A Belgian triangular UFO over Lorraine?

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The famous Belgian UFO flop

The famous Belgian UFO wave which lasted between November 1989 and 1992 was characterised by apparently triangular craft which were allegedly capable of performing fantastic manoeuvres.

  • Ufo-belgian

    Illustration of a UFO over Belgium

Some sceptics explained away all sightings as radical false memories of conventional private aircraft. While memories of details can relatively easily be distorted by the mind through contamination of testimonies, striking elements of a sighting are unlikely to be considerably altered, especially in the coming weeks and months. What’s more, given the strong famousness of the Belgian flop and its huge number of cases, it seems highly unlikely that no owner of such private aircraft would have come forward and revealed its involvement in the sightings.

Given that, the late French Sceptic Renaud Leclet provided us with a far more convincing explanation. Instead of attributing all planes and helicopters to average citizens like you and me, he considered them as military helicopters testing both the physics of the craft and the psychological reactions of the locals.

To me, it seems to be the most likely explanation of this wave of sightings. But it may need to be enlarged and include non-conventional military aircraft.

A UFO over Ars Sur Moselle?

Ars sur Moselle is a small town located in Lorraine at approximately 100 km of the border of Belgium (albeit not necessarily where the peculiar objects were massively sighted).


Aqueduct of Ars of Moselle

A weird object was observed by a young couple during the same period as the Belgian wave.

The official investigation of the gendarmerie (French military police) came up blank.

Summary of the investigation

Summary: The 27-th February 1990, a round oval silent object with 3 mighty beamers was observed.

Description: on that day, a young couple driving a car sighted an object similar to a ball of rugby with three powerful white beamers. This object with a diameter of around 2. 5 or 5 metres flies slowly at a very low altitude and silently.
After having followed this object for approximately 10 minutes, they saw it disappear at a very fast speed.
The investigation hasn’t allowed the identification of this object with any known flying objects or any other phenomenon.

Report of the police

On 27.02.1990, at 9 p.m. (21:00) P.L. came to us and informed us that he just noticed the presence of an unidentified object at 8:50 p.m. (20:50).

Near the entrance to the highway, he observed the object, that was moving at a very low altitude and at a low speed before disappearing in the sky in a southern direction.

He was accompanied by miss A.M. [his girlfriend] who also witnessed the event and corroborated his testimony.

As soon as we were apprised of the information, we scrutinised the sky, to no avail.

At 21:20 we informed our superiors.


No patrol has signalled any similar phenomenon.

According to the testimony of the teenagers who witnessed the incident, as they were driving on a road at 20:50, they saw a strong white glow in the distance. Intrigued by it, they stopped their car to observe it. They saw a vehicle of small size, equipped with three powerful projectors/beamers, which slowly moved forward at a low altitude, at less than 100 metres of their position.

The weather was as follows:

  • humidity but no rain
  • no wind: quiet period between two gusts.
  • Orientation of the wind before and after the apparition of the UFO: from south-west to north-east.
  • sky partially cloudy
  • the moon was black but its lowest part was „crunched“

No movement of aircraft has been signalled between 20:00 and 21:30. No unidentified flying object has been detected by the control tower.

The incident wasn’t made public and no other witness came forward.

The sincerity of these persons shouldn’t be called into question. The information they provided us with can be considered plausible.

Formal testimony

27.02.1990 at 22:30 at the office of the military police.

Testimony of the man

On this evening, I was driving with my 18-year-old girlfriend. This probably occurred at 20:50. I then noticed something peculiar coming towards me. I was intrigued by a strong white glow.
I thought I was seeing the headlights of an all-terrain vehicle on the hill but the illumination was too powerful.
I stopped my car to take a look at this.
This glow had moved towards us while staying at a certain height and keeping a low speed.
The object flew back to a local graveyard.
I followed it with my car.
Thereupon it descended at a very low altitude.
Without halting, it overflew the graveyard and flew over a fair field, located between an old bridge and the central crossroad.
It moved forward very slowly, at the speed of a running man, and was located at roughly 25 metres above the ground.
I stopped my car after the crossroad facing the fair. I stepped out of my vehicle to observe it. My fiancée winded down her window but she stayed in the car.
The object moved then to the other side of the road, thereby facing a tennis field.
It was 60 metres away from me and was staying at the height of the poplar trees.
I watched that thing for forty seconds outside of my vehicle.
It moved again a bit.
I jumped into my car in order to pursue it. It passed over the police station of the highway whilst I drove around the round-about in order to head to the highway.
I still see it relatively low, moving a bit faster, and then all of a sudden it rose up and disappeared like lightning.

I describe the object as follows: round-oval, similar to a ball of rugby. I ignore its colour because I was dazzled by three powerful projectors/beamers which might have had a diameter of 50 cm and that were emitting a white light akin to the headlights of German vehicles. I also made out a red luminosity.

The device had a diameter between 2.50 and 3 metres.

It didn’t make any noise. I didn’t hear any whistling sound. It was fixed and did not rotate around itself. It was no helicopter. I haven’t made out anything else.

I assert having seen this object for approximately ten minutes. My fiancée could bear witness to this. She’s the one who pushed me to signal our sighting.

She’s a student and told me that our testimony could be useful to researchers.

A few vehicles crossed us in the reverse direction. I ignore if other drivers have noticed the presence of that object.

After the disappearance of the device, we immediately went to the closest police station of the highway.

We have related the facts and have asked the policemen if they’d seen the same phenomenon. They advised us to go to the brigade to give them a report of our experience.

I am entirely sincere. I was so impressed that tears had formed in my eyes.

I was forced to believe in what I’d seen. The object never landed on the ground.

I apprised you of this in the hope this can be useful to you.

27.02.1990 at 23:10

Testimony of the woman

The fiancée of the man was interrogated separately at 17:30 on the next day.

Towards 20:30, on yesterday evening, my boyfriend picked me up at my house. I had just finished doing my homework. We went to a nearby self-station to buy cigarettes.

We immediately headed back to my home.

Shortly after the end of the village, my boyfriend called my attention to a white light near the tower of Mount St. Quentin.


Mount Saint Quentin

I then actually saw that light which was facing us, to the left of the tower and at roughly the same height. We drove forward while observing this light. I thought it was a helicopter flying at night.

I then noticed that the ball was slowly moving. As we arrived at a somewhat higher spot, we were obliged to realise that it was actually neither a light-ball nor a helicopter but a vehicle of small size, equipped with three powerful headlights emitting a white light. It was advancing very slowly above the ground at an altitude of 50 metres.

My fiancé had parked his vehicle on the backside and left it.

As for me, I was sighting the craft and opened the window of the door of the car. My boyfriend had switched off its engine. The craft didn’t make any noise. The headlights were pointing towards our direction so that I could not distinguish its shape. We could observe it for 15/20 seconds. The craft has slowly overflown the poplar trees and at that time my boyfriend got back into the vehicle and headed for the crossroad.

As we arrived there several seconds later, I saw the craft over the police station of the highway. At that very moment, the craft disappeared. I never saw it again.

I had to convince my fiancé to get to the police station because he was fearful of being considered as a lunatic.

I am entirely sincere. I’ve been truthful in all what I’ve stated. It’s the first time I had such an experience. I have never suffered hallucinations.

I estimate that the craft has a small diameter between 3 and 4 meters.

I have also noticed small red lights.

It didn’t rain when the incident occurred and the visibility was very good.


Conventional explanations

Is it possible that the sighted object was a helicopter?

Several facts fly in the face of this hypothesis.

  1. The three strong headlights

The intensity of the three headlights was so strong that it dazzled the observers and prevented them from recognising the shape of the object.

But a helicopter has only ONE searchlight which could be that intense.


Someone told me I shouldn’t be too categorical because helicopters can, under some circumstances, have landing lights that are quite strong.


The man described the lights as „a strong white glow“, more powerful than the „headlights of an all-terrain vehicle“,  „tree powerful projectors/beamers“ that „dazzled“ him and prevented him from seeing the colour of the object.

The woman spoke of „three powerful headlights emitting a white light“ that were „pointing toward [their] direction so that [she] could not distinguish its shape“.

Given the fact that the object also moved (slowly) horizontally at a very low altitude and that they first saw it from afar, it seems hardly conceivable that they would have perceived the landing lights as projectors pointing in their direction that dazzled them and hindered them from seeing anything else, even though it wasn’t overflying them.

While this is not impossible, it appears to be quite unlikely.

2. The absence of noise

The two witnesses are adamant that the craft „didn’t make any noise“.

While the car engine had been shut down and the wind was quiet, no sound was emitted by the object. Whilst it is not impossible, it is highly unlikely that a helicopter hovering at the level of treetops and located at less than 100 meters from the witnesses and flying at a very low height (estimated as 25 metres) would be silent even though there was no wind.

3. The low height of fly

The witnesses say that the object descended „at a very low altitude“, was located „at roughly 25-50 metres above the ground, „was staying at the height of the poplar trees“ or „slowly overflown the poplar trees“.

The alleged helicopter flew extremely low and was at one point just above the tops of poplar trees.  This manoeuvre is incredibly risky (or was at least back then). Why would the pilot take such a risk?

4. The lack of radar detection

„No movement of aircraft has been signalled between 20:00 and 21:30. No unidentified flying object has been detected by the control tower.“

One possible answer could be that the pilot wanted to avoid being detected. But what might have been his or her motives?

Even so, the helicopter was seen at the height of Mount Saint Quentin, a local hill overlooking the valley of the Moselle. It seems unlikely that it could have escaped detection if it was nothing more than a conventional helicopter.

What is more, we would  have to assume that the pilot of the helicopter broke the law by not signalling this flight, which makes his motives all the more mysterious.

5. The velocity of the object

„It was advancing very slowly above the ground at an altitude of 50 metres“

During most of the sighting, the vehicle was very slow, its speed having even been likened to that of a running man. And then it rose up and disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Could a helicopter display such a behaviour?Why would the pilot have flown so slowly?



While none of the five features I just mentioned disproves the helicopter hypothesis, their combination strongly reduce its plausibility.

The object sighted by the young couple was most likely no helicopter.

