Archive for April, 2012


Death of a Tree

Cover of the invitation to the opening of the exhibition.

On Friday, the tree outside my fence was massacred.  The people who did it were laughing while they lopped and chopped.  I could hear the branches hitting the ground and was very distressed because it reminded me of something similar which had happened in France.  The tree was across the road from my apartment.  There were three of them and that part of the municipal hospital was named after them.

Something strange happened to me while the tree was being slaughtered.  I couldn’t watch but, along with the dreadful noise of the machine and the voices of the men, I could “hear” the tree screaming and feel its fear.  At the same time, I could feel the waves of love coming from the other two trees as they tried to comfort it.  I was sobbing with them.  It was an extraordinary connection with the trees but it is not one that I ever want to renew.  At least, not in those circumstances.

A few months later, an Art exhibition on the theme of “Trees” called, ironically, Une envie d’arbre en vie [Wanting a tree alive], from a poem by Pierre-Hugues Robieux, was held and I decided to add a text about this dreadful experience to the others that I had prepared for the opening of the exhibition.  Naturally, it was in French, so I have translated it.  It is not really a poem.  I am an actress and I often write texts in lines like poems because it helps me with my interpretation.  I have kept the same lay-out as the original.  However, bear in mind that this is only a translation.  The original is better.

Pierre-Hugues Robieux' poem (which he dashed off in slightly under three minutes, right before my eyes - so much talent is unfair to the rest of us).

I started to cry before it was finished and there was deathly silence afterwards.  The Mayor and several Councillors were present and nobody dared to applaud.  Only one of the artists, a sculptor, had the courage to step up to me and say sympathetically, “You feel everything, don’t you?”  The answer to that is unfortunately yes, I do.  “And in Spring, too.”  He shook his head.  The Mayor swooped on me, babbling several times, “It’s not true!”  just like a little boy.

The papers did not mention “the incident” but there were references to my words, including this text.  The scandal was minor and I included the text in the closing reception.  This time the Mayor wasn’t there and it was applauded.

 

Death of a Tree

*

It’s dead.

They killed it.

They chopped off its branches one after the other.

The tree was screaming.

They heard nothing.

They were joking, telling each other funny stories between blows from the chainsaw.

The tree’s brothers were crying with it.

They were sending it waves of love to support it in its ordeal.

***

It was Spring.

The birds had barely started their nests.

The leaves were of that tender green of renewal.

***

The men and their noisy machines massacred the old oak.

At noon, tired, they left for lunch, leaving the trunk of bleeding stumps standing in the sun,

Its sliced branches spread out at its foot.

***

In the afternoon, refreshed, the executioners came back to cut down the trunk and chop it up.

Oblivious.

They are paid to do it.

To obey, no questions asked.

***

Today, it’s Summer.

The birds of the two other oaks have squeezed their brethren from the dead tree in with them.

Sometimes, quarrels erupt;  they have less room.

The cars, which used to park in the shade of the missing tree,

Have pulled back to the parking lot outside the kitchen at the hospital.

In full sunlight.

***

There are only two oaks left

At Three Oaks Domain.

But not to worry!

“They” do not intend to change its name!

***

Perhaps, in the future, when our grown-up grandchildren are puzzled by this name,

We shall evoke again the third oak,

Sacrificed for a roundabout.

***

There is an epilogue to this story.  A few months after this exhibition, I was called to Australia, where my mother was dying.  In 2005, having bought a house here, I popped back to France to organize the move.  Upon opening my shutters, the first thing that I saw was a young oak tree, recently planted on the other side of the road near the roundabout.  I know that there had been no plans to replace the murdered oak before I read my text, so I conclude that I had some influence on it.

While writing my letter of resignation from various municipal commissions, I thanked the Council for planting the oak and hoped that it would be a reminder of my dozen years in their town.

I like to think that the little oak hasn’t died and is strongly growing, despite the trucks that rumble past it to deliver supplies to the hospital.

Invitation to the exhibition. My name is not with the poets because I was exhibiting as well, so I'm in with the visual artists.

Advertisements

On 7 December 1958, Mr Kenneth Martin who lived in Oregon, USA, left home with his wife and four children to look for a Christmas tree in the forest. No-one ever saw them again...

The most popular hypothesis today about the disappearance of the four hundred men of the 5th Norfolk Regiment is that they were taken by a machine which had the form of a cloud.

***

UFOs in the form of clouds are not at all new.  The Bible, for example, mentions many times the apparition of luminous clouds which deposit or take away people…

***

So, it seems that the New Zealanders saw a fake cloud.  Their whole story leads to this conclusion.  Sapper Reichart speaks of a cloud “dense and fixed which was reflecting the sunlight”, then it suddenly rises and joins the others – which were above the hill and had been there since morning, immobile despite the wind…  After which, the whole group of these strange clouds moves towards the North and disappears…  Do any stratus or cumulus act in this way?…

***

Perhaps we are living in a work of science-fiction.  Charles Fort, the author of the Book of the Damned, writing about these mysterious disappearances of individuals or groups of individuals, said:  “We are being fished.”

***

The question is by whom?  Extra-terrestrials?  Let us just say by people who come from somewhere else…  People from somewhere else who are interested in us.  Every year, in France alone, roughly twenty-five thousand people disappear.  What happens to these people?  There are suicides, perfect crimes, individuals who flee to a foreign land without contacting anybody, but these constitute only a small percentage:  10%, 20% perhaps.  This leaves 80% unexplained disappearances.  Or around fifteen thousand people.  And this has been going on for years.

***

Kidnapping a regiment can appear to be exceptional but it isn’t the only known case.  During the Second World War, a Japanese Division disappeared without a trace in New Guinea.  And there are entire families who have vanished during a walk in the forest, boat crews who have evaporated (the Mary Celeste comes to mind), automobilists who never arrived at their destinations and were never heard of again…  Some of these disappearances are absolutely astounding.  One day in November 1809, the caleche of Benjamin Bathurst, who was the Ambassador of Great Britain to the Court of Austria, arrives in a little German town, at Perlberg, and stops in front of an inn.  Bathurst alights to lunch.  When he has finished, he says goodbye to the innkeeper who is, with a few travellers, on the doorstep, and walks around his carriage to watch the changing of the horses…  He was never seen again…  And all of the searches undertaken to find him were in vain…

***

There was no other carriage in sight.  The road was absolutely empty.  There was no wall nor bush where the Ambassador could have hidden…  Here is another example:  around 1930, the American torpedo boat the Cyclops, which is navigating in calm weather on an oil-smooth sea, disappears without the specialists being able to give the slightest explanation.  There are hundreds of similar cases.

