First UFO Sighting in America

WORLD HISTORY | April 28, 2019

Lights in the sky. Source: (inquisitr.com)

While alien abductions and UFO sightings may seem to be a 20th-century American fad, it seems that humans have been witnessing visitors from beyond our planet for much longer. In fact, the first documented UFO sighting in America actually occurred before the country was even founded. Several years after John Winthrop and his fellow Puritans left England and began their life in the New World, they allegedly encountered visitors from another world.

The first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, was responsible for chronicling the adventures of the settlers. His journal entry on March 1, 1639, described a bizarre incident which had occurred earlier that year. According to Winthrop, three men were rowing down Muddy River when they witnessed a strange light in the sky above them. Muddy River was located at Back Bay Fens about two miles from Charlestown and flowed through swampland before emptying into a tidal basin of the Charles River.  

John Winthrop. Source: (genius.com)

The witnesses claimed to have seen the light jumping back and forth between Back Bay Fens, Charlestown, and the Charles River. The light was also described as flaming up while standing still then transforming into a swine when it ran. The event was said to have continued for two to three hours, after which the three men found themselves a mile upstream from where they were when the lights first appeared. They had no memory of rowing themselves in that direction.

Winthrop’s Journal. Source: (loc.gov)

According to Winthrop, one of the witnesses was a man by the name of James Everell, whom he described as “a sober, discreet man.” The other two witnesses were unnamed, but he went on to say that “diverse other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place.” In his 1825 edition of Winthrop’s Journal, John Savage posits that during that time period, the incident would most likely have been concluded to be the work of the devil.

Ignis fatuus. Source: (todayifoundout.com)

Modern researchers, Savage included, have more scientific explanations for the occurrence. The light is thought to have been “ignis fatuus,” which is a glow often seen over marshes which are thought to be caused by the combustion of gases from the decomposition of organic matter. Disputers of this theory, however, point out that the light described by the witnesses was shooting across the sky rather than rising from the swamp.

Researchers have also attempted to explain the other characteristics of the incident. The transformation of the lights into a swine-like formation is explained by pareidolia, which is the tendency to see familiar images in random patterns. The witnesses would have been very likely to have encountered swine that day as the hamlet, also called Muddy River, was used for storing pigs and other cattle at that time. Therefore, the image of swine would have been fresh in the minds of the three men.

Pareidolia Clouds. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

As far as the idea that the lights had somehow transported the men upstream, there are several possible explanations. The most likely one is simply an embellishment. Every fish story has at least some exaggeration to make it more exciting. During their account of the event, the three men claim to have been sitting still throughout the light display; however, this is unlikely due to the great tidal flow that Muddy River would have had in 1639, before the damming of Charles River. Thus, it would have required effort on the part of the three men just to maintain their current position. If they were rowing against the tide to maintain position, then it is also possible that they overcompensated and rowed further upstream. Other possibilities include wind and reverse tidal flow.

Charles River. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

The 1639 sighting was not the only one to be documented by John Winthrop. A similar event happened to another group of three men in a boat on their way to Boston, according to a journal entry dated January 18, 1644. Winthrop goes on to say yet another event occurred a week later over Boston Harbor, only this time there was a strange voice over the water in addition to the strange light. This time, Winthrop offered his own explanation for the phenomenon: the devil had possessed the body of a sailor who had recently perished at sea.

Tags: events | ufo

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