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Observations placeholder

Winthrop, John - March 1638, Muddy River near Charlton - Massachusetts: Missing time among the Puritans



Type of Spiritual Experience



A description of the experience

As quoted in Wonders In The Sky - Unexplained Aerial Objects From Antiquity To Modern Times - and Their Impact on Human Culture, History, and Beliefs - Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck

The settling of the first Puritan colony in Boston was chronicled by Governor John Winthrop, who arrived in Massachusetts Bay in 1630 with one thousand English emigrants. A historian himself, Winthrop kept a record of the colony's first years in the New World. His journal is far from being a mere collection of unlikely anecdotes or village gossip. It is quite significant, therefore, that he regarded two spectacular sightings of unexplained phenomena as being sufficiently important to be recorded for posterity.

The first sighting took place in March 1638. A member of the Puritan Church, James Everell, "a sober, discreet man," was crossing the Muddy River one evening in a small boat with two companions. Suddenly a great luminous mass appeared in the sky above the river. It seemed to dart back and forth over the water. When it remained motionless, it "flamed up" and seemed to measure three yards square. When it moved, it "contracted into the figure of a swine" and flew away towards Charlton.

It did this repeatedly over a period of two or three hours, always returning briefly to the same spot above the water before shooting off again.

When the light had finally vanished, Everell and his friends stood up and were surprised to learn that the boat was now further upstream than it should have been, as if it had been pushed, pulled or carried by an unknown force. In fact they had been carried against the tide to their original starting point, one mile away.

Why the light would be swine-shaped is a mystery not even the Puritan colonists could interpret, though it should be noted Everell was a leather dresser by trade, and he could have sought a familiar shape in an otherwise amorphous light.

It is curious that the men observed that "two or three hours" passed during the spectacle. Can we believe they sat watching the phenomenon for such a long time?

The mysterious repositioning of the boat could suggest that they were unaware of part of their experience. Some researchers would interpret this as a possible alien abduction if it happened today.

Any speculation at this late date is merely conjecture, but it is interesting to note that at least a superficial resemblance exists between this case and recent claims in the American abduction literature.

Source: John Winthrop, The History of New England from 1630 to 1649 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1853), 349-350.

The source of the experience

Winthrop, John

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items


Activities and commonsteps