On April 8, 1665, a group of fishermen in Barhöfft, then a part of Sweden but now located in Germany, experienced a bewildering spectacle. Around 2 p.m., they observed what seemed to be an intense battle between ships, but this battle took place not on the sea, but in the sky. This extraordinary event was not only a visual phenomenon but also had a peculiar aftermath, as many witnesses reported falling ill in the days that followed.

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In-Depth Research by Edge Science

Edge Science, a magazine renowned for its focus on cutting-edge scientific research, published a detailed study by authors Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough. They delved into the historical accounts of this event, shedding light on its various aspects.

Edge Science Magazine

The Event’s Description

The incident near Stralsund was nothing short of remarkable. Fishermen witnessed ships engaged in a fierce aerial battle, accompanied by birds, smoke, and fire. A notable aspect of this sighting was the appearance of a mysterious figure, dressed in dark clothing, aboard one of the ships. The battle culminated in the disappearance of one of the main ships, while its adversary remained visible. Following this, a dark object, resembling a moon or a hat, descended towards the main church, instilling fear in the onlookers.

Erasmus Francisci’s 1680 Sketch

Historical Documentation

This event was first recorded in Leipzig in 1665 and later described in Johannes Schefferus’s 1671 book “Memorable examples of the Swedish race.” But it was German polymath Erasmus Francisci who further popularized the story. His collection of news reports, though not entirely consistent, presents a captivating narrative of the event.

Francisci’s Account

According to Francisci, The fishermen, fishing near Barhöfft at 2:00 pm on April 8, 1665, observed a large flock of birds forming a ship-like shape. This “ship” from the north was soon joined by numerous others, followed by a fleet from the south. A fierce battle ensued, with cannon fire and smoke. The northern ship retreated, then returned, heading south, as fleets from the west and east appeared with smaller ships. After the smoke cleared, the fishermen saw the damaged southern fleet, a man in brown clothes, flags, and another ship from the west. And this is all happening in the sky, according to the fisherman.

By 6:00 pm, the northern fleet had vanished, leaving the southern ships. A flat, round object, like a plate or a large hat, then emerged from the sky, shining with colors akin to a darkening moon, and hovered motionless above Saint Nicholas Church until evening.


The Event’s Reporting and Interpretation

The Berlin Ordinari and postal newspapers reported on the incident, noting the illness of one fisherman and the corroboration by reliable citizens. Francisci, initially skeptical, later considered the event as possibly foretelling the war between England and Holland. His engraving of the event depicts an elliptical shape in the sky, interpreted as the mysterious hat or plate.

The Earliest Documentation

The first recorded account of the mysterious Stralsundian air wars dates back to a 1665 leaflet titled “An illustrated description of the wonderful Stralsundian air wars and ship disputes,” published in Leipzig. This document describes a round, flat object, akin to a large man’s hat, appearing in the sky and remaining stationary above St. Nicholas Church until evening. The fishermen, struck by fear and dread, retreated and subsequently suffered from physical tremors and pain.

Sketch published in Leipzig in 1665

The Significance of the Sketches

The 1665 sketch, attached to the leaflet, is the oldest and most detailed visual representation of the event. It offers a perspective likely from the northeast or north, consistent with the fishermen’s viewpoint near Barhöfft. In contrast, Francisci’s 1680 drawing, created from a southeastern perspective, offers a more impressionistic view. These sketches provide crucial visual context to the written accounts.

Exploring Potential Explanations

Ice Halos

Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough, in their extensive research, considered natural phenomena like ice halos. These atmospheric occurrences, caused by ice crystals, could potentially explain the sighting. However, the position of the sun and moon at that time makes this explanation unlikely.

Astronomical Theories

The description of the object as a “darkened” or “eclipsed” moon challenges astronomical explanations. The 1665 engraving depicts a dark disc against a bright sky, which disappears after sunset, suggesting it was not an astronomical body.

Cloud Formations

The possibility of unusual cloud formations was also examined. While certain cloud types, like altocumulus lenticularis, could maintain a stationary, disc-like shape, the lack of hills or mountains in the Stralsund area makes this unlikely.


The theory of a mirage, reflecting a distant landscape feature, was considered. However, the persistence of such a mirage for over an hour, coupled with the unreliability of historical data, makes this explanation problematic.

Flock of Starlings

A more plausible explanation involves a flock of starlings. The behavior of these birds, especially during their roosting period, closely matches the description of the event. The presence of starlings in the Stralsund area and their known behavior patterns in early April lend credibility to this theory.

Credits: Getty Images

Debunking the Hot Air Balloon Theory

The mysterious event in Stralsund, which involved a “flying plate” and subsequent illnesses, could not have been caused by a hot air balloon. This is because the hot air balloon was first invented on November 21, 1783, in France, significantly later than the Stralsund incident. However, none of the proposed explanations can satisfactorily account for the smoke, crossfire, and the physical pain and trembling experienced by the witnesses.

Similar Cases in History

Nuremberg, Germany, 1561

On April 14, 1561, the citizens of Nuremberg, Germany, witnessed what appeared to be an aerial battle. They reported seeing various objects, such as orbs, crosses, cylinders, and a black, arrow-shaped vessel. This event was followed by a loud crash outside the city. The phenomenon was documented in a woodcut broadsheet by Hans Glaser, who noted the uncertainty of its interpretation, suggesting divine significance.

Nuremberg Incident in 1561

Basel, Switzerland, 1566

In Basel, Switzerland, on August 7, 1566, residents observed large, black spheres moving rapidly in the sky at sunrise. These spheres seemed to engage in a combative display, changing colors and eventually disappearing. This event, lasting several hours, left the people of Basel in a state of awe and confusion.


Parallels with Modern UFO Cases

The Stralsund incident shares similarities with modern UFO sightings and the health hazards associated with them.

The 1947 Maury Island Incident

In June 1947 in Washington, Harold Dahl claimed to have seen six donut-shaped objects in the sky. One of these objects reportedly released molten debris, resulting in the death of his dog, injury to his son, and damage to his boat.

The Colares, Brazil Incident of 1977

Over a period of six months in 1977, locals in Colares, Brazil, reported seeing strange lights and UFOs. Many of these individuals experienced physical effects, including burns, skin lesions, puncture wounds, temporary paralysis, and even two deaths.

The 1980 Cash-Landrum Incident 
December 29, 1980, Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum, and Colby Landrum (Vickie’s grandson) witnessed a diamond-shaped UFO in Dayton, Texas. Following this encounter, they suffered symptoms consistent with radiation exposure, such as nausea, vomiting, burns, and hair loss. Betty Cash’s condition was severe enough to require hospitalization.


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Aubeck, Chris, and Martin Shough. “The Stralsund Incident of 1665.” Edge Science Current Research and Insights, June 2015, pp. 11–18.

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