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Observations placeholder

Charles Fort - Mirages of unknown cities hanging in the air



Type of Spiritual Experience



Mirage, apport, hallucination - many explanations are possible, Charles Fort said this:

That through lenses rimmed with horizons, inhabitants of this earth have seen revelations of other worlds—that atmospheric strata of different densities are lenses—but that the faults of the wide glasses in the observatories are so intensified in atmospheric revelations that all our data are distortions. Our acceptance is that every mirage has a primary; that in human mind all poetry is based upon observation, and that imagery in the sky is similarly uncreative. If a mirage cannot be traced to the known upon this earth, one supposes that it is either a derivation from the unknown upon this earth, or from the unknown somewhere else. We shall have data of a series of mirages in Sweden, or upon the shores of the Baltic, from October, 1881, to December, 1888. I take most of the data from Nature, Knowledge, Cosmos, and L’Astronomie, published in this period. I have no data of such appearances in this region either before or after this period: the suggestion in my own mind is that they were not mirages from terrestrial primaries, or they would not be so confined to one period, but were shadows or mirages from something that was in temporary suspension over the Baltic and Sweden, all details distorted and reported in terms of familiar terrestrial appearances.

They were seen on other occasions, here as some examples from various sources:

1.  February 1661, Darken [Dorking], Surrey, England - Flying cathedrals

A "discreet sober gentleman" saw a strange cloud in the evening sky, and two objects he compares to cathedrals or churches, "having upon it diverse goodly Pinnacles, and each of them a long streamer flying upwards upon it, and as he beheld it, he thought it grew up to a greater splendor and glory." The other object was darker. After a while, the large one emitted puffs of vapor and disappeared, while the smaller one grew and became brighter. The witness was called into his house and could not observe the end of the phenomenon. Source: Mirabilis Annus (1661).

A description of the experience

New Lands – Charles Fort

June, 1801—a mirage of an unknown city. It was seen, for more than an hour, at Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland—a representation of mansions, surrounded by shrubbery and white palings—forests behind. In October, 1796, a mirage of a walled town had been seen distinctly for half an hour at Youghal. Upon March 9, 1797, had been seen a mirage of a walled town.

English Mechanic, Sept. 10, 1897

In the English Mechanic, Sept. 10, 1897, a correspondent to the Weekly Times and Echo is quoted. He had just returned from the Yukon. Early in June, 1897, he had seen a city pictured in the sky of Alaska. "Not one of us could form the remotest idea in what part of the world this settlement could be. Some guessed Toronto, others Montreal, and one of us even suggested Pekin. But whether this city exists in some unknown world on the other side of the North Pole, or not, it is a fact that this wonderful mirage occurs from time to time yearly, and we were not the only ones who witnessed the spectacle. Therefore it is evident that it must be the reflection of some place built by the hand of man." According to this correspondent, the "mirage" did not look like one of the cities named, but like "some immense city of the past."

New York Tribune, Feb. 17, 1901

In the New York Tribune, Feb. 17, 1901, it is said that Indians of Alaska had told of an occasional appearance, as if of a city, suspended in the sky, and that a prospector, named Willoughby, having heard the stories, had investigated, in the year 1887, and had seen the spectacle.
It is said that, having several times attempted to photograph the scene, Willoughby did finally at least show an alleged photograph of an aërial city. In Alaska, p. 140, Miner Bruce says that Willoughby, one of the early pioneers in Alaska, after whom Willoughby Island is named, had told him of the phenomenon, and that, early in 1899, he had accompanied Willoughby to the place over which the mirage was said to repeat. It seems that he saw nothing himself, but he quotes a member of the Duc d’Abruzzi's expedition to Mt. St. Elias, summer of 1897, Mr. C. W. Thornton, of Seattle, who saw the spectacle, and wrote—"It required no effort of the imagination to liken it to a city, but was so distinct that it required, instead, faith to believe that it was not in reality a city."

New York Times, Oct. 31, 1889

In the New York Times, Oct. 31, 1889, is an account, by Mr. L. B. French, of Chicago, of the spectral representation, as he saw it, near Mt. Fairweather. "We could see plainly houses, well-defined streets, and trees. Here and there rose tall spires over huge buildings, which appeared to be ancient mosques or cathedrals.… It did not look like a modern city—more like an ancient European City."

