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At 5 am on June 12, 1790, near Alencon in France, some farmers saw an enormous globe surrounded with flames. At first they thought it might be a balloon that had caught fire, but they were puzzled by the great speed of the object and the curious whistling sound they heard. The globe slowed down, and eventually landed on the top of a hill, uprooting plants along the slope. It gave out such an intense heat that soon surrounding grass and small trees started burning. Police Inspector Liabeuf was sent to investigate.

By evening the still-warm globe had attracted a curious crowd of locals, including two mayors, a doctor and three other local authorities who vouched for Liabeuf’s report. “All of a sudden a kind of door opened,” the Inspector wrote, “and, there is the interesting thing, a person like us came out of it, but this person was dressed in a strange way, wearing a tight-fitting suit and, seeing all that crowd, said some words which were not understood and fled into the wood.” Almost immediately afterwards the sphere silently exploded and the scattered pieces burnt to powder.

“Searches were initiated to find the mysterious man,” the police inspector concluded, “but he seemed to have dissolved.”

 

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