After spending any reasonable amount of time recording and cataloguing
the odder aspects of daily life on this planet, certain conclusions
almost beg to be arrived at, such as "people are generally speaking,
nuts," or that perhaps half the population really are more intelligent
than the average person. But from these studies, one starts to get a
grasp on the "bigger picture" that Charles Fort and hundreds of others
have devoted so much time, in some cases even their lifetimes,
examining. In the last year, while researching my weekly email
newsletter, Blather ,
several events and a few tenuous mental tangents
brought me to consider Fort's humorous hypothesis on the
"Super-Sargasso Sea," an aerial ocean from which eels migrate back to
old mother earth, aided by the wonderful force of gravity. But when
rather out-of-date military projectiles and then--saints preserve us--people
starting falling out of the sky, questions arise about the connections
between "Magonia"--the possible home of historical "aerial sailing
ships"--and the "Super-Sargasso."
Amphibious Vertical Migrations
The Associated Press, on 8th July 1997, reported that on Saturday 5th
July, at around 11 pm, it rained toads in the Mexican town of Villa
Angel Flores, in the Pacific Coast state of Sinaloa. Apparently a "mini
tornado" picked them up from a pond and dumped them on the town. The
Fortean Times On line Reporting Service , which is
wired into the Forteana mailing list , had a
posting culled from BBC teletext of 26th June 1997, via Rompes news
agency, which told of people in Southern Romania rising from their beds
after heavy rain overnight to find themselves up to their ankles in
frogs. (I would presume that the people of Southern Romania sleep
indoors, and the correspondant was merely indulging in colourful
hyperbolic metaphor.) The report concluded that the frogs had been
sucked up by strong winds, carried long distances and deposited in the
Typically enough, neither of these run-of-the-mill (if bizarre) reports
state how this can happen, or more importantly why it was only
toads and frogs that the tornado or strong winds allegedly picked up.
This phenomenon has been reported in some shape or form for hundreds of
years, and there's still precious little information as to why these
rains are so selective. Sometimes it's berries, sometimes it's fish,
and sometimes of course, the classic frog falls. Charles Fort's Book
of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923),
(1931)  record many of these
reports of weird organic
apparently manufactured "rain" from all over the world, with all sorts
of interesting ingredients, including alabaster, ants, ashes, beef,
beetle larvae, berries, bitumen, blood, butter, charcoal, china
fragments (naturally vitrified?), cinders, coal, cobwebs, coins, crabs,
crayfish, eels, fish, flesh, gelatinous matter, grain, hay, ice, iron
balls, jelly fish, limestone, lizards, mud, mussels, oyster shells,
periwinkles, quartz, resin, salt, sand, sandalwood, seeds, silk,
snails, snakes, spawn, spiders, carved and shaped stones, turtles, and
of course, toads and frogs. But never all at once, you understand.
Fish are a particular favourite of fall aficionados, spawning the likes
of the "mad fishmonger" explanation for the Worcester fish fall of
1881. (Much study has gone in this phenomenon, Bob Rickard's collection
of E.W. Gudger's work in Fortean Studies 2 springs
to mind, as
well as a recent issue of Fortean Times .)
Crows, well, they'd be in the sky anyway, wouldn't
On Monday December 21st 1997, I received an article from Daniel Ko in
Hong Kong, with news from The Nation (Thailand) on
29th November, 1997 (ppA7). It told of a "Village stoned by crows" in
southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan on Thursday the 27th. Between
200 and 300 crows flew overhead as a "black cloud" before suddenly
dropping dead into the village of Dujiangyan. The China News Service
said that "Only a dozen got away, making desperate cries as they flew."
"Experts" were quoted as saying that the crows could have been suddenly
killed by poisoning. I suppose we are expected to be content with such
Other notable falls of 1997 include a couple of blocks of ice hitting
the ground in Brazil in July. One of them, which crashed through the
roof of bus factory, weighed more than 50kg. On 28th November, reports
came in about "purple blotches" found all over peoples homes, gardens
and cars in Rochester, New York. Airplane lavatory fluid was quickly
ruled out, according to theAssociated Press, and a theory concerning
the droppings of berry-eating birds was introduced, which
understandably enough left many people unconvinced.
