The Coming Of The Light

: The Fire People

The first of the new meteors landed on the earth in November, 1940. It was

discovered by a farmer in his field near Brookline, Massachusetts, shortly

after daybreak on the morning of the 11th. Astronomically, the event was

recorded by the observatory at Harvard as the sudden appearance of what

apparently was a new star, increasing in the short space of a few hours

from invisibility to a power beyond that of the first magnitude, and

as rapidly fading again to invisibility. This star was recorded by two of

the other great North American observatories, and by one in the Argentine

Republic. That it was comparatively small in mass and exceedingly close to

the earth, even when first discovered, was obvious. All observers agreed

that it was a heavenly body of an entirely new order.

The observatory at Harvard supplemented its account by recording the

falling, just before dawn of the 11th, of an extraordinarily brilliant

meteor that flamed with a curious red and green light as it entered the

earth's atmosphere. This meteor did not burn itself out, but fell, still

retaining its luminosity, from a point near the zenith, to the horizon.

What the farmer saw was a huge fire burning near the center of his field.

It was circular in form and about thirty feet in diameter. He was

astonished to see it there, but what surprised him more was its peculiar


It was still the twilight of dawn when he reached the field. He beheld the

fire first from a point several hundred yards away. As he explained it,

the light--for it was more aptly described as a light than a

fire--extended in parallel rays from the ground directly upward into the

sky. He could see no line of demarkation where it ended at the top. It

seemed to extend into the sky an infinite distance. It was, in fact, as

though an enormous searchlight were buried in his field, casting its beam

of light directly upward.

But more than all this, the farmer was struck by the extraordinary color

of the light. At the base it was a deep, solid green. This green color

extended upward for perhaps fifty feet, then it shaded into red. The

farmer noticed, too, that the fire did not leap and dance with flames, but

seemed rather to glow--a steady light like the burning of colored powder.

In the morning half-light it threw a weird, unearthly reddish-green glow

over the field.

The farmer approached to within twenty feet of the light. He looked to see

what was burning, but could not determine, for the greenish base extended

directly down into the ground. He noticed also that it gave out

extraordinarily little heat. The morning was not exceptionally cold, yet

he stood within twenty feet of the fire without discomfort.

I was on the staff of the Boston Observer at this time. I reached

Brookline about noon of the 11th of November, and went directly to the

field where the fire was burning. Nearly a thousand people were there,


By daylight the fire still held its green and red color, although its

light was much less intense. It held its characteristic shape. Though

clearly definable, under the rays of the sun it became quite transparent.

Looking through it, I could see plainly the crowd of people on the farther

side of the field. The effect was similar to looking through a faintly

tinted glass, except that now I noticed that the light had a sort of

crawling motion, like the particles of a heavy fog. The fire came from a

hole in the ground; by daylight now the hole could be seen plainly.

For some moments I stood silent, awestruck by this extraordinary

spectacle. Then a man standing beside me remarked that there was no smoke.

I had not thought of that before, but it was true--indeed, the fire

appeared phosphorescent.

"Let's get up closer," said the man beside me.

Together we walked to within ten feet of the outer edge of the fire. We

could feel its heat now, although it was not uncomfortable except when it

beat directly on our faces. Standing so close, we could see down into the

hole from which the light emanated.

Lying at the bottom of the hole, perhaps ten feet below the surface, I saw

the jagged top of an enormous gray sphere, burned and pitted. This was the

meteor--nearly thirty feet in diameter--that in its fall had buried itself

deep in the loam of the field.

As we stood there looking down into the hole some one across from us

tossed in a ball of paper. It seemed to hang poised a moment, then it

shriveled up, turned black, and floated slowly down until it rested on top

of the sphere.

Some one else threw a block of wood about a foot long into the hole. I

could see it as it struck the top of the sphere. It lay there an instant;

then it, too, turned black and charred, but it did not burst into flame.

The man beside me plucked at my sleeve. "Why don't it burn?" he asked.

I shook myself loose.

"How should I know?" I answered impatiently.

I found myself trembling all over with an unreasoning fear, for there was

something uncanny about the whole affair. I went back to Brookline soon

after that to send in the story and do some telephoning. When I got back

to the field I saw a man in front of me carrying a pail of water. I fell

into step beside him.

"What do you suppose it'll do?" he asked as we walked along.

"God knows," I answered. "Try it."

But when we got down into the field we found the police authorities in

charge. The crowd was held back now in a circle, a hundred yards away from

the light. After some argument we got past the officials, and, followed by

two camera men and a motion-picture man who bobbed up from nowhere, walked

out across the cleared space toward the light. We stopped about six or

eight feet from the edge of the hole; the heat was uncomfortably intense.

"I'll make a dash for it," said the man with the pail.

He ran forward a few steps, splashed the water into the light, and hastily

retreated. As the water struck the edge of the light there came a roar

like steam escaping under tremendous pressure; a great cloud of vapor

rolled back over us and dissolved. When the air cleared I saw that the

light, or the fire of this mysterious agency, was unchanged. The water

dashed against it had had absolutely no effect.

