The capricious star of Warrnambool?

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Majestic landscvapes of Warrnambool.

UFO sighted over Warrnambool in 1978?

My Ufological methodology

While investigating putative paranormal phenomena, I try to always follow this approach: determining the strongest conventional explanation compatible with all the data, even if  the plausibility of certain elements can no longer be estimated.

There are three possible outcomes:

1)Anomalous: It can be shown that the BCT (Best Conventional Theory) is truly at odds with genuine aspects of the case. We can conclude that something anomalous was probably going on.

2) Probably explainable: a conventional explanation can plausibly account for all aspects of the sighting.

3) Potentially explainable: a conventional explanation can plausibly account for some aspects of the sighting. We are ignorant about the plausibility of other elements it involves.

(Click here and here for looking at two examples of 3) I once analysed).

UFO over Warrnambool in 1978

With that in mind, let us start our analysis of an Australian case.

I recently came across an interesting UAP sighting on a webpage of Australian researcher Keith Basterfield.

***** 20th October, 1978, 2100hrs Warnambool (West of Cape Otway) “Two witnesses observed a light about 4 or 5 times the size of the evening star in the north-eastern sky. The object was described as being orange, red in colour and to be hovering at a height of 70 degrees. It remained stationary for several minutes, then suddenly changed colour to yellow and moved rapidly to a ten degree position in the south-east, where it hovered again for a few minutes before speeding away to the south.” Source: „MUFON Journal“ Nov 1979 pp6-8. Analysis:   The ‘evening star’ is a name given to the planet Venus when it is in the western sky.  It was however, not to the north-east.  Unknown. ******

(The brown text contains the own conclusions of Keith).

Mufon report

Original MUFON report written very shortly after the event.

The late Australian Ufologist Paul Norman was the investigator responsible for that report. While I think he was a honest man, he was also very passionate about his belief in alien spacecraft and this hindered him from striving for objectivity. As we shall see, this probably kept him from approaching incidents while gathering as many elements as possible so as to enable an objective and informative analysis of the situation.

Geographical indications of the witnesses

Keith Basterfield dismissed Venus as an explanation on the grounds that it wasn’t situated in the right part of the sky. This assumes, however, that the witnesses were able to orientate themselves correctly. Since Norman gave us no clue whatsoever about their identities, we can’t entirely rule out the possibility they misidentified the basic geographical directions because they, say, came from a distant region.

Size of the luminous point

It isn’t clear whether these were the witnesses themselves who described the light as „about 4 or 5 times the size of the evening star“. In that case, this would mean they were familiar with Venus and saw something far larger. Or was it just Norman’s interpretation of their description? Did he even try to contact them directly? The lack of information prevents us from concluding anything more than the light appeared really large to the two persons.

Changing colour and position

The behaviour of the „star“ can be summarised as follows.

A) The large point was first emitting an orange-red light. It remained stationary for several minutes at a perceived height of 70 degrees in the north-eastern sky.

B) It suddenly changed colour to yellow and started moving rapidly to a perceived ten degree position in the south-east.

C) It hovered at its new position for a few minutes.

D) It finally sped away (or at least disappeared relatively quickly ) towards a direction perceived as being in the south.

I think this is a minimalist description of the incident. Now I’m going into the possible theories one could put forward for explaining it.

Venus or another star

The observers were immobile

Even if the two persons possibly got their absolute geographical frame of reference wrong, it seems that the object apparently covered a considerable distance beyond the reach of normal fluctuations of an average human visual field. If the sky had been mostly dark (which we don’t know), one could draw on the autokinetic effect, according to which without reference frame, natural movements of the eye make a stationary object appear to move irregularly, sometimes zooming up and down or swinging from side to side in a movement sometimes described as like a “falling leaf”.

The problem is that the movements of the „star“ do not appear erratic by any means: it remained stationary for several minutes without swinging, then moved straight to another distant position, hovered there for a few other minutes before quickly flying away. Can someone provide me with examples of autokinesis which spawned such regular illusory moves? I haven’t come across any one till now, and so I think it’s fair to discount this possibility unless data I’m unaware of emerge.

The sighting took place in a moving vehicle

Another hypothesis I could think of would be that the whole observation occurred as the individuals were driving. They would have then mistaken the effects of their moving car for the movements of the alleged object.

In comparison to the autokinesis-hypothesis, this scenario has a great advantage: it would naturally account for the lack of erratic behaviour of the heavenly body. But if faces a potent objection. It seems very unlikely that the driver and the passenger would have failed to mention they were conducting a car while sighting the odd light. It seems far more plausible they would have indicated, in one way or another, that they were in a moving vehicle. And if Paul Norman had received this information, he would most likely have evoked it, given its importance for the interpretation of the movements of the object. To the best of my knowledge, he seemed to do it systematically for other sightings involving a driving car or motorcycle, even if his choice of words wasn’t always very clear.

A conventional aircraft

Another hypothesis would be that of a conventional aircraft present in the nocturnal sky of Warrnambool for some reason. The long hovering phases allow us to dismiss the possibility of a plane.

A helicopter could be taken into consideration. But the weird colour of the object (red-orange and then yellow) as well as its strange behaviour offer a poor match. The angular size should also be taken into account. While human eyes are hardly good at coming up with precise distances, their subjective impression ushering into the phrase „about 4 or 5 times the size of the evening star“ does indicate a considerably large light.

Consequently, if the thing had really been a helicopter, it must have hovered and moved impressively close to the observers. While the wind can sometimes reduce or even mask the sound of the rotors, all things taken together, this spatial proximity makes such a strong confusion far less likely.

Finally, one could consider the presence of a drone.

Drone in a field guided by a man.

A remotely controlled drone

It makes more sense that such an unmanned aircraft would perform this kind of seemingly meaningless actions.

The main problem here is the size. Since a conventional drone (at least at that time) is even smaller than a helicopter, it must have been even closer to the witnesses.

Besides the unlikely absence of any noises, it seems implausible that one or several position lights of the alleged drone would have looked like a reddish star-like point.


Could the sighting have been caused by searchlights or beamers directed towards low-hanging clouds?

This seems hardly plausible in light of the fact the point remained stationary during most of the event and did not display any kind of back-and-forth movement.

Lost bird?

Another (purely theoretical) possibility might be that the object was a bird reflecting off the light of the town.

Considering again the size of the point (involving a considerable spatial proximity if this had been a bird), its original redness, apparent colour change,  long stationary behaviour and quick departure makes it an implausible explanation to my mind.


The non-spectacular character of the incident makes it incredibly unlikely it was a hoax.

It’s extremely hard to envision how two friends wanting to relate a faked extraterrestrial encounter would invent such utterly unimpressive details (in comparisons to the content of real swindles).

Now, someone might suggest they were undergoing some sort of delusional experience, either because they were psychotic or under the influence of certain drugs.

Given we know absolutely nothing about their personal background, we cannot strictly rule this out.

Yet, almost nobody would use that loophole if the witnesses had reported having seen something possibly explainable through conventional causes.

It is improbable that two independent brains would experience the same specific hallucination at the same time , let alone if it can’t even be obviously tied to specific themes driving popular culture.

So it seems that this possibility is pretty implausible unless one already knows from the outset that there are no such things as genuine anomalies.

As two examples of the next section will illustrate it, many now well-established phenomena were systematically debunked and written off as gross mistakes or hallucinations stemming from deranged witnesses.

We now know that these folks really (at least approximately) saw what they described and so we should avoid repeating the same mistakes too easily.

An unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP)?

At this point of our analysis, it seems legitimate to seriously consider the possibility that the witnesses saw a UAP in the narrow sense, i.e. an aerial phenomenon which cannot be plausibly explained with our current publicly available knowledge.

I defined the concept of UAP here.

It can never be emphasised enough that UAP does NOT stand for an alien starship.

In that specific case, I see at least two anomalous explanations which have nothing to do with little playful grey men.

Electromagnetic luminous phenomenon

While their existence have long been passionately denied (using arguments worryingly similar to those employed by modern-day debunkers), ball lightnings are electrical phenomena related to thunderstorms which have been increasingly recognised by the scientific community over the last years.

The ball lightning is preceded by a white tail liting up the sky.

Impressive ball lightning

Likewise, a growing number of scholars take more and more seriously the existence of earthquake lights, even if our incredibly limited knowledge about them doesn’t allow us to currently easily embed them into scientific theories.

Three orbs hovering above a Canadian lake.

Earthquake-lights snapped by Jim Conacher in 1973 just before an earthquake.

The very existence of these two aerial phenomena shows, however, that Mother Nature might be much fuller of surprises than we might imagine.

Therefore, it is quite possible that the rather bizarre light sighted by the two Australians was a not-yet discovered natural entity of that kind.

Is it possible that this might have been actually a genuine ball lightning?

Given the incredibly wide range of features they can display and our lack of knowledge thereof, this clearly can’t be ruled out.

In many cases, ball lightings lie in a grey area between conventional and anomalous aerial phenomena.

In that particular case, we don’t dispose of any physical model able to predict its (likely) behaviour, so I’m tempted to label it „anomalous“ even if it turned out to belong to this general category.

This is largely a semantic choice.

Secret military aircraft

Another anomalous explanation which readily springs to mind is that of a purely earthly aircraft which was being tested at this precise time and place.

We certainly know that armies often develop highly sophisticated vehicles (such as the B2-bomber) whose existence may be disclosed only much later on. If the project proved a failure, it might even never come to the surface.

Triangular military aircraft flying across a blue sky.

B2 bomber. Former UFO.

While the luminous point behaved in a manner which does not easily fit in with it being a common aircraft, it didn’t show any otherworldly abilities either.

Conclusion: a seemingly anomalous experience

Despite the lack of information, this incident remains interesting. It does not appear to have been probably spawned by mundane and well understood causes, as we explored together.

Yet, it also falls far short of providing us with evidence for the presence of extraterrestrial visitors.

It is frustrating that the MUFON investigator did not dig up more vital details which would have enabled us to draw much sharper conclusions.

