The Apparitions of Fatima Version française
Translation by George Hoskins
If the apparitions of Fatima had occurred half a century later, we would have had no difficulty in attributing their origin to the military who would then have had all the necessary technology at their disposal. But for 1917, such an attempt shows itself to be rather more perilous, on the one hand because the available technology was much more limited at that time, on the other because the witness statements have lost much of their sharpness in the many intervening years. Now we know that the more precise a witness’s statement is, the easier it is to show the mechanisms at work, and, by contrast, the more vague the statement is, the more it appears "extraordinary" and inexplicable. We will nevertheless attempt the task, even while suspecting that our efforts can only be incomplete. We will rely on eight sources of information so as to be able to cross-check them [PO44, IF52, JCB76 p. 217-225 citing the statement of Jose Maria Pereira Gens, GS77, DC91, LDLN No. 345 p. 34-37 article by Danielle Castille, DMFF98 p. 485 and RN98 p. 159-162].
Let it be clear that we are undertaking this analysis without in any way denying the possibility that miracles may occur. We will simply examine the events that took place at Fatima with a view to discovering any possible deception. We must remind ourselves that nowadays the Catholic Church itself is very careful before officially recognising miracles, since its experts well know through experience what may turn out to be hallucination or trickery. One might almost say that the Church today actually "dreads" miracles, because it knows that certain believers are often only too ready to accept them without discrimination. If we succeed in winning credence for the possibility of trickery, our analysis will doubtless sadden or shock those who think that in 1917 a miracle really did occur at Fatima. But our attempt to show what might have happened does not actually prevent the possibility that real and miraculous cures have taken place there subsequently thanks to the religious conviction of the pilgrims, something which occurs as a result of a completely different process.
The three shepherd witnesses to the apparitions at Fatima in 1917 are Lucie dos Santos (10 years old, born on the 22nd March 1907) and her cousins François Marto (9 years old, born on the 11th June 1908) and Jacinthe Marto (7 years old, born on the 10th March 1910).
The Background: in 1915, Lucie had already been approached, with 3 other little girls, and on 3 different occasions, by a kind of "angel" whiter than snow, while they were watching over their sheep. In 1916, Fatima’s "trio" again saw this "angel" three times. It seems that on all these occasions all the children saw the same phenomenon, something which confers a certain reality to it. One might (cautiously) imagine a dazzling luminous projection concealing a deception of some kind or even the presence of an actor, something which could only be confirmed by examining in each case the precise configuration of the settings. But it seems, after a detailed examination, that doubt has been cast on the historical reality of these facts. The abbot Laurentin himself, one of the experts in the most well-known apparitions of the Virgin Mary, deplored the fact, in an issue of "The Figaro" of 10th May 1967, that the description of these first events only appeared 20 years afterwards, when none of what was related had been revealed during the first interviews with the children in 1917.
Later we will return to the fact that around the historical events of Fatima the Church has developed an edifying legend many years afterwards, a very beautiful story by the way (see for example Daniel Costelle’s film of 1991), which the anticlerical republicans of the time have for their part taken upon themselves to destroy. It is in this context, not particularly promising for the truth to actually be revealed, that we have had to research the facts which we wished to analyse.
Sunday, 13th May 1917: Lucie, François and Jacinthe see an apparition of Mary above a small green oak-tree about a metre in height, at the heart of the Cova da Iria, a natural basin of about 500 metres in diameter. Nature, all around them, suddenly became silent, at least according to Lucie who hears nothing except the Virgin, a phenomenon which is familiar to us and suggests the presence of an electromagnetic field. The Virgin asks the children to come back 5 times, on the 13th of each of the following months at midday. This first apparition revealed itself by a sudden flash followed by a vision of a woman dressed all in white, brighter than the sun. The means by which the Virgin communicated with the children is less clear. We should note here that, contrary to what is usual (see the first part, chapter 13), the apparition will keep its promises and return each month on the date announced. This makes one think that the announcement was not hallucinatory but actually real…
Wednesday 13th June, 1917: the children come accompanied by around fifty people. Lucie sees a bright flash and "communicates with a being" that the others present neither see nor hear. Is it pretence, or is Lucie being carried away by her religious convictions? Some of the assembled people do hear, on the other hand, a kind of humming, like that of a bee. Is this the result of an electromagnetic field, for which this feeling is characteristic? Could it be this field which unleashed Lucie’s vision? All of those present see the branches of the young tree bending at the place where the Virgin is thought to be standing. This slightly absurd detail, which would have us believe that the Virgin has a certain weight, even though she appears in the air and therefore must be able to defy gravity, suggests a somewhat mediocre deception, relying on pieces of string attached to the branches (!). The group then hears an explosion "like the blast of a firework (sic) when you hear it going up in the distance" and all of them see a little white cloud rise towards the east from the tree and fade away while the branches group together and bend over towards the same side. The suspicious nature of this luminous effect coming at the same time as the "blast of a firework" will doubtless not have escaped the reader.
