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We want to believe! We would like to think there is some kind of extraterrestrial life out there somewhere in this vast, vast universe. And we hope it truly means to live in harmony (or at least peace) with us if it ever intends to touch down on Earth and say hello. We don’t need to recreate the movie Independence Day at any point during our lives here on this planet—thank you very much. But the thought of alien life somewhere out in space has us thinking: Aliens haven’t only been (maybe) visiting us for the past couple of decades, have they?

If alien technology is as advanced as the people who swear they see UFOs say it is, wouldn’t it make sense that those alien creatures have had it for much longer than a few decades? These out-of-this-world ships and flying saucers surely just weren’t invented in the 1940s and sent out over Roswell, were they? And thus, that’s the point of this list today!

In this ten-tidbit reveal, we’ll take a look at various groups who claim to have seen aliens or some other sort of unidentified flying objects. And these folks saw aliens long before they became a thing in modern-day pop culture—or in places where alien awareness hadn’t yet reached in the same way it has in modern-day internet lore. Sometimes centuries before all that! And these are their creepy and unsettling stories…

Related: Top 10 Craziest Ancient Aliens Theories

10 Nuremberg (1561)

Just after dawn on April 14, 1561, many men and women in the city of Nuremberg (then a Free Imperial City and part of the Holy Roman Empire) witnessed what they described as some kind of aerial battle coming out of the sky. A broadsheet infamously made of the event at the time chronicled the incident as occurring with hundreds of various spheres flying through the sky and some falling to Earth in clouds of smoke.

Hundreds of witnesses individually observed hundreds and hundreds of spheres flying rapidly and erratically overhead. There was supposedly one very large black triangular object, too, that appeared to be the biggest and most notable of all the sights in the sky. Some described it as an aerial battle coming “out of the sun” and were enamored with what they were seeing.

Ever since then, ufologists have claimed that the 1561 sighting above Nuremberg was a case where an entire city witnessed an aerial alien battle. Spacecraft between two warring factions were supposedly fighting each other, the claim goes. If that’s true, this would be one of the biggest and most notable UFO sightings ever recorded. Skeptics disagree, though.

Scientists say the Nuremberg residents most likely witnessed some kind of unique and bizarre (but thoroughly natural) solar phenomenon. The leading theory there is that the 1561 group saw what is now known as a “sun dog.” That’s when sunlight refracts off ice crystals in the atmosphere and flashes bright spots of light on one or both sides of the sun. In that case, sun dogs most often occur when the sun is near the horizon—like, say, just after dawn.[1]

9 Basel (1566)

On the mornings of July 27 and July 28, 1566, and then again less than two weeks later, on August 7, the residents of Basel, Switzerland, were given quite the wake-up call. On those mornings, right after sunrise, many locals in Basel reported seeing a series of unique celestial phenomena. In the first one, an “unusual” sunrise was followed by a total eclipse of the moon. Certainly unique, but not necessarily aliens, right?

Then, in the second one, the sun rose red. That often happens out on the ocean (you know the old saying: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailor take warning”). But in landlocked Basel, a red sun was seen as an omen at best and some sort of celestial trickery at worst. Then, on the third morning, a cloud of moving, bizarre red and black spheres or orbs were seen blocking out parts of the sun as it rose.

The third morning is the one that is most puzzling to ufologists. They claim that Basel, just like Nuremberg before it, was the site of some kind of alien sky battle that was inadvertently witnessed by folks living in the Swiss town. Predictably, at the time, people in Basel believed it to be a religious event with various faith-based implications.

Pamphlets and broadsheets that commemorated the event take that angle of thinking, as the idea of little green men whipping around in flying saucers would have been completely unknown to the average Basel resident in the middle of the 16th century. But maybe that’s what it was, and Nuremberg, too: big sky battles as part of some alien war![2]

8 Morocco Swarm (1952)

In the summer of 1952, people in multiple areas around the North African nation of Morocco reported seeing bizarre lights and orbs in the sky. It started over the city of Marrakech on the night of July 16, when at about 9:00 pm local time, “many people” saw a large, luminous disc flying horizontally across the sky.

