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Observations placeholder

Charles Fort - Mirages of Phantom ships and soldiers



Type of Spiritual Experience



Although Fort did not collect these observations, records of phantom armies are very old

1.  218 BC, Amiterno, Italy: phantom ships

"During this winter many portents occurred in Rome and the surrounding area, or at all events, many were reported and easily gained credence, for when once men's minds have been excited by superstitious fears they easily believe these things.. .A phantom navy was seen shining in the sky; in the territory of Amiternum beings in human shape and clothed in white were seen at a distance, but no one came close to them."

Source: The History of Rome Vol 111 by Lily, trans. Reverend Canon Roberts (Montana: Kessinger Publishing 2004), 51.

2. 173 BC, Lanuvium, Albano Laziale (Lanuvio), Italy - Aerial fleet

"As it was fully expected that there would be war with Macedonia, it was decided that portents should be expiated and prayers offered to win 'the peace of the Gods,' of those deities, namely, those mentioned in the Books of Fate. At Lanuvium the sight of a great fleet had been witnessed in the heavens...." Source: The History of Rome Vol III by Lily, trans. Reverend Canon Roberts (Montana: Kessinger Publishing 2004), 72.

3. 103 BC, Amelia and Todi, Italy - Shields clashing in the sky

During the War with the Cimbri, "from Amelia and Todi, cities of Italy, it was reported that at night there had been seen in the heavens flaming spears, and shields which at first moved in different directions, and then clashed together, assuming the formations and movements of men in battle, and finally some of them would give way, while others pressed on in pursuit, and all streamed away to the westward."  Source: Plutarch, Plutarch's Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin (Harvard University, 1950) v.9, 509. Also see: Lycosthenes, Julii Obsequentis Prodigiorum Liber. ..per Conradum Lycosthenem Rubeaquensem integrati suae restitutus (Basel, 1552).

4. 21 May 70 AD, Jerusalem - Flying chariots surround the city

Flavius Josephus writes: "On the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding cities. "

Source: Flavius Josephus, History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, Jewish Wars, Book CXI, quoted in " The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish Historian, " translated by William Whiston, (London, 1737).

5. Aerial ships, seen along with their crews

The 15th century Annals of Ulster, which cover the period AD 431 to AD 1540, state that "Ships, with their crews, were seen in the air above Cluain Moccu." Source: The Annals of Ulster (Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition

6. March 927, Reims, France: Armies of fire

"An army of fire was seen in the sky in Reims on a Sunday morning in the month of March. After this sign a pestilence followed." This citation from Flodoard is an example of a frequent description for which we have no precise correlation in terms of optical or atmospheric phenomena. Source: Flodoardi Annates, in Monumenta Germaniae Historiae, trans. G. H. Pertz, Tome III (Hanover, 1839).

and to compare here is a legend from Denmark, indicating that in some cases the armies were attributed to the terrestrial hierarchy

5. Thomas Keightley - The Fairy Mythology: Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries

According to Danish tradition, the Elle-kings, under the denomination of Promontory-kings, (_Klintekonger_), keep watch and ward over the country. Whenever war, or any other misfortune, threatens to come on the land, there may be seen, on the promontory, complete armies, drawn up in array to defend the country.

One of these kings resides at Möen, on the spot which still bears the name of King's-hill (_Kongsbjerg_). His queen is the most beautiful of beings, and she dwells at the Queen's Chair (_Dronningstolen_).  This king is a great friend of the king of Stevns, and they are both at enmity with Grap, the promontory-king of Rügen, who must keep at a distance, and look out over the sea to watch their approach.

Left:   Johan Christian Dahl (Norwegian, 1788–1857) Klintekorset i Liselunds Hauge paa Möen , 1815–1815


6.   July 1639, Santiago, Spain -  ships in the sky

A short pamphlet published in Seville in 1639 titled An Account of the Prodigious Visions of Armies of Men, Standards, Flags, Vessels, and Other Things, that Visibly have been Seen over a Long Time, near the Town of Santiago in Galicia, in the Fields of Lerida, since June to this Present Year of 1639, reported that "in Santiago three ships appeared in the air with the sound of drums and many people." Unfortunately no more details are given.

Source: Relacion certissima de las prodigiosas visiones...que visiblemente se han visto largo tiempo, cerca de la ciudad de Santiago de Galizia... (Seville, 1639).

7. 22 December 1651, Almerdor, Holland - Flying dutchmen

Dutch sailors saw a fleet of ships in the air, with many people and soldiers. Source: A report made before the harbormaster (Seville: Juan Gomez de Bias, 1652).

8. August 1660, Statford Row, near London, England - A Great ship in the air

The likeness of a "great ship" was seen in the air. It decreased in size and eventually disappeared. The worthy chronicler does not fail to inform us that "this is testified by an able Minister living not far from the place, who received the information from the spectators themselves". Source: Mirabilis Annus (1661)

A description of the experience

New Lands – Charles Fort

Oct. 28, 1812—"phantom soldiers" at Havarah Park, near Ripley, England (Edinburgh Annual Register, 1812-II-124). When such appearances are explained by meteorologists, they are said to be displays of the aurora borealis. Psychic research explains variously. The physicists say that they are mirages of troops marching somewhere at a distance.

