the case of the legendary nuremberg ufo

May 18, 2009

Bad information tends to spread on the internet, especially when that bad information has an audience willing to believe it. In this case, it’s an alleged UFO battle in the skies of Nuremberg, Germany in April of 1561 which was witnessed by the entire town. Makes perfect sense when we consider the events in question. If there’s an alien armada having a brawl in the skies above my city, I’d go out to have a look. And probably take a camera with me. Of course there were no cameras in Renaissance Germany so all we have is a woodcut and vague accounts from the Gazette of the Town of Nuremberg…

…the dreadful apparition filled the morning sky with cylindrical shapes from which emerged black, red, orange and blue-white spheres that darted about. Between the spheres, there were crosses with the color of blood. This frightful spectacle was witnessed by “numerous men and women.” Afterwards, a black, spear-like object appeared. The author of the Gazette warned that “the God-fearing will by no means discard these signs, but will take it to heart as a warning of their merciful Father in heaven, will mend their lives and faithfully beg God, that he avert His wrath, including the well-deserved punishment, on us, so that we may, temporarily here and perpetually there, live as His children.”

All right, you may be thinking, we have a woodcut and a published account from a historical source. What’s the problem? The first problem is the fact that a reference to the Gazette of the Town of Nuremberg doesn’t show up anywhere other than UFO and conspiracy sites. Most towns had some sort of official record documenting major events but they weren’t necessarily gazettes or newspapers, Actually, the first modern newspaper was printed in 1605, almost half a century after the incident. Before that, news were generally delivered by sheets or pamphlets with information intended for businessmen to help them in conducting commerce.

Having what sounds like a fully fledged newspaper with an official, localized title and a local news focus before publications like that were actually thought of sounds rather odd and gives us a clue why UFO and conspiracy cites are likely to cite it while there’s no reference to it anywhere else.There’s also a question about what the infamous woodcut by Hans Glaser really shows. While it’s attributed to the incident of 1561, the actual piece is usually dated to 1566 which would give plenty of time for exaggerations and legends to work they way into any unusual event Glaser may have heard of.

Finally, there are many examples of famous artwork which supposedly shows UFOs or alien spacecraft to our modern eyes, but are actually far more likely to be religious symbolism. To say that an artist’s work shows a UFO is a purely subjective judgment, especially when the art is as abstract as Glaser’s woodcut.

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  • I don’t know Greg, it’s always been too pat to dismiss accounts of historical (and pre-historical) UFO activity with religious symbolism, mass hysteria and just plain misinterpretations.

    I’m not an art historian, so I probably couldn’t come up with an alternate explanation suitable for debunkers, but my question is that if human beings just dreamed this up, why is the recording of “sky-god” legends prevalent through-out the ancient world, if we’re using the Renaissance as a cut-off point?

    If not the ET explanation, I would offer up the use of natural hallucinogens in various religious and shamanic rituals since the invention of art thousands of years ago.

  • The question is: what did they see in the sky hundreds of years ago that gave rise to the story, no matter how twisted and bizarre it became? Nearly everyone discounts the stories of Bigfoot, but where I live the Native Americans had legends of the creature long before Europeans arrived. Let’s be skeptical, but also think of possibilities.

  • Greg Fish

    “why is the recording of ‘sky-god’ legends prevalent through-out the ancient world?”

    That’s kind of a loaded question because today we’re combining ancient mythology with modern mythology and we don’t know what the ancients really meant by those sky gods. I generally defer to the question of why aliens would take any interest in Earth in the first place. It’s in a galactic backwater, it’s hard to see with telescopes, there’s nothing unusual about it from a geological or chemical standpoint and there’s little reason why aliens would take the time and effort to keep traveling to Earth for countless years.

    “The question is: what did they see in the sky hundreds of years ago that gave rise to the story?”

