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As its name suggests, ALSACAT is my comprehensive catalog of UFO sighting reports in Alsace, the region is the North-East of France, whether they are "explained" or "unexplained".

The ALSACAT catalog is made of case files with a case number, summary, quantitative information (date, location, number of witnesses...), classifications, all sources mentioning the case with their references, a discussion of the case in order to evaluate its causes, and a history of the changes made to the file. A general index and thematic sub-catalogs give access to these Alsatian case files.

Case of Bouxwiller, circa 1800:

Case number:



French sociologist Bertrand Méheust, in his book En Soucoupes Volantes subtitled "Towards an Ethnology of Alien Abduction Stories", in 1992, put forth the idea of a relationship between the "modern" stories of abductions of people by extraterrestrials in their flying machines, and stories that are found in folklore, the relationship being the imaginary nature of both.

Among the examples from the folklore he cites in support of this thesis, is a story collected by the well-known Alsatian folklorist Emile Stoeber:

A wanderer named Wendling saw a large and heavy coach coming towards him on the road, whose crew stopped at his height. As soon as the coach started again, Wendling had jumped on its back to be carried a little in the direction of his village; but he immediately felt that the coach rose from the ground.

He shouted to the coachman that he wanted to get off, but got no answer. He was then paralyzed on the spot and lost consciousness. When he came back to his senses, his clothes were torn and covered with mud, and he was in the middle of the forest of Bewald, eight leagues from where he had first seen the coach.


Temporal data:

Date: ~1800
Time: Evening.
Duration: ?
First known report date: 1851
Reporting delay: Decades.

Geographical data:

Department: Haut-Rhin
City: Bouxwiller
Place: Edge of a patch.
Latitude: 48.814
Longitude: 7.449
Uncertainty ratio: 3 km

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 1
Number of known witnesses: 1
Number of named witnesses: 1
Witness(es) ages: Adult or aged.
Witness(es) types: Former mayor.

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: Oral tale recorded by Emile Stoeber.
Type of location: Along a path.
Visibility conditions: Night or evening.
UFO observed: ?
UFO arrival observed: Yes
UFO departure observed: No
Entities: ?
Photographs: No.
Sketch(s) by witness(es): No.
Sketch(es) approved by witness(es): No.
Witness(es) feelings: ?
Witnesses interpretation: ?


Hynek: CE3 CE4
ALSACAT: Not UFO related.



A host of other objects can still serve as vectors: glass coffins, magic sticks and boxes, carts or flying vessels. It is obviously this last variant which operates the junction with the modern thematic. An Alsatian legend tells the misadventure of a walker who sees arriving to him, on the road, a large and heavy coach, whose crew stops at its height: as soon as the coach restarted, Wendling jumped at the back and wanted to be carried a little in the direction of his village; but he felt immediately that the coach was rising from the ground. He shouted to the coachman that he wanted to get off, but they did not answer him; then he remained nailed to the spot and lost consciousness. When he came back to his senses, he found himself, his clothes torn and covered with mud, in the middle of the forest of Bewald, eight leagues from where he had seen the coach.

He indicates that his source is Contes et Légendes Populaires d'Alsace, France Empire, pages 296-297, and that it is one of the stories of "transportations" gathered by Emile Stoeber.


In his book, Bertrand Méheust defends a thesis about the stories of extraterrestrial abductions found in ufology. Simplified somehow, his theory is that stories of abductions by flying machines have existed long before those involving "flying saucers", in folklore, and that they are historical versions equivalent to the modern stories of alien abductions. He concludes that these are a construction of the human mind, just like those in folklore were, and that the "theme" of abduction by "supernatural" characters in flying machines is a recurring theme in human history.

As such, this case file is not in itself a case of UFO sighting. But since a relationship is proposed with the UFOs, I did not want to ignore it.

The story collected by Stoeber is an oral tradition, without date, that I can only vaguely date as "about 1800" or so.

