EL POMBERO CAUSES HAVOC IN NORTHERN ARGENTINA
It started with the sighting of a South American quadruped called the Aguara Guaz, which residents of Saenz Pena, a city in northern Argentina, mistook for the legendary El Lobizon (Werewolf--J.T.). Things went downhill from there.
"A woman and her neighbors from barrio Santa Teresita (neighborhood)" in Saenz Pena "reported that a strange being 'short and black, like a dwarf' had appeared."
"It was believed to be the legendary El Pombero (Imp or Goblin--S.C.), but the possibility that it could be a product of black magic was not dismissed out of hand, according to the protagonists of this case."
"The only person who managed to see the alleged Pombero was Liliana Nieves, 26, who was allegedly assaulted by the entity. She described it as a small man, completely black, that 'followed her and wanted to drag her away.' Until yesterday (Saturday, February 21, 2004) the woman was confined to the mental ward of the Cuatro de Junio Hospital" in Saenz Pena.
"The story gains credibility because over ten eyewitnesses agree about the events that occurred on Tuesday night (February 17, 2004), repeated on Thursday (February 19, 2004) and were expected to reoccur on Saturday night. And things are considered all the more interesting because they occurred in a neighborhood considered tranquil by its residents."
"According to various statements collected by El Norte, the beginning of the story must be traced to Tuesday when a shower of stones fell over the house located at 31st Street and 0000 Street in Santa Teresita. No one could see who was throwing them."
"'She,'" meaning Liliana, "'saw something ripping at mandarin and tomato plants in the backyard. She said a person ran out. This was on Tuesday. Her husband and another man who was with her gave chase,' said Norma Cordoba, Liliana's sister-in-law, who lives on the same property."
"'While the two of us were alone, a brick hit the roof. She told me, 'Come here. There's another one.' and a shadow shot out toward the back of the property. It kept throwing stones at the roof until four in the morning, when I had a breakdown. They took me to the hospital because I broke down.'"
(Editor's Note: For more on stone-throwing poltergeists, see The Complete Books of Charles Fort, Dover Publications Inc., New York, N.Y., 1974, pages 27, 71, 100, 103, 119, 120, 244, 260, 391, 392, 393, 403, 409, 440, 446, 451 and 521.)
"Nothing happened on Wednesday evening (February 18, 2004). Just as the family started to think Tuesday's ordeal was just a prank, the events repeated on Thursday night (February 19, 2004), but with some serious consequences."
"'Liliana and her husband were sitting on the patio, and I was in bed,'" Norma reported, "'Stones were hitting the roof again, and when I went out, all of the neighbors were up because they had heard the ruckus. Stones kept falling on my house and the neighbors' houses. All of the lights were on. All of the people were in the backyard, and the stones kept falling.'"
"The neighbors' houses are joined by a common patio filled with trees whose branches reach the ground. The alleged attack took place in back of the dwellings, and residents claim the shower of stones came from the same area, but no assailant could be seen."
"'She (Liliana) went back to see who was throwing the stones. And she wouldn't come back. And we called out to her until another man found her sprawled on the ground, with a blow to her face, part of her eye and her mouth.'"
"'She says it was a man this tall,' the woman indicated the height of her waistline, 'who covered her mouth, dragged her to the bushes and beat her. He let her go when he heard neighbors calling her name, when they searched for her,'" said Sra. Cordoba.
"'Later, when they brought her in, she fell to the floor. She asked her brother and her neighbors to remove whatever was grabbing on to her feet. They would stand her up and she would fall down as if her feet were being pulled out from under her. No one could see anything, and they rained machete blows around her. She was desperate, saying that someone was there.'"
"The woman remained in this frenzied state until the police arrived to take her to the hospital where she remains in the psychiatric ward."
"'She said that it came back every so often, saying it wanted to take her away,' according to Mario Obregon, the young woman's brother. 'I would stand in front of her and try to defend her as best I could, but I couldn't see it. Then a neighbor came with a (Roman Catholic) crucifix to pray, and the thing came back even more. Liliana said it would grab her ever more fiercely.'"