I think that this incident illustrates in a sad way one of the main problems of ufological „research“.

Most of the time, it is conducted by true believers who want to jump to their cherished conclusion, namely alien visitation, as quickly as possible.

As soon as their case sounds mysterious enough to their own ears, they officially attribute the incident to ETs and stop seeking for further evidence which might potentially even endanger that dearly held conviction.

On the other hand, we have die-hard debunkers who are very eager to endorse any conventional explanation they find, even if this leads them to conclude that a honest and respectable policeman damaged his own car and body just for the sake of a bizarre and pointless hoax.

Given this state of affairs, it is no wonder that the scientific community at large can only see Ufology as an utter waste of time and steers clear of the entire field.

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Unheimliche Begegnung im portugesischen Luftraum oder Fata Morgana?

 Copyright © 2014

An English translation will follow!

Ich habe kürzlich einen interessanten Vorfall entdeckt, der sich 1977 in Portugal zutrug.

Seltsames von Wolken umgebenes fliegendes Objekt.

Ein UFO über Castelo de Bode?

Der Ufologe Tymothy Good beschrieb ihn folgendermassen:

Am 17-ten Juni 1977 flog Jose Francisco Rodriguez, ein junger zum 31-ten Geschwader der portugiesischen Luftkraft in Tancos gehörender Pilot, über den Damm von „Castelo de Bode“ mit einem Dornier 27 Leichtflieger unter schlechten Witterungsverhältnissen.

Plötzlich tauchte ein unbekanntes dunkles Objekt aus den leicht zu seiner Rechte befindlichen Wolken auf.

Er nahm eine linke Querneigung ein und funkte den Kontrollturm an um zu erfahren, ob es in der Umgebung irgendwelchen Flugverkehr gab. Er bekam eine negative Antwort.

Plötzlich erschien das Objekt in 11-Uhr Position vor dem Pilot in einer Entfernung von weniger als sechs Metern. Es hatte ein Durchmesser von ungefähr 13-15 Metern  mit einem niedrigen Abschnitt, worauf man vier oder fünf ‚Fenster‘ sehen konnte.

Das elektrische Gyroskop der Dornier rotierte auf eine wilde Weise und dann begann der Flieger heftig zu vibrieren und geriet in einen unkontrollierten Sturzflug. Rodriguez rang darum, die Kontrolle über sein Flugzeug zurück zu erlangen, indem er das Steuergerät vorwärts schob. 

Die Geschwindigkeit ging zu 140 Knoten und dann 180 Knoten über, während der Boden sich rasch näherte.

Die Kontrolle wurde erst zurückgewonnen, als er fast Baumwipfeln berührte und der Flieger konnte schliesslich in Sicherheit landen.

Rodriguez war so schockiert, dass er Sprechschwierigkeiten hatte.

Keine Erklärung dieses Vorfalls war in Sicht, obwohl ich einen offiziellen Bericht von der portugiesischen Botschaft in London empfing, wo er mitsamt anderen Zwischenfällen erwähnt ist.

Der Vorfall wurde während der exzellenten Fernsehserie „UFOs über Europa“ (von der National Geographical Channel) erwähnt und ich empfehle all meinen Lesern, sich das Video (ab 32:44) erstmals anzuschauen.

Ihre Untersuchung basiert zum Teil auf der Arbeit des Historikers Joaquim Fernandes, der sich intensiv mit dem Vorfall und dessen Akten befasst hat.


Meine Analyse dieses Falls beruht auch auf Interviews des Pilots selbst. Dies ist die entsprechende portugiesische Webseite. Leider konnte ich keine englische Übersetzung finden.

Im folgenden habe ich hauptsächlich Elemente erwähnt und übersetzt, die die Informationen im Bericht von Timothy Good und im Video ergänzen. Das entstammt der Zeitschrift „Revista Insólito nº 37 Janeiro/Fevereiro/Março de 1979“ ein bisschen weniger als zwei Jahre nach dem Vorfall.

Die Fotos dienen lediglich zur Veranschaulichung des Vorfalls. Es handelt sich keinesfalls um zeitnahe Aufnahmen sondern um Rekonstruktionen.

Jose Francisco Rodriguez machte einen Übungsflug in der Region von Torres Novas mit einem Flugzeug Dornier DO-27. Die Sichtbarkeit betrug 7 km, am Himmel gab es Wolken (Cumulus) bei einer Höhe von 2000-3000 Fuss sowie ein bisschen Nebel weiter entfernt. 25 Minuten nach seinem Abflug musste der junge Pilot nach dem Stützpunkt zurückfliegen , weil die Luftverhältnisse schlecht waren.

Militärflugplatz-Tancos in Portugal.

Militärflugplatz-Tancos in Portugal.

Rodriguez  nahm an einem Moment etwas dunkles wahr, das sich sehr von der weisslichen Farbe der Wolke unterschied. Der Pilot geht davon aus, dass das oberhalb einer Unteranlage des Damms „Castelo de Bode“ stattfand. Er dachte zuerst, dass es die Nase eines Cargo-Flugzeugs wäre aber er änderte schnell seine Meinung, nachdem er bemerkt hatte, dass das dunkle Objekt dafür viel zu gross war.


Die erste Erscheinung des UFOs.

Er fing an, nach Links um einen Winkel von 315° zu drehen.

Keine Flugaktivität wurde ihm von den Radaranlagen mitgeteilt. Jose denkt, dass es sich um eine Lüge handeln könnte, da sie mindestens sein eigenes Flugzeug hätten erwähnen sollen.

Ein wenig später tauchte dann das Objekt 6 Meter vor ihm auf und bei einem Winkel von 11 Uhren.

UFO teilweise in einer Wolke.

Zweite Erscheinung des UFOs.

Die untere Hälfte des Objekts war sichtbar. Der Rest befand sich innerhalb der Wolke. Er hatte den Eindruck, dass es stationär war oder sich sehr langsam bewegte.

Diese zweite Phase der nahen Begegnung dauerte nur ungefähr 3 Sekunden.

Das Objekt war sehr dunkel, fast schwarz. Es hatte zwischen drei und fünf Öffnungen, die wie Fenster aussahen. Deren Farbe war weisslich-gelblich.

Er weiss nicht, ob es Lichter jenseits der Fenster gab, da sie nicht durchsichtig waren.

Nach dem Bruchteil einer Sekunde sah er nicht mehr das Ding.

Alles geschah sehr schnell. Während er das Objekt beobachtete kippte sein Flieger in einen gefährlichen Sturzflug. Deshalb geriet der Pilot selbst in Panik.

Das Gyroskop (Magnetkompass) des Flugzeugs spielt verrückt.

Das Gyroskop (Magnetkompass) des Flugzeugs spielt verrückt.

Er vermutet, dass eine direkte Ursache aus Lücken in den Luftschichten unter dem Flugzeug bestehen könnte.

Beim Kontrollturm konnte man sein erschrecktes Geschrei sehr gut hören.

Der Sturzflug fing durch Vibrationen an, die gar nicht zu den Merkmalen der Dornier gehören.

Er hatte versucht, auf viele Weisen das Flugzeug zu stabilisieren. Zuerst gaben alle Geräte keine Antwort auf seine Befehle.

Die Rettung gelang ihm schliesslich knapp über Bäumen.

Zwei Zeugen am Boden sahen einen Teil des Sturzflugs und hörten ein damit verbundenes fürchterliches Geräusch, das wahrscheinlich aus dem Motor stammte.

Castelo de Bode, worüber das unglaubliche Ereignis stattfand.

Castelo de Bode, worüber das unglaubliche Ereignis stattfand.

Der magnetische Kompass (Gyroskop) wurde durch das Geschehnis um 180 Grade durchgedreht.

Vor dem Sturzflug waren, dem Pilot zufolge, der Kompass und der Magnetkompass in Übereinstimmung.

Nachdem er sein Flugzeug stabilisieren konnte versuchte er, sich mit dem Gyroskop bis zur Luftbasis zu orientieren, aber dort bemerkte er, dass das magnetische Gerät umgedreht war, sodass er nach dem Norden geflogen war anstatt nach dem Süden.

Hier ist es unklar, was genau der Pilot während des Interviews meinte.

(Dies kann auch daran liegen, dass mein Verständnis der portugiesischen Sprache gar nicht vollkommen ist).

Wurde er erstmals vom Gyroskop in die Irre geführt und flog wirklich nordwärts, bevor er die Richtung wechselte?

Oder basierte er seinen Rückflug auf sichtbaren Bezugspunkten und flog wirklich südwärts, obwohl das Gyroskop den Nord anzeigte?

Diese (mögliche) Mehrdeutigkeit seiner Aussage sollte uns dennoch sowieso keinen Anlass zur Annahme geben, dass das Ganze eine später entstandene falsche Erinnerung wäre.

Denn wenn die beiden Kompasse eigentlich völlig im Einklang geblieben wären erscheint es ziemlich unwahrscheinlich, dass er einige Monate später ohne jegliche Grundlage die Überzeugung gewonnen hätte, dass es so eine krasse Umdrehung gegeben hatte.

Medizinische Untersuchungen ergaben, dass der Pilot körperlich vollkommen gesund war.

Er selber berichtet darüber, sich in den Tagen und Wochen nach dem Vorfall genauso gut gefühlt zu haben wie in den Tagen vor dem beinahe verhängnisvollen Übungsflug.

Manche Kollegen des Pilots mutmassten, dass sein Flugzeug „umgekippt“ war, so dass das von ihm gesichtete Objekt eigentlich zum Damm unter ihm gehörte.

Rodriguez selber wies diese Möglichkeit zurück, weil er dann manche äussere Teile seines Flugzeugs hätte sehen oder spüren sollen, die er gar nicht sah.

(Man kann dazu hinzufügen, dass ein solcher Anblick nach unten auf die Anlage höchstwahrscheinlich nicht einer von Wolken umgebenen schwarzen Struktur entsprechen kann, da sich die Wolken über seiner Flughöhe befanden).

