Wednesday, June 29, 2022

UFOs over Phoenix (1997)

 Ancient peoples around the world have reported unidentified lights in the sky for thousands of years.  The ancients believed that the gods themselves came down and visited them on a regular basis.  Native Americans in Arizona were no different.  These interactions were memorialized in petroglyphs and through oral traditions preserved as myths and legends. It is only when humans achieved high altitude flight that visits from the gods became visits by Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs).

On March 13, 1997, Arizona experienced one of the largest mass UFO sightings in history, the so-called Phoenix Lights. Lights of varying descriptions were seen by thousands of people during a three-hour period, over a distance of three hundred miles stretching, from the Nevada line, through Phoenix, to the edge of Tucson. There were two distinct events involved in the incident: a triangular formation of lights seen to pass over the state, and a series of stationary lights seen in the Phoenix area. The United States Air Force identified the second group of lights as flares dropped by military aircraft.  The initial sightings remain unexplained.

The first call came from a retired police officer in Paulden, Arizona, a small town about two hours north of Phoenix at approximately 7pm.  After that, calls began pouring into television stations and the police.  The reports were unanimous on several key points: there was a triangular craft that was enormous (some witnesses described it as a mile wide), it was totally silent, it moved slowly, and it often stopped to hover.

A drawing of the object created by witness Tim Ley appeared in USA Today

The Governor’s office was besieged with calls, especially after a USA Today article in June brought international attention to the incident.  To stem a mounting sense of panic in the state, Governor Fife Symington held a press conference during which he claimed to have “found who was responsible” for the lights.  Symington then brought in his chief of staff dressed in an alien costume, handcuffed and looking contrite.  Crisis averted.  Ten years later, however, Symington confessed before the National Press Club, that he had pulled this stunt only to avert public panic.  He said that he himself had seen the object and that it was, “enormous and inexplicable.”

The Great UFO Secret (Six Short Stories of First Contact)

Legends of the Superstition Mountains

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

A Newsman at the Battle of the Little Bighorn


Mark Kellogg rode with Custer and wrote: “The hope is now strong and I believe, well founded, that this band of ugly customers, known as Sitting Bull's band, will be "gobbled" and dealt with as they deserve."

Saturday, June 11, 2022

George Custer and the Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac


At 9:00 A.M. on May 23, 1865. a cannon boomed, signaling the beginning of the Grand Review of the victorious Army of the Potomac as it marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The cavalry led the march under the command of Brevet Major General Wesley Merritt, a hero of the Gettysburg and Shenandoah Valley campaigns.  Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer led the 3rd Cavalry Division in the forefront of the march, astride a magnificent stallion named Don Juan.  Custer cut an imposing figure atop his stolen horse.  In fact, the horse belonged to one Richard Gaines of Clarksville, Virginia.  Unfortunately for Gaines, Custer took a fancy to the horse and had his soldiers appropriate the animal as “the spoils of war.”  Gaines was never able to regain possession of his legal property because of Custer’s powerful friends.

Before the Presidential reviewing stand, a woman threw an evergreen wreath in front of Don Juan. The horse panicked and galloped toward the president and other dignitaries. Custer regained control of the animal to the great applause of the crowd, and casually proceeded down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Many detractors at the time, and subsequently, thought that this was just the type of theatrical stunt that Custer routinely engineered to draw attention to himself.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

The Perils of the Mona Lisa


Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in the early 1500’s.  It soon was acquired by the King of France and after hanging in various royal apartments went on permanent display at the Louvre in Paris in 1797 and is now, at $870 million, one of the world’s most valuable paintings.

The painting was not always so popular, and owes its worldwide recognition to an art theft in 1911.  The theft was carried out my one Vincenzo Peruggia, a museum employee and Italian nationalist, who thought this Italian masterpiece had no business in France.  Peruggia tried to sell the painting to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy but ended up in jail.  The Mona Lisa returned to France after a three year odyssey.  Peruggia may have had accomplices who planned to sell forgeries of the Mona Lisa in America to unscrupulous collectors.  Their story did not come to light until 1932.

During World War II, a phony Mona Lisa was allowed to fall into the hands of the Nazis, while the original painting was moved from secret hiding place to secret hiding place throughout the war.  The real Mona Lisa resurfaced in Paris on June 16, 1945.

In the early 1950s, a man claiming to be in love with the painting tried to cut it out of its frame.  A glass covering was placed over the painting to prevent future attempts, but to no avail.  On December 30, 1956 a Bolivian man threw a rock at the Mona Lisa while it was on display at the Louvre. The rock shattered the glass case and dislodged a speck of pigment near the left elbow.

Since then, bullet proof glass has been used to shield the painting, which is just as well, since the assaults have continued.  In 1974, while the painting was on loan to the Tokyo National Museum, a woman sprayed it with red paint in a protest to further rights for the disabled.  In 2009, a Russian woman threw a ceramic teacup purchased at the Louvre’s gift shop at the painting.  She had personal grievances against the French government. In 2022, an environmental activist tried to smash the glass protecting the world’s most famous painting before smearing cake across its surface.

Mona Lisa, she’s faced the wild storm waves of ages, and bravely she faces them still.  And always with a smile.