Lúcia Santos (middle) with her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, 1917.
The event began on May 13th when three children claimed to see a vision at Cova da Iria. Jacinta age 7 told her mother "O, mother I saw our lady at Cova da Iria." Jacinta's father later responded "If the kids saw a woman dressed in white, who else could she be but Our Lady?" When Lucia Santos age 10 was asked about this by her mother she said "I never said it was our lady rather a small pretty lady. I even asked Jacinta and Francisco (age 9) to say nothing." and she goes on to say "She told me that we should continue to go there for six consecutive months, on the 13th of each month, and at the end of the time, she would tell us who she was and what she wanted of us." Lucia told Viscount of Montelo that the lady "seems to be about 15 years old." She compared the lady to a girl who was about 1.1 meters tall. Jacinta and Francisco were illiterate and subject to beliefs, often blind in nature, which they got from their father. The local priest would note that Manuel Marto their father was either "an over-believer, or otherwise, insane." Lucia didn't have much more education her mother was a devout Catholic who taught her the doctrine and read adequate passages of the scripture.
Phenomena testified to by eyewitnesses
During the investigation by Joaquim Fernandes and Fina d'Armada they found several characteristics in the witness reports about the various sightings on the 13th of each month that are also often present in UFO reports and they conducted a detailed analysis of them. These characteristics allegedly witnessed by people at Fatima include the following:
* Lightning or a flash of light which was first seen by the three little girls on the 13th of May. They claimed that this wasn't accompanied by any thunder and it was on a sunny day.
* Buzzing of bees or something similar. Some UFO reports allegedly are also accompanied by a low hum. Many of the witnesses specifically referred to it as the buzzing of bees.
* Thunder allegedly accompanied some of the events at Fatima, when this happened on the 13th of August many of those gathered interpreted this as a sign from God that he was angry because the girls were being detained. Artur de Oliveira Santos, president and founder of a Masonic lodge and an anticlerical republican offered the children a ride to Cova da Iria but instead took the children to his house. It was later claimed that they were detained in a prison.
* Unusual clouds some of which seemed to hide an apparition.
* A sudden cooling reported by several witnesses.
* Unusual odors or perfumes.
* Luminous objects including disks orbs or a cross were reported at Fatima. These were first reported in August when Manuel Marto claimed to see "a type of luminous globe gyrating within the clouds." Joaquim Xavier Tuna gave this statement: "In august on the 13th day, I saw the sun come down in the sky at the hour of the apparition. It never descended quite as much as it did on that day, not even on the 13th of October. Every object which surrounded me turned yellow." In September the number of people claiming to see objects in the sky increased the witnesses included Joel de Deus Magno, Dr. Jose Maria Pereira Gens, Monsignor Joao Quaresma, Canon Galamba de Oliveira, Joaquim Xavier Tuna and more. The highest number of reports came in October when thousands of people claimed the sun was dancing and came down close to Earth.
* Ramps of light were reported to have shined on the Oak tree at Fatima.
* Breezes were reported in June and July, in August the thunder and lighting was allegedly accompanied by a "whirlwind" which frightened the crowd and caused them to flee.
* A white substance fall from the sky that has often been referred to as Angel hair. This usually dissolves quickly so there is rarely anything to examine. On two occasions a sample was sent for testing once on the 13 of October in 1917 a sample was sent to Lisbon and on October 17 1957 another sample found and examined. The analysis of this proved to be natural consisting of white flakes. When put under a microscope it was found to be a vegetable product not animal.