Dornier 27 sind sehr stabile Flugzeuge, die nur eine kurze Distanz für das Landen und Starten brauchen und mit unheimlich niedrigen Geschwindigkeiten fliegen können, ohne zu stürzen.

Dornier 27

Dornier DO-27.
Ein sehr stabiles Leichtflugzeug, das für niedrige Geschwindigkeiten (bis 227 km/Stunde) entworfen wurde.

Jose und einer seiner Kollegen versuchten, zwei Tage später die Stabilität des Fliegers unter ähnlichen Umständen zu stören. Dies erwies sich jedoch als unmöglich und hatte kein anderes Ergebnis, als ihnen eine Gänsehaut zu geben.

Als er gefragt wurde, was seiner Meinung nach das Objekt war, antwortete Rodriguez einfach, dass er es gar nicht wusste. Nirgendwo hat er von einem ausserirdischen Raumschiff gesprochen.

Eine konventionelle Erklärung?

Der ehemalige Radaringenieur des englischen Verteidigungsministeriums Chris Morshead wendet ein, dass wenn es wirklich ein Objekt dort oben gegeben hätte es dann ganz bestimmt durch die Radaranlage detektiert worden wäre.

Luftraumingenieur Chris Morshead.

Luftraumingenieur Chris Morshead.

Meiner Ansicht nach handelt es sich um einen Zirkelschluss: man kann nur davon ausgehen, dass es detektiert worden wäre, wenn man schon von vornherein weiss, dass es sich nicht um ein UFO (im breiten Sinn) handeln könnte.

Übrigens ist es schlichtweg falsch, denn sogar uns bekannte Militärfluggeräte sind sehr wohl im Stande, sich der Identifikation durch ein Radar zu entziehen.

Obwohl es also kein positives Argument gegen eine echte Begegnung mit einem UFO ist, muss man die Hypothese ernst nehmen, dass es sich vielleicht um eine Fata Morgana gehandelt hat, wie es im Doku erläutert wurde.



Von Anfang an muss es einem klar sein, dass es nicht mehr als eine unverifizierbare Spekulation ist.

Prinzipiell ist es natürlich möglich, in der Luft eine durch Temperaturumkehr hervorgerufene Fata Morgana zu sehen, die wie ein seltsames Objekt aussieht.

Jemand wies jedoch darauf hin, dass der bedeckte Himmel eine solche Fata Morgana in Wolken unwahrscheinlich macht:

 „An eine Fata-Morgana glaube ich hier nicht, da dass Wetter dafür zu schlecht war. Es gibt zwar auch Luftspiegelungen in und unterhalb von Wolken, diese sind aber dann so verzerrt, dass keine derart beschriebene Struktur zu erkennen wäre.“

Natürlich könnte man darauf erwidern, dass der Pilot vielleicht kurzlebige visuelle Halluzinationen erlebt hat, was nie ausgeschlossen werden kann.

Das Hauptproblem  besteht nun darin, dass der ganze Vorfall sich keineswegs auf die Sichtung beschränkt.

Im Laufe der circa 3 Sekunden, während denen er dem Objekt sehr nahe war verlor der Pilot völlig die Kontrolle über sein Flugzeug, das in einen gefährlichen Sturzflug geriet.

Wie wahrscheinlich ist es, dass die Funktionen der stabilen Dornier 27 eines erfahrenen Pilots im selben Augenblick wie die angebliche Sinnestäuschung auf eine solche Weise ausfallen würden, wie sie es normalerweise nie tun?

Es ist erwähnenswert, dass zwei Tage danach Rodriguez mit einem anderen Pilot versuchte, das selbe Flugzeug unter ähnlichen Umständen gezielt zu destabilisieren, ohne dass irgendwelche Wirkung dadurch erreicht werden konnte.

Jemand, der mit Dornier geflogen ist schrieb mir folgendes:

„Da ich oft in der DO27 mit geflogen bin in meiner Bundeswehrzeit , kann ich die ungewöhnlichen Flugeigenschaften der Do27 nur bestätigen. Diese wurden mit grossem Vergnügen bis an die Grenze des machbaren von den Piloten ausgereizt. Das absacken im normalen Flugzustand ist nicht vorstellbar. Natürlich gibt es Auf und Abwinde, die ein Flugzeug quasi zerreissen können , aber die treten in der Regel nur in starken Gewitterwolken auf. Abwinde im Lee der Berge sind auch etwas normales , aber jeder Pilot kennt die Gefahren , und wird dahingehend geschult. Falls es extreme Wettersituationen geben sollte die solche eine Flugsituation hervorrufen könnte , ist dies (auch wieder in der Regel) den Leuten vom Wetterdienst bekannt, und der entsprechende Flugplatz, oder auch Flugzone , wird mit Flugverbot belegt…….“

(Rodriguez berichtete, dass er nur die üblichen G-Kräfte und keine Luftlöcher gespürt hatte).

So reagierte die selbe Person auf meine Frage, ob durch panische Gesten der Pilot selbst den Sturzflug hätte verursachen können:

„Wenn ich heute eine solche Sichtung hätte , und würde komplett davon überrascht , und ich den Steuerknüppel loslasse, fliegt die Maschine je nach Trimmung schlicht und einfach gerade aus . Unabsichtlich , nein , denn dafür braucht es eine grosse Steuerknüppelbewegung bei der DO 27 .“

Der interviewte portugiesische Fluglotse ist überzeugt, dass sogar ein Motorausfall nicht zu einem solchen unkontrollierten Sturzflug geführt hätte und dass der Pilot dennoch auf eine normale Weise im Luftwaffenstützpunkt hätte zurück landen können.

Aber es gibt noch ein gravierenderes Problem für diese Hypothese.

Der Magnetkompass wurde im Laufe des Vorfalls um 180 Grade durchgedreht, was auf den Kontakt mit einem gewaltigen Magnetfeld hinweist.

Die früheste Quelle, die ich gefunden habe, wo es erwähnt wird, ist das Interview des Pilots durch eine paranormale Zeitschrift 20 Monate danach.

Es erscheint mir unplausibel, dass in dieser Zeitspanne solch eine falsche Erinnerung entstanden wäre, falls der Magnetkompass sich damals völlig normal verhalten hätte.

Also erfordert diese konventionelle Erklärung eine sehr unwahrscheinliche Kette von an sich unwahrscheinlichen Ereignissen:

1)  Rodriguez sieht eine Fata Morgana (oder erlebt eine kurzlebige Halluzination), die nach einem seltsamen hochtechnisierten Objekt aussieht.

2) Irgendwie gerät der sonst so stabile und zuverlässige Dornier 27 so ausser Kontrolle, dass er zittert und gar keine Antwort mehr auf die Handlungen des kompetenten Pilots gibt.

3) Gleichzeitig dreht unabhängig davon irgendwelche Ursache den Magnetkompass um 180 Grade.

Natürlich heisse ich all diejenigen herzlich willkommen, die mir durch fundierte Argumente zeigen können, dass das Eintreffen der zwei letzten Ereignisse gar nicht so unwahrscheinlich ist.

Dies würde aber dem widersprechen, was ich darüber gelesen und gehört habe.

Wasserkraftwerk von Castelo de Bode

Wasserkraftwerk von Castelo de Bode

Obwohl ich das für meine Argumentation nicht benutzen würde, ist es ebenso eine interessante Tatsache, dass während der selben Zeitspanne das sich unter dem Flugzeug befindende Wasserkraftwerk unter einem ungeklärten Strommausfall litt.

Statistische Angaben über das übliche Funktionieren des Kraftwerks liegen leider nicht vor. Wenn es aber nur selten solche ungeklärte Stromausfälle gibt (was eher plausibel erscheint) würde es eine weitere merkwürdige „Koinzidenz“ darstellen.

Aber für meine eigene Analyse will ich mich auf die drei oben erwähnten Geschehnisse beschränken.

Dieser unplausiblen Kombination von unwahrscheinlichen Einzelereignissen steht eine (meiner Meinung nach) viel natürlichere Erklärung gegenüber: der Pilot hat eine wahre Begegnung mit einem fliegenden Objekt erlebt, das (durch bestimmte physikalische Effekte) seinen Flieger und dessen Bordinstrumente völlig durcheinander brachte.

UFO teilweise in einer Wolke.

Zweite Erscheinung des UFOs.

Könnte es sich um ein konventionelles Militärflugzeug handeln, das mit sehr hoher Geschwindigkeit an ihm vorbeigeschossen ist?

Die Fluglotsen hätten dann tatsächlich den Pilot angelogen und vor allem während all den Jahren danach nie das Schweigen darüber gebrochen.

Die schnelle Bewegungsart des vermeintlichen Fliegers passt nicht gut mit der Tatsache zusammen, dass José das Objekt als stationär und sehr langsam wahrnahm. Ausserdem sah er es eigentlich zwei Male, wobei er vor der zweiten Sichtung (wo das Objekt quasi stationär war) erstmals sich mit dem Fluglotse unterhielt und um 315° nach links abbog.

Das Ding erweckt also keineswegs den Eindruck eines unheimlich schnell vorbei fliegenden Flugzeugs.

Und natürlich würde das die starken Störungen des Magnetkompasses nicht erklären.

Es sieht so aus, als ob wir in diesem Fall über genug Daten verfügen würden, um den Schluss zu ziehen, dass der portugiesische Pilot wahrscheinlich mit einem anomalen Luftphänomen konfrontiert wurde, das sich wie ein Objekt verhielt.

Können wir noch weiter gehen und behaupten, dass es sich um eine fremde Intelligenz handelte?

Ich denke, dass es voreilig wäre, weil man keineswegs die Möglichkeit ausschliessen kann, dass das Objekt ein geheimes Militärfluggerät mit besonderen Eingenschaften war.

Dennoch sprechen solche Zwischenfälle meiner Ansicht nach sehr dafür, dass nicht alle UAP (Unidentifizierte Luftphänomene) Fehlwahrnehmungen sind, die durch psychologische und soziale Faktoren hervorgerufen werden.

Mitten unter Schwindeln, naiven Schlussfolgerungen und Wahnvorstellungen findet man durchaus Fälle, die sich nicht auf eine plausible Weise durch uns schon bekannte Ursachen erklären lassen.

