This is a longer version of the article from my regular column ‘Tales from the Other Side’ for Glastonbury’s Oracle magazine.
One dark, autumnal evening, a friend and I were walking home after a meeting in town. We lived in a shared house at the top of Wearyall Hill in Glastonbury.
As we reached the top of the hill, a glowing green sphere of light flew over our heads from behind us. About the size of a football, it hovered in front of us at eye level about ten feet away. It gave out a friendly, happy feeling, as if it was playfully saying ‘hello!’ After a few moments, it vanished with a slight pop.
We turned to each other wide eyed and gasping, ‘did you see that?!’ Once indoors, we were bubbling over about it. Someone suggested we go into separate rooms and write a detailed account of what we saw. That made it clear we’d both seen exactly the same thing. But for us, no proof was necessary. We knew it was real.
In his Earth Lights books, Paul Devereux theorises that orbs of light may come from natural geographic and atmospheric effects. However, he does also say that they “often appear to possess minds of their own, and respond to human thought in an almost playful manner.”
Long ago, English people called orbs of light will-o-the-wisps or fairy lights. Legends about them come from all over the world. Most cultures think they could be fae beings, witches or spirits of the dead. Some folklore said they showed people the way to hidden treasure. More often, they were feared as dangerous tricksters. Following them could mean death by drowning in a swamp or getting lost in the forest.
These days more positive stories about orbs are emerging. When Sue (not her real name) moved to Glastonbury, she enjoyed the therapies, talks and workshops here. Then a high-flying friend from her earlier life came to visit. While chatting in the garden, she poured cold water over Sue’s new joys. Glumly, Sue began to agree with her. Just then, mysterious little white lights floated out of a tall tree. They were both spellbound, and the cynicism crept quietly away.
When crop circles started appearing, researchers sat up all night watching the fields in the hope of catching a formation being made. Those vigils were notoriously unsuccessful, except for one effect – the appearance of orbs of light.
In his book The Circle Makers, Andrew Collins says, ‘Many earth lights, shining spheres and blatant UFOs have been reported either during or after the formation of crop circles, some in broad daylight’.
People also saw orbs around Avebury and Silbury Hill well before the first crop formations appeared. In Avebury in 1978, Heather Peak-Garland took her dog for a walk at 10.00 pm. When she reached the ancient stones, she saw a huge yellow ball of light. At first, she thought it was the full moon. Then she realised it was much closer than that, and was drifting gently along. Once inside the stone circle, it stopped. Then, just like the green one that I saw, it blinked out.
The crop circle connection is strong, however. In 1990, photographer Steve Alexander was taking pictures from a helicopter of two new formations near Milk Hill in Wiltshire. Then he noticed a shiny ball of light flitting around a nearby field. Wondering what it could be, he followed it with his video camera. He noticed that a tractor working in that field stopped when the orb got near it.
The tractor driver later told Steve he’d seen a sphere of light as big as a beach ball floating overhead. As it passed over him, his engine cut out. He’d had no idea that Steve was filming him. When he told his boss and friends about this experience, they just laughed at him.
A full account and video of this event is at this link: http://temporarytemples.co.uk/what-are-crop-circles/the-milk-hill-ufo-footage
In 1996, the plot thickened when a large crop circle appeared near the iron-age hill fort called Oliver’s Castle, near Devizes. Next day, a young man called John Wheyleigh pitched up at the social mecca of the croppie world – the Barge Inn, near Alton Barnes. He announced that he’d just filmed two orbs of light making that formation. You can see his film at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcLcnrpxmUg
John let everyone take copies of his film to circulate freely among the community. Technicians analysed the film and declared it free of fakery. No one in the croppie world had ever got anything as good as this. They decided it was too good to be true, and had to be a fake.
John Wheyleigh then disappeared. A year later, someone calling himself John Wabe appeared on the scene. He said he was the real John Wheyleigh, and that he’d faked the whole thing. However, after some careful investigation, his claim turned out to be nonsense. By then, the croppie world was rife with rumours and speculation about what was really going on.
Blithely unaffected by any of that, the orbs continue to float around us in ever-increasing numbers. Many people are now seeing them in their homes and gardens. They seem happy to be around us. Perhaps they are here simply to lighten us up – and have some fun creating mysteries along the way.
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