Fatima: Did 70,000 people witness a miracle?

Ivan Seeking

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This may not be the best source but it tells the basic story.

What occured was witnessed by over 70,000 people including representatives of the media, reporters from all the principal daily newspapers in Lisbon. It was a very wet morning on 13th October, 1917. It had been raining all night. At noon: "Suddenly the rain stopped. The clouds were wrenched apart and the sun appeared in all its splendour. Then it began to revolve on its axis like the most magnificient firewheel that could be imagined, taking all the colours of the rainbow and sending forth multi-coloured flashes of light producing the most astounding effect." (Dr. Formigao, Professor at Santarem, Portugal.)
According to the newspaper Seculo, "the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic law - the sun danced." Dr. Almeida Garrett of Coimbra stated: "The sun, whirling wildly seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation was terrible." The incident was repeated three times lasted eight to ten minutes. It has since come to be known as the Miracle of the Sun. There can be no doubt that this actually happened as it was well documented by reliable sources. It was not of natural origin as it was not recorded by any astronomical observatory. Neither was it a case of collective hallucionation as it was seen up to 30 kilometres away by people going about their normal duties unconcious of what was happening at Fatima. [continued]
http://fatima.ie/

If in fact some large percentage of the 70,000 actual observed what they say, and if the reports are fairly consistent, then there is only one explanation that would be consistent with science and the reported facts: What they saw was not the sun.

Russ, thanks for mentioning it. It is ironic that as an ex-Catholic, it never occurred to me to start a thread about this.
 
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Ivan Seeking

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Of course, there is also this complication:

...Well, the day and the hour had been foretold three months earlier by three little shepherds, who claimed that a Lady from heaven was appearing to them. They had got a lot of hassle from friends and neighbours and had asked the Lady to give a sign so that everyone would believe. She promised to give a sign at noon on October 13th, 1917.This was why over 70,000 people, including newspaper reporters, had gathered there on the eventful day...
 

-Job-

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I have a hard time believing in this, despite the fact that 70,000 people witnessed it. When you have that many people sitting around, antecipating something, looking for anything that might seem unusual, someone is bound to come up with something. And then what is everyone else going to say? Everyone wants to have seen it, because those who didn't weren't special enough to receive the "communication". Was there any chance that these people were going to go home without having seen anything?
 

Ivan Seeking

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I would really like to see someone duplicate that claim with something this dramatic. :biggrin:

There is another twist on this: There will be some who would deny what they have seen.

There is also a middle position: There is a school of thought that natural phenomena such as ball lightning may be able to affect observers psychologically. This would suggest the possibility of distorted perceptions of real events.
 
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Ivan Seeking

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Is there any possibility that this was some kind of hoax; an elaborate magic trick?
 

Ivan Seeking

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Photo.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Image-Fatima_Miracle_of_the_Sun.jpg [Broken]

I would imagine that there are analyses available.
 
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-Job-

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I don't think it was a magic trick. Probably something akin to the "clever joke" effect. Someone tells a clever joke which you don't get but you still laugh and claim to have understood because everyone else got it, or so you think (not that i do this on a regular basis). Everyone will report having found the joke funny, but that's not really what happened.
Not only that but by this time there was probably already some energy built up over who would be the first to see it.
I'm fairly convinced nothing happened at all.
 
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Evo

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Is there any possibility that this was some kind of hoax; an elaborate magic trick?
I don't think there was any hoax or trickery, but it would sadden me to think that God could only manage a localized visual distortion and not do something that was recordable. Now THAT would be convincing. No one outside a certain radius could see this, which leads me to believe it was some type of natural localised phenomenon and possibly mass autosuggestion.
 

Ivan Seeking

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Has it ever been shown that such a mass suggestion is even possible? Of course, we really need to know more about the personal accounts. Did almost all of the 70,000 really see the same thing? And what of those allegedly 30 KM away?
 
Large group of emotive people, religously primed, I've heard stories of mass hysteria and suggestion particularly amongst religious groups. I've seen cases like this before also although not on this scale, if I get some more time later I'll try and track them down. But I think there's most likely a more rational explanation for this particular case.

Here's a detailed account along with a critical assessment.

http://www.answers.com/topic/the-miracle-of-the-sun

Critical evaluation of the event

No scientific accounts exist of any unusual solar or astronomic activity during the time the sun was reported to have "danced", and there are no witness reports of any unusual solar phenomenon further than forty miles out from Cova da Iria[26].