    Why did they have to see anything? We have a source that doesn’t exist, an account that only appears on modern UFO sites and an abstract woodcut by a little known artist who made it five years after the alleged incident for which we have no real backing. It could just be abstract art. It’s not like Renaissance people didn’t have an imagination and only recorded what was right in front of them…

  • musubk

    My usual reply to people who bring up the ubiquity of some fringe belief, be it how all cultures have a vaguely similar idea of god, or UFO’s, or wildmen (bigfoot), or whatever, is to point out that fire breathing dragons were also a widespread belief among independent cultures. Some things just seem to be burned into the human collective unconscious (meaning our shared evolutionary instincts, not the new-agey use of the term). It doesn’t mean they really exist.

  • musubk, Nobody saw fire breathing dragons either, but they found the bones. We know them as dinosaurs.

  • Thats kind of a loaded question because today were combining ancient mythology with modern mythology and we dont know what the ancients really meant by those sky gods.

    From an anthropology view-point, there is continuity from “ancient” to “modern” mythology, ex: The ancient Egyptian myth of the Resurrection of Osiris to the Resurrection of Jesus. Our so-called modern myths are based on ancient ones.

    So it’s safe to assume a “sky-god” means the same now as then.

    I generally defer to the question of why aliens would take any interest in Earth in the first place. Its in a galactic backwater, its hard to see with telescopes, theres nothing unusual about it from a geological or chemical standpoint and theres little reason why aliens would take the time and effort to keep traveling to Earth for countless years.

    I agree with this and true aliens wouldn’t be anthropoid in my view.

    Genetically they would be more related to and resemble vacuum cleaners (if such a thing was possible) than us.

    But don’t dismiss physical interstellar travel out of hand because of today’s ossified thought that because it isn’t feasible today, it won’t ever be.

    Everything that can be invented, has been invented.

    Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of US Office of Patents, 1899

  • Greg Fish

    “But dont dismiss physical interstellar travel out of hand because of todays ossified thought that because it isnt feasible today, it wont ever be.”

    Considering that I seriously study and write about warp drive technology, I’m probably the last person who would think that interstellar travel is impossible. In fact, I’m sure that if there’s an old enough alien species with an interest in space, they’re probably flying around the galaxy as we speak. Maybe even with functioning warp drives.

    Again, the question is of practicality. Why would they care about our planet? Why would they want to control or interact with us in any way, shape or form? If we go with standard ufology, the alien species in question would be the Greys from Zeta Riticuli about 39 light years away. It would take them almost 80 years to coordinate anything between their home world and whatever base they’d have on or near Earth, making any plan or interaction simply unfeasible.

  • Darrin

    Your link about the date of the first newspaper actually has a gazette in circulation in Europe as early as 1556.

  • Greg Fish

    That’s correct, but only for the residents of Venice, Italy. That’s really not much help to Germans, who started publishing papers in the early 1600s. And then there’s also the fact that the town gazette of Nuremberg never actually existed…

  • kaputnik

    In response to your question: Why would they care about our planet?

    Hmmm, why do we care about visiting the moon, Mars or any other planet in our solar system? After all, they can’t support life nor have any viable commercial value to us (no gold, silver, coal, natural gas, oil, etc.). But we still send probes don’t we?

    Would seem logical that they are curious about us. What are the odds that there is another planet with such an abundance of diverse life, ecosystems, cultures and languages as exists on Earth? I would think that an alien species would find our world to be quite fascinating with all of its beauty and horrors. So much so, that they would be stepping all over each other trying to book a trip here. Our planet may in fact be a backwater in the arm-pit of the galaxy, but the middle east is the arm-pit of the planet, and yet many thousands of people from all over the world continue to visit it every year.

  • Kenneth Dawson

    The account, I understand, mentions these objects crashing into the ground. Has anyone ever thought to try to locate, investigate these crash sites?

  • Eric Marks

    I love it when people write articles and take less than 5 minutes to ascertain if what they’re trying to say is in fact true or not. I know this because it only took that long for me to figure out that the author is full of it!