It seems that the recall of this "blast" is a quotation coming directly from Lucie’s memoirs, which tends to prove her good faith in all this, since otherwise she would surely have attempted to hide this detail if she herself had been involved in any form of trickery. Let us also note that she went on to become a Carmelite, which confirms that she really believed in the miracle of Fatima. If, for a moment, we have considered the possible involvement of the children in a work of deception, it is because François and Jacinthe died a few years after these events, in 1919 and 1920 respectively, as if it had been necessary to ensure their silence (see below). It is, as it happens, on this 13th of June that the Virgin would have told Lucie of their coming death, which for some commentators is regarded as the first secret of Fatima. But, as with the other secrets, this one will not be revealed until many years after the death of the two children, which casts considerable doubt on its prophetical value since it is easier to prophesy events which have already taken place.
Friday 13th July 1917: the children arrived accompanied by several thousand people. Lucie sees the apparition and talks with it. The sources for this information do not specify whether François and Jacinthe also saw and heard the Virgin, but those present did not see them talk to Her. It is not impossible that these (hallucinatory?) visions of Mary are only seen by Lucie and that the two other children do not dare confess that they do not see Her, either from jealousy or from fear of losing their role as "seers". François indeed had already admitted that he could hear nothing at the time of the apparitions, and Jacinthe, who was perhaps lacking in honesty on this point, was able to hear Lucie, after each apparition, explaining to François what the Virgin had said to her, which thus was able to allow her to provide a more or less similar account. When questioned by the abbot Ferreira de Lacerda on the 19th October 1917, i.e. very soon after the events themselves, concerning the content of the Virgin’s words, Jacinthe gave, from our point of view the very significant reply, "I don’t remember, Lucie will know". One might object that "the exemplary education" of these children and "their exceptional piety" would have prevented them from involvement in this little deceit, but that would also be to give credit to a legend which is too attractive to be completely true.
On that day the Virgin promised a great miracle "so that everybody believes", a promise which will indeed be kept, and therefore is real. It has been suggested in this connection that Lucie was receiving this kind of pronouncement from a local clergy member and not at the time of the apparitions. The name of the abbot Faustino José Jacinto Ferreira, whom Lucie used to visit frequently, has been put forward.
The Virgin also revealed three secrets, two of which were divulged in 1942:
A great clap of thunder is then heard and the little white cloud appears as the Virgin departs (see commentaries above). The assembled crowd perceives certain phenomena such as the "humming of a bee", a notable decline in daylight, which turns a hue of golden yellow, and a drop in temperature. It has been seen on many previous occasions that these sensations can be induced by the presence of an electromagnetic field acting on the brain of witnesses. This subjective aspect is actually confirmed by the fact that "not everybody experienced all the physical phenomena".
