Have you ever noticed how fire seems to be alive? Well, the fire IS alive, as it — like us humans and other animals — needs oxygen to survive, even if it’s as low as 16%. Humans, on the other hand, aren’t far away. We need at least 19.5% oxygen to be able to survive. Below that, there’s not enough of it to make the body work. Confusion sets in, restlessness occurs, the heart starts to beat faster, and the skin turns bluish. But outside of that, doesn’t it seem like fire has a mind of its own? Almost a way of communicating through the strange, glowing pattern appearing in the charring wood, the flames licking the firewood, and the crackling sound when it’s devoured by an entity we have a love-hate relationship with. Personally, I feel it’s like looking into a dream, a constantly changing storyline where anything can happen. Like the clouds above us, fire is in the realm of pareidolia; we see what we want to see, like a natural, free-flowing Tarot spread created by the elements of nature.
In 2008, we spent two weeks in China, first in Shanghai, almost trembling and shaking from its mass of people, and then in the almost small-town-in-a-big-town giant of Beijing. It was a tremendous experience, not only because we had a chance to climb the Chinese Wall (where I stumbled violently a few steps up, crashing down on the hard stone floor, and when looking up, still in shock over the aggressive fall, saw a woman looking down at me, asking one important question: “Souvenirs?”) and meet friends, but also because I visited a few local temples. The one that stands out is the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai. In the middle of the crowded yard, not far from the entrance, was a fire where visitors prayed and burned incense, and I decided to snap a quick photo of it.
What appeared, if not a dragon-like flame, almost looked like it was raising its neck and head for an attack. Some say it looks more like a seahorse, but I mean, it’s in China, home of the dragons. What else can it be? Once upon a time, the Chinese saw dragons up in the skies. Nowadays, it’s metallic UFOs like everywhere else. However, this is a dragon to me, albeit rather small and cute. So let’s get to our friend and foe, the fire, in general. I have a theory: let’s say hypothetically that there are visitors from some kind of other place, extraterrestrial or ultraterrestrial or whatever you want to call them. They want to be seen, but they’re also shy. The best way to attract attention from humans is a bright light, a fire, a dot in the sky, or something that definitely breaks the visual pattern of the environment. We’ve communicated with fires on top of hills and mountains, and a light is the first thing we see when lost somewhere and want to find our way back. We just can’t get enough of it. We’re attracted to light, to fires — they both represent a possible safe spot or danger. A sign of intelligent life, whatever that may be. To be fair, we’re moths endlessly circling the bright lights we encounter and has been looking up into the sky to ponder what the heck everything is about as long as we’ve existed.
During the autumn of 1978, no less than two incidents involving bright lights, almost fire-like in their appearance, and on ground level, were reported to UFO-Sverige, from witnesses that couldn’t look away and just had to check it out.
It was on the night of August 4th when 16-year-old Lars Westerlund was on his way home from a barbecue, possibly at Stålsviken Badplats, with his friends. It was 11 PM, and he was walking along the lakeshore in the area of Römmen when he passed one of the many shelters and bunkers built between 1941–1943 in Mörsil to prepare for a possible German invasion. It was a quiet and still night, cloudy, but without any rain or wind. Lars was eager to get home and sleep since it was Friday, and the weekend was soon on the way with new adventures to offer. He decided to take a shortcut over a field surrounded by a fence. On the other side, the cows came running past him, as if they were scared of something. This did not stop Lars, and he jumped over and continued until he came closer to an old military bunker, around five meters away from it. By all means, this was not a surprising discovery considering how many there were in his neighborhood, however, this time a disturbing scene stopped him in his tracks.
Just outside the bunker, beside the hatches, a very intense light shone, three meters from top to bottom and one meter wide. In the middle of it stood what looked like a very tall man — a dark silhouette of something with humanoid features. It did not move, just standing there in the flickering yellow-white light, to the sound of violent fire-like crackling. “I watched the whole thing for 40–60 seconds, until my reaction to what I saw struck me. I got so scared and started to run as fast as I could. Finally, I reached the main road where I met a friend, Jan Edlund, who also had seen something shining down there, but that’s about it.” What makes this observation even more interesting is what Lars actually described the tall figure as — a German WW1 soldier with one of those points on top, called Pickelhaube. A ghost from the past, pareidolia, a prank, or maybe something else?
Two field investigators from UFO-Sverige, Kurt Persson and Anders Berglund, thoroughly investigated the scene and ruled out a prank. Lars did not plan ahead which way he was walking home, it was all by chance, and the prank theory just was not convincing enough in regards to the circumstances. There were no signs of anything burned or flammable outside the bunker, and Lars himself was just perplexed and didn’t have any preconceived notions of what it might have been, just that he had experienced it and nothing else. He didn’t even believe in UFOs or aliens.
It didn’t take long until the next, quite similar, incident was about to happen. This time in Sundsvall, on September 16th, when 18-year-old Jeanette Eklöf was out exercising. She had been running along Lundbovägen, just a few minutes from her home at Vikingavägen 49D, and had just passed the end of Lundbovägen and continued into the forest. When returning from the forest, the clock was around 7:10 pm, and she aimed to continue back to the main road when she glanced to the side and saw a bright light, almost like a fire. At first, she couldn’t care less, but after running a few more meters, she stopped. “I felt it was a strange place to have a fire at,” she told the investigators from UFO Sundsvall, Loy Solli, and Christer Byström, and returned back to the place of the observation to try to take a closer look at the “fire”.
