Episode 68: U F Oh No!

Shea explains how the ancients dealt with ancient aliens. Aaron invites patrons to the worst Brewfest ever.

Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that is Aliens!

I’m your host this week, Shea, and with me is:

I’m Aaron, and this week I learned that you can beam me up Scotty, but you can’t beam me down Irish.

Collaboration Lager

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company in Collaboration with Hofbräu München

Style:Lager – American Amber / Red


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Notes: We partnered with Hofbräu München to create Collaboration Lager, an amber lager that unites German malts with American hops creating a taste worth toasting.

Round Table

Headlines, beers, and bears oh my! Now that we’re reliably back in the studio we’re going to renew some old segments, old guests, and hopefully, old patrons ;) But seriously, we would love a five star review wherever you’re listening from, they really do help the show but also help us feel good about ourselves. As we get a bit more conversational, we’d like to remind that the Drunk Dial Line is 513-760-0463 (drunk not necessarily required). You can leave a message, a txt, whatever you like, just remember to let us know if we can play it on air, or we might just default to yes.

Speaking of throwbacks… like this transmission… we’re going to have one of your favorite voices back in the studio next week and Jenn joins us to wade into the healing pools of… well… that’s the surprise isn’t it?

U-F Oh No!

I had a few stories I was working on this week; one about some crazy war hero wielding an umbrella that I will save for later because as I was looking stuff up my mind kept wandering to space and since I was researching history my mind eventually led me to ancient aliens, don’t ask me how, I have no idea how my mind works. So today’s tangent from what I was gonna learn you is now Aliens!

I have always been fascinated with space and the potential for extraterrestrial life so that may have been why my mind wandered so far. It’s cool to find out that UFOs are not a recent idea or trend, people have been confused looking up at the sky for a millenia. There have been depictions of disk-like objects and unusual atmospheric objects found in the art and literature of ancient civilizations from the Sumerians and the Egyptians to the Greeks and Romans. The modern era of UFOs took off in the middle of the 20th century, right around the time rockets and high-tech aircraft were being devised, often in secret. It’s really no wonder the gen pop had no idea what was going on. We’re gonna stay away from modern times though and focus on weird

Events from history…ry…ry…ry!

One of the early sightings that has a bit of validity comes from ancient historian Titus Livius, known to many as Livy to most, not me. Apparently he was an incredibly prolific historian well known for writing “The History of Rome,” his only surviving written work. He was something of a celebrity academic of his day – He would have been on the History Channel. His writings on Rome include a fascinating account of “many prodigies” spotted in 214 BC, including “phantom ships” that were apparently “seen gleaming in the sky”. Livy recordsIn fact he claims a number of portents in the winter of this year, including navium speciem de caelo adfulsisse (“phantom ships had been seen gleaming in the sky”). UFO-ologists still debate whether this was intended as a literal observation or an ominous metaphor.

Even before ol’ Livy looked to the sky there were reports from Egypt as early as 1440 BC. Now these reports come from the Tulli Papyrus which claims to be a transcription of an Egyptian papyrus dating from the reign of Thutmose III. First quoted in a 1953 article published in Doubt, the Fortean Society magazine, by Tiffany Thayer. According to Thayer, the transcription was sent to him by Boris de Rachewiltz who supposedly found the original transcription of the papyrus among papers left by Alberto Tulli, a deceased Vatican museum director. So like 3rd hand information I guess, so it’s pretty scientific. Anyway, this papyrus referenced “circles of fire” or “fiery discs” and could be some of the first UFO sightings, though pretty doubtful because of its provenance.

We have talked about Pliny the Elder before, but quick refresher; Gaius Plinius Secundus was a Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher, and naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire. He wrote the encyclopedic Naturalis Historia (Natural History), which became an editorial model for encyclopedias. He spent most of his spare time studying, writing, and investigating natural and geographic phenomena in the field. Chapter 35 of his encyclopedia has been picked up by UFOlogists, a real title I assure you, as possible evidence for a sighting in 76BC:

“We have an account of a spark falling from a star, and increasing as it approached the earth, until it became of the size of the moon, shining as through a cloud; it afterwards returned into the heavens and was converted into a lampas; this occurred in the consulship of Cn. Octavius and C. Scribonius. It was seen by Silanus, the proconsul, and his attendants.”

A “lampas”, or “lampades” in the plural, has no exact translation as we can’t be quite sure what was intended, but it was almost certainly a variety of meteor. If we look back to chapter 25, we have the terms “faces”, “lampades”, “bolides” and “trabes” all used to describe moving objects of light in the sky, literally, “torches”, “lamps”, “darts” and “beams”. The differences in appearance between those four can only be a matter for conjecture.

Earlier in the book we have all kinds of celestial phenomena described, and most of them are clearly indicating natural events that we can understand: eclipses, meteors, the aurora borealis, etc. But this one’s a bit different. How do we explain a falling star that gets to a certain point and then goes back up into the sky? I don’t know, so probably a UFO.