The fact that these phenomena of an electromagnetic origin were produced several times "on command", at the hour and on the day previously announced, leads one to think that their source was artificial. The Croatian Physicist Nikola Tesla, who had emigrated to the United States in 1884, had put forward the principle of radar as early as 1900 and the first prototype, called a telemobiloscope, was made in 1904 with the purpose of preventing collisions between ships. Waves were emitted at a frequency of 650 MHz and could carry for more than 6 kilometres. It is likely that the American military had noticed soon enough that radar emissions were capable, at certain frequencies, of provoking unexpected sensations in a subject exposed to them. On the other hand, one may suppose that the European armed forces were too busy with the 1914-18 War to indulge in this Machiavellian intrigue at Fatima, and that it was rather the American military (who entered the war against Germany on the 2nd April 1917) who were behind it, following on from the sightings of 1896-7 and in concert with the conservative forces in Portugal who were struggling against the emergence of a violently anticlerical republic. The landscape in this district, a high limestone plateau backing onto a spur of the Serra of Aire (mountain chain), would have allowed the hiding of an emitting antenna capable of "sprinkling" the crowd of witnesses.
Monday 13th August 1917: the children are held with the local administrator who is worried about the problems they are causing for public order. The Virgin thus does not appear but the 18,000 or so people gathered for the event do see different phenomena already met with: a flash, a clap of thunder, a small white cloud and a diminishing of brightness of the surrounding daylight. On that day, the sky is partially covered by cloud and coloured lights appear on the clouds as well as "a luminous globe turning around on itself", according to one of the witnesses, something which calls to mind projections of light. Another witness points out that "the faces of all the people had all the colours of the rainbow: pink, red, blue… The trees did not seem to have branches and leaves, but only flowers; all seemed laden with flowers, and each leaf appeared to be a flower. It was as if the ground was covered by tiles of different colours. Their clothes too were all the colours of the rainbow". Truly a very pretty spectacle, perhaps the result of multiple light projections enlivened by the hallucinatory effect of an electromagnetic field or by the pen of an enthusiastic witness…
Sunday 19th of August 1917: the children, now released, are again out on the pastures, at a place called Valinhos, with nobody else around except for the sheep they are guarding. The temperature then falls suddenly. Coloured lights are again visible on the clouds, there is a bright flash and a figure dressed in white and gold appears to them. The apparition then slowly rises off towards the east, accompanied by the "sound of a motor" (sic). The sky being covered by cloud, God only knows what was happening in the clouds above the scene, not to mention above the stage…
Thursday 13th September 1917: the ecclesiastical authorities, convinced of some trickery (for reasons not given by the source), send two investigating priests to the area who mingle with the crowd of 25 - 30,000 people who are now gathered there. Again we find a lessening in the amount of daylight there as it takes on a hue of golden yellow. This apparent weakening of the sun’s brightness, at a time when the sky is perfectly clear, allows everybody to scan the sky and search for a "sign" and it would be interesting to know how many of the witnesses later experienced problems with their eyes. Indeed, even if the brain no longer correctly recognises the brightness of the sun, the cells of the retina are nevertheless no less sensitive to it, and many of those who looked at the sun too closely could perhaps have suffered the after-effects.
Suddenly, many people raise an arm to point at a bright ball in the sky coming from the east – the crowd cries: "There She comes! There She comes!" – and which glides majestically into space and vanishes – the crowd cries: "She’s vanished, She’s vanished" – another firework? A luminous globe has appeared on the little green oak tree and, already, the Virgin is speaking to Lucie. She confirms that She will perform a great miracle in the following month. Then She returns the way She had come – the crowd cries: "There She goes! There She goes!" – in the shape of an easily visible luminous oval moving away in the direction of the sun, "calmly but with a certain speed", before disappearing. The witnesses were also able to observe a shower of "flowers" which vanished on contact with the ground, in reality something like white petals or snowflakes, round and shining, which descended slowly "in a formidable jet of supernatural light" (a horizontal luminous projection, the origin of which nobody seems to have noticed?), as well as a mysterious smoke rising up to a height of 5 or 6 metres before suddenly disappearing: could they be using a smoke device?
It will be noted that some of the witnesses are not lacking in critical awareness and themselves wonder about the nature of these visions: "perhaps an illusion of the senses?". The classic argument of "collective hysteria" therefore hardly seems appropriate and one cannot claim that the crowd consisted only of "fanatics", since "sceptics" were present as well. As for the two investigating clergymen, they are now convinced of the reality of the apparitions. The same can be said of the UFO phenomenon: "serious" people are predisposed against the phenomenon but they become aware of the reality of the observations as soon as they take the trouble to investigate the source, providing that they are intellectually honest in the first place.