"From midnight on Saturday (February 21, 2004) to two in the morning on Sunday (February 22, 2004), residents of 31st and 0000 Streets in barrio Santa Teresita were on the lookout, fearful that the strange events that may have taken place last week would occur again. These attacks were attributed to the work of El Pombero and black magic."
"As these events occurred on Tuesday and Thursday, the fear was that they would repeat themselves on Saturday, following the logic of one 'off night' between events. But this was not the case, and locals contacted by El Norte yesterday pointed out that this was due to the visit of a deacon who prayed with them in their houses."
"'I've come to give you some relief, not to increase your fear. And your knowledge of God must be increased, and of the value of the family itself,' said Deacon Dionisio Castagna of the (Roman Catholic) San Jose parish." Castagna learned of the situation through the neighbors. "They asked me to bless their house, and I thought it would be a good thing. What's important is not that I should go pour water at their house but to give them a chance to speak with God,' said the clergyman in a marked Italian accent."
Mario Obregon said, "'I never saw anything like this. Nor did anything remotely similar ever happen to me. The boy who lives right next door says it could be El Pombero, so I can't say because I don't know. We simply saw something we cannot describe, but it was supernatural.'"
"El Pombero or Pomberito, as he is affectionately known, is the most popular of the (Rio) Corrientes goblins throughout the ranch country of this river basin. He also appears in commentaries, songs, sayings and tales."
"He is short and squat, always covered by his large straw hat. He is as lascivious as the Cupero (another Argentinian goblin--J.T.), has hairy feet and walks noiselessly--for this reason he is dubbed Pirague, a name that has been used to describe independent or left-wing politicians."
"It is said that El Pombero can be a faithful friend whom one can trust blindly in time of need. An inveterate smoker, he likes to chew tobacco, and cigarettes and tobacco products must be left for him at night, by a window or on a barbed-wire (fence) post. For this he is also known as Mascadita (Spanish for Chewy--S.C.) Black tobacco is his favorite." ("But I'll gladly accept Marlboros"--El Pombero.)
"El Pombero is a Protean imp. He can turn into a bird, or a floating log, anything. He has the gift of turning invisible and penetrates ranch houses through any hole. He sings like a small chicken when amusing himself but can imitate all birds perfectly. Out of fear of causing a manifestation, some only say his name in a low voice, but he also had Adepts who claim to have dealings with him and other strange creatures, as well."
"He sleeps in backfills and abandoned ovens. He hangs around the girls he wants to seduce, which is why whenever there is a suspicious birth in town and the father is unknown, people say, 'Surely it was El Pombero.'"
"In regard to El Pombero's preference for women, it is said in Corrientes (province) that he falls in love with pregnant women who are carrying girl children. Women say they know for sure they're going to give birth to a girl, because they feel for the first few months that El Pombero is escorting them when they walk at night, or when they are asleep."
"Among the Araucan natives (indigenous people of Chile--J.T.) there is also a 'Pombero' known as Peuken who pursues women. He is also a short, lascivious dwarf from the forested regions of (southern) Chile."
"'We don't know what was going on there. All of us saw something grab her and hold onto her, dragging her along the ground. Some said it was El Pombero, because Lili said later than an old black creature had siezed her ankles and wanted to kill her,' said Felipe Goitea, one of the witnesses to the strange event."
"Local residents stated that they were upset because orderlies from the Cuatro de Junio Hospital did not believe Lili when she told them what had happened. When she described the black imp, medical personnel said it 'was an invention to conceal an episode of family violence.'"
"The woman who claimed having been assaulted by the legendary entity known as El Pombero was a patient in the Cuatro de Junio Hospital's Psychiatric Ward (Room 8--G.C.) from the early morning hours on Friday until Monday morning (February 23, 2004). During this time period, physicians were unable to complete their evaluation of her mental condition, but they believed that she suffered a hallucination common to a hysteric attack."
"However, there are doubts about who inflicted the blows to her face, leading experts to believe that it could all be a case of domestic violence, and that presumably the doctors may ask law enforcement to investigate the case has not been ruled out. (See the Argentinian newspapers El Norte for February 22, 2004, "Woman nearly battered to death by 'Imp;' El Norte for February 23, 2004, "Saenz Pena still in uproar over strange phenomena assaulting woman;" El Norte for February 25, 2004, "Woman attacked by El Pombero is in the Saenz Pena mental ward," and Diario Primera for February 23, 2004, "Neighbors blame El Pombero." Muchas gracias a Scott Corrales y Gloria Coluchi para estos articulos de diario.)
