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Observations placeholder

Charles Fort - Lights on earth in the sky



Type of Spiritual Experience



Other sources also mention collections of lights or single very bright lights, for example

1.   15 February 1609, Tiannin mountain, China - Blinding "eye" in the sky

Bright lights illuminated the temple walls: an object like a ship or an eye with blinding light was seen in the sky. Source: Shi Bo, La Chine et les Extraterrestres , op.cit., 43, citing Feng Mengzhen, Collection of Stories from the Palace of Snow.

2. September 1660, London, England - Multiple unknown lights

"A gentleman of good quality and an Officer of Eminency in the late King's army and now a Justice of the Peace in the Country" reported seeing a bright light in the Southwest, along with six smaller ones. "Whilst he with several others, were with some admiration beholding them, they all fell down perpendicularly and vanished." Source: Mirabilis Annus (1661).

3. April 1661, Chard, Somersetshire, England - Multiple Objects

Several witnesses saw a narrow, long dusty cloud from which three very bright spots descended and joined. Source: Mirabilis Annus Secundus (1662).

4.  April 1661, Between Ilford and Romford, England - Manoeuvering light

About 10 P.M. Captain Chelmford, of Ipswich, and another man riding to London saw a fiery light with a green-white glow that changed direction. It approached at great speed, emitting light beams. When it was exactly overhead it suddenly changed direction again and disappeared at the horizon. Upon arriving in London, the two travelers had a notarial deed drawn up, recording their experience. Source: Mirabilis Annus Secundus (1662).

A description of the experience

Book of the Damned

1844 - Glaisher

something like a signal light, reported by Glaisher, Oct. 4, 1844; bright as Jupiter, "sending out quick flickering waves of light" (Year Book of Facts, 1845-278).

1848 - London Times, Sept. 19, 1848:

That, at Inverness, Scotland, two large, bright lights that looked like stars had been seen in the sky: sometimes stationary, but occasionally moving at high velocity.

1866 - "The False Lights of Durham."

Every now and then in the English newspapers, in the middle of the nineteenth century, there is something about lights that were seen against the sky, but as if not far above land, oftenest upon the coast of Durham. They were mistaken for beacons by sailors. Wreck after wreck occurred. The fishermen were accused of displaying false lights and profiting by wreckage. The fishermen answered that mostly only old vessels, worthless except for insurance, were so wrecked.

In 1866 (London Times, Jan. 9, 1866) popular excitement became intense. There was an investigation. Before a commission, headed by Admiral Collinson, testimony was taken. One witness described the light that had deceived him as "considerably elevated above ground." No conclusion was reached: the lights were called "the mysterious lights."  But whatever the "false lights of Durham" may have been, they were unaffected by the investigation.

1877 - In the Report of the British Association, 1877-152, there is a description of a group of "meteors" that traveled with "remarkable slowness." They were in sight about three minutes. "Remarkable," it seems, is scarcely strong enough: one reads of "remarkable" as applied to a duration of three seconds. These "meteors" had another peculiarity; they left no train. They are described as "seemingly huddled together like a flock of wild geese, and moving with the same velocity and grace of regularity."

1877 - London Times, Oct. 5, 1877:

"From time to time the west coast of Wales seems to have been the scene of mysterious lights.... And now we have a statement from Towyn that within the last few weeks lights of various colors have been seen moving over the estuary of the Dysynni River, and out to sea. They are generally in a northerly direction, but sometimes they hug the shore, and move at high velocity for miles toward Aberdovey, and suddenly disappear."

Notes and Queries, 5-3-306:

About 8 lights that were seen in Wales, over an area of about 8 miles, all keeping their own ground, whether moving together perpendicularly, horizontally, or over a zigzag course. They looked like electric lights--disappearing, reappearing dimly, then shining as bright as ever.
"We have seen them three or four at a time afterward, on four or five occasions."

1877 - L'Année Scientifique, 1877-45:

Lights that appeared in the sky, above Vence, France, March 23, 1877; described as balls of fire of dazzling brightness; appeared from a cloud about a degree in diameter; moved relatively slowly. They were visible more than an hour, moving northward. It is said that eight or ten years before similar lights or objects had been seen in the sky, at Vence.

1880 - L'Année Scientifique, 1888-66:

Observed near St. Petersburg, July 30, 1880, in the evening: a large spherical light and two smaller ones, moving along a ravine: visible three minutes; disappearing without noise.

1886 - Nature, 35-173:

That, at Yloilo, Sept. 30, 1886, was seen a luminous object the size of the full moon. It "floated" slowly "northward," followed by smaller ones close to it.

1893 - Nature, May 25, 1893:

A letter from Capt. Charles J. Norcock, of H.M.S. Caroline:

That, upon the 24th of February, 1893, at 10 P.M., between Shanghai and Japan, the officer of the watch had reported "some unusual lights." They were between the ship and a mountain. The mountain was about 6,000 feet high. The lights seemed to be globular. They moved sometimes massed, but sometimes strung out in an irregular line. They bore "northward," until lost to sight. Duration two hours.

The next night the lights were seen again.