Saturday 13th October 1917: although it had been raining heavily since the previous night, 70,000 people turned up in the muddy conditions in order to be present at the miracle that had been foretold. The Portuguese historian Leopoldo Nunes remarks that "at the time of the great miracle, there were present some of the most illustrious men of Letters, Arts or Sciences of the day, almost all non-believers, who had come out of simple curiosity." Even the Minister for National Education was there.
As noon approached, Lucie recognised, by the customary flashes, the coming of the apparition and she asked all those present to close their umbrellas, so that everybody could see the sky better. The message was passed among the crowd who complied in spite of the continuing drizzle. Lucie conversed with the Virgin and the latter then returned in the direction of the east. The rain then quickly stopped, a natural coincidence perhaps, which we cannot explain otherwise for that time. Around the little seers could be observed "a column of cloud [smoke] fine and bluish, perfectly visible, and which dispersed suddenly. The same phenomenon took place 3 times, a bit like a warning to keep ready". Then "the clouds parted" allowing the sun to appear "at its zenith" in all its glory. Actually, the sun on that day was at less than 45° above the due south horizon (42.5° Az. 173°) and one can doubt whether it was indeed this celestial body that the crowd saw appear, in which case it is probable that the supposed separation of the clouds was only one interpretation of the situation to which we must add a gentle sensation of warmth (see below). This "sun" is described as "a sharply outlined disk", "a flat piece of dull silver", "having variations similar to the lustre of a pearl", "neither veiled nor indistinct", "which shone without hurting one’s eyes", and nobody seems to have complained on that day that their eyes were hurting despite having stared at it for some considerable time. The clouds which covered the sky gave "the impression of passing behind the sun". The combination of these descriptions broadly suggests the idea of a luminous projection against a background of clouds, even though numerous ufologists thought they recognised the signs of a flying saucer. Let us remember that the sun has an apparent size of 0.5° and that it was therefore sufficient to project from the ground a very bright circle with a diameter of about 12 metres onto clouds situated, for example, at a height of 1 kilometre in order to give the appearance of the sun. The latter view included "two brief interruptions, during which the sun again sent out dazzling rays compelling the onlookers to turn their eyes away", as if a gap in the layer of clouds had twice permitted them to glimpse the "real" sun, with the supposition that the two disks were approximately one on top of the other. This idea does present us with a particular difficulty, because the crowd were doubtless dispersed over an area of more than 70,000 square metres, if one allows 1 square metre of minimum space to each visitor, that is, in an approximate circle around the little green oak tree of about 150 metres radius (see fig. 5-a).
Because of a parallax error due to the proximity of this luminous projection, those observers furthest from the oak tree in the axis of the projection would have been able to notice, when the "real" sun reappeared through the clouds, that the latter was making a "jump" of about 4° (in our example), that is of about more than 8 times its apparent size, which is not at all negligible. This problem is even more extreme for the observers who were further away from the oak tree and perpendicular to the axis of the projection – for them the error of parallax was even greater (about 6° in our example). However, because of the dazzle when the sun reappeared, and especially because of the movements and changes in size of the projection (see below), this defect may have passed unnoticed by most of those present. It is also possible that the projection could have been deliberately interrupted when a break in the clouds drew near, so as to avoid the defect being too visible (the witness speaks of "two brief interruptions"). Finally, let us note that the projection needed rather to have an elliptical shape so as to give those observers who were close to the oak tree the illusion of a perfect circle (about 17 metres x 12 metres in our example).
Our interpretation does not, however, concord wholly with one of the witness statements which seems to indicate that 1) the ambient brightness diminishes as on previous occasions (effect of an electromagnetic origin) and 2) the luminous intensity of the sun diminished after the crowd started looking at it. Indeed, the text of this witness statement relates that, at the request of Lucie, the "crowd […] anxiously turns to look at the royal star. The rays of the sun lessens in intensity." This statement, which tells of two successive reductions in brightness, unless the first mention is only a condensation of the second, and which leaves one to understand that the sun is first visible almost normally before weakening in intensity as soon as the crowd look at it, reveals a certain confusion at this point, which can perhaps be explained by the fact that it would have been written more than 50 years after the events.