What she saw is very abstract, almost like modern art, as seen in her own sketch of the object. At a distance of around 25–30 meters away, she saw an approximately two-meter-tall object, and almost as wide. It was glowing like live coal, both in regards to the color and the glow itself but didn’t illuminate the surroundings. Through the object, a vertical gray line went, and to the right of it, at the top, two shorter lines in the same color appeared parallel to each other. On the left side of the vertical line, she saw a clear black silhouette, complete with head and nose, moving from right to left, apparently out from the object until it disappeared. Jeanette stood there for approximately 30 seconds until she heard the vegetation rustling to the right of the object, and she felt uncomfortable and ran home. After 15 minutes later, she returned with her mother, but the object and figure were gone. The next day she went back together with a friend and found marks, like something had been pressed down in the grass, but these were gone when the official investigation started a couple of days later. “I thought it was scary. I woke up during the night, sweating, and couldn’t sleep for several hours,” she told Solli and Byström.
Maybe I’m out on thin ice here, but these two cases remind me of the Arabic mythological creature, the Jinn, a creature created from fire and air, which very much might mean that the presence of oxygen together with fire makes them come alive. They’re neither good nor evil, just like fire itself. Maybe Lars and Jeanette encountered these beings, but through the perception of the influence of Swedish/Western culture and beliefs? An interesting legend is the one about the Skogsrå, the mountain nymph. Like her relative, Skogsrået (The Forest Nymph), she was kind of a femme fatale and often lured men into her arms to either make them lost or even kill them. One C.J. Eckerman told folklorist Gunnar Granberg in his 1935 book Skogsrået i Yngre Nordisk Folktradition about such an incident involving fire: “There was a charcoal burner who was working at the Norwegian border. He had heard his name being called out for several nights. Finally, he swore and asked who was calling out his name. Then there was laughter in the woods, and immediately the charcoal pile caught fire. He hurried to put it out but fell into the fire. Others who were nearby rushed to pull him out, but he was already dead. He was punished for swearing at the forest spirit.” It’s a bit far-fetched, especially in a country where fire is often seen as something good, a power to keep evil spirits and hungry animals away from humans. In Sami culture, the goddess Sáráhkká is of importance, as she is the protector of pregnant women and lives in the fireplace itself. Looking further back into Norse mythology, there are the Eldjötnar, the fire giants, who participated in the Norse doomsday, Ragnarök, but like most of the myths and legends I’ve mentioned, they are far removed from what Lars and Jeanette saw in 1978.
However, I can’t get away from my initial thoughts when I read about these incidents — portals. Oh, I dislike portals. To me, they’re something an unimaginative psychic or ghost hunter pulls out from their sleeves for the big reveal, the money shot, or the grand finale of yet another show of trickery and deceit. Portals have been the go-to solution for as long as I’ve been in the television business, and I thought I’d never go there, but here I am, like a cheap stage magician, bringing it out for the final act.
Think about it. Lars saw someone engulfed in strong light by a door leading down underground. Jeanette witnessed what can basically be called a door, with a shadowy figure lurching in there, slowly sneaking out from whatever it is and into our world. Maybe guardians, both stationed in typical liminal spaces, scaring the living daylights out of the witnesses. Is it possible to connect it once again to Swedish folklore, with its dragons and trolls guarding the mountains and the riches inside? Somehow, this reminds me of what Benny Magnusson once told me, an incident that happened at the end of the sixties.
In the summer of 1968 or 1969, a group of Swedish boys between 11 and 13 years, among them young Benny, found an old root cellar near a mine in Smedjebacken. While building a hut in it, three of them suddenly saw two identical tall beings in white overalls and hoods — When thinking about it now, they kinda had something owl-ish about them. Another reference to guardians and psychopomps with the appearance of owls, rulers of the liminal spaces — , with big eyes, moving swiftly, seemingly above ground, holding white briefcase-style bags. The boys felt paralyzed but later escaped in fear. This started a lifelong obsession with UFOs and aliens for Benny, and he had more encounters than any of us could dream about, often golden, disc-shaped crafts hovering above waters and forests. It was like the experience unlocked something in him, a way to see — and maybe read — the otherworldly symbols projected at him from whoever wanted him to see it. If Lars and Jeanette followed a similar path in their lives, I don’t know, but no matter what, I hope it gave them something.
So, what did they encounter? It’s impossible to say, of course. The closest answer is other humans, working with something — or maybe pulling a prank. When something out of the ordinary suddenly shows itself, it might be difficult for our minds to comprehend — especially if we’re tired, exhausted, or just don’t expect anything to happen. However, a part of me wants to see it as something otherworldly: a projection of the unknown, a glimpse into another realm. Perhaps, even with a mundane explanation rooted in our own reality somewhere in the background, it’s still something extraordinary? Because sometimes we see what we need to see, and maybe Lars and Jeanette had it in them at the time to get their existence turned upside down and question if there’s really just this materialistic world around them — and us, of course. That’s why these kinds of cases always fascinate me.
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.
“Varelser i ljussken skrämde nattvandrare och motionär” (UFO-Information, issue 6, 1978)
Mörsil, original report from UFO-Sverige, 1978.
Sundsvall, original report from UFO Sundsvall, 1978.
“Hon såg glödröd ‘tekopp’ i skogen” (Anders Ängebrink, Sundsvalls Tidning, 28/1 1979)
Skogsråets samband med Freyja (Sara Duppils Krall, October, 2003)
“Berättelsen om en människas födelse” (samer.se)
“Benny och hans kompisar såg jättelika varelser sväva över marken” (Jan-Ove Sundberg, Hårda Tider, issue 6–7, 1994)