Witnesses referred to it as having a “leaping and bounding motion” in its flight. Then, a second disc appeared right after it. Both flying discs hovered for about a minute together before they went off into the night sky and weren’t seen again.

A second sighting occurred on August 2, 1952, at about 8:45 pm local time. In that one, an object flashed in the sky over the town of Moulay Bousselham in French Morocco. The object was described as being red at its center with a blue edge around it. It flew “very rapidly” from the southeast to the northwest and was visible for only about 20 seconds this time before disappearing over the horizon.

The Moroccans weren’t the only ones to report UFOs in the summer of 1952, either. An Algerian train conductor reported seeing one over a remote part of Algeria on August 12, 1952. In that case, the conductor reported seeing a ball of fire suddenly appear against a clouded nighttime backdrop. The ball raced across the clouds from east to west, leaving a “luminous pink trail.” Then, weirdly, the object stopped, appeared to grow, became an even brighter red, and then blew up! But the strangest part was that the railroad agent didn’t hear any noise from any supposed explosion. So… what was it?

Throughout the rest of August, other saucer-like objects were seen at various points flying around in northern Morocco and southern Spain. People in various towns kept reporting flying spaceship activity to the authorities in each country. The reports carried all the way through until the end of September 1952, when a pilot of a so-called “tourist plane” witnessed flying saucers around his airplane while flying over Casablanca and Tangier. The CIA documented all the sightings, but they have never been publicly explained.[3]

7 Ezekiel (6th Century BC)

Did Ezekiel see aliens? And was it then documented in the Bible? The Book of Ezekiel is famous among Christians and religious scholars alike for describing Ezekiel’s alleged encounter with beings with four faces and having visions involving a “wheel within a wheel.”

The religious among us believe that was Ezekiel seeing God. The skeptics and ufologists among us counter that the ancient man actually saw aliens, and what he is describing in the Bible is really some kind of extraterrestrial encounter. But could that really be true? Could the Bible have been the first place where early ufologists (even if they didn’t consider themselves that) peddled their opinions and beliefs?

In the story, Ezekiel was stuck as one of the captives of the Babylonian conquest of 606 BC. There, on the river Chebar, the “heavens were opened,” and Ezekiel claimed that he “saw visions of God.” Specifically, he first saw the likeness of four living creatures. They were built somewhat like men, but they had four faces: a lion, an ox, an eagle, and a man.

Their feet were like those of calves, and they each had four wings—two which covered their bodies and two which stretched up into the sky. To make matters worse, they each moved about among flashes of lightning. Because why not, right? If you’re going to have four faces, you might as well really lean in and give ’em a full show!

Then, beneath each of those four creatures were four wheels. They were fashioned in such a way that Ezekiel described them each as “a wheel within a wheel.” That wheel could move in four directions without turning at all. And the rims of those wheels were supposedly “full of eyes.” Above all of that, there sat a single man—or a single being with the “appearance of a man,” per Ezekiel’s report—who was surrounded by fire and a nearly overpowering brightness. That, supposedly, was God.

But who were those beings with the four faces and the wheels with eyes? Angels? Aliens? Was Ezekiel the first person to ever document a sighting of flying saucers? We’ll never know, but something tells us ufologists and skeptics will argue that one with Christian true believers for as long as each group lives![4]

6 England (1066)

In 1066, Halley’s Comet was seen across England. It was thought to be a very unsettling omen, as soon after, King Harold II was soon dead at the Battle of Hastings, and William the Conqueror rushed in to take the English throne. People a thousand years ago didn’t have the ability to conceptualize alien spacecraft and the like.

Many contemporary observers were pretty certain of what they were seeing in the sky as being some type of comet, or something related to that. But the timing of it coming along with the Norman Invasion and the Battle of Hastings was critically important to how English people viewed the events.

A chronicler from the time, William of Malmesbury, wrote about how Eilmer of Malmesbury saw the comet in both 989 and again in 1066 in The Anglo Saxon Chronicle. Sensing something important with the comet in both instances, William noted that the second sighting, in particular, was a sign that times were changing and the world (as they knew it) was ending:

“Not long after, a comet, portending (they say) a change in governments, appeared, trailing its long flaming hair through the empty sky: concerning which there was a fine saying of a monk of our monastery called Æthelmær. Crouching in terror at the sight of the gleaming star, ‘You’ve come, have you?’ he said. ‘You’ve come, you source of tears to many mothers. It is long since I saw you; but as I see you now you are much more terrible, for I see you brandishing the downfall of my country.’”