***

On 5 December 1945, five Avengers of the United States Air Force were patrolling off Florida, They disappeared without a trace.

Then there is the Bermuda Triangle.  In this region of the Caribbean Sea, just like a place situated to the East of Japan which is called the Sea of the Devil, boats and aeroplanes – despite our radio and radar equipment – mysteriously disappear without a trace.  The rare pilots who have time to send a last message explain, with horror in their voices, that they are surrounded by “something luminous”.  Then there is silence.  It seems that these boats and aeroplanes are in some way “sucked in” by something, somewhere…  As if someone situated outside our universe was having fun “fishing” humans, as Charles Fort said…

***

Apart from the 5th Norfolk Regiment, another extraordinary “fishing expedition” was almost seen.  It happened in 1909, in a farm near Brecon, Wales.  On Christmas Eve, Owen Thomas’ whole family was gathered around the fireplace in the company of two guests, the Pastor and the Veterinary Surgeon.  Just when they were about to sit at the table, Mrs Thomas asks her son Oliver, aged eleven, to go to the well to fetch some water.

The child puts on his galoshes, for it is snowing, takes a bucket and goes out of the house.  He has scarcely closed the door when he is heard to scream, then call for help.  They rush outside with a lantern.  They see nothing, but the child is now crying out:

” ‘They’ are holding me!  Help!  Help!”

These curious calls seem to be coming from the sky.  Rapidly, they diminish in intensity, as if the child was rising towards the clouds, then an anguished silence falls on the farm’s courtyard.  The Pastor, a lantern in his hand, follows the footsteps that Oliver has left in the snow.  It is then noticed that a few metres from the house, these footsteps suddenly stop as if the child had been lifted from the ground…  He was never found again…

***

So, where would these boats, these aeroplanes, these regiments, these families and these children go?  Perhaps they leave our Time or our Universe.  Most physicists admit today the existence of parallel universes coexisting with ours.  Numerous works have been published on this passionate subject.  In 1965, a Member of New York’s Science Academy, Doctor J. H. Christenson, published an article entitled Time Reversal in which he wrote [I am translating back into English from French]:

“An audacious hypothesis suggests that there exists a phantom universe resembling ours.  There is only a very weak interaction between these two universes, so we don’t see this other world:  it mixes freely with ours…”

Guy Breton, whose work I have translated, adds that, since 1965, the work of the physicists, in this domain, has advanced to the point that their prudent hypotheses have now been replaced by quasi-certitudes.

***

Could this be the After-Life of which we speak?

***

Physicists are prudent about the possibility of one day communicating with these parallel universes.  However, Guy Breton believes that human intelligence is limitless and that knowledge of these parallel universes will be Humanity’s most extraordinary discovery.  A discovery which means that the XXIst Century of our children will be nothing like the world, the science, the metaphysical conceptions and the mentalities that we know today…

***

H. G. Wells said:

“Parallel universes are closer to us than our hands and our feet…”

***

In 1915, British troops landed in the Gallipoli peninsula.

At the beginning of 1915, the French and British Governments decide to organize a common expedition against Turkey whose ports are open only to the German warships.  The aim of this enterprise is to force through the Dardanelles Strait and take control of Constantinople (now Istanbul).  The two Admiralties begin by sending a fleet which comes up against an altogether surprising Turkish defence.  A French battleship, two English battleships and diverse cruisers and destroyers are sunk.  It is then decided to undertake a landing on the Gallipoli peninsula.

In March, a French Expeditionary Corps embarks at Marseille alongside a British Army.

After many mishaps, these troops land on the Southern part of the peninsula, on 25 April.  They would meet with violent resistance there.  To the point that, three months later, despite furious combats led by General Gouraud, they had succeeded in penetrating only six kilometres towards the interior.

The Etats-Majors then decide to create a second Front by attacking the peninsula from the North-East.  On 6 August, sixty thousand men land at Suvla.  They too would come up against a solid Turkish Army.

After some terrible clashes at the foot of Mount Scimitar, the English head South to operate their junction with the Australians who have landed at Gafa Tepe.

It is in the course of one of these marches that one of the most extraordinary events of the whole war takes place.

This occurs on 21 August, in the morning.

On this day, the 5th Norfolk Regiment, or rather what is left of it, that is to say, around four hundred men, receives the order to reinforce a Battalion of Australians and New Zealanders who are having trouble taking a certain Ridge 60, one of the key points in the region.

The 5th Norfolk Regiment therefore starts out.  From the summit of a neighbouring hill, some New Zealand soldiers see it marching on a fairly steep slope, then entering a dip and climbing up a dried-up waterway.

The weather is splendid.  However, the New Zealanders notice an anomaly in the scene.  While the sky is clear, six or seven enormous clouds have been stationary since morning above Ridge 60.  Clouds which a South wind of 6 or 7 kilometres an hour does not move from their position nor change their shape.

Further, another cloud comparable to a layer of very dense fog, which could be 250 metres long and 50 metres thick, seems to be clinging to the ground…

The New Zealanders consider this phenomenon with surprise.  One of them, a Sapper named Reichart, belonging to the 3rd Section of the 1st Company of Engineers, blurts out:

“They’re strange, those clouds that aren’t moving!  I’ve been watching them since this morning, they look solid!”…

One of his mates says to him:

“Look at the one on the ground.  It’s reflecting the sunlight.”

Meanwhile, the 5th Norfolk Regiment continues its climb amongst the stones of the dried-up waterway.  The temperature is high in Turkey, in August, and the English soldiers are perspiring.

After two hours of a difficult march, they finally arrive on a mound.  There, they regroup and march in the direction of Ridge 60 which is partly covered by the strange layer of fog.

From the top of their hill, the New Zealanders observe the English.  Sapper Reichart says to his companion:

“Look, the Pommies are getting to the cloud.  We’ll see if they’re game enough to go in.”

The other one says:

“Why wouldn’t they be?  It’s not poisonous gas…”

Reichart replies:

“Maybe not;  but I don’t know why, that fog doesn’t look right!”

They soon see the 5th Norfolk Regiment reach the edge of the fog and plunge into it without hesitation.  Reichart says:

“It’s so thick that you can’t see anyone in it.”