Here is the original text by Stoeber [es1] in 1851:

Die Gespensterkutsche


Ein ehemaliger Maire von Zöbersdorf, namens Wendling, kam eines Nachts von Buchsweiler Markte zu Fuß zurück und setzte sich, vom Gehen ermüdet, an einem Rebstaden nieder, in geringer Entfernung vom Riegerischen Garten und vor der Stelle, wo sich die Wege von Buchsweiler, Geisweiler, Prinzheim und Bosselshausen kreuzen. Als er eine geraume Zeit dagesessen hatte, kam eine Große, schwerrollende Rutsche die Buchsweiler Straße daher und hielt ihn gegenüber stille. Die schien ganz voller Personen. Sowie sie sich wieder in Bewegung setzte, sprang Wendling hinten auf, in der Meinung eine Strecke weit gehen seinem Dorfe mitzufahren. Allein plötzlich fühlte er, dass die Rutsche vom Boden aufgehoben wurde. Er rief über den Rutscher, das er herabspringen wollte, allein er erhielt kein Antwort, blieb wie festgenagelt auf seinem Sasse und bevor alles Bewusstsein. Als er wieder zu sich kam, lag er mit gerissenen und kothbedeckten Kleidern mitten im Bewald der Bienenwald, acht Stunden von dem Orte entfernt, wo er sich auf die Rutsche gesetzt hatte.

Wendling, setzte der befreundete Erzähler hinzu, war einer des größten Männer der Gegend, und so stark, das er mit jeder Hand ein Viertel Waizen aufheben und eine Zeitlang emporhalten konnte. Es wurde einst eine Glocke im Dorf selbst gegossen, und nachdem mehrere der stärksten Bursche vergebens versuch hatten, dieselbe miteinander in die Höhe zu heben, sagte Wendling: "Weg, Ihr Lecker, Ihr könnt Nichts!" Er nahm sie mit einer Hand am Henkel, nachdem er sich auf das Gerüste gestellt, und schwenkte sie mehrere Male hin und her.

My English translation is:

The ghost cart


A former mayor of Zoebersdorf, named Wendling, came back one night by foot from the Bouxwiller market and sat, tired of walking, near a vineyard a short distance from the garden of Riegerischen and in front of the place where the paths of Bouxwiller, Geiswiller, Prinzheim and Bosselshausen intersect. After sitting there for a long time, a large coach rolled heavily along Bouxwiller Street, and stopped near him. It seemed full of people. As soon as it began to move again, Wendling jumped on the back, thinking he would make some way to his village. But suddenly he felt that the coach was lifted off the ground. He shouted to the coachman that he wanted to jump down, but he got no answer, remained nailed to his seat and unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he was lying in his torn and muddy clothes in the middle of Bewald or Bienenwald [*] eight hours from where he had sat on the coach.

Wendling, the amiable narrator added, had been one of the greatest men in the region, and so strong that he could lift a quart of wheat seed in each hand and lift it up for a while. Once upon a time a bell had fallen in the village itself, and after many of the strongest guys tried vainly to lift the thing up, Wendling said, "Away, you shabby people, you're achieving nothing!" He took it by the handle by one hand after standing on the scaffolding and he waved it back and forth several times.

[*] "Bewald or Bienenwald": this was likely the long gone forest called Bienenwald (i.e. "Forest of the Bees"), place of a battle in 1792, where one of the water sources of the region is listed, near Bouxwiller.

But another story, or another version of the same story, says that one often saw a large coach drawn by two black horses circulating towards the main road from Kirleiler to Bouxwiller, between midnight and one o'clock in the morning. Burgers who returned to Bouxwiller had encountered it, had sat down in it, and the coach flew away. The two burgers had "all the trouble in the world to jump to the ground," and they saw it rise higher and higher and disappear altogether. They reportedly also heard beautiful music that continued well after the disappearance of the coach.

Flying coaches were also seen at Gruffenheim, and that of Biesheim carried men and women in ancient costumes.

There is also a "ghost calf" in Ingweiler (now Ingwiller), also a grass that, when stepped on, made you forget where you were going, a devil who cast spells on oats, strange parties in the middle of the night in the country, a treasure slowly flying through the air when one approached a flower, a white lady in the wash-house of Oberbronn, and so on. In fact, the "flying coach" is a "classic" story just like B. Méheust thinks, but it is only one "type" of history among dozens of other "types" of stories that have obviously no relation even distant with the question of UFOs.