Its behaviour seems at odds with that of drones existing at that time.

It is quite implausible that the two witnesses saw a normal helicopter and that they misremembered the number of spotlights and other weird features of the object.

In that context, it is worth noting that they did not mention the objects being sighted in Belgium. If they knew about them, it seems unlikely they would not have compared their sighting to the mysterious triangular objects that were seen in the neighbouring country.

Given that and the timeline (they went to the police and reported the sighting just after they experienced it), it is really improbable that their recounting was radically distorted by false memories stemming from psycho-social contagion.

Now we must step back and think critically about the similarities and differences between the sighted craft and the (alleged) Belgian UFOs.


Unlike the Belgian UFOs, its shape was oval and not triangular.

However, the presence of the three lights and its behaviour (flying very close to the ground) is really similar.

Whether it was related to the Belgian wave remains an open question.

The only thing we can be relatively certain of is that a craft with an anomalous appearance and behaviour was seen.




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Unidentified flying spiders in southern France?

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I recently came across an interesting case concerning a UFO in two southern French towns in 1952: Oloron and Gaillac.


UFO’S: .II History 1952: September-October
(Loren E. Gross)

UFO activity in France achieved spectacle status with an amazing aerial display over the city of Oloron on October 17th and the city of Gaillac on the 27th.
Both Oloron and Galliac are in the south of France and UFO activity there would be part of the first wave.
Other than that, what happened in the skies of the aforementioned cities is beyond understanding.
H. Yves Prigent was the superintendent of the Oloron high school , and his wife was one of the teachers.
The couple had three children and lived in an apartment that had a good view of the sky to the north of Oloron.
At 12:50 p.m. on October 17,1952 the family was about to have lunch when H. Prigent’s son Jean yelled:“Oh, papa, come look, it’s fantastic!“
The boy had been gazing out the window at a cloudless azure sky, and there in the atmosphere he beheld a marvel.

The family rushed to the window. What they saw was described by the father, Mr. Prigent, to investigators.
Isolated in the clear blue sky was a single small cloud, and above the bit of white vapour at an undetermined altitude was a long lead coloured, cylinder inclined at an angle of 45 degrees.

The „tube“ was very distinct, non-luminous, and had this interesting detail: from the upper end of the cylinder, there appeared to be a plume of white smoke.

The cylinder was moving in a south west direction, and some distance to the south-west was a cluster of some 30 or so „balls“ that seemed to be puffs of smoke.
M. Prigent obtained some opera glasses and peered at the objects which seemed featureless but which, under magnification, proved to be red spheres circled by a tow-coloured band or ring.

Another peculiar characteristic of these small Saturn-like objects was the odd way they travelled about, in pairs and in a rapid zigzag fashion.

Occasionally a whitish streak appeared between the ringed spheres when they separated to any extent, which became a flaky trail that spread into a veil of filaments (subsequently dubbed „angel hair“).

This material fell over an extensive area, not only at Oloron where it draped itself over trees and telephone wires, but also at the village of Geronce and in the Josbaight valley.

Very curious, the teachers at Oloron high school, who by this time had been alerted to the extraordinary phenomenon, collected some of the filaments.

Someone suggested that the material had the appearance of nylon or wool.
They experimented by striking a match and holding the material in the flame. The stuff ignited and flared up in the manner of cellophane.
Unfortunately, more sophisticated tests were prevented by the weird fact that the threads turned into a gelatinous mass and then sublimed into the air, leaving no trace. Experts later lamented the failure to put some of the material into a sealed container .

The information was apparently lifted from the widely read French newspaper France Soir.
Witnesses of the Oloron phenomenon were abundant and some may still be living in the 1980s .

Of those named, we know of: M.Y. Prigent, principal of the school; his wife, Madame Prigent; a son, Jean Yves; the school caretaker, M. Jean Pardies; a passer-by; Mrne Belestin; and the Mayor of Geronce, H. Bordes.

What We Really Know About Flying Saucers
By Otto Binder
[June 29, 1967]

Both cases occurred in France in 1952, within 10 days of each other and only a few miles apart. The verbatim reports alone even in shortened form, can make you, the reader, sit up in bewildered astonishment – because both events had multiple witnesses, up to a hundred people, who could not possibly all be liars, hallucinators, or town drunks. Judge for yourself. First, the report of M. Yves Prigent, general superintendent of the high school at Oloron, France, at 12:50 P.M., on Friday, October 17, 1952:
„In the north a cottony cloud of strange shape was floating against the blue sky. Above it a long, narrow cylinder, apparently inclined at a forty-five-degree angle, was slowly moving in a straight line toward the southwest.
„I estimated its altitude as two or three kilometres [about 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 miles]. The object was whitish, non-luminous, and very distinctly defined. A sort of plume of white smoke was escaping from its upper end.

„At the same distance in front of the cylinder about thirty other objects were following the same trajectory. To the naked eye they appeared as featureless balls resembling puffs of smoke. But with the help of opera glasses [which he had obtained] it was possible to make out a central red sphere [on each small object] surrounded by a sort of
yellowish ring inclined at an angle [apparently Saturn-like UFO’s].
„The(ir) angle was such as to conceal almost entirely the lower part of the central sphere, while revealing its upper surface. These ’saucers‘ moved in pairs, following a broken path characterised in general by rapid and short zigzags.
When two saucers drew away from one another, a whitish streak like an electric arc was produced between them.“
(From „The Reference.“)
Now the report from Tarn, in the Gaillac district, some 12 miles to the southwest, only 10 days later:
October 27, 1952, 5:00 P.M. Many residents, including two police officers and others, totalling over a hundred, were witnesses as a long, plumed cylinder inclined at a 45-degree angle flew over slowly to the southeast.
Surrounding this „mother ship“ were some 20 smaller saucers, which flew two by two in rapid zigzags [sic]. In this case, however, some of the pairs of Saturnlike saucers left the herd and descended quite low over town, estimated to be [at height of] 300-400 meters [900-1.200 feet].
The spectacle lasted some 20 minutes before the „cigar“ and its satellite saucers drifted out of sight over the horizon.

20-th of October 1952


Zigzagging „flying saucers“ and „flying cigar“ in the sky of Olozon.

After the passing of the strange objects, threads fell onto the city where they decomposed themselves.

This time, no doubt is allowed! The sky of Béarn [a Southern French region] has its flying cigars and saucers.
It was 1 pm on Friday when Mr. Pringent, superintendent of the lower High School of Oloron, saw peculiar objects heading from the north-east to the south-west at a height of 3000 metres.

The largest, which had the shape of the „Churchillian“ cigar, was emitting thousands of multicoloured circles which rapidly dissipated themselves.
In front of it, approximately 30 other objects of smaller size moved forward while [colliding?] and almost zigzagging. They had the appearance of a saucer, each of them was made of a clear yellow ring surrounding a red ball.

One after the other, Ms. and Mr. Pringent, who were watching their son, and the keeper of the building, passed on binoculars to each other and observed the weird thing.
At least 10 minutes went by before the disappearance of the „cigar“ and of the „saucers“ which looked as if they were disintegrating.

And just after the strange procession, threads similar to the threads of the Virgin Mary fell.
Mr. Pringent gathered up some entangled ones which quickly turned into a gelatinous mass. He kindled it whereupon it burned like cellulose. Other threads could be found here and there or on the roofs. Most of them decomposed themselves completely whereas other dissolved more slowly.
Soon enough, none was left.

The flying cigar has also been sighted by inhabitants of the valley of Josbaigt, among whom was the mayor of Gerome, Mr. Borèses.

All have confirmed the shape of the craft and the already described luminous phenomena.

Sighting over Gaillac

A „Flying Cylinder“ surrounded by saucers above Gaillac

Albi. — Big amazement in Gaillac, in the Tarn. The inhabitants of this city known for its vines, saw Monday at 5 p.m., evolving in a blue sky without cloud, the strange objects absolutely comparable to those noticed last week in Oloron.

The alarm was given by Mrs. Dore, aged 64, residing road of Toulouse, in Gaillac. She was intrigued when she heard her hens quack in a strange way in the hen house. Thinking that some buzzard was circling above her farmyard and causing this fright, she looked up instinctively and discovered the phenomenon.

Her son tried to distinguish the objects, while Mr. Corbières and his wife ran by, and later, Mr. Corbières father, aged 63, neighbours of the Dore family. These people claim that they were probably flying saucers which passed over Gaillac from the south to the east. They whirled slowly, grouped by two, and scintillated in the sun. There were first of four of them, then a dozen.

In the middle of the saucers a kind of long flying cylinder appeared, whitish, which let escape a white plume of smoke. At the end of some twenty minutes, the phenomenon disappeared, while white wires resembling glass wool fell on the ground. Two hours after, many filaments of this matter were still hanging on electric wire and the branches of trees, but they became gelatinous and melted.

Was the whole sighting caused by spiders?

A French physician from Olorni proposed that the phenomenon was due to a migration of spiders transported through the air by threads.

The red and yellow lights were due to the sunlight reflecting off the threads. The zigzag-like movement towards Spain corresponded to the wind on that day. And the substance consisted of spider web.

Can we account for the sighting conventionally in this way?

There are several aspects we need to examine.

The inclined cigar-shaped object

The largest object was described as follows:

„In the north a cottony cloud of strange shape was floating against the blue sky. Above it a long, narrow cylinder, apparently inclined at a forty-five-degree angle, was slowly moving in a straight line toward the southwest.
„I estimated its altitude as two or three kilometres [about 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 miles]. The object was whitish, non-luminous, and very distinctly defined. A sort of plume of white smoke was escaping from its upper end.“

Given its size  and features, it seems very unlikely that the „cigar“ was made of concentrated spider silk. Given its inclination, it also appears implausible this was a blimp.


What about an usual cloud? The fact that the object was „very distinctly defined“ and that „a sort of plume of white smoke was escaping from its upper end“ makes it improbable.

It is also strange that another such strange cloud was observed several days later in Gaillac.

