On March 1, 1639, John Winthrop opened his diary in which he recorded the trials and triumphs of his fellow Puritans as they made a new life in America. As the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony put pen to paper, he began to recount a most unusual event that had recently caused a stir among the English immigrants.
Winthrop wrote that earlier in the year James Everell, “a sober, discreet man,” and two others had been rowing a boat in the Muddy River, which flowed through swampland and emptied into a tidal basin in the Charles River, when they saw a great light in the night sky. “When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square,” the governor reported, “when it ran, it was contracted into the figure of a swine.”
Over the course of two to three hours, the boatmen said that the mysterious light “ran as swift as an arrow” darting back and forth between them and the village of Charlestown, a distance of approximately two miles. “Diverse other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place,” Winthrop added.
The governor wrote that when the strange apparition finally faded away, the three Puritans in the boat were stunned to fi themselves one mile upstream—as if the light had transported them there. The men had no memory of their rowing against the tide, although it’s possible they could have been carried by the wind or a reverse tidal flow. The mysterious repositioning of the boat could suggest that they were unaware of part of their experience. Some researchers would interpret this as a possible alien abduction if it happened today.