UFO Conjecture(s)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Return to Magonia?

The Aubeck/Shough book’s title is offputting; ufologists don’t like “magonia” induced material – it smacks of folklore.

And the etymology of Magonia indicates it’s a difficult word to like or understand:

But that aside – it merely explains why the book isn’t selling well – the work by Aubeck and Shough itself is offputting.

The two fellows list a few odd appearances in the sky, from days of yore mostly, and hash-tag witness accounts, from various sources, most credible or, at least, not iffy (as is the case with many UFO-stimulated reports online and in related books).

The problems is Monsieurs Aubeck and Shough go to great lengths to find all the possibilities for any sighting of those odd appearances, when one would do well to accept the written records as verbatim accounts by sane, normal persons generally, and not the perverse observations of natural things or misperceived (even hallucinatory) renderings of what was seen.

For instance, on Page 232 [ff.], the authors reference, as is their wont, sightings of “ships sailing past in the air” sometimes appearing to spear fish or with crews falling into “water.”

The stories come from the middle ages [circa 900 A.D. to 1300 A.D] and derive (generally) from historical or monastic records, including the oft-repeated story from Bishop Abogard about an airship getting its anchor caught in an arch above the church door, causing a man to leap overboard (from the airship) to disentangle the anchor.

The “man” is grabbed by the assembled crowd but is released at the suggestion of Bishop Abogard, and “swims” back to his airship whereupon the crew cuts the rope holding the anchor and the ship departs.

That story and others like it are introduced by the authors as folkloric. [Page 232]

An incident, dated in a diary entry of 1796, is recounted [Page 235] thusly:

One day, in the Bay of Fundy, a girl looked up into the sky and screamed which caused two men in the house to run out where they saw “fifteen ships and a man forward of them with his hand stretched out.”

The diarist, a loyalist merchant and judge, Simeon Perkins, writes “My opinion is that the [event] was [seen] only in imagination, as the clouds at sunrise might [italics mine] make such an appearance …”

The story, used by the authors, comes from UFO believer, advocate Don Ledger in his “Maritime UFO Files.”

This is the kind of “scholarship” used by the authors throughout their tome.

While pretending to scrutinize old UFO-like sightings, Aubeck and Shough try to appear objective, but work hard to show that there are many explanations for the strange sightings they present, going very far as to egregiously blunt Ockham’s razor.

I’m of the persuasion that what “normal” people see and report are exactly what they see and report, pretty much, taking into account the human tendency to screw up minute details in the excitement at perceiving something as weird as a UFO or thing in the sky (or on land).

Aubeck and Shough try to provide a patina of objectivity and unbiased analysis of some older reports of oddities seen in the skies over the Earth.

They do that under the rubric, Magonia, which provides a premise of folklore or magic and thus undercut their efforts I’m afraid.

I’ll find my objectivity elsewhere.



  • Actually, while Don may have referenced the account from the Bay of Fundy, it can actually be traced directly back to Perkins' diary, which was written contemporaneously and which is considered one of the most important historical documents from Atlantic Canada. That's about as good as you can get when you're dealing with historical scholarship.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, January 17, 2016  

  • Paul:

    I would have liked to see the authors use the original source (from its provenance) rather than from a reference derived from a UFO aficionado (Mr. Ledger).

    They did that with other sightings they listed.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, January 17, 2016  

  • The use of original sources is always preferable, of course, but in a non-academic work can be forgiven. The problem with the Simeon Perkins account is that the version often used by ufologists is not entirely accurate (I haven't read Don's book so I don't know if he quoted exactly from Perkins' text, or the somewhat bastardized ufologist version, which means I also don't know which version Shough and Aubevk used). I know because I once made the same error - I quoted the ufologist version without double-checking the Perkins original (pure laziness on my part, as I actually have A copy of the relevant Perkins material). A reader at my blog corrected me, proof that even on the Internet some basic girl of peer review exists.

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, January 17, 2016  

  • Thank you Paul...

    I think we are in agreement.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, January 17, 2016  

  • It´s a little disappointing to read your comment on this book, Rich.

    I was hoping it would be an interesting reading, but, alas, I understand all to well what you mean.

    That's because I got a very similar opinion after reading "Wonders in the Sky", which Chris co-authored with UFO legend Jacques "Melchizedek" Vallée.

    Since I consider "Passport to Magonia" the most influential book in the history of ufology (which seems to be on its final days), I greatly anticipated reading Aubeck and Vallée's book. Unlike "Passport to Magonia", it was a very difficult reading. "Passport to Magonia" was thought-provoking and it only contained an appendix of UFO landings at the end of the book, which in my case was the Spanish edition.

    "Wonders in the Sky" was a collection of UFO sightings from old journals and documents. I admire Chris as a scholar and what he is doing with his "Magonia Exchange" global group and I consider "Wonders in the Sky" a great references book, but only that. Definitely, not what I expected from a work by Vallée, whom I consider the true father of ufology, not at its current state, but ufology as it should be.

    On a side note, whatever happened to Tony Bragalia? I haven't heard from him since after the "Be Witness" fiasco last year.

    By Blogger Patricio Abusleme, at Monday, January 18, 2016  

  • Patricio;

    Thanks for your comments.

    I take any Aubeck material seriously and like his writings/information very much.

    The Magonia book has too much Shough input as I read it. Shough is not one of my favorite UFO people.

    The Magonia book is a bit swarthy for my taste; that is, it pretends to be scholarly but is anything but.

    Nonetheless, I like the listings of odd sightings in the past even as I disregard the authors' speculations about them.

    As for Mr. Bragalia, we no longer associate with him.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, January 18, 2016  

  • > I would have liked to see the authors use the original source (from its provenance) rather than from a reference derived from a UFO aficionado

    It sounds like the same shoddy method used by Aubeck and Vallee for Wonders in the Sky. Jason Colavito wrote 27 posts about this book, wherein he went to the original sources and, nearly every time, showed that the secondary sources gave a distorted version of the event.

    I have to disagree with Paul: I don't think such lazy scholarship is foregivable.

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Monday, January 25, 2016  

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