Interview with prof. Joaquim Fernandes

Joaquim Fernandes – is a Portuguese historian from Porto Univeristy who along with Fina d’Armada research famous apparitional incidents in Fatima (Portugal, 1917). Having access to original sources about this event he came to conclusion that many aspects of Fatima incidents resemble modern UFO incidents. He coauthored three books on this topic: “Celestial Secrets”, “Heavenly Lights” and “Fatima Revisited” published by Anomalist Books.


Dear professor, can you tell us how and when you first met with an idea that Fatima apparitions resemble in fact today’s anomalous aspects known from UFO encounters? How did you get to the conclusion that Fatima apparitions were in fact something far bizarre than the Church admits?

JF: A new look at the Fatima 1917 issue inspired a deep research that began in 1976 and finished in 1982 when we published the first book on the subject, Extraterrestrial Intervention at Fátima:  The Apparitions and the UFO Phenomenon. The idea was inspired those years by comparative readings from other authors, such Jacques Vallée ( USA ) and Paul Misraki  ( France ). These pioneers suggested that all kind of the so-called religious or Marian apparitions shown a lot of common features with other kind of UFO-like events along the XX Century,  not related with the religious sphere or the spiritual world, as the popular beliefs describe them. So, I began discussing this issue with my fellow historian Fina d’Armada, showing that perhaps the Fatima 1917 events may had a unique cultural interpretation, under specific political, social and mental scenarios. Later my colleague got the chance to study the original documents at Fatima shrine and got an growing amount of original data in the late 1970’s.  In 1982 the original book had two subsequent editions quickly sold out.  In light of the keen appetite of, and demand paid, by new readers, we now have an opportunity to re-edit the essential parts of our work, improved in small but important ways by the contributions made by other investigations since our work first appeared.

In this manner, the “Marian” apparitions of Fátima, censored in their sacred translation, yield an informative richness that inspires, indeed, compels, independent of their origin, a detailed and attentive comparison with the mass of evidence already gathered about the contemporary, uncommon spacecraft known by the initials “UFO,” whose morphology, complex behavior, and effects merit a detailed, competent, and thorough scientific exploration.  This was not accomplished in its essential terms in 1917.  As far as we are concerned, however, the evidentiary similarities that exist between these two realms speak for themselves without elaboration.

What about the original documents you were privileged to see? Is anyone can get access to original Fatima archives? Which information from original witnesses of 1917 event shocked you most?

JF: The main and important documents studied at Fatima shrine are: the Parish Inquiry, conducted in the same year of 1917 by the local priest of Fatima and the Official Interrogations of 1923. Also, we had to study and compare the Memoires, of Sister Lucia dos Santos, a document from the last 1930’s, clearly influenced by the Spanish Civil War of those years but important enough to undermine all the so called Third Secret narrative. The first two documents were not able to the researchers until Fina d’Armada received the authorisation to study it. She received a clearence after having signed a document for the strict use of the data in her thesis about Fatima 1917, which she wrote. Probably, today, any qualified researcher and scholar may have access to those documents if they required them for study at the shrine library. 

As we know for the Fatima believers these documents were always secondary, not essential, for their beliefs, since what they know was a single and naif fairytale identifying the bright Lady who came down to Earth with the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, as she could be 2000 years ago.We can say that the most impressive news recovered from the original documents was the sighting of an «angel» as a 10 years old child witnessed by Carolina Carreira, the “fourth seer” of Fátima, as we called he in 1917 July 28th. The report was found in the document known by the title The Official Interrogations of 1923. Carolina felt a kind of mental appeal in her head’s interior produced by «angle» presence. Because of its revelatory nature, the experience of Carolina would have to remain in the musty, quasi-anonymity of a simple evidentiary statement, far from everything and everyone, neutralized by its “incongruence.”  Fortunately, we were able to pass from that discrete clue provided in the verbal statement of the “fourth seer”. In all the process, it brings us an anticipated confirmation – here also the “unusual” could not have been invented – of one of the universal constants found in these Fatima events:  the mental manipulation experienced by the principal witness of July 28, 1917.

Which aspects of Fatima apparitions are the most similar to UFO sightings? Can we name the apparition event from 1917 a mass encounter with alien, non-human intelligence?