There has been much speculation over the years of what Silanus and his consuls might have seen, with suggestions of a comet, a nova or ball lightning not quite fitting the description. RB Stothers, writing in 1987, suggested a meteoric fireball, with the “return to the heavens” and conversion to a “lampas” the point at which it exploded in the atmosphere. A “spark falling from a star” does sound like a piece breaking off of a larger object that is burning up in the atmosphere, but I can be certain of one thing, “that’s no moon.”

At daybreak on April 14th, 1561, residents of Nuremberg Germany woke up to an alien aerial battle raging above their heads. The heavens were illuminated with bright lights that moved back and forth for hours before a huge, black, spear-shaped object appeared, blotting the sky. Finally, an enormous crash rattled across the city, signalling the end of the strange affair.

The phenomenon over Nuremberg might be one of the most important recorded early UFO sightings, today it is still regarded by enthusiasts as proof of an alien battle within Earth’s orbit. The original written account was published in April 1561 within a local newspaper, accompanied by a woodcut, produced by local painter and illustrator Hans Glaser, check your phones now. It’s a really cool woodcut that you can still buy prints of.

Townsfolk apparently saw hundreds of glowing shapes within the early morning skies, including spheres, crosses, moons and tubes, each moving chaoticly across the heavens.

In the wee early morning, between 4 and 5am, Nuremberg-ians were in the streets, starting their daily business, who the hell is up that early, old timey times were terrible.. As the sun slowly rose, two ‘blood red’ crescents grew at its centre, while beside it on all four sides were red and black balls in varying groups.

Between these balls were a handful of red crosses and enormous slashes of bright red colouring, taking the shape of reeds or maybe lasers. At once, this menagere of shapes started fighting with one another, with globes and rods flying across the sky, in and out of the sun, for about an hour. Eventually the fighting became so ferocious that the angry shapes became tired and fell to earth in a mass of flames, before burning up on land in a cloud of dark smoke.

After the flaming battle came the enormous black spear, the point fixed to the west. You can see this spear in the woodcutting. This spear shape was of the greatest interest to 16th century academics, who saw the report as an untapped and unexplained sign from God. In the original News Notice, writer Hans Glaser interpreted this as one of many signs from God, sent to encourage man to repent for his sins. The display was a reminder from the almighty to repent and be wary of his wrath…or be grateful for his mercy, I guess. Who am I, but a man.

After being published in Carl Jung’s 1958 book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, the Nuremberg event came to the forefront of the public once again. Jung expressed a view that the spectacle was most likely a natural phenomenon with religious and military interpretations overlying it.

Most contemporary scholars and skeptics believe the report to be entirely fictional, or a misinterpreted ‘sundog.. This is a phenomenon where two additional lights appear at either side of the sun in an atmospheric halo, created by the interaction of sunlight with ice crystals in the atmosphere. It’s wicked cool looking phenomenon so check your phones

The astronomical meteorologist who analyzed these Roman reports in Classical Journal (2007) notes that the “UFO phenomenon, whatever it may be due to, has not changed much over two millennia”: disk, elongated, or sphere shapes; metallic, brilliant colors and materials; smooth, erratic, or hovering motions; the object often vanishes. Whether these are extraordinary atmospheric effects, astronomical phenomena, or extraterrestrial encounters, the persistence of consistent details over thousands of years seems to point to something real observed by many witnesses over time, something that we do not yet understand.

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What Would You Do At A Khodynka Bar?

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I’m funny.

Unfortunately, there were no klondic bars, only stampedes.

We’ve talked about all manner of royalty on this show… though most are self appointed, a few, like Nicholas II of Russia, are actual and for real kings.

I maintain the difference is whether or not you sewed your own cape, and/or, how large a percentage of your crown is tinfoil, a scale that has, so far, served me well.

The coronation of Nicholas II took place in the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow Kremlin. So, you know, also a good sign he was for realsies. As was the aristocratic way then, a event was nothing if it wasn’t, basically, a brewfest. Which, in a good and just world, is always true.

Despite St. Petersburg being the capital of Russia and the best 007: Goldeneye map, coronations continued in Moscow until the end of the Tsars, of which, Nicholas II was the last. Most folks are probably aware of how he met his end… but we’re going to talk about his coronation rager, the Khodynka festival… tragedy.

Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, were crowned on 26 may, 1896, the coronation event was to be a celebration of all things good and Russian. Set to take place a few days after official ceremonies ended, the plans were truly massive. On a mere one square kilometer of land there were to be theaters, plural, 20 bars, and 150 stalls intended to distribute bread, sausages, gingerbread, sweets, and the old brewfest favorite, pretzels. Like any good brewfest, they also had commemorative cups for party-goers.

Ye-Oldie Solo Cups

The party was set, they had beer, food, probably some of those squatty dancers, it was meant to have it all—which is where our story begins.

