SA FLYING UCER!
...or a balloon, or a cloud, or gas...or maybe just a neurotic delusion. What ever it is, a lot of Canadians think they’ve seen something like it. And now some pretty skeptical scientists figure that, before UFO-spotting becomes a national mania, it’s time they proved all those kooky saucer-sighters wrong — or right
THIS HAS BEEN a pretty good year for the flying-saucer set. In British Columbia — where more people see more Unidentified Flying Objects than anywhere else in Canada — 23 sightings were reported to the RCMP in the first seven months, compared with seven in all of 1966. Brian Gratton, a dude-ranch operator in Lone Butte, in the Cariboo country, sat up for five consecutive nights last July with his wife Pat, horse-wrangler Shawn Broe and some cowhands and dudes, watching a whole cupboard-full of stellar crockery.
“They had red and green blinking lights and shifted, bobbed and weaved in the sky," Gratton reported. “I saw one of them veer off toward Green Lake and the front of it looked like some kind of space craft. It was saucer-shaped. Some nights you could hear a drone or hum like a high-tension wire. The sound woke my mother out of her sleep two miles away. The cattle were restless and even the dogs on the ranch were acting up."
In Fredericton, NB, there was a kufuffle in June w'hen some commuters spotted a stationary, round, glowing object in the sky. In Montreal, two days after Expo opened, Mrs. Elizabeth Fortier and her 18-year-old daughter were looking for a tame robin in their garden at 8.30 p.m. and found instead a red-and-blue object moving slowly overhead, past Venus. “It was troughlike in shape," said Mrs. Fortier. In Toronto, a 41-year-old editorial artist named Eugene Duplantier, who puts out a news bulletin called Saucers, Space and Science, and who plans to write a book called UFOs Over Canada, says he has compiled information on nearly 100 sightings in June, July and August. And in St. Paul, Alta., Defense Minister Paul Hellyer presided at a June ceremony unveiling the community Centennial project: a UFO landing pad. It wasn’t even unique — Port
McNeill, BC, had put up a pad for extraterrestrial visitors
It is possible to date the Canadian UFO kick with some racy. Since Canadians typically hesitate for about a tenth of a second before adopting U. S. fads and fancies, the flying saucer came to Canada full-blown, like the hula hoop. That was on June 24. 1947, after a U. S. pilot named Kenneth Arnold saw nine saucerlike objects spinning through the air in single file near Mount Rainier in the State of Washington. Since then there has been no sustained effort to collate reported Canadian sightings, but the best guess is that there have been more than 1,000 of them. Duplantier says the figure is closer to 5,000. Reported sightings in the U. S. have now passed the 1 1,000 mark. The biggest year for UFOs was 1952 ( 1,501 reported U. S. sightings), when the first H-bomb was detonated. The year of Sputnik. 1957. came second. Then there was a prolonged slump until 1965, when things started to look up for saucer buffs. Reported sightings ascended again last year, and a national publication poll indicated that 50 million Americans believe something up there is watching them. If the current wave of reported sightings continues, the 1952 saucer panic could be surpassed in 1968.
The recent fuss has spurred flagging government and scientific interest in the subject, both in the U. S. and Canada. Last fall, the U. S. Air Force put up $313,000 to finance the first major study of UFOs — and of the behavioral characteristics of saucer-sighters — at the University of Colorado, with an eight-man team headed by Dr. Edward U. Condon, a distinguished atomic physicist. In September. Dr. G. N. Patterson, director of the University of Toronto's Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Maclean’s that a group of Toronto scientists was starting its J continued overleaf
FLYING SAUCERS continued
own investigation — hopefully with U. S. and Canadian government participation. The project was launched several weeks later at a seminar in Toronto attended by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, director of Northwestern University’s Lindheimer Astronomical Research Center and an open-minded consultant on UFOs to the U. S. Air Force.
“Our point of view is that it’s time to look into the whole question of whether technical and other available information on Canadian UFO sightings is being properly collated and assessed,” said Dr. Patterson. “If this is not being done, then there is a chance we would do it in co-operation with the U. S. government, in which case we'd hope to interest the Canadian government in it, too.”