Für mich bedeutet das, dass eine rigorose und unvoreingenommene Untersuchung von solchen Anomalien von Belang ist.

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Genuine evidence for UFOs/UAPs?

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Why UFOs and UAPs are ignored by the scientific community

A thoroughly thinking and serious-minded UFO researcher asked me this question recently:

Marc, I’m interested to read your thoughts about decent evidence. What do you specifically include inside and what do you suggest as an acceptable way forward ? nobody will argue that it is extraordinary unlikely there could be a new phenomena to investigate; it is just that a lot of people including the majority of scientists don’t accept the label usually associated to the field (i.e E.T)…

This was my answer.

Hi, thanks for your terrific question!
I define a UAP as an aerial phenomenon not accountable for by our CURRENT and PUBLICLY available knowledge.
As I made it clear, this is hardly a synonym for „space aliens in action“.

So for me, believing in UAPs amounts to believing in the existence of aerial phenomena which we cannot explain at the moment.
Following this definition, meteorites, ball-lightnings, sprites etc. were all UAPs in the past.

A ball lightning (white glowing ball) is hovering slightly above the ground.

Ball lightnings are UAPs of the past. And they were also denied as such by a large part of the scientific community.

A majestic and bright sprite lightning having several arms.

Sprite lightnings are amazing luminous phenomena taking place in the upper atmosphere.
They too were seen as UAPs in the past. Pilots reporting them in the past were sometimes even forbidden to fly because their mental health was called into question.

Interestingly enough, their existence was outrightly denied in a way very similar to the methods of modern debunkers.

Likewise, secret experimental aircrafts are UFOs according to my definition.

Triangular military aircraft flying across a blue sky.

B2 bomber. Former UFO.

As you emphasized yourself, I think that the main reason why UFOs/UAPs are ignored by the scientific community is self-replicating ignorance.
Owing to the huge number of crappy self-proclaimed Ufologists dominating bookstores and the Web, the large majority of scholars conclude that there is really nothing to the whole topic.

One example of junk-ufology. Faked videos are enthusiastically accepted by strong believers who often don't even consider checking them.

One example of junk-ufology. Faked videos are enthusiastically accepted by strong believers who often don’t even consider checking them.

(As I said, it was my case as well in the past.)

Consequently, they will naively trust the explanations offered by debunkers without critically examining them.

Calling into question pseudo-skeptical / debunking explanations

It was really Jacques Vallee and J. Allen Hynek who opened my eyes to the existence of decent evidence for UAPs/UFOs.

Hynek and Vallee wearing elegant suits.

Dr. Allan. J. Hynek was one of the most serious ufologists having ever lived. His colleague Jacques Vallee is still alive.
They ended up viewing UFOs (or at least a considerable percentage of them) as part of a larger paranormal realm.

I myself went into some incidents where I think that the evidence would be deemed conclusive and perhaps even compelling in mundane fields of inquiry. See for example [1], [2], and [3].

Or let us consider the famous French case of Valensole.

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.

If Maurice Masse had reported sighting the helicopter of drug traffickers, nobody would ever seriously draw hallucinations or false memories into consideration, even if he only dared tell the whole story several days later.
I could multiply such examples.
To my mind, all of this shows that the popular conception that there isn’t a „shred of evidence“ for UAPs is plainly wrong.
There is decent evidence something unexplained is going on.
Debunkers reject that evidence by resorting to a flurry of untested and far-fetched hypotheses which would look ludicrous in respected scientific or scholarly disciplines (See for instance my links above [1], [2], and [3].).
To my mind, the way forward would be to establish just that: the evidence for UFOs/UAPs is as good as that for many other phenomena whose existence is largely recognized (such as earthquake lights as I’m going to argue in an upcoming post).
Therefore, rejecting them requires arguments showing their strong initial implausibility.
The structure of modern ufologic research is light-years away from that goal, alas.
Countless new cases are being collected, superficially analyzed and then used as airtight support for the ETH by strong believers or dismissed out of hand by other people.
Of course, this is profoundly unscientific because the existence of an anomaly can only be shown by proving that ALL known explanations are very unlikely.
Some people like Dr. Bruce Macabee or Richard Haines do the hard work and spend a considerable amount of their time explaining why alternative hypotheses (such as those put forward by debunkers) fail to a significantly extent.
Unfortunately, many other Ufologists claim victory without having ever begun to engage the true battle against competing explanations.
So while gathering new cases is crucial, it is far more important to delve deeply into some of them and critically examine all conceivable explanations.
This is a task I am extremely willing to contribute to.

Application to the Belgian UFO wave

A F-16 fighter aircraft pursues one of the triangular Belgian UFOs.

Belgian UFO wave. Even if this artistic creation may not represent what truly happened back then, I suspect that something anomalous was involved.

Let’s consider the beginning of the Belgian UFO wave as a concrete example.
Skeptics argue that many people misidentified conventional helicopters during that day.
Let’s critically examine the implication of this hypothesis.

  • The same day, at least two or three unrecognizable helicopters were flying at a very low altitude while making almost no noise (or a weak noise in some of the cases).
  • One of them seemed to have changed its direction for avoiding a confrontation with Gendarmes.

  • They were sighted by hundreds of independent witnesses at different places

Now how LIKELY is it that all of this happened during such a short time period?
It is possible (albeit rare) that the noise of a conventional helicopter gets masked by a variety of factors. But how likely is it that it occurred several time in such a short time span?
How likely is that these helicopters would fly so low (as if to avoid detection) despite the risks involved?
How likely is that none of the witness was able to recognize one of them for what it really was? (An interesting related question would be the frequency of conventional helicopter sighting in that region under the same circumstances).
And how likely is it that all these helicopter pilots would NOT reveal to the army or to the medias they were the „culprits“ if they were normal citizens having nothing to reproach themselves?
Regarding the number of sightings, there are only two possibilities:
1) they stemmed from a relatively great number of independent privates helicopters. How plausible is that all of them would display BY CHANCE similar strongly unusual features?
2) they stemmed from a small number of helicopters FLYING AROUND (or even orbiting) in the region.
How likely is that average citizens would do that while remaining almost noiseless and unrecognizable?
I think that BOTH 1) and 2) are incredibly far-fetched.
If one considers all these facts together (instead of isolating or „picking and choosing“ them), I think it’s fair to say that the most mundane explanation many Skeptics defend doesn’t hold water.
To my mind, if debunkers want to avoid „exotic“ explanations, they should conclude that an incredibly sophisticated hoax went on that night. A hoax one can only call „psychological warfare experiment„.
This too would fall into my definition of an UAP.
Interestingly enough, the late French skeptic Renaud Leclet (who spent a huge amount of his time dealing with the Belgian wave) ended up speaking of an experience of „military incursion“ which isn’t too far from that conclusion.
Now, I haven’t yet examined all these cases in great detail. So I could be wrong about that.

I meant this as an example of how to critically question mundane explanations put forward by debunkers.

Conclusion: challenging the orthodoxy

What I outlined here is what I see as a promising approach to establishing (to open-minded researchers) the existence of an anomalous phenomenon.
Ruling out all known explanations with a high degree of certainty.

A man is eminent as long as he is orthodox. When he begins to think for himself, he becomes a crank.   Dr. Walter R. Hadwen, M.D.

Challenging the orthodoxy might be required by honesty.

It goes without saying I remain open to the possibility of being wrong about the inability of mundane explanations to account for everything.

But at the moment I’m under the rather strong impression that some of the sightings cannot be conventionally explained.

I do consider it likely they may have very different causes, some of them being unknown natural phenomena.

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Extraordinary stars or UFOs?

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A puzzling Foo Fighter incident

While the Foo-Fighter phenomenon occurred over 60 years ago, some intriguing cases seem to be both detailed and strange enough for seriously undermining the possibility of any conventional explanation.

A plane flying across a cloudy sky encounters a Foo Fighter looking like a dark sphere.

A plane encounters a Foo Fighter. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the picture.


Here is one of these cases.

NUMBER 40 1 JUNE 1945





A B-24 of the 11th Bomb Group on a snooper mission over
Truk during the early morning hours of 3 May 1945,
encountered what may prove to be as baffling a
phenomena as the balls of fire seen by the B-29s while
over the Japanese mainland.

(Excerpted From: Hq. AAF, POA, Air Intell. Memo No. 4, 8 May 1945.)
The B-24 first observed two red circles of light approaching the plane from below while still over the Truk atoll. One light was on the right and the other was seen on the left of the B-24. The light on the left side turned back after one and one half hours. The one on right remained with the bomber until the B-24 was only 10 miles from Guam. From the time that the B-24 left the atoll, the light never left its position on the right side. It was reported by the crew members as sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, and sometimes alongside the B-24 and always about 1200 to 1500 yds distant.

At day break, the crew reported that this light climbed to 15,000 ft and stayed in the sun. It was a short time afterward that the B-24 let down and went through a 300 foot undercast and lost sight of the light.

During the flight from Truk to Guam, the light was observed to change from an orange color to a bright yellow or white like electric light. The light was also described as sometimes looking like a phosphorous glow. This sequence of color changes occurred at regular intervals. The light appeared to be about one foot in diameter and the changes in color did not follow a pattern of acceleration or de-coloration.

The light followed the B-24 in dives from 11,000 ft to 3000 ft, through sharp course changes and even brief cloud cover always keeping its same relative position and distance. At one time, the pilot turned into the light and he definitely reports no closure occurring. During the night high cirrus clouds masked the moonlight and no part of object was observed except the light. At daybreak, the light changed to a steady white glow and a possible wing shape with a silver glow was noted by some members of the crew.

Guam radar units reported no bogies plotted at any time that this light was within its range. The crew members reported that the light finally left them when only 10 miles from Guam. The light was never close enough to the bomber to give a single blip on the radar and therefore should have been easily detected. Two blips with IFF were not reported at this time, the B-24 being the only plane on the scope.