The reddish spheres

We don’t have evidence that ballooning spiders can gather themselves to form large discrete spheres. While some elements of their behaviour (such as the white streak visible when two coupled spheres move apart from one another) appears compatible with this hypothesis, the observed colours are at odds with this observation.

As Mr. Pringent wrote:

„But with the help of opera glasses, it was possible to make out a central red sphere surrounded by a sort of yellowish ring inclined at an angle.“ 

If such a ball was nothing but a tangle of spiders and silk, why would then the reflection of the sun be red at its centre but yellow all around it?

The gelatinous substance

While the substance that fell upon the ground is similar to spider silk, it is strange that nobody reported having seen any spider, even though it covered an important area.

If the sighted objects were actually full of spiders, it is weird nobody signalled this.



If one considers all facts together, it seems rather implausible that the sightings were caused by nothing but migrating spiders.


It is, however, possible this is a yet unknown natural phenomenon.

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A UFO about Topcliffe?

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Whilst most UFO reports can demonstrably be accounted for through mundane causes, a minority of them appear to defy conventional explanations.

One such case is an incident which took place at Topcliffe in England in the 50s.


Flight Lieutenant Kilburn wrote a report on it.

„Sir, I have the honour to report the following incident which I witnessed on Friday, 19th September, 1952. I was standing with four other aircrew personnel of No. 269 Squadron watching a Meteor fighter gradually descending. The Meteor was at approximately 5000 feet and approaching from the east. [Flight Officer R.N.] Paris suddenly noticed a white object in the sky at a height between ten and twenty thousand feet some five miles astern of the Meteor. The object was silver in colour and circular in shape, it appeared to be travelling at a much slower speed than the Meteor but was on a similar course. It maintained the slow forward speed for a few seconds before commencing to descend, swinging in a pendular motion during descent similar to a falling sycamore leaf…After a few seconds, the object stopped its pendulous motion and its descent and began to rotate about its own axis
Suddenly it accelerated at an incredible speed towards the west turning onto a south-easterly heading before disappearing. All this occurred in a matter of fifteen to twenty seconds. The movements of the object were not identifiable with anything I have seen in the air and the rate of acceleration was unbelievable.“

What conventional explanations can be  envisaged here?

Obviously, the object wasn’t some bird or meteorite.

A plane?

I first thought of a plane or helicopter which was misidentified by the men. But how plausible is this?


While the sighting may have lasted more than 20 s, it seems safe to assume it lasted at most 2 minutes.


The circular shape and colour could possibly have been optical illusions.

Pendular motion

Yet what caused the observers to see the object swaying back and forth like a falling leave?

It seems dubious that a plane could move in a way similar to such a falling sycamore leave.

Even if it circled while descending, it doesn’t seem plausible this would give that impression to the experienced soldiers.

How did the plane stop and disappear?

Why did the men perceive that the putative plane or helicopter stopped, rotated around its axis for a few seconds before flying away at an amazing speed?

(The velocity of the object was likened to that of a shooting star in the press).

The change of direction of the plane (towards the West and then the south east) makes it likely it didn’t merely disappear in an unmentioned nearby cloud and that they were truly able to appreciate its speed.

The very short duration of the observation doesn’t seem to allow for such a fantastic acceleration while the „plane“ (let alone the helicopter) changed its course.

And if the soldiers perceived the plane as being immobile because it slowed down after ending the descent, this makes the sudden fantastic acceleration all the more incomprehensible.

Who in the hell was the pilot?

And who might have been the pilot and what were his motives? Given the behaviour of the „plane“ at such high heights and its performance , it seems far-fetched he was just a private individual like you and me having fun (back in the 50s). Equally implausible is the possibility that a Russian spy uselessly engaged in such manoeuvres. And if this was a British pilot of the RAF, we might wonder why nobody set the minds of the public straight. An intelligence agent wrote:

…In some RAF field, there was some sort of demonstration to which high officials of the RAF in London had been invited. During the show, a ‘perfect flying saucer’ was seen by these officials as well as RAF pilots. So many people saw it that many articles appeared in the public press. This is distressing to [Dr] Jones because he realises that the creation of the correction of public opinion is a part of his responsibilities.“

A weather balloon?

We could conceive of a weather balloon slowly advancing and, with a stretch of imagination, descending while zigzagging because of the wind. But that wouldn’t account for the very fast acceleration of the object after its having been apparently immobile for a few second.  The fact that it changed its direction from the west to the south-east shows that its flying away wasn’t an illusion due to its bursting.

False memories?

We might also consider the possibility that the men saw a normal plane changing its direction but misremembered crucial aspects of the sighting. Kilburn described his experience on the next day to a newspaper and probably wrote the official report shortly thereafter. In the absence of very precise leading questions, it doesn’t seem plausible at all that such false memories might emerge.


What if this all boiled down to hallucinations? This can never be disproved but we generally don’t consider it likely if the person is describing a coherent phenomenon (as is the case here). What is more, it is strange that the other witnesses would have failed to correct him or that we heard nothing about their disagreement.


As the sighting reportedly lasted less than a minute, we have few facts at our disposal.

But the combination of what we do know appears to rule out the best conventional explanations coming to mind. Trying to use them feels like fitting a square into a circle during a logic test.

This conclusion is tentative. I’d certainly be glad if a more knowledgeable reader can think of a good conventional explanation making sense of that peculiar sighting although I doubt it’s possible.

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On SETI and the alleged extreme implausibility of UFO

 Copyright ©2015

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Today, the label „UFO“ and „ufology“ seem to be hopelessly tainted.

More than anything else, the nearly endless number of ridiculous, groundless and absurd claims of believers (see for example the recent scandal of the Roswell slides) have led countless people to consider the whole topic as the domain of charlatans, lunatics and mentally impaired.

Like so many, I too used to throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater. Until I came across a book written by the American astronomer charged by the US Air Force between 1947 and 1969 with the study of sightings of alleged unidentified flying objects.

I was struck by his professionalism, rigour and above everything else by a number of incidents which are truly anomalous and seem (in some cases) to clearly involve an intelligence disposing of means we could not dream of.

Another good book making a decent case for the reality of UAP (Unidentified Atmospheric Phenomena) is „UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record“ written by American journalist Leslie Kean. Despite the title, this book is free of sensational claims, crazy conspiracy theories and it presents hard facts which point toward the reality of  anomalous aerial phenomena. I certainly don’t endorse all contributions and think that some cases (such as the Belgian UFO wave and Rendlesham forest) are probably best explained by sophisticated military exercises having nothing otherworldly or supernatural whatsoever.

Still, I do believe that this book is an excellent read. I was delighted to see Leslie recently commenting on the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) project which hopes to find sign of intelligent life beside distant stars but rejects as absurd the possibility that it may already have reached our solar system. I decided to use the opportunity to answer her (on her facebook page).

One of the main points I want to highlight is that both believers and sceptics are unaware of the fundamental presuppositions with which they approach the field. Thinking about the foundations one stands upon can certainly help frame a better debate.

(Very) Local SETI: The Launch of a New UFO Science

Last July, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced the launch of a bold $100 million project „to reinvigorate the search for life in the universe.“  The amplified SETI initiative is „the most powerful, comprehensive and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth,“ according to the project’s website

„The chance of finding life has risen a billion-fold when we realized that Earth-like planets are not rare, but that there are literally billions of them just within our own galaxy,“ Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees stated at the time.  Noting that the payoff could be „colossal,“ he wondered whether alien life to be discovered could be organic, or maybe „machines created by long long-dead civilizations.“

PHL @ UPR Arecibo (phil.upr.edu) July 23, 2015

As someone who has studied official UFO/UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) documentation for many years, I was naturally inspired — even elated — by this announcement. But at the same time, I couldn’t help relating it to my all too keen awareness of the taboo against taking UFOs seriously, despite the obvious relationship of UFO phenomena to the quest for finding extraterrestrial life. After all, couldn’t some UFOs be the machines that Rees referred to? And must they belong only to dead civilizations?

There is no sign that Milner’s team will include our own solar system among the many others that it will search for signs of intelligent life. Most scientists have repeatedly stated that whatever data (if any) we have on UFOs are insufficient for study. Yet, as I made clear in my book UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record, there is plenty of evidence for the existence of unexplained aerial phenomena, and some governments (such as France and Chile), in cooperation with their own scientific teams, have made this a matter of official record.

Even so, the larger, multi-disciplinary search for extraterrestrial intelligence, seeking even the tiniest and most wide ranging clues, has never given a nod to this „forbidden realm“ of intriguing, highly suggestive evidence — in fact, it has been completely ignored. And at the same time, SETI has yet to find any evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence in its effort to detect radio signals or light from distant locations „that would reveal the presence of technically sophisticated beings,“ as SETI describes it.

But now, for the first time, a new group of scientists and other professionals is determined to change this outdated and unbalanced scenario, once and for all.  Yes, we do need more scientific data on UFOs — but who is going to provide it?

In October 2013, I attended a meeting led by Mark Rodeghier, scientific director of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, and political scientist Alexander Wendt, whom some of you might recognize as a co-author of the chapter „Militant Agnosticism and the UFO Taboo“ from my book, to solidify a new, rigorously scientific approach to the UFO problem. Rodeghier and Wendt have since formed a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization called UFO Detection and TrAcking (UFODATA for short), which includes an international team of scientists and engineers with an interest in UFOs, including (among others) Massimo Teodorani, Dave Akers and Erling Strand, as well as several academic „silent partners“ who do not want to be publicly identified. „We are establishing this project out of frustration with the impasse that the UFO debate has been at for over sixty years,“ Wendt says.

I acknowledge my own current involvement: I accepted Rodeghier and Wendt’s invitation to join their Board of Directors, along with Philippe Ailleris, Project Controller at the Space Research and Technology Centre of the European Space Agency.

Please see UFODATA’s website — just launched today — for more details.