In order to ascertain that, no, such information is not being properly collated and assessed, Dr. Patterson and his colleagues may have to follow a tortuous trail through the Department of National Defense. What happens is that reports of sightings finally filter down to the Canadian Forces Operations Centre, where they are duly recorded. But there is never an investigation, and only a minimal assessment by whoever is on duty in the Operations office. “We’re not trying to make a job of it, and that’s the honest truth,” said a spokesman. “We send the reports on to the National Research Council if the sightings appear to be of fireballs or meteorites. We don’t keep any track of the number of sightings.” Col. William W. Turner, the recently appointed director of operations at the Centre, said he didn’t know anything about it. An information officer said that the National Research Council was planning to set up an investigative committee on UFOs. Not true, according to the NRC’s Space Research Facilities Branch, which is headed by Dr. Richard Rettie. There was an indication, though, that such a committee might be set up in the future.
“I don’t know whether we would have got involved in the question except for recent excitement about UFOs,” said Dr. Rettie. “People are pushing and shoving around right now. Also, we are
responsible for creating the occasional uncommon object ourselves
— such as a barium-colored cloud at the Churchill Range — and so we may have a responsibility to answer questions. At this moment there is no committee. I have no plans to set up any organization to look into the unresolved residue of sightings which, in the minds of some people, could be outside our normal range of experience.”
Dr. Rettie, who looks like an ascetic Humphrey Bogart, may be Canada’s most articulate skeptic on UFOs. To the ultimate question
— could they be from space? — he replies, “I am perfectly prepared to believe that there are societies elsewhere in the universe which are at least as well advanced technologically as we are. I am willing to believe that such a society might wish to get in touch with us if they knew we existed. I am also prepared to believe that such a society might wish to study our behavior, much as man studies an ant hill. I am not, however, prepared to believe that such a society would behave in such an illogical fashion as to fool around in flying saucers and to approach people in woods with friendly offers to help us do wonderful things, while ignoring the easily recognizable structure of our society. They would damn well have the ability to approach us in an unmistakable fashion. Reports of such activities can, I am certain, be dismissed as a prank, as charlatanism, as sensation seeking or, unfortunately, as temporary or permanent mental unbalance.”
The trouble with flying-saucer stories is that, while it is easy to dismiss them all out of hand, it is usually impossible to put down an individual believer — or a charlatan. Such people challenge science and the government to prove that saucers don’t exist. It is very hard to prove that something doesn’t exist. It is even hard to prove that a purported saucer in a snapshot is a hubcap thrown — by car or man — in the air. Exploiters of the gullible, for their part, have all sorts of “evidence” to trot out. The current crop of flying-saucer paperbacks is laced with third-hand / continued on page 92
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“I think it’s time scientists took a serious look at UFOs”
eye-witness accounts, dubious conclusions and trite exchanges (“Don’t he afraid”) between earthlings and “humanoids.” Anecdotes can't stand up to the most cursory checks. Thus, in Flyinp Saucers Are Hostile, by Brad Steiger and Joan Whritcnour (Award Books), there is a long account of a mysterious 1964 Yukon
sighting hy June Franklin, a reporter for the Whitehorse Star, and some other townspeople. But Bob Farlin, publisher of the paper, told Maclean's that lights in the sky were immediately traced to some prospectors' flares that had been found by local children. Miss Franklin, who has since gone to England, was ‘‘just having some fun
with the story. Nohody took it seriously.”
Of course, the majority of saucersighters are quite honest and sincere. They are simply confused. "It's so easy to confuse Unidentified Flying Objects with unidentifiable phenomena.” says Dr. Rettic. “There are many unusual things that might put
a hell of a fright into the average observer. To specialized observers they are usually perfectly identifiable.”
Fireballs and meteorites, light reflected off shiny objects and atmospheric reflections, ball lightning and various odd mirages doubtless account for many puzzling UFOs. Dr. Rettic himself has seen realistic-looking saucers twice, most recently one evening last summer at the RCMP grounds outside Ottawa.
