In June and July, the UK network television broadcaster, Channel 5, aired a four-part series entitled Britain’s Closest Encounters. Produced by Firefly Film and Television Productions, the series was narrated by Anthony Head and featured UFO eyewitnesses and experts from all around the United Kingdom.
The first episode focussed upon the notorious Berwyn Mountains Incident from 1974. During the evening of January 23rd, 1974, the town of Landrillo in North Wales was shaken by an earthquake. In nearby Corwen, Sergeant Elfed Roberts (who would go on to become the Assistant Chief Constable of North Wales Police) feared that the dam at nearby Bala had breached and rushed to investigate. Satisfied that the dam was secure, he headed for Bala Police Station, where the phones were ringing almost constantly. Reports were coming in from the residents of Landrillo about lights in the sky. A ‘ball of fire with a tail’ was seen coming down over the mountains close to the village.
Sergeant Roberts and a colleague headed out to Landrillo and witnessed an arcing, green light, with blue edges, in the sky, unlike anything Roberts had seen before. When they arrived in the village, the locals told of what they had seen. Fearful that an aircraft might have crashed, the policemen began searching the area. Commandeering a local farmer’s Land Rover, they headed up the mountain, sweeping the area with their torches. Then they decided to switch off the flashlights and waited quietly to see if anything unusual could be seen or heard.
A few miles away, local nurse, Pat Evans, also feared a plane had crashed and set off with her daughters to see if anybody required medical assistance. She described seeing a circular, red light with other lights moving around it. Meanwhile, Sergeant Roberts’ search proved fruitless.
The next day, the media descended upon Landrillo, curious about the strange story coming from the village. Astronomer, Dr Ron Maddison arrived with colleagues and began searching for what he suspected was a meteorite coming down in the mountains. No evidence was ever found of a plane crash or a meteorite impact. The mystery persisted.
The British Geological Survey had measured an earthquake in the area with a magnitude of 3.5 on the Richter Scale. So, that explained the rumbling, but what about the lights in the sky? The Royal Astronomical Society explained that a meteor shower had been visible that night and they had received reports from all over the country about particularly bright meteors.
The case was forgotten for about fifteen years, until Pat Evans spoke to Jenny Randles about what she had seen. Her story reignited the mystery. Investigators once again descended upon the area and, eventually, Nurse Evans became so fatigued with the attention that she moved abroad.
Three weeks after the earthquake, local gamekeeper, Geraint Edwards, witnessed something on the mountain that remained in his memory ever since. He described a red object, shaped like a rugby ball, but with more pointed ends, hovering sixty to a hundred feet over Pen-Y-Bryn. As he and his friends watched, it took off at high speed over the mountains.
For some bizarre reason (and this happened in every episode), the programme whisked us away from Berwyn and across the country to Derbyshire to check out another case.
In October, 2000, Sharon Rowlands saw something over Bonsall and captured it with her camcorder. She said that what she saw was a segmented disc with a dark centre that was as large as ‘a detached house’. She became very nervous when she feared that the object would land in the field close to her house. As she recorded the event, the object blinked out. When her story appeared in the local paper, UFO investigators from all over the world began contacting her. She decided to place the video tape in a vault at her solicitor’s.
Video expert, Peter Marriot, came to the conclusion that what Sharon had recorded was simply a street lamp. Sharon discounts this explanation, saying that what she saw was not a streetlight and was like nothing she had ever seen. Judging from the clip shown in this episode, just before it blinks out, there appear to be two steady lights with flashing lights accompanying them. Frankly, that looks like a conventional aircraft to me. Sorry, Sharon.
Jenny Randles explains that out of over ten thousand cases she has looked at over thirty years, ninety-five percent can be explained as IFOs, Identified Flying Objects. Aircraft, balloons, Chinese lanterns, meteors etc. fall into this category of misidentification. We are then told how Chinese lanterns have sparked a UFO wave over the UK in recent years. Andy Roberts agrees, saying that the general public are somewhat ignorant of what is in the skies above their heads and that he has seen several things that he cannot explain.
Back to Berwyn, sceptics such as Andy Roberts claimed that what Pat Evans saw was people on the mountain across the valley. These, according to Andy, were the police and farmers meeting a group of poachers. One of the poachers in question, Ieuan Roberts, is doubtful that the lights they used that night could be mistaken for anything else. He said that Pat could not have seen their lights that night.
