Sunday, April 20, 2008

Where Did "Saucers" Come From?

Some have pointed out that the classic disk-shaped UFO is entirely a product of popular culture and imagination. This, they claim, is based upon the fact that the term did not exist prior to its corrupted use in the wake of Kenneth Arnold's famous 1947 sighting, which arguably started the whole UFO phenomenon in popular culture. In point of fact, Arnold did not describe disk-shaped objects but, rather, likened their movements through the air to disks skipping on the surface of a lake. Before anyone could stop it, this inaccurate physical description spread like wildfire in the media and a leitmotif of the 20th century was born.
But is this argument accurate? Were there, in fact, NO sightings of disk-shaped objects prior to the Arnold sighting?

In examining old reports, we find that on the same day Arnold reported his encounter, Fred M. Johnson claimed to see six "disks" near Mt. Rainier. We also discover that only days before this, an Oklahoma man claimed spotting craft he described as "wash tubs," which could be interpreted as a truncated cone - a very disk-like structure indeed. Another sighting that month by Richard Rankin in Bakersfield, California involved the description of 10 saucers.

Going back a few months, we find an April 1947 report from France wherein the object was described as a disk. That same month, meteorologists at the Weather Bureau in Virginia see a "disk" crossing the skies from east to west in less than 15 seconds.

And we find still older accounts, like this one from 1883. 400 cigar and disk-shaped objects were witnessed in Zacatecas, Mexico traveling across the sky, blocking the sun. In 1878, the Denison Daily News (TX) ran a story about John Martin's UFO experience. Martin described to the reporter that the mysterious object he witnessed was the size (shape?) of a large saucer. One has to believe he was describing something vaguely disk-like. Otherwise, a 10" square photo album could also be described as the size of a large saucer. In choosing this imagery, I believe Martin is describing both size and general appearance.
But it doesn't end there. We are almost compelled to reconsider the accounts previously ascribed the term "cigar-shaped". If one were to witness on end, a double-convex, saucer-shaped craft, would it not appear much like a cigar? This, I theorize, explains at least some of the "rockets" and "cigars" witnessed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
But the question remains: Are we describing what we see or seeing what we describe? It's a chicken-or-the-egg scenario that will not likely be answered within anyone's lifetime. It is the controversy and doubt surrounding enigmas such as UFO's that both compels our imaginations and drives our curiosity.

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