July 13, 2022
In Headlines from History by Rose Staveley-Wadham
As we continue to explore all things space and the stars this month at The Archive, we thought we’d delve into a more unexplained aspect of our night sky – UFOs.
Standing for ‘Unidentified Flying Objects,’ a term coined by the United States Air Force in 1953, the term ‘UFO’ can be applied to any aerial phenomenon that cannot immediately be explained or identified. The appearance of UFOs is often linked to speculation around the existence of extraterrestrial life, and sightings of such unexplained objects began to emerge around the end of the Second World War.
A UFO captured on camera by Ralph Ditter of Ohio in 1967 | Illustrated London News | 1 September 1979
Here at The Archive we thought we’d delve into our newspapers to find reports of UFOs, and we weren’t disappointed. Starting in the 1970s, and lasting throughout the following decades, the pages of our newspapers are littered with reports of UFO sightings, some more believable than others.
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And we thought we’d serve up ten incredible UFO sightings from The Archive for you to peruse, and to make your own minds up as to whether such sightings are indicative of alien life. So without any further ado, let’s get started.
1. ‘Three UFO Sighting Claims’ – December 1970
On 8 December 1970 the Coventry Evening Telegraph reported how ‘Three Coventry men’ had reported seeing ‘a ‘whitish, glowing round light’ in the sky over Coventry and Ryton-on-Dunsmore.’
The sightings had both occurred at the same time, 6.15 am, over the preceding weekend.
One of the men, Eric Harrison, gave the following account of one of the UFO sightings, which had occurred on the Sunday:
We saw this light in the sky when we were driving down the A45. It stayed in the same position and went down towards the earth very fast…Then it shot up again and disappeared from view.
Suddenly it came back and did the same thing again, this time shooting off very fast and vanishing.
Coventry Evening Telegraph | 8 December 1970
Eric watched the ’round white glowing light’ alongside his friend Frank Newbold, who hailed from Coventry, whilst an employee at the Chrysler plant in Ryton reported seeing a similar sight on the Saturday morning.
Officials were at a loss to explain the UFO sightings, with ‘Neither Coventry Civic Airport or Elmsdon Airport air traffic controls’ being able to ‘throw any light on the matter.’
So what do you think? Could these Coventry sightings be truly of a UFO, or are they explainable?
2. ‘UFO Sighting By Police Over Acton’ – August 1972
Cases of UFO sightings are generally considered to be more believable if they are witnessed by people in positions of authority, like, say, the police. And believers in UFOs were given a boon in August 1972 when a UFO was spotted by a police officer over the skies of Acton, West London.
Local newspaper the Acton Gazette reported how:
A patrolling policeman could hardly believe his eyes when he saw a bright light hovering in the sky in the early hours of Wednesday morning. He reported his strange sighting back to Hounslow police station and there two of his colleagues took a closer look at the UFO through binoculars.
Acton Gazette | 17 August 1972
As they observed the UFO, ‘the light, which had been hovering in the direction of Acton and Chiswick, changed its position.’ The light was described as being ‘brighter than any other star in the sky,’ appearing ‘to be circular, with black spots on it.’
The police officers’ sighting was collaborated by ‘Night workers in office blocks in the centre of London,’ who had also seen ‘the strange light.’ To them, it ‘seemed to be…much nearer than any of the other stars and four times as bright as Venus, the brightest planet visible from earth.’
The Acton Gazette reached out to Hounslow police station, but a police official there ‘said he knew nothing about’ the incident. The Scotland Yard Press Bureau, however, was more forthcoming, confirming the sighting, although ‘they could not give the names of the policemen involved.’
So what do you think? Was the strange light witnessed by the Acton police officers and the London office workers a UFO, or something entirely explainable?
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3. ‘Flood of UFO Sighting Calls’ – April 1978
Another aspect that tends to lend credence to UFO sightings is if many people have witnessed the same appearance. On 21 April 1978 the Staffordshire Newsletter reported how ‘a spate of mysterious sightings in Staffordshire has caused a buzz of excitement among local UFO experts.’
Val Allanson, alongside her three children, was one of the witnesses to the ‘bright orange light in the sky,’ which she observed from her family’s garden nursery in Stafford.
British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) member Derek James was particularly intrigued by the sightings described by Val and others due to the timing of what they had seen, for ‘All the reports pinpoint the UFO’s arrival between 9 and 9.20 pm on two consecutive Wednesdays.’
