UFOs, Phantom Helicopters and Contemporary Panics.
Peter Rogerson and John Harney

In Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 6, number 2, August 1973, Peter Rogerson wrote:


A few weeks ago, in a collection of clippings on UFO events, loaned to me by Nigel Watson, I discovered a very revealing little news item from the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph of May 2, 1972:


Illegal Immigrans Suspected.

Lincolnshire police were alerted to be on the look out for illegal immigrants during the early hours of this morning after an unidentified light aircraft was believed to have landed somewhere between Laceby and Barnoldby-Le-Beck. The aircraft was picked up on the radar screen at RAF Waddington shortly before midnight last night. A few minutes later it went off the radar screen between Barnoldby and Laceby. The police were notified and a number of patrol cars diverted to the area to search for the mystery plane. Within 25 minutes every farm and possible landing strip in the area had been checked, but-police drew a blank. A spokesman said: “If an aircraft were to land, it would need at least a reasonably flat meadow and landing lights, but so far we have found nothing.”

Checking stations

Today the police and RAF experts are studying a report on last night’s sighting, and are checking at other radar stations along the coast to see if they picked up any light aircraft activity in the Humber during the night. The police spokesman added: “If the plane did not actually land, but just went under Waddington’s radar screen, it must have been picked up in an adjoining areas. We are not letting this matter rest.”

It is clear that all that was picked up on the radar were some anomalous blips. There was no evoidence to suggest that these blips were produced by a light aircraft, and certainly no reason to suppose that they were proof that illegal immigrants were being smuggled into the country.

What is very striking is the way in which explanations of random anomalies undergo fashions. A few years ago such an echo would have been eagerly interpreted as an extraterrestrial spaceships now it is illegal immigrants. Neither explanation could possibly be justified on the evidence available.

One of the most terrifying things that people can be confronted with is the randoms disturbing event. Faced with one or many such events, there is a general tendency among people to try to fit them into a convenient pattern. Any pattern, however irrational and capricious is better than no pattern at all. Therefore there is a great impetus to see ‘meanings’ behind world events, to hold, for example, that disturbing social change is generated by malevolent conspiracies or to see portents and archetypes in random lights in the sky.

In his book Folk Devils and Moral Panics the sociologist Stanley Cohen discusses the sort of ‘frame of reference’ by which random events are ‘patternised’. The example he chooses is that of the Mods and Rockers panic of 1964, and he points out that a number of quite unrelated events were incorporated into the Mods and Rockers mythology. For example a perfectly ‘ordinary’ climbing accident was headlined in one paper ‘Death of a Mod’. It was also very difficult for people to accept that the outbreaks were examples of random, spontaneous violence. This led to the development of fantastic rumours to the effect that teenage disturbances were being planned at some secret headquarters, or were being fomented by Russian secret agents.

Similar situations develop in the so-called flap areas, where all sorts of minor, random events which under normal conditions would not be noticed, are interpreted as part of the dominant ‘frame of reference’ which in this case is the UFO phenomenon. Within one flap in the North West of England, investigated by a UFO researcher with whom I am acquainted, a variety of random events, such as the disappearance of a dog, were seen as part of the UFO ‘happenings’. In extreme examples such as Warminster, almost any kind of odd random event is seen in terms of the ‘Thing’, and added to the chronicle of the myth.

However the UFO frame of reference is a relatively weak one, still, in popular consciousness, and is easily replaced by other and more immediate threats. The fear of illegal immigrants is clearly a more powerful ‘folk devil’ than any little green man from Mars, and as such his machinations can be seen behind a variety of phenomena often regarded as ufological. For example, some time last year a motorist reported that he had seen, at night, a helicopter land, a car drive up, and several illegal immigrants get out and enter the car. He claimed he could clearly see that the driver of the car was a Pakistani. Unfortunately, he could not possibly have seen the scene in the amount of detail he gave, at that time of night. Indeed the whole story possessed just that air of ‘mystery’ many UFO stories have.

Later, in MUFOB volume 6, number 4, John Harney reported on a new outbreak of phantom aircraft:


Reports in national and local newspapers about a mysterious helicopter making night flights around parts of North West England seen to have been sparked off by incidents involving Cheshire and Derbyshire police in the early hours of Monday 14 January. Cheshire police had a report of a helicopter and were said to have “kept it under observation for some time”. Derbyshire police were informed when the mysterious machine was thought to be heading their way. They are said to have sighted it in the Cat and Fiddle area around dawn.

During the week following 14 January numerous similar reports were published in the press. The phenomena seemed to be centred around the village of Goostrey, Cheshire (near Jodrell Bank). By 22 January, however, the national newspapers had dropped the subject.In spite of police spokesmen and others insisting that the helicopter was real, and reports that the sightings were being investigated at a high level by the Special Branch, it was obvious quite early on that there was no real helicopter behind most of the reports, as they bore all the characteristics of a typical UFO flap.

An obvious clue to the imaginary nature of the helicopter was the vague and inconsistent nature of the published reports. It was said for instances that the machine was seen only at night, yet reports insisted that the helicopter carried no identification markings. Fantastic theories were put forward to suggest reasons for an unidentified, night-flying helicopter.

The Daily Telegraph of 16 January reporteds

“Yesterday more theories flourished about the phantom helicopter. It has already been linked with sheep rustlings smuggling, illegal immigrants and IRA gun and bomb squads. Now it is thought that it might be a ‘home-made helicopter’ which the owner, unable to obtain an air worthiness certificates is flying, and dangerously so – at night or, it is suggested it might be a modern – and wealthy – lover who finds it the most convenient way to reach his mistress or girlfriend”.

However, an item in the Daily Mail on 21 January reported the increasing doubts by senior police officers as to the helicopter’s reality. It also reports “Professor John Cohen, head of the psychology department at Manchester University, said that the first reports of the phantom may have started a rash of them, It is contagious, he said. ‘Plant an idea and you get a kind of visual epidemic’”.

Newspapers on 19 January, reported a further developments motorists on the A51 near Duddon, Tarporley, Cheshire witnessed the landing of an ‘unmarked’ helicopter just before 5 p.m, on 18 January. Nearby was a farmhouse with a white Ford Escort parked in the driveway. As the helicopter took off the car drove out of the driveway. Unlike many of the other reports this one turned out to be a sighting of a real helicopter. The Manchester Evening News (19 January) reported that the machine belonged to the Ferranti company and had landed near Tarporley on a journey north from London, to drop off a passenger.Some time after the flap had died down, there were reports of helicopters seen or heard flying at night in the Merseyside area. These reports were confirmed when they were identified as military helicopters, engaged on various activities. Apparently military helicopters do quite a bit of night-flying, in contrast with civil helicopters, which rarely do so.

To sum up, a fairly typical UFO flap, with a few real helicopters thrown in to confuse matters still further.


Our Visit to Warminster.
Dave and Natalie Gould

from Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 3, number 6, December 1970

MUFOB’s interest in the Warminster phenomena drew this contribution from two visitors to the little town, who give an interesting account of the skywatching scene on Cradle Hill

After reading various literature on Warminster we decided to spend several days there.We were lucky in that the weather was good and our first night took us to the famed Cradle Hill, where we joined a couple from London. We watched the sky for most of the evening, but apart from a couple of satellites, saw nothing of note. We did however have a very interesting conversation with the Londoners, who, it transpired, were fortunate enough to be present several weeks previously, when some very good photographs were taken of a sighting. They did, in fact, show us some blown-up prints of these photographs, which were most impressive. They were later published in Flying Saucer Review.

During the days whilst we were in Warminster, we visited various places of prehistoric intcrest, and walked up endless hills, such as Clay Hill, Glastonbury Tor, Windmill Hill, and even Cadbury Hill.

We found it a most intriguing idea that many sightings appeared to follow lines of alignment between tors and/or barrows. This theory appeared to be generally accepted by the local crowd, and we began by day to investigate certain barrows.

cradle-hillThe second night was again cloudless. But apart from the usual satellites and a couple of shooting stars it was an uneventful evening.The next evening on Cradle Hill there were several new faces and much exchanging of news and experiences. At about 9.30 p.m. we saw our first UFO. It was boomerang-shaped and very large, and had five white lights spaced along its length. Not a sound came from it, though it was reasonably low. It moved parallel to Cradle Hill, and after about half a minute banked to the right and went out of sight. It was most eerie having no sounds particularly as a few minutes earlier we distinctly heard the sound of a plane which we saw as a speck in the far distanice.Shortly after this we were joined by Arthur Shuttlewood, who arrived just in time to see a large white object race across from east to west.

On the Friday before we left there was quite a crowd gathered on the Hill. There were several of our new acquaintances of previous evenings — Bob Strong, Arthur Shuttlewood and his group, plus twenty-odd Scouts from Swindon, and some BUFORA observers.

Two or three objects were sighted — but not with complete certainty were they thought to be UFOs. However Arthur Shuttlewood, who was situated in a much better position than most of us, claimed them to be definite sightings. The Scouts seemed impressed anyway.On our final evening there was a good crowd, mostly regulars. Two very good sightings were observed by everyone except us. We just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; as many of us were walking up and down the road, talking.

We found our few days in Warminster most informative. Arthur Shuttlewood seemed a nice, genuine person. It was interesting speaking to people of their experiences regarding poltergeist activitiesq strange smells, ghostly footsteps and stories of witchcraft, all connected with the area.



Adamski, Aetherius, Fry, Diophantes, et al: Farewell!
Paul Hopkins

At the dawn of the space-age, Paul Hopkins takes a pessimistic look at the implications for ufology and humanity. From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 5, November 1970

That man has reached the moon is now history. That he will shortly reach out to the planets is no longer confined to the realms of science fiction. Gone with man’s journey to the moon is a good deal of mystery, imagination and romanticism. Indeed the moon is dead, as expected. No air, no water, no life, or even signs that life may have existed there in the past.