Could so-called earthlights have been what people witnessed that night? Jenny Randles believes that this is a possibility. Earthlights are caused by tectonic stresses grinding together rocks and releasing piezoelectric energy into the sky in the form of plasma.
The programme then moved on to the alleged cover-up
regarding the Berwyn Mountains Incident. Huw Lloyd, son of the
farmer whose Land Rover was borrowed by Sergeant Roberts, believes
that a cover-up did, in fact, take place. Nick Pope doesn’t think
so. Reports of what the programme called Men-In-Black interviewing
witnesses in Landrillo (although none of those interviewed described
them as such on camera) were, according to Dr Roger Musson of the
British Geological Survey, seismologists sent to check out the
earthquake reports .
Locals reported that army personnel arrived and deployed on the mountain, apparently searching for something. A Landrillo fireman said that the area became a virtual no-go area for a while. Andy Roberts explained sagely that what they saw was a three-man team from RAF Valley and this trio was mistaken for a ‘huge military presence searching for a crashed UFO’.
Local newspapers reported that army vehicles had been seen with soldiers loading large, black boxes. Then in 1996, a former soldier, going under the pseudonym of James Prescott, claimed in UFO Magazine that he had been part of a unit that had extracted the bodies of two dead aliens from the mountain and whisked them off to Porton Down. Elfed Roberts and Andy Roberts doubt that this story is true, citing technical and operational difficulties in getting vehicles up and down the mountain. Andy suggested that a helicopter would have been used rather than trucks. Nick Pope agreed, saying that he never heard a whiff of UFOs or aliens being connected with the Incident.
The programme solved nothing about the Berwyn Mountains Incident and believers (i.e. the people who saw what happened that night and shortly afterwards) and sceptics remain at loggerheads about the case. To quote a popular member of the UFO DATA forum: “Next!”
The next episode stayed in Wales and cast a critical eye over the infamous Broad Haven Triangle. Broad Haven is a coastal town in Pembrokeshire, South Wales and in 1977 became the global focus for UFO researchers.
On February 4th, 1977, young David Davies was playing with his friends when they noticed something in the field behind their school. He said that a silver, cigar-shaped object, about the size of a bus, ‘popped-up’ from behind the trees and appeared as though it was trying to take-off. It paused for a few seconds and then dropped back down behind the trees. The kids ran inside and told of what they had seen. Their head teacher sat them down and asked them to draw what it was that they had witnessed.
Hugh Turnbull, a reporter for the Western Telegraph went to the school and asked David Davies to show him where they had seen the object. Hugh and David could find no tracks in the field to suggest a vehicle had been there and David noted that a telegraph pole cross-member had been dislodged and was at about forty-five degrees.
Liz Philpott, an administrator at the school, thought that what the children might have seen was a tanker truck from the nearby sewage works. Speaking to an employee of the works soon discounted that theory. She was told that a tanker truck could not get into the field in question.
Hugh ran the story and the school became the focus of worldwide attention.
That was not the end of the story, however. A few miles away, in the village of Herbrandston, Maureen Dytor was taking in some fresh air one night when she saw a ‘cylindrical object with lights’ zip across the sky in seconds. In Little Haven, Dorothy Cale was in a car one evening as a passenger. She described a series of very bright flashes that lit up the whole village. The driver hit the brakes when they saw a very bright light that appeared to have a glass dome. As they watched silently, the object flashed and vanished.
Astronomer Ian Ridpath glibly suggested that what was seen could have been a bright star or a planet.
Stephen Bamford and Robert Best saw a segmented, orange object, moving from ‘right to left’ one evening. They set out and drove towards it, in the hope of finding out what it was. As they watched, the object collapsed in on itself and disappeared. They discounted ideas such as the Moon or ships at sea and are still baffled by what they saw.
Professor Chris French admitted that multiple witness sightings should be taken more seriously than those where only a single person saw something. He added, though, that when people see things, they talk about them and stories can become interlaced.
The police and newspapers continued to receive reports from the area between Broad Haven, Milford Haven and Haverfordwest and a bone fide flap had begun. Dr David Clarke explained about flaps, citing the UK’s first one at Warminster, in Wiltshire.
The Warminster events began on Christmas Day in 1964. John Rimmer, editor of Magonia magazine, told us about strange hammerings, shakings and mechanical noises going overhead. By May 1965, sightings of lights over Warminster had begun and famed researcher, Arthur Shuttlewood, gave the world ‘The Warminster Thing’. Following Shuttlewood’s newspaper reports, dozens of skywatchers would spend each evening on the hills around Warminster hoping to catch a glimpse of something.
