The Mystery Of The 1853 Tennessee UFO Sighting

There’s something about an old-timey UFO sighting. Nowadays, when someone claims to have seen a flying saucer or a mysterious floating orb, there’s a definite “Randy Quaid in Independence Day” vibe to the situation. Somehow, inexplicably, the whole thing carries a lot more weight when the story comes from a point in history when opium was still legal.

Which brings us to Spencer, Tennessee on June 1st, 1853. The occurrence, according to HowStuffWorks, took place at the long-since defunct Burrett College during the wee morning hours. As the sun rose over the school, a group of students noticed something peculiar. More specifically, two things: glowing orbs, one having the appearance of a large star and the other, in an ominous moment for future Star Wars fans, looking like a “small new moon.” Each appeared north of the rising sun, with the “moon” slowly fading into the distance and the “star” getting closer and more defined, appearing to be some sort of sphere.

Cowboys and Aliens

Records of the strange sighting at Burritt College, pictured above, come courtesy of a letter written to Scientific American by one Professor A.C. Carnes, in which he described what was seen and asked for help explaining it. “The first (object) became visible again,” he wrote, “and increased rapidly in size, while the other diminished, and the two spots kept changing thus for about half an hour. There was considerable wind at the time, and light fleecy clouds passed by, showing the lights to be confined to one place.” Carnes’ best guess for the cause of the phenomenon: “electricity.” Which, you know. Why not?

The representatives of Scientific American, being Americans of science, doubted that electricity could be blamed for what was seen. Instead, they postulated that the whole shebang was the result of “distant clouds of moisture,” which, again, why not? The true cause of the sighting has yet to be uncovered, but at a guess, we’d say it was probably weather balloons. Maybe swamp gas. Say, have you ever seen a neuralizer before?

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