The organization has one goal and one goal only: to design, build and deploy a global network of automated surveillance stations that will monitor the skies full time looking for UFOs.  UFODATA has no interest in alleged government conspiracies or adding more witness reports or FOIA documents to the thousands already on file. The idea here is that only a complete change of methodology toward a purely scientific approach to the UFO issue will enable us to move forward.

courtesy Massimo Teodorani, UFODATA

The monitoring stations, of which UFODATA eventually hopes to have dozens, will contain a suite of sophisticated instruments that will record numerous physical characteristics of any UFOs that appear in their range. They will all send their data back to a central location. Current projections are that the stations will cost about $10-20,000 each, thanks to the unprecedented convergence of high resolution digital camera technologies, off-the shelf scientific instrumentation, powerful low-cost computing platforms and far-reaching high-speed internet access. (More information about the instruments and science involved can be found on the site.)

UFODATA will rely on crowd funding to finance the stations, allowing the millions of people who take UFOs seriously to be involved in the effort, independent of the scientific establishment. Some supporters may wish to host a station in their own location or offer their expertise to the organization.

The campaign will unfold in two phases initially.  First, it will focus on filling gaps in its volunteer technical staff and on raising enough money by word of mouth to build a prototype station.  This prototype will serve as a technical testbed, providing concrete evidence of capabilities to support Phase Two, which will launch the formal crowd-funding campaign. Phase Two will have a larger financial target, to fulfill the objective of building a small but fully functioning network of stations which will begin collecting data and also attract additional media, scientific and public attention to support further network development.

Massimo Teodorani, astrophysicist from Italy, presenting the project in July, 2014 to the first scientific workshop organized by CNES/GEIPAN in Paris. Photos: Philippe Ailleris

courtesy Massimo Teodorani, UFODATA

„Are we really alone? Or are there others out there? It’s one of the biggest questions,“ the Milner announcement reads. „And only science can answer it.“ We completely agree. Rodeghier points out that we are simply taking SETI to its logical limit — local SETI. „Several researchers interested in the conventional search for ET have pushed the boundaries to suggest that it is not misguided to search in the solar system, including around the moon, for ET artifacts or other evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence,“ he says. „But they have rejected looking in near-Earth orbit. Logically this prohibition makes no sense, and so with UFODATA we will also break the taboo of searching for signs of ET right here, not just millions of kilometers away.“

He points out that SETI has spent huge amounts of money over fifty years with no success. „Why not, in comparison, take a few years with modest funding to study UFO evidence close to home?“

Short of US government recognition that UAP are worthy of investigation, I believe that this grassroots initiative is the best effort we can make to move toward a rational answer to the UFO question. Ironically, sidestepping government to study UFOs in this way could also ultimately help win respect for the issue within the political (as well as scientific) establishment. UFODATA should appeal to those who are tired of the misplaced certainties on both sides of the UFO debate — conspiracy theorists convinced that UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft and debunkers equally convinced that UFOs don’t even exist. Precisely because so little science has been done on UFOs, humanity is actually quite ignorant about what they are. This is a unique moment for something radically different, with the potential to unite all of us in a pivotal, larger goal. We now have the opportunity to elevate UFO investigations so that they become part of the larger scientific search for extraterrestrial life and will eventually be recognized as such by the world community.

For now, we remain agnostic about the nature and origin of UFOs. However, „whether or not we find any ETs, this will constitute a radical breakthrough in both the study and status of the UFO problem,“ says Wendt.  „And if it does turn up any ETs, well, that would be one of the most important events in human history…“

My response follows.

Hi Leslie.
I find it is a wonderfully written article!
Sceptics like to see themselves as objective and completely unbiased observers who look at the evidence for unidentified aerial phenomena and just find it wanting.
Having now read lots of their publications and assertions, I’ve become convinced that the whole foundation of their position is their deep conviction that anomalous aerial phenomena are extremely unlikely to be real FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.
It is this strong PRIOR BELIEF in the incredible implausibility of any aerial phenomenon defying our current knowledge that leads them to reject good cases.
Among many other examples, they presume that a witness must have had complex hallucinations which occurred coincidentally beside traces on the ground which cannot be readily explained. Or that a respectable and apparently mentally healthy policeman concocted a very complex hoax where he damaged his own vehicle and harmed himself just for the fun of it.

A French peasant is facing a UFO in Valensole. Two aliens are standing in front of it.

UFO encounter in Valensole. A witness everybody would have believed under other circumstances.

Of course, if such explanations were used to explain away mundane events (such as drug trafficking or an aggression), most police persons would write them off very quickly or even laugh.
So, I think that their position stands and falls with their ability to DEMONSTRATE that UAPs are very unlikely to exist from the outset (See The burden of proof is a double-edged sword).
Most debunkers don’t offer much thought to this important foundational question.
Instead, they mistake their own subjective feelings that belief in UAPs is ridiculous for iron-clad arguments showing that the probability of their existence is incredibly small.
I find it completely INCOHERENT that (at the same time) they also believe that the universe is teeming with intelligent SPACE-FARING liveforms using radio signals to communicate with each others.
If it is so (and if we know almost nothing about their psychology and technology), we have absolutely no grounds for confidently proclaiming that the probability of their reaching the solar system is ludicrously small.
In that way, we should be as open to the possibility of their actions in the solar system and on earth as we are to the detection of an intelligent signal coming from a distant galaxy.
That said, I am very sceptical about the odds of UFODATA successfully detecting the presence of an unknown intelligence amidst us.
I think that a look at all UFO data shows that when an unkown intelligence is apparently involved, it seems to be deceptive, manipulative and not willing to give us a proof of its existence which would be recognised by everyone (such as landing on the lawn of the white house).
When encounters seemingly occur, it appears to be them choosing to interact with us and not us stumbling across them by chance.
The important point here is that UFODATA can only succeed if the intelligence apparently responsible for some UFO cases has no intention to hide its existence to the larger public or is not able to conceal itself sufficiently. Given the pattern emerging from the analysis of many incidents, both options seem highly dubious.
Following Jacques Vallee and Alan Hynek, I don’t consider it absurd at all to think that we have been visited all along by beings from another realm who appear to us in many disguises.
(I actually don’t think that anyone can show this to be very unlikely without begging the question. I know this is quite an astonishing claim and would be glad to discuss about that with my readers).
Yet, I don’t know anything about the psychology of putative space aliens, so I cannot rule out that some of them would act like this.
I agree with you those are exciting times, though. If (against my expectations) UFODATA manages to find clear evidence, this would refute both debunkers and proponents of the inter-dimensional hypothesis such as Jacques Valles and establish once and for all the presence of aliens not far from us.
Best wishes.

I later posted the following comment.

Scientific reasoning (understood as testing theories making clear predictions) isn’t the only way to draw warranted conclusions.
I think it would be much more desirable to dispose of such hard data, indeed.

But this relies on the assumption that the putative „aliens“ (whoever they might be) are either
1) willing to let us discover them
2) unable to avoid detection

If both conditions aren’t satisfied (e.g the aliens do not want humanity to be aware of their presence AND they dispose of means to avoid an irrefutable detection), the project is going to come up blank and this absence of evidence will (wrongly) be interpreted as strong evidence against the reality of UAPs in general.
(From a purely logical standpoint, this would not undermine belief in aliens who want to remain hidden and have the ability to do so).

While I salute your effort, I think this might backfire in the end.

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Genuine UFO among a wave of IFO?

I recently came across the German-speaking version of a highly interesting UFO documentary produced by the National Geographic Channel.

The German name is „Invasion Erde – Berichte von UFOs am Nachthimmel“  (Invasion of the earth – reports of UFO under nocturnal skies).

In English, the series seems to be called „UFO conspiracies“ and the episode in question was entitled „War Zone“ (26.11.2014).

While the beginning and end of the episode dealt with the alleged crashed object in Kecksburg, the middle of the documentary went into the effects of an Identified Flying Object (IFO) on local sightings.

On the night of June the First, the French actually launched a missile from a submarine off the coast of Brittany, an M45 sea to ground missile.


According to astronomer Nigel Henbest: „they targeted French Guiana in South America. So that missile launched from Brittany would’ve actually gone over both Spain and Portugal on route.”


The puzzle is that three persons remember having sighted on that night objects which present features seriously at odds with the hallmarks of such a missile.

In what follows, I go into the testimony of every witness.

Since the documentary was made ten years after the event, false memories must be seriously considered while analysing their accounts.

Jorge Fernandez

Jorge Fernandez

Jorge Fernandez

Over three hundred and sixty miles away, in Beja, Portugal, Jorge Fernandez is out hunting…

“Around 11pm I finished hunting and as I was heading towards the truck, I looked towards the mountains and I saw smoke from something falling very fast. I got scared.

I thought it was a plane that was about to crash. Suddenly it stopped in the air. It just hovered there, still. A strong light came on, as if there was an explosion… there was always smoke around it”

Later on

I don’t think that even a missile is able to stop suddenly and then change direction and start going up. I don’t think it’s possible.”

But he made the following confession.

Many times when I’m out in the fields, I wished that I could see a UFO. And it happened on that night.”

Given that strong expectation and in the absence of any corroborating evidence, I consider it possible that the unphysical  „hovering“ of the missile was a false memory which has unfolded in his mind much later.


Jesus Merchan Rubira

On the night of June the 1st, amateur astronomer and science student, Jesus Merchan Rubira, is on the roof of his apartment block, enjoying the fine weather and clear night skies.

“I was preparing my equipment to do some photographs of a comet. Back then the NEAT comet.

It’s while setting up to photograph the comet that Jesus sees what he initially assumes to be an ordinary aircraft, moving from North to West.

… I looked at it just the same way as any other plane. But then. It started to expel, like, dust. And to create a dust cloud in the sky. It was very large and yellow.
And then the object began to rotate, to turn over itself. And to go upwards in an erratic trajectory. And I started to get worried because I thought it was a plane crash. …”
“I was very scared because I think those people were about to die, and I was witnessing that…And then the object appeared to explode.
“… By that time I had my camera ready, and I took the picture. The only picture that I managed to take.”


This is the image that he took that night.

When the whole event was over, I phoned a friend of mine just to have him check the news to see if a plane crash has taken place. But we didn’t find anything. About that or about anything. It was like it never existed.

Later on.

“The simplest explanation is usually the correct one. So…For me the case is closed, yeah, with this missile test I am comfortable with this hypothesis.”