Kevin Goodman was one of those skywatchers and described the community spirit that arose during the long, dark hours of observations. He told of how he saw four red lights, spaced evenly apart, crossed the landscape before the lead object shot upwards at tremendous speed. It then made a ninety-degree turn and shot out of sight. About thirty seconds later the remaining three lights shot straight up into the sky.
Warminster is surrounded by military facilities of all kinds and the locals are familiar with the armed forces going about their business. Were aliens interested in these bases or were people seeing military activity from these various installations?
RAF Brawdy lies close to Broad Haven. Squadron Leader Tony Cowan explained that activity from the base could have explained some of the sightings in South Wales. Dorothy Cale said that what she witnessed was definitely not anything from the Brawdy airfield. She was quite used to seeing activity from the base. Squadron Leader Cowan admitted that there were some reports that remain a mystery.
Former RAF engineer, Gordon Bowden, explained that while regular aircraft activity can be misidentified as something mysterious, he has personally seen something that he cannot explain. On two occasions, he saw lights out to sea that accelerated with ‘impossible’ speed. He said that he knew of no aircraft at the time that could change direction so rapidly without killing the pilots.
Close to RAF Brawdy was a top secret facility that was once operated by the US Navy.
Mentioning the Americans gave us the chance to look at the Lakenheath Incident from 1956. US personnel at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Bentwaters saw something strange on their radar screens. Fighters were scrambled to intercept. David Clarke continued the story of how RAF Neatishead also picked up the unknown contacts. Numerous fighters were sent out and two gave chase, but failed to intercept or identify the objects. Dr Clarke admitted that the case has never been explained.
Then there was the big one: The Rendlesham Forest Incident. We all know this story from 1980 about lights being seen in the woods between RAF Woodbridge and RAF Bentwaters and Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt’s venture through trees, recording the audio as he went and the subsequent memo. Nick Pope thinks it’s a supremely important case, while Ian Ridpath thinks it was Orford Ness lighthouse. Pope disagrees, saying that in no way could the lighthouse be mistaken for anything else. Ridpath countered with an explanation consisting of a meteoric fireball. “If it was nothing more than a lighthouse and a fireball, why were the base personnel not allowed to talk about it?” asked Anthony Head.
Anyway, back to Broad Haven and the top secret US Navy facility. When the base was decommissioned, it was revealed that it had simply been monitoring Soviet submarine activity and housed only computers and stuff. Mystery solved, then. Well, not really, because strange things were still happening.
Dozens of reports of silver-suited figures landed on the desk of local bobby, Ernest Jones. One in particular made the headlines. It came from the Coombs family at Ripperston Farm. The Coombs’ story has become infamous and they no longer wish to discuss what happened to them thirty years ago. Ernest, though, picked up the story from his perspective. He received a call from them and went out to the farm. He was told that a silvery figure had been seen close to the window and it had terrified the family to such a degree that the policeman made arrangements for them to spend the night elsewhere.
David Clarke found that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had found the reports from Broad Haven intriguing and they had made discreet enquiries into the events there. They came to the conclusion that ‘a local prankster’ was behind some of the events, particularly the silver-suited figure.
Glyn Edwards, a businessman from Milford Haven,
owned up to being the culprit. He had cobbled together a silver
spacesuit for a fancy dress dinner and decided to lurch about the
village, scaring any local people that stumbled across him. He
denied ever visiting Ripperston Farm, however.
As with all flaps, the sightings diminished and the press moved on, but the mystery remained. Again, those who witnessed these things stand by their stories, but the sceptics claim to know better.
On the night of November 28th, 1980, PC Alan Godfrey was investigating a report of cattle wandering around a Todmorden, West Yorkshire. As he drove along a damp Burnley Road, he saw what he thought was a staff bus that had skidded across the road. As he drew closer, though, it became apparent that this was not what he was looking at.
He described a diamond-shaped object with a rotating lower section. He tried contacting the station using both of his radios, VHF car radio and his UHF handheld radio, but neither worked. He decided to make a sketch of the object. Then there was a brilliant flash and he was further along the rode driving. He glanced in his mirror, but the object was gone. He pulled up and got out of the car. Checking the area where the object had been, he saw that it was dry in a circular or whirlpool pattern, as though the rotating section of the craft had agitated leaves and twigs into this pattern.