Val Allanson and her two sons are pictured at the their family nursery, from where they had witnessed the UFO | Staffordshire Newsletter | 21 April 1978
James told the Staffordshire Newsletter:
The relationship of the times stated leaves very little doubt that it was the same object seen by many people.
He had received ‘many’ reports from people from the village of Doxey, who claimed to have witnessed an object similar to what the Allansons described. Meanwhile, ‘six adults and two youngsters claimed they saw a UFO in the Potteries.’ And despite the fact that this Staffordshire UFO was witnessed by many people, UFO expert James issued a further appeal to ‘anyone who saw any unusual lights in the sky on the Wednesday nights to come forward.’
So what do you think? Do you think these sightings were symptomatic of the UFO fever that was sweeping the country at the time, or because so many people witnessed the object, it was truly a UFO?
4. ‘Women Tell of UFO Sighting’ – May 1978
The next month, multiple people in Kent and Surrey claimed to have witnessed another UFO, as reported local newspaper the Kent & Sussex Courier, 19 May 1978.
The newspaper dubbed the sighting as a ‘close encounter,’ and it was witnessed by Pat Currie and Pat Mathewick as they sat in the club house at Dale Hill Golf Club, Ticehurst. Pat Currie told the newspaper how she had first spotted the UFO, described as a ‘ball of brilliant white light,’ at about 8.30 pm, and that it did not appear to be moving. She added:
At about 9.00 o’clock it started to fade, I thought it was going away, but then it got brighter again and came back to the same position.
Corroborating the stories of the two women was Kathleen Morgan, ‘who was at the same table.’ She related how:
It was dusk, but there were no stars. It was far too bright and light for any star and we had it in sight for too long for it to be an aircraft. It hung there for about 40 minutes and just moved from side to side. The people at the next table saw it as well. They were all laughing and talking about little green men.
Kent & Sussex Courier | 19 May 1978
Remarkably, a reporter for the Kent & Sussex Courier also saw the supposed UFO, as he drove down the A21. His name is omitted from the report, but his testimony runs as follows:
I saw it at about 9.05, just before I got to Lamberhurst. I had it in view until I got to Hurst Green. I stopped the car there and got out to have a good look. It was a ball of brilliant white light about six miles away at 2,000 feet.
At Hurst Green it passed overhead at about the landing speed of a civil airliner. The windows were brilliantly lit and the colour of the body was like an unpolished aluminium saucepan. The height then was about 1,000 feet and I thought it was lit from the outside as well. There seemed to be a flood of white light and then about three constant red lights further back. It passed over me at about 9.20.
Faced with this remarkable account, the Kent & Sussex Courier did some more digging, discovering that ‘any aircraft approaching Gatwick,’ a nearby airport, ‘would have to be at a minimum height of 3,000 feet and that they should be at 5,000 feet.’ With air traffic control reporting that all air traffic ‘was normal’ that night, commercial airliners were ruled out as the unexplained aerial object.
A ‘flying saucer’ pictured above the skies of New Mexico | Illustrated London News | 8 February 1969
Meanwhile ‘avid plane spotter’ Robert Stevens witnessed a ‘ball of white light’ near his house in Farnham, Surrey, that same night. He was interviewed by Omar Fowler of the Surrey group of the Investigation of Aerial Phenomena, who told the Kent & Sussex Courier:
He reported a cylindrical object with white lights at the front and back. It was about the size of the fuselage of a BAC 1-11, but without wings. Its speed was about that of a landing aircraft and it was flying at about 1,000 feet.
This sighting had been made some half an hour after the sightings in Kent, and the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough confirmed that ‘there were no aircraft flying that night.’
With all this evidence, are you convinced that a UFO made its way through the skies of Kent and Surrey in 1978, or is there another, more reasonable, explanation?
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5. ‘Another UFO Sighting’ – July 1979
And it wasn’t just in England that UFOs were being spotted. On 13 July 1979 Irish newspaper the Sligo Champion observed:
The sky over County Sligo is definitely one of the most popular routes of those ‘little green men’ from outer space.
But what warranted such an observation? Well, the newspaper explains how ‘for the second time since Christmas there has been a UFO spotted by some local people.’ This spotting had been made early one morning by ‘eight youths from Sligo,’ who were returning from a dance in Bundoran.
A UFO pictured in 1965 in the United States of America | Sunday World (Dublin) | 4 August 1996
Amongst the group was Lorna Nicholson, who described the object as ‘dome shaped with a dim orange radiance coming from the edges.’ She told the Sligo Champion how:
When I first saw it…I thought it was a comet because that’s what it looked like. This was at about 1.50 am and the first sighting lasted for about ten seconds. It then went out of sight for a short time and reappeared at another point. This time it was turned on its side and was crescent shaped. There were dim lights around the lower side.