It has been alleged that the fact that an unspecified "miracle" had been predicted in advance, the abrupt beginning and end of the alleged miracle of the sun, the varied nature of the observers as including both skeptics and believers alike, the sheer numbers of people present, and the lack of any causative factor, all reasonably preclude the theory of a mass hallucination[27]. That the activity of the sun was reported as visible by those up to 18 kilometers away, also precludes the theory of a collective hallucination or mass hysteria[27].

Visionaries claimed that the apparition now known as Our Lady of Fatima had promised in July, August, and September, that a miracle would occur on 13 October 1917 "so that all may believe". Pio Scatizzi, S.J. describes events of Fatima and concludes

The… solar phenomena were not observed in any observatory. Impossible that they should escape notice of so many astronomers and indeed the other inhabitants of the hemisphere… there is no question of an astronomical or meteorological event phenomenon …Either all the observers in Fatima were collectively deceived and erred in their testimony, or we must suppose an extra-natural intervention[28].

Stuart Campbell, writing for the 1989 edition of Journal of Meteorology, postulated that a cloud of stratospheric dust changed the appearance of the sun on 13 October, making it easy to look at, and causing it to appear yellow, blue, and violet. In support of his postulation, Mr. Campbell reports that a blue and reddened sun was reported in China as documented in 1983. Mr. Campbell's article does not attempt to provide evidence that might explain the reported zigzagging of the sun towards the earth[29].

Joe Nickell, a skeptic and investigator of paranormal phenomena, claims that the position of the phenomenon, as described by the various witnesses, is at the wrong azimuth and elevation to have been the sun[30]. He suggests the cause may have been a sundog. Sometimes referred to as a parhelion or "mock sun", a sundog is a relatively common atmospheric optical phenomenon associated with the reflection/refraction of sunlight by the numerous small ice crystals that make up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. A sundog is, however, a stationary phenomenon, and would not explain the reported appearance of the "dancing sun". Nickell suggests an explanation for this and other similar phenomena may lie in temporary retinal distortion, caused by staring at the intense light and/or by the effect of darting the eyes to and fro so as to avoid completely fixed gazing (thus combining image, afterimage and movement). Nickell concludes that there was

likely a combination of factors, including optical and meteorological phenomena (the sun being seen through thin clouds, causing it to appear as a silver disc; an alteration in the density of the passing clouds, so that the sun would alternatively brighten and dim, thus appearing to advance and recede; dust or moisture droplets in the atmosphere, imparting a variety of colors to sunlight; and/or other phenomena).

Paul Simons, in an article entitled "Weather Secrets of Miracle at Fatima", states that he believes it possible that some of the optical effects at Fatima may have been caused by a cloud of dust from the Sahara[31].

Kevin McClure claims that the crowd at Cova da Iria may have been expecting to see signs in the sun, as similar phenomena had been reported in the weeks leading up to the miracle. On this basis he believes that the crowd saw what it wanted to see. Kevin McClure stated that he had never seen such a collection of contradictory accounts of a case in any of the research he had done in the previous ten years[32].

Leo Madigan believes that the various witness reports of a miracle are accurate, however he alleges inconsistency of witnesses, and suggests that astonishment, fear, exaltation and imagination must have played roles in both the observing and the retelling. Madigan likens the experiences to prayer, and considers that the spiritual nature of the phenomenon explains what he describes as the inconsistency of the witnesses[33].

Author Schwebel claims that the event was a supernatural (but non-miraculous) extra-sensory phenomenon. Schwebel notes that the solar phenomenon reported at Fátima is not unique - there have been several reported cases of high pitched religious gatherings culminating in the sudden and mysterious appearance of lights in the sky[34].

It has been argued that the Fatima phenomenon and many UFO sights share a common cause[35], or even that the phenomenon was an alien craft[36].

Protestant commentators do not generally accept the miraculous nature of the phenomenon, and that some (principally evangelicals) accept the supernatural nature of the phenomenon, but ascribe it to Satan rather than God[37].

Many years after the events in question, Stanley L. Jaki, a Benedictine priest and author of a number of books attempted to reconcile science and Catholicism, proposed a unique theory about the supposed miracle. Jaki believes that the event was natural and meteorological in nature, but that the fact the event occurred at the exact time predicted was a miracle[38].

