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The 1954 French flap:

The index page for the 1954 French flap section of this website is here.

August 22, 1954, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône:

Reference number for this case: 22-Aug-54-Marseille. Thank you for including this reference number in any correspondence with me regarding this case.

Summary:

The regional newspaper Le Provençal for August 27, 1954, reported that after their snippet of August 24, 1954 about "a fireball car in the sky of Plan-de-Cuques", they received a flood of observations from various readers.

Many Marseilles residents and Provence resisidents had seen the "bolide" on Sunday evening August 22, 1954, but "less inclined to exaggeration than the Northern people and the Americans," their readers "do not believe in flying saucers!"

"All in all, the Marseillais (although having seen many science-fiction movies) do not immediately think of a flying saucer when they are witnesses of a celestial phenomenon."

Mr. Henri Costa, 2 Stanquin Avenue in Plan-de-Cuques reported a "luminous trail" supposed to be "a bolide". He said it was a kind of fireball giving the impression of "rolling" in a quite long projection to finally disintegrate producing many sparks. It was located in the northwest of the sky, went from east to west, at a relatively low height.

Mr. Bernard, in Cadolive, had seen the bolide "around 8 p.m.". (He did not have his watch at that time). He said it was "a ball that rolled first, but a ball that had the very sharp relief of these so fragile multicolored balls that hang from the Christmas trees. I cannot find a better comparison. The shine was as bright, so intense."

When it appeared, it was dark red in color, then melted, then changed to incandescent electric blue, then purple, as a point was formed, lengthened, to become a kind of pear, waterdrop shaped. The color changed to pink, then yellow, "and I saw the primitive ball disappear, while the tail, not frayed until then, but of a single line, was disposed [sic, "dispersed" probably], as in this last stage, the ball and sparks appeared to me like molten metal-white, and no trace remained after the disappearance of the phenomenon, although I had long looked at the spot where it was produced."

He continued: "The shapes, but especially the amazingly dazzling colors forced my attention intensely. Its speed was much less than that of the 'shooting stars'..."

Miss Josette Testa, 49, boulevard Boisson, La Blancarde, wrote: "I can assure you that, on Sunday evening at about 8:00 p.m., I was at the corner of Avenue Foch and Boulevard Boisson, when I saw in the sky, at an extraordinary speed, a ball of fire leaving a trail, it did not seem to be very high." She had attached a rough sketch of the east-west direction reported elsewhere.

At the Roucas-Blanc, a nurse who wished to remain anonymous, said: "I live in the district of La Plaine, great was my stupefaction, when I was at my window, I saw this machine go by. Sunday night, around 7:30 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. At the scream I was pushing, my neighbors went to the window, but it was too late, this machine was shaped like a green rocket, very luminous, and with very bright green sparks, it looked like it had been launched in a horizontal position, it was low and it was spinning, was it the same bolide that Mr. Costa saw in Plan-de-Cuques, I do not know, anyway I've seen it, here are all the indications I can give you".

There was still Mr. David Achille, of Cabriès, who located the phenomenon around 8 p.m. 30 and a dispatch from Martigues which, still on the same night from Sunday to Monday, reported a "ball of fire", "presumably a meteor", which spread a very bright whitish light, and which burst soon after.

The newspaper reported that the Observatory de Marseille "did not observe anything" and that the phenomenon thus "is not approved and our meteor is not officially labelled!"

Reports:

[Ref. lp1:] "LE PROVENCAL" NEWSPAPER:

Scan

Many residents of Marseille and the Provence saw the "fireball" of Sunday evening

but, less prone to exaggeration than people of the North and the Americans, they hardly believe in the flying saucers!

Our short article of last Tuesday (cf. "Provençal" for August 24) "a fireball in the sky of Plan-de-Cuques" brought us a flood of shooting stars, or rather observations of various readers. We join below some of them to the file of the much discussed "flying saucers".

We would have liked to bring on the phenomene which obviously did happen (this is all that can be claimed) in the night from Sunday to Monday, a more authorized opinion than that of ordinary citizens looking at "the flying rocket". Unfortunately, so to speak! we are in period of holidays and our official astronomers rest under other skies (without perhaps even observing them), so that the Observatory of Marseille did not observe anything at all. The phenomenon of Sunday evening is thus not approved and our meteor has no certified name!

Let us recall the observation by Mr. Henri Costa, 2 avenue Stanquin in Plan-de-Cuques. It refers to a "luminous trail" supposed to be "a fireball".

It was, he said, a kind of ball of fire giving the impression to "roll" in a quite long projection for finally disaggregating while throwing out many sparks. I roughly locate this phenomenon in the sky, North-western side, direction from East to West, relatively low height". Do the following testimonies match this observation?

"Like a Christmas tree ball..."