In ranks of eight, the English Regiment is still penetrating the cloud.

When the last man has disappeared, the New Zealanders still watch the layer of fog.  Sapper Reichart says:

“I wonder if they’re all right.”

The other smiles:

“It won’t be long before we find out…”

And they wait.

After five minutes, as no-one is reappearing, Reichart starts to worry:

“What can they be doing in there?”

Then he immediately cries out:

“Oh!  Look!”

The strange cloud, inside which is the 5th Norfolk Regiment, has lifted from the ground and soon rises, not like ordinary layers of fog which disintegrate in the air, but conserving its shape.  Reichart hurls:

“But where are the Poms?”

On the ground, there is not one man, no weapon, nothing!  The mound is absolutely empty.

These enormous lenticular clouds were photographed in Brazil. A few aviators imprudently penetrated them. Their aeroplanes disappeared.

The twenty-two men of the 1st New Zealand Company are rooted to the spot.  While they are considering the place where four hundred English soldiers have just disappeared into thin air, the layer of fog continues to rise towards the clouds above it.  When it reaches them, they all slowly move North and disappear into the sky.

No trace of the 5th Norfolk Regiment would ever be found again.

Years pass by.  And in 1918, after the capitulation of Turkey, England demands that the men of this Regiment, “Missing in Action”, be returned to her.

The Turks search for them and reply that they have never heard of the 5th Norfolk Regiment.  The English insist, furnish dates, precisions on the places, as well as the testimonies of the New Zealanders.  The Turkish Etat-Major again hunts through its archives.  Only to reply that no prisoners had been taken on 21 August 1915…

***

This story is authentic.  It has been reported by numerous English magazines, by Returned Soldiers’ newspapers which have published the New Zealanders’ testimonies – notably that of Sapper Reichart – and it has been the subject of enquiries, searches, verifications, from both the British and Turkish authorities.  No-one has ever been able to give an explanation…

***

At the epoch, people talked, not only of poisonous gas, but also of “dissolving” gas, invented by the Germans.  But this idea was not retained.  There was also talk of a natural phenomenon, a crater which might have suddenly opened under the feet of the soldiers of the 5th Norfolk Regiment, and which could have closed up again after swallowing the Regiment…  This explanation did not seem very serious, either…  Finally, this disappearance was classed in the big dossier of  the “enigmas” of History.

***

To be continued.

Guy de Maupassant and the UFO

Guy de Maupassant

The story that follows is situated in the XIXth Century.  Guy de Maupassant, who is its author, is one of the greatest French writers.  His testimony comports striking analogies with those of former epochs.  Maupassant was devoted to “the humble truth” as he said himself.  His testimony merits being added to the UFO dossier.  This account was not published in his lifetime.  It appeared for the first time in the second half of the XXth Century.

***

I was working at home, in Etretat, when my domestic announced:

“There’s a monsieur, who wants to speak to Monsieur!”

“Have him enter!…”

I noticed a little man who was bowing.  He had the air of a skinny school teacher with glasses.  He gabbled:

“I beg pardon, Monsieur!  Much pardon for disturbing you, Monsieur…  I am very troubled by the step that I am taking, but I absolutely had to see someone.  There was only you!  I took courage, but truly, I no longer dare…  As soon as I begin, you are going to take me for a madman!…”

“Mon Dieu!  That depends on what you are going to tell me…”

“What I am going to tell you is going to appear bizarre to you…”

“Eh bien, monsieur…  get on with it!”

“Monsieur, I perhaps look a bit mad, but that’s how men look when they have reflected a bit more than others, when they have crossed a little, so little, the boundaries of average thought…  For, do you see, Monsieur, no-one thinks about anything!  Each is busy with his business or his fortune, his pleasures, his life or little stupidities like politics.  But who now thinks?…  Hein!…  Who now?…  No-one!  But I’m getting worked up, Monsieur, I return to the subject…  You don’t know me, Monsieur, because at Etretat I don’t mix with people…  Me, I mostly go onto the cliffs…  I look at the sky, the sea…  Ah!  I adore the cliffs!…  Monsieur…  Would you allow me to ask a question?”

“Dare it, Monsieur!”

“Do you believe that other planets are inhabited?”

I answered without hesitation, without appearing surprised:

“But, certainly, I believe it!”

Then he was moved by vehement joy.

“Ah!  What luck, Monsieur.  Ah!  I breathe…  Ah!  You know, I doubted you!…  Ah! a man would not be truly intelligent, if he didn’t believe in inhabited worlds…  We know nothing about what’s outside, nothing of these thousands of worlds, these flames of stars, hein!…  Ah!  If we knew…

“It wasn’t a shooting star.  I saw it very close.  It was a transparent luminous globe, with something like wings, palpitating vapours around it…  It was darting around, it was turning on itself, instead of a trajectory, yes!…  It was darting around, with a big mysterious sound!…  It passed in front of me…  One would have said a monstrous crystal balloon…  Like a ship in distress, with a panicked crew…  And this strange globe, Monsieur, suddenly made an immense curve and it must have crashed very far into the sea, for I heard something like a cannon firing… !  In any case, everyone, Monsieur, in the surrounding countryside heard this formidable shock…  One would have said that it was thunder, just one thunderclap.  But me, I was there, I was watching, I saw…  I alone, I saw…  If it had fallen on the coast, one would have known at last…  Ah! yes, Monsieur, I saw…  I saw the first airship!…  I saw the first sideral ship sent into the infinity by thinking beings!…”

He had risen, he was exalted,  He opened his arms to figure the progression of the stars.  He says to me:

“Adieu, Monsieur!  You answer nothing?…  But think about it!…  think about it!…  and recount this one day, if you want!…”

***

The same phenomenon described by Maupassant was observed by some Canadian sailors in 1967.

This story surges, itself like an unidentified object, in the Maupassant works.  It has no known sources and is not a scenario, in the manner of his master, Gustave Flaubert, for a work of imagination that he intended to write.  It is also the only text in great literature which evokes an apparition of a flying saucer.  Finally, it is an unknown text by a master of French literature who wrote hundreds of famous short stories and diverse other writings which have all been published.  All, except this text, of which we do not know whether it is the account by an eyewitness who reported it to the author or whether it is Maupassant himself who is recounting something that happened to him.