Even if the young student ended up agreeing with the missile explanation, there still remains facts which do not fit quite well.

I have no big problem conceiving that the dust cloud and apparent imminent explosion of the object might have been illusions spawn by a combination of physical and psychological factors.

The main difficulty here is the upward erratic movement which was snapped by his photo camera.

In that case, it seems much harder to attribute his „sighting“ to a later misremembrance of a conventional missile.

Does any of my readers know a physical phenomenon which can cause such a seemingly chaotic upward move to a missile? Or at least create the appearance thereof?

I am tempted to think that the object he sighted that night might have been something quite different from the French missile and possibly even an UAP (Uidentified Aerial Phenomenon) in the broad sense.

Pedro Pinheiro


Graphic designer Pedro Pinheiro also claims to have seen a strange phenomenon in the sky that night …

“I saw a triangular configuration, and in one of the corners there was a more intense light, of a bluish white hue.”
“And it was moving slowly at a constant speed.”

Pinheiro is astonished by what he’s seeing.

“I got a bit scared. I’d never seen anything like that.”
“At this point I called my brother and his girlfriend, and they came running, and we just watched it in silence. Speechless.”

Being a graphic designer, but not having a camera at his disposal, Pinheiro came up with a novel way of documenting the incident.
“It’s an illustration that I made the following day, and it represents the initial moment of observation, the first moment, when I looked up to the sky.”

Triangular bluish object sighted by Pdero.

Triangular bluish object sighted by Pedro.

While being told that his sighting was that of a missile, he reacted as follows:
“According to what I have seen in images of war or in films of missile behaviour. … I don’t think it would correspond in any way whatsoever to a missile.”

And I am strongly tempted to agree with him. 

The object was observed by three witnesses which very plausibly agreed with the triangular-shaped bluish object depicted by Pedro on the next day.

In that case, it seems far fetched that within only one day radical false memories of a conventional missile would have taken place in the minds of three persons, psychological contamination notwithstanding.

I really think that what they saw was a triangular anomalous flying object completely unrelated to the French missile.

Actually, the shape of the object remind me of a photo recently taken in Australia:

‚UFO‘ photographed flying over Toowoomba region

12th June 2015 2:57 PM
AN object the photographer believes to be a UFO was spotted flying over Oakey at 6.30am this morning. Photo of what is believed to be a UFO flying over Oakey taken by Greg Young Contributed

AN object the photographer believes to be a UFO was spotted flying over Oakey at 6.30am this morning.

FieldQuip employee Greg Young decided to capture the beauty of the sunrise by taking a photo and it wasn’t until he zoomed in on his iphone that he noticed the strange object.

Mr Young said he looked back up at the sky and noticed the triangular object flying through the clouds followed by a dark blue trail.

„It was all a bit weird because a few moments earlier me and my co-worker saw some bright flashing lights from the East and we couldn’t work out what they were,“ Mr Young said.

„Then we saw this thing and it just made for a really odd morning.

„I don’t believe in aliens or anything like that but it definitely looked like something,“ he said.

FieldQuip operations manager Darren Mauger said he did not believe in aliens but he was intrigued by the object.

„I completely disbelieve in aliens and UFOs but I did find it strange,“ Mr Mauger said.

„Greg came in to show me the photo and by the time I went back outside it was gone.

„He said it wasn’t travelling very fast and was flying silently but it had disappeared within a minute,“ he said.

This report is rather ambiguous because it isn’t entirely clear whether or not Greg Young only saw the moving object on his phone (which could then be nothing more than a material defect or a bird flying past) or also sighted it with his naked eyes. The sentence „he looked back up at the sky and noticed the triangular object flying through the clouds followed by a dark blue trail „ seems to suggest he indeed made out the flying object visually.

At any rate, in the case of Pedro Pinheiro and his two companions, it looks like they really sighted an anomalous flying object at odds with our public knowledge (which is my definition of a UFO).

Generic psychological debunking

The producers of the documentary apparently assumed that any strange flying object sighted during the same night must have been the very missile which caught the attention of so many Spanish and Portuguese citizens.

Consequently, they concluded that any witness describing another object considerably different from it must be wrong and they asked Dr. Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist, to provide them with an explanation.


„Your brain sees nothing other than what it thinks it’s supposed to see, we see what we believe
When we open our eyes, we never see the world that’s really there. We can’t, we’re forever separate from that world. We only ever receive information from that world onto our senses. So onto our eyes, into our ears, onto our skin. That’s the only information we get
So your brain can only ever use its history of experience to make sense of that information, to literally make sense.”
That then shapes our assumptions, so in a sense we see what we believe, we see what our assumptions are.
So you can be self-priming, you can prime yourself to see something.
We all know this to be true, so if suddenly you want to buy a car and you’re interested in buying one particular car, you’ll notice
car everywhere. Suddenly your brain over biases the probability of those cars existing in the world even though, of course nothing’s changed. It’s just because you’re noticing them more.”
And the point is that they’re not crazy. Their brain is simply making a meaning based on what makes most sense
So they’re giving it an interpretation that makes sense. What makes sense for them is specific to them.

I think that what Dr. Lotto described here holds for a great number of human beings who are prone to wishful thinking.

But it is obvious that many of us do NOT see the things we wish to see unless they are truly out there.

While it cannot be proven, I am perfectly happy with the possibility that Jorge Fernandez (who went out with the expectation of seeing a UFO)experienced much later on a false memory which made him believe that the object behaved in an unphysical way.

I can’t accept the same explanation for Jesus Merchan Rubira because he obviously wasn’t looking for an oddly behaving object and dispose of a photo showing the thing shooting upwards in an erratic manner.

I think that Pedro Pinheiro saw an anomalous object which has nothing to do with the French missile. Both its slow regular speed and its bluish triangular shape are a complete mismatch to it.


The main fallacy of this investigation has been to assume that if a massive sighting has an unambiguous cause, there could not have been isolated observations of genuinely unidentified aerial phenomena completely unrelated to the thing or object most people saw.

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Yet another mysterious light in the Yorkshire dales


At the risk of making a fool of myself (once again), I’d like to recount you a somewhat peculiar experience I had while walking along the waterfalls trail by Ingleton in the lovely Yorkshire dales.

The Ingleton Waterfalls Trail. The likely position where we stood while sighting the light was characterised by the red ellipse besides.

The Ingleton Waterfalls Trail. The likely position where we stood while sighting the light was characterised by the red ellipse besides.

First, my eyes were caught by a very intense and large light on another mountain lying beyond the valley of Ingleton, whose name is Mount Inglebourough according to the map.

We were not too far from a farm called „Scar End“ as it occurred.

IngleboroughThe enigmatic glow wasn’t located on the top of the mountain but a bit under it. It was white or very slightly yellow in colour.

While the size couldn’t be rigorously estimated, it looked pretty large and it is quite plausible it would have covered a whole bunch of trees or even more.

Since it lay in a pretty foggy area, the image given to our eyes was necessarily blurred.

It remained steady in its intensity during at least 30 seconds if not several minutes.

I called it to the attention of my parents. All the three of us looked at it.

My father told me not to stare at it because he thought this was the reflection of the sun on some surface.

It was at this moment or a bit later that the thing began to blink on and off rather quickly and almost perfectly periodically.

I’m sure we witnessed at the very least two such cycles and my mom think there were most likely at least three similar cycles.

No spatial movements were noticed and it seemed to always lie on the ground.

Then, after having watched with puzzlement at the light, we saw it suddenly disappear and we didn’t perceive it again during the next following minutes. We walked further.

I soon started to think on plenty of other things and didn’t pay too much attention to it any more.

Now, on Tuesday evening, four days after the event, I deemed it worthwhile to relate this short story to other people.

Given my own (limited) knowledge of modern technology, I’m puzzled by the unusual character of the sighting:

1) The thing looked first like a large steady light during 30 – 120 seconds.

2) It then blinked on and off at least 2 times, most likely 3 times or even considerably more.

3) It completely disappeared and we didn’t see it again after one or two minutes and probably more.

4) I couldn’t localise on the map or via Google any stationary source of light such as a television tower or an aerodrome.

So, I’d be very grateful to all people reading that if they were to give me mundane suggestions as to the cause of our observation. I’d be particularly interested in learning the opinion of local inhabitants of the region. The spot marked on the map (and my deduction that the location of the „something“ was the mount Ingleborough) are tentative and shouldn’t lead anyone to rule out other nearby places where this could have taken place.

No, I do NOT believe that little Grey Aliens who travelled all that way from Zeta Reticuli were just spending their holidays there.

A funny toy representing a Reticular Grey Alien

Reticular Grey Alien

But I consider it quite likely that what I saw was the light of playful leprechauns who mischievously mimicked a human technological device so as to better camouflage themselves.

Green-dressed Leprechaun

Cute Leprechaun

I will not, however, consider this a definitive conclusion unless all plausible conventional explanations have been ruled out first.

Possible Explanations

Several friendly folks on facebook  proposed me some hypotheses.

1) Was the light some reflection?

„What was the weather like? You mention foggy, yet your father was worried about looking at reflected sunlight. Could it have been a reflection with something (e.g. herd of creatures) moving across the path of the light, or something rotating (e.g. mountain bike mirror?) to create a blinking effect?“

The weather was partially sunny, rainy and foggy. During the first phase of our sighting, we thought this was either a stationary source of light or a reflection of the sun on some surface.

We gave up this idea as it started blinking on and off in a perfectly regular manner. From this point onward, it was clear to us that the light was emitted by a technological object.

A reflection on moving surfaces (such as bikes or herds) is ruled out by the fact that the light always remained at the same spot.

2) A ball of luminous gas?

„Sounds like will o the wisp to me. I’ve seen a few of them over the Yorkshire Moorside. Pretty much balls of luminous gas.“

I wasn’t able to understand what this fellow meant by „will“ or „wisp“.

The thing seemed to have too regular features for it to be a „ball of luminous gas“ of natural origin.

3) Someone testing their car lights under the fog?