(Editor's Comment: Domestic violence, eh? Well, that explains everything...except for the showers of stones on two separate nights, witnessed by over 10 people.)
UFO LANDS IN PAKISTAN; THREE ALIENS SIGHTED
Pakistan ordered a Red Alert in the Punjab, along its border with India, after a UFO was sighted by a constable of India's Border Security Force (BSF).
The UFO landed the same night that troops of Pakistan's Rapid Reaction Force were hunting for Osama Bin Laden in the hills around Wawa, a town in the South Waziristan Tribal Agency, located about 304 kilometers (190 miles) west of Islamabad, the national capital.
"The mystery surrounding an unidentified flying object, which was spotted close to the international border with Pakistan by a police post sentry and a few villagers of Chann Kalan, continued on the third day."
"Though Border Security Force authorities have registered a protest with Pakistani Rangers on Saturday," February 28, 2004, "asking them to return any object or glider if the same had landed on their territory, along with any accompanying human beings, but there are so senior officials of BSF who discount the possibility of any human beings coming across the border--on the basis of the reports of the size of the flying object collected by them."
"On the evening of (Thursday) February 26 (2004), a sentry of Fatehpur Chowki had spotted an eagle-like flying object that originated from India and landed about 500 meters inside Pakistan's territory."
"A high alert was sounded along the Indo-Pak border in Punjab in the wake of the landing of an 'unidentified flying object' in Pakistan's territory, BSF Senior Commandant Darbarah Singh said in Amritsar (India) on Sunday," February 29, 2004.
"The incident occurred on Thursday evening (February 26, 2004) when a flying object which took off from the Indian side landed in Pakistan's territory directly 300 yards (270 meters) away from the zero line (border-- J.T.)."
"The area was identified on the Indian side as BSF Post Fatehpur, falling in the village of Chann Kalan, he said."
"Singh said, 'As per the eyewitness account of BSF Constable Jagdish Parishad, who on Thursday evening was keeping vigil on the International Border, had seen a flying object like a hot balloon carrying three persons, who disembarked after landing in Pakistan's territory."
"Singh said, 'Now it has become difficult to ascertain the reality that the flying object landed in Pakistan's territory after crossing Indian territory, as the BSF constable is not educated enough to identify the object.'"
"'Since the constable has never seen a para-glider, fan glider and even a hot-air balloon during his service tenure, it is difficult to ascertain the authenticity of this matter,' he said."
Just prior to the UFO sighting, "Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships and artillery detained 20 people Tuesday (February 24, 2004) in raids against suspected Al-Qaeda hideouts in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan."
The same day, "two Arab television stations aired messages attributed to Osama Bin Laden's top deputy," Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.
"On one tape, broadcast on Al-Jazeera, a voice attributed to Dr. Zawahiri taunts President (George W.) Bush with references to his State of the Union speech in which Bush said two-thirds of Al-Qaeda had been destroyed."
"Rejecting that, the voice on the tape says 'Al-Qaeda is still in the holy war battleground (Pakistan and Afghanistan--J.T.)' and is preparing to carry out fresh attacks in the United States."
On Wednesday, February 25, 2004, "American F-15 fighter jets and Indian jets fought a mock battle" over Gwalior, a city in central India, "as the first-ever joint aerial exercise between the two nations, who were on opposite sides during the Cold War."
"The ten-day war games, codenamed Operation Cope India 2004, signalled a new era of military cooperation between India and the United States. The Indian Air Force, the world's fifth largest, said it was a close match for the U.S. Air Force."
"The USAF is very advanced but at a tactical level we are a rough match. In air-to-air and in beyond-visual- range combat, however, the Americans have lots of experience, and we are learning from them,' said Air Marshal Ajit Bhavani in Gwalior."
"The ten-day exercise is being held at IAF Maharajpur, an air base 7 kilometers (4 miles) from Gwalior. U.S.-designed twin-engined F-15C Eagles clashed with Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30s, MiG-21s and French- designed Mirage 2000s jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF)."