Where then, Adamski’s are your moon bases? Where are those outposts of alien civilizations that contactees claim?  The footprints of Armstrung and Aldrin, and those of the following lunar missions will remain on the moon’s surface for many years to come, as they are slowly covered by accumulations of cosmic dust and meteoric debris. An advanced civilization with resources and man power as grand as that which the majority of the UFO contact books and cases infer would surely have at some time left lasting scars on a relatively inert body such as the moon? Unless of course these aliens have a broom like appendage with which they are able to cover their tracks and sweep up their cosmic garbage. I think not.

I also think that they were never there in the first place.

We are entering an age of stark realism and chronic symptoms of cosmic loneliness. Science on earth, through materialism, has steadily decreased old beliefs, fears and hopes about the supernatural world on earth, and in its place the world of the supernatural has moved into outer space. As the progress of science has shown that each planet, save the earth, in our solar system is devoid of intelligent life, so these infertile spheres have been filled with a proliferation of spirit creatures existing on different planes, in different dimensions, in different states, and God knows what.

Of course it is possible to contact these entities, not through radio or laser beam, but through the mind, telepathic contact. The meanderings of insanity mixed with personal beliefs and subconscious urges are given as messages from the great Aetherius, from Diophantes of Sirius Six, and from other intangibles. From a host of telepathic messages there has not been, to my knowledge, a single, properly authenticated gem of information that has proved of value or use to mankind. The prophecies such as they are, are completely withoat impact, since we are told such obvious and daft things as our sun will become part of aa binary system, and. that the orbits of the planets will be displaced, or even such brilliant foresight as ‘a new age will dawn’.

We are surely moving out of the era of sensationalist and unbounded speculation (just as we moved out of the dark ages) as the solar system is reduced to its essential physical and chemical equations by scientists and mathematicians. Thus the romantic flying saucer will die away in the minds of the cranks and nuts as generation gives way to generation. The flying saucer mystery will be killed largely by natural causes. Still, I believe an element of truth will still remain. Life must exist elsewhere in the universe, as mathematical probability is in favour. Must we keep it at arm’s length, or is it not kept from us by some divine plans or perhaps through man’s innate inadequacies

One Sunder paper recently carried a report on the dangers of seeking contact with extraterrestrial civilizations, and in particular warnings from Professors Zdenrik Kopal and Clyde Tombaugh. Both men agreed that it could be disastrous to contact other intelligent beings as we may well end up being treated like ants and put in test tubes, or treated little better than animals.

The fact is we are animals and our technological explosion has made us conspicuous by the amount of radio energy that this planet emits into space. I do not think it idle speculation to say that there is probably in the galaxy at least one race of intelligent beings thousands of years ahead of our technology who, having mastered the problems of interstellar flight, are quite aware of what is going on here on earth. Yet we are left alone. It is a process of civilization that there comes a point when intelligent beings realize that there is no need to ill-treat or eradicate lower forms of life without very good reason. A lesson that is only slowly dawning on the more enlightened homo sapiens after a million years or so of brutality, not only to animals in general but also to his own species.

If man lives or, should I say, survives a million years more, though he probes the universe to its outermost limits and the atom to its innermost secrets, he will never realize the meaning and purpose of the universe that imprisons him. We watch, and are watched. We observe, and see nothing. Yet we are ourselves observed and seen. We are as ants in a test tube, and when the experiment is done our owners will pour us down the galactic sink, and nothing we can do shall prevent it.

Is this the mystery of the flying saucer, and man’s sole purpose on earth? If so, what price religion now? What price admission to the human zoo?



The Cigar Ship of 1909!
Nigel Watson

From MUFOB new series 10, Spring 1978

For his contribution to the tenth anniversary issue of MUFOB, Nigel Watson revealed some of the delights of historical ufology!

cigarshipAs a law-abiding citizen, I now and again partake of the duty of looking through musty old newspapers in search of items of Fortean or ufological interest. Recently I have been checking on the 1909 airship sightings which were recorded by Carl Grove in his two-part article entitled “The Airship Wave of 1909″ (Flying Saucer Review, Vol 16, no 6 and vol 17, no 1).

Despite a thorough search, the Lincolnshire Chronicle for May and June 1909 doesn’t bother mentioning the airship scare. The Doncaster Gazette and the Lincoln Leader both published similar items, except that the Leader‘s article was a little more detailed and also contained information on the more spectacular Caerphilly mountain episode and other Welsh sightings, (cases nos 30 and 31 in the Grove articles) which were barely discernible due to some fiend having hacked a piece out of this particular section. Unfortunately both papers only mentioned the sighting by PC Kettle of a powerfal light over Peterborough on 23rd March 1909, which they explained as a sighting of a light with a Chinese lantern attached.

The ‘hoax’ letter written by a Major Hayfield of Pinchbeck Road, Spalding (INTCAT no. 68) was given mention with some derision: We really cannot take any notice of it. It is too ludicrous”, said Canon Bullock. Apparently none of these papers received any sightings themselves, which was disappointing for my bleary eyes.

In 1909 Britain had an Empire with a capital ‘E’, so we took a dim view of any Imperialistic foreigners on the horizon. Since little green men and saucers from Mars were not too well though of in 1909, the phantom airship was regarded as a German Zeppelin spy-craft on a sinister mission… Or… it was regarded as a load of rubbish; as seems to be the view of the above papers, who tended to blame the scare on the London press.

Thoughtfully, the Lincoln Leader of the 5th June decided to reassure its readership with an item entitled “Mr Lupton on Air-Ships and Scare-ships”. Mr Arnold Lupton M.P., an authority on the use of explosives (essential knowledge for a politician, I should imagine) was interviewed by the (London) Evening News, where he claimed that

“If London was to be destroyed by bombs thrown from balloons it would require a fleet of 200,000 Zeppelin balloons, each costing not less than £20,000, or equal to £4,000,000,000. They would also need 600,000 devoted aeronauts to throw them.”

With such a reassuring Member of Parliament the Bulldog Breed could sleep safely, secure in the knowledge that technology had not yet caught up with the problem of the aeriel bombardment of distant targets on as effective scale.

There are probably many more ‘airship’ sightings to be discovered in the local papers from 1909 and 1913 (from preliminary findings there was more coverage of the 1913 scare) and such research is liable to reveal more useful information than that obtained by skywatches and the like.
The Caerphilly Mountain incident which involved Mr Lethbridge seeing a tubuar object with foreign speaking men next to it caused the biggest sensation in the press of the period, and was subjected to scepticism and laughter from the journalistic fraternity. Typically, Punch jumped at the opportunity given by this encounter, and the Lincoln Leader of the 29th May quoted, in its “Wit of the Week” column, the following lampoon:


Harpenden – A suspicious looking foreigner was seen here yesterday on the common. A watch was kept on him, and he was seen after dark in an un-frequented spot to be busy with a cigar-shaped looking object which had a brilliantly coloured band round the middle. Every now and then a light would appear at the end of the object and almost immediately to go out, to the accompaniment of gutteral expletives in a foreign tongue. The object is of a brownish colour, and seems to require constant attention from its owner. Three dozen wooden matches and a box with foreign words on it were found near the spot where the stranger was observed at work on the instrument described above, and it is though that he was engaged in making strenuous efforts to get it going. Intense excitement prevails.

Later – The coloured band referred to (which also has foreign words on it) has just been found and forwarded to the Board of Trade.

A Structured Approach to the Analysis of Non-Physical UFO Evidence.
Donald A. Johnson

First published in MUFOB New Series 10,  Spring 1978

Over the years, many students of the UFO phenomenon have come to realise that the solution to the UFO enigma is probably not going to fall into their laps in the form of that long awaited, indisputable piece of physical evidence. Any attempted explanation of the phenomenon based on the current supply of physical evidence would be deemed by most as wholly inadequate. In fact this lack of indisputable hard evidence has led many to speculate that the phenomenon may not have a physical dimension at all. Be that as it may, the stress put on the importance of physical evidence is undeniable. (1) Perhaps this emphasis may yet prove justifiable. However, it is also equally true that we have until very recently largely overlooked the possibility of gaining much insight into the problem through the systematic study of our most abundant form of data, the non-physical or ‘soft’ evidence.

This article is an attempt to provide a realistic and orderly approach to the problem of the analysis of ‘soft’ UFO evidence by inter-disciplinary study. Specifically, these recommendations are relevant to individuals involved in or interested in the study areas of psychology, history, statistics, sociology, anthropology and folklore. By ‘soft’ evidence we are referring to the psychological and sociological process involved in the experiencing of a UFO event, the generation of this experience into a report, the generalization and categorization or reports into a phenomenon, and the mythification of this phenomenon or a combination of phenomena into a folklore.If there are still any readers left at this point some clarification for their benefit will be attempted. We are defining the overall phenomenon as an ongoing process, and we are structuring it into four levels, of increasing abstraction, for the purposes of study. Basically the four levels of analysis visualised in this approach are:

1 – the witness
2 – the report
3 – the phenomenon
4 – the myth

In this model each level of the phenomenon poses separate and unique questions. By approaching the evidence through this structure the special talents of the scientific disciplines mentioned above (as well as others, the list is in no way meant to be exclusive) can be brought to bear in an effective manner.

The psychologist, for example, is interested primarily in the witness, his psychological profile, his perceptual abilities, his personality. His training allows him to judge properly the relationship between a hypnopompic hallucination and certain categories of close encounter UFO events. The sociologist on the other hand would more likely direct his energy to the report level of the evidence. He would be interested in the societal factors that motivate an individual to report his experience and in explaining the dynamics that permit bias to creep into an account. The statistician and historian are properly at home on the phenomenon level, both skilled in documenting factors responsible for such things as UFO waves. Finally, the social anthropologist and the folklorist are interested in the dynamics of myth building, the symbolism evoked, the techniques for the transmission of myth, and the cultural needs that are set or fulfilled by the UFO myth.

It should be noted that each discipline overlaps the structural levels to a greater or lesser degree, and none has exclusive domain over any one level. In any interdisciplinary study the objective is not to parcel out shares along lines of authority but rather to share knowledge and assist in the group’s understanding through the contribution of a different perspective.