Mr. Bernard, in Cadolive, saw the fireball Sunday evening "around 8 p.m.". (He did not have its watch at the time). In any event, his glance was "caught" by this fulgurating gleam which "was born" so to speak under his eyes, and he gave a very detailed description of the phenomenon:

"It was initially a ball which rolled, but a ball which had the very clear relief that these so fragile multicoloured balls that one hangs at the Christmas trees have. I cannot find a better comparison. The glare was as sharp, as intense.

"At its appearance, it was of dark red color, like in fusion, then it changed to an incandescent electric blue, then to the purple, as a point was formed, lengthened, to become a kind of pear, a very round water drop fraying suddenly.

"The color changed to the pink, then to the yellow, and I saw the initial ball disappear, while the tail, nonshoddy until there, but of only one line, disposed [sic, probably "dispersed" ], like "pulverized" in quantity of sparks. This last step, swell and sparks appeared metal white in fusion to me. No trace remained after the disappearance of the phenomenon, although I looked for a long time at the location where it had occurred.

"The forms, but especially the surprisingly dazzling colors forced my attention intensely. Its speed was much slower than "shooting stars"

[Missing part.]

same night? Over there one spoke about a "carrousel" (sic) of "flying saucers" (re-sic) which would have lasted three quarters of an hour. Reality... or interpretation?

In addition, an aviation magazine in the United States reported that two huge meteors currently revolve at 450 and 1.000 kilometers of the earth. One even believed in "artificial satellites" obviously... Soviet! An astronomer of New Mexico [Dr. Lincoln LaPaz] ensured that the phenomenon was natural. The French scientists are skeptics. We thus refrain from thinking that these meteors observed in the U.S.A. could be those that were seen in the Provence sky in the night from Sunday to Monday.

Altogether, Marseille residents (although having seen many science-fiction movies) do not think immediately of a flying saucer when they are witness of a celestial phenomenon.

[Possible missing part.]

[Ref. lp2:] "LE PROVENCAL" NEWSPAPER:

Scan

[us]sual, this is what allowed me to fully see the phenomenon.

"The fireball, actually quite low, stood, for me, above Saint-Savournin, east-west direction approximately; descending course, little pronounced arc."

Two testimonies in Marseille

Miss Josette Testa, 49, boulevard Boisson, La Blancarde, writes: "I can assure you that Sunday evening at about 7:55 p.m., I was at the corner of Avenue Foch and Boulevard Boisson when I saw passing in the sky, at an extraordinary pace a fireball leaving a trail. It did not seem to be very high." Our correspondent joined to this observation a rough sketch outlining the east-west direction indicated otherwise.

At the Roucas-Blanc, someone saw the "fireball". A nurse who wishes anonymity, also saw the phenomenon: "I live in the Plaine district. Much to my amazement, when I was at my window, I saw this thing pass. It was Sunday night, at about 07:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. At the cry that I pushed my neighbors came to the window, but it was too late. This machine had the shape of a green rocket, very bright, and threw very clear green sparks. It gave the impression of having been launched horizontally, to be quite low and to spin. Is it the same meteor that Mr. Costa, in Plan-de-Cuques, saw? I do not know, in any case I have seen it well. This is all the information I can give you."

In these testimonies from Marseille should be added those of David Achilles, Cabriès, which locates the phenomenon at 8:30 p.m. and a dispatch from Martigues that still the same night of Sunday to Monday, reported a "fireball" likely a meteor, that shed a very bright white clarity, which broke shortly after."

Provencal observers are cautious

We can only honor the perfect objectivity of these volunteer observers. They simply say what they saw, they do not interpret. It should be noted that they do not use the term "flying saucer". Yet they are unanimous in saying that they believe it was something else than shooting stars.

Let's imitate their caution! At most let's risk assumptions. Is the fireball in Marseille the same as those that were seen in Vernon (Eure) the [missing part]

[Missing part]. Last month, at the theater Silvain, when a kind of shooting star "broke" in the sky just when Robert Lamoureux was on the stage, most of the audience nevertheless kept cool! They believed that it was a staging "trick" designed to showcase the popular singer.

Explanations:

Negative cas. Obvious descriptions of a meteor.

Keywords:

(These keywords are only to help queries and are not implying anything.)

Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône, fireball, ball, fire, meteor, Plan-de-Cuques, multiple, night, independent, Henri Costa, luminous, trail, sparks, red, pink, purple, blue, Bernard, Cadolive, pear, waterdrop, white, metal, fusion, yellow

Sources:

[----] indicates sources which I have not yet checked.

Document history:

Version: Created/Changed by: Date: Change Description:
1.0 Patrick Gross October 27, 2011 First published, [lp1].
1.1 Patrick Gross October 19, 2016 Addition [lp2].
1.2 Patrick Gross Agust 1, 2019 Addition of the Summary.

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