(Editor's Comment: Most troubling is the fact that these maneuvers received zero news coverage in the USA's news media. Perhaps the UFO that landed in Chann Kalan was spying on Operation Cope India 2004.)
Also the same week, USA Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited bases in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, fueling speculation that an Allied invasion of the South Waziristan Tribal Agency is imminent. Osama Bin Laden has many supporters among the Waziris and Ghazis in those hills, who revere him as a prophet and refer to him as al- Sheikh.
In Afghanistan, Rumsfeld "visited troops in the southern city of Kandahar and went to the presidential palace in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to meet with President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad, and the top American commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno."
In an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington on Tuesday, February 24, 2004, CIA director George Tenet discussed the growth of Al-Qaeda in the region.
"As for Bin Laden, Tenet suggested the terrorist leader might be out of action, at least temporarily."
"'Bin Laden has gone deep underground,' he said, without elaborating." (See the Times of India for February 25, 2004 and for February 28, 2004, "UFO mystery continues on Indo-Pak border;" the Hindustan Times for February 29, 2004; The Scotsman for February 26, 2004; and the Chicago Tribune for February 25, 2004, "Next wave of terrorists taking shape" and "Pakistani raids net 20 near border," section 1, page 5. Many thanks to Jim Hickman, Krishnari Bai Dharapurnanda, Karim Afzal Khan and Ayesha al-Khatabi for these news stories.)
(Editor's Comment: Deep underground, eh? Tell us, Mr. Tenet, is that "deep underground" as in Shambhala? I have a sneaky feeling Osama and his son-in-law, Mohammed Mullah Omar, scuttled down the ancient Uighur tunnel to Shambhala again, leaving Dr. Zawahiri to hold the fort in South Waziristan.)
LUMINOUS UFO SIGHTED NEAR DENIZLI, TURKEY
On Thursday, February 26, 2004, at 7 p.m., Jack C. was outdoors in Kinikli, a suburb of Denizli, a city in southeastern Turkey, when he looked up at the night sky and saw a UFO approaching from the north.
"Its size was about half that of the moon," Jack reported, "And from my position it was a good two kilometers (1.2 miles) away. The object followed me for about five minutes and suddenly moved forward to the top of the (Boz Daglari) mountains. It was moon-shaped and a bright bulb-colored light. Its speed was high as it took only a second to move 30 kilometers (18 miles) westward."
Denizli is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Ankara, the capital of Turkey. (Email Form Report)
EIGHT UFOs SIGHTED OVER CHARLESTON, S.C.
On Saturday, February 21, 2004, at 11:30 p.m., Ed Davis and a few friends were outside in Charleston, South Carolina (population 96,650) when they suddenly saw a strange luminous glow approaching from the east, over Mount Pleasant, S.C. (population 47,609).
"I saw what looked like a small compact constellation of lights--maybe 8 to 10 of them--moving in unison from east to west," Ed reported, "They were synchronized, some of them left the formation and later dropped back into the formation at the back. They came across the sky from east to west with eight lights in total. Then the first two peeled off to the side briefly and then fell back into the formation. No change in color, other than the entire area in the compact formation seemed to have a unified glow/aura to it but lighter."
"We were in Charleston, and it was a very clear night and aircraft were visible from time to time. There is a large military base just west of Charleston." (Many thanks to ufologist Brian Vike for this news story.)
UFO PHOTOGRAPHED IN NYACK, NEW YORK
On Saturday, February 21, 2004, at 3 p.m., John C. walked down to the west bank of the Hudson River in Nyack, New York (population 6,737) and decided to try out his new digital camera.
"I took several pictures of the Tappan Zee Bridge (over the Hudson River--J.T.) There was traffic on the bridge, and the sky was empty. When I got home, I was downloading photos, and a UFO appeared in one photo unexpectedly. It was a charcoal-black, V-shaped UFO. Its height and speed are unknown."
Nyack, N.Y. is located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of New York City. (Email Form Report)
"HIGH-HEELED JACK" SEEN IN BERKSHIRE TOWNS
A century ago, rural England was haunted by a strange entity nicknamed "Spring-heeled Jack." Nowadays, Jack seems to have turned in his spring-heeled boots for a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes.