„Potentially, Car Full beam headlights reflecting of the fog, Someone unused to driving in those conditions might experiment rapidly with their lights. I have seen something similar near Robin Hoods Bay on a foggy night. Best of luck with your investigation“

The behaviour of the light makes this hypothesis pretty implausible.

  • it always remained on the same position. People testing their car in such a way tend to move around.
  • the light seemed very intense and large. It seems akin to that of a lighthouse or a television tower.

  • It was switched on and off at least two times, probably more than three times. It greatly resembled the light of a beacon.

  • the fog layer was light and didn’t severely hamper one’s visibility, even there. Such a test would have been of very limited use.

4) Miscellaneous

„So the large red mark on your map was your location, and you were looking east towards Ingleborough? My first thoughts would be someone out on the mountain with a powerful lamp, either hunting, searching, messing around, taking photographs (light painting).“

The light looked really large and was standing out even if we were separated from it by a valley and several kilometres.

What is more, its immobility and the fact it was switched on and off in an automatic fashion during the second phase of the observation do not fit in with it being some sort of powerful torch.

While there were some fog layers hanging besides the mountain, the visibility remained very good so that it is hard to envision anyone feeling the need to use a light having such bizarre features under these circumstances.

Or possibly an off road vehicle (parked stationary, then moving off over a bumpy track causing the flashes).“
After a certain duration, the light completely disappeared and we didn’t see it any more, nor could we make out any vehicle in the aftermath.

The flashes were exactly like those of a lighthouse and didn’t have the irregularities one would expect if they stemmed from someone driving over a bumpy track.

5) Mirage

„The thing was the mirage of a real beacon, lighthouse or radio tower located at some other place.“

Since I’m no optician, I am not able to rule out this possibility, nor to estimate its plausibility.


The four first sets of explanations seem very unlikely to have spawn such a sighting.

The light could have been a fleeting mirage of a pulsating technological device, but without any evidence corroborating this, this remains nothing more than an unverified speculation.

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An extraordinary memory failure?

A not too short summary

Bob Taylor facing the dome-shaped objects and the two sea-mines.

UFO-encounter of Bob Taylor at Livingston (Scotland).

Robert Taylor’s encounter with an unidentified object in November 1979 is doubtlessly the most dramatised case of what can be loosely called „paranormal activity in Scotland“.

Robert Taylor was a 61-year-old very skilled forester foreman who managed several squads of workers whose job was to watch over the woodland areas administered by the LDC, a local corporation based in Livingston, Scotland.

One morning, he was totally mesmerised by the presence of a dome-shaped object resting on a clearing in a part of the forest which was very familiar to him.

Shortly thereafter, small objects with protruding spikes similar to sea-mines showed up and hurtled at him. They toppled onto his right and left side, respectively and tried to pull him forward. Overpowered by a terrible smell, he passed out.

Upon waking up, he heard a „whooshing sound“ as well as his dog barking furiously and he could see that the object had disappeared while looking up.

No longer able to talk or even to walk normally, he eventually managed to struggle back home.

His wife saw he was in a state of shock and his boss and doctor noticed the presence of three wounds, while his trousers had been torn at the places where he had felt the spheres tugging at him.

Taylor, his boss, and some alerted policemen went to the spot of the incident where they could see and measure unexplainable marks on the ground. Owing to the combination of all these elements, debunkers have had a very hard time explaining away his whole experience, so that even British journalist David Clark (who stands generally on the side of the Sceptics)  stated that Bob Taylor’s case strikes me as a really good example of a genuine eye witness account of an inexplicable phenomenon.“

Three years ago, John Alison (Alias Phil Fenton, a Scottish businessman) came forward with a Amazon Ebook where he pretends to have, at last, solved the whole enigma beyond any reasonable doubt.

Basically, on the other side of the motorway close to the clearing where Bob Taylor reported having sighted the UFO, there is a dome-shaped water tank which, for Alison, has such striking similarities with the object described by Taylor that it must have been the same thing.

As I explained below, one can only notice such amazing similarities by picking and choosing convenient details, ignoring crucial aspects of the experience and  making unverifiable speculations in order to make both objects resemble each other.

At best, the „similarities“ are completely inconclusive if not downright absurd.

The fatal flaw of Alison’s scenario does not lie in his convoluted and distorted fitting, however.

According to him, the responsible and honourable forestry foreman Robert Taylor tried, without any good reason, to illegally climb over the fence of the water reservoir, fell back and undergone a mini-stroke before seeing small spherical chemical tanks which (due to some hellish coincidence) had lost their balance and were rolling towards him.

Only a few hours later, he completely forgot his initial intention to illegally penetrate into the water reservoir. He completely forgot he went to this spot at all. He totally forgot the fencing tearing his trousers and the loathsome storage tanks rolling towards him.

Instead, he became entirely convinced he had encountered a UFO-like „something“ on a well-known clearing located on the other side of the motorway.

While false memories are a real phenomenon, I have never come across such an extraordinary case and I strongly doubt that any lawyer would seriously consider using such a defence strategy during a trial.

John Alison’s book gives us a perfect example of how an explanation which is logically possible might be, nonetheless, extraordinarily implausible.

Those of you truly interested in this case might find it worthwhile to read my detailed analysis and I would be thankful if you were to express your sincere criticism concerning my arguments.

1) Introduction: physically assaulted by a UFO?

One of the most puzzling UFO-cases having ever taken place in Scotland is undoubtedly the encounter of forester Robert Taylor with an unidentified object which injured him.

A decent summary of the incident can be found here.

On the ninth of November 1979 a forester named Robert Taylor had an encounter with the UFO in Livingston, Scotland. He had left his house at 10 AM and driven to a plantation near the M8 motorway for an inspection. He parked as close as he could to the clearing that was to be inspected and followed a track the rest of the way. As he rounded a corner he came face-to-face with the UFO.

The object was grey in colour and approximately 20 feet wide and 12 feet high. There was a protruding rim just below halfway down the object which reminded Taylor of the brim of a hat. Some dark patches were seen on the body of the object which looked like portholes. At times the object became semi transparent as if trying to disguise itself.

Two small spheres with protruding spikes (not unlike sea mines) rushed towards Taylor from the direction of the object. These smaller objects were approximately two feet across. They seized Taylor by the legs, tearing his trousers in the process, and dragged him towards the large object. At this point Taylor recalls a choking smell and then lost consciousness.

Upon regaining consciousness he heard a swishing sound and realised that the UFOs had gone. His dog was barking wildly at him and he realised that he couldn’t walk or even talk properly. He managed to get back to his truck that got it stuck in the mud and consequently had to walk over a mile back to his home. He suffered a headache for hours and a raging thirst which lasted for two days.

Marks were found on the ground in the clearing to correspond with the mine like objects that Taylor described.

A detailed and thorough investigation has been conducted shortly after the event by Martin Keatman and Andrew Collins: [1], [2], [3].

The following videos are worth watching but shouldn’t always be taken at face value:

(1 – 16 minutes)

2) Case solved?

Recently, Phil Fenton (alias John Alison) a local Scottish businessman has come forward with what he considers the most likely explanation of this strange happening.

UFO investigator claims he has answer to one of Scotland’s greatest unexplained alien encounter mysteries

PHILL FENTON, from Livingston, reckons the alleged UFO spotted by Bob Taylor in 1979 was actually a nearby saucer-shaped water tower.

David Johnstone Photography The dome-shaped water tower near Livingston
The dome-shaped water tower near Livingston

A UFO investigator believes he may have solved one of Scotland’s great unexplained mysteries.

Forestry worker Bob Taylor reported an incident 34 years ago involving an alleged alien craft and two “robot” attackers.

He was left unconscious with ripped trousers in the middle of woods at Dechmont Law, near Livingston.

Despite inquiries by police and ufologists, no plausible explanation has been found and the incident has remained one of Scotland’s highest profile X-Files type cases.

It has featured in several TV specials and books down the years. But local businessman Phill Fenton has just published a report which he feels may hold the key to the mystery.

The report, which has been published as an Amazon e-book, suggests Bob may have suffered a mini-stroke and been exposed to harmful chemicals which left him confused and disoriented.

And Phill believes the UFO he believes he saw could have been a saucer-shaped water tower nearby.

Phill, a 56-year-old sign maker from Livingston, said: “I have always been intrigued by the incident and one day I spotted the dome-shaped object and it struck me that it looked a lot like Robert Taylor’s description.

“The more I looked, the more I thought it was more than a coincidence that something this close matched the description of the so-called UFO nearby.”

He added that chemicals used in such tanks could make people experience the effects which Bob reported and the rips on his clothes matched the shape of a security fence near the tower.

Bob with reporters in 1982
Bob with reporters in 1982

 Bob, who had a reputation for being down to earth, reported feeling overcome by a powerful odour which left him choking for breath before he fainted. He died in 2007, aged 88.

Malcolm Robinson, author of the books UFO Case Files of Scotland, is the leading authority on the Livingston incident. He said of Phill’s report: “It’s a very interesting hypothesis which is very well put together. But it’s one I don’t adhere to myself.

“He (Bob) always took investigators to the original site, not to a water tank, and he told us this is where it happened and I saw the marks in the grass myself.”

3) Critical examination of the theory

Those who have spent time researching the case know that Alison has intensely tried to promote his book himself, often even hiding the fact he’s its author while giving his link towards Amazon at many opportunities.

In the Ebook, one can find a copy-paste of a newspaper-article, the wikipedia article as well as many pages dealing with an irrelevant conspiracy theory involving the Ministry of Defence that Alison finally rejects.

His writing style isn’t quite unpleasant, yet I could  not count the number of logical leaps and unproven assertions based on apparently nothing more than a superficial knowledge of the subjects at hand or even the own intuitions of the author.

Now, we are all endowed with different talents and it may very well be the case that Mister Alison is an excellent and trustworthy businessman.

Still, it was completely inappropriate to make people pay for something which would have only been a blog post of average quality at best.

With that in mind, let us start scrutinising his claims.

3.1) Such an amazing coincidence?

The main positive argument put forward by Alison is the alleged fact that the object experienced by Bob Taylor and the water dome on the other side of the motorway are so amazingly similar that they MUST be the same thing.

