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Anchors Aweigh: Sky Ships and Storm Wizards

In the centuries before phrases like “flying saucers” and “Unidentified Flying Objects” became common vernacular, thousands of people claimed to have witnessed bizarre lights and strange boat-like vehicles traversing the heavens. Skeptics dismiss these reports as misidentified natural phenomenon like comets and meteors, but ancient alien theorists are equally convinced that these odd objects prove that our world has been receiving extraterrestrial visitors for generations.

While it would seems as if there’s at least a kernel of truth in both camps; what we’re focusing on here is a fascinating, and oft neglected, footnote to the sky ship mystery. A series of bizarre events that took place over the course of more than a millennia — from the dark ages to the wild west — involving UFOs dropping anchor over the Earth… literally.

SKY SHIPS AND ANOMALOUS ANCHORS:

Sightings of what our ancestors often referred t as “sky ships” or “cloud ships” have been occurring since the dawn of recorded history.  Alexander the Great and his vast army allegedly observed three soaring discs, which were described as “shining silvery shields, spitting fire around the rims,” during the siege of Tyre in 329 BC. These “shields” were said to have annihilated a stone wall with a lightening-like beam weapon.

Eyewitness and artist, Hans Glaser, carved an extraordinary woodcut that shows an epic battle of sky machines, which supposedly took place over Nuremberg, Germany on April 4th, 1561. According to reports, just after dawn broke that April morning, hundreds of German citizens beheld a spectacle the likes of which the Earth has rarely (if ever) seen when what was described as a “war in the heavens” took place in the skies above their fair city. The woodcut included images of cylindrical mother ships emitting spherical attack “pods,” a gargantuan, spear-like vessel and even seemed to indicate a pair of decidedly pre-Roswell UFO crashes.

As frequent as UFO sightings have been through the ages, it could be argued that the sky ship frenzy didn’t peak until the late 1800s, when newspapers throughout the world were infested with accounts of anomalous, self illuminated, intelligently controlled aircraft navigating American airspace at rates of speed that were, at the time, unfathomable.

These craft occasionally assumed classic saucer or cigar shapes, but they were also quite often described as being stereotypically ship-like, complete with crews of “sailors” and anchors, which were used to both moor and assist these strange craft in making sharp turns.

While the sky ship flap of the 19th Century plays a significant role in the enticing enigma of the arcane anchors; we must go back in time to events that took place over 1,000-years before to truly begin our tale.

956 AD — Cloera, Ireland

Most modern reports claim that first known account of a sky ship dropping anchor was penned by an aristocrat known as Gervase of Tilbury between 1210 and 1214  — with most pinpointing the date at 1211 — but these reports would seem to be off by about 250-years, give or take a decade or two.

In his 1970 book “UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse” — which was republished in paperback under the title “Why UFOs” — journalist, paranormal investigator and “Mothman Prophecies” author, John Keel –who was the recent subject of an article by Micah Hanks — claimed that an obscure Irish tome regally titled “Speculum Regali” or “The King’s Mirror” was the first to the punch in 956 AD.

The following account, which is often — and evidently mistakenly — credited to the aforementioned Gervase of Tilbury, regards the ostensibly extraterrestrial crew of what the Irish often referred to as a “demon ship” and their potentially disastrous run-in with a group of rustic churchgoers. The translated text from the Speculum Regali is reprinted word for word as it appeared in Keel’s book:

“There happened in the borough of Cloera, one Sunday, while the people were at Mass, a marvel. In this town is a church dedicated to St. Kinarus. It befell that an anchor was dropped from the sky, with a rope attached to it, and one of the flukes caught in the arch above the church door. The people rushed out of the church and saw in the sky a ship with men on board, floating before the anchor cable, and they saw a man leap overboard and jump down to the anchor, as if to release it. He looked as if he were swimming in water. The folk rushed up and tried to seize him; but the Bishop forbade the people to hold the man, for it might kill him, he said. The man was freed, and hurried up to the ship, where the crew cut the rope and the ship sailed out of sight. But the anchor is in the church, and has been there ever since, as a testimony.”