Puzzled, Alan returned to the police station. He told his colleague, Malcolm Agley, what he had seen and Malcolm saw no reason to disbelieve him, having known Alan for six years.
While at the station, Alan realised that about half an hour of time could not be accounted for. He also found that the sole of his boot was split across. He also had an irritating itch on his foot. On removing his sock, he found a circular red mark on his instep that was very itchy.
The next day, he was told by an inspector that three officers in nearby Halifax had also had some sort of encounter. Asked for a statement for the inspector’s report, Alan was pleased that he was not alone in having something bizarre happen the previous night.
The three police officers in Halifax had been out searching for stolen motorbikes when they saw in the sky a ‘cold-steel, blue light’. One of the policemen, John Porter, described the light as pulsating and darting about the sky incredibly quickly in complete silence. As with Alan Godfrey’s experience, their radios were non-functioning. John said that WPC Julie Baxter admitted to be very scared. PC Howard Turnpenny, like John, was intrigued, but not afraid. As they watched, the light shot off towards Todmorden. John said, “It was completely alien to my understanding.”
Two police officers in Littleborough, some five miles from Todmorden, reported seeing a glowing orb hovering between two electricity pylons. The object then headed in the direction of Todmorden.
The late Seventies and early Eighties saw UFO sightings double. The programme connects this trend with the release of films like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Jenny Randles investigated the Alan Godfrey case for the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA). She met Alan and felt that he was a ‘no-nonsense bobby’ who would not have reported anything unless he was certain of what he had seen.
Andy Roberts felt that Alan entered ‘some form of altered state of consciousness’ and that what he saw was actually a bus, but he interpreted it as a UFO. Alan described the object as having two rows of windows. Like a bus. Hmmmm…
Alan refuted that, explaining that what he saw was hovering off the ground, had no wheels, was a metallic colour and had black panelling or dark windows. “I know the difference between a bus and what I saw that night.” He added, “If I had got out of the car and thrown a brick at it, it would have gone ‘clang’! That’s how real it was.”
What about the sighting in Halifax? Could that have a rational explanation? Dr Ian Griffin, who used to work for NASA, but now researches asteroids from his home in Todmorden, thinks so. He cited the planet Venus, meteorites and aircraft as likely candidates. We should also consider earthlights, said Dr David Clarke, who undertook a study of the phenomenon called Project Pennine. Dr Clarke suggests that these lights follow fault lines or natural magnetic variations and can be mistaken for intelligently-controlled craft.
David Clarke looked into MoD reports about the police sightings on the night of November 28th, 1980. He found the report from John Porter and his colleagues, but nothing about Alan Godfrey’s sighting. Dr Clarke mused if this incident just too weird to pass on to the Ministry.
UFO Data Magazine co-editor and serving police officer, Detective Constable Gary Heseltine, has compiled a database of UFO reports from police officers. He believes that police testimony should be regarded very highly concerning UFOs. Andy Roberts stated that police officers tend to see a lot of UFOs because they are out at night very often.
Between 1970 and 2000, there were over 700 UFO reports filed by police officers. David Clarke admitted that when a police officer makes a report about something they have seen in the sky that might be a UFO, it is not something they will do lightly, as it could have an impact upon their career.
In 1976, PC Patrick Tunney saw something bizarre in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. PC Tunney described three green lights gliding towards him at an altitude of about 150 feet. Suddenly, the lights banked left and streaked away.
Jenny Randles felt that Alan Godfrey’s case cemented the Pennine region’s reputation as a genuine and major hotspot for UFO activity. Eighteen months before Alan’s encounter, orange lights had been observed speeding across the skies of Lancashire.
In the early hours of November 24th, 1979, Mike Sachs saw a bright light illuminate his bedroom. Through the window, he saw a huge, ovoid, pulsating orange-white light. As he watched, it descended into a nearby quarry.
The same night, Alf Kyme also saw a bright object,
‘the size of two double-decker buses’, pulsating different colours,
but mostly orange. The object moved across the sky and descended
towards the quarry
Mike Sachs phoned Bacup police and was told that two officers had also seen the light in the quarry. Mike and his brother went to the quarry and found the policemen still there. They confirmed that they had also seen the orange object and feared that it was coming down on top of them! The four men checked out the quarry, but nothing out of the ordinary could be seen.
