When flying saucers first began appearing in World War II, they were overwhelmingly thought to be either experimental aircraft or a paranormal manifestation of angels protecting the allies as they conducted their missions. But this interpretation changed when Kenneth Arnold first reported seeing a series of boomerang shaped craft skipping through the sky like saucers on water. But when we look back on history, we find that these strange objects were all around us even before the written word – but as other phenomena, such as wood sprites and fairies began vanishing, the UFO phenomenon began to really take off.
While fairies or indeed any paranormal manifestation is by its nature impossible to prove or disprove, few can argue that the two phenomena have gone in completely different directions as time went on. In the Irish and Gaelic folklore of the middle ages, there was a commonly seen and spoken of paranormal entity known as the Bean-Sidhe, or as we know her today the Banshee.
The Banshee was a woman who had been slain, but her spirit remained as a howling disembodied ghost that heralded portents of doom to any unfortunate enough to summon her by circumstance, or as a messenger conveying information from the other world to those who could see her. And yet as time wore on, just as the regional gods of ancient Sumeria began to disappear even within their own regions, the banshee too began to vanish from the popular folklore – like a ghost. But while fictionalized versions of her exploits remained, she was soon replaced by different phenomena – and she remained confined to the land of her birth. Why would the banshee appear in Ireland in a specific time frame but not elsewhere as time wore on? And when did her reign of terror begin? The evolution of individual thought patterns and memes throughout the folklore of a people often seem to change as quickly or as slowly as the society in which their tales are being told.
So too was the case with UFOs, according to some interpretations. And yet they seem to have been around since the beginning – quite different from the less technological fairy lore surrounding the banshee. It was a sort of replacement of the old way of living and the beings that surrounded the village at the edge of the darkness where strange noises could be heard. It was as though the village grew across the entire globe and the edge could only be seen by looking above, below, or into the deep unexplored reaches of the sea. Is this why UFOs have over time overwhelmed so many other phenomena? And will the folklore of these craft change over time to the point where we may not actually recognize visiting aliens because they do not fit our conception of what an extraterrestrial should look like?