Monday Jan. 18, 2021’s Smile of the Day: UFO’s

On this Day:

In 1644, Perplexed Pilgrims in Boston reported America’s 1st UFO sighting.

However, this was certainly not the first recorded instance of a UFO. Wikipedia reports citings starting at 1440 BC with “fiery disks” seen over ancient Egypt.

On March 1, 1639, John Winthrop opened his diary in which he recorded the trials and triumphs of his fellow Puritans as they made a new life in America. As the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony put pen to paper, he began to recount a most unusual event that had recently caused a stir among the English immigrants.

Winthrop wrote that earlier in the year James Everell, “a sober, discreet man,” and two others had been rowing a boat in the Muddy River, which flowed through swampland and emptied into a tidal basin in the Charles River, when they saw a great light in the night sky. “When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square,” the governor reported, “when it ran, it was contracted into the figure of a swine.” 

Over the course of two to three hours, the boatmen said that the mysterious light “ran as swift as an arrow” darting back and forth between them and the village of Charlestown, a distance of approximately two miles. “Diverse other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place,” Winthrop added.

The governor wrote that when the strange apparition finally faded away, the three Puritans in the boat were stunned to find themselves one mile upstream—as if the light had transported them there. The men had no memory of their rowing against the tide, although it’s possible they could have been carried by the wind or a reverse tidal flow. “The mysterious repositioning of the boat could suggest that they were unaware of part of their experience. Some researchers would interpret this as a possible alien abduction if it happened today,” write Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck in Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times (per in an article, “The Five Most Credible Modern UFO Sightings” lists such incidents as:

1. The Lights Above the New Jersey Turnpike (2001)

It takes a lot for motorists to stop alongside a highway to look toward the sky, but on July 14, 2001, drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike did just that. For around 15 minutes just after midnight, they marveled at the sight of strange orange-and-yellow lights in a V formation over the Arthur Kill Waterway between Staten Island, New York, and Carteret, New Jersey. Carteret Police Department’s Lt. Daniel Tarrant was one of the witnesses, as well as other metro-area residents from the Throgs Neck Bridge on Long Island and Fort Lee, New Jersey near the George Washington Bridge. 

Air traffic controllers initially denied that any airplanes, military jets or space flights could have caused the mysterious lights, but a group known as the New York Strange Phenomena Investigators (NY-SPI) claimed to receive FAA radar data that corroborated the UFO sightings from that night.

2. The USS Nimitz Encounter (2004)

On November 14, 2004, the USS Princeton, part of the USS Nimitz carrier strike group, noted an unknown craft on radar 100 miles off the coast of San Diego. For two weeks, the crew had been tracking objects that appeared at 80,000 feet and then plummeted to hover right above the Pacific Ocean. 

When two FA-18F fighter jets from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz arrived in the area, they first saw what appeared to be churning water, with a shadow of an oval shape underneath the surface. Then, in a few moments, a white Tic Tac-shaped object appeared above the water. It had no visible markings to indicate an engine, wings or windows, and infrared monitors didn’t reveal any exhaust. Black Aces Commander David Fravor and Lt. Commander Jim Slaight of Strike Fighter Squadron 41 attempted to intercept the craft, but it accelerated away, reappearing on radar 60 miles away. It moved three times the speed of sound and more than twice the speed of the fighter jets.

First, a Story:

What do you call Albus Dumbledore when he flies around in his UFO? A flying sorcerer. 

Second, a Song:

“Mr. Spaceman” is a song by the American rock band the Byrds and was the third track on their 1966 album, Fifth Dimension. It was released as the third single from the album in September 1966, reaching number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, but failing to chart in the United Kingdom. Upon its release as a single, the music press coined the term “space-rock” to describe it, although since then, this term has come to refer to a genre of rock music originating from 1970s progressive and psychedelic music.

Written in early 1966 by Byrds member Jim McGuinn, the song was—along with “5D (Fifth Dimension)”—one of two science fiction-themed songs on the Fifth Dimension album. Initially conceived as a “melodramatic screenplay”, the song soon evolved into a whimsical meditation on the existence of extraterrestrial life. Musically, “Mr. Spaceman” has a country-style backing, albeit with touches of psychedelia, and can clearly be seen as a precursor to the band’s later exploration of country music on Sweetheart of the Rodeo. As such, the song has been cited by critics as one of the earliest examples of country rock. The title also recalled that of the Byrds’ earlier worldwide smash hit and debut single, “Mr. Tambourine Man”.

The single release of the song was accompanied by a spoof press announcement from the Byrds’ co-manager, Eddie Tickner, stating that he had taken out a $1,000,000 insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London against his clients being kidnapped by extraterrestrial visitors. Despite Tickner’s statement being an obvious publicity stunt and the deliberately tongue-in-cheek nature of the song’s lyrics, both McGuinn and fellow band member David Crosby felt hopeful about communicating with alien life forms through the medium of AM radio broadcast. In a later interview with Pete Frame for ZigZag magazine, McGuinn explained how he believed that this would have been possible: “I was interested in astronomy and the possibility of connecting with extraterrestrial life and I thought that it might work the other way round, if we tried to contact them. I thought that the song being played on the air might be a way of getting through to them. But even if there had been anybody up there listening, they wouldn’t have heard because I found out later that AM airwaves diffuse in space too rapidly.”

“Mr. Spaceman” was broadcast as a wake-up call to the astronauts aboard the NASA space shuttle mission STS-41-D (the first mission of Space Shuttle Discovery) on September 2, 1984.

“Mr. Spaceman” has been covered by a number of artists, including the Flying Burrito Brothers on their 1985 live album, Cabin Fever, Velvet Crush on their 2001 compilation album, A Single Odessey, Limbeck on their 2006 Tour EP, and Miracle Legion on the Byrds’ tribute album, Time Between – A Tribute to The Byrds, In 1994, Jimmy Buffett, Gonzo, and Rizzo the Rat covered “Mr. Spaceman” on The Muppets’ album Kermit Unpigged. In 1998, Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song on the album The A-Files: Alien Songs.

“Mr. Spaceman” is also one of the songs featured in the Jukebox musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet (per Wikipedia).

Here is The Byrds performing Mr. Spaceman set to a great video.  I hope you enjoy it!


Thought for the Day:

“While everyone was out playing dodgeball, I was lying on the blacktop waiting for a UFO to take me out of elementary school.” – Alex Hirsch


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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