The United States Air Forces Academy textbook, “Introductory Space Science, Volume II, Department of Physics, USAF” which was edited by one Major Donald G. Carpenter and Lt. Colonel Edward R. Therkelson — also made reference made to the Cloera event. The book was allegedly removed from the USAFA curriculum in the 1970s, due, in part, to the controversy surrounding Chapter XIII — Unidentified Flying Objects. Here is an excerpt:

“Even the Irish have recorded strange visitations. In the Speculum Regali in Konungs Skuggsiá (and other accounts of the era about 956 A.D.) are numerous stories of “demonships” in the skies. In one case a rope from one such ship became entangled with part of a church. A man from the ship climbed down the rope to free it, but was seized by the townspeople. The Bishop made the people release the man, who climbed back to the ship, where the crew cut the rope and the ship rose and sailed out of sight… In all of his actions, the climbing man appeared as if he were swimming in water. Stories such as this makes one wonder if the legends of the ‘little people’ of Ireland were based upon imagination alone.”

While the first instinct for most (including myself) is to assume that this is nothing more than a fanciful tall tale born of boredom or perhaps a difficult to decipher parable about being merciful to strangers, there would be other events that transpired centuries before, which seem to lend at least a bit of credibility to the Speculum Regali’s report.

After 548 AD — County Offaly, Ireland

The famed monastery of Clonmacnoise was founded on the banks of the River Shannon by St. Kieran in 548 and survived millennia of raids and invasions, until it was finally destroyed by English invaders in 1552. The monastery was the site of many epic battles and significant events, but none quite so strange as the legendary encounter the Clonmacnoise monks had with a sky ship and its occupant.

Nobel Prize winning Irish poet — as well as Harvard and the Oxford professor — Seamus Heaney wrote a poem celebrating the heroic efforts of the monks of the monastery, who saved the life on a struggling aeronaut. Heaney’s poem, “From Lightenings: VIII, which was published in his 1991 book “Seeing Things,” tells of the oft told tale of a strange ship that came down from the sky while the monks were engaged in prayer. The poem is reprinted here:

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.

The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,

A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
‘This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,’

The abbot said, ‘Unless we help him.’ So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.

The pious monks who inspired this poem were, like so many of their brethren, engaged in the process of transcribing sacred texts and they managed to commit this fantastic encounter to the written page, thus preserving it into modern times. Yet another piece of historical text that would seem to confirm the existence of “sky sailors” hailed from the 9th Century AD, and emanated from the pen of the…

Archbishop Agobard of Lyon

A prolific author and notorious anti-Semite,  was a Spaniard who was born in the year 775. Agobard moved to Lyon, France in 792 and would take his vows of priesthood in 804, eventually becoming the archbishop of Lyon during the Carolingian Renaissance.

Sometime after he received his vows, Agobard scribed the Latin text for “Liber Contra Insulam Vulgi Opinionem” roughly translated as “On the other hand — the opinion of the common people.” In this manuscript the archbishop wrote a denunciation against the provincial and — at least in Agobard’s estimation — naïve residents of Lyons, who were known to believe in a “certain region called Magonia from whence come ships in the clouds.”

The pilots of these sky ships were called “storm wizards” and they had a penchant for stealing any booty that had been destroyed by the storms that they navigated with apparent ease. They were also notorious for bribing human collaborators with, of all things, vegetables. According to Agobard:

“[The storm wizards] in order carry back to that region [the sky] those fruits of the earth which are destroyed by hail and tempests; the sailors paying rewards to the storm wizards and themselves receiving corn and other produce.”

The archbishop also testified that he bore witness to three men and a woman who had apparently plummeted from one of these floating vessels:

“Out of the number of those (who) believe those things possible, I saw several exhibiting in a certain concourse of people four persons in bonds — three men and a woman like they had said had fallen from those same ships, and they had brought, them before the assembled multitude to be stoned. But truth prevailed.”