The Witness.

Let us examine the current state of the phenomenon using the outline of the analytical model. We first approach the entire process from the level of the witness. On this level we are no so much concerned with what is described as who is describing it. In those situations where there is no logical explanation for the sighting, where we do in fact have a UFO and there is no physical trace, the person making the report must become the object of the investigation. (2) As our only tangible form of evidence the witness is extremely important. Ideally, we would like the full gamut of information on each individual witness: his history of mental health, his status in the community, educational level, perceptual abilities, his psychological profile drawn from a series of interviews and a battery of psychological tests.

In very few cases has all this information been obtained. Usually as the level of strangeness of a report increases the importance of this information increases proportionately. Therefore, it is not unusual that in the instances where this information has been gathered, it is for the high level close encounters – cases such as Betty and Barney Hill, Stella Lansing, or Parker and Hickson. However, for the majority of cases this extensive information on the witnesses is absent. There are some very good reasons for this. Most of it is very difficult and time-consuming material to obtain. Furthermore, there are ethical questions involved in compiling and releasing this information, and serious legal questions raised with the advent of now privacy laws in the USA.

This information does have value beyond determining whether a witness is a liar or a fool and there are some very real issues that could be resolved with it. For instance, is there a ‘selection effect’ for UFO witnesses? Why do some people go through their entire lives without seeing anything whilst others have several UFO experiences? Should the repeaters be disqualified or believed? Is there a correlation between demonstrated ‘psi’ ability and UFO experiences? Is there a correlation between mild cases of adaptive schizophrenia and UFO experiences? Are percipients of UFO events prone to hallucinations?

Many of these questions are speculated upon without any real evidence. The article Psychiatrv and UFO Reports by Grinspoon and Persky) is a good example of an attempt to relate psychological phenomena to UFOs without citing a single actual example from a UFO case!

As an example of research that would be useful in this area, Benton Jamison presented one research proposal at the 1976 CUFOS conference (4) which would test whether or not there exists significant sociological and psychological differences between a sample of people who have had a UFO experience and a sample of those who have not. In his proposal he recommends including measures of hypnotic suggestibility and beliefs about psychic ability in the witness testing.

Research in this area should be supported and encouraged both because of the importance of the questions rained and because the research could begin today, which is not true of studies which need physical data, which must wait for the evidence to come to them.

The Report.

The next level of the model is the report. Reports are what our perception of the enigma at the phenomenon level are exclusively based on. It is therefore very important that we understand the dynamics of reporting and the reliability of our evidence before we begin to make any conclusions on the nature of UFOs.

Basically the reporting process involves the following societal filtering effects: an individual or a group of individuals must conceptualise an event as unusual enough to make note of it, must be motivated enough to report it, and must have enough status and credibility to have the report accepted.Because we know there is a very definite selection effect involved in the reporting of a UFO event, a prime object of research in this area should be to obtain as close to a random sample of actual incidents as possible. Even obtaining the services of a professional opinion survey firm and going lack to the subject pool to collect a new independent sample of witnesses would not be carrying this effort too far. We could then compare the characteristics of such a sample to the population of reports we have on file to determine what some of the ‘laws’ of reporting this phenomenon are, and how badly biased our current sample of reports is.

For a further discussion on the nature of these societal filtering effects and how they affect the reporting of UFOs, I refer the reader to an excellent treatment of the subject by Dr Ron Westrum, in his article Knowing about UFOs, carried in two parts in MUFOB new series 5 and 6. (5)

The Phenomenon

As used herein, the phrase ‘the UFO phenomenon’ is defined as the product of the categorization of reports of extraordinary events which share as their common attribute the observation of unusual aerial objects. The word ‘phenomenon’ is therefore not synonymous with ‘event’ or ‘occuronce’ as it would be in its strict dictionary definition. It implies rather a compilation of events, and is hence an abstraction and not an event.

The Battelle Memorial Institute study that became Project Bluebook Special Report 14 established statistically that the population of true ‘unknowns’, i.e. unidentified reports, is significantly different in attributes from reports that can be attributed to misidentifications. (6) This makes it very unlikely that the UFO phenomenon can be attributed to any currently known natural phenomenon ‘if we just try harder’. It also means that we do, in fact, have a real and not just an imaginary problem On our hands. We should examine this problem both in terms of what we currently know about it and where we can go with that knowledge.

Perhaps our most important asset in this study is our ability to discern patterns within the UFO phenomenon. This is true because the presence of patterns reaffirms our original hypothesis that a certain set of events should be classed together. When we look at the phenomenon, we find some very strong patterns which might be categorized in the following manner:

1 – patterns in descriptions
2 – patterns in behaviour
3 – temporal patterns
4 – spatial patterns

There exists, for instance, similarities in the descriptions of objects including size, shape colour, number of lights, etc., and in descriptions of humanoids associated with those objects. One very obvious area for further research would be to continue the work started by the Batelle study to determine how their patterns co-vary with one another and how they correlate with patterns observed in occupant or object behaviour. An example of such a study is that provided by Fred Merritt. (7) By studying similarities in descriptions of ‘landing’ marks, and reports of the objects and occupants associated with these events he was able to cluster landing reports into five groups or ‘catenas’, one group of which he was able to eliminate as indicative of a ball lightning or similar atmospheric effect.

We also know that UFO reports occur with marked variance in frequency over time and that reports are not evenly distributed geographically. Ballester Olmos has found from statistical data that close encounters tend to manifest themselves in sparsely populated areas, whereas lights-in-the-sky reports have a random spatial distribution that is directly correlated with population. (8)

David Saunders has determined that the five year cycle waves (1947, 1952, 1957, 1967 and 1972) are characterised by negatively skewed distributions. (9) That is, they are waves that build slowly to a crescendo and taper off quickly, rather than waves that seem to be sparked by a few well publicised cases which peak early and taper off as interest dies. Saunders (1O), and Anderson (11) have linked the temporal aspects of UFO events with their spatial occurence. By following development of the major five year waves they separately traced the movement of reports outward and predominantly eastward from theoretical longitudinal starting points. Further research in this area may result in almost total predictability of when and where a major UFO wave may occur.

Finally, Saunders has also advanced the scientific case for orthoteny, or the heavy frequency of occurence of UFOs reports along certain great circle lines around the globe. (12) While the meaning of these ‘orthotenic’ lines appears to be beyond our present comprehension, their existence has nonetheless been validated.

Historians can be a valuable asset to this level of research by documenting the historical events that correspond and contribute to the presence of UFO reports over time. The ‘swamp gas’ fervour of 1966 is one obvious example. Time series analysis such as that done by Saunders could then be linked to an historical analysis of the cycles of public interest. The integration of these two forms of analysis could offer now insights.

The Myth

Finally we come to the analysis of the myth associated with UFOs. This subject is purposely treated last because the processes involved in the dynamics of myth development seem to draw upon all levels of the phenomenon for material. Just dealing with the term ‘myth’ is a problem in itself. On the one hand the word carries definite connotations of storybook images of things that ‘really can’t exist’; and it is often employed in the sense of ‘fiction’ or ‘untrue’. On the other hand, myth has also come to mean something quite different to anthropologists, folklorists and students of comparative religion. Myth in this sense is a dynamic processthat explains reality, or more exactly, how reality came to be. (13) It is this function of myth that sets apart from common folklore. As such it supplies models for human behaviour and gives meaning and value to life.

Translating this understanding of myth to the UFO enigma we find a mechanism to explain the phenomenological reality of UFOs. Throughout the world we can find many examples of ‘living’ myths. Myths are alive in the sense that they are believed and used as examples to explain our day-to-day world. In our own culture science and technology have largely supplanted myth as the mechanism for explaining reality. The case of UFOs is one notable exmption.

The need to know is a universal human trait. Some social scientists describe it as the need for ‘closure’, that is, a need for predictability in an uncertain universe. When a strong man suddenly sickens and dies for no apparent reason, some reason needs to be created. In a primitive culture his death could be attributed to witchcraft. In our own culture we would ascribe it to virus, or unseen micro-organisms, such as ‘Legionnaire’s Disease’. The UFO is indeed a living myth in our own myth-less culture because, in the absence of an adequate scientific explanation of UFOs, myth is called upon to supply the answer.

What exactly is the ‘UFO myth’, then? That’s not an easy question. We know that myth is a product of empirically observed facts, beliefs, and some very strong human emotions. As such it represents a fairly awsome subject:

It seems to be impossible to guage the power of what Jung called the ‘modern myth’ of UFOs, a myth generated by our post-WWII encounter with a real phenomenon (made no less real by its failure to be universally recognised as such), sustained not only by years of rumor, denial, newspaper, radio and TV accounts, but by an unending stream of mostly unpublished UFO incidents, and charged psychically by virtue of its connection with almost universally held aspirations and fears.If this myth does have the power to create thousands or even tens of thousands of spurious UFO sightings on the part of people who show no apparent signs of malfunction or derangement, then some way must be found to explore the mechanism by which these sightings are generated on the one hand, and on the other to separate them from sightings of physically real objects. (14)

Anthropologists and folklorists have long been aware that the deciphering of myths is always a sticky business Some of the dynamics of myth are thought to be fairly well understood, mostly dealing with the techniques of myth transmission (through psychological studies of telling and retelling stories, through anthropological studies of cultures with active oral traditions, and through sociological studies of modern media) The importance of symbolism in myth to account for human needs is also recognised (through psychoanalytic analysis of classical mythology).

I think it would be fair to say that most people ascribe some form of alien visitation to the UFO myth, be it extraterrestrial or otherwise. Visitation by spacecraft is not the only aspect or message of the myth, however.

John Rimmer was the first to recognise the importance of the UFO as an anti-scientific symbol. (15) As such the UFO represents the forces of magic in a technologically dominated (and one might add technologically despoiled) modern world. The attractiveness of this symbolism should not be underestimated. Several millenarian movements have already developed around UFOs as agents of salvation. (16) This subconscious symbolism may also explain why the leadership of the scientific establishment is so threatened by the UFO question and have, right to the present, refused to examine the issue rationally and dispassionately.