The event was officially accepted as a miracle by the Roman Catholic Church on 13 October 1930. On 13 October 1951, papal legate Cardinal Tedeschini told the million gathered at Fatima that on 30 October, 31 October, 1 November, and 8 November 1950, Pope Pius XII himself witnessed the miracle of the sun from the Vatican gardens[39].


Controversies of Recent Development
The anonymous website PortCult[40] alleges that a photographer named Judah Ruah was present on 13 October 1917, and that he reported that he did not see the miracle of the sun that day. However this allegation is unsubstantiated by any reference to a citation, and no such allegation of such a report by anyone named Judah Ruah or by any photographer, can be traced back beyond the creation of the aforesaid website. The website further alleges that reporter Avelino de Almeida was a Catholic, however again citing no support. Avelino de Almeida's articles in O Século prior to 13 October 1917 had been to satirize the events[41].

In 1992, the Documentae da Critica de Fatima was published, containing documents whose authenticity cannot be traced and accounts which appear to dramatically contradict the well-known accounts published closer to the actual events.
 
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I wonder with 70,000 people what the majority said they saw. It seems that a lot of people claim there was irregularities in witnesses' descriptions. I wonder both how many people were actually individually asked what they saw, and what the ranges of their responses were. If one person said it zig-zagged, and another said that it was blue and red, do local news reports then state that "Witnesses claimed the sun appeared blue and red and zig-zagged across the sky." thus implying agreement between witnesses?
 

SF

It's easy to suspect why the newspapers would report such a thing.
Rating!

What happens if a buch of crazed reporters stare at the sun for a couple of hours? Geee :)
 

Alkatran

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Sounds interesting. Makes me wish they had better cameras and maybe a video camera or two back then.
 

Ivan Seeking

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Similar reports can be found throughout the UFO literature, both internationally….

Apr. 22, 1957 Palalda (France). Mr. and Mrs. Firmin Bason heard
1300 an unusual noise and saw a whirlwind of flames 10 or
15 m above ground, coming down toward the vine-
yard. It was red and blue, spinning wildly, flying
slowly. It hovered for 5 min over plants which moved
violently, then it flew south with a deafening roar,
hovered again and departed to the southwest. Diam-
eter at the top: about 5 m. (Ouranos 21)
http://www.ufoinfo.com/magonia/part5.shtml

…as well as here in the US. Below are a few selections from the list of unknowns from the USAF; Project Bluebook:

Sept. 20 [19?], 1950. Kit Carson [10 miles S of Akron?],
Colo. 10:49 [10:45? MST] a.m. USAF B-25 crew with
3416th Training Sq saw brilliant white star-like object
accelerate and decelerate, emitting sparks. Source [?] saw
2 large, round, glowing objects and 3 smaller, internally lit
objects; 2 hovered for 1 min, moved, and 3 smaller
objects came from behind or within the 2 larger objects,
and all sped upward and away. (


Sept. 1, 1952. Marietta, Georgia. 10:30 p.m. Mr.
Bowman (ex-artillery officer) and 24 others saw a red,
white, and blue-green object which spun and shot off
sparks. An unidentified witness using binoculars saw 2
large objects shaped like spinning tops with red, blue and
green colors, fly side by side, leaving a sparkling trail for
30 mins. (Berliner)

Sept. 21, 1954. Barstow, Calif. (34.90° N, 117.02° W). 1
a.m. (PST) 2 local policemen, 4 USMC police, and a
highway patrolman saw a red-orange ball giving off
sparks, and a smaller light, making a zigzag descent then
hover.

Oct. 4, 1965. West Middletown to Poast Town, Ohio.
6:45 p.m. Mrs. Helen Tucker and 3 teenage girls driving
in a car turned S onto Brown’s Run Road and saw a bright,
flashing red and white object, at one point with sparks
shooting off. As they drove W to Poast Town, the object
stopped flashing and

Nov. 2, 1947. Anderson Rd., Houston, Texas (29.76° N,
95.36° W). Daybreak. Immigration Service [agent?]
Brimberry saw an almost round or oval or saucer-shaped
object with bright light [?] about 100 ft [?] diameter
spinning in its descent.


Jan. 1952. Weston, Wyoming. 10:30 p.m. 38-year-old
rancher saw a “shooting star” suddenly stop in mid-air
between him and a mountain, spinning clockwise, with
one red window periodically facing the observer, went
down toward the Little Powder River, come up again. He
turned his car to send light signals, object seemed to
respond by stopping its red window to face witness.
Spinning resumed, object rose and came down. Similar
object arrived, then both went into the deep valley out of
sight.