While most assume that Agobard is claiming to have he stepped in and used his influence to prevent their deaths, some accounts maintain that they were executed all the same , which just goes to show how difficult it is to wrestle the truth from these antiquated accounts. The next anomalous anchor report comes to us from the ever popular…

Gervase of Tilbury

The Gervase of Tilbury or, as he was known to his peers, Gervasius Tilberiensis, was born in 1150 and lived to the ripe old age (especially in those harrowing days) of 78-years.  The Gervase was a lawyer, statesman and writer, who — like Charles Fort, Frank Edwards, John Keel, Jerome Clark, Jacques Vallée and scores of others — was seemingly compelled, either by choice or the behest of his rich benefactors, to chronicle some of the stranger stories he stumbled across. One such tale was that of (you guessed it) a UFO and its misplaced anchor.

The tale of the anchor and the sky ship from whence it came was published in the “Otio Imperialia” or “Recreation for an Emperor,” which he wrote for his patron, Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, between the years 1210 and 1214. The event, which purportedly occurred in Tilbury, England in 1200 or 1207, was similar to the Cloera event in that it involved a church, but this time the conclusion of the encounter would be much more tragic than the one that took place in Ireland.

According to the report chronicled in the Otio Imperialia, in the midst of the Sunday mass parishioners were startled by a loud noise emanating from outside the church. The worshipers and the vicar swiftly made their way outdoors to investigate the source of this mysterious clamor when they noticed what they described as an “anchor,” which had become entangled with an old gravestone that had been incorporated into the churchyard wall. Here is a translation of Tilbury’s account from the Otio Imperialia:

“A strange event in our own times, which is widely known but none the less a cause of wonder, provides proof of the existence of an upper sea overhead. It occurred on a feast day in Britain, while the people were struggling out of their parish church after hearing high mass. The day was very overcast and quite dark on account of the thick clouds. To the people’s amazement, a ship’s anchor was seen caught on a tombstone  within the churchyard walls, with its rope stretching up and hanging in the air. They were advancing various opinions on the matter to each other, when after a time they saw the rope move as if it were being worked to pull up the anchor. Since, being caught fast, it would not give way, a sound was heard in the humid air as of sailors struggling to recover the anchor they had cast down.”

At this point one of the air ship’s mysterious occupants — or “sailor” as he was dubbed by Gervase — was apparently commanded to dive overboard and make his way,  hand over hand, down the rope in order to dislodge the trapped anchor. The virtually weightless humanoid managed to extricate the anchor, but at a terrible cost:

Soon, when their efforts proved vain, the sailors sent one of their number down; using the same technique as our sailors here below, he gripped the anchor-rope and climbed down it, swinging one hand over the other. He had already pulled the anchor free, when he was seized by the bystanders. He then expired in the hands of his captors, suffocated by the humidity of our dense air as if he were drowning at sea. The sailors up above wasted an hour, but then, concluding that their companion had drowned, they cut the rope and sailed away, leaving the anchor behind. And so in memory of this event it was fittingly decided that that anchor should be used to make ironwork for the church door, and it is still there for all to see.”

According to folklorist Katharine Briggs, this strange tale is unrelated to any other British legend or supernatural tradition and is therefore:

“One of those strange, unmotivated and therefore rather convincing tales that are scattered through the early chronicles.”

It would seem that Ms. Briggs didn’t do her research because the ancient Britons were evidently chock full of mystifying air ship stories.

1211 — Kent, England

Another account which is also often attributed to Gervase allegedly occurred in 1211 (or possibly 1214 — these dates are exceedingly difficult to pin down) in Gravesend, which is located in northwest Kent, England. Again the event involved a group of churchgoers who were attending services. This time the folks claimed to have seen the curious anchor plummet from the heavens and, much like in the Tilbury case, snag itself onto a tombstone in the graveyard which was adjacent to the church.

In another moment that smacks of déjà vu, the parishioners rushed outside to see an inexplicably floating sky ship and what can only be qualified as humanoid sailor leaping over the side. As in the previous account, there is no report of this aeronaut being tethered to the ship — or wearing any sort of protective gear for that matter — as it slowly made its way toward terra firma.

The God fearing mob — no doubt incited by fear or perhaps overcome by the exhilaration of contacting what may well have been construed as a  divine life form — attempted to subdue the aeronaut, but he must have heard of the fates of this less fortunate brethren and was too swift and managed to scurry back up the “rope” unharmed.  The lucky sky swimmer’s comrades saw what transpired from high above and sagely cut the tether that attached their craft to the trapped anchor and the vehicle “sailed out of sight.