***

He could have seen it himself and wrote it this way to hide that fact.  We are in 1889.  Four years later, Maupassant sank into total madness.  Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, thinks that not only did he not invent this story, but that he effectively lived it.  However, he was already wary of himself, of his hallucinatory crises and he was unable to bring himself to make the choice between reality and what could have been suggested to him by his illness.

On top of that, even if he was convinced of the reality of his vision, he didn’t dare to publish it because it appeared to him to be too unrealistic for the epoch.  The end of the XIXth Century is the triumph throughout the whole world of positive ideas and, in France, of naturalism, which is above all intransigeant fidelity to reality.  He was himself one of the representatives of this school of thought, and he certainly found that his visions of flying objects were very little in conformity with the mentality and the curiosity of the epoch, in love with scientism and rationality…

***

Maupassant was a man of great culture who had contributed to the making of the culture of his time, and not only in France.  Therefore, he cannot be reproached with not having, at the same time, gone against this culture.  Our technological culture, the first trips into Space, the infinite proliferation of flying objects, have habituated us to fictions which prefigure the scientific realities of tomorrow.  An observation like the one reported here, would appear today in all the papers and the witness would be interviewed on television.

1889 is the year when Clement Ader starts building the first aeroplane.   We don’t even know if it ever flew.  The word “aviation” has only existed for about fifty years.  Therefore, Maupassant’s scrupules and discretion are perfectly comprehensible.

But he had already intruded into modern fantasy two years earlier.  He wrote Le Horla in 1887, and this abominable apparition would inspire the authors of fantastic and horrific realism to this day…

***

Etretat where Guy de Maupassant was living in 1885.

UFOs in History

A celestial phenomenon observed in Paris on 10 February 1875, from 5:25 to 6:10 in the evening.

People often say “at the UFO epoch” when referring to the second half of the XXth Century…  In the same way that they say “at the time of the Inquisition” to designate certain periods in the past.  “Practices inherited from the Middle Ages”, someone will declare while denouncing some of today’s horrors.  As if cruelty were not of all times.  As if the apparition of the first UFOs only went back to the days immediately following the Second World War…

“In the night of 12 October 1621, around eight o’clock at night, the Moon being in its last quarter, the air started to lighten in the East.  For roughly an hour and a half, the sky became as light and clear as in the most beautiful mornings of Summer.  This gave great astonishment to the inhabitants of Lyon.  And the greatest part of them were looking up, because of this brightness, when they noticed in the sky some very strange things and these things were not natural…

“Above the big Place de Bellecour, they saw appearing a sort of great mountain, on which there was the form of a castle in a round shape and from this round-shaped castle, which was moving in the air with prodigious bounds, flashes of lightning were coming out, and it seemed to float on the whole of the Port du Rhone quarter, on Saint-Michel and above the Saone River.

“Around the Place des Terreaux, there was seen by more than four hundred people, this same day, a round star which was moving, and which was very luminous and as if surrounded by flashes of lightning…

“Over the city of Nimes there was seen at the same time, and principally in the following night of 13 October, around ten o’clock at night, just above the amphitheatre, a sort of brightly shining sun which was dancing, surounded by luminous torches, and this flamboyant sun seemed to want to travel straight onto the Roman tower, that is called La Tour Magne.  And this greatly astonished all of the inhabitants of the city.

“On the city of Montpellier, from ten o’clock in the evening to three o’clock in the morning, was seen a very luminous star which was moving above some houses, and from this star lances of fire were coming out, and all the people were outside and were observing this with great astoundment.”…

A few years earlier, and without predudice to the Mediterranean people’s gift for embellishment, three strange boats appeared off Genes.  According to the numerous testimonies of the epoch, they were a type of floating carriage, perfectly spherical, surrounded and as if haloed by long filaments of fire “the same as the tongues of dragons”.  The power of suggestion of these engines must have been considerable, since several witnesses, such as the son of Sieur de Loro and the brother of Signor Bagatello as well as several women, died from emotion.  So much so that, the next day 16 August, the Bishop of Genes had a solemn Te Deum said in the cathedral…

In the Maya temple at Palenque, Mexico, there is this famous sculpted stone where some see a man at the controls of an engine propulsed by reaction.

New apparition:  in the month of January 1609, above Angers this time, the whole city rushed into the street to see torches of fire moving in the sky.  They resembled “fat thistles all ardent” surrounded by immense red and blue lights.  After a few minutes of slow navigation the “things” concentrate their flight above the Saint Maurice and Saint Pierre churches.  The inhabitants, terrorised, see in this a sign from Heaven and rush all together into these two churches thinking that if the city was going to be attacked by these “things”, the holy places at least would be preserved…

Let us go back a few years more in time, but still staying in this rich period, into the XVIth Century which saw, it seems, a veritable epidemic of flying objects…

At the beginning of Winter 1578, on 21 December, right in the middle of the day, there is seen to appear in the Geneva sky a “star” the size of the Moon and which was moving very fast.  The star in question is trailing behind it “a great abundance of fire”.  One of the testimonies, reported in a book published by the Parisian Editor Jean Pinart in 1579, gives the precision that the “star” had left behind it in the sky three great black arcs which resembled smoke and that, around Geneva, several fields had been burnt…

One month later, a new prodigy, in France this time, still reported in the Discours merveilleux et espouvantables des Signes et Prodiges by Jean Pinart:

“On 23 January 1579, around six or seven o’clock in the evening, above a village on the Seine River named Essone, there appeared a great dragon of round shape which was vomitting fire in great abundance.  And this dragon followed the river, and it was said that it sent out thunder, and there was a great flooding of the waters, to such an extent that several boats of food supplies were lost, even though there had been no storm nor earthquake.  Then, the dragon danced around and it disappeared and no-one saw it again…”

***

On 7 August 1566, over Bale, numerous spherical objects (some dark-coloured, others luminous) seemed to be in combat. This lasted several hours and terrified the population.

Most of these texts come from the Bibliotheque nationale where a friend of Louis Pauwels found them.  They were in a little book from the 1600s only re-published in  the XIXth Century and drawn up by what could be called the “journalists” of the epoch, to give an account of a particularly abundant series of prodigies.