The group of eight, who were travelling in two different cars, all claimed to have seen the object. They maintained it was ‘definitely not the moon nor was it a comet.’
What do you think? Can we give credence to this sighting from County Sligo, or is there another explanation?
6. ‘Hill Walker Claims UFO Sighting’ – June 1981
And as the new decade of the 1980s dawned, UFOs continued to be sighted, and we turn to the first of our Scottish sightings now, with a few more to come in this list.
On 30 June 1981 the Aberdeen Press and Journal ran the headline: ‘Hill walker claims UFO sighting in Sutherland.’ This article detailed the sighting witnessed by hill-walker Beryl Petty, from Yorkshire, who was out walking with her husband Len in Glencanisp, West Sutherland.
Beryl, according to the newspaper, witnessed ‘a large silver disc,’ which left a ‘golden trail.’ The object sped above her and her husband, ‘to land over the 800ft hill’ where the couple were walking.
A scene from the Scottish Highlands | The Sphere | 28 November 1953
Speaking from her holiday home in Lochinver, Bingley resident Beryl told the Aberdeen Press & Journal how:
We heard nothing, though I was expecting an explosion. I thought at least there would be some burning as the thing appeared to be so bright, but we saw and smelled nothing. My husband said that since we had nothing to compare it with, it could have been much farther away than I thought. It was definitely something which mystified me and rather shocked me, too.
Despite the fact that Len did not witness the object, Beryl was a fairly reputable witness. She had been a WAAF in the Second World War, and she had been previously employed at the Air Ministry’s Metrological Offices. Therefore, Beryl was ‘sure there was no aircraft or balloon that could account for what she saw.’
A ‘brightly lit object’ as photographed from Concorde in June 1973 | Illustrated London News | 1 September 1979
And neither could official channels offer any explanation as to what Beryl witnessed that day, the Aberdeen Press and Journal detailing how:
A spokesman at the Benbecula headquarters of the Army’s guided missile range said they had no firings after Friday last week. And Stornoway coastguards had no incident or unusual sighting reported to them over the weekend.
So what do you think? Do you believe lone witness Beryl, or do you think there is some other explanation?
7. ‘Couple See The Light After UFO Sighting’ – June 1989
And UFO sightings had the power to turn cynics into believers, as was the case with one Haverhill couple in the 1980s. Local Suffolk newspaper the Haverhill Echo reported how young couple Peter Fleming and Julie Rondeau had seen a ‘blue glow’ over the skies of Haverhill, which was reported by several other people to the newspaper.
Peter gave a description of what he had seen that night:
It came up as a distant glow and settled over Ladygate Woods… It gave off a strong beam of light that shone up the area. Then it zig-zagged around and moved up and down. After several minutes the light moved round in an arc and we could see it was a cigar-shaped object, very large, with portholes, showing green, yellow and red lights. There was no noise. When it moved away towards the south east we heard a sonic boom.
Peter and his girlfriend Julie watched ‘mesmerised,’ whilst their labrador-cross dog Smudle was ‘unsettled’ by what they had witnessed.
Haverhill Echo | 22 June 1989
Reporting their sighting to the East Anglian UFO Paranormal Research Association (EAUFORPRA), the Haverhill Echo notes how it was ‘found there was nothing from local air bases or airports that particular night that could account for their story.’
The sighting, meanwhile, had changed Peter and Julie’s perceptions entirely, the newspaper relating how:
Peter said up to that night they were sceptical about UFO stories. Now they really do believe UFOs exist. Where they came from was anybody’s guess but it was only by monitoring and investigating the phenomenon that they were ever likely to find out.
And Peter and Julie decided to commit themselves to the investigation of UFOs in their local area, joining EAUFORPRA and gaining ‘ID cards to investigate the strange sky sightings in the Haverhill area.’
A ‘fake UFO’ is examined in Somerset | Illustrated London News | 8 February 1969
What do you think? Are you as convinced by this sighting as Peter and Julie were, or is there something else going on here?
8. ‘New Twist in UFO Sighting’ – October 1991
We travel back to Scotland now and into the 1990s, as ‘sightings of a mystery silver flying object in the North-east took a new twist,’ as reported the Aberdeen Press and Journal.
This twist came in the form of an ‘unusual strip of flattened grass at Westhill,’ which was spotted by workshop assistant Graham Hay. Hay told the newspaper how ‘there were no tracks leading to the flattened grass,’ and he thought a ‘fair weight’ must have been needed to create the effect in the patch of grass in the town outside of Aberdeen.