He based almost all his information about the encounter on a press declaration given by Taylor on the next Monday, three days after the incident.

My brush with the aliens.

A man relived this week his encounter in a Livingston wood with „robot-like creatures from a strange craft“.
Bob Taylor told how the encounter left him shocked, dazed and unable to speak.
He described how he discovered a large dome-shaped machine in a secluded clearing in Dechmont Law wood.
Mr Taylor revealed his tale of the fantastic to a press conference on Monday.
On Friday morning (November 9th 1979) 61-year old Mr Taylor was working in the woods at Dechmont Law, below Deer Hill, only a few hundred yards from the M8 motorway.

At around 10.20am he walked into a clearing where he was confronted by a large dull grey dome-shaped craft.
„Around it was a flange and there were propellers sticking out“.
(Later on, Bob Taylor described the surface of the object as having a rough texture similar to that of sandpaper).

In calm and measured tones, Mr Taylor told incredulous newspaper-men how the machine seemed to be merging into its surrounding.
„It seemed as if it was camouflaging itself“, he said.
Mr Taylor was alone in the woods except for his Irish setter, Lara. He had parked his LDC Forestry Department van quite some distance away from the clearing.
As he gazed down at the silent unmarked craft in the hollows, two spheres came from beneath it.
„They looked like naval mines, about four to five foot high, with six stalks coming from each one.“
„I was mesmerised as I watched“, said the foreman forester.

But Mr Taylor’s memory of what happened after they closed on him is hazy.
As they rolled towards him on the stalks, the only noise he heard was a sucking sound as they crossed the damp grass. He was overpowered by a very strong smell.
„I could hardly breathe. The smell caught the back of my throat.“ he said.
„Then I must have fainted or been knocked out by the smell“.
He assumes the robots must have grabbed him because when he came around his trousers were torn at the side of his legs.“

Mr Taylor could  not recall with accuracy his emotions during those incredible minutes of Friday morning.
But he is certain there wasn’t any menace from the craft or the two machines which approached him.
One thing he remembers as he was suffering from the effects of the powerful odour was Lara barking.
„Lara may have frightened the machines off or perhaps unnerved them, I don’t know“ he said.
When he came around he found the clearing was empty. Dazed, shocked and unable to speak, he half crawled, half staggered to his van.

But the effects of the encounter had left him unable to drive or use the van’s two-way radio.
He crawled and stumbled the mile-and-a-half to his home.
His wife Mary thought he had a serious accident when he staggered into his house at 4 Broomieknowe Drive, Livingston Station.
She telephoned his boss, Mr Malcom Drummond, head of the Livingston Development corporation Forestry Department.
Mrs Taylor and Mr Drummond were sceptical of his tale of the close encounter in the woods but Mr Taylor insisted.
He persuaded Mr Drummond to accompany him to the spot where the incident had taken place.
There Mr Drummond, who has known Mr Taylor for more than the 16 years he has worked for the LDC, saw a distinct pattern of marks on the ground.

„In the centre were something like caterpillar tracks surrounded by deep triangular marks the size of a horse’s hoof“. said Mr Drummond.
But there were no tracks going to and from the site which is surrounded by trees.

„What made them must have weighed more than a ton, possibly two tons.“
„I can’t explain what made those marks but it must have come straight down and gone straight back up again.“
Mr Drummond had no explanation for what caused Mr Taylor’s condition on Friday morning.
But he is in no doubt that Mr Taylor is genuinely reporting what he saw or believes he saw.
„He’s a very straightforward and serious bloke.“

He’s not the type of man to make up fanciful stories“.
Mr Taylor’s doctor persuaded him to go to Bangour General Hospistal for a general check up to see if he was concussed.
He said he had suffered from no ill effects from his experience on Friday morning.

Until then he hadn’t believed in flying saucers and UFO’s.
„I’ve never read science fiction and I don’t pay much attention to it on television“.
„But I definitely believe in them now“ said Mr Taylor.
Mr Gordon Fraser of the British UFO research Association said Mr Taylor’s account was similar in many respects to other reports of encounters with UFOs.
A senior police officer said the tracks in the woods had been photographed.
The matter was treated seriously and reports have been forwarded to Lothian and Borders Police HQ in Edinburgh.

This report is very concise and leaves numerous important details vague. I do not understand why Alison didn’t also consider the police report itself (written on the same Friday) as well as the results of a thorough investigation conducted by Keatman and Collins from Wednesday on, that is to say only two days after the press conference he quoted.

Here are several photos of the water dome in question.


Allison mentioned six „striking“ similarities. I’m going to analyse them before considering elements which do not fit at all the water tank theory.

I directly quote Alison in order not to misrepresent his views.

Superficial similarities


Now I obviously agree with Allison that these elements present some degrees of similarity. Yet they’re vague and unspecific.

3.1.1) Blending in with the background?


I think that Allison is clearly wrong here.

In the newspaper article I quoted above, one can read.

In calm and measured tones, Mr Taylor told incredulous newspaper-men how the machine seemed to be merging into its surrounding.
„It seemed as if it was camouflaging itself“, he said.

Based on these very limited details, Allison concluded that Bob Taylor got the impression that the object was merging with its surrounding owing to his green lower wall.

In and of itself, this is already  quite a stretch. Look carefully once again at all pictures of the dome-shaped water tank I reproduced above.

I find it really hard to imagine how an experienced 61-year old forestry foreman could be so impressed by the green colour of its lower part that he would describe it as „camouflaging itself“.

While looking at the thing, it should seem obvious to any grown person that this is a mundane human construction standing apart from its natural environment.

Actually, this is far worse than a poor fit because we KNOW this is not what Robert Taylor meant while expressing himself in this manner.

In Taylor’s statement to the police (quoted by David Slater) one can read

“As I cleared the trees and entered the clearing I saw this object in front of me. It was about 30 feet high, but not as high as the trees. It was grey in colour although I got the impression that the top of the dome shape changed from grey to translucent continually. The top of the object was dome-shaped and had a flange around the middle on which were situated several antenna with objects similar to rotors on the top. There were also several round porthole type apertures on the dome shape above the flange. I do not know what the bottom of the object was like.”

Keatman and Collins who investigated meticulously the case six days after it occurring wrote that about this strange experience:

After an estimated 30 seconds of viewing the strange craft, Mr. Taylor said that its structure began to alter. Parts of the upper dome began to „disappear“ and areas of the background could be seen through it. Only moments before the object had seemed totally physical. Now, parts would fade out, and then return to their original appearance, first on the left hand side, then across to the right, and then returning to the centre. This unusual phenomenon was apparent over the whole of the upper dome. This gave the appearance of partially blending in with the background, possibly suggesting that it was not quite as physical as it seemed at that point„.

As can be read earlier in their article, Taylor did not perceive well the (green) bottom of the object. It was its top which he found puzzling.

He got the impression that the object was merging into the background because the upper dome kept fading out and reappearing, a paranormal effect which seems completely out of the reach of a mundane water reservoir.

 3.1.2. Rods, blades and portholes


The problem is that Allison based his sketch of the object on the press declaration on Monday which is pretty unspecific and vague, which allowed him to make the two shapes fit together.

Actually, after many hours spent discussing with Taylor, Keatman and Collins draw the following picture:




This description makes it very likely that for Bob Taylor, there were more than only two rods and blades. His description of evenly positioned „portholes“ above the flange seems very different from the access points mentioned by Allison. Actually, it isn’t even possible to make out a single porthole-like access point on any of the pictures of the water tank that Alison put at our disposal.

Therefore, it is fair to conclude this is a further mismatch.

3.3.3) The assault of the sea-mines

The central element of the sighting seems to lie in the mysterious sea mines which hurtled towards Bob Taylor and toppled onto his sides.

Later in his book, Allison identified them with storage tanks with appendages which were rolling over the grass for some unknown reason.


Obviously, such things aren’t able to assault someone in the way experienced by Bob Taylor.

So in this case, the fit is terrible, especially if one adds the implausibility of the storage tank rolling away just at the right time.

3.3.4) A water tank vanishing into thin air?

All reports make it clear that upon coming around, Bob heard a „whooshing“ sound and his dog barking furiously whereas the mysterious „something“ had disappeared. He couldn’t see it again in the clearing, not even above his head.

This is again an element of the witness’s description which completely mismatches the water-tank hypothesis.

3.3.5) An experienced forestry worker „mesmerised“ while looking at a water-tank?

Robert Taylor was a very skilled and competent forestry foreman directing four squads of workers and constantly moving around in the region in order to fulfil various duties.

How plausible is that this 61-year old man would be stunned and bemused at the sight of a mere dome-shaped water dome?

How likely is it he had never seen one before?

And how likely is it he would not have immediately recognised it as a human construction?

I could conceive of small children who would feel startled and very baffled the first time they  came across such a building.

But it seems incredibly far-fetched to think that the same thing could occur to a well experienced 61-year old gardener who manages four teams of workers.

3.3.6) Conclusion: NO compelling reason to think this was the water dome

If one considers all elements revealed by Robert Taylor within one week of the incident, it appears that the object  he experienced differs strongly from the dome-shaped water tank, some undeniable superficial similarities notwithstanding.

Of course, it is possible to uphold this theory by explaining away all mismatches as stemming from a combination of hallucinations and false memories.

Indeed, this is what Allison did more or less implicitly.

But if you choose to go that way and pick and choose whatever suits you, you can no longer state that the object MUST be the water-tank because it is so similar to it, especially if you have no evidence that such a radically altered state of consciousness occurred at all.

What we have here is not a natural match but a terribly far-fetched fit imposed on the data.

So, according to the criteria used by the criminal police or the military, it is fair to say that Alison’s hypothesis is at best pretty unsupported if not downright absurd.

4) An incredible memory failure?

4.1) A modern Scottish tale?

Alison’s hypothesis logically entails the following elements:

1) On November Ninth 1979, Bob Taylor intended to get to the dome-shaped water tank for some reasons. He clearly woke up with that in mind.

2) He parked his car within Dechmont wood (Van) and crossed the highway (either over a bridge or under a tunnel)


3) He arrived at the place where the water tank stands.