"A mystery man who dresses in women's underwear and pretends to be handcuffed to lampposts is being hunted by police" in Berkshire, UK.
"The man, who is about 6 feet, 4 inches (1.8 meters) tall and has been nicknamed 'Bunny Girl' by residents, wears high-heeled shoes, fishnet tights, a thong, a basque and a Lily Savage-style wig."
"He has appeared in front of ten women in Forest Park (Berkshire) in the past six months and has pretended to be tied to a tree or lamppost. Police believe others may also have seen him but may have thought it was just a practical joke."
"Sgt. Mick Gee, temporary community beat sergeant for Blacknell police, said officers had seen the bunny girl themselves."
"Sgt. Gee said: 'He must be quite fit because even wearing high heels he managed to outrun a police officer. It might seem funny to start with, but as it's gone on it's getting more worrying and more frightening to women.'"
"Police and residents are baffled as to the man's motives."
"Forest Park beat bobby PC Martin Bell said: 'He hides in bushes and trees for 'suitable victims' which generally speaking are lone females. He doesn't generally say anything; he certainly never says anything lewd or suggestive. The only thing he has said is, 'Could you untie me, please?'"
"'On one occasion, he had a gag in his mouth.'"
"One resident at Thursday night's (February 19, 2004) Winkfield police liaison meeting said she had seen the man. She said: 'It's just very eerie, very peculiar.'"
"PC Bell warned people: 'Do not respond to any of his requests.'"
"He said: 'Don't worry or panic because he hasn't approached anybody or said anything suggestive, but people should be cautious.'"
"He advised women not to go near the man, to walk past, and then if they have a mobile phone (cell phone in the USA--J.T.), to dial 999. Police are also asking people to make note of the exact location, street names and nearby landmarks."
"The bunny girl was last seen in Savernake Park on Thursday, February 5 (2004), but he has also been seen on spoke paths heading from Wyresdale." (See This Is Berkshire for February 26, 2004, "'Bunny Girl' appearance leaves officers mystified." Many thanks to Loren Coleman for this news story.)
(Editor's Comment: I once saw Monty Python do a very funny song about a lumberjack. But I never, ever expected to see it come to life.)
TWO MUMMIES FOUND IN SOUTHERN PERU
"Construction workers dug up two well-preserved mummies from the pre-Columbian era in a small town on Peru's Pacific coast."
"The mummies were found in the town of Cocachacra," 128 kilometers (80 miles) south of Arequipa, Peru's second-largest city. "Archaeologists want to perform an emergency excavation at the site."
"'The mummies were very well preserved, although they were damaged because the excavation was not conducted by trained archaeologists,' said Marco Lopez, an archaeologist" with Peru's National Institute of Culture. 'We want to rescue the remaining mummies.'"
"The workers were laying pipes when they discovered the remains of a 4-year-old boy and a 35-year-old man two weeks ago. One of the man's eyes was still intact."
"Based on textiles and ceramics buried with them, the mummies date back to the Chiribaya culture, which flourished in southern Peru between 1100 and 1300 A.D., Lopez said." (See the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio for February 25, 2004. Muchas gracias a Monica Gaetano de Silva para esto articulo de diario.)
MYSTERIOUS EARTHQUAKE HITS NORTHERN MOROCCO
"A powerful earthquake devastated an isolated, picturesque region of northern Morocco on Tuesday," February 24, 2004, "killing more than 550 people as they slept, injuring hundreds more and laying waste to villages that suffered for decades under government neglect."
"Rescuers with pickaxes and sniffer dogs searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of their fragile mud- and-stone homes. The houses crumbled into dust during the sudden surprise temblor, which measured 6.5 on the Richter scale."
"Victims were most likely women, children and the elderly because men in the region tend to emigrate to the Netherlands and Germany in search of work, said Mohammed Ziane, a former human rights minister" of Morocco.
"The quake, which rattled apartment buildings as far away as Andalucia (southern Spain--J.T.) destroyed several rural villages in the isolated region near the city of Al-Hoceima. The region is situated between the Rif Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, and its long white sandy beaches are especially popular with tourists from Europe." (Merci beaucoup a OVNI Maroc pour ces nouvelles.)