Provincetown, Mass. (at 42°10’ N, 71° 0’ W). 10:20 and
10:47 p.m. (EST). USAF pilot and radar operator of F-
94B jet interceptor saw a large round spinning object
throwing off a blue light. At 10:47 p.m., same or different
F-94B jet fighter chased blue-green or green object
circling at high speed, with airborne radar tracking and
lockon. Another [?] F-94 intercepted 2 objects with
flickering white light and swishing circling blue light
whuch passed the jet, with airborne radar tracking and
ground visual observation


Aug. 24, 1952. Levelland, Texas. 9:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m.
Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Sharp saw an object, shaped like a
spinning top, changing color from red to yellow to blue,
with a fiery tail, hover for 20 mins with whistling [shrill?]
sound, then fly away on a NNW course in 3 mins. Same
or similar object returned 1 hr later repeating maneuvers.

http://www.nidsci.org/pdf/bluebookunknowns-v1-6.pdf [Broken]
 
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Gib Z

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I doubt it was a magic trick, that implies something actually occurred. I can't see anything in the photo, perhaps is one of those crap apparitions that are actually normal but some Christian sees the virgin mary in...
 
My understanding of Fatima is that the real issue is not whether or not it happened, it's whether or not it was an 'alien' visitation from 'Our Lady of the Heavens' or an appearance of Mary as she is known in the Catholic tradition popular in Portugal.

Some people saw Mary, and some people saw UFO's.

But the children involved in the encounters did become very religious and devoted their lives to the church.

Even if the miracle of the sun could be attributable to mass hysteria, how would that explain the suddenly dry clothes, after the downpour.

It would be so much simpler to just attribute it to the status of urban legend along with dragons and unicorns.
 

wolram

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It could have been some cosmic event that interacted with the sun,
some thing akin to, but not the same as the northern lights.
 
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Even if the miracle of the sun could be attributable to mass hysteria, how would that explain the suddenly dry clothes, after the downpour.

It would be so much simpler to just attribute it to the status of urban legend along with dragons and unicorns.
the clouds parted, the sun shined, the clothes dried. you've never seen this?
 

Mk

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Even if the miracle of the sun could be attributable to mass hysteria, how would that explain the suddenly dry clothes, after the downpour..
I would stick that to post hoc ergo propter hoc, but what about the rest! Are we allergic to saying this could have happened?
 
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I would probably look in to the affect it still has on the people. If they seem to be self-policing unusually well on the basis of the Sun incidence proving to them their was an ultimate being out there; then they probably saw it. It would also be important to look into the propaganda techniques used after the occasion to embed the concept.

Why is Mary called Fatima in this region? Is that right?

It seems strange as Fatima is an Arabic name, and it is the name of the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, the final messenger in Islam - after Jesus, Noah, Moses, and Abraham etc.
 

Moonbear

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While 30 km sounds like a large distance, it really isn't. Are there any atmospheric conditions that could account for a distortion of the way the sun appeared? Since a storm had just passed, that would seem like the most plausible explanation for so many seeing the same thing, but only within a limited area. It would suggest it's not an astronomical phenomenon, but more a local atmsopheric, weather-related phenomenon, perhaps even due to rapid evaporation of the recently fallen rain when the hot sun reappeared creating a fairly local distortion of the view of the sun. I would doubt the idea of a magic trick. If only a crowd surrounding a particular building saw it, then I could give some possible consideration to that suggestion, but it would be incredibly difficult to create an illusion visible over 30 km with the technology available at the time and not have someone see "behind the scenes" from some angle. Thus, I'd be inclined to think it's something higher in the atmosphere sufficient to distort the view of the sun over a limited range. If it were the sun itself, you'd expect everyone experiencing daylight hours at that time would have seen it.

Unfortunately, the photo posted earlier (I assume there was a photo in that link) no longer exists on that page, so I can't see what that shows, if anything.

It isn't inconceivable that a rare event viewed by a population that is highly religious and limited in their knowledge of any natural explanation for the event could be easily convinced it was of supernatural origin. Plenty of things that have perfectly reasonable, natural explanations have been attributed to supernatural forces throughout history. For example, we now know that one can observe a "plague of locusts" pretty much every time there is sufficient rain in the desert for the eggs latent in the ground to hatch. It's not a hard stretch of the imagination to see why a society with less understanding of locust life cycles would interpret that as a supernatural event, when millions of locusts suddenly emerge from the ground en masse.