4) For some reason, he decided to ILLEGALLY get into it.

5) He climbed over the fence.

6) He stumbled, lost his balance and fell back on the ground while his trousers were scratched by the spikes of the fence.

7) He experienced a mini-stroke.

8) At the same time, storage tanks containing Sodium Hypochlorite got accidentally disturbed and set rolling towards him, thereby causing the smell which overpowered him alongside other physiological effects.

9) After coming around, Taylor struggled back to his home.

10) While he was being examined in a hospital, his boss Malcolm Drummond tried to go  to the spot of the incident. Unfortunately, Taylor forgot to mention he got there over the motorway.

Therefore, Drummond wrongly identified the clearing as the place of the encounter.

11) Upon learning that Drummond found weird marks there, Taylor didn’t correct him but developed radical false memories within a few hours, instead.

He forgot his initial intention to illegally get into the water tank while waking up on the morning.

He forgot he went over the motorway through a bridge.

He forgot he decided to illegally penetrate into the water reservoir.

He forgot he fell back from the fence.

He forgot that those stinking storage tanks rolled towards him.

Instead of that, he developed very vivid false memories that the whole incident occurred in the clearing misidentified by his boss and involved an alien spacecraft and two mine-shaped objects, and that only within a few hours.

I encourage all my readers to let this sink in. Read it and read it again until you fully realise the implications.

Isn’t it hard to repress the thought that this scenario is ridiculously far-fetched?

Why would 61-year-old Bob Taylor, a responsible forestry foreman managing four squads of workers, have decided to illegally get into the water tank by climbing over a spiked security fencing as if he were a reckless teenager?

What kinds of motives could he have ever had for attempting such a risky and apparently meaningless action?

How likely is that after falling back from such a security fence, he would not have been much more severely injured?

(His only wounds lay on his left hip and underneath the round of his chin. They were superficial and healed soon thereafter).

How likely is that he would have simultaneously experienced a mini-stroke (which he apparently never did after or before the incident) while being confronted with storage tanks rolling towards him for some unknown reasons?

How likely is that so shortly after the incident his memory would get messed up in such a dramatic and unprecedented way?

Yes, false memories are real and I’ve spent many hours reading accounts about them.

But I’ve never come across any story of a (sane) witness getting so many fundamental facts of an incident wrong only several hours (or at best days) after it occurring.

To use a mundane analogy, suppose that someone honestly says that he witnessed how an old lady was struck down by a masked man who stole her handbag before running away three days ago.

How probable is that there was no man involved and that the woman died after having accidentally fallen on her face?

Even if one accepts the (completely unsupported) possibility that Taylor experienced a mini-stroke while being exposed to the noxious substance „Sodium Hypochlorite“, I could find no evidence that the confusion this would bring on could spawn such a radical rewriting of his memory.

The only way I could envision the formation of such false memories would be through the deliberate use of hypnotic manipulation through a skilled individual.

I fail to see, however, why anyone would have been willing to do this.

4.2) Was Malcolm Drummond the first to arrive at the clearing?

Alison asserts this:

„More tellingly – in the account given to Malcolm Robinson (who personally interviewed Robert Taylor and was given a first hand account of events) the scene was revisited not by Robert Taylor and Malcolm Drummond together, but by Malcolm Drummond and some other forestry workers while Mr Taylor was sent to Bangour by his doctor Gordon Adams for a check up.  

This makes it even more likely that the location was mistakenly identified since Malcolm Drummond would have identified the location based solely on a description given by Robert Taylor. And with only one vital piece of information missing (that he first crossed the footbridge over the M8 Motorway) it becomes clear why the location identified was wrong.“ 

While I think that his theory would remain terribly convoluted even if he were right about that, it is worth considering the sequence of events as it can be reconstructed from the study of Keatman and Collins:

a) Bob arrived at his house in a state of shock

b) His wife suggested he take off his dirty clothes and have a bath

c) She telephoned Malcolm Drummond who was Robert’s boss

d) On his arrival in the bathroom, he saw that Bob had a real physical experience even if he remained sceptical

e) He telephoned Bob’s physician, Dr. Adams, who concluded his patient was in reasonable condition.

f) Drummond and Adam went up to Dechmont Wood and located the vehicle there. Seeing no traces and unable to find the place of the encounter, they came back to Bob Taylor’s home.

g) Once there, Dr. Adams went back home

h) Robert Taylor guided his boss Malcolm Drummond to the secluded clearing where it all occurred.

(The press conference given on Friday evening confirms that last detail).

i) They noticed weird markings on the ground.

j) Robert and Malcolm came back to Taylor’s house.

k) Drummond radioed for a squad of workers to lay sheep net wires in order to protect the site from sightseers.

l) Drummond went home and telephoned the police.

m) Bob Taylor was taken to the hospital on advice of Dr. Adam.

n) Drummond led the policemen to the place of the incident.

o) An investigation of the clearing started.

The fact is that in all our earliest sources (press declaration on Friday, investigation of Keatman and Collins) Rob Taylor is said to have accompanied his boss to the clearing in order to show him the place of the event.

Following his own unscholarly approach, Alison didn’t mention the article or book where Malcolm Robinson mentioned his alternative chronology for the first time.

The only book I was able to find was „UFO CASE FILES OF SCOTLAND (Amazing Real Life Alien encounters) published in 2009.

Here is a relevant extract from it:

‚Thinking that he must be confused, Bob’s wife telephoned her husband’s boss, a Mr Malcolm Drummond, and also telephoned their local doctor, a Mr Gordon Adams. It wasn’t long enough before both arrived whereupon Robert proceeded to tell them what he had encountered in the woods. Listening to this incredible tale unfold, both men were startled to hear Robert’s description of what he had encountered, both men knew him well, well enough to state that Robert wasn’t a teller of tall tales or would invent things just for the fun of it. Robert was a sound and rational man, a man not prone to invention, and a man with no interest whatsoever in flying saucers or men from Mars, this was not in his agenda. The doctor stated that he would like to get Robert to a hospital as soon as possible for a check up. His preliminary check up showed that Robert was not suffering from any head injury or neurological disorder. His blood pressure appeared normal, and other than a graze under his chin and slight shock, he appeared fine, still, he felt that Robert should be admitted to hospital for a full check up just to make sure. This he did, and both Robert and his wife went along with the doctor to the nearby Bangour hospital where Robert awaited his check up. Whilst Robert was at the hospital, his boss Malcolm Drummond and also some of the other forestry worker went into Dechmont Wood to the scene of the incident in order to see if there were any signs which would validate Robert’s claims. Malcolm and the other observed around forty holes in the grass, also two ‚track like marks…‘.

There are clearly elements which diverge from the account written by Keatman and Collins  based on their own meticulous investigation within one week after the event. For example, according to them Dr. Adams went home and didn’t apparently accompany Bob Taylor to the emergencies in the nearby hospital. Yet, it is worth noting that Robinson didn’t unambiguously state that Robert didn’t guide his boss to the site of the encounter before.

While Malcolm Robinson based his account on audio tapes produced very early in the aftermath of the encounter, he wrote his book more than 30 years after the event. What is more, his chapter wasn’t a scholarly review of the case but an entertaining retelling of his experience as a UFO researcher back then with plenty of vivid descriptions of his feelings and exclamation marks.

To put it in a nutshell, we have on the one hand a very detailed account of what happened to Bob Taylor based on a detailed investigation within one week of the event and published 6 months thereafter clearly stating that Bob led his boss to the place of the encounter.
We have a newspaper article published 4 days after the event where one can read
„He [Robert Taylor] persuaded Mr Drummond to accompany him to the spot where the incident had taken place. There Mr Drummond, who has known Mr Taylor for more than the 16 years he has worked for the LDC, saw a distinct pattern of marks on the ground.“

On the other hand, we have Robinson’s account published roughly 30 years after the encounter where the author aims at giving a vivid and colourful description of the story and the role he played in its investigation. This account seems to ambiguously suggest that Robert went directly to the hospital without having accompanied his boss to the clearing first.
Isn’t it much more likely that Robinson made a mistake (or had been vague) concerning the precise order of the events which he probably saw as unimportant?

Reread carefully the whole subsection several times if you don’t feel convinced.

The best conventional explanation which has ever been proposed?

Alison often presents his own account as if he were the one who finally solved once and for all a mystery which has eluded countless researchers during decades.

We have now dredged up enough elements showing that nothing could be further from the truth. His scenario involves a convoluted chain of very unlikely events, some of which being even extraordinarily improbable.

Anyone coming up with empirical data is warmly invited to prove me wrong but I strongly doubt this can be done.

There is another „sceptical“ scenario which is far better than that of Alison and this is the one put forward by David Slater.

According to Slater, „Taylor’s experience may have been a belladonna (a poisonous black berry) induced hallucination that triggered memories of a recently aired Doctor Who episode in which a spaceship of similar appearance featured. It suggests the ground markings likely have a prosaic explanation such as post holes left over from a den that once occupied the site.“

Alison rejects that explanation and he is quite right to point out the absence of similar cases of belladonna poisoning in the region as well as the fact that the cold month of November would be an unlikely season for the berries to still hang under the bushes.

And as Anne Hammond, Bob’s daughter, emphasised, it is pretty implausible that such an experienced (and well-fed!) gardener as her father would pick up an unknown berry in a wood as if he were a curious little boy unaware of the potentially toxic nature of such fruits.

But Slater’s scenario has one immense advantage over Alison’s: it doesn’t ask us to believe that Bob planned to illegally penetrate into the water tower, got his memory completely confused and rewritten in the twinkling of an eye and felt convinced he had an UFO encounter in an entirely different clearing.

What’s more, unlike Alison, Slater clearly recognised the highly speculative character of his own assertions and he did not make anyone pay for reading his ideas.

While Slater’s hypothesis would be deemed very unlikely if he had tried to account for a  mundane incident (such as Bob Taylor’s sighting of a lorry full of drug traffickers), it could be seen as a welcome solution to this enigma for those of us who believe that UFO are extraordinarily unlikely to exist to begin with.

I will, however, try to offer a more substantial criticism of the ideas he brought up at some point in the future.

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