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Olney: Fireballs

Olney Parish Church
Locally, there appears to have recently been a spate of orange balls whizzing about the night skies, and with the latest sightings having been reported in the newspaper for Buckingham and district, no doubt the more uncharitable would conclude that some observations have seemed to coincide with chucking out time at the Chandos Arms. Nevertheless, mysterious orange balls are nothing new, for during a period of heavy thunderstorms William Cowper, the Olney poet, recorded this dramatic incident in 1783; ‘Yesterday morning, however, at seven o’clock, two fire-balls burst either in the steeple (of Olney church) or close to it. William Andrews saw them meet at that point, and immediately after saw such a smoke issue from the apertures in the steeple as soon rendered it invisible. I believe no very material damage happened, though when Joe Green went afterwards to wind the clock, flakes of stone and lumps of mortar fell about his ears in such abundance, that he desisted, and fled terrified. The noise of the explosion surpassed all the noises I ever heard …’ In fact there would be certain parallels with another observation nearly 200 years later, when in 1969 a pillion passenger on a motor scooter noticed ‘a bright light in the sky.’ Reported to be ‘emitting a glowing aura,’ for nearly an hour the object coursed from Hockliffe to Fenny Stratford, to then move off towards Newton Longville, where strangely a little earlier several residents had been alarmed by ‘a tremendous noise in the sky.’ In fact Mrs. Welsford, of the Manor House, said it ‘sounded like an explosion and lasted for about 10 minutes,’ but despite having received a 999 call Bletchley police could find no explanation. However, the phenomena now sounds suspiciously like ball lightning, which, I seem to recall, has since been created under laboratory conditions by a Japanese professor. As for the recent sightings, these seem to be somewhat different, and although the standard mantra explains them as Chinese lanterns, as devilishly clever as the Chinese are it seems - if the reports are correct - that they would have little incentive to make examples that travel at vast speed, suddenly come to a hover, mooch around for a bit, and then zoom into the sky and disappear. All very puzzling, although as I seem to remember in the early 1980s sightings were made of a strange triangular craft which, by evading radar, began to penetrate European air space. This triggered the usual speculation of little green men, but it later transpired that the sightings had been of clandestine flights by the newly developed U.S. stealth fighters, to test their qualities of radar evasion. Therefore regarding the present mystery, my own two penny worth would be that the military might be testing some new type of propulsion, for in the 21st century it’s about time we had something more sophisticated than shooting hot gases out of the back end of a metal tube. As for little green men, regarding their existence the jury’s still out, although personally I can confirm that strange and alien beings are now definitely amongst us, since, believe me, I’ve worked with more than a few during two recent stints of warehouse employment.