Maria Lax is a photographer from a small town in northern Finland, surrounded by empty wilderness and silence. Lax was unaware of the UFO sightings that were apparently so common until she read her grandfather’s book, which explains what he found and saw in the area. Unfortunately, Lax’s grandfather had dementia when she discovered the subject, and he was unable to answer the many questions that she had. With that being said, after learning more about the subject, Lax was intrigued to find some answers to her questions regarding the unknown phenomena of UFO sightings. She went searching for answers from a variety of sources: people who were familiar with the mysterious lights present in the town, people who were seen in old newspaper articles, and people found in her family’s old photographs. Through her journey of discovering more information, she decided to publish a book, Some Kind of Heavenly Fire, which includes her discoveries through numerous photographs.

The title of Lax’s book, Some Kind of Heavenly Fire, originates from her grandfather’s book – an older woman who witnessed a forest on fire in the middle of a cold, winter night described the strange, colorful lights as “some kind of heavenly fire,” instead of something from where she was currently living. This quote sparked a light in Lax’s mind, and she saw this as an ideal description of the different elements that can be found in the photographs of her book. Lax was extremely fascinated by what she read in her grandfather’s book; she said, “I learned of the incredible stories of supernatural events, bravery, and struggle against hardship in what is largely a barren land.” While Lax was interested in these extraterrestrial effects, many locals were fearful of the future; in the 1960s and 70s, industrialization was taking place around the area, and since farmers could no longer support their families like they used to, residents had no choice but to make their way to cities in hopes of finding a source of income. Since people’s lives were dramatically changing, the UFO sightings resembled a sense of the future, which instilled fear in many. Lax chose to show this sense of uncertainty through her photographs of empty homes and communities.

The town in Finland where all the residents saw UFOs1

As Lax began to interview a number of people from her hometown, she discovered a similar pattern that centered around mysterious lights. For instance, Lax found that “colorful lights would follow cars, or people walking home. The lights would be silent, pulsating in different colors before disappearing into the sky.” She also noted that these lights would occasionally wake up residents in the middle of the night, and then disappear without any evidence of their existence. The lack of natural sunlight in northern Finland made Lax’s photographs even more vivid; she filled the dark skies with colors of light and used exposure to emphasize the most unexpected sights from her hometown. One of Lax’s interviewees said, “I remember waking up one night and the room being awash with the most beautiful colors. I knew it was the aliens but I wasn’t afraid. I knew they didn’t wish me any harm.”

The narrative of Lax’s book is left unknown, which was solely her decision because she wanted readers to have the opportunity to discover their own understanding of her photographs and interpret them as they wished. Along with the ambiguity of her book comes the uncertainty of these findings and UFO sightings as a whole. The Finland UFOs still remain a mystery, but Lax’s book is able to give readers more content to work with.

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