According to legend a local blacksmith made ornaments from the abandoned anchor that were used to adorn the lectern in the house of worship. An alternate version of the tale suggests a more grim fate for our poor aeronaut and, like his Tilbury counterpart, the being was said to have “drown” in the arms of his assailants, at which point its fellow crew members cut him and the anchor loose. In this version of events the anchor was melted and forged into new hinges for the church doors.

According to other (as yet unsubstantiated, sources) another sky ship was allegedly spied in British skies over Bristol in 1270. Unlike the previous cases, this vessel was said to have actually landed without the assistance of an anchor, but when the sky pilot descended the ladder to the firmament it apparently suffocated in our atmosphere.

Now before we get caught up in assuming that these are all just loosely cataloged medieval fairy tales, let’s jump forward to the 19th Century where a supposedly real life game of “Cowboys and Aliens” was playing out over the vast blue skies of the American west.

SKY SHIPS INVADE THE WILD WEST:

Just when it seemed that tales of unusual sky ships were safely relegated to the Dark Ages, newspapers across North America were riddled with strange tales of mysterious aircraft soaring through the expansive, blue skies and, as should be expected, a few of the cloud dodging boats came equipped with anchors.

April 5, 1897 — Sioux City, Iowa

The first known report of a UFO dropping anchor in the 19th Century was published in the April 5th, 1897, edition of the Saginaw, Michigan “Evening News.” The newspaper reported that a farmer by the name of Robert Hibbard had an all too close encounter with a sky ship anchor on March 26th, 1897.

The event — which allegedly took place just 15-miles outside of Sioux City, Iowa — is so farcical on the surface that it almost seems like it could be the plotline for an unproduced silent comedy wherein Buster Keaton battles a flying saucer. I’ll let an excerpt from the original article speak for itself:

“On the night in question, he [Hibbard] says he was tramping about his farm in the moonlight… when suddenly a dark body, lighted on each side, with a row of what looked like incandescent lamps, loomed up some distance to the south of him at a height of perhaps a mile from the ground. He watched it intently until it was directly over his head. At this point the skipper evidently decided to turn around. In accomplishing this maneuver the machine sank considerably. Hibbard did not notice a drag rope with a grapnel attached which dangled from the rear of the car until suddenly, as the machine rose again from the ground, it hooked itself firmly in his trousers and shot away again to the south. Had it risen to any considerable height, the result, Hibbard thinks, would have been disastrous. Either his weight was sufficient to keep it near terra firma, however, or the operator did not care to ascend to a higher level.”

The anchor apparently dragged the panicked farmer nearly 30-feet before he stumbled onto his salvation. The Evening News goes on to tell of Hibbard’s daring (albeit embarrassing) escape from the clutches of certain doom:

“On the bank of the dry run, where the farmer finally made his escape, grows a small sapling. Hibbard passed near this obstruction in his flight, and as a last resort, grabbed it with both hands. Instantly there was a sound of tearing cloth and the machine went on with a section of Hibbard’s unmentionables, while Hibbard himself fell precipitately into the run. He related his experience to several neighbors and despite their grins of incredulity, firmly maintains the truth of the story.”

His neighbors might have been understandable incredulous, but, according to the report, there were those who reckoned that Hibbard’s tale was true… or, at the very least, that he believed it was:

“Hibbard’s reputation for truth has never been bad, and the general opinion is that either he ‘had ‘em’ or dreamed his remarkable experience.”

April 26, 1897 — Merkel, Texas

This would not be the last run-in with an anomalous anchor that would occur in the United States. According to a story printed in the pages of the Houston “Daily Post” on April 28th, 1897, the citizens of Merkel, Texas had an odd encounter with an illuminated air ship, which one eyewitness allegedly claimed was “cigar shaped.” Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“Merkel, Texas, April 26 — Some parties returning from church last night noticed a heavy object dragging along with a rope attached. They followed it until in crossing the railroad it caught on a rail. On looking up they saw what they supposed was the airship. It was not near enough to get an idea of the dimensions. A light could be seen protruding from several windows; one bright light in front like the headlight of a locomotive.”