The report from the Guam radar units plus the fact that the light was always seen on the right side of the B-24, and that even when the bomber turned into the light, no rate of closure was noted tends to make the possibility of a jet powered or even a conventional type aircraft a doubtful one.

A preliminary evaluation by the Assistant Chief of Air Staff Intelligence gives the following possibilities:

„It is believed the lights observed were those of an unknown type mounted on Japanese aircraft with the capabilities of an Irving on an experimental or observation mission. While certain jet exhaust flame characteristics are apparent, the range and length of light greatly exceed the known capabilities of friendly or enemy jet aircraft. While observations vary considerably from characteristics of „Balls of Fire“ recently seen over Japanese homeland, there is great need for intelligence on all air phenomena.


Were the Foo Fighters two weird stars?

Two luminous bodies outshine the other stars.

Weird stars are often mistaken for UFOs.

I’m pretty sure that most debunkers reading this account would assert they feel very confident that the sighting was caused by two stars (or perhaps more generally heavenly bodies).

They will try to create this impression by picking and choosing some of the facts and leaving aside everything which doesn’t readily match their idea.

Debunking the case

These facts would be:

  • the two lights remained at the same position during almost the whole trip.
  • the one which remained on the right side kept its position there during the entire trajectory.

  • the light even „followed“ the aircraft across clouds.

  • its white electrical color is consistent with that of a star: actually its regular change from orange to bright yellow / electrical white is consistent with its being a pulsar.

  • it disappeared at dawn.

Critical evaluation

To begin with, it seems unlikely (albeit not impossible) that the whole crew of a military plane would mistake two stars for aircrafts during more than two hours while engaged in highly diverse maneuvers.

Objects flying up to them

The trigger of this event seems to be extremely problematic for that reductionist explanation.

„The B-24 first observed two red circles of light approaching the plane from below while still over the Truk atoll“ 

Of course, no stars can achieve this.

Departure of one of the objects

What is more, it is said that the “ The light on the left side turned back after one and one half hours.“

The crew members would have naturally described a star as „disappearing“ or „fading“ but not as „turning back“ which evokes a movement rather than a heavenly body leaving their visual field or faining.

Object keeping its position.

While the plane performed several wild maneuvers, the object remained roughly at the same relative position (on the right side) all the time.

„The light followed the B-24 in dives from 11,000 ft to 3000 ft, through sharp course changes and even brief cloud cover always keeping its same relative position and distance. „

„The one on right remained with the bomber until the B-24 was only 10 miles from Guam. From the time that the B-24 left the atoll, the light never left its position on the right side. It was reported by the crew members as sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, and sometimes alongside the B-24 and always about 1200 to 1500 yds distant.“

What is more, the luminosity conditions seemed to have been pretty dim during an important part of the night.

„During the night high cirrus clouds masked the moonlight and no part of object was observed except the light. „

Given all these facts, it would have been pretty likely that the „star“ would have left again and again their visual field or at least considerably changed its relative position during their sharp turns.

Flight into the sun

The most natural disappearance of the star at daybreak would have been to fade progressively. Yet, this is not at all what we read:

„At day break, the crew reported that this light climbed to 15,000 ft and stayed in the sun.  It was a short time afterward that the B-24 let down and went through a 300 foot undercast and lost sight of the light. „

„At daybreak, the light changed to a steady white glow and a possible wing shape with a silver glow was noted by some members of the crew. „

The light took on a white/silver glow and ascended towards the sun at an altitude considerably higher than that of the aircraft which was about to prepare its descent.

Again, this is a terrible fit for the „star hypothesis“.

A True Debunker

I think that a hardcore debunker might try to salvage this explanation by resorting to a flurry of ad-hoc and far-fetched hypotheses. I’ll try to put myself in his shoes for a while.

The two circles of red light at the beginning of the sighting were mundane objects (cars, trucks, ships…) on the ground or the water that the crew could not recognize.

Then, they mistakenly perceived these two sources of light as flying up to them. Several seconds later, they made out two stars they erroneously identified with the objects below they had just seen.

During one and a half hour, they had the impression they were being surrounded by the two stars at their left and right side.

Then, the left star fade away or got somehow out of their visual field. For some reason, they were under the impression it had turned back.

Being a pulsar, the color of the remaining star regularly changed from orange to bright yellow / electric white in a way which appeared very puzzling to them.

While high cirrus clouds often masked the light of the moon, they never hid that of the star by a pure coincidence.

The sharp course changes were such that the star kept approximately its same position in their visual field. Another unfortunate coincidence contributing to the illusion of an UFO.

At daybreak, the star disappeared but at roughly the same moment a majestic bird flew upwards. Its reflecting the sun in a white/silvery manner made the crew believe this was the same „UFO“ which had accompanied them all along.“

I’m open to any suggestion but frankly speaking I think this is the best I could come up with.

Some people might say I have been too parodying here. Yet, I have found this kind of convoluted explanations over and over again in the „Skeptical“ literature.

Anyway, as far as I am concerned, I find it a lot easier to believe in an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP) than in such an implausible chain of unlikely events.

A genuine anomaly?

Once we have discarded the star-hypothesis as being really far-fetched, what are we left with?

I have argued why it is highly unlikely that a phenomenon called „St. Elmo’s fire“ is responsible for typical Foo-Fighter sightings and this case is no exception.

The extreme long duration of the sighting coupled with the huge trajectory covered by the aircraft make it very unlikely that they were paced by a ball lightning all along.

And the radar results as well as the B-24 flying into the light at one point (along other features of the apparition) make it very hard to interpret it as a conventional aircraft.

If anyone had a credible conventional hypothesis, I’d be delighted to learn it.

I’m tempted to conclude that this case provides us with an anomaly not readily accounted for by our current knowledge.

Was it some sort of stealth aircraft as speculated by the American intelligence at that time? Perhaps, but it’s rather astounding we did not find any such devices among the defeated Germans and Japaneses in the aftermath of World War II.

Was it a yet unknown natural phenomenon, possibly related to electromagnetism? Maybe.

Was it something else? Who knows.

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St. Elmo’s fire as a general explanation of foo-fighters?

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Foo-fighters“ is a phrase coined to designate anomalous and unidentified luminous phenomena having been sighted by pilots during World War II.

An aircraft faces a foo fighter looking like a dark ball.

Alleged daylight picture of a Foo Fighter.

They were often perceived as orange, red or yellow fireballs maneuvering about aircrafts.

(It is worth noting, however,  that there is a huge diversity of sightings related to that time period. See here).

Ever since the 1940s, it has been claimed now and then (for a recent example, see here) that a phenomenon called „St. Elmo’s fire“ (SEF) would be a good generic explanation of most (albeit not all) cases.

I decided to critically examine this possibility in light of the underscored sentence above describing as typical a foo-fighter can be.

I read different articles on St. Elmo’s fire in German, English, Italian, Spanish and Dutch.  and think I have acquired a fairly good understanding of its features even though I obviously lack a thorough knowledge of the underlying physical equations.

I’ll start our examination by quoting the English Wikipedia which is (in this non-controversial case) not too bad.

St. Elmo’s fire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A sealship travels across a troubled sea. St. Elmo's fire can be seen on its masts.

Traveling ships surrounded by St. Elmo’s fire.

St. Elmo’s fire on a ship at sea

St. Elmo’s fire (also St. Elmo’s light[1][2]) is a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a sharp or pointed object in a strong electric field in the atmosphere (such as those generated by thunderstorms or created by a volcanic eruption).

St. Elmo’s fire is named after St. Erasmus of Formia (also called St. Elmo, one of the two Italian names for St. Erasmus, the other being St. Erasmo), the patron saint of sailors. The phenomenon sometimes appeared on ships at sea during thunderstorms and was regarded by sailors with religious awe for its glowing ball of light, accounting for the name.[3] Because it is a sign of electricity in the air, which can interfere with compass readings, some sailors may have regarded it as an omen of bad luck and stormy weather. Other references indicate that sailors may have actually considered St. Elmo’s fire as a good omen (as in, a sign of the presence of their patron saint).[4]


Physically, St. Elmo’s fire is a bright blue or violet glow, appearing like fire in some circumstances, from tall, sharply pointed structures such as lightning rods, masts, spires and chimneys, and on aircraft wings or nosecones. St. Elmo’s fire can also appear on leaves, grass, and even at the tips of cattle horns.[5] Often accompanying the glow is a distinct hissing or buzzing sound. It is sometimes confused with ball lightning.

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin hypothesized that a pointed iron rod would light up at the tip during a lightning storm, similar in appearance to St. Elmo’s fire.[6][7]


St. Elmo’s fire is a form of matter called plasma, which is also produced in stars, high temperature flame, and by lightning. The electric field around the object in question causes ionization of the air molecules, producing a faint glow easily visible in low-light conditions. Roughly 1000 volts per centimeter induces St. Elmo’s fire; the number depends greatly on the geometry of the object. Sharp points lower the required voltage because electric fields are more concentrated in areas of high curvature, so discharges are more intense at the ends of pointed objects.

Conditions that can generate St.Elmo’s fire are present during thunderstorms, when high voltage differentials are present between clouds and the ground underneath. Air molecules glow owing to the effects of such voltage, producing St. Elmo’s fire.

The nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere cause St. Elmo’s fire to fluoresce with blue or violet light; this is similar to the mechanism that causes neon lights to glow.[8]

Notable observations

In ancient Greece, the appearance of a single one was called helene (Greek: ἑλένη), meaning torch,[9] and two were called Castor and Pollux.[10] Occasionally, it was associated with the Greek element of fire, as well as with one of Paracelsus’s elementals, specifically the salamander, or, alternatively, with a similar creature referred to as an acthnici.[11]

Welsh mariners knew it as canwyll yr ysbryd („spirit-candles“) or canwyll yr ysbryd glân („candles of the Holy Ghost“), or the „candles of St. David„.[12]

References to St. Elmo’s fire can be found in the works of Julius Caesar (De Bello Africo, 47), Pliny the Elder (Naturalis Historia, book 2, par. 101), and Antonio Pigafetta’s journal of his voyage with Ferdinand Magellan. St. Elmo’s fire, also known as „corposants“ or „corpusants“ from the Portuguese corpo santo[13] („holy body“), was a phenomenon described in The Lusiads.