Dimension Hopping Cannonballs?
Apart from "rains" of materials, other than the various forms of
dihydrogen monoxide, there exists reports of single, or relatively
small numbers of, falls of apparently man made objects. A "civil
war-type" missile tore through a window and two walls of Leonard and
Kathy Mickelson's mobile home in House Springs, Missouri, on Thursday
night 16th of October 1997, according to the Associated Press. Nobody
was home when it happened, and the neighbours noticed nothing strange.
Police are reportedly investigating the possible use of a small cannon,
a weapon readily available for Civil War re-enactments. Just three days
later, on the 19th, in an apparently unrelated yet somehow relevant
incident reported by the Associated Press in Cincinnati, Ohio, a
14-year-old boy was severely injured by an exploding gunpowder charge
during a Civil War re-enactment.
Following this news, and while researching "The Smoking Cannon" for Blather
, I spent into the wee
hours of the morning
the books of Charles Fort and others, but I could find no mention of
cannonballs from the sky. (Obviously he didn't record cannonballs that
would have fallen during wars.) As the Honourable Mr. Andy Silverman
pointed out on the Forteana mailing list, perhaps the "civil war-type"
projectile plummeted from Fort's hypothetical heavenly Super-Sargasso
Sea--from which many eels have reportedly migrated back to solid earth,
rather than liquid water. Mr. Silverman goes on to wonder if a stray
cannonball from the Ohio re-enactment was lost in the floating Sargasso
I was inclined to ponder, if such a floating sea, as ridiculous as it
seems, manages to exist, why should we be at all bothered by the
trivial matter of the Ohio re-enactment taking place after
House Springs cannonball incident? (i.e., daft as it sounds, perhaps
the Mickelson's missile transcended time and space and possibly several
other dimensions, to make sure it was home and waiting for them.) If I
may be even sillier, perhaps the damned things have been hanging around
in the sky since the U.S. Civil War! What goes up, must come down. . .
Or then again, surely such an aerial ocean has maritime vessels
floating about in it. . . the missile may have been a stray from some
heavenly hostile exchange between alien galleons.
Recently, while delving through James Hardiman's 1843 notes to Roderick
O'Flaherty's A Description of West or H-Iar Connaught
in a search for anomalous animal reports (and I can conclude that I
found many, including mentions of Irish crocodiles!), by complete
chance I stumbled across the following, in a note pertaining to the
appearance of "Demon Ships" in Galway Bay in 1161 A.D., which was
mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, a year-by-year history of
Ireland from the "earliest times" to 1616, compiled by four friars in
the Abbey of Donegal in Bundrowes, on the coast near Bundoran .
"Fantastical Ships --Our annalists, in
this occurrence, call these ships loinger demnacda.
. . the
meaning of demnacda, which literally signifies devilish or diabolical,
from deaman (demon), the evil spirit. But our
"fantastical ships" (viz., visionary, or having the appearance of a
phantom, not real), was happily chosen to express this instance of
atmospheric refraction. [Ah, the wonders of science.] The writer
remembers to have seen, when a boy, a well-defined aerial phenomenon of
this kind, from a rising ground near the mountain of Cruach-Patrick
[a.k.a. Croagh Patrick]. It was on a serene evening in the autumn of
1798. Hundreds who also witnessed the scene believed it supernatural;
but it was soon afterwards found to have been caused by the fleet of
Admiral Warren, then in pursuit of a French squadron, off the west
coast of Ireland."
The Annals of the Four Masters holds other mentions of strange aerial
vessels; "Ships, with their crews, were plainly seen in the sky this
year." The year? 743 A.D. .
After much hunting about, some other references were unearthed. In
"Mystery Airships of the 1800's" by Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman in
Fate magazine of June 1973 ,
which states the following:
"An ancient obscure Irish manuscript, Speculum Regali,
an incident that supposedly occurred in the year 956 A. D.: 'There
happened in the borough of Cloera, one Sunday while people were at
mass, a marvel. In this town there is a church to the memory of St.