For a period of about 10 minutes, the luminous disk will behave strangely, something which later came to be called the "dance of the sun". It suddenly started to turn around on itself like a disk of fire, it trembled, it made "strange and sudden movements", "it seem[ed] to come closer as if it were at the same height as the clouds" (sic). "At a certain moment it seem[ed] to come closer, threatening to fall on us" and the crowd was seized with terror (sudden enlargement of the projection?). Performing a zigzag motion, it seemed "to detach itself from the sky and, red with blood, advance towards the earth threatening to crush us with its fiery mass. These were terrifying seconds" according to one witness who attempts to communicate to us the grandiose aspect of the scene, and who is perhaps embellishing it a little. Then the star took up again "its strange waltz" while, at the same time, the colour phenomena already met with on the 13th and 19th of August appeared again: "the sun threw off beams of light, bestowing different colours on everything", the ground, the crowd, and the clouds.
We point out, and it is undoubtedly more than just a coincidence, that it was on the 3 (out of 7) occasions when the sky was covered by cloud that these colour phenomena appeared. It is clear that at that time the clouds provided an indispensable screen on which to project light effects up in the sky. Of course, the cloud cover cannot be predicted in advance, but the mechanism seems to be ready to be activated as soon as weather conditions permit. Apparently the multicoloured projections onto the ground are also tied to the presence of clouds, which leads us to suppose one or two aerial sources of the projection, hidden in the cloud layer, perhaps on board a dirigible balloon. As for the rain of "white flakes" on the 13th September, it could have been projected sideways from a small hill. If we consider that for each of the 7 days of these events, the sky could have been clear or cloudy with an equal probability of one in two, and that the coloured effects could be present or absent with the same equal probability, the probability of the coincidence of "clear sky/no coloured projections" and "cloudy sky/coloured projections" is 1 chance in 27, that is 1/128, which is asking rather too much of chance alone. But one may of course attempt to find some other explanation for this "coincidence".
During the "dance of the sun", the drenched and numbed audience were well able to appreciate the presence of a gentle warmth, and this was more than a subjective sensation, since witnesses noticed with surprise that their clothes were (nearly) dry at the end of the apparition. In contrast to the 13th of July or the 19th of August, when there was a sensation of freshness, the temperature on this occasion did indeed rise. The reader may remember a similar situation at Baturite in 1993, when "beneath a cloudy sky, the temperature was reaching 40°C". Could our hallucination-inducing radar beam have swept across the crowd this time with millimetric waves, also called microwaves? This process, however, would risk roasting the public alive and we prefer instead the idea of an electromagnetic ray which can also induce a gust of fever in a subject [AB98 p. 217], which could then perhaps dry his damp clothing more quickly… From this point of view it would be interesting to know if the clothing of the witnesses began drying from the inside or from the outside!
Once more, it is not a question of a "collective hysteria", which would only have affected the people present, since some villagers also observed the scene from up on a hill near the village of Alburitel, while some inhabitants of Sao Pedro de Muel, 35 kilometres away on the coast, also reported having seen "a dazzling celestial spectacle". But what would have happened if the cloud cover had been absent on the 13th of October? It is typical of events taking place outside that an alternative is held in readiness for when the weather is not favourable. In this case a possible alternative demonstration with firework rockets, for example, doubtless somewhat less spectacular, would certainly have been preferable to a mere postponing of the event, for which it would have been necessary to provide a pretext (a new imprisoning of the children?). Indeed it would have been difficult to cancel the 70,000 onlookers. But, in October, in this part of Portugal, Fatima being located at some 40 kilometres from the sea and in a mountainous district, the probability of having a cloudy sky is rather high, and the fact that this series of apparitions had begun in the month of May was probably a clever calculation from this point of view.
When She appeared on this Saturday 13th of October 1917, the Virgin told Lucie that the war would finish today, which Lucie immediately announced to the jubilant crowd. Paradoxically, and without wishing to show ill will, the fact that this prophecy turned out to be false, as the disappointed public must rapidly have realised, pleads rather in favour of its origin having been genuinely tied to an hallucinatory vision. In order to rectify this prophetical blunder, the legend would later replace the word "today" by the word "soon" in the mouth of the Virgin.
