Since Biblical times people in many lands have allegedly seen phantom armies in skies and on land.
The sightings could be dismissed as legends and hoaxes, but for the documentation and (often sworn) statements by reliable witnesses. This article will attempt to present a sample of the more strongly attested cases.
On Sunday, October 23, 1642, Royalist and Parliamentarian armies fought at Edgecliff, England, in what was the first major engagement of the English Civil War. Each side had about 14,000 soldiers and the fighting ended in bloody stalemate. Weeks later this battle was apparently re-played in the sky.
A contemporary document called A Great Wonder in Heaven, showing the late apparitions and Prodigious Noyses of War and Battels, seen on Edge Hill....., states (in Shakespearean English) that on Saturday, December 24, 1642, after midnight, shepherds and others near the field began to hear the sounds of far-off drums and of fighting. Then, as the sounds grew louder and louder, on the sudden ...appeared in the aye the same incorporeall souldiers that made those clamours, and immediately, with ensignes display’d, drummes beating, musquets going off, cannons discharged, horses neyghing, which also to these men were visible, the alarum or entrance to this game of death was strucke up...
As the amazed witnesses looked on the aerial battle raged on, with the clattering of Armes, noyse of cannons, cries of souldiers, so amazing and terrifying the poore men, that they could not believe they were mortall, or give credit to their eares and eyes runne away they durst not, for feare of being made a prey to these infernall souldiers... after some three hours fight, that Army which carryed the Kings colours withdrew, or rather appeared to flie the other remaining, as it were, masters of the field, stayed a good space triumphing, and expressing all the signes of joy and conquest, and then with all drummes, trumpets, ordinance, and souldiers, vanished....
After it ended the petrified witnesses fled to a nearby town, Kineton, and the next evening some townspeople also went to the field, where again appeared inn the same tumultuous warlike manner, the same two adverse Armies, fighting with as much spite and spleen as formerly.
The next night they appeared not, nor the next week... but on the ensuing Saturday night, in the same place, and at the same houre, they were again seene with far greater tumult, fighting in the manner afore-mentioned for foure houres, and then vanished, appearing againe on Sunday night... and so successively the next Saturday and Sunday the same tumults...
When the news reached Charles 1, at Oxford, he sent six officials who also, ...heard and saw the fore-mentioned prodigies, and so on Sunday, distinctly knowing divers of the apparitions or incorpeall substances by their faces, as that of Sir Edmund Varney, and others that were there slaine of which upon oath they made testimony to his Majestie.
Later, apparitions also apparently appeared at other English Civil War battlefields. At Marston Moor a body of horsemen allegedly appeared in the sky, and at Souter Fell there were two apparitions of horsemen. This account was published in 1847.
In the following year, on the 23rd of June, 1744, about seven o’clock in the evening, another strange atmospherical phÊnomenon was exhibited. At this time troops of horsemen were seen riding on the side of Souterfell, in pretty close ranks, and at a brisk pace. The equestrian figures became visible at a place called Knott, and advanced in regular troops along the side of the fell, till they came opposite Blake hills, when they passed over the mountain after describing a kind of curvilineal path. They moved at a regular swift walk, and continued to be seen for upwards of two hours, the approach of darkness alone preventing them from being visible. Many troops were seen in succession, and frequently the last but one in a troop quitted his position, galloped to the front, and took up the same pace with the rest. The number of persons who saw these aerial troopers amounted to about twenty-six; and the attestation of these facts, signed by two of the party, bears date, 21st July, 1785.
This report continues, Similar phÊnomena were seen near Stockton-on-the-Forest, in Yorkshire, in 1792; in Harrogate, on June 28th, 1812; and near St. Neot’s, in Huntingdonshire, in 1820. Aerial phÊnomena of a like nature are recorded by Livy, Josephus, and Suetonius; and a passage in Sacred History seems to refer to a similar circumstance. (See Judges ix. 36.)
Phantom armies have also been reported in Scotland.
