Note: This is a small portion of a chapter in a forthcoming book.
The UFO community was first made aware of illustrations of UFO-like events from the 1500s in Carl Jung’s “Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky” (first published in 1958). The widely available English paperback changed the last word in the title to “Skies” and was published in 1959 and rereleased 1961.
It is clear that Jung was fascinated by the flying saucer phenomenon from the moment it started and he also took an interest in the contactee movement. In 1957 the editor of “New Republic” wrote Jung asking for his comments about UFOs. In a December 1957 letter Jung replied that it was both “puzzling as it is fascinating.” He went on to write that there was overwhelming evidence of their “legendary or mythological” nature but he then added, “one almost must regret that the Ufos seem to be real after all.” Few people truly understand precisely what Jung believed about the phenomenon. In essence, Jung repeatedly wrote, “something is seen, one doesn’t know what.” In such circumstances, observers project their own meaning onto an unknown. This involved the concept of “archetypes,” which is beyond this brief article.
In his 1958 book Jung reprinted two previously unreported broadsheet wood cuttings showing crosses, tubes shooting out balls of light, and other objects fighting in the sky over Nuremberg in 1554 and 1561. The pictures often turn up in UFO documentaries and in books on ancient aliens. However, what is not commonly known is that there are numerous other similar reports and broadsheets depicting aerial displays that have never become widely known to the public.
In the early 1990s, after finishing the book People of the Web and working on its sequel Grand Illusions, I began going through reams of these broadsheets from the 1500s and 1600s. About a dozen illustrations caught my attention with one of the most curious of them from 1591. I did not include them in the book because I had not yet had all of the reports translated. It was a good decision that I hesitated.
A “broadsheet” was essentially the newspaper of the day and was a large woodcutting used to make large printed sheets. At the bottom of each illustration was an explanation and description of the events depicted in the woodcutting. The broadsheets were sometime colorized but sometimes published in black ink.
The Germany broadsheets are accompanied by a text composed of archaic German printed in a flourished style making it difficult to decipher. While I can read and translate German, this archaic style was too much for me to decode, so I contracted with the Chairman of the German Department at what was then Memphis State University to translate the report. He was totally mystified by what was in the Augsburg report and the picture (shown above), and for this article only some of the translation is included.
The most striking image in the picture should be obvious to those interested in UFOs. In the bottom left side is an object sitting on the ground that looks precisely like a flying saucer—portals and all. The people depicted in the picture are looking at the sky and pointing at the odd object.
The German Professor was completely befuddled by the object and had no guess at all about what it could be. Since I first issued the photo in a magazine article in the 1990s and on the internet about 10 years ago, it has been more widely circulated.
The event cited in the broadsheet took place through the night of September 7-8, 1591 in Augsburg, Germany and the famous Georg Kress wrote the report and carved the illustration. The text relates that “between 7 and 8 o’clock at night, a very extraordinary, wonderful, very long and frightening ray appeared, having its origin from the North and coming down very low towards the earth. Its tips were divided into two parts and was visible for a very long time at 9 o’clock it disappeared.” The bulk of the remaining commentary attributes the sighting to God and calls for the community to not tempt God. Nowhere in the written report does it directly refer to the saucer-like object sitting on the ground. However, more research has revealed the identity of the odd object.
After going through a few hundred of the old broadsheets it became obvious that most of the reports of “rods” and “rays” from the sky referred to light pillars and beams of sunlight coming through clouds, something all of us have seen. A wide range of other meteorological phenomena are depicted in the texts including lightning, sun dogs, ball lightning, rainbows, and a host of other known anomalies. But not all of the broadsheets are so easily explainable.
The Augsburg event is clearly one of the oddest of all the events depicted in the old broadsheets—only because of the saucer-like object. It was strange to me that the object on the ground, looking like a landed flying saucer, wasn’t specifically mentioned in the text accompanying the illustration. The text does mention Ezekiel and also mentions something coming down from the sky that looked like the moon in color and brilliance. It certainly looks like a landed flying saucer and the people depicted are arranged around it. The Professor who did the translation had been to Augsburg and knew of no buildings, structures, or fortifications that were there that even remotely resembled the object. He readily agreed that it looked like a flying saucer, but that was it.
In researching 1500’s Augsburg, I eventually came upon several large, lavish illustrations of the fortified city as it was in that day. The city was walled and had a moat encircling it. There were seven circular bastions located on the outer walls spaced at regular intervals. The bastions had a slope to them, had a series of triangular portholes around the bottom and larger triangular portals at the top for cannons. One of these bastions is what is depicted in the Augsburg illustration. It is sad but true.
In the fourteen 1500’s broadsheets I found to be interesting enough to copy, only two others (not including Jung’s) depicted something that isn’t easily dismissed as weather anomalies. One of these (from 1571) depicts two chariots in the sky carrying winged angels and another four angels are depicted as flying around the largest chariot.