France Bans UFOs!

Written by on March 1, 2020 in Guest Blogs

Image of a "flying saucer" landing in a forest

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in Provence, in the south of France, is famous for its wines. The town’s name means “the pope’s new château” because many centuries ago a summer papal palace was built here. The main Palace of the Popes was in nearby Avignon. Popes need good wine to drink, so vines were planted, barrels were crafted, and the town’s fame for great wine began.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known for more than its wines, though. It’s also famous for a law that bans UFOs from taking off, landing, or even flying over the town. How did this strange law come to be?

UFO spotters in France

In 1953, the movie War of the Worlds arrived in French movie houses and was a big hit. Before long, French citizens began spotting flying saucers everywhere. The first such spotter was Marius Dewilde, who lived in a small town in northern France.

As Dewilde recounted, he was reading a magazine on the night of September 10, 1954 when his dog started barking furiously. Going outside to investigate, he saw a large, dark shape nearby. Turning on his flashlight to see what it was, he discovered two strange creatures staring at him. Each was about three feet tall, with shiny round heads (“they reflected my flashlight like glass.”) A beam suddenly shot out from the dark shape—their spaceship—which blinded and paralyzed Dewilde. The tiny creatures then returned to their ship, which rose to the sky and flew off at high speed.

Dewilde reported his story to the police and soon it was in newspapers worldwide. This sparked a frenzy of UFO sightings across France, with dozens reported in the months that followed. The UFOs were described as having oblong shapes and became known as soucoupes volantes (flying saucers) or cigares volants (flying cigars.)

Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s quirky UFO law

UFO fever gripped France, and while some saw the threat of interplanetary conflict, the mayor of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Lucien Jeune, saw opportunity. His town was held in high esteem within wine circles but was unknown to the wider public. So, Mayor Jeune decided to take advantage of the frenzy and get some free publicity. He passed a law banning UFOs. On October 25, the following ordinance went into effect.

Article 1. The overflight, the landing and the takeoff of aircraft known as flying saucers or flying cigars, whatever their nationality is, are prohibited on the territory of the community.

Article 2. Any aircraft, known as flying saucer or flying cigar, which should land on the territory of the community will be immediately held in custody.

Article 3. The forest officer and the city policeman are in charge, each one in what relates to him, of the execution of this decree.

American Wine label with an image of a UFO on it, inspired by Chateauneuf-du-Paper, France

The law states… no UFO’s in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

As Jeune hoped, the law created a huge buzz, with media from all over the world descending on his town. And the buzz didn’t end in 1954. Decades later, the law was still so well known that the California wine maker Randall Graham, a fan of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, named his flagship wine after the famous law. This wine, Le Cigare Volant, has a label showing a mysterious spaceship floating over the vineyards.

Will Châteauneuf-du-Pape ever repeal its strange anti-UFO law? In 2016, then-mayor Claude Avril said no, he would keep in in place because, “It spices things up a bit.” And as winemaker Graham notes, the law has been effective—no UFOs have landed since it was passed!

Keith Van Sickle splits his time between Silicon Valley and Provence.  He is the author of One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence and Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures in ProvenceRead more at Life in Provence.

Related Articles

The French Queen of Wine

The French Queen of Wine

Written by on November 16, 2020 in Guest Blogs

If you look at a list of the most expensive wines in the world you’ll see it stuffed with beauties from France. Look closer and you’ll see one name pop up over and over—Leroy. You think to yourself, I don’t know who this Msr. Leroy is but he must be quite the winemaker. Surprise! It’s […]

Continue Reading

Life in a farmhouse in the Auvergne, France

Our farmhouse, La Creuserie, lies almost exactly in the centre of France, in what is known as the Bourbonnais. It’s an historic area in the department of Allier in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes. It had been a small farm for beef cattle, was tenanted for 165 years and passed out of farming in 2003. It then consisted of […]

Continue Reading

Visiting Paris with a teen

Visiting Paris with a teen

Written by on October 19, 2020 in Guest Blogs

Although I live in America, I’m a hardcore Francophile. I listen to French podcasts, sip French wine, and have seen every episode of House Hunters International that’s set in France like a dozen times. And while there are many things to love about my native land such as the great customer service and ample freezer […]

Continue Reading

Freewheeling gastronomic adventure in Montreuil-sur-Mer

Sarah Daly hops on an electric bike and works up an appetite for a dining experience with a difference. As a resident of Montreuil-sur-Mer in Pas de Calais, I am a regular visitor to Le Touquet, just 10 miles away on the Opal coast. I love its bustling atmosphere, clean sandy beach, colourful beach huts […]

Continue Reading

Paris lover’s guide to the city…

Paris lover’s guide to the city…

Written by on September 16, 2020 in Guest Blogs

We talk to chef and author Lisa Baker Morgan who splits her life between Los Angeles and Paris. As a Paris local with a love of food, culture and history, she shares some of her top tips for visitors the the city of light… What draws you to Paris – the things that make you […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.