Kinarus. It befell that a metal anchor was dropped from the sky, with a
rope attached to it, and one of the sharp flukes caught in the wooden
arch above the church door.The people rushed out of the church and saw
in the sky a ship with men on board, floating at the end of the anchor
cable, and they saw a man leap overboard and pull himself down the
cable to the anchor as if to unhook it. "He appeared 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 fear it might kill him.
The man was freed and hurried up the cable to the ship, where the crew
cut the rope and the ship rose and sailed away out of sight. But the
anchor is in the church as a testimony to this singular occurrence.'"
Naturally enough, after perusing various texts on the mystery airships
of the last century, I began to wonder how much recoil a cannon
carrying airship could stand, without propelling itself into the past
Soon after Blather's 'Smoking Cannon' issue, folklorist Leslie Ellen
Jones stumbled across the following on page 11 of Daibhi O Croinin's Early
Medieval Ireland 400-1200 :
"The Annals of Ulster, for example, in the year AD 749 report that
ships were seen in the air (some said above the monastery of
Clonmacnois). Other sources report a similar episode at Teltown, during
the reign of Congalach mac Maele Mithig (d. AD 956), when a ship
appeared in the air above a market fair (oenach) and a member of the
crew cast a spear down at a salmon below. When he came down to retrieve
the spear a man on the ground took hold of him, whereupon the man from
above said: 'Let me go! I'm being drowned!' Congalach ordered that the
man be released and he scurried back up to his shipmates, 'who were all
that time looking down, and were laughing together.' Well they might.
There is no point in trying to explore the Otherworld with the
apparatus and outlook of the science laboratory: flying ships are not
subject to the laws of quantum mechanics."(Leslie adds that 'the actual
text and translation of this episode is cited as being in Myles Dillon,
1960, "Laud Misc. 610", 'Celtica,' pp. 64-76, and Kuno Meyer, 1908,
"Irish mirabilia in the Norse 'Speculum Regale,'" 'Eriu', vol. 4, part
1, pp. 1-16.')
So how does all this relate to "Magonia," a symbolic point of reference
to the home of all and mysterious and apparently manned aerial craft
throughout the ages--a kind of Super-Sargasso Sea without the humour,
popularised by astrophysicist and UFO researcher Jacques Vallee?
The word 'Magonia' originates from a series of events, believed to have
taken place in Lyons, France around 833A.D., and which Jean Louis Brodu
, presents a English
translation from the
Saint Agobard, De la GrÍle et du tonnerre (Imprimerie de
Dumoulin, Ronet et Sibuet, Lyons 1841), which is translated from the
Latin of Archbishop Agobard of Lyons who tells us that:
'We have seen and heard from a lot of people so mad and blind as to
believe and to assert that there exists a certain region called
Magonia, from which ships, navigating on clouds, set sail to transport
back to this same region the fruits of the earth ruined by hail and
destroyed by storm, after the value of the wheat and the other fruits
have been paid by these aerial navigators to the tempestarii,
from whom they have received them. We have even seen several of these
senseless fools who, believing the reality of such absurd things,
brought in front of an assembly of men four persons in chairs, three
men and a woman, who they said had fallen from these ships. They
retained them in irons for some days, before they brought them before
me, followed by the crowd, to stone them to death as they had been
condemned, but after a long discussion, the truth finally triumphed
after the many reasonings which I opposed to them and those who had
shown them to the people were found, as a proverb has it, as much
confused as a thief when he is surprised."
Vallee's "Magonia" interpretations, while streets ahead of the
run-of-the-mill extraterrestrial hypothesis and flying saucer pabulum
popular today, deserves some criticism, and received an interesting
barrage from Brodu who accuses Vallee of being a little too fond of
referencing the abbot Montfaucon de Villars 1670 "studies" of the
Magonia material, in his cabalistic book Le Comte de Gabalis
entren sur les sciences secrets (The Count of
Briefing on the Secret Sciences). Brodu seems to find this
be a glossed-over popularist work, and too apocryphal and satirical to
use as an absolute reference, as well as being laced with cabalistic
In Gervase of Tilbury's Otia Imperialis from the
a very similar event is described as having taken place around 1200
A.D. at a church near Bristol, which brings to mind the "Card Playing
Devil on a Stormy Night" form of ghost story, which seems to be linked
to several "haunted houses" in Ireland and Britain. Loftus Hall in
Wexford and "The Hellfire Club" in the Dublin mountains spring to mind .