In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland to reclaim the Stewart throne, and on April 16, 1746, his army of Scots was roundly defeated by British Hanoverian regulars at Culloden, near Inverness, Scotland. During the 1830s William Howitt, a English travel writer, visited Culloden and penned:
We had a long talk with these good people about the battle-field and its traditions. They told us that the name Drumossie was not now used for that Moor - Culloden had superseded it but was retained for a wild track at its extremity in the direction of Badenoch. They assured us with utmost gravity that a battle would some day be fought there [on Drumossie Moor]. We enquired how they knew that. They replied, because it had repeatedly been seen. On a summer’s evening, people going across that moor had suddenly on various occasions found themselves in the midst of the smoke and noise of a battle. They could see the various clans engaged, and clearly recognise their proper tartans and on all these occasions the Laird of Culdethel, a neighbouring gentleman, was conspicuous on his white horse. - a curious case of a second battle at Culloden there that never happened.
On January 22, 1854, multiple witnesses reportedly saw a spectral army near Buderich, North Rhine-Wesphalia, Germany. The account reads:
Shortly before sunset, an army, of boundless extent, and consisting of infantry, cavalry, and an enormous number of waggons, was observed to proceed across the country in marching order. So distinctly seen were all these appearances, that even the flashing of firelocks, and the colour of the cavalry uniform, which was white, could be distinguished. This whole array advanced in the direction of the wood of Schafhauser, and as the infantry entered the thicket, and the cavalry drew near, they were hid all at once, with the trees, in the thick smoke. Two houses, also, in flames, were seen with the same directness. At sunset the whole phenomenon vanished. As respects the fact, government has taken the evidence of fifty eye-witnesses, who have deposed to a universal agreement respecting this most remarkable appearance.
Many witnesses have also claimed they saw ghosts and armies related to the American Civil War 1861-65. The following appeared in the Southern press during the 1860s.
On October 1, 1863, Moses Dwyer and family and friends were on the porch of his rural homestead, a few miles from Lewisburg, West Virginia, when they saw thousands of small white clouds, door-sized and tinged with green around the perimeter, pass rapidly and in order by the adjacent hills.
Then: In the deep valley beneath, thousands of human beings came into view, travelling in the same direction as the rolls, marching in good order, some thirty or forty in depth, moving rapidly - ‘in double-quick’ - and commenced ascending the almost insurmountable hills opposite, and had the stoop peculiar to men ascending a steep mountain.
There seemed to be great variety in the size of the men some very large, whilest others were quite small. Their legs and heads could be seen distinctly in motion. There was uniformity in dress. White blouses or shirts, with white pants they were without guns swords or anything that indicate ‘men of war’. On they came through the valley and over the steep road, crossing the road, and finally passing out of sight, in a direction due north from those who were looking on.
The gentleman who witnessed this is... as truthful man as we have in this country, as little liable to be carried away by ‘fanciful speculations’ as any man living. Four other [respectable ladies] and a servant girl witnessed this strange phenomenon.
The press article concluded, On the 14th the same scene, almost identical, was seen by eight or ten of the Confederate pickets at Runger’s Mill, and by many of the citizens in that neighbourhood... Again, it was an hour in passing.
During the Chinese Boxer Rebellion 1898-1900 figures-in-white allegedly came to the aid of the besieged British Legation at Peking (Beijing).
The report reads: The occupants of the Legation found the house they occupied untenable, and were obliged to move... and while the removal took place the British were in full view of the Chinese insurgents, who, they took for granted, would fire upon them. To their great surprise they failed to do so. An Englishman... took the opportunity afterwards of asking one of the Chinese soldiers why they missed such a fine chance. The Chinaman gave as a reason the fact that ‘there were so many people in white between them and the British that they did not like to fire.’
Perhaps the famous case occurred during World War One.
In 1914 war erupted when a 250,000-strong German army invaded Belgium. At Mons, 80,000 French, Belgian and British soldiers tried to repel the invaders ... and it was during the Mons battle and subsequent fighting retreat back into France the ‘Angel of Mons’ allegedly appeared.
The soldiers’ sightings varied, but many spoke of a strange yellow mist that formed over the front in which could be clearly seen angels and a figure on a white charger.
News of the apparitions spread quickly to Britain where debunkers dismissed the reports as, at best, hallucinations perhaps inspired by a short story that had been published in The London Evening News on September 29, 1914, called ‘The Bowmen of Argencourt’ by Arthur Machen. In this fictional tale medieval British archers appear on the French front and save the day.
However there is evidence the soldiers’ stories circulated before the Machen tale appeared.
