Cornerstone UFO Cases

Open your browser to the Google Search page, type in UFO and hit ‘search’.  You should see somewhere in the neighbourhood of 186,000,000 results.  Now try the same with YouTube.  There you’ll see somewhere near six million results.  This is the state of UFOlogy today, millions upon millions of sightings, pictures, videos and stories, and common sense should tell you that they can’t all be true.  What percentage of those untold numbers are hoaxes, or misidentified technology, or just whackos who see aliens in their soup?

UFOlogy, of course, covers a wide array of phenomena, as is delineated by the classic encounter scale (Also known as the Hynek Scale[1]):

First Kind – visual sightings of an unidentified flying object.

Second Kind – visual sightings plus the accompanying of physical evidence.

Third Kind – sightings of “occupants” in and around the UFO.

Fourth Kind – a human is abducted by a UFO or its occupants. (This type was not included in Hynek’s original close encounters scale, though is typically considered part of the classic scale)

There are several extensions to the above scale, covering everything from psychic communication with aliens to mating and breeding with ET, but for general purposes the Extended Hynek Scale above is sufficient.

Even these four types of encounters leave us with millions of cases to investigate, and in amongst the vast crowd of encounters, there are some cases that stand to a little more scrutiny, cases that might be called the cornerstone cases of UFOlogy:

(Presented in chronological order)

Roswell

300px-RoswellDailyRecordJuly8,1947The quintessential UFO encounter, Roswell refers to the small town of Roswell, New Mexico, where in July of 1947 a craft of unknown origin allegedly crashed in a farmer’s field.  Eyewitness accounts told of the bodies of little green men strewn about the crash site and a surplus of debris that was subsequently collected by military personnel.  Following the event, the military first offered a statement admitting that a “flying disc” had crashed and was in government custody, but later changed their story claiming that the craft was nothing more than a weather balloon (thought to be an implement of Project Mogul).  The public, then as now, largely disagrees with the official story and this case has been the focus of much controversy and conspiracy theorising.

Betty & Barney Hill

The first widely publicized claim of alien abduction, the Hill’s case is largely touted as the mother of all Fourth Kind encounters.  As the story goes, the Hill’s were returning from a vacation in Canada and travelling through a rural area of New Hampshire on the evening of September 19, 1961. As they travelled along, they noticed a particularly bright star in the night sky and they watched as it apparently began to follow them.

At some point the couple stopped along the roadway, just south of Groveton New Hampshire on US Route 3, to walk their dog before completing the final leg of their long journey home.  Shortly after their pit stop, the couple suffered what seemed to be a lapse in memory, and found themselves again driving along Route 3 with no recollection of having gotten back into the car.

Prompted by the missing time they experienced and by some physical evidence on Betty’s dress, the couple later underwent hypnosis in an effort to retrieve memories.  The story then took a dark turn; during hypnosis Betty recalled horrifying details of abduction by extraterrestrials, providing descriptions of the craft, the occupants and even details of a star map (of Zeta-Reticuli) that at the time was thought to be anomalous, but was later confirmed to be accurate.  The Hill’s story was adapted into the best-selling 1966 book The Interrupted Journey and the 1975 television movie The UFO Incident.

Shag Harbour UFO Incident

The Shag Harbour UFO incident was the reported impact of an unknown large object into waters near Shag Harbour, a tiny fishing village in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia on October 4, 1967.  While there were no clear descriptions of the craft and there were wide spread opinions that it was a manmade aircraft, what makes this case quite unique is that Police and government officials reported that the craft was an unidentified flying object.  This might seem rather elementary, but it’s leaps and bounds ahead of anything the U.S. government has ever admitted.

The impact was investigated by various civilian (Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Coast Guard) and military (Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force) agencies of the Government of Canada. The RCN conducted at least one underwater search in an attempt to locate the remains of any associated objects, though nothing was ever found.

Subsequent to the investigation, several military witnesses, including one RCN diver claimed that an alien space craft was responsible for the impact.

The Travis Walton Incident

Fire_in_the_Sky_Alien-2Popularised by the movie Fire in the sky, which details Walton’s story, the Travis Walton Incident is unique among other encounters due to the fact that there were corroborating witnesses to his abduction.