With the full version of the story, one could also argue that the story of Wendling raising and waving the heavy bell is the old folklore version of modern "superheroes".

This selective (and partial) "choice" of the only stories "resembling alien abductions" in folklore, like those of flying coaches, is in my opinion a "post hoc" error, and a "drawer effect". The same mistake that is made when one choses in Science-Fiction imagery dated before the modern era of "flying saucers" only the illustrations showing craft in the shape of "flying saucers" or discs whereas there are so many very different shapes (most looked like rockets, not saucers or disks).

It is obvious in my opinion that a "thematic" of alien abduction exists: which appeared in the modern era of UFOs, little by little. To me, its cause has nothing to do with the old folklore, Alsatian or not. It has to do with the fact that reported and widely publicized "alien abduction" cases (the Hill, Hickson and Parker, Travis Walton...), which might be real or not, have on one hand been "investigated" by hypnosis, which easily generates false, stereotyped, memories of abductions, or brings back to the consciousness episodes of hypnagogic hallucinations involving alien abductiona dreams since these are known to a wide audience.

In such cases, which I know of, the idea of "inspiration" from ancient folklore is totally useless. It is the early media reports of the Hills, Walton, and other cases that provide the basis for an "inspiration" for both fiction (TV series, movies) that are inspired by it for hypnagogic hallucinations, and obviously also for pure inventions.

To conclude, the idea of "culture" as the "influence" of extraterrestrial abduction narratives, to me, should not be totally discarded, nor should it be claimed to be the single explanation of all these stories. I think that only a case-by-case approach makes it possible to evaluate the situation and to identify the parts of hoaxes, hypnagogic hallucinations, misinterpretations, voluntary or involuntary distortions of old texts by ufologists, psychological or even psychiatric problems, and possibly real extraterrestrial abductions.

This case-by-case approach is the one I practice within my CE3 catalog, and it is the base for my ideas presented above.

I now address the fact that such "flying coaches" stories are sometimes interpreted differently than B. Méheust's interpretation.

One of the other interpretations by some ufologists, is that occasionally or almost always, real extraterrestrial abductions are told in folklore, but using the "language" and the "images" of the time. The "flying coach" would be an extraterrestrial craft, but as this notion did not exist in the minds of witnesses, the description is simply not "modern". Again, I think that only a case-by-case examination can justify or reject that interpretation. However, I consider the idea of the descriptive difficulty is valuable. If extraterrestrials are involved, then, to me, it goes without saying that the witness or witnesses can only have all the difficulties in the world to properly perceive, understand, and report the event correctly. (Tu support my view, read reports of encounters between human civilizations that have admittedly "less differences" than aliens and humans would have).

In sum, as often, the argument is reversible: some say that since the stories of saucer abductions existed in the form of flying coaches stories in folklore, both are folklore; the others say that since saucer-like abductions existed in the past as flying coaches abductions, flying coached were flying saucers, as Science-Fiction could not have exterted any influence then.

Another interpretation is that there is a "phenomenon" that is not extraterrestrial, but something else (John Keel's "ultraterrestrials" for example. The creatures and their gear would be "real" but from some "other realm", "coexisting" somewhere "next" to ours. This "ultraterrestrial" intelligence would indulge since the dawn of time in a "manipulation" by showing us things that would not be what they really are, for some goal that we do not fathom. Here agin, I argue not only that a case-by-case examination can tell about the value of this thesis, but also that it is a much more "costly+ thesis than that of extraterrestrial visitors if one uses Ockam's razor. A variant is that "extraterrestrials" would make us see "absurd" things or "absurd fake aliens" to hide themselves by the absurd, or to "influence" us for some rarely specified purpose.

By no means do I think that an "inspirational" mechanism, whether of folklore origin or from modern extraterrestrial abduction narratives, can really prove of disprove that all alien abduction-type narratives would actually a real "extraterrestrial" abduction. But in any case I do not think any modern story does not come from an "inspiration", on the contrary, I think it is the case most of the time.