JF: Ufology is a consortium of scientific disciplines that studies the complex problem of Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFO’s.  Formerly, all observations of this type were analyzed within the context of religious phenomenology.  Supernatural entities benevolent or malevolent (according to the adopted religious patterns), angels or demons, gods or beings of light – these were the designations of the heavenly visitors of the past. During the 1917 series of «celestial phenomena» we may see all the main features of events that are popular in our modern days, as a result of glowing flying objects in our skies:  “the buzzing of bees” – as and only the Lady seems to «speak» with Lucia dos Santos, but also bizarre clouds, little aerial  objects near the ground, effects on the environment, change of atmosphere colours, sudden heat, strange odors, ramps of light – which were linked with the Lady appearence over the little oak – «angel hair” or «fibralvina» fall, a white substance seen several times over Fatima, also produced during modern UFO phenomena, and most important altered states of consciousness suffered by the three little shepards, such physiological and psychic effects.    

Skeptics (as Joe Nickell for example) says that the whole Fatima incident was only a hoax originating from Lucia’s vivid memory and also a mass delusion. But in your books your mention events that defies this explanation. I mean physical traces, strange incidents with drying soaked outfits, healings cases and so on. They seem to mean that something strange indeed happened in Fatima.

JF: This critic may be right in this sense: as we say, late Memoires from Lucia dos Santos cannot be trusted as a genuine source of data for the historians; but they remain an important lesson as the memory can be distorted and also manipulated by third persons – for example, the Jesuit confessor of Lucia during her long youth in Spain monasteries, closed and far from the world, not even authorized to see her mother…

However, other signs and information obtain from an hundred first-hand witnesses selection we used in our books, seems to point to other kind of objective phenomena, perhaps not produced by human sources or natural events. A good issue for examination is all the effects sequence during the so-called «Sun Miracle» the October 13th 1917.

One working hypothesis, subject to experimental verification, attributes some of the physical phenomena occurring at the time of the Apparitions to the eventual effect of microwave radiation (that falling in the electromagnetic spectrum between 30 and 300,000 MHz.)  We refer, namely, to the following:

a) the declaration of the “fourth seer,” Carolina Carreira, when she alluded, in the course of contact with an “angelic being” of small height, to the non-auditory reception, inside her mind, of a repetitive order:  “Come and pray three Hail Mary’s… Come and pray three Hail Mary’s…”;

b) the various indications by witnesses near to the site of the “contact” by the three young shepherds with a communicating “being,” who heard a “humming of bees,” which is, as we have seen, one of the characteristics of modern Ufological phenomenology that appears with some frequency;

a)      the properties of microwave radiation, discussed by McCampbell 1, among others, and [which] would justify the triple effect registered by the testifying masses of Fátima during the solar phenomenon of October 13, 1917:  intense heat, rapid drying of clothes, physiological effects.     

Fatima witnesses mentioned sighting of an “being” (this seems to be very good word for describing it) which appearance wasn’t at all similar to depictions of Our Lady of Fatima. How did the real Mary and other being accompanying her, look like?

JF: In her original 1917 statement – not at her late Memoires – Lucia said that the Lady whom she and her cousins saw… was dressed in white when she appeared.  Her skirt was white and gold, had threads along its length and across its width, and was short – that is, her skirt did not descend to her feet.  The coat was not gold, but a white cape that fell from her head to the hem of the skirt, gold on top and on the bottom, cross-woven with threads.  At the hem, the gold was more tightly woven.  The coat had two or three cords at the wrists.  It had no sash, ribbon or belt. It seemed to Lucia that she was wearing white stockings, not gold ones, but she was not certain of this, because she looked at little else but the Lady’s face.

In point of fact, this description does not correspond to any Lady found within the Catholic culture.  It may be that the parish priest described her with a view to historical accuracy, and thereby allowed his doubts that the Lady was the Virgin Mary of scripture to appear in his account. 

In your books your say that the truth about so called “Fatima Secrets” may be shocking to some believers as it was hoaxed and created by priest working on the apparition. What about motifs behind creation of hype around the Third Secret of Fatima during John Paul II pontificate? Some even say that there are fragment of secret still hidden from publicity. What’s the ultimate truth behind Fatima secrets in your opinion?

JF: We believe that the so-called Third Secret must be understand under the historical and cultural conditions that conditioned the young Lucia dos Santos during her stay in Spain and the influence of their confessors who made a long enculturation of the previous Marian devotions and prayers followed by the Jesus Company since the middle of the XIX Century, when the Virgin Mary cult and importance among the Catholicism was established by the Vatican. John Paul II pontificate increase such kind of popular ritual and devotion lore with very historical foundations among the pre-historical Mediterranean cults of the Great Mother and that grew in the Catholic Church liturgy as a major and renew source of theological arguments. This aspect, as we know, is today a matter of dispute among Christian churches. I think that the ultra and fundamentalist believers will maintain their «conspiracy» plot ideas about Fatima Third Secret, even talking about a «Fourth Secret» and so on. We learned from sociology what must be done by these kind of groups to reinforce and maintain their beliefs: the restoration of leitmotifs of the main issue is crucial to feed the devotions…So, about the so-called Secret we must understand only the cultural and political conditions under which Lucia dos Santos was submitted during her growing as a person. All the rest is pure and easy speculation.      