What must that have been like at the time? To see the “terror” of the “gleaming star” that becomes a “source of tears to many mothers”? And worse yet, to have it be completely unexplainable by the primitive and rudimentary science those people had at their disposal at the time?

For what it’s worth, the 1066 sighting of what would come to be known as Halley’s Comet was commemorated in the Bayeux Tapestry. In that way, it was the first-ever known illustration of the comet produced anywhere on Earth. That it came at the same time as the Norman Invasion of England and the run of William the Conqueror left many locals feeling like the supernatural and surreal had descended upon their little world.[5]

5 Alexander the Great (329 BC)

Alexander the Great and his army supposedly encountered aliens while they were fighting along the way, trying to conquer the entire world. That is what a series of, um, charitable readings of ancient texts suggests, at least. The most notable supposed sighting occurred back in 329 BC. That year, Alexander the Great was on his way east to conquer much of the known world at the time.

He and his army were preparing at one point to cross the Indus River in order to attack a force of amassed Indian soldiers that had been waiting for his arrival. Well, when Alexander’s men got to the river, they saw something incredible: two “great shining silvery shields spitting fire around the rims.” Sounds like they could be flying saucers, doesn’t it?

The two shields then proceeded to dive-bomb repeatedly at Alexander’s army. War elephants, horses, and men all panicked, and most of them refused entirely to cross the river at all after seeing the saucer-like things. Then, strangely, the two “flying shields” disappeared into the sky just as soon as they’d arrived. Witnesses were shocked at how fast they flew away. Weird, right?

And that’s not the only sighting Alexander the Great’s men had with UFOs. Seven years after that, while Alexander had his charges attack a Venetian city along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, they again witnessed two large and unknown objects fly into the sky. One of those objects supposedly shot a beam of light into a city wall and crumbled it to dust. Then, the objects disappeared as quickly as they had shown up, and Alexander’s men used the crumbled wall to advance into the city and take it with ease.

Obviously, both of those supposed sightings are regarded as pretty suspicious by historians and modern-day observers. Likely, they are apocryphal legends that have been built up over the centuries. But what if they’re not? What if Alexander really interacted with aliens?![6]

4 The Great Airship Wave (1896–1897)

There was a very mysterious wave of airships seen all across the United States beginning late in 1896 in northern California and then extending across much of 1897 along the eastern seaboard and in the Midwest. To this day, nobody quite knows what the deal was or why so many people reported seeing airships and dirigible-like flying objects.

Beginning in 1896, in Stockton and then in other cities in California, locals reported to police and newspapers alike that they had seen slow-moving flying objects in the sky. Most of those sightings were confined to northern California. However, a good deal of them were also seen up the coast of the Pacific Ocean into Oregon, Washington, and even British Columbia. Newspapers reported extensively on the sightings, but authorities didn’t really have any answers, and eventually, the observations petered out.

Then, in 1897, a series of new sightings rocked the Midwest and the East Coast. Similar witness reports indicated large, slow-moving, dirigible-like flying objects in the sky. They were seen in disparate places from Arkansas and Texas to Michigan and Ohio and east to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

Some people even claimed that it looked like humans (or at least some kind of creatures who looked like humans) were inside the objects piloting them. Between the two sets of sightings, several thousand witness reports were taken and logged. Newspapers reported on the phenomena heavily, too.

In total, hundreds of thousands of people may have seen the ships. Retroactively, they have been described as various weather phenomena or natural events related to sunlight, clouds, or the sky itself. But many people are still convinced that something much more sinister was going on with alien spacecraft, or even possibly early military aerial explorations. As such, the sightings of 1896 and 1897 have never been completely explained.[7]

3 Gangwon, Korea (1609)

Ten Times Historic People (Maybe) Saw Aliens - Listverse 1

On September 22, 1609, three different areas of the Gangwon Province of Korea flared up with sightings of unidentified flying objects. The sightings began in the morning, roughly from 9-11am, in Goseong, in the Wonju region. There, witnesses reported seeing a “halo” or a wash basin-like object floating through the sky. From there, the sightings continued in Chuncheon County between about 11am and 1pm, with people reporting very similar descriptions.