In 15th-century Ming China, Admiral Zheng He and his associates composed the Liujiagang and Changle inscriptions, the two epitaphs of the treasure voyages where they made a reference to St. Elmo’s fire as a divine omen of Tianfei, the goddess of sailors and seafarers.[14]

The power of the goddess, having indeed been manifested in previous times, has been abundantly revealed in the present generation. In the midst of the rushing waters it happened that, when there was a hurricane, suddenly a divine lantern was seen shining at the masthead, and as soon as that miraculous light appeared the danger was appeased, so that even in the peril of capsizing one felt reassured and that there was no cause for fear.

— Admiral Zheng He and his associates (Changle inscription) [14]

Robert Burton wrote of St. Elmo’s fire in his Anatomy of Melancholy: „Radzivilius, the Lithunian duke, calls this apparition, Sancti Germani sidus; and saith moreover that he saw the same after in a storm, as he was sailing, 1582, from Alexandria to Rhodes“. This refers to the voyage made by Mikołaj Krzysztof „the Orphan“ Radziwiłł in 1582–1584.

On the 9th of May, 1605, while on the second voyage of John Davis commanded by Sir Edward Michelborne to the East Indies, an unknown writer aboard the Tigre describes the phenomenon; „In the extremity of our storm appeared to us in the night, upon our maine Top-mast head, a flame about the bigness of a great Candle, which the Portugals call Corpo Sancto, holding it a most divine token that when it appeareth the worst is past. As, thanked be God, we had better weather after it“.[15]

On Thursday February 20, 1817,[note 1] during a severe electrical storm James Braid, then surgeon at Lord Hopetoun’s mines at Leadhills, Lanarkshire, had an extraordinary experience whilst on horseback:

On Thursday 20th, I was gratified for a few minutes with the luminous appearance described above [viz., „such flashes of lightning from the west, repeated every two or three minutes, sometimes at shorter intervals, as appeared to illumine the whole heavens“]. It was about nine o’clock, P.M. I had no sooner got on horseback than I observed the tips of both the horse’s ears to be quite luminous: the edges of my hat had the same appearance. I was soon deprived of these luminaries by a shower of moist snow which immediately began to fall. The horse’s ears soon became wet and lost their luminous appearance; but the edges of my hat, being longer of getting wet, continued to give the luminous appearance somewhat longer.

I could observe an immense number of minute sparks darting towards the horse’s ears and the margin of my hat, which produced a very beautiful appearance, and I was sorry to be so soon deprived of it.

The atmosphere in this neighbourhood appeared to be very highly electrified for eight or ten days about this time. Thunder was heard occasionally from 15th to 23d, during which time the weather was very unsteady: frequent showers of hail, snow, rain, &c.

I can find no person in this quarter who remembers to have ever seen the luminous appearance mentioned above, before this season,—or such a quantity of lightning darting across the heavens,—nor who have heard so much thunder at that season of the year.

This country being all stocked with sheep, and the herds having frequent occasion to pay attention to the state of the weather, it is not to be thought that such an appearance can have been at all frequent, and none of them to have observed it.[note 2]

— James Braid, 1817[16]

Weeks earlier, reportedly on January 17, 1817, a luminous snowstorm occurred in Vermont and New Hampshire. Saint Elmo’s fire appeared as static discharges on roof peaks, fence posts, and the hats and fingers of people. Thunderstorms prevailed over central New England.[17]

Charles Darwin noted the effect while aboard the Beagle. He wrote of the episode in a letter to J. S. Henslow that one night when the Beagle was anchored in the estuary of the Río de la Plata:

Everything is in flames, — the sky with lightning, — the water with luminous particles, and even the very masts are pointed with a blue flame.

— Charles Darwin, 1832[18]

St. Elmo’s fire is reported to have been seen during the Siege of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1453. It reportedly was seen emitting from the top of the Hippodrome. The Byzantines attributed it to a sign that the Christian God would soon come and destroy the conquering Muslim army. According to George Sphrantzes, it disappeared just days before Constantinople fell, ending the Byzantine Empire.

In Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. describes seeing a corposant in the Horse latitudes of the northern Atlantic Ocean. However, he may have been talking about ball lightning; as mentioned earlier it is often erroneously identified as St. Elmo’s fire: „There, directly over where we had been standing, upon the main top-gallant mast-head, was a ball of light, which the sailors name a corposant (corpus sancti), and which the mate had called out to us to look at. They were all watching it carefully, for sailors have a notion, that if the corposant rises in the rigging, it is a sign of fair weather, but if it comes lower down, there will be a storm“.[19]

Many Russian sailors have seen them throughout the years. To them, they are „Saint Nicholas“ or „Saint Peter’s lights“.[12] They were also sometimes called St. Helen’s or St. Hermes‚ fire, perhaps through linguistic confusion.[20]

Nikola Tesla created St. Elmo’s Fire in 1899 while testing out a Tesla coil at his laboratory in Colorado Springs. St. Elmo’s fire was seen around the coil and was said to have lit up the wings of butterflies with blue halos as they flew around.[21]

Shortly before the crash of the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin’s Hindenburg in 1937, Professor Mark Heald of Princeton saw St. Elmo’s Fire flickering along the airship’s back a good minute before the fire broke out. Standing outside the main gate to the Naval Air Station, he watched, together with his wife and son, as the airship approached the mast and dropped her bow lines. A minute thereafter, by Mr. Heald’s estimation, he first noticed a dim „blue flame“ flickering along the backbone girder about one-quarter the length abaft the bow to the tail. There was time for him to remark to his wife, „Oh, heavens, the thing is afire,“ for her to reply, „Where?“ and for him to answer, „Up along the top ridge“ – before there was a big burst of flaming hydrogen from a point he estimated to be about one-third the ship’s length from the stern.[22]

St Elmo’s fire were also seen during the 1955 Great Plains tornado outbreak in Kansas and Oklahoma (US).[23]

Accounts of Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the globe refer to St. Elmo’s fire being seen around the fleet’s ships multiple times off the coast of South America. The sailors saw these as favorable omens.

On August 26, 1883, the British warship Charles Ball sailing the Sunda Strait en route to Hong Kong came within 20 km of the exploding Krakatau volcano and witnessed a great deal of static electricity in the atmosphere, generated by the movement of tiny particles of rocks and droplets of water from the volcano’s steam, which caused spectacular brush discharges taking place from the masts and rigging of the ship.

Among the phenomena experienced on British Airways Flight 9 on June 24, 1982 were glowing light flashes along the leading edges of the aircraft, which were seen by both passengers and crew. While it shared similarities with St Elmo’s fire, the glow experienced was from the impact of ash particles on the leading edges of the aircraft, similar to that seen by operators of sandblasting equipment.

St. Elmo’s fire was observed and its optical spectrum recorded during a University of Alaska research flight over the Amazon in 1995 to study sprites.[24][25]

The ill-fated Air France Flight 447 flight from Rio de Janeiro–Galeão (GIG) to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2009 is understood to have experienced St. Elmo’s fire 23 minutes prior to crashing into the Atlantic Ocean. However, the phenomenon had no effect on the disaster itself.[26] [27]

Visual aspect of St. Elmo’s fire

Here are some pictures and videos I found trustworthy. I gathered them with a (non-exclusive) focus on any view from an aircraft.

I numbered them in order to more easily reference to them in the next sections.



St. Elmo's fire looks like majestic blue lightning.

St. Elmo’s fire behind the windscreen of an aircraft.


St. Elmo's fire looks like majestic blue lightning.

St. Elmo’s fire behind the windscreen of an aircraft.


St. Elmo's fire looks like majestic white lightning.

St. Elmo’s fire behind the windscreen of an aircraft.


Two sparks can be seen beyond the windscreen.

St. Elmo’s fire behind the windscreen of an aircraft.


It looks a but like in a neon-tube.

St. Elmo’s fire behind the windscreen of an aircraft.




After having carefully looked at them, let us examine if St. Elmo’s Fire (SEF) might be a viable explanation for most foo-fighters.


St. Elmo’s fire is actually a plasma stemming from the ionization of air (namely oxygen and nitrogen) caused by a strong static electricity.

Following the emission spectrum of these species, the „fire“ looks blue-violet most of the time. I also found it more rarely described as white or green.

But I never found any example of its looking yellow, orange or red. Yet plunging into the foo-fighter literature reveals that these are the very colors of a great proportion of intriguing fireballs which paced aircrafts and maneuvered around them during World War II.

Consequently, this fact alone considerably limits the explanatory scope of the hypothesis in question.


Another necessary condition for St. Elmo’s fire accounting for typical foo-fighter sightings would be its ability to be perceived as distinct balls of fire moving along or around a plane during at least one minute.

What is more, if an electrical phenomenon (as in the above pictures) had been visible around the plane, there is no doubt that this would have been indicated in at least a significant number of all foo-fighter reports. But to the best of my knowledge, we find nothing of the sort. In that case, it seems really reasonable to assume that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

So, for Saint Elmo’s fire to be a reliable explanation, it must be able to appear to pilots during at least one minute as distinct objects in the ABSENCE of any manifestation which would be obviously associated to lightning and electricity.

In all the reliable literature I read on this topic, I didn’t find any case like this.

In all the pictures and videos shown above, SEF appears as a kind of lightning cluster rather than as a distinct object, let alone a spherical one.

As William Beaty put it:

„St. Elmo’s Fire is a type of continuous electric spark called a „glow discharge.“ You’ve seen it many times before, since it is almost exactly the same as the glows found inside fluorescent tubes, mercury vapor streetlights, old orange-display calculators and in „eye of the storm“ plasma globes. When it occurs naturally, we call it St. Elmo’s Fire, but when it occurs inside a glass tube, we call it a neon sign. „

It seems extremely convoluted to try to forcefully fit a ball moving along with and often relatively to the plane to this:

Amateurish depictions of „St. Elmo’s balls“

While I didn’t discover any reliable source mentioning SEF appearing as distinct objects, I found several anonymous individuals calling round or spherical luminous phenomena „St. Elmo’s fire“.