As if that weren’t bizarre enough, the parishioners had a face-to-face encounter with a uniform clad member of its crew. According to the Daily Post:

“After some ten minutes, a man was seen descending the rope; he came near enough to be plainly seen. He wore a light-blue sailor suit, was small in size. He stopped when he discovered parties at the anchor and cut the rope below him and sailed off in a northeast direction. The anchor is now on exhibition at the blacksmith shop of Elliott and Miller and is attracting the attention of hundreds of people.”

Should we suppose that the blue clad sailor “cut and run” due to the fact that so many of his ancestors had been accidentally killed by human beings or is this a case of the creative journalism that was so prevalent in that unrestricted era? Either way whatever became of this allegedly alien artifact is unknown.

April 26, 1897 — Aquila-Hillsboro, Texas

That same night, in the Aquila-Hillsboro region of Texas, an unnamed lawyer got the shock of his life when he saw a brightly lit craft zoom overhead.  The object was so startling that his panic stricken horse bucked; almost toppling the carriage it was pulling. Suddenly the primary light on the UFO went out, revealing a row of smaller lights on the underside of the dark, cylindrical object, which supported what the lawyer described as an “elongated canopy.

Later that same evening, the lawyer, who was now making the return trip home, claimed that he saw the same sky ship ascending to the cloud cover. The moment that the UFO reached the milky canopy it took off in a northeasterly direction at a tremendous rate of speed, occasionally emitting bursts of light.

There are also rumors that at some point during this flap of anchor antics a farmer — whose location was apparently unknown — watched in stunned horror as a member of his cattle herd became hooked on a sky ship anchor in a similar fashion to Hibbard, with presumably dire results. Sadly, neither the outcome of this odd encounter, nor the fate of this unfortunate bovine, were disclosed.

Okay, now that we’ve got the basic (although at times contrary) facts in these strange cases,  let’s try to start piecing this puzzle together. To that end, the first question we must ask is…

SERIOUSLY?

It’s a fair question. I mean, what kind of vessel can slip the surly bonds of Earth, but still requires an anchor to perch itself into a stationary position? It defies the imagination.  And what of our ostensibly diminutive, occasionally blue clad, sky sailors? Can these eyewitnesses really be describing living, breathing (and sporadically suffocating) beings or is this all a grand pile of hogwash? Assuming — for the sake of discussion — that the above accounts are essentially true, let’s take a look at some of the “unusual” suspects…

ANCIENT ALIENS:

Perhaps the most popular hypothesis regarding the identity of these unusual atmospheric mariners is that they hail from out of this world. The fundamental problem with this hypothesis is that aliens are supposed to represent intelligent, non-indigenous species that have travelled to our planet (or dimension) in mechanically complex vehicles, which are often described as metallic discs or glowing cigar-shaped objects.

If we subscribe to the common assumption that extraterrestrial visitors are a foreign and technologically advanced species, then how does one explain the primitive nature of sky ships? How can these vessels defy gravity, yet still require a tool as primitive as an anchor to stabilize their craft?

Also worth noting is the way in which aeronauts seem to float through the atmosphere with an apparent lack of and propulsion or protective gear. Their ability to hover almost weightlessly invokes recollections of 20th Century encounters with ostensibly alien explorers like Finland’s Kinnula Humanoid or Japan’s Alien Cosmonaut; the core difference being that the last two were clad in the extraterrestrial equivalent of deep sea diver or pressurized space suits.

If these aeronauts really were aliens, they they should have had access to the kind of tech that would help them to survive in the unforgiving environment of a foreign planet. It makes absolutely no sense that they would they expose themselves to the harsh climate and atmosphere of our planet — resulting in the apparent sphyxiation of so many — when they could have simply equipped themselves for the trip.

