; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Few Historical Ufology Anomalies

I am fascinated with artwork from the European Renaissance era that depict odd flying objects and other anomalies. There are many examples that were created throughout the continent.

One the most interesting objects, in my opinion, was a tapestry created in 1538 in the city of Bruges, Belgium, known as the Summer’s Triumph. It depicts the victorious ascension of a ruler to power. However, there is something far more interesting depicted in the tapestry, which would be easy to miss unless you were looking closely - multiple objects in the sky, which have the classical UFO shape that is popularized in the media.

The city of Bruges is the capital and the largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium in the northwest of the country.

If you look at the top of the tapestry, especially towards the left-hand side, it is possible to see a number of ‘hat shaped’ flying objects in black – that are not related to any religious depictions that are frequently seen in the sky in other medieval artworks.

Although their presence is baffling, some speculate they may have been added in the tapestry in order to connect the UFOs to the ruler as a symbol of divine intervention. If the people in that era associated flying saucers with divinity, it means they were seeing such objects in the sky and linking them to a ‘godly’ phenomena. Of course on the other hand there are those who have claimed that these unusual hat-shaped objects are simple strangely-shaped dark clouds.

The “Triumph of Summer”, is held at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum on extended loan from the HypoVereinsbank UniCredit Bank AG. The museum has no other information regarding the tapestry's history.

Another interesting piece by an Italian painter named Ventura Salimbeni is responsible for one of the most mysterious altar paintings in history. Disputa of the Eucharist a 16th-century painting also known as The Glorification of the Eucharist, is a three-part work. The bottom two parts are relatively benign, depicting a number of religious authorities and an altar. However, the top part shows the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and a dove depicting the Holy Ghost) looking upon them...and holding what seems to be a space satellite or antenna craft. The object is large and spherical, with a metallic finish, telescopic antennas, and strange lights. In fact, it somewhat resembles a Soviet Sputnik satellite.

Although UFO enthusiasts and ancient astronaut theorists have often claimed the Disputa as proof of extraterrestrial life (or perhaps time travel), experts have been quick to debunk such notions. According to them, the orb is a Sphaera Mundi, a globe-like representation of the universe that used to be common in religious art. The strange lights on the “satellite” are merely the sun and the moon, and its antennas are actually scepter wands that act as symbols of authority for the Father and the Son.

Speaking of spherical anomalies, this brings us to a bizarre discovery. A self propelled, seamless metallic orb was found by members of the Betz family on March 27, 1974, and rapidly became the object of fascination & controversy for scientists, military officials, ufologists and the general public as the story of this mystery sphere quickly spread through the international media.

The silvery sphere, about 20 centimeters (eight inches) in diameter, was completely smooth except for a strange, elongated triangle symbol. It was found while the family examined the damage of a strange fire that had decimated 88 acres of their woodland on marshy Fort George Island, which is located just east of Jacksonville, Florida. Initially thinking it might be a NASA or even a Soviet spy satellite, they eventually decided it was most likely just a souvenir. They decided to take it with them.

Two weeks later, one of the Betz' children was strumming a guitar in the same room as the sphere. Suddenly, the sphere started reacting to his tunes, emitting a strange throbbing sound and a resonance that deeply disturbed the family’s dog. Soon, the Betz family found the orb had other strange properties. It could stop and change directions when pushed across the floor, eventually returning to the initial spot. It seemed to draw power from solar energy, becoming noticeably more active on bright days.

It seemed like something was controlling the sphere. It would occasionally emit low-frequency rattling and vibrations, like there was a motor running inside. It seemed to avoid falling and crashing at all costs, as if to protect something inside it. It even managed to completely defy the laws of gravity and climb up a slanted table to avoid falling.

The New York Times and the London Daily and other media outlets sent reporters to witness the miracle sphere, which repeated its tricks to countless people. Even scientists and representatives of the military were impressed, although the Betz family wouldn’t let them take the sphere for closer examination. However, the sphere soon started to exhibit strange behavior. Poltergeist–like activity started to occur. Doors started slamming shut at night and strange organ music would fill the house out of the blue.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a famed ufologist and astronomer at Northwestern University in Chicago, contacted the Betz family and asked to examine the sphere. Dr. Hynek was going to be in New Orleans, LA the following week for a meeting with the National Enquirer tabloid, which was establishing a $50,000 prize for definitive proof of aliens. Since Hynek and several other scientists on the Enquirer's panel were all there, Terry Betz and his sister drove out from Florida to show them the ball in person.

Hynek's 1972 book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry had made him perhaps the most popularly known ufologist of the day. But on the Betz sphere, his verdict was a disappointing one. According to a report in the St. Petersburg Independent:

Hynek says none of the five scientists now think the ball is anything but manmade. "None will go so far as to say it's extra-terrestrial," he said in an interview yesterday. "They would be putting their scientific reputations on the line."

So what is it?

At this point in time, the best way to answer this question is to actually the examine the ball, using modern techniques. Unfortunately, there is no record of the ball, or of Terry Betz himself, from recent years. But those newspaper reports did ring bells with a few people.

The Palm Beach Post reported on April 18, 2012 that Lottie Robinson recognized the ball from the pictures, then retrieved it from the garage where it had sat for some 15 years. Technicians from the St. Regis Company paper mill identified it as a ball valve from some large pipes used in their factory, and that had been scrapped 15 years before. Somehow that ball had found its way from a scrap dealer to Mrs. Robinson's son, and from there to her garage. It was very close, but not identical, in size and weight to the Betz sphere.

Robert Edwards, president of a Jacksonville, FL equipment supply company, was next to make an inquiry. He showed a UPI reporter a brand new stainless steel ball, manufactured by Bell & Howell in Bridgeport, CT. Edwards and the reporter uncrated it, weighed and measured it, and found that it was 8 inches across and weighed just over 21 pounds...exactly the same as the Betz sphere.

"I'm not saying that this thing didn't come from outer space because I've never seen it. All I'm saying is that the physical description of it matches exactly the type of ball we have in stock."

At a later date, a Navy metallurgist had identified the ball as being made of an alloy called stainless steel 431. According to the web site of a supplier of this alloy:

431 has been successfully used in a variety of aircraft and general industrial applications. These include fasteners, bolts, valve components and chemical equipment.

As for the amazing properties...moving by itself, rolling uphill, making organ music, and transmitting radio signals. Could it be, by chance, that this is just an ordinary piece of industrial machinery? Someone suggested to me several years ago that this sphere may actually be a mysterious 'Foo Fighter' UFO from WWII. It's doubtful...but maybe the true identity of the sphere will surface one day.

"Second, Not-So-Mysterious Sphere Found." Palm Beach Post. 18 Apr. 1974,


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