Ghosts of the Dark Age

It’s the 31st of October, so what better time to tell of some peculiar goings-on from more than 1000 years ago! Back in the Dark Ages people too must have told stories at this time of year, as the harvest was completed, travel became harder and the nights became darker…

The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in AD 451 was a bloody and brutal one by anyone’s standards. Attila  and the Huns fought against the combined Roman and Visigothic forces under the command of the Roman general Flavius Aetius and the Visigothic King Theoderic. The result of the battle was uncertain, as although Attila was defeated he escaped and continued his campaigns against Rome. It is also not known how many fought and died, but casualties may well have gone into the thousands or even tens of thousands. The battle was fought in the evening and so it was not until the next day that the true extent of the slaughter was apparent with the battlefield piled high with bodies. The blood is said to have swelled the river, so the survivors when quenching their thirst drank the blood of their comrades. Perhaps it is not surprising in so terrible a battle that the ghosts of the fallen were said to have fought on for three days after the battle ended, the clash of weapons and screams of pain heard by all…


In January 897 Pope Formosus stood trial for various crimes including usurping the papacy. There is nothing particularly strange about that, except Pope Formosus had died the year before! This trial is known as the Cadaver Synod or Synodus Horrenda and a horrendous spectacle it must have been! On the orders of Pope Stephen, the rotting corpse of Formosus was removed from his tomb, dressed in papal robes and propped up on a chair to stand trial. He was found guilty on all counts and as a punishment was stripped of his papal regalia and had three fingers chopped off. He was initially reburied, but then in a final indignity he was brought out again and thrown into the River Tiber. After washing up on the banks, this rotting corpse was said to have performed miracles. Public opinion swung against Pope Stephen – he was thrown into prison and strangled. The new pope overturned the verdict of the Cadaver Synod, reburied Formosus in Saint Peters in his papal robes and, sensibly, passed a ban on future trials of the dead!


The Frankish annals of St Bertin mention on several occasions what seem to be UFOs. For example this comment from 859 ‘In August, September and October, armies were seen in the sky at night: a brightness like that of daylight shone out unbroken from the east right to the north and bloody columns came streaming out from it.’ and this in 860 ‘On the night following 4 April, when the ninth moon had begun, a sort of horned darkness – the very same shape as the shining moon is said to have – appeared across the middle of the moon causing it to shine on at either end but be obscured in the middle.’ and this in 855 ‘That same month, two shooting stars, one larger, one smaller, were seen travelling from the western part of the sky to the eastern. This happened ten times with them appearing alternately: while the larger star stayed, the smaller was sometimes quite invisible.’ Could these be Dark Age  descriptions of spacecraft? Odd times, it seems, for the ninth century Franks!


Happy Halloween! Sleep well!


5 thoughts on “Ghosts of the Dark Age

  1. A very interesting lunchtime read, thank you! Had never heard of the Cadaver Synod before… I wonder why it’s included along with the saints and martyrs in RE lessons?! And the possible UFO stuff is fascinating. I wonder what they could have been? Comets? eclipses? Or maybe the Vulcans checking us out and deciding we weren’t ready for First Contact?!


    1. I don’t think it’s eclipses, as they’re mentioned elsewhere as eclipses so they were clearly familiar with those. I wondered about a supernova for the brightness like day. But the disappearing star is obviously faulty cloaking technology!

      Liked by 1 person

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