Luminous balls hover on all tips of the ship.

Presumably ball lightnings around a ship.
Alternatively, artistic expression.

Of course, this „naming“ by amateurs give us absolutely no evidence that the phenomenon known to scientists as St. Elmo’s fire can take on this kind of shape.

The Wikipedia article itself mentions that lay people can readily mistake ball lightnings for SEF and the same probably holds true for other causes of misidentification.

„In Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. describes seeing a corposant in the Horse latitudes of the northern Atlantic Ocean. However, he may have been talking about ball lightning; as mentioned earlier it is often erroneously identified as St. Elmo’s fire: „There, directly over where we had been standing, upon the main top-gallant mast-head, was a ball of light, which the sailors name a corposant (corpus sancti), and which the mate had called out to us to look at. They were all watching it carefully, for sailors have a notion, that if the corposant rises in the rigging, it is a sign of fair weather, but if it comes lower down, there will be a storm“.[19] „

What is more, as James Dale Barry, a leading scientist investigating ball lightnings wrote:  „A characteristic distinction between St. Elmo’s Fire and ball lightning is the apparently independent motion of the latter. Although St. Elmo’s Fire has been observed to move about, it may move along a conductor, sometimes pulsating as it moves, but it does not free itself from the conductor. Thus, it does not exhibit the descending, hovering, or flying motions that are common to ball lightning. „

And the same holds true for innumerable foo-fighters observed during the last Great War.

In the end, we have excellent grounds for concluding that St. Elmo’s fire does NOT give rise to balls of light moving in the air.

If anyone disagree, I’d be very thankful if he or she could provide us with a well-documented case where this was observed to happen nonetheless.


In the present post, I limited myself to one possible generic explanation of foo-fighters, namely St. Elmo’s fire.

We have seen that it offers a terrible match to the typical manifestation of the phenomena. Using it as a compelling explanation seems akin to try to fit a cube into an open sphere during a test of logic.

While there might be some foo-fighter cases where SEF could be a viable explanation, they seem to be very rare and I haven’t come across one until now.

Now, nothing I have argued here rules out the possibility that foo-fighters might very well be natural phenomena of other kinds.

Indeed, the ball-lightnings mentioned above might potentially account for some sightings.

Glowing ball lightning hovering not far from an electrical pipe.

Typical ball lightning.

In an earlier post, I explained how scientists had tried to dismiss ball-lightnings as a hallucination using arguments scarily similar to those used by UFO-debunkers.

In the next months, I shall analyze interesting foo-fighter incidents individually.

Appendix: pseudo-skepticism in action

At this point, I feel I have the duty to quickly go into the assertions of a debunker called the „Iron Skeptic“ (IS).

He set out to explain away the largest part of the Foo-Fighter phenomenon through St. Elmo’s fire. My comments are written in orange.

What was the official explanation? Static electricity. For whatever reason, electricity builds up in the fuselage of an aircraft and it starts to discharge. Of course, during the war, the Americans had some pretty important issues on the table, so once we realized that there was no proof the Foo Fighters were Axis weapons, our scientists went back to what they were doing and didn’t exactly break their backs trying to explain this goofy little problem.

I can understand that and I can respect that. If the wingtips of your bombers glow a little once in a while, as long as the wingtips do not proceed to break off of the rest of the airplane, it’s hardly a wartime priority.

Here, IS correctly describes what one would have expected if Foo-Fighters had been merely St. Elmo’s Fire. Of course, pilots saw MOVING BALLS and not „glowing wingtips“.

However, this lack of serious study at the time now results in every historical revisionist, occultist, and general nutcase in the woodwork to make claims about aliens, Atlantis, Bigfoot, so on and so forth.

Let me change gears for a moment. Back during the historical period on which every romance novel is based, that is to say, back when human beings made a habit of sailing the oceans in giant, wooden sailing vessels, they had a problem with Foo Fighters. Lights would dance around the masts of the ship, they would trail the vessel, they would wiggle about and perform aerobatics in the air.

This sentence will give you time to gather your jaw off of the floor, where it has surely dropped after this revelation. The aliens have always been with us! They spied on our aircraft during the War in the same manner by which they spied on our Galleons and Frigates as they were chasing down whales to kill! Well, disassemble that tin-foil hat and go back to using it for wrapping luncheon meats: no such thing happened. Since they didn’t have comic books in those days, sailors named the lights after the only other book everyone had read (the bible) and christened the phenomenon St. Elmo’s Fire. St Elmo, also called Erasmus, was one of the fourteen holy helpers, and was martyred. He protects not just sea-going vessels, but helps out with stomach cramps, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: St Elmo’s Fire is nothing more than static electricity building up in the rigging of a ship before a thunderstorm. To their credit, UFO enthusiasts rarely claim that these ocean-going Foo Fighters were actually alien spacecraft, yet, when the same thing happens to airplanes in the modern day, they refuse to accept the simple explanation and prefer one based on space people.

The case isn’t as clear cut as this, of course. The UFO enthusiast can raise a number of questions about the differences between Foo Fighters and St Elmo’s Fire that seem, at first glance, to invalidate any link. Let’s look at them.

First, they ask why Foo Fighters appeared only during World War Two, and not in the modern day. Modern airplanes are vastly different than the propeller driven craft in use during the war. They are made with different materials, they come in different shapes, and they fly at much faster speeds. Any one of these variables would be enough to, perhaps, change the probability of a static electricity buildup.

IS doesn’t provide the slightest evidence for his  speculation that current aircrafts would no longer allow the occurrence of certain electro-magnetic phenomena besides them.

Actually, we know it is completely wrong as far as SEF is concerned. St. Elmo’s fire still appears on modern planes as illustrated by the pictures above. And this doesn’t look at all like the descriptions of foo-fighters.

But there are still propeller aircraft in service, and people regularly fly around in vintage airplanes, so why don’t we see more cases of it? Well, I’m no statistician, but consider this: during World War Two we had an enormous number of airplanes in service. A small fraction of these airplanes reported seeing Foo Fighters. Today, we have a tiny fraction of that number of airplanes still flying about. So therefore, we should only be seeing Foo Fighters near a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of airplanes. That seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why Foo Fighter sightings fell so precipitously after the war: fewer airplanes flying means fewer opportunities for Foo Fighters to form.

As we saw, the sightings of St. Elmo’s fire did NOT cease after the war. It has always been observed around aircrafts and airships, both before and after WWII.

And it is most likely utterly unrelated to the large majority of Foo-Fighters.

St. Elmo’s Fire is sort of lethargic: it kind of hangs around the masts of a ship and glows for a little while, then it disappears. The Foo Fighters move around and do tricks. Consider this: a Galleon, or Frigate, or Schooner, or what have you, travels at something like ten miles an hour. World War Two-era fighter and bomber aircraft travel at hundreds of miles per hour. Imagine you’re a pocket of static electricity. In one case, you’re being rocked by the gentle winds of a slow-moving ship; in the other, you’re rocketing through the atmosphere several dozen times more quickly. Under which circumstance do you think you’re going to move around more? With the slow-moving air around ships and the fast-moving, complex air currents around aircraft, it’s completely logical that if St Elmo’s Fire is going to form around an airplane, it’s going to get bounced around more.

At this point, it is worth quoting again James Dale Barry, a leading scientist investigating ball lightnings: 

„A characteristic distinction between St. Elmo’s Fire and ball lightning is the apparently independent motion of the latter. Although St. Elmo’s Fire has been observed to move about, it may move along a conductor, sometimes pulsating as it moves, but it does not free itself from the conductor. Thus, it does not exhibit the descending, hovering, or flying motions that are common to ball lightning. „

The higher speed of aircrafts doesn’t cause St. Elmo’s fire to look like moving balls. It makes it look like a fluctuating cluster of small lightings, as can be visualized in the pictures and videos I included above.

This is a misrepresentation...It's a myth...those are's swamp gas! Those are just's Venus...I'm not a qualified observer...

Regardless of the realism of this picture, this represents rather well the state of mind of a debunker.

Debunkers keep calling themselves the defenders of science and rationality. Alas, their deeds all too often fail to match up.

This pseudo-skeptic has constantly confused his ungrounded speculations with compelling explanations and even failed to thoroughly read the literature on St. Elmo’s fire. Had he done that, he would have been aware that SEF doesn’t take on an orange, yellow and red color and that it doesn’t resemble moving spheres of energy such as ball lightnings.

When debunkers tell you they are capable of explaining EVERY anomalous event they’ve stumbled across, what they most often mean is that they could always resort to groundless speculations and far-fetched hypotheses for creating the illusion of an explanation like-minded people find convincing.

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„Unidentified“ due to lack of data

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I entered the world of UFOLOGY roughly three years ago.

One odd feature which baffled me quickly enough (thanks to books of Dr. Jacques Vallée) was the fact that for many people, any anomalous phenomena (i.e. phenomena not reasonably explainable through our current and public knowledge) MUST be of extraterrestrial origin.

Conversely, if one finds it extremely unlikely that space aliens might be among us, then one has to conclude there are no genuinely anomalous UAP.

I explained at length that UAPs/UFOs are no synonyms for alien spacecrafts.

In this post, I want to go into a second widespread fallacy many Ufologists fall prey to.

Debunkers are well known to force-fit enigmatic cases to their catchall explanations by resorting to a flurry of ad-hoc hypotheses and far-fetched assumptions. I gave two examples of this behavior here and here.

While serious Ufologists are prompt to rebuke „Skeptics“ for their poor reasoning, they can often sin in an excess of conservatism.

Frequently, they confuse untested conventional hypotheses potentially accounting for a puzzling sighting with a well-proven explanation revealing us its likely causes.

A recent case shortly described by MUFON provides us with a  very nice illustration of this state of affairs.

The putative UFO is very blurred. One can make out a distinct discontinuity in the middle.

An allegedly cigar-like UFO sighted over Georgia.