    A broadsheet that dates from 1561, held in the Wickiana Collection of Switzerland’s Zurich Central Library, describes an ancient battle of ufos over the skies of Nuremberg, Germany, on April 14th of that very same year. At sunrise, many people witnessed large numbers of dark red, blue and black ‘globes’ or ‘plates’ near the sun, ‘some three in a row, now and then four in a square, also some alone. And amongst these globes some blood colored crosses were seen.’ The document also refers to two great tubes ‘ in which three, four and more globes were seen. They then all began to fight each other.’ This went on for about an hour, until ‘they all fell…… from the sun and sky down to the earth, producing alot of steam’. Beneath the globes a long object that looked like a great black spear was also described as being seen.

    There is also an ingraving dating 5 years after the incident that depicts the battle as seen by eye witness accounts. This account can be found at Zurich’s central library as is the engraving, I believe. Oh and that nonsense about this being bad information being spread on the internet, that is a load of crap. Nobody even KNEW about that account until they saw it on multiple TV shows in the last decade or so. That’s the reason it’s being circulated on the internet! Note to Author: Next time you write something, how about taking the time to figure out whether or not you know what you’re talking about? Try writing the truth instead of what is in line with what your beliefs tell you is true. To paraphrase Sir Arthur Connan Doyal’s famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, opinions and theories should suit the facts. Though the facts must never be twisted to suit ones opinions and theories. I’m a researcher and writer that lives by those words. Perhaps you should do the same. Not everyone is so oblivious that they won’t know you’re full of crap. cya

  • Greg Fish

    Now, I can certainly understand having a busy schedule and lacking any more than five minutes to fact check something, but that’s not an excuse for just regurgitating what a link deemed questionable for a number of reasons explained in the post already says, trumpeting some sort of a factual victory after showing us that yes, you do know how to cut and paste stuff you find online. Let’s start with…

    “There is also an engraving dating 5 years after the incident that depicts the battle as seen by eye witness accounts. This account can be found at Zurich’s central library as is the engraving, I believe.”

    The engraving is the account. See, what you did there was quote the idea that what the engraving in question shows was a battle of UFOs without actually offering, you know, proof that that’s what it was actually depicting. The Wickiana collection is basically a big series of manuscripts and if you want to say that one of those manuscripts contains an eyewitness account of the incident, you have to point us to the right one. There’s also a slight problem in claiming that recollections of something that happened five years ago are accurate. They’re usually not, especially for dramatic events in which people tend to exaggerate. A big meteor shower recalled years later could easily become a UFO battle or a clash between invisible dragons, or whatnot. What about the Gazette of the Town of Nuremberg and the fact that it doesn’t seem to exist?

    “Oh and that nonsense about this being bad information being spread on the internet, that is a load of crap. Nobody even knew about that account until they saw it on multiple TV shows in the last decade or so.”

    Erm… if you do a little checking on the dates, you’ll find that it’s in the last decade or so that multiple UFO sites started posting this account. Documentaries which show it are merely using this anecdote to build up a case for the UFOlogists before they show why it doesn’t add up in the end. Unless of course you’d like to tell us that this information is actually not on the web, or that everything you see on TV is trustworthy and if you find an old clip predating UFO websites posting this image and account, that means it’s now a completely true and irrefutable story.

    “I’m a researcher and writer that lives by those words.”

    Let me guess, a PhD in Investigative Web Surfing, University of Google? Is this where you learned your groundbreaking technique of examining facts by quoting the very first link you come upon and then beating your chest about fact checking?

  • Eric Marks

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The only one round here passing off bad information is the author of this article. I posted earlier about how there are accounts of not one but two UFO battles occuring in Switzlerland and Germany during a 4 year span. There have been several engravings made by eye witnesses illustrating what they saw, and while doing more research on this topic, I found an article on the history of news-papers and printing techniques. Here is an excerpt from that article. But for those too lazy to read it all, basically it talks about how the first news-papers were a misnomer and were usually stale bits of news printed on whatever the printer could get his hands on. News Papers are as old as the Egyptians, but went out of style after the downfall of civilization and the advent of the darkages. One of the first papers to appear came during the middle ages. And guess what? It WAS the Nueremburg Gazette and it made its first appearence in 1457. Other references to this ariel event can be found at Zurich Switzerland’s central library and it has even made its way onto some History Channel documentaries. Remember that claim that all references to the nueremburg gazette are found on UFO conspiracy websites Here’s an excerpt from, For all you skeptics out there who like authors like this guy who seem smart and who tell you what you want to hear, please do not read any further. For the rest of you, enjoy. I’ve included with the exceprt the brief history of news-paper printing that it was encompassed with.