"I was looking back over the city just before sundown and I saw' half a dozen of them," he says. "They were circular in shape, traveling in a line. They seemed to be about a mile away, stretched over 100 yards or so. My wife said she hoped they weren't real, for my sake. They looked real. One of them had a fin. The sun was beyond them. 1 deduced that there was a triple weather system with a lot of water vapor condensing and forming a cloud bank. There was a turbulent type of mixing going on and little globs of cloud were forming in a spiral effect. Seen from my vantage point, they were in line. They were just little clouds — I was watching initial cloud formation.”
Mystery of the dancing lights
His other sighting was about 15 years ago. "I was living south of Ottawa. 1 stepped outside one night and saw five flashing lights dancing around in the sky — quite a startling sight. I was interested enough to find out what they were. I moved 10 feet to one side and found that the centre of activity moved about six feet, so the source was evidently four times farther away than the reflective point. 1 changed the elevation by squatting, and worked it out in a minute or two that a light down the road was reflecting off globlets of water on a swinging high-tension wire 100 yards away. This phenomenon is very common and accounts for a vast quantity of these things. Wet leaves anti things like pine trees will work as well as wires.”
Dr. Rettic says no sighting he has heard about has really pricked his interest. "No category leaves me puzzled, which only proves to the believers that I am an unimaginative clod. I don’t care what they think, but there is a narrow line between good thought processes and deplorable ones. It is folly, for example, to commit large expenditures on nonproven assumptions. The possibility of payoff is awfully bloody remote.”
But other scientists take a more flexible stand. Dr. R. C'. Tennyson, assistant professor at the U of T’s Institute for Aerospace Studies, says the UFO question is still up in the air. "I think anything is possible. It's really just a matter of more scientific inquiry to determine if it's a natural or extraterrestrial phenomenon. I think it's time that scientists took a serious look at UFOs. Right now we are all novices in this field.”
A tiny minority of sightings, perhaps one in 1,000. seem genuinely mind-boggling in their implications, providing one can assume the honesty and stability of their witnesses. One such case, not previously published, is especially interesting because the observer was a newsman who did not
tell his story for several years because he was afraid it wouldn't be taken seriously. Jerry Boileau is the chief photographer at Hamilton’s CHCHTV. a hard-working, matter-of-fact cameraman with no axe to grind. Here is what he told Maclean’s:
“In September 1960 I was on a holiday with my family at my fatherin-law’s farm at Wanup. about 16 miles east of Sudbury. On this night at about 9.30 p.m. we were sitting in the kitchen. My wife was feeding the baby. My brother-in-law' w'as outside. He came in and said. ‘Want to see something funny?’ So I went outside and looked up and this thing, a big ball of light, was up there, pretty high at first. It was dark on the farm. There is no hydro and it was overcast. This thing seemed to light up the whole countryside. I was standing there, and it came down closer and closer, making a winding, whipping noise, so loud it hurt your ears. My wife had come out with Timmy, who was three years old then, and he started screaming. The noise really got bad. I told them to get in the house. I opened the door and sort of pushed them in. and then I turned around and got my last good look at it. 1 saw a big round dome, about the size of three cars, and it seemed to have a second stage above the first — it was as if the second stage was revolving the other way. Then it sort of took a sudden glide on an angle and — whoosh! — up it went. It disappeared so fast — not like a jet. You could hardly follow it. I noticed separate white lights on it betöre it took off. Later, my wife said she thought some of them were colored— we could never agree on that. The noise was sort of like when you hear a big jet winding up. It was really whistling.
“I got in touch with the Falconbridge Radar Station — I had a younger brother in the air force there. I even saw the C.O. and told him about it. They said. no. they hadn't picked up anything on the radar. My wife and my brother-in-law. we talked about it for a while and made an agreement not to say anything else to anybody. I didn't want to be made an ass of. and I didn't want people to think that I was another bloody crackpot. We kept it quiet for five years. Then one night at a party my wife joked about it. I told the story to a friend of mine, and it got around a little bit because Seven Days got wind of it and wanted to interview me. I said, no dice. They were trying to put words in my mouth. I know what I saw. Whenever I’m up north now. I sit and I look."