The central part of Fatima lore is the tale about the solar phenomenon called the Sun miracle. In your book we can find out very interesting reports of people who were rather far from zealous atmosphere of the crowd. Did they indeed see maneuvers of flying saucer rather than whirling Sun?

JF: About this celestial event we have a good description from the lawyer José Proença de Almeida Garrett who witnessed the October 13th 1917 events and related:

«Moments before, the Sun, had broken overhead through a dense layer of clouds that would have [otherwise] hidden it, [allowing it] to shine clearly and intensely.  I turned toward that magnet that attracted every gaze, and I could see that it was similar to a disk with a distinct and lively border, luminous and lucent, but harmless. The comparison to a dull silver disk, which in Fatima I had heard still made, did not seem entirely accurate to me.  The color was more clear, active, and rich, multi-faceted, having the opalescence of a pearl.  In no way was it similar to the Moon on a crystal clear night, because it could be seen and felt to be a living star. It was not spherical, like the Moon.  It seemed like a polished wedge, cut from the nacre of a conch shell.  This is not some banal comparison of cheap poetry.  My eyes saw it this way.  It was also not to be confused with the Sun as seen through the fog (which, as a matter of fact, there wasn’t at that time), because it was opaque, diffuse, and veiled.  In Fatima, it had light and heat and drew itself distinctly and with a banked, recessed edge, like a game board…

The marvelous thing is that, during a long while, one could gaze at the star, flame of light, and hot coal of heat, without any pain in one’s eyes and without any dazzle in the retina, which blinded».

We think that all the modern readers of UFO narratives – real or fictional – easily recognize these features as a classic behavior of some kind of unusual aerial body through the space. Not our star, the Sun, of course, for a rational mind: the best proof against the Sun hypothesis descending itself to the Earth in 1917 is…this interview in 2011!   

What about Catholics’ reactions on your book? Did you meet with any negative reactions or attacks from Portuguese priesthood? Fierce believers can think that you’re profaning one of the most “holy” places for Roman Catholics giving Virgin Mary a new provenience as a being from “flying saucer”. Did your books have any influence on your academic career?

JF: Most catholic reactions will be ever most emotional, not grounded in serious and rational arguments. It’s not easy to put a discussion or debate at the same ground, since the mostly the ultra believers does not want even read the important facts – that were not invented by us! – but registered in the Fatima original documents. We do not make such kind of comparison – Virgin Mary in a Flying Saucer – but we must understand we are comparing a lot of phenomena under different cultural conditions and we must after all the importance of the religious and other historical bias that act as some kind of «cultural glasses» and produce a final image/interpretation in our brains. In the last sense is the brain that «sees», not the our eyes…

I felt my work in this matter as totally independent to my academic career: as an historian I studied Fatima events as a global event, social, political and cultural, in the republican  and anti-clerical Portugal 1917, with a great joy and desire of understand the past and the minds of that past in our country.         

Professor, do you believe in conventional UFO hypothesis that they’re alien astronauts or maybe beings from other dimension? Is UFO phenomenon real? Do you think that there is a possibility that they contact us via system of communication that we are able to comprehend, i.e. symbols and religion?

JF: The UFO/Alien phenomena are real…for the people who experienced those events. To me, the important is the way and the representation of the objects who alleged are seen, not if they are real or not, dreamed or invented. My historical analysis is from the cultural bias and its consequences to the search of the Truth. I cannot say what could be the arguments and tools for any future communications between humans and aliens. Perhaps the contact with communication seems to be possible only between two kinds of beings of the same ontological level, or initiated by the superior toward the inferior species.

10) Many thanks for (another) interview. It’s not tough to notice that reaction of many conservative readers for your opinions would stir their point of view and traditional interpretation of Fatima events. And the last one, and somewhat personal question: Did the investigation of the apparition events change your attitude toward religion?

JF: It changed anything in my mind, but I would say that religion attitudes are not different of any other human manifestation in society. For an historian they must be considered on the same level of cultural products. I respect all religious feelings as a cultural expression worldwide that belong to the Humanity memory and will shown to the future our own evolution…since the archives and generations can keep those expressions in the next centuries. But I cannot anticipated if the future will generate or not a very different religious attitudes. May be we will grown without it, but we can also follow other «Gods»…when the Humankind left our native planet. Who knows?

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