    The modern newspaper, like the printing press itself, was of long development. Indeed, history claims for the newspaper a chronology of more than 2,000 years. As a matter of course such virtual newspapers as the ancient Egyptians and Chaldeans published on stone and parchment must be considered as the progenitors of the daily paper as we read it today, yet the first really important newspaper, by courtesy so called, was the Acta Diurna of the Romans. Although the news was necessarily all the way from two weeks to three and four years old at the time of its publication, the Diurna was nevertheless quite a gossipy sheet, and as people did not attach much importance to newspapers in those days, the Romans were well content. The Diurna was written not printed on parchment. Cicero’s oration in defense of Cornelius Sulla was duly chronicled in this newspaper; as was also the fact that on the 4th of the Kalends of April an oak on Mt. Palestine was struck by lightning. The reporters employed on the Diurna and its contemporaries were called actuarii. During the rule of Julius Caesar copies of the Acta Diurna were posted in the public galleries, and attracted the same heterogeneous crowd of readers as do the modern bulletin boards.

    With the advent of the Middle Ages the newspaper idea passed out of existence, and was not resumed until the founding of the Nuremberg Gazette in 1457. Among the most important bits of news which it was the good fortune of this paper to publish to the world was the discovery of Peru. The first Italian newspaper was the Notizie Scritte, issued monthly in Venice, in 1566. This paper was sold for a “gazzeta,” a small Italian coin, whence is generally traced the newspaper title “Gazette.” The first English newspaper was the English Mercurie, published during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and is said to have been founded specially to publish the reports regarding the approach and maneuvers of the Spanish Armada. In 1622 Nathaniel Butter began the publication of the Weekly News, the first regular English newspaper. He also introduced the custom of having newspapers hawked about the streets. The early English newspapers were an unique combination of the incredible, the grotesque and the ridiculous. In the Marine Mercury we read a solemn account of the appearance of a mermaid off the coast of England. The reporter who wrote the article had an extraordinarily vivid imagination, even for a reporter, for he writes that the lady carried a comb in one hand and a mirror in the other.

    The contents of the papers were not more remark-able than their names. There were the Mercurius Bellicosus, the Mercuric Pragmatical, and a rival publication, the Anti-Mercurius Pragmaticus; the Parliamentary Kite, the Secret Owl, and a number of others of equally suggestive title. When the original copy was exhausted it was for a long time customary to fill up the gaping columns with appropriate extracts from the Bible, until the editor of the Flying Post hit upon the admirable idea of leaving one-half of his paper blank so that, as he announced editorially, “any gentleman, in sending his copy to family or friends, may dispatch with it his private business.” During the reign of Charles the Second English newspapers became such mischief-makers that their number was restricted to twelve. In 1712 a law was enacted placing a tax of half a penny per sheet upon newspapers. Upon the accession of Queen Anne a new era of journalism began. Addison’s Spectator and Steele’s Tattler, both of which had their inception during this auspicious period, were the foreshadowings of the newspaper of today. To Addison belongs the credit of suggesting the modern newspaper in its chatty trivialities. During Anne’s reign the Daily Courant, the first daily paper deserving of the name, was started. The St. James Gazette was established in 1724; the Morning Chronicle in 1769, and the Times in 1788, all three of which have survived until the present time. Although the largest and more prosperous papers in the British Empire, the circulation of none of these exceeded 5,000 copies at the beginning of the present Century. Even so late as 1834 the Times considered itself a marvelously important and prosperous paper with a circulation of 10,000 copies daily.