TWO FOSSIL DINOSAURS FOUND IN ANTARCTICA
"Scientists working in Antarctica have found fossils of what appear to be two new species of dinosaurs--a 6- foot (1.8-meter) meat-eater and one of the earliest plant eaters ever found."
"The discoveries add to the small but growing list of dinosaurs unearthed in Antarctica since 1986. Scientists said the animals adapted and thrived in a climate more akin to the (USA's) Pacific Northwest than to Antarctica today."
"'It was more lush,' said biologist Judd Case of Saint Mary's College of California, co-leader of one of the teams that reported their findings Thursday," February 26, 2004, "in Washington."
"Two teams funded by the National Science Foundation made their discoveries within days of each other in December (2003), during the brief Antarctic summer."
"The dinosaurs were separated by 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) and about 190 million years. The primitive plant-eater grazed about 190 million years ago, early in the Jurassic Period. The carnivore hunted at the end of the Cretaceous Period 70 million years ago."
"Geologist Jim Martin of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology" in Rapid City, S.D. "said he and Case and their team sailed last fall toward the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches toward" South America.
"Near a place called Dagger Peak, they found an upper jaw with curved, bladed teeth, and foot bones adapted for running added up to a therapod, a meat-eater perhaps 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall that weighed 300 pounds. Case said it was close to the size of the velociraptors portrayed in the movie Jurassic Park."
"To the south, 2,000 miles away and 13,000 feet (3,900 meters) feet up the side of Mount Kirkpatrick in the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, a mountaineer with the team found a fossilized pelvic bone about 3 feet (0.9 meters) wide. The team concluded that it belonged to a primitive sauropod--a long-necked plant-eater--that lived 190 million years ago." (See the Baltimore Sun for February 27, 2004, "Antarctic digs uncover new dinosaur species.")
MYSTERY VAN IS A FAKE!
Concerning the mysterious silver-grey van seen and photographed in Arizona, Alik S. of Canada writes, "The Raytheon antenna is just a boat radar, and a small one at that; the grey dish is a satellite-TV antenna, if it was anything else the receiver at focal point would not be a common TV downconverter. There is what looks like a TV camera with floodlights. The warning signs are from military surplus."
"There is not even a hint of exotic electronics visible on this thing. This is simply some guys driving around playing with gadgets that are readily available from any boating store."
From the UFO Files...
732: THE SWORD OF DESTINY STRIKES AGAIN
When Alaric, the Visigoth king of the Vandals, was laid to rest in 410 A.D., people thought they had seen the last of the strange steel broadsword called "the Sword of Destiny." (See UFO Roundup, volume 9, number 8 for February 25, 2004, "400: Alaric and the Sword of Destiny," page 14.)
But they were wrong.
Events outside of Europe gradually brought about the Sword's return. In particular, the arrival of Islam in Spain, where the caliphs had conquered the Visigoth kingdoms in 711 A.D.
For twenty years, there was an uneasy coexistence between Islamic Spain and Christian Gaul (now France-- J.T.) just north of the Pyrenees. Then, in the year 730, a new imam, Abdur Rahman, came to the fore in Morocco and resolved to carry the Islamic banner into northern Europe.
Once a diocese (province) of Rome, Gaul in 730 was divided into a number of small warring kingdoms--Neustria, Austrasia, Aquitaine and Burgundy. The ruling Merovingian kings were weak, but the mayor of their palace was a remarkable warrior named Carolus, better known as Charles Martel or "Charles the Hammer."
Carolus was born in 688, the son of Pippin, also mayor of the palace, and his wife, Chalpaida. When Pippin died in 714, his second wife, Piectrude, siezed power and had Carolus thrown into prison. He escaped and, after many adventures, defeated the Neustrians in the battles of Ambleve in 716 and Vincy in 717 and toppled his step- mother's regime.
At the beginning of 731, Clotaire IV of the Merovingians was the king, but Carolus was the true ruler of Gaul. He was constantly being challenged by rival warlords like Ragenfrid of Neustria and Eudes of Aquitaine. And it fell to Carolus to defend the land when Abdur Rahman's Muslim army marched out of Narbonensis, heading north.
In October 732, exactly 100 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him--J.T.), Abdur Rahman advanced on Tours. By capturing this "holy city" of Christian Gaul, Rahman figured to demoralize "the infidels" and set up Paris for the final blow.