They were, for a time, eclipsed by a small island. They bore north at about the same speed and in about the same direction as speed and direction of the Caroline. But they were lights that cast a reflection: there was a glare upon the horizon under them. A telescope brought out but few details: that they were reddish, and seemed to emit a faint smoke. This time the duration was seven and a half hours.

Then Capt. Norcock says that, in the same general locality, and at about the same time, Capt. Castle, of H.M.S. Leander, had seen lights. He had altered his course and had made toward them. The lights had fled from him. At least, they had moved higher in the sky.

1898 - Monthly Weather Review, August, 1898-358:

Two letters from C.N. Crotsenburg, Crow Agency, Montana:    That, in the summer of 1896, when this writer was a railroad postal clerk--or one who was experienced in train-phenomena--while his train was going "northward," from Trenton, Mo., he and another clerk saw, in the darkness of a heavy rain, a light that appeared to be round, and of a dull-rose color, and seemed to be about a foot in diameter. It seemed to float within a hundred feet of the earth, but soon rose high, or "midway between horizon and zenith." The wind was quite strong from the east, but the light held a course almost due north.  Its speed varied. Sometimes it seemed to outrun the train "considerably." At other times it seemed to fall behind. The mail-clerks watched until the town of Linville, Iowa, was reached. Behind the depot of this town, the light disappeared, and was not seen again. All this time there had been rain, but very little lightning, but Mr. Crotsenburg offers the explanation that it was "ball lightning."……………………….

Mr. Crotsenburg thinks of "ball lightning," which, though a sore bewilderment to most speculation, is usually supposed to be a correlate with the old system of thought: but his awareness of "something else" is expressed in other parts of his letters, when he says that he has something to tell that is "so strange that I should never have mentioned it, even to my friends, had it not been corroborated... so unreal that I hesitated to speak of it, fearing that it was some freak of the imagination."

1904 - Monthly Weather Review, March, 1904-115:

Report from the observations of three members of his crew by Lieut. Frank H. Schofield, U.S.N, of the U.S.S. Supply:   Feb. 24, 1904. Three luminous objects, of different sizes, the largest having an apparent area of about six suns. When first sighted, they were not very high. They were below clouds of an estimated height of about one mile.  They fled, or they evaded, or they turned.  They went up into the clouds below which they had, at first, been sighted.

Their unison of movement.  But they were of different sizes, and of different susceptibilities to all forces of this earth and of the air.

New Lands

June 19, 1875—opposition of Mars. Flashes that were seen in the sky upon the 25th of June, 1875, by Charles Gape, of Scole, Norfolk (Eng. Mec., 21-488). The Editor of Symons’ Met. Mag. (see vol. 10-116) was interested, and sent Mr. Gape some questions, receiving answers that nothing had appeared in the local newspapers upon the subject, and that nothing could be learned of a display of fireworks, at the time.

Sept. 7, 1877—lights appeared in the sky of Bloomington, Indiana. They were supposed to be meteoric. They appeared and disappeared, at intervals of three or four seconds; darkness for several minutes; then a final flash of light. See Sci. Amer., 37-193.  Sept. 5, 1877—opposition of Mars.

Sept. 4, 1895 - In the London Times, Sept. 4, 1895, Dr. J. A. H. Murray writes that, at Oxford, a few minutes before 8 P.M., Aug. 31, 1895, he saw in the sky a luminous object, considerably larger than Venus at greater brilliance, emerge from behind tree tops, and sail slowly eastward. It moved as if driven in a strong wind, and disappeared behind other trees. "The fact that it so perceptibly grew fainter as it receded seems to imply that it was not at a great elevation, and so favors a terrestrial origin, though I am unable to conceive how anything artificial could have presented the same appearance."
In the Times, of the 6th, someone who had read Dr. Murray's letter says that, about the same time, same evening, he, in London, had seen the same object moving eastward so slowly that he had thought it might be a fire-balloon from a neighboring park. Another correspondent, who had not read Dr. Murray's letter, his own dated September 3, writes from a place not stated that about 8:20 P.M., August 31, he had seen a star-like object, moving eastward, remaining in sight four or five minutes. Then someone who, about 8 P.M., same evening, while driving to the Scarborough station, had seen "a large shooting star," astonishing him, because of its leisurely rate, so different from the velocity of the ordinary "shooting star." There are two other accounts of objects that were seen in the sky, at Bath and at Ramsgate, but not about this time, and I have looked them up in local newspapers, finding that they were probably meteors.

In the Oxford Times, September 7, Dr. Murray's letter to the London Times is reprinted, with this comment—"We would suggest to the learned doctor that the supposed meteor was one of the fire-balloons let off with the allotments show."  Let it be that when allotments are shown, balloons are always sent up, and that this Editor did not merely have a notion to this effect. Our data are concerned with an object that was seen, at about the same time, at Oxford, about 50 miles southeast of Oxford, and about 170 miles northeast of Oxford, with a fourth observation that we cannot place.

And, in broader terms, our data are concerned with a general expression that objects like ships have been seen to sail close to this earth at times when the planet Venus is nearest this earth. Sept. 18, 1895—inferior conjunction of Venus.

The source of the experience

Fort, Charles

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items


Activities and commonsteps