We know that the myth encompassing UFOs is persistent. It has endured in more or less the same form for over 30 years. It may well have persisted in altered form for thousands of years before that. This raises the question as to whether the ‘real’ phenomenon behind the myth is the causal factor for that persistence, or whether the reality of the myth is so powerful and the symbolism evoked so very important that the success and permanence of the UFO story is guaranteed through time with little change.

In Passport to Magonia Jacques Vallée makes the connection between modern day UFOs and medieval myths. (17) He bases this connection on:

1 – similarities between the appearances of UFO occupants and the descriptions of elves and gnomes.
2 – similarities in the absurd, ludicrous behaviour of UFOs and UFO occupants and the antics and pranks of fairies.
3 – the religious and mystical motivations behind apparitions and percipient experiences.4 – the evolutionary process of the observation of objects from airships to dirigibles to ghost rockets to flying saucers.

Many of the similarities he provides between the UFO phenomenon and the fairy phenomenon do appear to be more than coincidental. Vallée states that he was forced to make a parallel between UFO reports and the main theses of fairy-lore because some details in in UFO reports were simply unbelievable unless taken in context with accounts of encounters with fairies. (18) This raises a few more questions. What share of these similarities between UFOs and other myths should be attributed to human factors? And how strange and divergent can these accounts get before we are forced to discard the hypothesis that they are caused by a real external phenomenon?

One of the areas where the greatest contribution by folklorists can be made is in documenting and relating to the UFO problem the differences in the development of myth that is the product of fiction, and myth that evolves from real events
and becomes imbued with mystical symbols.

We might speculate that real events, translated into myth, would have a more limited range of strangeness than ‘true’ stories that are the products of hoaxes or actual works of fiction (although even these are limited to a cultural frame of reference) The 1896-97 data reveals that the most reliable reports were of objects similar to objects seen today. (19) Hoaxes are the most elaborate in their descriptions of the airships, putting all the ‘bells and whistles’ imaginable on the object.

We have one last important question to consider under this topic. Does the phenomenon itself draw upon the myth for material? There seems to be some evidence that some of the important patterns of UFO events have occurred consequent to their popularisation in fictional accounts. The first association of UFOs with power blackouts occurs in a novel entitled Twilight Bar written in 1933, and the first reference to UFO effects on a car’s ignition system was also made in a novel published in 1950, well before the first major wave of car stoppage reports in the French wave of 1954. (20)

Whether these fictional accounts are coincidental or whether they were even incorporated in the UFO myth before real events occured is a matter for debate. If the phenomenon does in fact draw upon the myth – our perceptions and cultural representation of that phenomenon – then it either raises strong doubts about the physical external nature of the phenomenon, or, it brings us into the unattractive research position that the subject of our study responds to or even anticipates our observations!

The crux of the problem is succinctly stated in a reference by Hynek from one of Peter Usinov’s plays: “You mean they know we know that they know we know?” (21)


This article provides a conceptual framwork for the analysis of UFO evidence that hopefully will foster further inter-disciplinary interest in research on the UFO question. It is hoped that the few research proposals suggested as examples within will spark interest and generate other proposals from informed parties, so that when the eventual day comes that scientists are able to sit down and address the UFO problem with a respectable operating budget, a good outline exists for a plan of attack.


  1. See for example Billy Smith’s schematic chart and accompanying article in MUFOB NS 6, pp. 13-14 (Spring 1977). Also, Ray Stanford’s Journal of Instrumented UFO Research, shows some good examples of the sophisticated and expensive electronic gear that has been purchased to capture physical evidence.
  2. Bardley Earl Ayers, ‘The UFO Investigator: Reporter or Researcher?’ Proceedings of the 1976 CUFOS Conference (henceforth CUFOS 1973) pp. 11- 14.
  3. Grinspoon & Persky, ‘Psychiatry and UFO Reports’, UFO: A Scientific Debate, pp.233-246. Cornell University Press, 1972.
  4. Benton Jamison, ‘Some Proposals: Modest. Immodest and maybe Fundable’. CUFOS, 1976.
  5. Ron Westrum. ‘Knowing About UFOs’, MUFOB n.s.5 amd 6. (Winter 1976, Spring 1977)
  6. J Allen Hynek, The Hynek UFO Report.
  7. Fred Merritt, ‘A Preliminary Classification of some reports of UFOs based on shape and dimensions of imprint patterns. CUFOS 1976.
  8. V-J Ballester Olmos. ‘Are UFO Sightings Related to Population. CUFOS, 1976.
  9. Ann Slate, ‘Interview with Dr David R Saunders. Saga UFO Report. December 1976.
  10. David R Saunders, ‘A Spatio-temporal Invariant for Major UFO Waves ‘, CUFOS 1976.
  11.  Irving S Anderson, ‘The Periodicity of Flaps’ CUFOS 1976.
  12.  Ann Slate. op. cit.
  13. Mircsa Eliade, Myth and Reality (1953)
  14. Benton Jamison, op. cit., p.126.
  15. John Rimmer ‘The UFO as as Anti-scientific Symbol’, MUFOB 2,4, 1969.
  16. See e.g. Robert Bloch & David Taylor ‘Salvation in a UFO”, Psychology Today, October 1976; and Leo Festinger’s When Prophecy Fails.
  17. Jacques Vallée. Passport to Magonia, pp.160-161. (Regnerey, 1969).
  18. Jacques Vallss, ibid., p.111.
  19. Loren Gross, Charles Fort, the Fortean Society and UFOs, (1976).
  20. Jacques Vallss, op. cit., p.169.
  21. J A Hynek & J Vallee, The Edge of Reality.


A Newspaper Looks at the Airship.
Paul Screeton

Paul Screeton was a journalist with The Mail Hartlepool, the paper which, as the Northern Daily Mail in the period concerned, published a variety of reports which have been assessed for this article. Originally published in MUFOB new series 11, summer 1978


An elusive airship was attracting attention in early 1909; and after a period of arrant scepticism, belief was gaining ground that the rumours had substance.

In addition to a news item listing places in the south-east where the phantom dirigible had been sighted, there was a leading article on May 14th entitled:


“A theory has been advanced to me in explanation of the mysterious airship which has been seen flying in the neighbourhood of Peterborough. It is that the War Office has succeeded in constructing a really efficient airship and is experimenting with it in the dark to keep its existence and capacity secret.”

The next day a Berlin correspondent of the Daily Express reported that German expert opinion held that it was ascending from a German warship in the North Sea, upon which it landed again after each flight. Another report in that issue notes that during movement of troops in Gyppeswky Park, Ipswich, “the other night”, it was seen frequently. It was said to be oblong, making a noise like a motor car, moving at great speed and carrying a searchlight. So far only one farmer had seen it in daylight, but its nocturnal activity was considerable.

On May 17th the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire had investgated a PC’s report and decided it was “a balloon carrying lighted Chinese lanterns”, ie, a hoax.

‘An Irish Vision’ was the headline for the report of an airship seen over Belfast moving towards the Irish Sea – and interestingly a brilliant light was observed in the sky shortly afterwards. Such phenomena never exist in isolation, and an editorial column on May 19th linked two seemingly disparate mysterious activities:


“While some of us have been wasting our time and emotions over phantom airships and elusive airplanes, a method of invasion more sure and deadly is, perhaps, going on under our feet. A letter arrived today stating thus: While crossing from Hamburg on Saturday night, my interest and suspicions were aroused by hearing sounds of what I judged to be subterranean excavation while passing over one of the shallows to the north-west of the Dutch coast. The sounds were quite like running drills and were very audible, as the sea was quiet and calm. This information I volunteer in order the Government may sake inquiries into the matter.”

That same day the paper reported a night sighting of a broad cigar-shape, making a whistling sound and lit by two lights, over Cardiff.

This incident’s developments were reported the next day in the famous Caerphilly Mountain incident, involving Mr Lethbridge and the fur-coated ‘foreigners’. The Northern Daily Mail’s account of the incident concludes, “He was frightened, and so seemingly were the foreigners, for they jabbered loudly, jumped into the scareship (sic) and sailed off.”

A journalist was taken to the encounter site and marks were found on the ground. Slips of newspapers found on the spot show that almost all contained references to airships of the German Army. There was also a red label with instructions written in French, and a military term on it is called a “sinister touch” by the correspondent, noting that it would have been more impressive had it been in German.Yet looking book retrospectively over almost seventy years a number of aspects are month comment here:

  • Another Lethbridge, T C Lethbridge, was to involve himself in authorship of books on unorthodox subjects for an academic: ancient religion, dowsing, ESP, and even the ancient astronaut hypothesis.
  • In 1909 Mr Lethbridge of Wales was a Punch and Judy showman just as today Britain’s most controversial monster-hunter Tony ‘Doc’ Shiels, is a stage magician and puppeteer.
  • More significantly, just as at the Scoriton, Devon, landing involving Arthur Bryant and ‘Yamski’, baffling material appeared (and at other CEIII sites). And note the stronger French, rather than German connection.
  • The ‘foreigners’ were working on their machine and mechanical repairs have been a feature of many UFO incidents, perhaps to suggest a nuts and bolts function.
  • Another part of the account repeats the liklihood of the object being released from a steamer in the Bristol Channel, so paralleling the later notion of flying saucers coming from motherships.
  • In addition to tales of other sightings in that day’s paper there was a note of War Office action and its impounding of an object – an air-ship fender supposedly – found the day after an airship flow over Great Clacton. Here we have the shadow of military intervention with witnesses and removal of an artifact.

After such massive publicity, May 21st was no disappointment to readers either. A football shaped object speedily crossed Dublin Bay despite no wind, and a cyclist reported that near Dublin he saw a cigar-shaped object with two lights in front.

At which point enter Percival Spencer’s theory. He owned a company manufacturing airships. Within the past year he could trace two five-man airships sold to a firm in the eastern counties, and another to a man in Cardiff (where the publicised sightings were made. Conveniently or not, Mr Spencer took the opportunity to broadcast that for £250 he could provide more such machines.

