On August 27, 1783, a terrifying monster - perhaps even the Devil himself - descended from the stormy skies and began rampaging through the French village of Gonesse. A posse of brave villagers attacked it with scythes and pitchforks and soon ripped it to shreds. The monster, of course, was merely an unmanned balloon sent aloft by physicist Jacques Charles. Three months later, Charles and a companion made the first manned ascent in a hydrogen balloon. One imagines they were somewhat relieved not to land anywhere near Gonesse!

Strange visitors from the skies have always inspired terror - whether they be balloons, comets or motherships. Even in our own times, people frequently react to the unknown with the same primal savagery as the peasants of Gonesse. The only difference is that nowadays the weapon of choice tends to be a shotgun rather than a pitchfork.

Take the famous Kentucky goblins, for example, who visited the Sutton farm in Hopkinsville one August night in 1955. Certainly they looked devilish enough, what with their long pointed ears and shining yellow eyes - but there was nothing especially threatening about their behaviour. They seemed content to frolic about the grounds and occasionally peek in through the farmhouse windows. But that didn't deter the Suttons from breaking out their shotguns and blasting away at them all night - even when it became embarrassingly apparent that bullets had no effect on them. [1]

Similarly immune to bullets was the "tall black monster" with long silver ears that Cape Cod resident Charles Farley discovered in his yard one afternoon in November 1938. When Farley fired his shotgun at it, the monster simply laughed at him and bounded away over an 8-ft-tall fence. It paused only to playfully spit blue flames at a passing schoolboy before making good its escape. [2]


While the Suttons and Mr Farley may have protested that they were only defending their homesteads, Paul Miller didn't even have that excuse. One rainy November evening in 1961, Miller and two companions were driving home from a hunting trip in North Dakota when they saw a "luminous silo" land in a nearby field. The 'silo' vanished, then suddenly reappeared. Two humanoids emerged from it, and Miller promptly shot at one - apparently wounding it. The next morning, he was visited at work by three men claiming to be government officials who appeared to know all about the incident and seemed none too happy about it. [3]

Finnish forestry worker P. Aliranta was equally impulsive when faced with the unknown. One afternoon in 1971, Aliranta and a colleague were working in woodland near Kinnula when they saw a small flying saucer descend into a clearing. A 3-ft-tall figure wearing a green jumpsuit and an oversized helmet levitated out of it. Not having a shotgun to hand, Aliranta simply started up his chainsaw and advanced towards the visitor. When the entity began to float back towards the craft, Aliranta lunged at it and grabbed it by the foot. However, he found it too hot to handle - quite literally - and had to let go when he felt his hand start burning. The Ufonaut hastily departed in its saucer, no doubt resolving to steer clear of Finland in the future. [4]

Aliens who visit military bases rather than forests should, perhaps, expect to be shot at. Certainly, the glowing green giant that materialised at Talavera le Real air base one night in 1976 could hardly have been too surprised when a pair of guards promptly emptied their machine guns into it. (The giant shrugged off the attack by simply vanishing in a flash of light.) [5]

And perhaps we should not judge the British NCO who fired his spear gun at an entity in Dakelia barracks, Cyprus, in 1968 too harshly - considering the sheer Lovecraftian horror of the intruder's appearance. It consisted merely of a glowing head and shoulders, which floated up a flight of stairs towards the terrified officer making a deafening humming noise. When it calmly swivelled its head a full 180 degrees, it was probably the last straw as far as the soldier was concerned. [6]

But what of the San Francisco fisherman who was hauling a line of crab traps up into his boat one January night in 2000 when a giant triangular aircraft cruised by overhead. Was he really justified in emptying his shotgun into it? Certainly the occupants of the craft didn't seem to think so. While he was reloading his gun, a hatchway opened in the underside of the object and a voice called out, "Stop shooting at us, you idiot!". The chastened fisherman allowed the craft to drift away without further molesting it.

The annals of Ufology are full of similar such incidents. It is hardly surprising that aliens have yet to initiate formal diplomatic relations with us when we insist on shooting at them so often and with such little provocation. Indeed, the answer to the perennial question of why little green men haven't landed on the White House lawn is probably that they are afraid they would get their heads blown off before they had even finished saying "We come in pea... Arghhhhhh!"

[1] Brookesmith: UFO Sightings Catalogue
[2], [7] Rosales: Humanoid Database Online
[3], [4] Orbis Publishing: The Unexplained
[5], [6] Alan Baker: Encyclopedia of Alien Encounters