While there are many researchers who still associate this phenomenon with these archaic alien reports, there is a growing contingent who feel that these entities have a suspiciously paranormal presence. Does this mean that we might be dealing with…

SUPERNATURAL BEINGS:

Right out the gate I am dubious of this theory. To begin with, how the heck can a paranormal entity asphyxiate? I’ll be the first to admit that I am no authority regarding the life spans or Achilles’ heels of most mystical or metaphysical manifestations — with the obvious exceptions of wooden stakes and silver bullets — but it seems to me that some sort of enchanted creature, elemental, fairy, angel, demon or even demi-god ought to be able to survive in the atmosphere of Earth.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to ponder why it is that the vast majority of these visitations have occurred near churches. Is it possible that these creatures are attracted to the consecrated nature of these structures? Or — bearing in mind the fact that many Christian structures were erected on sacred pagan land — could these be strange “faerie” vehicles visiting areas that were revered by the ancients who worshiped them in years past? It might explain the anachronistic nature of the vessels. Who knows?

And what of these so-called “Storm Wizards” who plundered the land following tumultuous tempests and traded with the human beings who assisted them. Could these perhaps be the legendary “wee folk” who were so often prone to initiating contact with the human race during medieval times? Or is this more akin to the “angelic” or “sacred deity” encounters that riddle the Bible, the Bhagavad-gītā, the Torah, the Qur’an and scores of other holy texts?

Perhaps the truth is that these were merely non-terrestrial tourists. After all cathedrals and churches were far and away the largest manmade structures in Europe during the 13th Century — the same could also be said for the American west in the 19th Century — so perhaps they just caught the eyes of these stratospheric seafarers. There’s even the chance that these vessels just got accidentally caught on these soaring structures, in the same way colossal radio towers can jeopardize modern day aircraft. So if we rule out E.T.s, angels and elves, then we’re forced to consider that they may be…

ATMOSPHERIC HUMANOIDS:

First off, if we are trying to ascertain what kind of creatures might be capable of living in the upper atmosphere, then we are forced to conclude that these entities must be — like other atmospheric monsters that supposedly swim through the sky — “lighter than air.” We must also conclude that they are susceptible to the dangerous pressure and dense atmosphere that exists on the surface of the Earth in the same way human beings are unable to survive the deepest depths of the oceans without hi-tech support.

I recognize how ridiculous the above proposition is. It’s one of the most ludicrous things I’ve ever read — much less written — but  still, when I read tales of the Storm Wizards sailing through the clouds on currents of air, following the storms and searching for “sunken” treasure, my mind fills with child-like wonder. I realize, of course, that these were myths concocted by men who could not even fathom what the world would look like soaring through the wild blue yonder, but it is fun to contemplate living in a time when such a fantastic possibility might have been true — or at least easier to believe.

Of course, it goes without saying that if these fantastic, low density beings ever existed they must have gone into hiding since Wilbur and Orville Wright pioneered heavier than air travel. Perhaps the technological evolution of these entities ran parallel (or faster) than our own. Maybe those colossal UFOs seen by highly trained pilots — as well as land bound spectators — worldwide are really the floating cities that these humanoids have constructed to hide from prying terrestrial eyes and protect themselves from the constant air traffic that has filled the skies in the past century or so.

Okay, for the time being let’s abandon this “flight of fancy” and mull over the simple fact that sky ships and their gravity retardant crews are most probably nothing more than a…

MYTH:

It goes without saying that the similarity between these allegedly disparate occurrences transcends the merely mindboggling and delves into the realm of the outright unbelievable. This has led many researchers to suggest that these events are really just retellings — with minute variations — of a single event, which may or may not have actually happened.

In the March 7th, 1897 edition of Utah’s “Salt Lake Tribune,” a retelling of the classic Cloera cloud ship mystery in an article titled: “A Sea above the Clouds — Extraordinary Superstition once prevalent in England.” This article predates the Sioux City event by almost a month and it’s hard not to assume that it may well have been the inspiration for Hibbard’s harrowing encounter.

In fact, one would be remiss to ignore the general lack of journalistic integrity that was displayed by the press in that era, especially in frontier town where the rule was “do anything that makes a buck.” There is a real chance that these 19th Century sky anchor accounts are embellishments or UFO sightings or outright fabrications.

Still, researchers have confirmed the existence of Hibbard and most of his ilk, and one must wonder why someone would subject themselves to the public ridicule which almost certainly accompanied the publishing of these reports. It is possible (albeit exceedingly unlikely) that these strange creatures from the sky — especially if they do have a paranormal bent — started hearing a long absent buzz about their existence following the publication of the “cloud ship” story in Utah and decided to pop down and say howdy to their Earthbound neighbors… Like I said, it’s possible, but not likely.