That night, between 2:30 and 2:50 am, over a dozen sightings came in from Lancashire and Merseyside. Dr Ian griffin suggested a satellite re-entry may have been the culprit, while Andy Roberts thought they were aircraft. Our own Russel Callaghan admitted that while ninety-nine percent of cases can be explained away, there is a small number that remain mysterious even after considerable investigation.
The MoD released a statement that between February 21st and 24th, 1979, military exercises resulted in aircraft flying low over the UK. Had Mike Sachs and Alf Kyme seen such an exercise? Mike thinks not because he sees all sorts of aircraft flying over the valley and what he saw was extra-terrestrial. Jenny Randles agrees that something genuinely unidentified passed over the area that night.
Getting back to Alan Godfrey’s experience, we are told that he declined hypnotic regression to find out what happened in the missing half-hour. His only experience with hypnosis was with stage hypnotists using it as entertainment. Eventually, though, he was persuaded and was hypnotised in the presence of two psychiatrists, and, coincidentally, Mike Sachs. No details were given of Alan’s case, except that he was to be regressed to a certain date and time to try and recover information about an incident that may or may not have happened. Mike described the atmosphere in the room as electric.
Under hypnosis, Alan described being taken aboard the craft by alien beings. Andy Roberts admits that when a police officer says this sort of thing, it should be taken more seriously. Professor Chris French, though, believes that under hypnosis people become confused with what is real and what is fantasy.
Alan Godfrey and Malcolm Agley were also connected with another mystery that may or may not be connected with UFOs – the case of Zygmund Adamski.
On June 11th, 1980, Alan and Malcolm were sent out to investigate a body that had been found on a heap of coal at a local yard. Neither policeman could understand how the body got where it was without disturbing the coal beneath it. The body was that of a retired coalminer, Zygmund Adamski. Mr Adamski was from Tingley, near Wakefield and had disappeared five days earlier.
Alan explained that if Mr Adamski had climbed the heap and died, he should have been covered with coal dust, yet he was not. He had burn marks around the back of his head and a blister at the nape of his neck, where some form of green ointment had been applied.
The coroner, James Turnbull, found that Mr Adamski had died of a heart attack, but the ointment could not be identified in any toxological analysis. Speaking in 1993, the coroner admitted that it was his most baffling case and if UFOs had been said to be involved, he would only have raised ‘half an eyebrow’.
Philip Mantle added that when the Adamski case came to light, UFO researchers speculated that Mr Adamski had been the victim of a botched abduction and was dropped onto the coal heap after his death.
John Sheard, a reporter for the Sunday Mirror, wrote an article about the Adamski case and it made the front page with the headline: AMAZING UFO DEATH RIDDLE. The article resulted in the newspaper being deluged with thousands of letters and hundreds of phone calls from interested parties across the world. John also wrote about Alan Godfrey’s experience, saying that individually, the stories are fascinating, but together, with the possible connections, they are ‘dynamite’.
Andy Roberts pops up, suggesting that while Alan’s encounter may have been real to him, that does not make it real in fact. Yeah, you said that earlier, Andy…
Alan Godfrey and John Porter are reunited and have a
good laugh at the thought of Alan being asleep or hallucinating his
entire experience. “I’d only left the police station five minutes
earlier!” he exclaimed. Philip Mantle agreed that Alan’s story has
never changed and that he had more to lose than to gain from telling
it. This puts it up there as a classic case from British ufology
David Clarke adds that it does not add up that swarms of alien ships are zipping across the universe to visit us, while Ian Griffin remarks that he has not come across any UFO sighting that cannot be explained. Alan Godfrey, John Porter, Mike Sachs and Alf Kyme disagree.
The final episode investigated the most recent case featured in the series, that of the Guernsey UFO.
On April 23rd, 2007, Captain Ray Bowyer took off from Southampton Airport on a routine Aurigny Air Services passenger flight (Flight GR544) to Alderney in the Channel Islands. He had flown the same route for ten years, but today would be different.
As he busied himself with the various duties that pilots do, paperwork, checking the instruments, checking the flightpath etc., he saw a yellowish light in the direction of Guernsey, the second largest of the Channel Islands. At first he suspected it might be sunlight reflecting from greenhouses.