Finally, in Yangyang County at some point after 1pm, a high-ranking Korean government official named Mun-wi Kim reported seeing a UFO flying through the area. Those UFO sightings were taken so seriously, in fact, that they are part of the official historical record of Korea. They were painstakingly documented at the time. Now, more than four hundred years later, they live on in the official records of Gangwon Province.

Of course, the most interesting sighting here is that of Mun-wi Kim. He was a noted and much-respected government official. He had a lot to lose by lying about sightings, one would think. Plus, this was a few hundred years before the advent of the telephone, the internet, and social media. So, word couldn’t have spread from county to county by way of media accounts, which might motivate copycat people to claim they had seen UFOs when they hadn’t. So, what was up in the sky? Whatever it was must have been serious enough for a noted government official to weigh in on it. Sadly, we may never know.[8]

2 The Bonilla Observation (1883)

On August 12, 1883, Mexican astronomer Jose Bonilla was preparing his telescope to do some work with the solar system when he noticed several small objects that appeared to be blocking the sun when he looked up at it through his lens. Concerned and also interested, Bonilla investigated further.

Over the next 48 hours, he used a Collodion process to capture nearly 500 surprisingly detailed ink photographs of the objects as they danced and moved across the face of the sun. As he was never able to identify them, and as we still today cannot definitively identify them, Bonilla gets the official credit of having taken the first images of a UFO in all of human history. So, congratulations to him on that!

As for what Bonilla himself believed, he thought the objects might have been a group of high-flying geese that just so happened to cross the path of his view to the sun at that time. Modern-day astronomers have suggested something else, though. It wasn’t UFOs, experts now say, but likely a nearby comet that was actively breaking apart. In fact, some wonder whether it wasn’t a massive comet that might have been heading straight for Earth and only missed the planet and its atmosphere by a few hundred miles!

Perhaps Bonilla inadvertently captured what was almost the end of the world and life on this planet as we know it. If that’s the case, we’re just glad the comet didn’t hit us. After all, if it had, we probably wouldn’t be here today to tell you about it![9]

1 The Aurora Incident (1897)

On April 19, 1897, a journalist named S.E. Haydon, working for the Dallas Morning News, wrote a story about a supposed UFO crash in the small city of Aurora, Texas. According to Haydon’s report, an alien spacecraft supposedly struck a windmill on the property of a local man named J.S. Proctor two days earlier at about 6:00 am local time.

The pilot of the supposed alien craft was said to be “not of this world” and “a Martian,” according to Haydon’s report. He quoted a supposed Army Signal Service officer named T.J. Weems, who was stationed at nearby Fort Worth, as the man who supposedly saw the alien and commented on its other-worldly appearance.

Then, shockingly, Aurora citizens supposedly buried the alien and scrapped its craft! Rather than allowing government officials to take a look at what they came across, the alien was supposedly buried “with Christian rites” at the Aurora Cemetery. The wreckage of its supposed spacecraft was then allegedly dumped into a well that was located under the damaged windmill. And that was that!

Until 1935, at least, when another local man named Brawley Oates purchased J.S. Proctor’s property and began digging up the well. He wanted to clean out the debris and use the old well for himself. But then, after supposedly coming into contact with those four-decade-old alien spaceship parts, he was said to have suddenly developed an extreme case of arthritis. Did the alien’s other-worldly craft continue to haunt humans with its space-like creation and contents?

Most likely not, we are sad to say. Years after Haydon’s report and Oates’s supposed arthritis, old-school Aurora residents came forward to reveal that the newspaperman was playing a prank on his readers. As the (now supposedly true part of) the story went, an 86-year-old local woman told journalists in 1980 that Haydon had made up the story to bring attention to the town.

As the railroad had bypassed Aurora, the town was starting to slowly die off, and the journalist apparently felt like that would revive interest in the place. It didn’t really work; even today, Aurora’s population is just a shade over 1,000 people. But it has brought ufologists out to see what it’s all about![10]

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