Two puzzling 1967 Canadian sightings:
□ Captain Pierre Charbonneau is a Viscount pilot for Air Canada. On August 23. after takeoff fron' Halifax on a flight to Boston, Charbonneau saw' a series of flashing white lights in the sky. Halifax radar confirmed that something was hovering out there at an altitude of under 50.000 feet. A half hour later, over Yarmouth. the pilot contacts Halifax radar again: “Do you still see our friend?” Radar: “Still there.” Next day. on the return trip. Charbonneau asks Halifax: “What happened to our friend on the radar?" Halifax: "Still
there.” Charbonneau, who kept in touch with the radar station, says the object hovered in the same spot for two or three days, despite a jet stream of up to 80 knots at 30,000 feet. “I can’t even attempt to explain it." he says.
□ Steve Michalak is a 50-vear-old Winnipeg industrial mechanic and amateur prospector who claims that on May 20 he suffered chest burns from a "glaring red" saucer that touched down in the bush north of
Falcon Lake, about 95 miles east of the city. As he approached. Michalak saw a door open — "It had the most perfect joints I’ve ever seen” — and he seemed to hear human voices. Then the door closed, heat came from a pattern of holes in the side, the saucer started to whirl in an anticlockwise direction, and presently it took off. His conclusion: "I don’t just believe it’s from another planet.
I know it." Dr. Condon of the University of Colorado was interested
enough in this sighting to dispatch an associate to interview Michalak and search the area. The two men failed to find the touch-down spot, but Michalak later led Royal Canadian Air Force observers to a patch of suitably bare ground. “It was one of those things.” says Dr. Condon. "There was no doubt that the man was burned by something. Our inquiry w'as indecisive.”
Back in 1954 the Canadian government had a top-secret scheme to wel-
come the first space visitors to F.arth. A 1,000-square-mile restricted tract in Alberta, over which no aircraft could fly without special permission, was designated a landing site for UFOs. It was Ottawa's inspiration that the Saucerians could contact the Defense Research Board Experimental Station at Suffield, Alta., and touch down in the adjacent tract without getting blasted out of the sky by defense interceptors. The move brought no results.
As saucer buffs see it. that was practically the last original thought the government had about UFOs. The bureaucrats have been bungling the situation, and private visionaries have had to take over. At UFO clubs in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver some of the nation’s most untrammeled minds are deciding what to do about flying saucers. Let us now join a meeting, already in progress, of the recently formed Montreal UFO Study Group. About 50 members and some interested observers arc present. On his feet is vice-chairman Peter Buche, a husky, blond electrical engineer.
. . appears that those beings that come from within the solar system look very much like wc do: they’re the same stature, have hair on their heads, properly proportioned hands and feet, and sometimes speak our languages. However, those coming from without look a hit different. They may he only three feet tall, or may be nine feet tall. They have features that are rather, uh, unhuman. Some are reported to have flat heads, others pointed heads. And they aren’t always as benevolent as those from within the solar system. In fact, some of the contacts have heen quite hostile. So before anyone walks up to an unidentified craft sitting on their hack lawn, they should consider this element.”
Linden Astle. a neatly tailored 27year-old business-machine salesman who is chairman of the group, takes over.
“Somebody asked before why, if there are beings in flying saucers, they haven't revealed themselves. What could they gain by landing here and perhaps frightening off half the population of the earth? Wc might very well take pot shots at their craft, as has happened. In Pennsylvania, for instance, a saucer landed and this small humanoid being gets out of the craft, approaches a farmhouse with his hands above his head, like this. And the farmer goes in the house, gets his shotgun and fires at him pointhlankidy-blank. This is the typical mentality we’re up against. You and I might respond differently. If it were me. I’d wait around, see what it was, and if the guy put his hands above his head — to them it may be some kind of peace gesture — I’d probably do likewise. We'd have a great time after that, you know.” ★