Could the various texts have being describing the same story, or even
the same parable, misinterpretation, or mistranslation? As for the form
of these UFOs, an apparent aerial vessel would have been possibly
described as a sailing ship, just as various people were cataloguing
reports of "mystery airships" long before the days of "flying saucers."
It's always worth bearing in mind that the UFO phenomenon is not as new
as we like to think, "visitations" of one form or other are the basis
of many belief systems, and date back to at least the beginning of
All this, of course, doesn't necessarily explain the cannonball buried
inside Leonard and Kathy Mickelson's mobile home.
On December 1st 1997, Reuters told of a body discovered in a canefield
in Palm Beach County, Florida. Police reckoned that it was a missing
sky diver who plunged to his [er, apparent?] death a week beforehand.
"We believe it is the body of Omar Lozada but I can't confirm it yet,"
said Mark Phillips of Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. Lozada went
missing after crashing into Victor Govone, 25, as they were
free-falling from about 5,000 feet. Govone had only minor injuries. The
Palm Beach Post of Friday 28th November said that James
Darby had died while his ski board was hit by another sky diver and he
crashed into a lake.
These deaths are hardly classifiable as forteana, until you read the
news from Reuters on Wednesday 3rd of December, of the body of a woman
in her 30s or 40s, dressed in black, which fell from somewhere
on to a garden wall, resulting in massive fatal injuries. The
Herald reported her body was nearly ripped in half. And where
Miami? It's in Florida.
Initially investigators reckoned that she had fallen from an aircraft,
but have since decided that this isn't the case. They now feel that she
fell from a nearby apartment balcony, due to the kind of injury, and
the reasonably high temperature of the body, which supposedly means
that she fell from a low altitude. They don't seem to have considered a
small, pressurised low-flying aircraft.
Later, the Associated Press said that she had been named as Helene
Deborah Gusik, and the police reckoned that she had fallen from a
nearby apartment block, but didn't know why she was even in the
Reuters also mentions that on 23rd May, 1996, "a teenage boy found in a
Miami street the body of a man who apparently fell from the wheel well
of an aircraft about to land at Miami International Airport. Police
concluded the man, whose body was smudged with airplane grease, was a
Now I may be jumping to conclusions, but isn't that an awful
lot of people falling out of the sky in one state? Call me Chicken
Licken, but consider these tales with the plethora of bizarre aircraft
accidents in Florida these last couple of years, and you would be
forgiven for sticking to surface travel for manoeuvring your way around
that particular neck of the woods, remembering to wearing a hard hat.
Perhaps the winds of change have blown a piece of Fort's Super-Sargasso
Sea into position over Florida? (It could be on a south-easterly drift
from House Springs, Missouri.) Were people falling from that place
which seems to divulge ships, cannonballs and vertically migrating
eels? Bear in mind that I'm resorting to sheer whimsical conjecture
here, not A Scientific Theory of The Severest Authority. Now that we know
that we live on an almost spherical planet, and we have poor
unfortunates sitting in ancient metal cans in orbit about it, surely we
would notice something has obvious as an aerial sea full of silver
saucers, sailing ships and salmon splashing about above our noggins?
Well, wouldn't we?
On mentioning this spate of vertically migrating humans, Brian Chapman
in Canada was quick to recall an article in Fortean Times
of December/January 1994, when a Parisian lady had her tree vandalised
and her phone lines cut by a man who descended from above --without a
parachute. He was quite dead, lightly dressed, "swarthy" and carrying
three obsolete Russian banknotes, amounting to 55 roubles.