At the conclusion of these events the witnesses have just experienced an emotion, "the most extraordinary that they will ever feel in their lives", even if one might miss the absence of religious choirs, something which would have made these essentially visual apparitions more splendid: they must have been thought of but at this time the necessary technology was not available. On the subject of the phenomena which occurred at Fatima and in general regarding the sightings of UFOs, we can never underline sufficiently, in our opinion, the fact that the apparitions are always limited by the human technology which is available at the time, and that they are never unambiguous and wholly convincing. At Fatima, we would have wished, in order to be convinced of a miracle, that the crowd could have seen, in the middle of a perfectly cloudless sky, a beautiful and animated image, three dimensional and multicoloured, of the Virgin Mary speaking to them against a background of celestial music while radiating the perfume of incense, and which all of the 70,000 witnesses would have precisely described in the same way, a description confirmed by photographs. For God, this would have been easy, but for men, the technology was not up to it, and we are only entitled to the clever deceptions of the period, rather outdated nowadays because we have been spoilt by the tricks of the cinema.
As we have already pointed out, François and Jacinthe, who were actually tough and healthy children of a mountainous region, were to die a few years after these events. We do not know the exact circumstances of their death but we cannot exclude the idea that they later boasted of having noticed some suspicious details or ended up doubting the reality of the miracle of Fatima. The boastings of children, for which they would have paid dearly, either for reasons of State, or reasons of the Church. It has been said that the children were infected by a bout of Spanish flu, which would not have been so surprising for François (who died on the 4th of April 1919 nearly 11 years old) but which is more so in the case of Jacinthe (who died on the 20th February 1920 when she was nearly 10) because this fatal epidemic, which killed approximately 1 person in a 100 in France as elsewhere in the world in the course of the Autumn of 1918 and January of 1919, does not appear to have extended beyond 1919. Jacinthe’s flu apparently degenerated afterwards into a form of purulent pleurisy. Canon Formigao wrote later about these premature deaths: "The general opinion among people was that the whole family of the visionaries of Fatima and the visionaries themselves were condemned to disappear within a short space of time." And, indeed, Lucie’s parents also died quickly. From 1921, the orphaned adolescent was kept in hiding, illegally and with a false name, in various religious establishments, up to her coming of age and the pronunciation of her first vows in 1928.
On the 13th of October 1930, after a long inquiry, the Catholic Church officially recognised the authenticity of the apparitions at Fatima. In 1942, our Lady of Fatima was crowned "queen of Portugal and of the world" by Pope Pius 12th. The latter, who held his position up until his death in 1958, had been "honoured" many times by the UFO phenomenon. In 1950, he saw the sun "dance" several times in the sky from the gardens of the Vatican, and then, at the time of the great wave of sightings in 1954, he saw 2 divine apparitions "similar to those of Fatima" [DMFF98 p. 485-486].
In this same year of 1954, thousands of witnesses were able to observe, from the end of October to the beginning of November, several tens of luminous points flying over Rome, grouped in a V-shape or a diamond-shape and even an "enormous Saint Andrew’s cross" () after two V-shapes comprising some twenty UFOs, coming from the east and west respectively, had joined together above the Vatican (see fig. 5-b).
This aerial show was followed by the falling of a fine, thread-like substance evocative of "angel’s hair" and which evaporated after a few hours, making any scientific analysis impossible [RN98 p. 156-158]. We do not know the precise nature of these threads which could perhaps be the result of an unusual meteorological phenomenon, their appearance being statistically more frequent in October. According to certain researchers, this phenomenon could be unleashed by the presence of a powerful electric field acting on the humidity of the atmosphere [TJ99 p. 259-260].
At the conclusion of this examination of the connection
between the UFO phenomenon and certain apparitions of a religious nature,
it appears, then, that the military does not limit its attempts at manipulating
whole populations solely to the UFO domain itself. It can also and with
impunity be active within the religious sphere whenever it pleases, so
as to enlarge its area of experimentation.