***

They occurred in the sky, on the surface of water or on the ground but they all ended in a more or less sudden manner in the atmosphere…  They were all visions of unidentified objects which are of course interpreted according to the cultural references of the epoch.  As we have seen, they are round castles, surrounded by flashes of lightning, or round stars which move very rapidly throwing out blinding lights, or carriages (the only vehicles at the epoch which could serve as comparison) which float in the air surrounded by serpents of light or by fat thistles.  Forms where the sphere predominates and which emit red or blue lights, or fabulous animals (what impression would the Concorde make in the sky of Henri IV of France?) which vomit flames.  What is particularly remarkable is that – on the contrary to what happens today – all of these phenomena are observed at the same time by hundreds or thousands of people and always in well determined places…

***

On 14 April 1561, the inhabitants of Nuremberg fearfully watched objects with strange forms performing a fantastic ballet in the air above their city.

Everything invites us to think that these phenomena totally resemble the observations of flying saucers which appeared regularly in the press in the XXth Century.

Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, thinks that it would be fascinating to undertake a systematic study of all of these discours on the prodigies of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries which, aside from the moralising conclusion attached to all of them – Heaven is sending us these signs to exhort us to repent and prepare us for the Last Judgement – are nothing more than reports taken down at the time, certain of which are excellent and worthy of the reports by our Police Forces today…

Why would these authors have invented these stories?  The most striking thing about them is perhaps the relative dryness of their accounts, their sobriety in any case.  They never try to embellish their testimony or make ulterior events depend on these manifestations.  That these events had also been seen in Geneva, in the austere capital of calvinism, is another proof of their authenticity:  the mistrust of the Reformed Church for anything marvellous of divine origin is well known.

***

Louis Pauwels does not necessarily conclude that flying saucers exist, although certain testimonies are often particularly serious and troubling.  He simply ponders the constance of these phenomena throughout all human History.  And the constance of these apparitions and of these hallucinations in the sky should lead, along with research and objective, material proof, to systematic speculation about this remarkable permanence in History…

***

I should like to add that, although I believe that people really do see these things, I do not necessarily believe that they come from another planet.  I think that they could come from the Future.  A Future where Science has managed to find an answer to the question of the expansion and contraction of Time and Space and has been able to build machines for their biologists and anthropologists, not to mention environmentalists, to visit the past.

All that work and money going into doing something that people do already today without machines.  Wouldn’t it be easier to study how they do it and develop a method that other people can use?  Of course, this would involve scientists studying all the different fields of spiritualty and they seem intent on studying only material things.  Pity.

In 1557, the inhabitants of Bale saw in the sky an object having the form of an "immense piece of reddened metal". This mysterious "thing" performed numerous evolutions before disappearing. One century earlier, in 1461, the inhabitants of Arras had witnessed the same phenomenon.

This story was found in a treatise written by Agobard, the Bishop of Lyon, himself.  Agobard relates the facts but denies their veracity for he considers them as being contrary to the dogmas.

***

No other people have mentioned this prodigious adventure but there are many others of the same order.  For it must be said that these sorts of stories are fairly common at this epoch.  To the point that the Capitulaires of Charlemagne and of Louis le Debonnaire mention the punishments imposed on the creatures sailing on airships who are accused of destroying vines and harvests…

For there to be laws and rules reprimanding the misdemeanors committed by these mysterious beings, their appearances in the sky must have been numerous…

***

Montfoucon de Villars writes:

“One saw in the air these creatures of human form, sometimes drawn up for battle marching in good order, or standing armed, or camped beneath superb pavillions – at other times on airships of admirable structure whose flying fleet sailed where the zephirs took them…”

Guy Breton, whose work I have translated, surmises that these beings were wearing dorsal helicopters which allowed them to leave the spaceship and descend easily onto Earth…

***

The angels represented on the mosaics of the Cathedral in Montreale (Sicily), like those of Cefalu, have six wings. Could they be the blades of an individual helicopter?

One day in 842, at the time of the siege of Angers by Charles the Bald, the Angevins saw, in the sky, creatures having “the form of grasshoppers each wearing six wings and armed with teeth made of metal”.  These beings were lined up in battle order and flew in good order, led by scouts and airborne diving machines of slimmer form.  “After having circled above the troops of Charles the Bald, these strange metallic grasshoppers disappeared in the direction of the sea…”  To Guy Breton, these metallic grasshoppers, these giant grasshoppers, very much seem to resemble helicopters.

***

Guy Breton one day had the feeling that he was looking at the most ancient representation of a dorsal helicopter in the Cefalu Cathedral, in Sicily, where there are admirable mosaics from the XIIth Century representing angels…  Angels with six wings, of which two give the impression of turning behind them, or above their heads…

Guy Breton says that he doesn’t want to shock anybody, but he asks the question:  What if angels were extra-terrestrials who had descended to Earth with a dorsal helicopter, and were transformed into celestial people by the men of Biblical Antiquity?…

***

IXth Century trip in a UFO

Many Mediaeval chroniclers tell of mysterious balls in the sky. However, the one that landed in Lyon in 852 was inhabited...

On this Summer day in 852, the eighteenth year of the reign of France’s Louis le Debonnaire, it is hot in Lyon and numerous people are strolling along the banks of the Rhone seeking some cooler air.  Suddenly, someone points to the sky:

“Oh!  Look!…”

The good people look up and freeze in fear.  At the same instant, other cries resound throughout the city:

“Come and see!  Come and see!  There is great marvel in the sky!…”

Then, coming out of houses, convents, churches, men and women invade the streets and remain stunned when they see what everyone else is seeing.  There, above a prairie, at a height of three houses, a thing which doesn’t resemble anything that is known is floating in the air, motionless and silent.

Is it a chariot?  A vessel?  A beast?  A dragon?  No-one can say.

Suddenly, the thing begins to descend slowly towards the prairie and the good people of Lyon, terrified, fall to their knees.

The thing continues to descend.  It is now a few feet from the ground.  Finally, it lands with extraordinary gentleness.  The people of Lyon, prostrate in the grass, don’t dare to move.  Completely petrified with fear, they silently wait for whatever is now going to happen.

A long time ticks by.

Suddenly, a cry erupts from the crowd.  On one side of the thing, a door has just opened.  A staircase unfolds, and human beings appear at the top of the steps.  There are four of them:  three men and a woman wearing costumes similar to those of the Lyonnais.  Now, they are coming down the stairs, mutually supporting each other.

The crowd, astounded, watches them.

They continue to descend, reach the ground, advance in a stagger.  They seem stunned.