When the object had not disappeared after several minutes, as you might expect sunlight reflecting from a stationary object to do, he grabbed his binoculars for a closer look. He described it as a disc-shape, pointed at each end and brilliant yellow, except for a dark band about two-thirds of the way along its length. Ray’s passengers also saw the object and could tell that the pilot was concerned, although he did not voice this to them.
Ray contacted Air Traffic Control (ATC) in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. The actual recording of the conversation with Paul Kelly at Jersey ATC was then played. Ray, in a very calm voice, said that there was a bright object in his twelve o’clock position (directly ahead), describing it as cigar-shaped, and asked if they had any traffic in that area of the sky. Paul replied that there was no air traffic at Ray’s twelve o’clock position. By this time, Ray’s plane had been flying towards the object for ten minutes.
Ray handed his binoculars to a passenger and asked him to confirm what he was seeing. The passenger did so and added that another object had appeared in addition to the first. John and Kate Russell, two of the passengers also confirmed that a pair of bright objects was directly ahead of them.
Captain Bowyer estimated that the objects were about the size of a Boeing 737 airliner, assuming that they were approximately five to ten miles away. He later concluded that he had first seen them from about fifty-five miles distance, making the objects much, much larger, perhaps a mile across.
Paul Kelly reiterated that nothing was ahead of
Ray’s plane for at least forty miles. The pilot of a Blue Islands
Airways plane came on the radio and confirmed that an object was in
the vicinity. Ray was relieved to arrive safely and on time at
Alderney airport. Once they were safely parked, Ray admitted to his
passengers that what they had seen was something he had not
experienced in over twenty years of flying. The sighting had
obviously affected him because one of the ground crew told him that
he looked like he had seen a ghost
At Jersey ATC, Paul Kelly filled in the forms necessary when a UFO is reported and he asked Captain Bowyer to fax him the notes that he had taken during the flight. Paul said that on the form, there is a phone number for the MoD and when you dial it, you get an answering machine. Paul faxed his report to the Ministry and waited to see what happened.
News of the sighting spread around the islands and Joel de Woolfson, of the Guernsey Press, contacted Ray. The newspaper reported the sighting seriously and word spread, soon reaching the national media, both print and broadcast, with Ray appearing on popular talk show, Richard & Judy.
Dr David Clarke found the case fascinated and offered to investigate the sighting. Ray had had many offers from researchers to look into the report, but he waited until he felt that somebody could perform an unbiased assessment of his experience.
Dr Clarke assembled a team and they began looking at alternative explanations for what Ray, his passengers and the Blue Islands pilot had seen.
Meanwhile, atmospheric physicist, Dr Grant Allen, had created a computer model of the weather patterns for that day and found that there was a temperature inversion that could have created the illusion witnessed. Ray is convinced that what he saw was not an atmospheric effect. What he was ‘was tangible’.
Troy Queripel, a pilot for Flybe, believed that what Ray saw was real, but was of military origin. He pointed out that there are restricted military airspace zones around the Channel Islands and that what the Aurigny pilot may have seen was a secret test program.
David Clarke contacted the MoD, who denied that any military activity occurred in the area at that time.
Seven weeks earlier, Alderney builder, Paul Gaudion, was alone at the northern tip of the island at about 6:30 am. He saw two lights just below the cloud base, appearing to ‘bob about’ at a height of about three hundred feet. Paul explained that the only aircraft normally visible at that time would be the plane carrying newspapers to Guernsey. Suddenly one of the lights darted to the west and when Paul looked to where it had gone, he could see about twenty similar lights in a ‘broken arrow-head shape’. This group of objects was moving silently south below the cloud base towards Guernsey.
Professor Peter Sammond, of University College London, believed that what might have been seen were earthlights. Four days after Ray’s sighting, Kent was rocked by the largest earthquake in the region for fifty years. Alderney lies close to a fault line called the Alderney-Ushant fault. Could the build-up to the earthquake have generated the forces necessary to create the earthlight phenomenon over the island? Professor Sammond admits that earthlights are unlikely to form over water, as the energy requires to be released directly into the atmosphere.
It was then time for one of the series’ little detours. In June, 1954, Captain James Howard was flying his BOAC Stratocruiser from New York to London when he sighted something bizarre in the sky. He explained in a BBC news report from the time that he saw an object that changed shape and that he was convinced it was under intelligent control. Best-selling author and UFO researcher, Timothy Good, explained that pilot sightings from the UK began in about 1950 and peaked in 1952. Winston Churchill demanded answers about the ‘flying saucer problem’, but he was fobbed off by his advisors, telling him that everything was under control and all the sightings had been explained. The reports continued to come in, though.