More dampening followed with the announcement by the Admiralty that the ‘airship fender’ was one of their gun targets, used in practice, which had become detached, and credibility took another knock with a piece from the Cowes (IOW) correspondent of the Daily Chronicle:

“I have interviewed today a prominent official of the Isle of slight county asylum who expressed the opinion that the mysterious airship was a myth of supposed eyewitnesses who were bordering on ‘aviation insanity’. It is a nightly occurence that the inmates insist they see airships racing around the asylum and will describe their appearance in graphic terms. They are always accompanied by lights and a whirring mound.”

At which point the ‘sinister’ label takes a knock:

“The red label bearing an instruction in French which might have referred to the use of a motor tyre valve has been recognised by the Michelin company as a label attached to a brass pin which is affixed to the inner tube of their motor car tyres. The word ‘obus’ which is French for shrapnel also means valve plug. This disposes of the supposed significance of the discoveries made on the spot where the airship was seen.”

Nevertheless reports were made that day of a Monmouthshire sighting, and for several nights residents of Small Heath Birmingham had seen an airship, believing a local inventor was making trial trips.

Starting with the words “A sensation was created in the neighbourhood of Dunstable…” a report tells us on may 26th that a bamboo framework, powerful lamps and other wreckage was found plus a document stating that any finder would be paid £5. Upon sending a telegram the airship wreckage was removed, and the airship was said to belong to the British agents of a continental motor company and used for advertising purposes.

But the same issue of the Northern Daily Mail includes a piece entitled “Wearside Resident’s Story”. It seems to echo the phenomenon of wished for occurances happening to meet a psychological need:

“Sunderland people have of late had grievance because of the absence of airships which would insist on hovering over their district.
This feeling of injury has, however, now been removed since that section known as Southwick had yesterday an airship story of its own to gossip about. But in no jocular spirit are those who swear they saw the flying machine.”

This light in the sky had illumination radiating, and it chose to project it on a new Roman Catholic church above which it manouvered for three to four minutes before speeding off at tremendous speed. The stewardess of Southwick Club and others corroborated the account and said the noisy object was an airship with car.On June 5th an account of an airship over Jarrow Slake, on Tyneside, recorded “at times the object would be motionless and aj;. others would dart in different directions” (hardly dirigible behaviour).


By June 14th the paper was disclaiming the mystery of the Tyneside appearance, and said that a company was making experimental flights with the airship. True to form, someone came up with an all-encompassing bid to nix the tale and take personal credit. A Dr M B Boyd claimed that he had spent eight years perfecting his airship, though it had only been built for one year. The report however fails to answer most points, some of the discrepancies being:

  • Average speed 32 mph, so no fast disappearance.
  • Oval, rather than cigar shaped.
  • No car suspended
  • It had wheels so that on the ground it could be driven like a motor car
  • Although the arclight had been invented in the 19th century, searchlights of the type required extremely heavy equipment, and the only lights that could be used on an airship were dim, incandescent ones incapable of creating the extent of illumination claimed.

Dr Boyd’s claims are reminiscent of the self-proclaimed inventor from Worcester, Massachussetts, who became the focus of many press stories on the 1909 US flap, described in John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse. Tillinghast boasted of taking his invention at least 300 miles non-stop at 120 mph. An early investigative reporter found fourteen men working at a secret shed near Worcester, Mass. but he was unable to confirm or deny the presence of an airship. Keel propounds an ingenious explanation involving an encounter between Tillinghast and ultraterrestsials. I prefer not to comment on this, but merely note the interesting comparison between the parallel mystery inventor tales documented by newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.

All we know is that something was going on, and being reported as faithfully as the journalists of their day knew how.

UFO Witnesses, Public Property?
Harry Tokarz

Harry Tokarz was founder of the Canadian UFO Bureau. This article comes from MUFOB new series 11, Summer 1978.

Throughout the past 30 years UFO investigators have amassed a wealth of reports dealing with close encounters by credible witnesses. Many of these reports have proven invaluable to those who have dedicated themselves towards the task of piecing together one of the greatest scientific puzzles of the 20th century. Data has been passed on to scientists and amateur researchers alike by UFO percipients, contactees and abductees, and this information is scrutinised, evaluated and catalogued for reference. In effect, people from all walks of life and from throughout the world have contributed graciously to this ongoing investigation by having the public spirit to step forward and relate their UFO experiences to competent parties. These people have, by working closely with investigators, unwittingly persuaded us to look at ourselves and our universe in a different way.

Although these witnesses have greatly assisted one part of the population, their stories seem to have an adverse effect on another group. Many eventually suffer indignities from those who cannot fathom their claims. Have you ever noticed the behavioural effects that the mere suspicion of the UFO ‘presence’ has on a large proportion of our society? UFO witnesses have been troubled by such manifestations for years.

There is no ‘average’ UFO witness. People from all walks of the population and from various ranks of the military services have been unexpectedly confronted by unusual ariel phenomenon. Subsequent investigations have borne out the validity of their testimony, and they are resentful of the flimsy explanations that are often thrown to the public. These people are in a very precarious position, and there is little they can do, and what happens to the witness after the investigations is unfortunately beyond the control of the investigators or the witnesses themselves. UFO investigators invariably hear a frequently repeated complaint from witnesses: “I wish I had never reported this sighting”.What is behind this regret? Were they so severely traumatised by their UFO encounter that
they could not cope with it afterwards? Some certainly were, but out of a cross-section of 31 close encounter cases studied, 28 were definitely not. What the majority of the percipients dreaded since the day they made that fateful report was the ‘depraved’ public reaction. Since their report they seemed to inherit a wide variety of new difficulties. The emotional impact is tremendous and the UFO incident becomes secondary in this new chain of events.

In many cases the UFO witness stands alone against vast numbers of curious, sceptical and downright hostile people who do their best to make his or her life miserable. Immediately following the press reports and the spate of unwanted publicity, an interesting variety of characters come ‘out of the woodwork’ to converge on the home and privacy of the vulnerable ‘celebrity’. If the hoards of curiosity seekers and ‘little old ladies in tennis shoes’ with tape recorders were not enough to contend with, many witnesses in recent years have been intimidated by a now breed of visitor: the violently disposed. They are awakened by publicity given to a witness and seem to object to the ‘candidness’ of a percipient, sometimes to the extent of threatening death if he continues to repeat his story. The very existence of a significant UFO report or a sighting of ‘entities’ affects the security off many people in different ways. Some turn to ‘hard’ scepticism, and successfully convince themselves ‘It can’t be, therefore it isn’t’. These people become harmless ‘scoffers’, unwilling to recognise that their attitude is emotionally rooted.

But what about the deranged individual who would threaten the witness or attempt to ruin his livelihood because his report aroused some dark emotion? The general public is largely unaware of the continual harrasment incurred by percipients, even years after their report is made public.

Robert Suffern knows he saw an ‘extraterrestrial’ being near his Bracegirdle, Ontario farmhouse on October 7th, 1975, and sceptics be damned! If only it were as simple as that. The 27-year-old carpenter encountered a darkened circular craft in the middle of a gravel road, and nearly run down a small, silver-suited, helmeted figure, while investigating a report that his barn was on fire. Suffern was shaken by the event, but he was a reliable witness and gave researchers some excellent details, and provided a ‘scoop’ for reporters, who considered it good copy. His troubles had just begun.

By October 9th the wire services had picked up his story and many newspapers played up the sensational aspects. Then followed an almost ritualistic parade of investigators, reporters, curiosity-seekers and outright cranks, to the Suffern’s farm. One group set up a night vigil ‘skywatch post’ on the roof of the house. In the weeks that followed, Suffern was inundated with uninvited visitors who tramped around his property day and night. The phone rang continuously at all hours and he eventually had to get an

 unlisted number. As a father of two he became justifiably furious at two men who drove up one day in a Volkswagen and threatened his family if he persisted in talking to investigators. He ejected them from his property but the threat remained in his mind, and caused his considerable mental anguish. Two years later, with the movie Close Encounters rekindling public interest in the UFO phenomenon, Suffern reports that his children have “once again started receiving the treatment at school”. To a parent this represents one of the worst forms of cruelty one can inflict upon a child. Suffern finds it incredible that his children should be subjected to ridicule for an experience he himself had two years earlier, and one to which he does not seem to attatch a great deal of importance. In his own words: “I know what I saw, and seeing is believing but I don’t care whether I ever saw that creature again. If it happened all over again I would never tell anybody!”

To make matters worse, various religious groups have capitalised on his experience, and attempted to convert him to their beliefs. The crank mail keeps rolling in like clockwork.For many individuals the mere mention of the UFO phenomenon stirs up deep-seated fears. For some, the mere hint that ‘their’ world and ‘their’ state of being are not the centre of the universe is enough to release a lifetime of pent-up emotions and frustrations. Chronically unstable individuals may react violently towards any unfortunate UFO witness who crosses their path. Man reacts to a given situation on the basis of habit and precedent. The ‘unknown’ presents a problem. Harmless ‘rejection’ of any subject comes easily if the person has only been fleetingly exposed to it. Perhaps the crank who surfaces after a well publicised UFO incident senses ‘truth’ in the incident, cannot reject it as a hoax and thus appease his fears, so sets out to silence the percipient.

As a matter of note, these individuals should not be confused with the many Men in Black reports, since they have distinct identities and have been tracked down by law enforcement agencies in many cases. In one particular incident a veteran publisher of UFO literature in Toronto received a series of handwritten letters threatening his life if he continued to publish UFO books. The anonymous writer professed intimate knowledge of UFOs and seemed ‘disturbed’ by the accuracy of various accounts being published. The handwriting was eventually traced to a former subscriber who felt it was his duty to harrass researchers and witnesses alike. He was reprimanded by the local police, but the following week the publisher received an identical letter.

