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
"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
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!