But Carolus and his army got to Tours first. It was an extremely ancient city, known to the Celts as Altionos and later renamed Caesarodunum after its capture by Julius Caesar in the First Century B.C. The Romans had moved the city from the hill where it had originally stood and rebuilt it on the left bank of the river. The city's showpiece was a colossal Roman amphitheatre, 443 feet (130 meters) long. Christianity had been introduced in 250 A.D. by the missionary Gatien, a friend of St. Martin.
One morning, Carolus decided to do some reconnaissance. So he put on his chainmail armor and rode to the top of the hill with his eldest son, Carloman, and Hunald, the warrior-prince of Aquitaine. Leaving their horses tethered in the ancient plaza, the trio climbed to the top of the decaying Celtic citadel. Shading his eyes against the sun, Carolus spotted a dust cloud on the southeastern horizon.
"Ha! There's the Mahometan dog," Carolus said, turning to the twentyish Hunald. "A bit east of where your father predicted they'd march, but right on schedule, nonetheless."
"Then Tours is their target," Hunald said, his features grim.
"Aye! So it seems. The spawn of Mahomet mean to sack and burn this city, blessed as it was by St. Gatien," Carolus said, leading the younger men back down the crumbling stone steps. "We'd best return to camp."
Just then, the teenaged Carloman cried, "Papa!"
Whipping out his sword, Carolus replied, "What is it, boy?"
"In there!" Carloman pointed at a crumbling stone hut. "I saw something moving in the shadows."
"What?" the mustachioed warlord demanded.
"I-I don't know. Small lights...glowing...moving about in the darkness...there!"
What looked like a straight line of fireflies flickered in the gloom.
Hunald drew his own sword, muttering, "They say Altionos was the abode of Druids. Mayhap 'tis some of their black sorcery."
"Druid, demon or man, I'll teach it to respect good
Frankish steel!" Carolus barked, and glanced impatiently
at his son. "Is that sword on your hip for show?
Leading the way into the ruined house, Carolus swept away cobwebs with his gauntleted hand. The twinkling lights seemed to tease him, leading him further on into the impenetrable dark. Sword at the ready, he ducked beneath fallen crossbeams, nicked his greaves on toppled furniture and debris, until at last the five lights gleamed like diamonds before him, faintly illuminating a horizontal surface.
Suddenly, the lights winked out.
"Damn! I hope one of you brought a taper," Carolus fumed. "Otherwise, we'll never find our way out of this crypt."
Carloman saved the day. "Fear not, Papa. I have my flint and steel. And a few twigs ready to burn."
Within minutes, Carloman had a small fire blazing. With a strip of cloth, he fashioned a crude torch. His father took it and examined the spot where they had last seen the lights. He grunted in surprise. It was a stone catafalque.
"Hmmmm...Visigoth," Carolus mused aloud, "What is it doing in Altionos?"
"Look at those runes on the lid," Hunald said, both fear and excitement in his voice. "What did I tell you? Druids!"
"Give me a hand with this," ordered Carolus.
Working together, the three Gallic warriors wrestled the heavy stone lid off the sarcophagus. It struck the floor with a crash. Peering over the rim, Carolus swore out loud. There was no body in the sarcophagus. Just a gleaming broadsword with five twinkling illuminated crosses in a straight line along the pommel. Five lights identical to the ones Carolus had seen in the gloom.
The warlord picked up the broadsword and hefted it carefully. Then, with a deft twist of the wrist, he cleaved through the veil of cobwebs with a back-and-forth motion. The gleaming blade seemed to hum as it sliced.
"God's teeth!" Carolus swore, "Here's a mystery. A sword fit for a king. Lying by itself in the sarcophagus, and no sign of the owner."
"And not a speck of rust on it," added Hunald admiringly.
"Let's get back to camp," the warlord said, wrapping the sword in his dark cloak. "I would talk with old Rigobert about this." And to his son, "The torch is yours, boy. Lead us out of here."
Back at the Frankish camp, Carolus summoned old Rigobert, the Christian bishop of Rheims. The white- haired bishop, with mitre and staff, hurried to the pavilion. He examined the sword carefully, then listened to their tale of the catafalque in the ruins.