In some cases the harrassers, when confronted off guard, seem hypnotically entranced. Some feel they have a mission to accomplish. John Keel has concluded that many individuals are ‘manipulated’ by unseen forces connected with the UFO phenomenon, and carry out ‘assignments’ of which they have no knowledge afterwards. The answers to the immediate problems of UFO witnesses are rather more mundane. One must ask, can public attitudes really be expected to change when our own governments have systematically been contributing to the problem for the last thirty years?

Carmen Cuneo, a worker at the Domtar Mines in Caledonia, Ontario, thinks not. His troubles began after he observed three stationary UFOs at close range one night while leaving the mine to relive himself. In addition to the landed cigar-shaped craft with two smaller disc-like objects hovering close to it, he spotted several small beings moving around the landed object. It was clear that he was watching a so-called “soil gathering party” in progress, and he retreated to get the mine forman as a back-up witness. As he returned with the forman Merv Hannigan they both had time to watch the three craft slowly depart into the night.

The following day, after traces were found and an oily substance discovered in the area, Cuneo and the forman were subjected to a series of insults both from the mine management as well as from their co-workers. The ridicule was tolerable, but then Cuneo received a telephone call at home one day, which was not so easy to ignore. According to Cuneo “the caller knew a lot about me personally and he seemed very up-tight about me telling the story around”. The clincher came when the anonymous ‘military-type’ voice threatened injury to his family if he continued to discuss the case. The perplexed miner took it to be a hoax, but chose to keep quiet and get an unlisted phone number “just in case”. The flow of weird calls then ceased, but Cuneo has never ceased to wonder about what kind of characters he was really dealing with on the phone. Were they capable of carrying out their threats? Those calls still haunt his memory.


He came face to face with a six-foot metallic creature standing in the middle of the road.

The dark-age mentality apparently still flourishes in the twentieth century; we still find self-professed witch-hunters who have not come to grips with the times. If you still doubt that UFO reports don’t arouse man’s vilest emotions, consider the following cases of ‘lynch mob’ mentality.

The first case involves Jeff Greenhaw, another credible person thrown into an incredible set of circumstances. At 23 years old. Greenhaw was the police chief of Falkville, Alabama, with the distinction of being the youngest in the state. One night in October 1973 he received a call from an anonymous woman who claimed a spaceship with blinking lights was landing in a pasture west of town. Greenhaw drove along a gravel road towards the site when, nearly two miles from the police station, he came face to face with a six-foot metallic creature standing in the middle of the road.

“I got out of my car and said ‘Howdy stranger”, Greenhaw related, “He didn’t say a word. I reached back, picked up my polaroid camera, and started taking pictures of him”. Greenhaw took four polaroid colour prints. He then got back in his patrol car, and turned on the flashing police light. A chase ensued, in which Greenhaw eventually ‘spun out’ at 45 mph on the gravel road, claiming that the creature actually outran the car.

After he related his story and presented his photos on NBC-TV news, he began receiving anonymous threatening phone calls. A man telephoned Mrs Greenhaw stating, “I’m going to get your husband for taking my picture:” More threats rolled in day after day. Three days after the incident, Greenhaw’s car ‘blew up’. Two weeks after that an arsonist set fire to the family’s house-trailer and completely destroyed it. To make things worse his wife decided she had ‘had enough’, left him and sued for divorce. Shortly after that Greenhaw resigned as Police Chief under pressure from the City Council. Before being literaly ‘driven out of town’, the young lawman, a graduate of the Alabama Police Academy, stated bitterly to pursuing reporters: “I’ve been harrassed ever since I photographed that thing. I don’t see how much worse my luck can get.”

Actually, ‘luck’ played no part in these events. Greenhaw’s problems were created, instigated and carried out by the very people he once protected in his line of duty. The emotionally rooted biases of an entire town had destroyed a man whose only crime was to photograph an “alien entity”. As to the authenticity of the incident, a UFO investigator who followed the case closely stated: “Anybody who attempted such a hoax would have been foolhardy to try and frighten a (armed) policeman”. But authentic or not, it is clear that the very idea of an extraterrestrial being spotted near their town completely transformed normally rational townspeople into terrorists with an axe to grind. Time after time it is proved that ignorance breeds fear.

schirmerIn the following case the aftermath was even more dramatic, and the witness was plagued by “seven years of rotten luck”. But, spin, luck seems to have had nothing to do with it, rather a lack of education and emotional instability. Herb Schirmer,[left] like Jeff Greenhaw, also held the distinction of being the youngest police chief in his state. In 1967 he held this rank in the town of Ashland in Nebraska. One December night when on patrol he came upon a massive ‘saucer-shaped’ craft at the side of the highway. Thinking at first he may have been coming upon a truck accident, it soon became clear that he had stumbled upon a ‘flying saucer’. He then saw a glowing humanoid figure moving towards his car, and attempted to draw his gun. At this point he found himself immobilised, although his senses were still with him. He claims that the creature applied an instrument to the back of his neck, leaving an unusual welt, which remains on his neck. He then blacked out.Later he came to his senses and raced back to town. When he reported the bizarre incident, it became obvious that there was a length of time which he could not account for. In the course of investigations Dr Leo Sprinkle put Schirmer under regressive hypnosis, whereupon Schirmer reported that he had been taken on board the craft and had
communicated with the ‘alien’ he had met. A wealth of information was obtained through many hypnotic sessions, but as researchers know only too well, the data obtained is difficult to evaluate, since ‘alien communications’ over the years have been invariably misleading and confusing. Physical traces were found at the site; a piece of ‘shiny metal’ disappeared into the hands of military investigators; the tape of Schirmer’s emergency radio transmission to HQ vanished, and the familiar pattern of controversy began.There was the usual barrage of threatening phone calls, followed by the dynamiting of his car, culminating in the hanging and burning of an effigy of the police chief in the centre of the town. Remember, this was 1967, not 1567!

Schirmer’s wife eventually succumbed to the campaign of terror and divorced him. Like a re-run of the Greenhaw affair, the Ashland Town Council also fired him from his prestigious job. Years of ‘bad luck’ then followed him around as he moved from state to state trying to establish new roots and forget about his experience with the UFO. As fate would have it, his picture and story were well publicised at the time, and he was constantly recognised as “that UFO nut from Nebraska”. At one point he had saved enough money from menial jobs to form a business partnership in the state of Washington, until one day his partner came across a news cutting of the events in Nebraska and absconded with all the funds. For some UFO witnesses there seems no escape from the harrassment and degradation.

A noted psychiatrist involved in the study of UFO witnesses, Dr Berthold Schwarz, has said that: “anybody who’s been in the field for a long time and studied the people part of the UFO equation has got involved in the thing with his own emotions. He’s been ripped up himself”. A well known contactee of the early fifties, Howard Menger, gave an emotional speech in 1967 to sum up his alleged experiences. To the Congress of Scientific Ufolagists he stated:

“I often wonder what would happen to those people who say, well what proof do you have? If I could see a flying saucer or someone step out of a craft, boy, I would make sure people knew about it. Well, I just wonder about that. If you realise what people go through when this happens to them. If you really think you have guts enough to come out and tell people. Of course nowadays it may be a little easier, but in the early fifties it was very, very rough, especially when you are in business and you are trying to act like a reputable citizen and bring up a family and, you know, things like this in your community”.

Time and time again, people who see UFOs and their occupants at short range are victimised. Who can they turn to? The sad answer is nobody. UFO organisations around the word are concerned to elicit information from the witness, to “sort the wheat from the chaff”, and offer a certain degree of consolation. But they are not equipped to deal with the psychological problems that develop from harrassment by misguided people. To make matters worse, the military establishment and law enforcement agencies, whom the public should be able to turn to in Ihis kind of crisis has itself become a symbol of distrust in UFO related matters. Those individuals who desparatly turned to the aimed services or the Air Force in the past, soon came away realising that they would rather face the ‘public nuisances’.

The crux of the matter lies in mankind’s complex belief structures; frames of reference that are squired through human experience, and actions that have always been used in this stimulus. And with his dual nature the actions have been both positive and negative.To the close encounter UFO witness who is prepared to come forward with his experience for us to study, we can offer out thanks… and our condolences.



Fairies and Fireballs.
Peter Rogerson

left-frameFrom MUFOB New Series 9, Winter 1977-78

A Moravian fairy-tale communicated to GEPA, the well-known French UFO group, by a Mr Chaloupek, relates how, one day in the mid seventeenth century in the village of Chechy Pod Kosirem, near Prostejov, the village baker’s daughter was delivering some milk-rolls to the castle. In a turning she met a strange little man who sprung up in front of her. He siezed the three rolls, bit into one of them then spat it out in disgust. He did this with the other two rolls, before disappearing back into the woods. Shortly afterwards she saw a fireball rise up into the sky (1).

The little man was probably a water-nix, and there is surely some significance in the mystic three rolls. His rejection of the rolls acts as a mirror image of the traditional need to reject fairy food. Presumably the rolls are as tasteless to nixes as the fairy chocolate was to the unfortunate motorcyclist of Les Routiers

Fairies have been associated with fireballs in more recent times. One wild and stormy night in 1948 a shepherd was sheltering from the storm with his sheep, in a hut near Yaste Monastery near the town of Garganta Il Olla, Spain. He heard voices outside, and on opening the door saw a small man, who he invited in. Only when the being stood warming himself before the newly lit fire did the poor shepherd realise that his visitor had a very develish cloven hoof. He screamed in panic, and ‘Pan’ fled through the door. Only then did he see the fairy fireball ascending into the stormy sky. The poor man was now convinced that he had had a visitor from regions somewhat warmer than sunny Spain! He became a fervent churchgoer! (3)

This, incidentally, was not the first Magonia-inspired conversion in Garganta la Ollo. Fourteen years previously, in October 1934, an old lady saw a strange being in a silver suit, and a voice “in her head” announced the birth of her grandson. As she ran towards this being it vanished. When she found the grandchild had indeed been born, she demanded he be christened ‘Angel’. (4)

In view of the satyr-like qualities of the Spanish fireball fairy, it is significant that Hartland (5) mentions a Moravian tale of a bride who shuts herself up every eighth day. When her husband peeps through a keyhole, he behold her thighs clad with fur, and her feet those of a goat.