11th Century — Off the Irish Coast

Then there’s also the “Liber Hymnorum” to take into consideration. This 11th Century Irish tome was a collection of hymns, legends and historical accounts that was very popular in liturgical circles. Among the many traditional Gaelic tales this epic contains, the one that seems most pertinent involves a conventional, human built, ocean going ship whose anchor became trapped on the tower of an “underwater oratory.”

In this story a brave monk dove into the briny depths in order to liberate the anchor. The youthful holy man shimmied down the thick chain only to find that the anchor ensnared on a marine monastery. Through means which can only be called supernatural (or possibly hyper-technological) this young monk is taught how to extract oxygen from the salt water by the inhabitants of this amazing submerged city and is allowed to remain for a full year.

Following his tenure at this waterlogged metropolis, the monk returned to the same ship he had saved the year before, which had anchored in the same spot (as planned, one supposes) to pick up the brave young man. The Monk even brought with him a souvenir from his sojourn; the bell from the submerged church which had originally captured the ship’s anchor. According to the Liber Hymnorum, this bell was on display at the convent of St. Brigid, at least during the 1000s.

It’s been indicated that the stories of sky ships catching their anchors on churches (or adjacent stony outcroppings) are merely re-workings of this famed fable; wherein the sky becomes the ocean and Earthlings its underwater denizens. The only problem with this assumption is the fact that the first known legend of a sky ship anchor hails from 956, at least half a century before the above legend. That having been stated, Irish sky ship tales go back even further to the Agobard of Lyon’s alleged 9th Century run-in with sky pilots, not to mention the Clonmacnoise monks encounter, which may well date back to the 6th Century.

Perhaps it is just as likely (or unlikely, as the case may be) that the original sky ship story — through numerous retellings, embellishments and perhaps an honest mistake or two — transformed from a strange UFO encounter into the aquatic version of the same saga. Considering that these accounts involve “ships” dropping “anchor” it’s conceivable that the “sky” portion of these odysseys got lost as the legends passed via word-of-mouth from village to village.

CONCLUSION:

Whether we’re dealing with myth, parable, mystic ships, aliens, Druidic deities or an as yet undiscovered species of atmospheric humanoids — and yes, I just shook my head with incredulity as I typed those words — the great air ship flaps of the middle ages and the wild west will remain a fascinating enigma; and the supplemental mystery of the sky anchors only serve to further fascinate any researcher who chooses to delve into this subject. In the end, it was perhaps Keel who put it most succinctly:

“We have only two choices: We can either dismiss all four of these stories as being somehow derivative of one another and pure poppycock; or we can assume that mysterious airships, all dragging anchors, appeared in 956, 1200, and 1897. There are, in fact, a number of other reports in which UFOs were said to be dragging something along the ground. That still doesn’t prove that anchors are standard equipment on some of the objects. If they were using anchors, what could the purpose have been? Could some of the early UFOs have been so primitive that the only way they could hover was by being anchored to the ground? Would spaceships from another world require anchors?”

These are all good questions and perhaps the answer will lie at the base of some as yet unexcavated archeological site on the Emerald Isle… but, even more likely, it will remain where it always lurked, in the extraordinarily fertile imaginations of ordinary human beings.

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  • Cullan Hudson

    I find it curious that Keel can only see two options, the latter of which is a UFO hypothesis with only the reconciliation of anchors and ropes left to nag him. But then, like so many, he was probably a die-hard UFOs-are-from-other-planets proponent, as many of his generation were. I’ve seen this time and again: the UFO old guard that lived and researched during the 50s and 60s has often been stuck with that unshakeable extraterrestrial hypothesis and Cold War prejudices about the presumed behavior of any other-worldly beings. I can cite comments made in recent years by the likes of Stephen Hawking that spoke of some narrow-minded Invaders From Planet X philosophy born of too many Saturday afternoon serials.

  • Underseer

    “Could some of the early UFOs have been so primitive that the only way
    they could hover was by being anchored to the ground? Would spaceships
    from another world require anchors?”

