We’ve talked about secret history before — the idea that the stuff that really happened never quite made it into the official record. The idea that there’s a “real” story hiding somewhere behind or between the lines of any given history book.
But sometimes history is just weird. Despite the dogged certainty of independent researchers and conspiracy theorists that there are powerful censors blotting out the truth, the truly incredible — that stuff that doesn’t fit the flow of history that your secret masters want you to believe — occasionally does get recorded somewhere.
Fire in the Sky
Two fleets of UFOs appeared — out of an otherwise clear sky — over the German village of Nuremberg on either April 4th or 14th in 1561, apparently engaged in some kind of aerial battle, and then burst into flames, dropped out of the sky, and dissolved into steam…or some combination of the above.
According to the delightfully unhinged UFOEvidence.org, the Nuremberg Gazette (probably the 1561 version of the local PennySaver) had this to say about the event:
At dawn of April 4, in the sky of Nuremberg (Germany), a lot of men and women saw a very alarming spectacle where various objects were involved, including balls “approximately 3 in the length, from time to time, four in a square, much remained insulated, and between these balls, one saw a number of crosses with the color of blood. Then one saw two large pipes, in which small and large pipes, were 3 balls, also four or more. All these elements started to fight one against the other.” Afterwards, a “black, spear-like object” appeared.
In the same year, a Lutheran clergyman in Nuremberg wrote:
“…God the Almighty has … placed in the heavens many horrible and hitherto unheard of signs… We have seen far more signs now than in any other year. The sun and the moon have been darkened on a number of occasions. A crucifix in the sky was seen, as were biers and coffins with black men beside them. Further, rods and whips and many other signs were seen in a multitude of places… and scarcely a year has passed of late without an eclipse of the sun or moon…”
Five years later, German woodcut artist Hans Glaser recorded his recollection of the event, creating one of the most famously disjointed pieces of 16th century art in history. Of course, despite the numerous records of the event, no evidence of the aircraft themselves have ever been found. As far as we know.
If you haven’t already seen the story potential inherent in a giant disappearing UFO battle over a 16th century German village, well, I don’t even know what to say to you. But I live to serve.
If nothing else, the Nuremberg Event can be the set up for a great game of conspiratorial mystery. Maybe not everything that crashed to the earth or disappeared back into the sunlit sky that day dissolved into smoke and steam. Maybe somebody found something. Something important. Something alien. Something powerful. I mean, it’s probably a coincidence that within 50 years the Rosicrucian Order — founded in Germany — would consider itself powerful enough to start to publicize it’s own existence as the harbinger of a “universal reformation of mankind,” guided by powerful, enlightened secret masters. But let’s consider the possibility that a vaguely humanoid alien crashed in Nuremberg in the midst of an interstellar battle crashes on a primitive backwoods planet, used salvaged advanced technology to found a cryptic mystic order that promises hermetic enlightenment and answers to the mysteries of the Universe, and started calling himself “Christian Rosenkreuz” before getting around to establishing the foundations of the modern international order in Europe. And let’s not even talk about the possibility that our alien is a psychic vampire. (Though if he is, you might just have the seed point for a conspiracy underpinning a Night’s Black Agents or Agents of Oblivion game.)
Maybe your players are members of the Holy Roman Empire’s medieval X-files division, chasing down the little bits of weirdness and conspiracy that the brief, extraterrestrial contact set in motion. Give it even a small twist and they can be Emperor Ferdinand I’s Men (or Knights) in Black, hiding the weirdness next door from an unsuspecting peasantry. That silver saucer, ladies and gentleman, was just swamp gas and the planet Venus.
Or maybe the Nuremberg Event wasn’t just a proverbial flash in the pan. Maybe it was really intended as the first wave of an invasion of Earth. Call it a 16th century “Independence Day,” or (for a less optimistic take) the impetus for a 1561 “War of the Worlds.” Your call on whether the common cold is enough to knock our interstellar neighbors out of the fight. Given the state of technology at the time, this probably also gives you a good breaking point for a post-apocalyptic alternate history scenario, with everything from pulp horror to sci fi adventure games opening up depending on when “post-Nuremberg” you want to play.
And let’s not forget time travel as a possibility. Stretch the description of the flying “pipes” a little bit and you can certainly imagine that we’re talking about airships or zeppelins, and the blood-colored crosses could easily be planes. Was the whole thing an apparition — a hiccup in time — giving a brief glimpse of a future battle? Or are we looking at a genuine rift in the space/time continuum where some things could travel both ways? Honestly, the idea is not that original, but you’ve got a whole different kind of alternate history if your maybe zeppelins and prop-fighters end up sticking around in 1561 for more than a few minutes. Drop even a few bits of WWI (or II)-era technology (along with a few leftovers from the Luftwaffe) on late medieval Europe and see how the 30 Years War turns out.
Go ahead. I dare you.