The classic case of a fireball fairy is that seen by children of Premanon, who in September 1954 (again on a rainy night) met a walking ‘sugar cube’. One of the startled youngsters receiving an electric shock from this bionic boggart! As at Yuste Monastery, the fairy left in a luminous reddish fireball which left marks on the ground, including a fairy-ring of flattened grass (6).

The fairy fireball is perhaps the traditional will of the wisp, which is also said to signify the presence of fairies. I am sure that there are traditional stories of fairies seeking shelter from storms, though I cannot find any to hand. Perhaps one of our kind readers can help?


  1. Communication from Alma Camard.
  2. FSR, volume 21, number 6, page 20.
  3. Ballester-Olmos. Catalogue of Type I UFO Reports in Spain and Portugal. Case 7.
  4. Ballester-Olmos. op. cit., case 4.
  5. HARTLAND, Edwin S. The Science of Fairytales; an Enquiry into Fairy Mythology. Methuen,1925.
  6. VALEE, Jacques and Janine. Challenge to Science. Spearman, 1967.


Recent UK Contact Reports
Jenny Randles

In an early MUFOB (number 7, Summer 1977) Jenny Randles muses on some British cases which blurred the lines between close encounter, contactee and abductee

When I first came naively onto the UFO scene some seven or eight years ago it was through the customary grounding in paperbacks, where I was continually told that UFOs were spacecraft from somewhere, even though I soon discovered the contactees themselves could never agree from where! It is probably this indoctrination in the ETH that attracts people to the subject in the first place. It is also a factor which puts them off when they find that ETH theories tend to have holes in them big enough to fly Starship Enterprise (or Capt. Kirk’s ego) through. Many others are not put off, because they just refuse to accept the truth. In this sense truth is a relative term. If Joe Soap wishes to believe in something then he does. Whether or not this is ‘true’ in a material sense does not matter it is true so far as Joe is concerned, and that is the important point’.

ETH theories tend to have holes in them big enough to fly Starship Enterprise (or Capt. Kirk’s ego) through

A similar situation seems to arise in relation to some UFO witnesses, who experience subjective events in a highly personalised manner. We have had many examples of ‘Psychic Contactees’ recently, and I feel their study is important to our awakening understanding of the phenomemnon.

A typical example is the story of Mrs Lainchbury from Little Lever, near Bolton, Greater Manchester (1) In 1964 she claims that she was first approached by a being wearing a suit of black rings. He visited her following a malfunction of his craft, which Mrs Lainchbury witnessed. In this initial visit and subsequent ones over a period of three years, the entity, joined later by three others, just materialised and dematerialised in the bedroom. Their origin was given as Pluto, which name was formed by letters in mid-air. The whole experience seems ‘unreal’ and yet the original sighting apparently left physical traces in the form of burn marks on outside paintwork which have been attested to by many witnesses. They appeared suddenly over the night when the object supposedly malfunctioned.

We must obviously ask about the above case “Did Mrs Lainchbury build this story out of a possibly genuine UFO Sighting?” The alternative, assuming she is not lying, is that the affair did happen as a ‘real’ event; the entities did appear in physical form in her bedroom. It seems to make little sense if this point is accepted to believe that they genuinely came from Pluto, where life forms of their apparent type could not exist. One might argue that they had constructed a scenario for Mrs Lainchbury – either changing to a physical form acceptable to her, or lying about their origin. The question then is, why do so? And why direct this deception at this elderly lady?

A case very similar to this concerns a Mrs H, a middle-aged housewife living in Belfast (2). She lives in an area where the current [1977] violence is at its height, and she is obviously under great pressure in raising her family. Has this led her to construct an involvement with benevolent space-beings as a personal security for her family?

Mrs H claims that in 1969 she first visited a spacecraft by being ‘lifted out of her own body’ (cf. astral projection). She was taken from her bed into a huge spacecraft where many entities in bright clothes showed her around. Since then she says she has been back many times, and has been taken all over Ireland in the craft. She has been told many things and has been asked to write a book to try and solve the sectarian strife. She has so far refrained from this; fearing reprisals on her family, but seems to be driving herself, or is being driven, towards this goal. The question which remains is whether this is a personal motivation which is taking an external form, or if there is some objective, external cause.

When the previous cases are studied in detail they do not display typical ufological factors. One might well be tempted to dismiss them as ‘irrelevant’. However it must be borne in mind that these experiences were undergone by sincere individuals who had no desire for publicity – indeed quite the reverse, One cannot furnish a simple explanation for them, although one might suspect a psychological one at the root. It is as important to remember that they are meaningful to both witnesses. By any definition they are a type of UFO report, and worthy of our attention.

We now move to a case which has many typical ufological features, but is also highly subjective. This is the case of Mr L from West Yorkshire (3). In February 1976 he claims, in similar manner to Mrs H, that he was transported from bed into a spacecraft. He he underwent a medical examination by entities which he described in terms remarkably reminiscent of those allegedly encountered by the Hills (4). The beings were indifferent, but very arrogant, claiming that the witness was “an insignificant being such as a worm”. At the close of the encounter he was left paralysed on his bed, while the entities simply disappeared.

If we consider the case in detail too many correlations with the Hills’ story emerge. There has been no evidence found to support the idea that the witness had studied this encounter to the extent needed to gain the information which overlapped. On the other hand there is medical evidence to suggest that this was a hypnogogic experience. Here we must ask how it could be that such a ‘classic’ UFO encounter may be almost entirely subjective.

Finally let us look at two cases from what appears to have been a recent British wave. To any initial view they are objective and important UFO events. But it is interesting to note that although the scene in both cases is the real world (ie outside the witnesses bedroom), and despite the incidence of more than one witness in each case, there are striking parallels with our previous ‘Psychic Contactees’.#

On September 3, 1976 an elderly woman and her eighteen year old niece saw a grounded UFO at the little village of Fencehouses, Co. Durham (5). It was a very small object, about three-and-a-half feet by five feet, with a smooth glassy surface that the older woman says she touched. On top was a small orange dome, and it was sitting on sledge-like runners of steel or chrome. The witnesses were attracted towards it and appeared to enter a hypnotic state where time stood still. They met two tiny beings with long hair, but no communication ensued. They then lost all sense of time, and the object shot upwards making a humming noise.

A more renowned case concerns Mrs Joyce Bowles and Mr Ted Pratt, who on November 14, 1976 confronted a landed UFO by the side of the Winchester bypass near Chilcomb (6). Their car swerved across the road and apparently hit an invisible barrier. A bearded entity then walked over to the car and looked in. As he did so the engine, which had stalled, started to life. The witnesses do not know how the entity or object disappeared – it was just gone. The area was examined within twenty-four hours, and despite numerous car tracks on the soft earth by the roadside there was no trace of any object having landed at the place where it was supposedly seen. The case has become even more confused since, with claims that the two witnesses were abducted onto a craft and their car teleported several miles. Additionslaly stories are now emerging of ‘psychic’ experiences by Mrs Bowles before the original event, including the appearance of ghost-like ‘spacemen’ inside her house (7).

 It is too easy to equate not thinking with having an open mind!

Quite clearly, what at first are two ‘normal’ close encounters become subjective cases of a high degree of strangeness. However one cannot adopt a straightforward hallucinatory explanation for a case involving two witnesses.

One of the prerequisites for serious involvement in ufology is an open mind. Most ufologists do not appear to have one, even some of those who think that they do. This does not mean that one is not allowed to think, it is too easy to equate not thinking with having an open mind. The rearguard action one faces from those trying desperately to defend the ETH is amazing, and yet by my own admission we cannot just discount it. Nevertheless I have long since seen it as a more remote possibility.

Until very recently my mind turned towards interdimensional ideas for the origin of UFOs. I fell in love with the Flatland analogy, where we we consider a being on a flat surface. A three dimensional object passing through the surface would only be detected at the moment it passed through the creatures two dimensional sensory field. It would be unsensed when it was above or below the surface; suddenly appear, change shape and disappear as it passed through. This seems to fit the phenomenon rather too well to be sheer coincidence and I feel that some intermixing of a dimensional scale is a probable source of some UFO phenomena.

Whatever theory is true, and it seems more likely that we do not have just one answer, it has to explain two factors. Firstly the apparent co-development of the phenomenon throughout history, since prehistoric times (8); and secondly the manner in which it reflects the social factors of the period, and is subjectively interpreted in line with these.

I hope this brief look at some of Britain’s current close encounter cases has made you think. It would be very hard to accept these as evidence of any kind of objective phenomenon. One is led towards a subjective approach. Whether this is entirely a product of ourselves in the form of an unexplained psychological or sociological factor, or whether there is some objective external force which is manipulating our experiences, I do not know. Quite possibly we never shall. At the moment I tend to favour the latter possibility as a result of some personal experiences I have recently undergone (9), but I fully recognise even this evidence is not conclusive and could still point to an internal mechanism for the phenomenon.

It is important for us to continue our studies, whatever the source. There is some hope for the ‘diehard’ objective reality believers, as there are still radar/visual, photographic, and physical trace reports which seem to point in this direction. However many more such events are shown to have perfectly normal explanations; but there is sufficient reason to believe that there could be unexplained pt~yebal phenomena at work in the generation of these repotts. Further than that I do not think we can go. There is reason to suppose that the close-encounter event as described in this article may be an entirely different phenomenon to what we normally view as the UFO. If that is true then all our verbal battling concerning ‘hardware’ versus psychological explanations may be fruitless. We could be studying two different things, and both solutions could be correct.


  1. Flying Saucer Review, 22,3.
  2. A full report on this case has been produced by the Irish UFO Research Centre.
  3. Northern UFO News, August 1976; Awareness, Autumn, 1976; BUFORA Journal, November-December, 1976.
  4. FULLER, J G. The Interrupted Journey; BOWEN, C. The Humanoids
  5. Northern UFO News, February 1977.
  6. Flying Saucer Review, 22,5.
  7. The News [precurson of Fortean Times], No. 3. for an account of poltergeist activity at Mrs Bowles home.
  8. Flying Saucer Review, 15,6


The Danish Airship of 1908
Willy Wegner

From MUFOB New Series 9, Winter 1977-8.

