In Winthrop’s narrative, the lights were thus attributed to the devilish dealings of this man, who possessed “skill in necromancy” and other kindred arts of darkness. As to what might really have caused the illuminative apparitions Winthrop recounts is a matter of speculation, although many of the key suspects remain in modern times: these range from natural atmospheric plasmas (i.e. ball lightning), to other related natural illuminations like earthquake lights.
Arguably, these peculiar items in Winthrop’s journal outline what can be considered the first instances of unexplained aerial phenomena in the New World. While they leave a lot to the imagination, they nonetheless offer a unique, albeit an atypical view of Puritan life in early America.