Rept. B. A., 1847-39

Sept. 27, 1846—a city in the sky of Liverpool (Rept. B. A., 1847-39) . The apparition is said to have been a mirage of the city of Edinburgh. This "identification" seems to have been the product of suggestion: at the time a panorama of Edinburgh was upon exhibition in Liverpool.

Flammarion's The Atmosphere

Summer of 1847—see Flammarion's The Atmosphere, p. 160—story told by M. Grellois: that he was traveling between Ghelma and Bône, when he saw, to the east of Bône, upon a gently sloping hill, "a vast and beautiful city, adorned with monuments, domes, and steeples." There was no resemblance to any city known to M. Grellois.


Upon Oct. 8, 1888, at Merexull, on the Baltic, but in Russia, was seen a mirage of a city that lasted an hour. It is said that some buildings were recognized, and that the representation was identified with St. Petersburg, which is about 200 miles from the Baltic.

Bull. Soc. Astro. de France

In the Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, 21-180, is an account of a spectacle that, according to 20 witnesses, was seen for two hours in the sky of Vienne dans le Dauphiné, May 3, 1848.
A city—and an army, in the sky. One supposes that a Brewster would say that nearby was a terrestrial city, with troops maneuvering near it. But also vast lions were seen in the sky—and that is enough to discourage any Brewster.

New York Sun, March 16, 1890

—that, at 4 o'clock, in the afternoon of March 12th, in the sky of Ashland, Ohio, was seen a representation of a large, unknown city. By some persons it was supposed to be a mirage of the town of Mansfield, thirty miles away; other observers thought that they recognized Sandusky, sixty miles away. "The more superstitious declared that it was a vision of the New Jerusalem."

Brooklyn Eagle, Jan. 18, 1892

—a mirage in the sky of Lewiston, Montana—Indians and hunters alternately charging and retreating. The Indians were in superior numbers and captured the hunters. Then details—hunters tied to stakes; the piling of faggots; etc. "So far as could be ascertained last night, the Indians on the reservations are peaceable."

Oct. 10, 1881—that at Rugenwalde, Pomerania, the mirage of a village had been seen: snow-covered roofs from which hung icicles; human forms distinctly visible. It was believed that the mirage was a representation of the town of Nexo, on the island of Bornholm. Rugenwalde is on the Baltic, and Nexo is about 100 miles northwest, in the Baltic.

The first definite account of the mirages of Sweden, findable by me, is published in Nature, June 29, 1882, where it is said that preceding instances had attracted attention—that, in May, 1882, over Lake Orsa, Sweden, representations of steamships had been seen, and then "islands covered with vegetation."

 Night of May 19, 1883—beams of light at Lake Ludyika, Sweden—they looked like a representation of a lake in moonshine, with shores covered with trees, showing faint outlines of farms (Monthly Weather Review, May, 1883).

May 28, 1883—at Finsbo, Sweden—changing scenes, at short intervals: mountains, lakes, and farms.

Oct. 16, 1884—Lindsberg—a large town, with four-storied houses, a castle and a lake.

May 22, 1885—Gothland—a town surrounded by high mountains, a large vessel in front of the town.

June 15, 1885—near Oxelosund—two wooded islands, a construction upon one of them, and two warships. It is said that at the time two Swedish warships were at sea, but were at considerable distance north of Oxelosund.

Sept. 12, 1885—Valla—a representation that is said to have been a "remarkable mirage" but that is described as if the appearances were cloud-forms—several monitors, one changing into a spouting whale, and the other into a crocodile—then forests—dancers—a wooded island with buildings and a park.

Sept. 29, 1885—again at Valla—between 8 and 9 o'clock, P.M.; a lurid glare upon the northwestern horizon; a cloud bank—animals, groups of dancers, a forest, and then a park with paths.

July 15, 1888—Hudikwall—a tempestuous sea, and a vessel upon it; a small boat leaving the vessel.

1901 - La Nature, 1901-1-303:  That a number of scientists had set out from Victoria, B. C., to Mt. Fairweather, Alaska, to study a repeating mirage of a city in the sky, which had been reported by the Duc d’Abruzzi, who had seen it and had sketched it.

Aug. 2, 1908 - In Country Queries and Notes, 1-328, it is said that, upon Aug. 2, 1908, at Ballyconneely, Connemara coast of Ireland, was seen a phantom city of different-sized houses, in different styles of architecture; visible three hours.


The source of the experience

Fort, Charles

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items


Activities and commonsteps