When we think about strange occurrences and mysteries in France our minds may take us to the supposed Templar treasure in Rennes–le-Château or even the Beast of Gévaudan. But I came across a little article in the Side Lines section of this months Fortean Times (FT349) that piqued my interest mainly for its out right absurdity that I must admit I found rather amusing, so of course I had to find out a little more.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a small town in South Eastern France just a few miles north of the city Avignon. Those of you with a taste for wine may just recognise the name, I myself never touch a drop of course but I’m told its rather nice. Our story starts in September 1954 when France was in the mist of a bit of a UFO flap but it is one case from that time that is of particular importance to this story. I think its best summed up by this New York Times Dispatch written just a few days after the Events.
PARIS: A spate of reports of extraterrestrial visitors to France, coming from regions where the wine is more noted for its strength than its vintage, spread yesterday [Sept. 14] with the speed of a space-cadet. Marius Dewilde, a metal worker who lives at Quarouble (Department of the Nord), made known yesterday that he had seen what seemed to be two Martian visitors at his garden gate last Friday night. They alighted from a cigar-like machine which came to rest on the railway just outside his domicile. M. Dewilde described the visitors as of small stature, clad in something resembling a deep-sea diver’s costume. They had the appearance of human beings, M. Dewilde continued, but when he approached them the machine in which they had arrived set forth with a green beam of light which paralyzed him. When he recovered his sensibilities the cigar was taking off and the two beings had disappeared. The authorities have since noted unusual marks on the cross ties of the railway as though they had been made by the tail skid of some flying machine.
Above: Marius Dewilde at the location of his sighting
What have the events in northern France have to do with a little town hundreds of miles away I hear you ask. Well, my inquisitive friends I will tell you. The then Mayor of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Monsieur Lucien Jeune decided an oeuf was an oeuf, and he took decisive action to save his town from the ravages of any passing extra terrestrial trouble makers. Jeune decided his best option was to use the law, and I suppose there is no reason to doubt that visitors from outer space wouldn’t obey the word of the law, is there?
So he passed a mayoral decree that would keep ET out of their skies on pain of arrest. The decree states that:
Article 1. — The overflight, the landing and the takeoff of aircraft known as flying saucers or flying cigars, whatever their nationality is, are prohibited on the territory of the community.
Article 2. — Any aircraft, known as flying saucer or flying cigar, which should land on the territory of the community will be immediately held in custody.
Article 3. — The forest officer and the city policeman are in charge, each one in what relates to him, of the execution of this decree..
But our story doesn’t stop there, at the time of writing the law has now been in force for over 62 years and it clearly has worked rather well, for despite all of my research I have been unable to find one account of an other worldly creature being taken into custody and it looks like this wonderful decree wont be reprieved just yet, with the current mayor Claude Avril saying “I’m not going to touch the ban, It spices things up a bit. It creates a harmless kind of buzz and no one is getting tricked.”
So ET you have been warned!……………