September 1820 - Things that marched in the sky—see Arago's Œuvres, 11-576, or Annales de Chimie, 30-417—objects that were seen by many persons, in the streets of Embrun, during the eclipse of Sept. 7, 1820, moving in straight lines, turning and retracting in the same straight lines, all of them separated by uniform spaces.

June 23, 1744, Scotland
…. the phenomenon of June 23, 1744; that, according to 27 witnesses, some of whom gave sworn testimony before a magistrate, …. troops of aërial soldiers had been seen, in Scotland, on and over a mountain, remaining visible two hours and then disappearing because of darkness.
In Clarke's Survey of the Lakes (fol. 1789) is an account in the words of one of the witnesses.
See Notes and Queries, 1-7-304.

Sept. 13, 1848 -  the London Times, Sept. 13, 1848, a still more discouraging—or perhaps stimulating—spectacle was, or was not, seen in Scotland. Afternoon of Sept. 9, 1848—Quigley's Point, Lough Foyle, Scotland—the sky turned dark. It seemed to open. The opening looked reddish, and in the reddish area, appeared a regiment of soldiers. Then came appearances that looked like war vessels under full sail, then "a man and a woman and a swan and a peahen." The "opening" closed, and that was the last of this shocking or ridiculous mixture that nobody but myself would record as being worth thinking about.

Dec. 30, 1850 - "Phantom soldiers" that were seen in the sky, near the Banmouth, Dec. 30, 1850 (Rept. B. A., 1852-30).

Jan. 22, 1854 - "Phantom soldiers" that were seen at Buderich, Jan. 22, 1854 (Notes and Queries, 1-9-267).

Feb. 25, 1858 - "Phantom soldiers" that were seen by Lord Roberts (Forty-One Years in India, p. 219) at Mohan, Feb. 25, 1858. It is either that Lord Roberts saw indistinctly, and described in terms of the familiar to him, or that we are set back in our own motions. According to him, the figures wore Hindoo costumes.

1860 - "Phantom soldiers" that were seen, about the year 1860, at Paderborn, Westphalia (Crowe, Night-side of Nature, p. 416).

Aug. 29, 1871 - In L’Année Scientifique, 29-8, there is an account of observations by M. Trouvelot, Aug. 29, 1871. He saw objects, some round, some triangular, and some of complex forms. Then occurred something that at least suggests that these things were not moving in the wind, nor sustained in space by the orbital forces of meteors; that each was depending upon its own powers of flight, and that an accident occurred to one of them. All of them, though most of the time moving with great rapidity, occasionally stopped, but then one of them fell toward the earth, and the indications are that it was a heavy body, and had not been sustained by the wind, which would scarcely suddenly desert one of its flotsam and continue to sustain all the others. The thing fell, oscillating from side to side like a disc falling through water.

1881 - Black bodies and the dark rabbles of the sky—and that rioting thing, from floating anarchies, have often spotted the sun. Then, by all that is compensatory, in the balances of existence, there are disciplined forces in space. In the Scientific American, 44-291, it is said that, according to newspapers of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, figures had been seen in the sky in the latter part of September, and the first week in October, 1881, reports that "exhibited a mediæval condition of intelligence scarcely less than marvelous."
 Monthly Weather Review, September and October, 1881—an auroral display in Maryland and New York, upon the 23rd of September; all other auroras in September far north of the three states in which it was said phenomena were seen. October—no auroras until the 18th; that one in the north. There was a mirage upon September 23, but at Indianola; two instances in October, but late in the month, and in northern states.
It is said, in the Scientific American, that, according to the Warrentown (Va.) Solid South, a number of persons had seen white-robed figures in the sky, at night. The story in the Richmond Dispatch is that many persons had seen, or had thought they had seen, an alarming sight in the sky, at night: a vast number of armed, uniformed soldiers drilling. Then a dispatch from Wilmington, Delaware—platoons of angels marching and countermarching in the sky, their white robes and helmets gleaming. Similar accounts came from Laurel and Talbot. Several persons said that they had seen, in the sky, the figure of President Garfield, who had died not long before. Our general acceptance is that all reports upon such phenomena are colored in terms of appearances and subjects uppermost in minds.

Aug. 30, 1886  and April 15 and 16, 1883  -observation by M. Bruguière, at Marseilles, April 15 and 16, 1883 (L’Astro., 5-70). An army that was watched, forty minutes, by M. Jacquot, Aug. 30, 1886 (L’Astro., 1886-71)—things or beings that seemed to march and to counter-march: all that moved in the same direction, moved in parallel lines.

August, 1888 - L’Astronomie, 1888-392: That, about the first of August, 1888, near Warasdin, Hungary, several divisions of infantry, led by a chief, who waved a flaming sword, had been seen in the sky, three consecutive days, marching several hours a day. The writer in L’Astronomie says that in vain does one try to explain that this appearance was a mirage of terrestrial soldiers marching at a distance from Warasdin, because widespread publicity and investigation had disclosed no such soldiers. Even if there had been terrestrial soldiers near Warasdin repeating mirages localized would call for explanation.

The source of the experience

Fort, Charles

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