There are many stories in folklore that "resemble" more or less stories of "modern" extraterrestrial abduction.

But the similarities are, at least as far as Alsace is concerned, too superficial for us to consider that these ancient stories are real alien abduction.

The similarities are also too superficial to state that all stories of extraterrestrial abductions are explained as a form of folklore due to pure imagination or inspiration, in a modernized version. If an "extraterrestrial abduction" story is generally unlikely to be explained by a "misinterpratation", there are still other trivial explanations. For example, hypnagogic hallucinations, or illusory memories induced by the use of hypnosis for the purpose of ufological investigation. There are also pure hoaxes, and, very exceptionally, cases for which none of these explanations are entirely convincing.

In short, almost always, I find much more to say by a case by case approach of such cases, than by a mere statements of like "modernized folklore" or any other generalized theory.

So let's look at this case ("case by case") as I plead it should be done. To me, the facts are:

Imagine that this story has a real basis. It is perfectly possible, the places in the story do exit, and the Wendling farm in Zoebersdorf is a registered historical monument. Contrary to most "oral traditions", the witness is identified by name, he is someone well known locally at his time, the former mayor of Zoebersdorf. But this is not a story of abduction. Wendling jumps to the back of the coach voluntarily. He talks to the coachman. He is not frightened at all, and sees that he is dealing with an ordinary coach with an ordinary coachman. Only the subsequent "take-off" of the coach seems "extraordinary".

I can perfectly propose that the origin of the story is that Wendling indeed tried to get on the back of a coach to go back home (at most at 8 km) more comfortably than by walking; he shouted at the coachman to let him jump down, but he fell and lost consciousness because he fell. Perhaps he then invented the story of the coach leaving the ground, perhaps he dreamed that, maybe he fell because the coach rebounded in a rut, its "take-off" interpreted as some sort of "flight" being only a big jolt. Perhaps he had shouted to the coachman that he wanted to get off because of jolts and discomfort, because he feared he would fall down, and eventually fell as the coochman did not respond his request. I can easily imagine that he had drunk a lot at the market... Did not he sit down for quite a while, he, a man so strong, having walked little out of Bouxwiller? The story smells the wines of Alsace at full nose...

Perhaps, arriving in poor shape in Zoebersdorf, where he was a former mayor, a personality, with the strength of Superman, he was seen with his torn and muddy clothes. Perhaps he felt he had to explain himself, and he embroidered a story a little more glorious than a mere drop of the coach due to drunkenness?

The only apparent strangeness mentioned then is that he found himself "eight leagues" from where he had first seen the coach. But in the original of version 1851, and the reissues of the time, I see that we are told "eight o'clock" ("8 Stunden"), not "eight leagues". It is only later (source quoted by B. Méheust) that the hours become leagues. "Leagues" in German is "Ligen", "Stunden" means "Hours" and not "leagues". If there was simply a jolt that made the coach "jump", "fly" in some way, or making Wendling himself "fly" into a ditch, and if he was drunk, he may well have stayed there unconscious for hours, and this strangeness is then explainable - if not explained. The change of location would then only be a misunderstanding by Stoeber of the oral story he collected.

So, should we really learn about extraterrestrial abductions from such a story?

It turns out that stories of "flying coaches" in the same area were plentiful - at least one of them entered Ufology - ; with variations, but many things in common. One of the common aspect is obviously that this is only tales; there is no "statement" by any authority, these are just stories told over and over from person to person. It can therefore be just folklore, without any reality, without any need for anyone to look for a true story in the beginning. The mere fact that there are similar stories but with differences about places and people involved in the same area argues in favor of this explanation. But here the "reality" of the locations names and witness name, and the lack of real strangeness, seems to me to rather argue for the scenario I propose above.


Not UFO related.

Sources references:

* = Source is available to me.
? = Source I am told about but could not get so far. Help needed.

File history:


Main author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editor: Patrick Gross

Changes history:

Version: Create/changed by: Date: Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross February 24, 2018 Creation, [es1], [bm1].
1.0 Patrick Gross February 24, 2018 First published.

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This page was last updated on February 24, 2018.