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The 1954 French flap:

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

June 17, 1954, Montpellier, Hérault:

Reference for this case: 17-Jun-54-Montpellier.
Please cite this reference in any correspondence with me regarding this case.


In 1954, from May to June, there was a wave in the United States and then in France of newspaper stories reporting "explosions" of automobiles windshields, estimated to be mysterious in their number especially, and attributed to various causes: sometimes to the "Martians", sometimes to a "collective hysteria", sometimes to manufacturing defects or wear, or even to "vandals".

A French case of this "glass cancer" reported in the newspaper Le Bien Public, Dijon, June 18, 1954, and published by the ufology group ADRUP in the 1980's, is as follows:

It was recorded in Marseilles on the evening of June 17, 1954, that an Italian motorist, Mr. Bottazzi, from Gene, returning from Lourdes, was traveling on the national road between Montpellier and Ales, by car, at 110 km/h. He had just passed a truck when his windshield broke into a multitude of small pieces.





Marseille: a new case of windshield explosion was recorded yesterday evening. An Italian motorist, Mr Bottazzi of Gene, returning from Lourdes, was traveling on the national road between Montpellier and Alès. As the car was traveling at 110 km/h and had just overtaken a truck, the windshield literally burst into a multitude of small pieces.

The source is said to be the newspaper Le Bien Public.



The windshields "explosions" in 1954, called "window cancer" or "parebrisite" in French, has become an often cited example of "collective illusion" or "mass hysteria". Sociologists and psychologists refer to these incidents in France and in the United States to ensure that "crowds" can easily fall into unfounded collective myths.

And of course, some "skeptical" ufologists explain that the "window cancer" that preceded the wave of "flying saucers" of 1954 proves that the saucers too were only illusions.

None put forward the following point: "collective hysteria" here would in any case concern only the interpretation of the facts, not the facts themselves. And the interpretations were not really "hysterical", they were attempts at rationalization quite understandable and sensible in the context of the time.

All sorts of explanations were advanced at the time for the "window cancer", such as an effect of atomic experiments, Martian activity, or "vandals". In the United States, the police found that the epidemic affected mainly old cars, and it was thought that the windows would explode as a result of their wear.

In the windshield explosions reported in France in 1954, I find "constants": the mention of a light or a flash, blue when the color is mentioned, the lack of sense of the explanations by vandals, Martians, atomic tests, the insistence of the witness(es) that no pebble struck the windshield, the hearing of an explosion sound, the opacity of the window after the explosion.

Some of these characteristics have really no strangeness: an explosion noise is perfectly normal when a windshield breaks. The window becomes opaque because the anti-burst protection layer produced this. The lack of notice of a shock by a pebble or something else can also be explained: the windshield may have been hit and weakened by a hit long before, and then explodes only later when nothing hits it.

I have less idea about the flash or the light. Is it an illusion caused by the sudden opacity of the glass?

Jimmy Guieu linked this mystery to the extraterrestrials, but few ufologists followed him on this path. The Press did it sometimes, but without claiming this "explanation" was serious.

For the present case, there is rally no reported strangeness. One can even guess that a pebble was projected by the truck he overtook at fast speed. But like ADRUP, I think it is useful to document these occurrences, as this is the only way to then evaluate the meaning of this phenomenon.


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

Montpellier, Hérault, Botazzi, windshield


[----] indicates sources that are not yet available to me.

Document history:

Version: Created/Changed by: Date: Change Description:
1.0 Patrick Gross February 3, 2019 First published.

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This page was last updated on February 3, 2019.