When they have gone about fifty paces, the staircase down which they have come folds up on its own, then the door through which they had passed closes, and the thing, still silent, leaves the ground and rises slowly above the crowd.  When it reaches about one hundred feet, it suddenly makes a prodigious bound into the sky and disappears behind the clouds.

Then, the four mysterious people let themselves fall to the ground.  They seem to be at the limit of their strength.  The woman in particular seems to be in a very bad way:  she is crying and her arms and legs are shaking.

The Lyonnais rise to their feet.  Someone calls out:

“Careful!  Don’t go near them, they’re sorcerers!”

But one of the men from the sky speaks in a tired voice and his language is that of the Lyonnais:

“We are not sorcerers.  We are from a neighbouring village.  We have been taken by genies…  Do not be afraid of us!…  But rather, help this woman who is ill…”

All four of them look so pitiful that some good people approach them and ask whence they have come.  The man gives the name of his village.

“We will explain everything, but look after this woman, she has been so frightened…”

Then, despite those who are calling for death and yelling about witchcraft, they are taken inside a house where they are put to bed after having drunk some cool wine in which revigorating herbs are floating…

The crowd is gathered in front of the door.  It will wait for hours before the men from the sky have enough strength to speak.  Towards evening at last, one of them gives this extraordinary account:

“Voila.  All four of us were in a field when this thing that you saw came down from the sky and landed near us.  Beings similar to men came out and called to us.  We were so frightened that it was impossible for us to move.  Then they came and invited us to mount inside their airship.  They told us that they were not evildoers.  We followed them and the thing flew away.  We were behind some round windows through which we could see the earth beneath us.  We saw countrysides, rivers and cities;  then we entered into a fog and, suddenly, we thought that we were in Paradise…  One of the genies told us that we were above the clouds.

“After that, we slept.  When we awoke, we noticed that the thing had come down in an unknown land.  The genie who was taking care of us came to get us and took us inside a palace where there were some very beautiful women.  He told us that these were their women and that we must be able to see that they weren’t demons.

“Then he took us on a visit of the city and we mounted again inside the thing.  But before coming back here, we were taken on a trip to different places on Earth.  We came down in countries of ice and in countries of sand where the heat was torrid.  Before letting us leave, a while ago, the genie said to us:

” ‘Tell other men what you have seen, and tell them that we don’t want to hurt them, that we do not come to throw venom on their fruits, poison their fountains, excite storms or make hail fall on their harvests…  Tell them so that your kings know it!’

“There, you know everything! “

The Lyonnais, who had listened to this fabulous story, are perplexed.  Suddenly, a man cries out:

“I don’t believe any of this!  These people are sorcerers.  They come to make it hail!…”

Another says:

“It’s the Duke of Benevent who sends them!”

Soon, the crowd is yelling:

“Yes, Yes!  It’s Grimoald, the Duke of Benevent, who sends them to massacre our harvests!  They are sorcerers!…”

“Death!  They have to be burnt!…”

And they are led away.

According to Agobard, Bishop of Lyon in the IXth Century, the inhabitants of his city had what is known today as "a close encounter of the third type".

While waiting for the stake and fire to be prepared, the screaming crowd makes them walk around the city.  They are insulted.  Stones are thrown at them.  They are promised to Hell.

“Death to the sorcerers!  Death!”

But a man runs up, alerted by all this noise.  It is Agobard, Bishop of Lyon.  He wants to know what is happening.

It is explained to him that these sorcerers come from the sky to spoil the harvests and that they are going to be burnt.

Agobard is a good man.  He turns to the four prisoners and asks them to explain.  They recount their extraordinary adventure once more.  The crowd cries out:

“You see, they are sorcerers, they have to be burnt!”

But Agobard shakes his head.

“No!  I strictly forbid you to burn them.  These three men and this woman are not sorcerers.  For the simple reason that they are lying, that they never went to travel in the air, for such things are impossible!”

“But we all saw them descend from the sky!”

“Then you were all seeing things!”

And for three quarters of an hour, he explains all his reasons for them not to believe in such a prodigy.  He adds:

“And another thing, those who affirm that they were witnesses to it could well risk being taken for sorcerers themselves…”

As can be guessed, the Lyonnais then declare to their Bishop that the whole thing was only a dream.

And the four prisoners are released and return to their village while, in Lyon, hundreds of men and women – without confiding in anybody – would keep in their memories the obsessive image of a mysterious thing which had descended from the sky one fine Summer’s day…

***

To be continued.

Hindsight – First Memory

Mum and I at the beach.

My foot’s stuck.  My fists clutch the cream cot’s flat, wooden bars.  I’ve done this before.  At least twice.  Maybe more.

The room is dim.  The blinds are down.  There’s grey light in the rectangle of the open door.  I can’t get that foot out!  I pull myself up on the right foot, my body off-balance.  I cling to the bars, find my balance…  then the left foot gets stuck!  Every time!

My right leg is shaking.  I try again.  Not quite.  The sheet and blanket are holding my foot.

To the right, there’s a bedside table.  Then the double bed.  This is Nan Dennis’ house.  We live in this room.  There’s a big mirror on the wardrobe door.  I lean to try to see myself.  I lean too far and nearly fall.  My left foot unfolds.  My body wobbles.  I hang on tight!  I crow with surprise.  How did I do that?  I’m standing up!  On both legs!

I look up with a joyful smile and see the silhouette in front of the grey light.  I know who that is!  That’s my Mummy!  I laugh to share my joy.  She doesn’t move.  She doesn’t talk.  She doesn’t tell me how clever I am.  She just stands in the doorway, her full skirt a triangle from waist to mid-calf.  And I’m happy and smiling and laughing and crowing…  And there’s no face.  Just the motionless silhouette…

***

A few years later, I tell my mother about the first time I stood up and how happy I was.  She frightens me in some way.  Perhaps she screams at me.  I know that she tells me I’m lying.  I can’t possibly remember back that far!

But I do.

***

Even more years later, I mention it again.  What’s wrong with Mummy?  There’s fear.  Hers and mine.  I don’t understand.  And I’m a liar again.  I can’t remember!  I was too young!

But I wasn’t.  And I do.

***

Later again, my aunt mentions my broken arm.  Broken arm?  Which arm?  The right.

I don’t remember.

How did it happen?  No-one knows.  I must have fallen down the kitchen step at Nan Dennis’ place.  We live in our own house now.  When a doctor saw it, the bones were already knitting together.  I was about fourteen months old.  A clean break.  He put sticking plaster around it.  The bones hadn’t moved so he didn’t have to break my arm again.

