If you were asked when the first UFO sightings were in the United States, you may say around the 1950s or 60s, when travelling to space and the big alien craze became popular. But, people have claimed that they have seen unusual objects in the sky many years before that. More than a hundred, or even a thousand years in fact.
It was back during the 1600s when the Puritans of New England saw more than just witches flying through the skies. The Massachusetts Bay colony founder, John Winthrop wrote down detailed instances of unidentified flying objects in the heavens soaring above 17th century Boston in the first recorded UFO sightings in America.
Strange Encounters in a New Land
John Winthrop was the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and kept a diary of the daily events that the Puritans faced as they attempted to start a new life in a brand-new land. On March 1, 1639 however, he started to write about the most unusual event that had caused a stir among the colonists.
Winthrop recorded a report that he had heard from James Evrell who was “a sober and discreet man” and two other companions who had been rowing a boat in the Muddy River. The three men looked up in the sky and saw a great light.
“When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square,” the governor wrote, “when it ran, it was contracted into the figure of a swine.”
Two or three hours had passed and the men said that the mysterious light “ran as swift as an arrow” darting back and forth between them and the village of Charleston, which was around two miles. “Diverse other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place,” Winthrop added.
Winthrop wrote that when the apparition faded away, the three men in the boat were surprised to find themselves at least one mile upstream, as if the light had transported them there. They had no memory of rowing the boat against the tide, although it is possible that they could have been carried by the wind or a reverse tidal flow.
Some people have suggested that the glowing light could have been an “ignis fatuus,” a pale light that can sometimes appear over marshland at nighttime due to the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter. If Winthrop’s report was correct, however, the light was not rising from the swamp, but instead shooting across the sky, making that explanation an unlikely one.
Additional Sightings Followed in the Same Area
Just five years later, an odd sight came back to the skies of Boston. According to another entry in Winthrop’s diary, dated January 18,1644, ““About midnight, three men, coming in a boat to Boston, saw two lights arise out of the water near the north point of the town cove, in form like a man, and went at a small distance to the town, and so to the south point, and there vanished away.”
The following week, the governor wrote about another unexplained celestial event that occurred over the Boston Harbor.
“A light like the moon arose about the N.E. point in Boston, and met the former at Nottles Island, and there they closed in one, and then parted, and closed and parted diverse times, and so went over the hill in the island and vanished. Sometimes they shot out flames and sometimes sparkles. This was about eight of the clock in the evening, and was seen by many.”
“About the same time a voice was heard upon the water between Boston and Dorchester, calling out in a most dreadful manner, ‘Boy! Boy! Come away! Come away!’; and it suddenly shifted from one place to another a great distance, about twenty times. It was heard by diverse godly persons. About 14 days after, the same voice in the same dreadful manner was heard by others on the other side of the town towards Nottles Island.”
Unlike the 1639 UFO, Winthrop at least had an explanation for the last bright light over his city. He noted that the strange occurrence was seen near the location where a vessel captained by John Chaddock exploded months earlier after a sailor accidentally ignited gunpowder while aboard the ship. The captain was not aboard at the time, but the blast did kill five crewmen.
Winthrop added in his writings that rescuers had recovered the bodies of all the victims, except for the man believed to be responsible for the blast, a sailor who professed the ability to communicate with the dead and was suspected of murdering his master in Virginia. The hand of the devil was thought to have taken possession of the body, and it was the haunting voice of the sailor’s ghost that was said to have accompanied the strange vision of Ye Olde UFO that mystified the Puritans of Boston.