Miss Phyllis Campbell was holidaying with her aunt in France when the war erupted, and, finding herself stranded, she joined the French Croix Rouge and worked as a nurse with the first trainloads of wounded from Belgium. In her book Back of the Front (1915) she says:
It was the twentyfourth of August , and the wounded came from the retreating army they flowed out over the platform and waiting-room into the green spaces under the trees, and with them began the Week of Terror and Faith. The wounded were in a curious state of exaltation- they talked not of defeat, but victory, and spoke of Joan of Arc and St. Michael riding white horses and turning the foe. Some of the men spoke also of the Germans falling dead in their ranks where Joan of Arc and her Companion, Michael the Archangel, had intervened between the contending parties.
The Germans also apparently encountered events of high strangeness. In 1914 a German POW allegedly told an English newspaper editor called John Pearson that, thousands of his countrymen had been done to death, having been found dead without wound or scratch, or any other indication as to how they had come to their deaths. They had, the German Medical Staff decided, succumbed to some untraceable cause, and had not been killed in fair honest fight.
He also averred that the British and French, had, by means of some terrifying spectral illusions, stampeded the horses of a Prussian Cavalry Corps, just as they were on the point of pressing home a successful charge upon our retreating troops: and that, as Germans were known as the most advanced chemists in the world, they would soon ‘give us a dose of our physic’ - mustard gas?
Soldiers have allegedly seen apparitions during more recent conflicts. During World War Two a company of American soldiers allegedly re-appeared on a battlefield in France - after it had been annihilated by the Germans. During the Vietnam War American sodiers also allegedly reported seeing phantom communist armies. A miracle story of intervention by warrior angels also came out of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
Assistant Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo and up to 300 refugees were seeking safety in the Kigene Anglican secondary school when on several occasions militia gangs approached, then departed. In his book Rescued by Angels the now bishop says, Several attempts were made on us. Each time something reversed the situation and it came to a standstill. Surely the angels of the Lord were present, for how else could we explain how it was the killers never passed that particular spot, and even those who tried to cross, became as humble and good as any person could be.
And the sightings of spectral armies keep coming. The British ‘Haunted valley: ghosts of Longdendale’ website, for instance, says, The wardens of the Peak National Park [near Manchester] have received reports from ramblers in the area who have sighted spectral [Roman] legionnaires marching on Bleaklow. Sometimes whole legions of them have been seen and the witnesses have been able to describe in perfect details the distinctive weaponry and protective clothing of the soldiers.
Some have conjectured the apparent phenomenon may represent a doorway in parallel dimensions.
About the Author:
Jon Wyatt is a Melbourne-based freelance writer, editor and UFO buff. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
1.A Great Wonder in Heaven, showing the late apparitions and Prodigious Noyses of War and Battels, seen on Edge Hill, neere Keinton in Northamptonshire. Certified under the Hands of William Wood, Esquire, and Justice for the Peace in the said Countie, Samuel Marshall, Preacher of God’s Word in Keinton, and other Persons of Qualitie - London Printed for Thomas Jackson, January 23, Anno Dom. 1643, reprinted in The Angel Warriors At Mons by Ralph Shirley (1915)
2. ‘The Phantom Army of Souter Fell’ from Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847, found at http://www.stevebulman.f9.co.uk/cumbria/phantomarmy.html
3. Visits To Remarkable Places by William Howitt (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts, London), 1836, Vol. 1 pp76-77
4. Mysteries of the Unexplained, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc 1988, p. 241:
5. Anecdotes, Poetry and Incidents of the War: North and South 1860-1865 by Frank Moore p. 373, quoted in article ‘07 Strange ghost army seen in US Civil War’ found at http://www.sightings.com/general11/high.htm
6. The Visions of Mons and Ypres, Their Meaning and Purpose by John Garnier (European war pamphlets vol. 93, London 1916) p.7
7. Back of the Front by Phyllis Campbell (George Newnes, London, 1915)pp 84,94
8. The Rational of the Angel Warriors at Mons during the retreat and the Apparitions at the battles of the Marne and the Aisne by John J Pearson (Christian Globe, London, 1915) p.10
9. Rescued by Angels: The Story of Miracles During the Rwandan Genocide by Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo with Alan Nichols (Acorn Books, 2001) p 78
10. ‘Haunted valley: ghosts of Longendale’ website, found at http://www.hauntedvalley.com/
Source: The Australasian Ufologist Magazine Vol. 6 No.2 Pgs 24-26 (Photos/Illustrations)