UFO Conjectures

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.