On the afternoon of November 5, 1975, Walton and four of his companions were driving down a lonely logging road in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona after a long day of logging on the mountain.  The group, at some point, encountered a strange craft hovering above a clearing several feet from the roadway.  While the rest of his crew were terrified, Walton left the truck and approached the craft, only to be engulfed in a beam of intense white-green light that lifted him off the ground and threw him over 10 feet.  Believing he was dead, the crew, led by Mike Rogers, sped away in fear for their own lives, only to return to the site a few minutes later and finding Walton missing.

Despite police involvement from the beginning and a five day manhunt, Walton was feared dead, until he was “returned” five days later with physical wounds to his face and body and no recollection of what had happened.  Over the days that followed, he displayed symptoms of psychological trauma, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and eventually memories of the abduction started to come back, gruesome as they were.  Walton’s accounting of the missing time details examination and experimentation by alien beings onboard their craft, but the personal toll experienced by the entire group of loggers was largely the focus of public attention.

The Rendlesham Forest Incident

The Rendlesham Forest Incident is the name given to a series of reported sightings of unexplained lights and the alleged landing of a craft or multiple craft of unknown origin in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England, in late December 1980.  This case is possibly the best documented UFO sighting or contact experience in history.  It happened just outside RAF Woodbridge, used at the time by the U.S. Air Force and involved several dozen U.S. Air Force personnel.

Official reports of the incident have been suppressed and possibly forged by Air Force brass, but the personal, eyewitness accounts of some of the men involved raises a few eyebrows.  Namely, Deputy Base Commander Colonel Charles Halt, from whom a lengthy voice recording of the event, as it occurred has become available, and Sergeant Jim Penniston, who claims to have had direct contact with a craft in the woods just outside the base.  Penniston’s accounting tells of strange symbols or marking on the outside of the craft and he claims that when he touched one of the symbols a large sequence of 1’s and 0’s appeared in his mind.  Those 1’s and 0’s later proved to be a binary code sequence that, according to some, reveals plans to “explore humanity” and provides several coordinates for geographical locations.

The Belgium Wave

The Petit Rechain Photo

The Petit Rechain Photo

The Beligium Wave is a series of UFO sightings in (you guessed it) Belgium, over the period of November 29, 1989 to April 1990.  What sets this event apart from most others is both the large number of credible witnesses, such as Police Officers and government officials, but also because this was the first major sighting of a craft or crafts that were triangle in shape rather than the traditional disc or saucer shape.  There were over 2000 sighting reports over 18 months, 650 of which were investigated with 500 remaining completely unexplained.

This event was best captured by a now famous photo of the craft known as the Petit Rechain photo, which is largely dubbed the best UFO picture ever taken.  It has been analysed by two independent nuclear physicists and is deemed to be entirely genuine, which is a monumental conclusion considering the state of UFOlogy.

Phoenix Lights

On March 13, 1997, thousands of people in Phoenix, Arizona witnessed an incredible sight in the early evening sky.  Now known as the Phoenix Lights, this event happened in two parts.  Part one was the sighting by many people of an enormous ‘delta wing’ or boomerang shaped craft that silently floated over the city between 8:00 and 9:00pm.  Part two was a series of stationary lights that appeared over the south side of the city, which were later said to be flares dropped by A-10 Warthog aircraft performing training exercises in the area at approximately 10:00pm.

This case is important not only because of the huge number of witnesses, but also because there was government interest in explaining the phenomenon at both the local and state level.  Former Governor Fife Symington, who claims to have witnessed the craft himself, came under fire for a publicity stunt he pulled, wherein one of his aids was paraded out at a press conference wearing an alien costume.  Expressing remorse for his not-well-thought-out gag, Symington later pressed military officials for an explanation to the event but was apparently stone-walled.

As mentioned above, these have been what some consider to be the cornerstone UFO cases among the millions and millions of reports.  Though nothing concrete has ever been found that proves that these encounters were extraterrestrial in nature, many are adamant that ET’s exist and are visiting our planet.  The abduction stories offer a chilling glimpse into the modus operandi of such ET’s, but doesn’t necessarily mean they are malevolent.  It could be that they are indifferent, much as we are to many of the bugs that trod under our own feet.

While the above offers a good cross section of the headline cases in UFOlogy, the sheer number of accounts available ensures that some will disagree with this assessment, thus stands an open invitation for anyone who would like, to submit their pick for cornerstone UFO Case in the comment section below.



[1] J. Allen Hynek first postulated the scale in his 1972 book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry.

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Martin J. Clemens

I also blog at at Mysterious Universe!
Writer, Canadian, Fortean Addict...and lover of science and history. "As for me...I know only, that I know nothing..."
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