    My advice to everyone. If you want to know about something, find out about it for yourself. Don’t let pusedo colomnists dedicated to proving that nothing is provable, tell you that something is B.S. without doing your own homework.

  • Greg Fish

    “I posted earlier about how there are accounts of not one but two UFO battles occuring in Switzlerland and Germany during a 4 year span.”

    No, you did not. You copied and pasted something from the link I provided in the post, then tried to use the refuted quote as proof that there was an actual UFO battle over a German city in the 16th century without actually offering any evidence that the account was correct and that it actually depicted UFOs. Your post is right there and we can see what you did and did not say. Really, we can.

    “Remember that claim that all references to the nueremburg gazette are found on UFO conspiracy websites Here’s an excerpt from…”

    … an untitled, unreferenced, unattributed article on a random website. Which gets the name of the newspaper as the Nuremberg Gazette, claims that it appeared in 1457, a long time before the first wide-circulated papers were actually in production as per an official source I included in the post, and provides absolute no reference for this claim which makes it impossible to verify. The only reference to anything newspaper-like in the town of Nuremberg published in 1457 I was able to find is an illustrated tome that was known as the Nuremberg Chronicle and it’s held in the John Hopkins rare books collection. So where can we find a copy of a record for this mysterious newspaper you claim really was published in 1457 and depicts actual UFOs?

  • jay

    actually researched dates…nuremburg gazette was started in the 1540’s

  • chris

    i don’t know why anyone wants to waste their time debating with this guy. He obviously has some bias narrow minded beliefs which he doesn’t want to budge from. Which just creates one narrow perspective that’s impossible to have a real open debate and exchange of ideas with.

    Just let this guy live in his own little world and don’t waste you time involving yourself with it. People like this don’t care if you put all the evidence in the world right at their feet. They’ll still come up with some asinine reasoning to justify their narrow point of view that they’ve been locked in for year.

    It’s kind of like kirk cameron and the crock o duck. They aren’t worth debating because they don’t think with logic.

  • daos

    personally i think he was just looking for a forum to lecture about the evolution of the newspaper. or was it ‘news-paper’. no wait, ‘News Paper’. plus he doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of skeptic.

    as for aliens visiting earth, warp drive or no, they’d have to find it first.

  • Scott

    Here is the reference for the quoted text by Eric Marks. It’s on page 240 if you want to look for yourself. Not that it corroborates the UFO experience, but only that your assertion that the Gazette did not exist is based on a historical assumption. You may want to do some fact checking. As for the woodcut, it’s true that it may be exaggeration. Also in regards to the “sky-gods,” there were also water gods, fire gods, and so forth. When people cherry pick history is when faux science and research happens. I’m not sure about any of the UFO accounts per se, just that there is evidence of a Gazette printed in Nuremberg during that time.

    C.W., Moulton., ed. Queries: Devoted to Literature, Art, Science, Education . Vol. 2. Buffalo: C. L. Sherrill & Company, 1886.

  • Mike

    While I have to side with the author on the issue of credible proof of this event, I am puzzled by his assertions that alien intelligence would have no interest in this planet. It is very reminiscent of those who claim to know god’s will and intentions. Just 15 or so years ago we were swept away by the Macarena, so I very highly doubt that any human is capable of such insight. This planet contains life, abundant and varied natural resources, and many other things which to the best of our knowledge is unique, or at least rare, in the solar system. As far as the planet being difficult to spot I find this to be less than a stellar observation. Radio, television, cell phones, etc, leave this planet screaming a signature into outer space, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that any beings with technology enough for inter stellar travel would be able to detect this. I think that a more likely scenario is that of detached observation, similar to when we study wild animals in their natural environment. It would also stand to reason that if this was the case it is probably also the reason they don’t interact with us. Have you thought about the human race from a critical perspective? It wasn’t too long ago that the heads of the most powerful nations still shit in buckets, and we are still socially retarded by the adherence to the folk tales of bronze age shepherd cultures who’s holy scriptures are steeped in the promotion of misogyny, human sacrifice, slavery, etc. So…the fact that they don’t come out on the white house lawn and start shaking hands with the president should be no surprise because it’s probably a lot more entertaining to sit on the sidelines and watch us circle the drain.