    Perhaps they were from a parallel universe? With an atmospheric composition different to ours? Where the technology is somewhat ahead of ours? Perhaps they started out with dirigibles and moved on to antigravity with the passage of centuries.

    Perhaps their crossing into our reality was due to an unintentional entry to a Fortean ‘window area’?

    Just an idea, no less crazy than the sightings themselves.

  • http://twitter.com/TheDoctor7777 TheDoctor7777

    This was very cool, especially due to the fact that I’m a massive steampunk. 

  • Theo163

    Have you actually read anything by John Keel? Keel was one of the very few who abandoned the ETH in the early sixties, as his books and articles clearly attest. In fact he was highly criticized because of that.

  • Niceform

    I read Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse many years ago and was intrigued by the sightings and descriptions which fit ”current times” in their relative technologies. It seems that, through time since then, the craft technologies are just ahead of what the observers can only vaguely relate to.
    Think of the concept cars from the 50′s and 60′s – how sleek and chrome and aerodynamic. Remember the flying wing craft from the 60′s and 70′s and some of the sightings that some described as “boomerang” or horshoe shaped in nature.
    It seems that as technology advanced, so did the interpretation of whatever witnesses saw in the skies.
    So much for blaming it all on the Germans – although I still think they’ve had a big hand in things since WWII.
    Thanks for a great treatise, MU. Good food for thought. I can hear Charles Fort LOLing even as I type

  • Niceform

    One more comment. 1897 was the also the year that the story came out of Aurora, Texas about the craft that collided with the local water tower or windmill (or whatever)l and whose occupant was buried in the Aurora cemetary.
    This turned out to be a hoax perpetrated to gain notoriety to the area in hopes of getting the railroad interested in that region. Lots of copycat tales going around in those days, I’m afraid. Might have been different if everybody back then had “pocket cameras”.
    I’m not sayin’…I’m just sayin’.

  • Dale R Lynn

    I find a very obvious “other” explination. Sky Ship.. Needing Anchor. Perhaps it needed the anchor because it was a zeplin. A zeplin with a boat bottom incase of water landing. And it could traverse the clouds. (Or winds) with ease. A baloonist (Hot air baloon advicate) can tell you the different air pressures above us don’t all move in the same diretion but in “currents” that might require a boat like structure with rudder to help navigate direction. Just a thought.
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  • Anonymous

    Although most of these stories are  most likely fiction, one should remember that any observations must be made from the observers frame of reference. In ancient times any large craft may have been considered a ship whether at sea or in the air, for that was the only name they had for a large craft. Again an object shaped to there eyes like an anchor or evenly merely at the end of a rope dangling from a craft, becomes an anchor, though its real purpose could be a probe or a recording device.

    The problem is lumping all of these discrete occurences together does a disservice to any truth a particular incident might hold, though it does make a swell story to read.

    The world is both stranger and more mundane than we think. So it is our lot to find shadows where  there are none and to ignore what is hidden in plain sight. It may be that our perceptory apparatus is insufficient or deliberately manipulated to blind us to what must remain hidden.

  • Ragartragart

    That’s right. Just like the Wizard of Oz. But better effects. And using modern technology we can even see them. What we all need now are special electronic glasses to see them real time as they go by.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.crowl Adam Crowl

    Socrates’ spoke of the Afterlife as being a world above our atmosphere, with ourselves being the equivalent of deep-sea creatures. Thus sky-ships and “drowning” sky-sailors fits that concept entirely. What does it all mean? Imagination seems as likely a cause as real skyships, but what kind of imagination involves whole communities? There’s the real mystery.

  • J.Griffin

    Absolutely!

    Keel was unique and unafraid of what people thought of him-
    even those very few people that many today (such as Cullan Hudson)
    would mistakenly consider his
    “peers”.

    He felt that the ET hypothesis,alone, was inadequate to sufficiently explain
    the overlapping paranormal nature of the descriptions
    of the UFO phenomenon/their occupants
    with that of other unexplained phenomenon/beings.

    Many people now are coming to that conclusion-
    it was a lonely stand to take in his day.

    UFO “believers” were mocked by the critics-
    Keel was mocked by the critics AND those they mocked…