Aberdeen Press and Journal | 15 October 1991
But why was this strip of grass so important? The Aberdeen Press and Journal explains:
In yesterday’s Press and Journal, an Aberdeen student reported seeing an unidentified flying object over Cults on Monday, September 30.
Mr Hay… added: ‘I put two and together and thought this thing might have landed in the field.’
So this was potential evidence of a UFO actually landing – and is this enough to convince you, or could the flattened grass have been caused by something else?
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9. ‘Another Fife UFO Sighting’ – September 1996
We remain in Scotland now, as another UFO was spotted in Fife, by general labourer Mark McRobbie of Cardenden, near Kirkcaldy. The Dundee Courier on 29 September 1996 reported how Mark watched ‘two identical triangular lights travel at an amazing speed across the night sky a few weeks ago.’
Mark told the newspaper:
It was about 11pm and I was sitting at home watching TV with the curtains open when something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye…There were two objects. One was over the primary school and the other was over Clunie Woods. They both looked identical and had a white glow and made no sound. Visually they looked about three inches long but they were several miles away.
Dundee Courier | 20 September 1996
Mark added that he could not explain what he had seen, although he would have liked to have believed that ‘he had a close encounter with an unidentified flying object.’
Meanwhile, Edward Preston from Glenrothes, just north of Cardenden, ‘reported seeing a light in the sky which appeared in the form of a perfect equilateral triangle.’ Further reports of a strange light were provided by a Dundee resident, the Dundee Courier concluding how ‘None of the reported phenomena have ever been officially explained.’
What do you think? Did Mark have a close encounter with a UFO as he hoped, or was there something else to account for what he and others had seen in the skies of Fife that September?
10. ‘Unidentified Light In The Sky Taped’ – October 1996
Our final UFO sighting hails from Scotland again, and offers some compelling proof – a video recording. The Dundee Courier, 14 October 1996, relates how a ‘Scots grandmother’ had become the ‘centre of a UFO investigation,’ thanks to video footage she had captured ‘on her video camera at daybreak on September 27.’
The article describes how the footage grandmother Margaret Ross of Falkirk had taken showed:
…a pulsating bright object in a cloudless sky to the south of her home. The snowball-type object is obviously far brighter and bigger than any star in the sky. For 15 minutes, it remains in the same position. Then, dramatically, its appearance gradually transforms into a half moon shape with four diagonal bars of high intensity brightness. The mystery object is seen on tape for about 40 minutes before it disappears from the sky.
Margaret described to the Dundee Courier what had prompted her to make the recording:
I got up at 6 am and looked out of my bedroom window. I saw what looked like a big snowball in the sky. Its outside edges then became pointed…I don’t know what this was but it was definitely not a star, plane, helicopter or balloon.
Dundee Courier | 14 October 1996
Meanwhile Margaret’s daughter Alexis, who lived some two miles away, also saw the strange object. She told the Dundee Courier how she:
…saw it changing shape. It was awesome. I got my husband, George, and my two children out of bed and they saw it too.
Margaret’s video was lauded by experts, including ‘top researcher’ Ron Halliday of Stirling University, who said:
It is one of the best footages I have seen from anywhere in the world. Such a length of footage is very unusual. Film of alleged phenomena is very rare and usually lasts for a few fleeting seconds. At the moment, there is no obvious explanation as to what Mrs Ross captured on video. We will now have to examine the tape frame by frame and that will take some time.
‘UFO Watcher’ Graham Knewstub, who founded Britain’s first UFO organisation, the Bristol Flying Saucer Bureau | Illustrated London News | 1 September 1979
Kenny Higgins, chairman of the Scottish Research into Unidentified Flying Objects concurred, drawing on his twenty years of UFO research experience:
It’s a good a piece of evidence of a UFO in Scotland as I’ve ever seen. It is very rare you get footage of anything other than a bright light…I have never seen anything resembling the shape in the sky that Mrs Ross has captured.
So what do you think? Are you convinced by the experts’ opinions and the evidence that Margaret managed to record? Or is there something else that could be behind the footage?
Fact or faked, a hoax or a genuine mistake, these ten accounts of UFO sightings are a wonderful record of the strange goings-on in British and Irish skies in the 1970s and beyond. We should just say that these are a curated selection of sightings, and there are many, many more instances recorded in our Archive, so whether you believe or not, there are certainly many witnesses to potential UFO activity. Discover more by searching the pages of our Archive here – what stories can you uncover?