He, too, was thought to have fallen from the undercarriage of an
aircraft landing at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle. If this was the case, he
would have had to survive several hours at 36,000 feet or so, at a
temperature of minus 45 degrees. The "average" person can live for 10
minutes in these conditions, according toFortean Times
However, investigators claim that he was alive when he hit the ground.
Regarding body temperatures of freefallers and stowaways on aircraft,
Daniel Ko, in Hong Kong, told me that: "I used to do a fair bit of
skydiving (60 jumps) and even 13,500ft jumps from an open doored Cessna
during very early spring through hailclouds. It's unlikely that the
victim's body core temperature would drop significantly. Indeed, it's
significantly more likely that a low flying light [aircraft] was
involved, as (1) they're easier to fall out of. (2) security makes it
difficult to stow away in the external recesses of commercial
pressurized airliners. (3) Bodies in freefall accelerate slowly. The
first 1000ft takes 10 seconds and 5 seconds thereafter. Given the
height of lowrise apartments the purported extent of the damage is not
entirely consistent. (Guesstimate; experiment impractical.)"
On Sunday 7th December 1997, to ice the wake cake celebrating an
alarming tally of parachute related deaths in a short space of time,
three skydivers, two Americans and an Austrian, were killed attempting
to sky dive at the South Pole. They were jumping from a Twin Otter at
8,500 feet, and two of the parachutes failed to open, the other only
Aside from the more explicable phenomena detailed above, the choir of
skydiving angels (now sadly deceased), there is a great deal of bizarre
circumstantial evidence to add to Fort's theories
layer of Swiftian reality above our heads. Are flying saucers actually
submarine vessels from another dimension? Is the ocean that the
Magonians sail upon and dive in the same air that we breathe, as the
ocean that we sail and dive in is breathed by fishes? Are "aliens" in
fact deep sea divers? Do Magonians trawl these waters? Was James
Cameron's movie The Abyss have the right idea, but
way around, with its water-god "aliens" residing in the gloomy depths
of our oceans? Or perhaps I'm merely trying to milk Swiftian sunlight
from common cucumbers.
Add a few hollow earth theories and one or two flat earth theories to
the Sargasso pea soup, compare the taste of the resulting dish to the
current popular understandings of "reality" and How It All Works, and
the finished dish will provide plenty of food for thought.
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 Book of
the Damned ISBN
1-870870-53-0, New Lands ISBN 1-870870-62-x, Lo!
Studies 2 ISBN
1-870-870-70-0 and Fortean Times 106:35.
 The Way
That I Went, Robert
Lloyd Praeger, 1937. The Collins Press, ISBN 1-898-256-357
 "Fortean Phenomena
in the Annals of the
Four Masters," by Peter Alderson Smith, Fortean Times
mention of the 956 A.D.
incident is also mentioned in a United States Air Forces Academy
textbook, Introductory Space Science, Volume II, Department
Physics, USAF, edited by Major Donald G. Carpenter and
Lt. Colonel Edward R. Therkelson (http://in-search-of.com/frames/WWWBoard/messages/1412.html).
According to the online version, the book was taken off the curriculum
in the 1970s, due of the controversy surrounding it.
 Daibhi O Croinin's
Ireland 400-1200 (Longman, 1995 ISBN: 0582015650)
 "Magonia: A
Louis Brodu, Fortean Studies 2, ISBN 1-870870-70-0.
 A breed of
off-the-rack ghost tale. A
loose version would consist of a young stranger seeking shelter on a
stormy night, and whiling away the hours playing cards or dining with
his hosts, and flirting with the daughter of the household. She drops a
card, or a fork, and on reaching beneath the table, notices that the
mysterious guest has a cloven hoof. She screams, and the guest departs
via the ceiling in a ball of flame.
I would offer thanks for the sterling support and much needed
assistance of Paul "Archeire" Clerkin, Bob "Fortean Times" Rickard,
Leslie Ellen Jones Ph.D., Kelly McGillis, Andy Silverman, Tim
Hodkinson, Daniel Ko, Brian Chapman and Patrick Huyghe.
Copyright 1998 The