they started.

The three men in the boat weren’t the only witnesses to the bizarre UFO event. According to Winthrop, “Divers other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place.”

1639: America’s First UFO Sighting

Theories abound about what the Puritans actually observed that night in 1639. The most common theory hypothesizes that the pale light in the sky was an “ignis fatuus.” This phenomenon appears over marshland at nighttime, the result of the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter. If Winthrop’s account is accurate, though, the light shot back and forth across the sky rather than rose from the marsh below.

We may never know what Everell and his boat companions saw that night. But one thing’s for sure: the 1639 incident marks the oldest recorded UFO sighting in North American history. Some researchers also describe it as the first UFO abduction narrative from the New World.

By Engrid Barnett, contributor for Ripleys.com