Orchestrating the massive event feel to a favorite of Nicholas, the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia. Younger brother of the previous Emperor Alexander, and uncle to Nicholas II, Sergei was… not a people person. He grew up a royal in Russia, married a woman, cheated on her, then remarried to Princess Caroline something or other…. her last name is unpronounceable even int this story… fought in the Russo-Turkish War 1877-78, and eventually became the Governor of Moscow, which is how we wound up in charge.

Sergei had no regard for public opinion and loathed being around people. Even shaking a dignitaries had required white gloves, lest he get their cooties. His cousin Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich left a damaging description about him: “Try as I will,” he wrote, “ I cannot find a single redeeming feature in his character… Obstinate, arrogant, disagreeable, he flaunted his many peculiarities in the face of the entire nation… “

Never has there been a more capable party-planner I’m sure.

When the day came they had 30,000 buckets of beer—a weird measurement system, but it’s Russia I guess—and 10,000 buckets of mead. A bucket, by the way, is 12.3 liters. While no word was given on sausages and cups, one expects they had enough for the quarter million people they expected to show up.

Unfortunately, by the events opening nearly half of all Moscow residents, and a similar number of nearby villages, made the pilgrimage bringing the guest list to a then-estimated 400,000 people.

I say “then” because that’s the best they could guess until much later, when investigations put the attendee count closer to half a million.

Vladimir Dzhunkovskiy, an aide-de-camp of Sergei Alexandrovich remembered: “The whole field was thickly covered with people”.

Accounts from the event largely come from Moscow reporter Vladimir Gilyarovshiy who wrote:

“About 200 of Russian and foreign correspondents had arrived in Moscow by these days, but I was the only one who had spent the whole night among the crowd of many thousands who were choking and dying at the Khodynskoe field”.

One of the things he noted was the proximity of the buffet to the entrance lines. Apparently, they were less than 20 or 30 steps away from each other, but that gap was full of holes from mine exploration and of course, critters, which, he remarked, were easy to stumble upon. Worse still, the area opposite the holes, where the prezzies were, was formally a military training base for the Russian military.


It was known that gifts of drink, food, and monogramed cups would be given out at 10am at the event. Not unlike modern iPhone launches, people hoping to ensure their presents went to the field around noon the prior day to secure a spot in line, camping there overnight. Of it was May, but I assume being Russia it was also really cold, so points for dedication I guess.

While waiting for the event to begin Gilyarovshiy realized he’d forgotten his tobacco box at a pavilion and set out to fetch it saying that in the crowd “you couldn’t stir your arm, you couldn’t move”. He did manage to get to his tobacco, the trip for which is likely what saved his life.

It was then that people began packing in so tightly that some party-goers blacked out from what was described as a stinky fog forming over the crowd. People had been packed in so tightly that the unconcious-before-it-was-cool patrons couldn’t fall over so the problem wasn’t noticed.

Then the volunteers fucked it all up…

The crowd had grown impatient for presents and the artels (volunteers) complied with the demands of the first few rows of people. This proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the Cossacks back.

First, people saw those in the front of the line getting presents before the scheduled time and, of course, wanted to get in on that. People began pushing forward, quickly trapping those in front of them. On the outskirts of it, Gilyarovshiy reported “I was absolutely losing consciousness and getting exhausted of thirst”. Being something of a giant he managed to push his way to the edge of the field where he ate wild grass for its moisture.

The rest of the crowd was less fortunate. To quell the crowd volunteers began tossing gift boxes into the mulling hoard. This, however, worsened the problem by spurring rumors that the gifts were in short supply. The result was instant and tragic. People panicked and raced through the field I mentioned earlier. Full of holes, dips, and rocks people quickly tripped and became stuck ahead of the remaining 500,000 frenzied guests. Those who made it over the divider were met with the leftovers of the aforementioned military training area whose trenches, pits, and traps were covered with simple wooden planks that had been left there, in the weather, since they’d been placed. Thousands of people fell into the holes and trenches before it was all said and done. So many, that there are reports of children and lighter women using the heads of those stuck as stepping stones to escape themselves.

The “crowd crush” as these events are called, was the worst ever recorded.

While final estimates range depending on your source, the most common numbers I could find were somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 dead, and 20,000, give or take 5k, wounded.

The aftermath was a bloody mess. Once the furrier lessened the nearly 1,400 army police in the area managed to quell the crowd and remove the corpses ahead of the Tsar’s 2pm appearance.

For his part, the Duke of Moscow did the Russianest thing ever and just blamed everyone around him until one of them went to jail instead.

Nicholas II, after the event, simply ignored the tragedy. He continued on with his night attending an event at the French consulate despite literally everyone he knew saying it was a bad idea. Famously, the Chinese ambassador remarked that a Chinese Emperor would know better.

His apparent lack of concern for the event and its dead would earn Nicholas II the title of “Nicholas the Bloody” which is not a great way to start your reign, though, all said and done it would be fitting.


I’m Shea,and this week I learned that the hole in a guitar is traditionally used to store soft cheeses and dried meats which are to feed the drummer when he does a good job. Before we go I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.

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