It was just after this incident that the first real tragedy happened. One

of the many quadruplanes that had been circling over the field during the

afternoon passed directly over the light at an altitude of perhaps three

thousand feet. We saw it sail away erratically, as though its pilot no

longer had it under control. Then it suddenly burst into flame and came

quivering down in a long, lengthening spiral of smoke.

That night the second of the meteors landed on the earth. It fell near

Juneau, Alaska, and was accompanied by the same phenomena as the one we

were watching. The reports showed it to be slightly smaller in size than

the Brookline meteor. It burned brightly during the day of November 12.

On the morning of the 13th wireless reports from Alaska stated that it had

burned out during the previous night.

Meanwhile the light at Brookline was under constant surveillance. It

remained unchanged in all respects.

The next night it rained--a heavy, pelting downpour. For a mile or more

around the field the hissing of steam could be heard as the rain struck

the light. The next morning was clear, and still we saw no change in the


Then, a week later, came the cold spell of 1940. Surpassing in severity

the winters of 1888 and 1918, it broke all existing records of the Weather

Bureau. The temperature during the night of November 20, at Brookline,

fell to thirty degrees below zero. During this night the fire was seen to

dwindle gradually in size, and by morning it was entirely extinguished.

No other meteors fell that winter; and, as their significance remained

unexplained, public interest in them soon died out. The observatories at

Harvard, Flagstaff, Cordoba, and the newer one on Table Mountain, near

Cape Town, all reported the appearance of several new stars, flaring into

prominence for a few hours and visible just after sunset and before dawn,

on several nights during November. But these published statements were

casually received and aroused only slight general comment.

Then, in February, 1941, came the publication of Professor Newland's

famous theory of the Mercutian Light--as the fire was afterward known.

Professor Newland was at this time the foremost astronomer in America, and

his extraordinary theory and the predictions he made, coming from so

authoritative a source, amazed and startled the world.

His paper, couched in the language of science, was rewritten to the public

understanding and published in the newspapers of nearly every country. It

was an exhaustive scientific deduction, explaining in theory the origin of

the two meteors that had fallen to earth two months before.

In effect Professor Newland declared that the curious astronomical

phenomena of the previous November--the new "stars" observed, the two

meteors that had fallen with their red and green light-fire--were all

evidence of the existence of intelligent life on the planet Mercury.

I give you here only the more important parts of the paper as it was

rewritten for the public prints:

... I am therefore strongly inclined to accept the theory advanced by

Schiaparelli in 1882, in which he concluded that Mercury rotates on

its axis once in eighty-eight days. Now, since the sidereal revolution

of Mercury, i.e., its complete revolution around the sun, occupies

only slightly under eighty-eight days, the planet always presents the

same face to the sun. On that side reigns perpetual day; on the

other--the side presented to the earth as Mercury passes us--perpetual


The existence of an atmospheric envelope on Mercury, to temper the

extremes of heat and cold that would otherwise exist on its light and

dark hemispheres, seems fairly certain. If there were no atmosphere on

the planet, temperatures on that face toward the sun would be

extraordinarily high--many hundred degrees hotter than the boiling

point of water.

Quite the other extreme would be the conditions on the dark side, for

without the sheltering blanket of an atmosphere, this surface must be

exposed to the intense cold of interplanetary space.

I have reason to believe, however, particularly from my deductions

made in connection with the photographs taken during the transit of

Mercury over the face of the sun on November 11 last, that there does

exist an atmosphere on this planet--an atmosphere that appears to be

denser and more cloudy than our own. I am led to this conclusion by

other evidence that has long been fairly generally accepted as fact.

The terminating edge of the phases of Mercury is not sharp, but

diffuse and shaded--there is here an atmospheric penumbra. The

spectroscope also shows lines of absorption, which proves that Mercury

has a gaseous envelope thicker than ours.

This atmosphere, whatever may be its nature I do not assume, tempers

the heat and cold on Mercury to a degree comparable to the earth. But

I do believe that it makes the planet--on its dark face

particularly--capable of supporting intelligent life of some form.

Mercury was in transit over the face of the sun on November 11, of

last year, within a few hours of the time the first meteor fell to

earth. The planet was therefore at one of her closest points to the

earth, and--this is significant--was presenting her dark face toward


At this time several new "stars" were reported, flashing into

brilliancy and then fading again into obscurity. All were observed in

the vicinity of Mercury; none appeared elsewhere. I believe these

so-called "stars" to be some form of interplanetary vehicle--probably

navigated in space by beings from Mercury. And from them were launched

the two meteors that struck our planet. How many others were

dispatched that may have missed their mark we have no means of


The days around November 11 last, owing to the proximity of Mercury to

the earth, were most favorable for such a bombardment. A similar time

is now once more almost upon us!

Because of the difference in the velocities of Mercury and the earth

in their revolutions around the sun, one synodic revolution of

Mercury, i.e., from one inferior conjunction to the next, requires

nearly one hundred and sixteen days. In eighty-eight days Mercury has

completed her sidereal revolution, but during that time the earth has

moved ahead a distance requiring twenty-eight days more before she can

be overtaken.

After the first week in March of this year therefore Mercury will

again be approaching inferior conjunction, and again will pass at her

closest point to the earth.

We may expect at this time another bombardment of a severity that may

cause tremendous destruction, or destroy entirely life on this planet!