The Miracle of the Sun
Main article: The Miracle of the Sun
On October 13th 50,000 to 70,000 (some estimates were as low as 30,000 or as high as 100,000) people gathered at Cova da Iria to observe the alleged miracle. Someone counted over 100 cars and over 100 bicycles and there were more that lined the road. This included a diverse group of people including city people, Professors, farmers, house wives, atheists and Christians. the population of Portugal was about 72% illiterate at that time. Many of the witnesses claimed they saw a disc; others said it was the sun. Joaquim Fernandes and Fina d'Armada believe that once a few people referred to it as the sun everyone else just followed suit, however there were a few that referred to it as an object other than the sun including three people that gave statements that were used for a statistical analysis of the witnesses. This analysis was done based on statements from 100 people. Due to the low sampling and the fact that they couldn't conduct follow up interviews this has a high margin of error. The object appeared to come down to the crowd well within the Earths atmosphere. This could also be seen from several surrounding towns in different directions including Alburitel, Minde, Aljustrel, Leira and Torres Novas. Most of the witnesses from these towns claimed they saw the object in the direction of Cova da Iria. Dr Joao Lopes Pires concluded that if this object moved it couldn't have been the sun since it would have affected the orbits of the planets and it would have been seen all over the world not just in Fatima. there were four or five people who insisted they saw nothing at all.
Conflicts in Lucia's testimony
Lucia testimony was often inconsistent, for example on October 19 she told the Viscount of Montelo that the Lady had claimed the war would end on this day. A letter written on 6/26/1947 to the reverend Jose Pedro da Silva said "I did not hear her say 'a war ends today' but did hear' if they shall do penance, a war will end." In 1941 she claimed there were predictions about WWII and about the premature deaths of Jacinta and Francisco of natural causes. This wasn't made public until the events had already occurred. In her memoirs she admitted that she considered absenting herself from the encounters out of fear that it could be the work of the devil.
The following people have written paper supporting the Fatima UFO hypothesis, however they don't necessarily agree on all the details. Most of these people have advocated further research in the academic community.
* Jacques Vallee Ph.D.
* Joaquim Fernandes Ph.D.
* Fina d'Armada, M.A.
* Raul Berenguel, M.S.
* Irene Blinston Ph.D. believes that the testimony of the adults are more credible due to their ability to describe their experiences with an expanded vocabulary
* Janet Elizabeth Colli, psychotherapist specializing in PTSD
* Ryan J. Cook, Assistant Professor
* Eric Davis Ph.D.
* Fernando Fernandes Ph.D.
* David M. Jacobs Ph.D. believes that caution should be used when investigating reports from children since they are prone to fill in memories when they don't remember; they are extremely suggestible; and they often wish to fill adult expectations. Therefore, their memories are unreliable.
* Auguste Meesen Ph.D. acknowledge that the hypothesis of extraterrestrial intervention may seem unrealistic to those unfamiliar with the dimensions of the UFO phenomenon, however he believes it deserves serious attention.
* Gilda Moura, psychotherapist
* Michael Persinger Ph.D. theorized that the stimulation of the cerebral-temporal lobe may have been the actual cause of the Marian apparition phenomenon. He believes the religious content of the experiences many have been a result of their obsession with religious themes and their lack of education.
* Vitor Rodrigues Ph.D.
* Mario Simoes Ph.D. believes that the apparitions of Fatima can be explained in terms of what anthropology, psychology and psychiatry tells us about trance states.
The following people have written paper about Fatima; however they don't necessarily advocate or refute the Fatima UFO hypothesis. These papers have appeared in peer reviewed journals.
* Scott Atran, director of research in anthropology at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris
* Frank McGillion, Doctorate in Medicine
* Stanley Kripner Ph.D.
Main article: The Miracle of the Sun#Critical evaluation of the event
Joe Nickell Ph.D., 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. He suggests the cause may have been a sundog. Sometimes referred to as a perihelion 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).
Michael Shermer Ph.D. has described predictions that were not documented until after they came true as post diction. This means that they have no prophetic value since it can't be proved that the prediction was made ahead of time, therefore the predictions about the premature deaths of Francisco and Jacinta and the coming of WWII aren't legitimate prophecies. Both Michael Shermer and Joe Nickell have been consistently skeptical of UFOs and vague predictions that can be interpreted in many ways.