In October, 1954, Flight-Lieutenant James Salandin took off in his twin-engined Meteor jet from RAF North Weald in Essex. When he reached 16,000 feet, he saw three objects ‘come down’. At first he thought they were aeroplanes, but when he was about 800 yards away from them, two of them peeled-off to the left. One was silver in colour, while the other was gold and both were saucer-shaped with ‘buns’ on top and below. The third object closed to within 200 or 300 yards before moving away to follow the other two craft. Salandin attempted to follow them, but they were too fast.
Professor Richard Wiseman believes that when pilots see strange phenomena in the sky, it all happens too fast for them to report it accurately. They may be honest and sincere, but are they accurate? Ray had twelve minutes to watch the objects he encountered.
David Clarke listened to the ATC recordings of Captain Bowyer’s sighting and heard Paul Kelly say that there was an object at Ray’s ten o’clock position and about three miles away. Could this be what the pilot was looking at? It was explained as anaprop or anomalous propagation. This is when radar is deflected by atmospheric phenomena, reflections from the sea, solid objects such as flocks of birds or many other sources. Dr Clarke had the radar recordings analysed to see if anything concrete could be obtained from them. More of that in a bit…
First, we made another detour to another pilot sighting from 1971. Wing-Commander Alan Turner was, at the time, a Duty Military Supervisor at RAF Sopley in Hampshire. He was informed of an odd radar return of a pair of objects east of Salisbury Plain and travelling south-east. As they watched, more blips appeared on the screen, all from the same location. In all, he said there must have been thirty to thirty-five contacts.
Alan concluded that the only aircraft capable of the speeds being shown were the English Electric Lightning fighters, but Alan cannot imagine all of those aircraft being deployed at the same time in the same area. The Wing-Commander ordered two Canberra bombers, which were inbound from Germany, to vector towards the blips and one of the pilots reported in a jittery voice, “I don’t know what that was. It was a quarter of a mile away, climbing like the clappers and we saw it on radar. We did not see it visually.”
Alan reported that, in all, seven different radar stations (six on the ground and the one in the Canberra) detected these objects. He gathered together all of the video and audio recordings and made the appropriate entries into his log. More than thirty years later, the MoD has not made those recordings or Alan’s log public. David Clarke suggested that the Ministry may have just been baffled by what happened and simply did not want the public to know that they had no clue.
Back to Ray Bowyer’s sighting: the Jersey ATC engineers had analysed the radar recordings and stripped away all known radar contacts. This left two traces that were yet to be identified, one travelling north, the other south.o:p>
After checking timetables, David Clarke’s team came to the conclusion that at least one of the radar tracks was of a ferry on a regular run across the Channel. The final report about Captain Bowyer’s sighting, however, was inconclusive. David suggests that rather than calling what Ray saw a UFO, it should be classed as a UAP, an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon, something that is natural in origin, but is yet to be understood by science.
Ray admitted that he was disappointed that Dr Clarke’s team had come to no definite conclusions about the case. His final words emphasised his belief that what he saw ‘was not from around here’.
This four-part series was very well-made and appeared to give believers and sceptics equal opportunity to get their points across. It is good that network television stations are prepared to broadcast programmes of this nature and while Channel 5’s ratings are nowhere near that of BBC1 or ITV, it still was able to bring the UFO subject to a wider audience in a serious manner.
As with all programmes of this nature, it might be naïve to expect any definite answers about the topics discussed and we certainly did not get any answers at all from this series, only the reporting of mysteries that have yet to be solved. That is the nature of the beast in the UFO field and paranormal issues in general. It is difficult to bolt on solid, scientific strictures to phenomena that are, at best, transient and unrepeatable. Even when we have solid evidence, such as radar traces or multiple eyewitnesses, we still have a certain amount of uncertainty in how to evaluate that information. Different people will have a different perspective on what that data is telling us. So we are back to square one with a mystery.
Top marks for trying, though.
The report into Captain Bowyer’s sighting by Dr Clarke’s team can be viewed at http://www.guernsey.uk-ufo.org:80/
Coincidentally, I stumbled across a YouTube video of what I believe is Ray’s plane coming in to land at Alderney airport in March 2007, just a month or so before his sighting. It can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsFS8NmuOAM
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Updated 16th August, 2012