Tosh, in answer to your brief question, as far as I know, no, they do not call Mary by the name Fatima in that region. The name of the town is Fatima, hence the term "Our Lady of Fatima," which refers to their belief in her appearance there.
 

DM

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It isn't inconceivable that a rare event viewed by a population that is highly religious and limited in their knowledge of any natural explanation for the event could be easily convinced it was of supernatural origin.
How do you know the population was "highly religious" at that time? The article clearly states there were many people whom where not religious at all.

Plenty of things that have perfectly reasonable, natural explanations have been attributed to supernatural forces throughout history. For example, we now know that one can observe a "plague of locusts" pretty much every time there is sufficient rain in the desert for the eggs latent in the ground to hatch.
This example you give to discredit the events reported in Fatima is extremely unfair. Perhaps you'd like to explain how the phenomena was anticipated in the first place. Not only did it occur at the precise date and location, initially announced three months earlier by "The Lady of Fatima", but also at the precise time. That's what I struggle with, and I can tell you that I'm not a religious man, at all.
 
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SF

A good case is made here:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060214100308/http://www.anatheist.com/Articles/fatima3.html

What�s important here is the fact that not everybody saw this so-called miracle. As I just noted, more than half of the witnesses present during the event never saw anything unusual at all. Of those who did, there are discrepancies among the reports and the details often vary. Some individuals saw the sun sway from side to side in the sky much like a falling leaf in the wind while others claimed to have watched it spin violently in circles. Still others saw "a sun casting rainbow-colored light over everything, a 'luminous globe,' a 'night-time star' and a 'rain of flowers'", as one source describes it. Some reported seeing the sun change colors, giving off red, then yellow, then purple light while others saw the sky change from gray to a vivid blue. In the notes section of Borderlands, author Mike Dash quotes from a book called The Evidence for Visions of the Virgin Mary, which highlights this problem, "Nothing about Fatima has turned out to be in the least bit simple or straightforward...I have never seen such a collection of contradictory accounts in any of the research I have done in the past 10 years."
If you have ever looked directly into a bright light, perhaps having been caught looking into the high-beams of an on-coming car, then you know an after-image remains "burned" onto your retinas for a short period of time. During that time, the light obscures your visual field and "jumps" around to wherever you happen to move your eyes. The act of darting your eyes around would make the light appear to be dancing back and forth. This sort of thing, to a lesser extent, has happened to me before, and the image of the light even changed a few colors before it faded away.

Just such a thing seemed to have happened when five to six thousand pilgrims flocked to a mountaintop shrine in Denver in the expectation of a sun miracle. The Rocky Mountain Skeptics reported that, "One of the most significant physical results of the event of December eighth was retinal burning caused by staring directly at the sun. We had talked with people who said the sun was "dancing" and that it changed color. We had suspected that this could be caused by their looking directly at the sun and receiving temporary, and possibly permanent, damage to their retinas." Sure enough, that's what happened.

Another similar event happened in Conyers, Georgia in 1990. A woman named Nancy Fowler claimed to have begun experiencing visions of the Virgin in the early 1980s, and by 1990 she had amassed a large number of followers. During one visitation, her pilgrims which had gathered on her 34-acre site claimed to experience sun miracles with the usual descriptions. Paranormal investigator Becky Long visited the site and determined that most people were claiming that the sun was either pulsating or dividing into multiple lights.

Fortunately, members of the group Georgia Skeptics were on site and had brought with them a telescope with solar filters. People who wanted to get a close-up view of the "miracles" they were seeing flocked to the telescope. Long reported, "I estimate that well over two hundred people viewed the sun through one of our solar filters, and without exception they saw nothing unusual when looking through the mylar." Contrary to what some believers would like to believe, such events do happen as a consequence of staring directly up at the sun.

This could certainly explain some of the reports of dancing suns. Of course, I don't personally recommend that you go outside and attempt to look directly into the sun. However, this doesn't leave me completely satisfied. I find it much more likely that this phenomenon, like many others, can be adequately explained if we delve a bit into the mysterious world of psychology.
http://www.answers.com/topic/the-miracle-of-the-sun

Controversies of Recent Development

In 1992, the Documentae da Critica de Fatima was published, containing documents whose authenticity cannot be traced and accounts which appear to dramatically contradict the well-known accounts published closer to the actual events.
 

jonegil

Please believe me...i'm Portuguese, this history is just non-sensical and tedious
 

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