  • Scott

    Mike. Your argument is not cogent. Also, at best one statement barely follows as evidence for the next. As for UFOs, extraterrestrial life, or even a higher power; they cannot be corroborated by lack of evidence. Absence of proof is not proof, it is only conjecture. It is a noble pursuit to discover these things however. We are a very creative race, but it should be done carefully. Using historical sources and interpreting them through a contemporary lens is difficult to manage. Once a theory beings to develop, the tendency is to then cherry pick in order to suit one’s hypothesis. This is not good science, it is not good historical research either.

  • Mike

    “Absence of proof is not proof?” “Not cogent?” Scott, you may want to crack open a dictionary and/or think about what you are writing before you hit the send button because you alluded that you had a point to make, then failed to make it. What I wrote was rhetorical commentary on the post, and did not claim to be posing facts or that I have any clear understanding of higher intelligence. You are more than welcome to disagree with my commentary, but I would like to suggest that you re-read it for content before you try to casually dismiss it. You and I probably agree more than we disagree on this, but the keyboard warrior in you seems to have gotten a case of happy fingers.
    “Using historical sources and interpreting them through a contemporary lens” is called the study of history. It’s how we try to make sense out of all the absurdity of it all. Also, you may want to look up the concept of theories, because they ARE a fundamental aspect of good science. Theories can only be dis-proven, and this is how we eventually determine what is factual. Anything otherwise is akin to faith and religion.
    Now, if I read your response for content the best I can make of it is that you would rather that we didn’t question the big answers, posit hypothesis for intelligent discussion, or even try to understand what hasn’t been spoon fed to us. Keep in mind that it wasn’t that long ago that humans were burying live children in the foundations of their structures, presumably to ward off evil spirits, and ritually sacrificing small animals, presumably to appease the gods. I don’t know about you, but I think it was a good thing that somebody began to question such conventional wisdoms. It is the same with UFO’s and higher intelligence in that we need an open and honest public debate on these issues instead of your desire to institutionally suppress free thought.
    Finally, I have re-read my first post several times trying to figure out what it is that you just can’t grasp about it, and am stumped. My only guess is that it is a matter of reading comprehension and would like to recommend hooked on phonix or some other remedial refresher. Otherwise maybe I can sum it up better and quicker by simply stating it takes an amazing level of hubris to choose to remain ignorant in the face of all evidence that you are ignorant. Open your mind and the truth will follow.

  • Tercius

    Well, it seems that the main objective of the comment is to attack the aliens supporters, and that makes the author as much fundamentalist as the ones he’s criticising. In fact there are indeed several unexplained fenomena in the past as well as in the present and we can’t just call them “religious symbolism” or “alucinations” or something else. Our ancestors were not stupid and they weren’t a bunch of fools believing in every shit. They survived in a harsh world, in wich most of us were unable to survive, so stop insulting them.

    Now, something else than our humble human civilization for sure is marking it’s presence in this planet, in several times in history, if they are aliens, or even a human branch, I don’t know, whar I know is that we can’t just try to treat it like a nail when we just have a hammer.

  • Leonardo

    Thinking of a world of possibilities, in my opinion, is more exciting then a world based completely on fact. People who think they know everything are the most closed minded individuals and it is impossible to speak with them because they already know, they have made up there minds already. And its ok because that is there choice (Sadly) but mine is to understand that there are no ultimate truths and that truths only lead to more possibilities. The artists/philosophers through out history were able to evolve things not because of what the society believed was true at the time but they were able to see past this narrow minded view of the world and expand upon it to help the evolution of our planet. How many people believed the world was flat until someone thought of the possibility that maybe its not. Also there isn’t any proof that there is one God going though everything, everything is on this earth is connected and also that we immortal spiritual beings but my intuition leads me to the belief that there is more out there then we can see or understand.