"Aye, Altionos was Visigoth once," the bishop said, stroking his hedgerow beard. "In the long ago, St. Martin, may his memory be blessed, lived here when the city of Rome fell. 'Tis said the conqueror Alaric sent gifts of tribute to the most holy bishop. Mayhap this sword was one of them."
"Alaric!" exclaimed Hunald, "Why, that was three hundred years ago."
"Then this is the legendary sword of Alaric," said Carolus, gripping the pommel with both hands. "The one he used to cut his way through the Salarian Gate."
(Editor's Note: Alaric and his Vandals captured Rome on August 24, 410 A.D.)
The bishop nodded. "Even so."
Carolus gave his aged confessor a sidelong glance. "There are many legends about this sword. That it never rusts. That it always keeps a keen edge. And that it once belonged to a king of the long-lost Valusia."
"Valusia!?" Carloman echoed, "What is Valusia?"
"A pagan myth, spread by liars and believed by fools." Rigobert scowled. "Carolus, I have known you since your birth. Indeed, 'twas I who baptized you as you lay mewling in your mother's arms. Never before have I asked a boon of you. But I ask one of you now."
"Say on, bishop."
Gesturing at the gleaming sword, Rigobert said, "No good can come of such an ungodly weapon. It has the taint of dark sorcery about it. Take it to Caen and throw it into the sea."
"Nay, bishop." Carolus ran his gloved thumb along the shining metal. "I'm of a mind to cleave a few Mahometan skulls with this."
"Toss it into the sea," Rigobert implored. "Carolus, you cannot build the house of the Lord with the tools of the Devil."
Shaking his head, the Frankish warlord slid the blade into a newly-made scabbard. "Bishop, to save Gaul, I would cheerfully damn my own soul by wielding the hammer of Thor himself!"
Rigobert's pleas proved futile. But still the aged bishop persisted, and finally, in frustration, Carolus exiled his old confessor to Gascony. Meanwhile, more and more troops flooded into the Frankish camp from the countryside.
But the Franks were still outnumbered when Abdur Rahman's army appeared on the floodplain before the city's walls. The Islamic host was a site to behold. Thousands upon thousands of scale-mailed and turbaned warriors, with their short bows, round shields and curved scimitars. Spahi cavalry from Morocco and Algeria, dark-skinned Egyptians and Libyans, Arabs from as far away as Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, masked Kurds and Dervishes, ululating Ghazis from distant Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" (Translated: "God is great!"--J.T.) shook the very walls of Tours.
Mounting his charger, Carolus glanced at his frightened but resolute son. "Lad, today you become a man. If I fall in this battle, tell your grandchildren that the old dog went down fighting."
"Tell them yourself, Papa. You're too ornery to die."
With a soft whispery hum, what the Franks were calling "Alaric's sword" sprang from its leather sheath. Holding it aloft, Carolus bellowed, "Forward, dogs! And die with your swords red!"
And the battle was joined.
To everyone's surprise, the Franks defeated the Muslims, turning back this last Arab invasion of Europe. Abdur Rahman retreated south, intending to continue the conflict the following year. But it was not to be. Hearing word of the imam's defeat, the Berbers of Morocco revolted, and Rahman was forced to return to North Africa.
During the next nine years, Carolus wielded the Sword of Destiny in a series of wars. History records how he "recovered Narbonne" from the Arabs, "destroyed the fortresses of Agde, Beziers and Maguelonne...subdued also the German tribes, annexed Frisia (today the Netherlands-- J.T.) where Christianity was beginning to make progress; put an end to the duchy of Alemannia; made expeditions into Saxony" and negotiated a treaty of friendship with Pope Gregory III, thereby laying the foundation of an empire to be ruled by his grandson, Charlemagne.
After bequeathing his kingdom to Carloman and his youngest son, Pippin, Carolus "died at Quierzy on the 22nd of October 741," nine years after his victory at Tours. But the mysterious sword was not with him when he died.
Once again, the Sword of Destiny had dropped out of
sight...but not for long!
That's it for this week. Join us in seven days for more UFO, Fortean and paranormal news from around the planet Earth, brought to you by "the paper that goes home- -UFO Roundup." See you next time.
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