John Winthrop UFO, A Great Light in the Night (1639)

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  • 23 Aug 2023

The John Winthrop UFO Encounter

In 1639, a mysterious event occurred that is often cited as the first recorded UFO sighting in what would become the United States.

John Winthrop, a prominent figure and governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, documented “a great light in the night” over Boston, Massachusetts. This sighting has intrigued historians and UFO enthusiasts alike, sparking debate and speculation about its nature.

Historical Background

Boston in the 17th Century

In the early 17th century, Boston was a burgeoning Puritan settlement. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was a center of religious fervor, and the community was tightly knit, with a strong focus on moral and religious principles.

John Winthrop

John Winthrop was a key figure in the early history of Massachusetts, serving as governor multiple times. A devout Puritan, he kept detailed journals of life in the colony, including various unusual occurrences.

The Sighting

Description of the Event

On the night of March 1, 1639, John Winthrop recorded in his journal an account of a mysterious light in the sky. He described it as “a great light,” which appeared to the south and darted back and forth with great speed.

Witness Accounts

Winthrop noted that the light was observed by several credible witnesses, including a man named James Everell. Everell and his companions were rowing a boat on the Muddy River when they saw the light and watched it for several hours.

Movement and Behavior

The light was described as moving “up and down” and “to and fro” in a way that seemed purposeful and controlled. It eventually vanished out of sight.

Possible Explanations

1. Astronomical Phenomenon

  • Description: Could this have been a known astronomical event, such as a comet or meteor?
  • Analysis: The described movement and duration of the sighting don’t align with typical astronomical phenomena.

2. Atmospheric Phenomenon

  • Description: Certain atmospheric conditions might create optical illusions or rare phenomena.
  • Analysis: While atmospheric effects could explain some aspects, the specific details of movement and behavior don’t match known meteorological events.

3. Religious Interpretation

  • Description: The event might have been interpreted as a divine sign or omen.
  • Analysis: Given the strong religious context of the time, it’s possible that the sighting was seen as a spiritual or supernatural occurrence.

4. Extraterrestrial Craft (UFO)

  • Description: The appearance and behavior align with some modern descriptions of UFOs.
  • Analysis: The specific details, such as the controlled movement and the duration of the sighting, align with some UFO descriptions. While highly speculative, this explanation cannot be entirely ruled out.

Impact and Legacy

Historical Significance

The 1639 sighting is significant as one of the earliest documented unexplained aerial phenomena in American history.

Ongoing Interest

The event continues to be a subject of research and debate among historians, scientists, and UFO researchers, reflecting its enduring fascination.


The 1639 UFO encounter in Boston, Massachusetts, as recorded by John Winthrop, remains an enigmatic and intriguing historical event. Its detailed documentation, the complexity of the sighting, and the lack of a definitive explanation make it a compelling subject for study and reflection.

Whether viewed as a natural phenomenon, a divine sign, or a potential encounter with the unknown, the event serves as a reminder of the enduring human fascination with the sky and the mysteries it may hold.

The sighting invites us to consider how our understanding of the cosmos has evolved and challenges us to keep exploring, questioning, and seeking answers to the extraordinary. It stands as a testament to the timeless human quest to comprehend the unknown and continues to inspire curiosity and wonder.


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