I’d been crying every night when I rolled on it.  I cried when I was having my bath.  Mummy said that it was around the time that I’d started having my bath in the big bathtub.  She thought that I was just frightened.  She put my baby bath in the big tub but I still cried.  One day, I tried to run away from her and she grabbed my arm.  I screamed.  Daddy was there that time.  So we went to the doctor’s.

I don’t remember.

***

Many, many years later, in hindsight, I wondered if it was true that no-one knew how I’d broken my arm.  Mummy’s mental health might have helped my arm to break.  How could no-one see that a child had a broken arm?  Why was Mummy so scared when I remembered the first time that I stood up?  Was she afraid that I would remember how my arm had been broken?

I don’t.

***

Henry Cavendish was the greatest scholar of his time.

There is another Cavendish, more famous than John William, but just as mysterious as the fifth Duke of Portland.  This Cavendish died in 1810.  His fortune, inherited from his uncle, was fabulous and his mystery remains impenetrable.  He was the greatest scholar of his time, the first to have calculated with precision the density of the terrestrial globe.  In fundamental discoveries, he also formulated the composition of water and precisely gave that of air.  He is doubtless the discoverer of electricity, but he refused to publish the rest of his capital discoveries on energies.  It is safe to say that all modern Science comes from Henry Cavendish, who was born in Nice in 1731…

However, this ancestor of the underground Duke does not seem to have belonged to the human species.  Of maladive timidity, he had no contact with any living being, except for the members and correspondents of scholarly societies.  For ordinary relations with his fellow-men, he communicated only by signs or by written messages.  One day, he is shown through the window a couple making love inside a bedroom in the building opposite.  He asks to be told what it is that these people could possibly be doing.  Another day when he is served lamb shanks, he asks very seriously how many legs this race of animal has.  At the end of his life, he gives the day and time of his death, right to the minute.

When he enters into agony, one of the rare persons assisting him asks him if he wants any help from religion.  He asks what that means and what a priest is…

Henry Cavendish does not wear a mask;  but his face and his whole life is his mask.  A mask which, like his descendant, he never accepts to remove.

Are such strange destinies still those of human beings?  Those who hide themselves like this behind the Cavendish mask, are they something other than human beings?

***

The story of the fifth Duke of Portland holds two other mysteries.  John William Cavendish of Portland had a younger brother and never did two brothers resemble each other less than these two:  John William was, according to the little that we know of him, a very ugly man and his brother George Rentinck was endowed with all the seductions of the Earth. A dandy full of wit, who had Prime Minister Disraeli’s ear, his existence is a perpetual round of sporting and amorous exploits.

Women with the reputation for being the most inaccessible in High Society succumb, his jockeys win all of the big prizes and he himself excels in all physical exercises.  One day in Autumn 1848, when a local lord of the manor had invited him to stay for two days, he asks his groom to precede him in the cabriolet which is waiting in the courtyard of Welbeck Castle.  In his usual fashion, he intends walking the ten kilometres to work up an appetite.  As he hasn’t arrived at ten o’clock at night, they go to look for him…  He is found standing, leaning against a wooden fence, seeming to be looking at the great prairie beneath the moonlight.  He is dead.  The mystery of this death has never been elucidated…

***

He was probably assassinated by his brother John William, although there is no proof of it.

Before separating that evening, the two brothers had a violent argument.  Apparently over a question of money…  The official version is that George died from a cardiac spasm, which would be rather astonishing for a sportsman like him.

***

Remorse for having killed, voluntarily or not, his brother and also his physical disgrace seem to have encouraged John William to seek the obscurity of the tomb well before his death.

***

It seems that the fifth Duke of Portland had a really horrible physical appearance.  There is hesitation on whether it was leprosy or a cancer of the face…  Which explains the mask.  However, the mask is the cause of another complication in this story…

Did the Duke of Portland, who lived masked, accept to be photographed (left)? If so, except for the beard, his resemblance with Thomas-Charles Druce would be astonishing.

At his death, a lady came to claim his fabulous inheritance which would normally have gone to one of his distant cousins.  She was the widow of the owner of a London bazar.  And here is how she justified her pretensions before the tribunal, for the case was heard and was one of the longest and the most talked about of the XIXth Century.  She assured with great vehemence that in reality, John William Cavendish, Fifth Duke of Portland, came every day to London, in his closed berline with the curtains drawn, to transform himself into a certain Charles Druce, who held a bazar in Baker Street.  Charles Druce was now buried but his widow affirmed before the Court that the coffin was empty and that in reality Cavendish and the little London shopkeeper were one and the same person.  Assisted by a clever lawyer and several witnesses, she did not cease to demand from 1898 onwards the opening of coffin number 13160 in Highgate Cemetery, which, according to her, contained only a piece of lead removed, she said, from the roof of one of the Cavendish residences, Colcomb House…

This case lasted fifty years.  For half a century, the English newspapers gave an account of the evolution of the case.  After the widow’s death, then that of her son, one of his descendants, a modest carpenter, living in Australia, sets the case off again.  Lacking money to pay the lawyers, he creates a “Society with shares for the restitution of the inheritance of the Duke of Portland”.  A whole crowd of small subscribers rush to enter it, which creates a strong movement in favour of the carpenter in public opinion.  Soon, no-one in the kingdom has any doubt that the Duke and the shopkeeper would end up being one and the same Portland and that there would be people everywhere blessed by this good fortune.  A second hearing opens, documents of the first importance are stolen from a witness in the street, one day during a fog, and the newpapers relay subscribers’ and public opinion to demand that the coffin be finally opened.  On an icy-cold morning in 1907, the heavy stone which seals Charles Druce’s tomb is finally lifted…

When the undertaker raises the shroud, a horribly decomposed face appears.  Which does not prevent one of the witnesses, representing the public ministry, to recognize the shopkeeper’s cadaver.  From then on, the cause is finished and our carpenter returns to Australia crying over the dream which evaporated in the London fog.

A lot of people said that there had been substitution of the body and it must be admitted that the mystery of the life and death of the troglodyte Duke has never really been elucidated.