Georgia witness photographs cigar-shaped UFO


A Georgia witness at Canton reported watching and photographing two cigar-shaped UFOs that seemed to be attached by “a small tubular connection,” according to testimony in Case 61365 from the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) witness reporting database.

The witness was outside on a driveway and about to walk inside on November 6, 2014, when the object was first seen.

The putative UFO is so small that one can no longer make out the gap at its center.

An allegedly cigar-like UFO sighted over Georgia.
Picture without zooming.

“I looked to my right facing southeast to see if my horses were in their stalls,” the witness stated. “I then noticed something rather odd flying above the barn as the sky was clear and not cloudy and still broad daylight. The object was flying in an odd sort of way, not like any aircraft I am aware of would or could fly.”

The witness described the object.

“It was shimmering. It appeared to be glowing. It had no wings and it looked like two silver cigar shapes attached together by a smaller tubular connection.”

The witness tried to understand what the object was.

The witness said the object appeared to have no wings and it looked like two silver cigar shapes attached together by a smaller tubular connection. Pictured: Canton, Georgia. (Credit: Google)

“From the distance of height I venture to guess it was possibly not as large as a commercial aircraft, but perhaps the size of a private airplane. I had the impression it seemed to be ascending but also seemed to be floating and at first moved slowly.”

When the object appeared to be above the witnesses’ house, a photograph was taken with a cell phone. But moments later, the object was gone.

“When I looked up again it was gone either out of sight or vanished. It left me with an unsettled feeling.”

The witness included one image with the MUFON report, which was filed on November 13, 2014.

The putative UFO is very blurred. One can make out a distinct discontinuity in the middle.

An allegedly cigar-like UFO sighted over Georgia.

Canton is a city in and the county seat of Cherokee County, Georgia, population 22,985.

Georgia has a current UFO Alert Rating of 5 with a low number of recent reports nationally. Georgia had 11 UFO reports that occurred during October 2014 – calculated at 1.11 sightings per million population.

The UFO Alert Rating System is based on five levels – 1 through 5 – where states with 4.01 or higher reports per million residents are rated an Alert 1; 3.01 – 4.0 reports are an Alert 2; 2.51 – 3.0 are an Alert 3; 2.01 – 2.5 are an Alert 4; and those states with 2.0 or lower are rated an Alert 5.


Afterwards, researcher Marc D’Antonia offered us his own explanation.

This object looks to me to be a classic image often seen of jet aircraft when seen against bright blue sky. The wings and tail are many times lost visually in the low contrast against the daytime sky. The giveaway in such cases is the dark inset area just less than halfway from the right end of the object. This is usually a wing shadow and appears in the low contrast to be a dark area with no extensions of wing structure.
So I am not saying this is a commercial jet for sure but that this object looks very typical of a commercial jet when seen in bright sky at times. In the context of the photo the object is consistently sized for a jet traveling at 30,000 feet or so and the witness didnt state that the object moved erratically. The momentarily loss of visual acquisition is not uncommon for bright blue sky days actually and happens quite frequently. I didnt find that to be a quality putting this case in a high strangeness category.
In my view based on the photo and experience I have to say this could likely be a jet aircraft seen under bright sky conditions.

While doubtlessly extremely interesting, I think that D’Antonia’s comment tends to obscure the considerable lack of information this case suffers from.

My answer follows:

Marc Dantonio: I think that what you have presented here is an interesting untested hypothesis but not a conclusive explanation of that case.

1) Discontinuity on the picture

Could you please perhaps give us links towards similar photos of planes WITH this strange discontinuity (gap) in the middle?

How probable are circumstances which can potentially lead to its formation?

It seems to me you completely left that central aspect aside.

2) Visual sighting

What’s more, you’ve given an explanation for the photo. But what about the VISUAL sighting itself? From the description of the witness, it sounds as if he saw with his own eyes that “it had no wings and it looked like two silver cigar shapes attached together by a smaller tubular connection”.

If that is the case, does your explanation account for his seeing this alleged plane as he did?
It is frustrating not to know how big and far he actually EXPERIENCED the thing. I surmise it must have been somehow closer to him than the impression given by the picture stemming from his cellphone.

What was this „odd sort of way“ the object moved in?

How „slow“ did it move at first? Would the initial speed be compatible with it being a plane?

3) Possibility of a hoax

Another possibility I’m considering is that of a hoax.

This doesn’t appear very likely given that he apparently remained anonymous and the picture itself doesn’t show us something spectacular.
Still, this can’t be wholly ruled out. Is the man known to be trustworthy?

4) Presence of known aircrafts

Do we know if signaled aircrafts were present by that time in the area?

Inconclusive incident

As far as I’m concerned, the case is still unexplained. But we’ve no reason (yet) to assume that something truly anomalous took place. We simply don’t know.

Given all the information we lack (as I just described at length above), I think we are in no position to reach any conclusion in whatever direction.

I think that, at the very least, everyone reading this would probably agree we would be far better off if we possessed the missing data mentioned in my four questions.

I’d be thankful to fellow UFO researchers more knowledgeable than I for helping me answer some of the questions but with empirical data rather than mere assumptions.

It is often asserted by serious Ufologists that between 90% and 95% of all sightings have a conventional explanation.

I think that the analysis of this case shows that this number might be grossly overrated. Being unpaid (or more rarely poorly paid) and confronted with a gigantic set of cases on their desks, numerous researchers are prompt to get rid of many of them by considering them „explained“ as soon as some aspects appear to fit an explanation they have in mind.

But this is no scientifically sound methodology if many other elements relevant to the proposed explanation are unknown or uncertain.

I think that thorough Ufologists confronted with such an incident in the future should classify it as „Insufficient data“ while trying to gather additional information.

I think that my own very recent sighting falls within that category.

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A strange experience

My own sighting

At roughly 17:40 (Continental European time) I had a somewhat weird experience.

I was driving a car not far from the French town of Yutz and a wood called „Hemmersholz“. (See the location here).

My father sat besides me. I was intrigued by the presence of a luminous thing which was apparently moving above a dark cloud at high speed. Its intensity wasn’t very strong.

I was expecting to soon see a plane ushering into the free sky at the end of the cloud. I was stunned as I saw that instead of this, the light went backward while following the same line. As I looked again in that direction several seconds later, I saw the light make another similar move.

The gleam moved back and forth several times on top of the cloud.

My own sighting that evening.

Afterwards, I was no longer able to see anything and had to focus on the traffic. The whole sighting lasted probably less than one minute. My father didn’t see the movements of the light but he made it out at one point.

I immediately thought I might have seen a moving beam directed towards the sky. But I can remember that it seemed brighter above the cloud rather than below it. So I don’t believe that this hypothesis is a plausible explanation. Still, this can’t be entirely ruled out.

Another possibility would be that of a helicopter. I doubt it due to its rectilinear (straight) trajectory and the swiftness with which it was able to change its direction (actually its turning around was almost instantaneous). What’s more, it is hard to imagine what motives a pilot might have had to fly back and forth several times.

A drone? Maybe. But the cloud wasn’t low so that I doubt it was being controlled by normal citizens having fun. Was it perhaps some sort of military experience?

At that point, I want to reassure my readers: I do NOT believe that what I saw was a starship populated by Grey aliens seeking to overtake my homeland (even though I think that their rule would be far better than that of the centralized French government which has killed our German dialect).

It is just a light I could not explain. I surmise there is a conventional explanation. It would be completely foolish to conclude from the very limited data that something truly anomalous happened.

I’d be thankful to anyone who think they might know what I saw.

To conclude, a conventional explanation of my sighting would be that:
1) someone directed a beam of light with a WEAK INTENSITY towards the cloud.
2) through some optical effects I got the impression it was brighter on the upper side.
3) hence I perceived it as if an object was moving on top of the cloud.

It was very short and consequently my memory isn’t very precise.

However, as far as I can tell, 2) seems to be wrong. It really looked like as if a luminous physical body was going back and forth above the cloud.

I tried to imagine how a light illuminating the lowest part of the cloud would look like. But this doesn’t fit what I saw.
The light moved at its highest part as if it was overflying it. Consequently I expected to see a plane emerge. I wouldn’t have had such an expectation had the lowest part been lit. The cloud wasn’t too thin.

In addition, as far as I can remember, the light didn’t leave the cloud but went immediately backward. It seems pretty unlikely that an automatic beam would do this. It appears kind of strange that people would do such a thing. Unless this was a hoax aimed at producing UFO sightings.

Addition: someone wrote to me

You are in a car in traffic looking through a windshield made of glass which is reflective of interior and exterior lights. You saw this briefly and your father did not for the most part. My suggestion is it may be a reflection and not an object.

I responded:

Hi. That’s an interesting suggestion I already considered.

The problem is that I saw that „reflection“ move back and forth several times whereas the car of my father went forward in a straight manner.
I don’t really know what kind of reflection could cause this effect. This doesn’t appear to be an internal light for I didn’t see anything after having left the spot.

What is more, the intensity of the light (which I only saw on the upper part of the cloud) was pretty weak. Clearly recognizable but dim. It really seemed to belong to the cloud.

I’d be thankful if you could give me other examples where such a thing occurred. This appears to me to be a pretty rare phenomenon. Still, I’m no optician and could be wrong about that.


A drone?

Some unknown individuals have been frightening the French government for months by flying drones over their nuclear plants.
These people seem to be very well organized and could not be identified nor could the drones be intercepted.
They did this only 15-20 km away from the place of the sighting one month ago.

They might very well dispose of the kind of drones which can fly at relatively high altitudes. It is an open question (at least from my perspective) whether or not the lights they can emit are compatible with the nearly rectangular pattern I observed.

Drone in a field guided by a man.

A remote controlled drone

IN THE END, I believe that the very short amount of information available here allows no conclusion to be drawn. I feel that my memory is already getting fuzzier and it will probably be worse in one week, let alone one month.

Still, I found it useful to report about it. I hope this could be an example of how one should relate to one’s own unusual experiences without falling into the trap of „easily believing“ and that of debunking.

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