Throughout the years 1896 and 1897 unknown airships were seen over North America by thousands of people, although their origin has never been satisfactorily explained. These airships have now become part of the UFO myth, and are considered to be the starting point of the phenomenon in the USA. However, sightings have been made in other places, notably England (1) and New Zealand in 1909.

UFO sightings are a global phenomenon, and generally speaking, the reported activities of the UFOs are similar throughout the world. I was interested to find out if this also applied to the airship sightings, and it was with faint expectations that I began researching in 1975 to see if there was a Danish equivalent of the North American wave. Whilst going through old Danish newspapers I arrived at the time of the Tunguska episode in 1908, when a supposed meteorite exploded over the Siberian tundra. Here I found my first trace. In the newspaper Thisted Amstidende for July 7th 1908 there appears under the heading “Mysterious Phenomena” a short account of some reports of a dirigible operating over the Vendsyssel at night (See box below). The report also stated that a burning, balloon shaped object had been seen over the island of Funen. I followed the story up by searching through other newspapers that covered the Vendayssel area in 1908.

The first mention of the phenomenon appears in the Vendsyssel Tidende and the Aalborg Amtsidende for June 30th. Mr Bye-Jorgensen, an accountant, was watching the evening sky from his villa in Hasseris. At 22.50 hrs an object like a large bird caught his eye. He brought his binoculars, and saw through them that it was a large, long object like an airship. He estimated it to be about 30 kilometers away, at an elevation of 30 degrees. At one point, when it was possible to see the object straight on, something could be seen protruding from it, which was taken to be some sort of motor or steering equipment. During the half-hour that the object was visible it passed behind a cloud for a moment, before disappearing in a north-westerly direction. Bye-Jorgensen afterwards insisted that tie object had moved against the wind. His maid was also a witness to the observation.

Both newspapers wanted the matter to be investigated further. Other people in various towns in the Vendsyssel were asked if they had seen anything. As a result, a man from Hjorring reported a bright light in the southern sky at 21.30 hrs on 29th June. The light was very intense, and at first he had thought it to be fireworks, but said it was too high in the sky for that, and had stood still for a while before disappearing. “It could have been the lanterns on an airship,” wrote one of the newspapers.

There were others who had seen something that night. Mr Wibroe, a factory owner from Nibe told the following story to the Aalborg paper on July 2nd:

“At 22.25 hrs I was sitting looking out of my window. Over O]and, between Hojskoven and Osterby, I saw a large object about the size of an eagle. Through my binoculars I could see two wings, but in about ten minutes it disappeared from view over Jammer Bay. Three other members of my family also saw the airship.”

At 23.00 hrs the airship was seen by a farmer’s son from Norhalne. He saw it flying northwards, and said there was a kind of ‘aura’ around it. Something was seen by two labourers in Robling, about 7km. south of Aalborg. One of them described it as like a “large stork soaring in the air.” They both agreed it could have been an airship. They had it in view for about twenty minutes. It was also seen further north-west. The nearest witness was probably Jakob Kirkeskov. He  saw it between 22.00 and 23.00 hrs. It was only about 130 meters away from him, in a northwesterly direction. He claimed to have seen an antennae at the front of the object, as well as wings on the side.

On the 3rd July, the Vendsyssel Tidende reported that they had received a letter from a W. Wolff from Kraghede School at Tylstrup. Along with his wife and another couple they had seen an odd, dark shape in the evening sky. They had seen it in the direction of Rubjerg Lighthouse, and had first thought it to be an odd shaped cloud, but then thought it resembled an odd shaped bird. It disappeared from view after a quarter of an hour.On the 4th July, the same paper published a letter, datelined Gammel Skagen, 3rd July 1908.

“To the Editor… You might be interested to know that the airship, mentioned in Tuesday’s edition of your honoured paper, was also seen at Skagen by Dr. Mestergaade and the chemist in Skagen, as well as by Peter Christian Peterson from Gammel Skagen… At about midnight on the night of Saturday/Sunday, the doctor pointed out a dark object to my informant Petersen. It seemed to change shape regularly, and gave out two beams of light, one down to the water and the other upwards (2).

About half an hour earlier the chemist had seen the same object out over the sea to the north. Two other men saw it after midnight, disappearing in a northerly direction.

The witnesses were not aware that it could have been the airship. It was only when they read of other observations in your newspaper that they realised the object must have been the airship. The change in shape could have been due to the object’s motion. The beams of light had the same characteristics as a light projector.”

The newspaper phoned Dr. Mestergaard in Skagen. He confirmed the observation, adding that he had seen a very strong silvery light showing for about a quarter of an hour. The newspaper then regarded it as proven that there had been several successful flights of a dirigible airship of an advanced type which was able to fly against the wind.

Naturally there was great speculation as to where the unknown craft had originated. Count von Zeppelin’s craft was quickly excluded, because, as a newspaper wrote: “It could not have come this far up without warning over the electric telegraph”. In July 1908 von Zeppelin was with the airship LZ4. Its flight is exactly charted, from Friedrichshafer, via Schaffhausen, to Lucerne, Zurich and back to Badensee, a trip of about 300 kilometers. Von Zeppelin had another airship, the LZ3, It was built in October 1906, and undertook several succeasful flights. It was later handed over to the German Army, and was first laid up in 1913. I have been unable to establish an alibi for it for 29th June 1908, so until further notice this possibility remains.

But there were others, besides von Zeppelin who laid built airships in Germany. The airship Gross-Basenach I, in which the German major Gross made an ascent had crashed in the treetops of the Grunevald Forest. August von Parseval had built his first airship in 1906, and by 1908 both his airships PL2 and PL3 must have been airworthy. One of the greatest flights mentioned in connection with the PL2 was on 15th September 1908, when the airship travelled 290 km. in 11 hours from Berlin.

Two French airships were also operating in 1908, the Republique and the Ville de Paris. The former made its maiden flight on the 24th June from Moisson. The Ville de Paris made its longest trip on the 15th January 1908; 238 kms. from Verdun to Sartrouville-Valmy. It was then in the workshops being rebuilt, not emerging until October 1908 as the Ville de Paris II.

The theory that it was an English airship was popularly accepted at the time. The British fleet had planned a large exercise in the North Sea, and Esbjerg and Skagen had received naval visits. I have tried to examine this possibility in detail. I wrote to the Air Force Library and asked for information about the Vendsyssel airships. I wanted to know if it was possibly the English dirigible Nulli Secundus II. They were unable to give me any information concerning Vendsyssel, but sent material which proved it could not have been the Nulli Secundus. The trial flight of this craft took place in July 1908, and lasted only 18 minutes. In the middle of August it went out of commission. There was only one other English airship aloft in the crucial period, the Beta. It was a very slow craft, and one of its more notable flights was from Farnborough to London and back in 1910, a distance of only 40 miles. I have been able to furnish more information to the (Danish) Air Force Library, who are also trying to find a solution to the problem.The results of our combined efforts can be summarised as follows:

  1. Many independent witnesses saw something, which they described as an airship, in the sky over the Vendayasel area of Northern Denmark in June 1908.
  2. There were no officially notified flights in that period.
  3. It is established that there was no possibility of it being a British airship, as was generally supposed at the time.
  4. An examination of the flight characteristics and known movements of other airships of that period make it very unlikely that a French or German vessel could have flown in secret to this part of Denmark.

This mysterious craft must for now be classified as an Unidentified Flying Object, although the possibility of it being an airship of German origin is being explored further by military sources in West Germany.


1. CLARK, Jerome and Loren COLEMAN, The Unidentified. Warner Paperback Library, 1975; GROVE, Carl, The airship wave of 1909. FSR, volume 16, number 6, November December 1970.
2. Searchlight-like beams of light feature in many of the 1897 and 1909 reports. They are not a feature of regular airship construct-ion of the period.


John Keel, in an article in Flying Saucer Review (Vol. 16, number 3, May 1970) reports two other Scandinavian sightings of 1909. The first was on August 24th, when an unidentified airship circled twice over the Estonian capital of Tallinn, disappearing in the direction of Finland. According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens-Nyheter it so alarmed the local people that they demanded the formation of a ‘defensive air-fleet’.On the 24th September a ‘winged object’ was reported over the Castle Forest near Gothenburg in Sweden, at an altitude of about 100 meters. With the 1908-9 airships, the ‘Ghost Flyers’ of the 30′s and the mystery ‘rockets’ of 1946 Scandinavia is emerging as a major source of historical UFO reports. These reports are particularly interesting as they show almost to perfection the way in which the phenomenon mirrors the technology of the time.



From different areas of Vendsyssel have come reports in the past few days of a dirigible airship equipped with electric light projectors, which moved along the coast by Jammer Bay, and came inland several times.

The airship is only seen by night, but is nevertheless seen by many people, who give more or less fantastic descriptions of the sight. It is generally thought to be some sort of balloon experiment by the British Navy in Valbaek Bay.

This information is fully supported by Politiken’s reporter in Fyn, who telegraphed the following story:”Friday evening at half past ten a large vague, burning object shaped like a balloon was seen low over the southerly horizon from Odense. After some time the balloon divided into several parts, and it looked as if large areas of burning matter flew to all sides. Several observers immediately cycled in the direction of the sight, but it had disappeared. Hundreds of people saw the phenomenon, and are all agreed it must have been a burning balloon. Out in the country, no one has seen the phenomenon close to.”




1, Aalborg; 2, Thisted; 3, Esbjerg; 4, Nibe; 5, Skagen and Gammel Skagen; 6, Odense; 7, Jammer Bay.

Vendsyssel is the northenmost island of Denmark where Thisted and the Skagens are situated

This article was translated from the Danish by Annette Barfod.