***

The other Cavendish, the scholar, is just as mysterious as his nephew.  Only one engraving represents him dressed in a worn, floating overcoat, a wide-brimmed hat which hides part of his face, and deformed trousers.  This Cavendish, the founder of Chemistry and Physics, is truly the creator of modern Science.  Curiously, he kept secret a certain number of his discoveries after having succeeded in isolating hydrogen and finding the synthesis of water.  At the same time, he pursues the first decisive works on electricity.  A laboratory, founded in 1870, shortly before an important part of his researches are found, bears his name.  This laboratory was the birthplace of atomic physics.

Cavendish remains, however, a human enigma and, according to the rare people who approached him, he appeared to be totally different in nature to common mortals.  Even while alive, his celebrity was immense.  However, almost no-one saw him.  He lived as a recluse, detached from all human contingencies, showing fear whenever one of his fellow humans approached him, dissimulating as best he could his physical appearance.  In his descendant, these characteristics are even more exaggerated and it is difficult to conceive a man more foreign to the human condition than his nephew John William.  The term “mutant” takes on all of its sense here, like Gaspar Hauser, for example, who was also a creature who was perfectly unclassable.

***

The Cavendish mask

The great underground salon at Welbeck Castle.

Twenty-four monumental chandeliers have just been lit.  Their pale light shines on extraordinary riches.  One does not immediately notice the dozens of admirable paintings, so immense is the room.  Its floor, which shines with a gentle, even brilliance, could bear hundreds of dancing couples.  Along the high walls, covered in precious tapisteries, fifty enormous armchairs take up no more space than a flotilla of skiffs tied up on the Thames.  A table in solid Brazillian rosewood which measures fifteen square metres looks like a side-table, floating in this immensity.  Right at the end of the room, a tiny, little pinhead stuck into a curtain which has the dimensions of an opera curtain, is an alabaster bust.

Pressed one against the other, there are paintings by masters from all epochs.  There are Gainsboroughs with their sumptuous blues, diaphanous Turners, vast landscapes by Constable, majestuous portraits by Reynolds, Rosetti primitives, all rare.  Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of chefs-d’oeuvre…

And why are the twenty-four chandeliers alight, when it is daytime outside?  Outside?  Fifteen or twenty metres higher, we should say, for we are in a subterranean room, the biggest room in an enormous castle, invisible and secret, built in the depths of an English manor which emerges up there, in the Welbeck woods.  Beyond this monstruous room, there is a white marble rotunda and a cyclopean staircase which descends into darkness…  Galleries, the extremities of which cannot be distinguished, open all around a circular landing where Queen Victoria’s carriage could turn around with ease.  Linings of noble stone and carved wood provide a sure barrier against humidity, the smell of which is however badly removed by an air current which is kept in circulation by a fan.  At its extremity, the rotunda is locked by a high double-door, covered in bronze ornaments.  If we take the trouble to open this cathedral door, we would finally accede to the master bedroom.  There, the feet sink up to the ankles into a woollen carpet which is no less than one hundred square metres.  The furniture, in dark island wood, is decorated with silver.  To make the windowless walls less oppressing, they have been covered with vast, dark hangings.  Only some crystal bottles and brushes mounted on gold, placed on an ebony table, attract a bit of light.  The whole funereal decor is arranged around two very singular objects:  a narrow bed, or rather a miserable bunk of boards with a horse-hair blanket on it.  In the dim light, the second object glows on a black velvet cushion:  it is a skull, doubtless ancient, covered with a green patina…

Welbeck Castle in the County of Nottingham, property of the Dukes of Portland.

This description, which throws us into a dreamland, corresponds however to strict reality.  It is inside the living mortuary, we could say, of the great-cousin of the last Duke of Portland, William John Cavendish, that we have just entered.  Fifth Duke of Portland by distant affiliation, this enigmatic, extraordinary man, whose life is unknown to everyone, and whose face no-one ever saw, died in 1879.  To this day, nobody has been able to pierce his true personality, know what he did, or even once perceive his face, for he was buried with the mask that never left him in public.

However, what we know for certain is that he was the most singular builder of his time, but was irresistably drawn to living underground.  Like the spiritist societies which proliferated throughout the world, at this same epoch…  The moment that his father expired up there in one of the manor’s bedrooms, he had advertised throughout the whole county, and even as far as London, offers of employment concerning all of the professions represented in the kingdom.  In the days that followed, a whole army of artisans and workmen descended on Welbeck, without counting the many architects and decorators, who passed for the best in the British Isles.  They would stay there for ten years.

Soon, a little town of barracks lays seige to the manor, the inhabitants all attentive to the orders of the enigmatic lord.  The to-ing and fro-ing is incessant, carts transport day after day mountains of materials, however, no visible transformation affects the manor’s exterior aspect.  All the activity is taking place underneath the antique construction’s foundations.  For years, the best terrassiers dig the earth, replaced, as soon as a tunnel is dug, by a multitude of carpenters, plasterers, and masons.  It is now on a clever ant’s nest that the manor is sitting;  directly beneath its foundations, a twin castle is “rising” with more than one hundred richly furnished chambers where never a soul would penetrate;  high gothic galleries arrive at long corridors with cintred vaults which descend into the earth on a gentle slope.  Their extremities open onto the countryside through more than fifty dissimulated or grillaged access points, or again into one of the enormous pavillions which rise in the castle’s immense park.  Sometimes the master surges out of one of these issues with the purpose of surprising his servants.  His face masked, he gives brief orders or roughly scolds those who appear to lack enthusiasm.

At the centre of the subterranean dispositive are vast stables which, by long, sloping, circular corridors, arrive in the castle’s court of honour.  It is in fact along a veritable subterranean road paved with unpolished marble, bordered by footpaths and lighted by imposing bronze candelabra, that John William Cavendish’s heavy berline takes off at the same time each morning.  To go where?  It is difficult to say…  To begin with, the berline always has its curtains drawn and no-one knows whether our lord is inside it, particularly as the coachmen and grooms have received strict orders not to open the door on any pretext whatsoever.  Once at Harcourt House, the Duke’s London residence, the coach again enters a dark underground where the coachman hastily unharnesses the horses and leaves the berline which has remained closed…

How does Cavendish then occupy his days?  This is even more difficult to know, for no-one sees the Duke, either during the day in a circle or a club, or during the evening in a salon or at the theatre, or even in the House of Lords, where he has the right to sit.

One can search the archives and the genealogies, that is all that can be found on the fifth Duke of Portland.  There is however another Cavendish who has left his mark on History and is just as strange as the troglodyte Duke.

To be continued.

%d bloggers like this: