Written & © 1997 by
UFOIC (UFO INVESTIGATION CENTRE)
PO Box W42
West Pennant Hills
After Captain James Cook's voyage along the coast of Australia, Joseph Banks recorded in his Endeavour journal sighting a
"Phaenomenon" near Timor. On September 16th, 1770, he noted:
"About 10 O'clock a Phaenomenon appeared in the heavens in many
things resembling the Aurora Borealis but differing materialy in
others: it consisted of a dull reddish light reaching in hight
about 20 degrees above the Horizon: its extent was very different
at different times but never less than 8 or 10 points of the
compass. Through and out of this passd rays of a brighter
colourd light tending directly upwards; these appeard and vanishd
near in the same time as those of the Aurora Borealis, but were
entirely without the trembling or vibratory motion observd in
that Phaenomenon. The body of it bore from the ship SSE: it
lasted as bright as ever till near 12 when I went down to sleep
but how much longer I cannot tell."
This was almost certainly a display of the Aurora Australis, but while the low latitude of Timor is unusual for auroral displays, it is not
unprecedented. J. C. Beaglehole, who edited Bank's journal, did
however point out that there was light solar activity in 1770 and
in September of that year.
With the advent of white colonisation, documented
accounts appeared with some frequency. Because of the number
involved, only a selection has been included here. Most of the
early accounts would probably have an explanation if more
information was available. A number however seem to defy easy
In "An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales",
Lt.-Col. Collins recorded in 1793:
"An extraordinary appearance in the fky was obferved by feveral
people between five and fix o'clock in the evening of Friday 12th
of the month. It was noticed in the north-weft, and appeared as
if a ray of forked lightning had been ftationary in that quarter
of the fky for about fifteen minutes, which was the time it was
vifible. It was not to be difcerned, however, after the fun had
quitted the horizon."
This observation is difficult to resolve, due to a paucity of
information, but may be some sort of refractive or reflective
abberation related to the "fun" (sun).
"A UFO VISION"
In about 1975, a 15 page document came to my notice. The
material described itself as a "Copy from the Memorandum Book of
Fred Wm. Birmingham, the Engineer to the Council of Parramatta. A
machine to go through the air. A.D. 1873." It was ostensibly
prepared by a group of people, with the work co-ordinated by Mr T.V.
Homan (now deceased) -- a former staff member of the UFO
Investigation Centre (UFOIC). The undated copy was at least known to have been produced during the 1950s.
If the "Memorandum Book" of Fred. Wm. Birmingham is to be
believed, then Parramatta, in 1868, played host to a most peculiar
"machine to go through the air." Although I had the "Memorandum
Book" copy in my possession for some years, other activities
always largely managed to prevent me from carrying out my desire
to confirm the possible historical validity of the Birmingham
It was not until January, 1980, that an oblique stimulus appeared
which was sufficient to encourage me to launch into what has
developed into a detailed and exhaustive enquiry into the
"Memorandum Book of Fred. Wm. Birmingham."
That stimulus was "An Account of a Meeting with Denizens of
Another World - 1871 - William Robert Loosley - edited and with
commentary by David Langford". Although I found the
Loosley/Langford account uncompelling and unsatisfactory, it was
enough to project me into attempting to see whether there was
something of substance behind the Birmingham account. My
scepticism of Langford's book was justified. Years later he confirmed it had
been a hoax.
The "Memorandum book, A.D. 1873" attributed to
the hand of one "Fred. Wm. Birmingham, C.E. & Lic. Sureyor, Parramatta,
Australia," gives an account of an "aerial machine" -- "A machine
to go through the air."
"On the night of the 25th - 26th July Anno Domino (original
spelling) 1868, I had a wonderful dream -- a vision..."
Birmingham described standing under the verandah of his rented
cottage in Duck's Lane, Parramatta, when he saw up in the sky, to
the north-east, the passage of a bizarre apparitional procession.
This consisted of "the Lord Bishop of Sydney's head in the air
looking intently upon me in a frowning half laughing mood... I
watched it intently and when it had travelled to the east it dimmed
-- just as one loses his focus by quickly drawing in or out the
slide of a telescope."
In the same manner, "the Premier's head twice appeared... this
dimmed and again the Lord Bishop's head shone forth as it were
looking intently and impeachingly upon me, and travelling southerly
to about s.s-east."
Birmingham dropped his gaze to ponder the extraordinary
display. "After some considerable time I determined to look at
the head or heads again...," but they were gone.
"A Machine to go through the Air"
"I retraced the course the head had taken and just in the spot
where I first saw the head I saw an 'Ark' and while looking at it -
moving along the same track as the head had taken -- I said to
myself aloud, `Well that is a beautiful vessel.' I had no sooner
ended the sentence than I was made aware that I was not alone, for
to my right hand and a little to the rear of my frontage a distinct
voice said, slowly -- `That's a machine to go through the air.'
"In a little time I replied - `It appears to me more like a
vessel for going upon the water, but, at all events, it's the
loveliest thing I ever saw.'
"I then felt that somehow or another the spirit and I were as
it may have been spiritually on the highest part of the Parramatta
By this time, "the machine" had moved through the air in a
zig-zag fashion, "then quite, stopped, the forward motion and
decended some twenty feet or so as gently as a feather on the
grass," at a distance of about 20 yards from Birmingham and the
Birmingham described the ark in the following way:
a brown colour (rubber!) all over at a distance... its peculiar
shapings are well impressioned upon my mind and the colour seemed
to blend with faint, flitting shades of steel blue, below and
appearing tremulous and like what one might term magnified scales
on a large fish, the latter being as it were flying in the air,
(the machine has not the shape of anything that has life)."
The "spirit" was described by Birmingham as being "like a
neutral tint shade (white? - B.C.) and the shape of a man in his
usual frock dress."
It said to him, "Have you a desire or do you wish to enter upon
it?" Birmingham replied, "Yes."
"`Then come' - said the spirit, thereupon we were lifted off
the grass and gently carried through the air and onto the upper
part of the machine."
Aboard the "Ark"
On the machine, the spirit showed Birmingham two cylinders,
located at the front and back of it, indicating their purpose, "by
downward motion of hand."
The spirit beckoned the surveyor to enter the "pilot house" (as
Birmingham termed a part of the machine) saying, "Step in."
Birmingham described how he went down about three steep steps.
They led into the pilot house room, which was about three and a
half feet lower than the deck of the machine. The only feature of
the room was a table, about five feet by three and a half feet and
two and a half feet high covered with material like oilskin, "or
perhaps iron covered with rubber cloth tightly." About two feet
separated the table and the walls of the room. Birmingham referred
to how, "everything appeared very strong, the sides I noticed were
extremely thick, about six inches -- and I (then) wondered why they
were so strong in `a machine to go through the air'."
Standing alone at the rear end of the table, whereupon he
rested one hand, Birmingham began to repent agreeing to "entering
upon" the "ark."
"I felt miserably queer -- just like one who
undertaking a billet or post he knows nothing of. So I remained
for some considerable time, when I was aroused as it were from my
reverie by the voice of the spirit on my right hand, who said,
`Here are some papers for your guidance'."
The hand of the spirit was resting on the table and within it
were several printed papers. The first paper was covered with
figures and formulae.
"...Thinking the formulae and figures of other kinds might be
too intricate for my comprehension I said to the spirit -- 'Oh!
Will I want them?' The spirit replied slowly, but with marked
emphasis, `It is absolutely necessary that you should know these
things, but, you can study them as you go on'."
"... I again cast down my eyes between my hands as it were on
the table and considering silently the words of the holy spirit
and when I looked about I found I was alone in the ark!
"So I fell, I suppose, into my usual sleeping state, and waking
next morning deeply impressed with that vision of the night..."
Birmingham pondered his "vision" occasionally but could only
rationalise (to his own satisfaction at least) the first portion,
namely that it reminded him:
"that I must serve God by conforming
to the Christian doctrine and laws of his church. (Christ's
Bride). As to the second portion of the vision I could not
conclude what it meant - at least in any satisfactory way (`a
machine to go through the air' -- or in other words, the ark
mentioned in the Book of Revelations!)"
Things did not end there for Frederick William Birmingham.
The Opening Gate
On March 27, 1871, he was struck by the strange behaviour of
the gate latch to his verandah. It seemed to mysteriously keep
opening by itself even when under scrutiny.
"I need hardly say I was astounded for a time... The thing has
sunk deeply into my mind even to my very soul, and I now know that
the power of god never sleeps. (The latch for years before and
years after this occurrence never did rise without hands to it or
hand and cane)."
"A thing to be accomplished"
"Day by day and at night in my wakeful moments I have often
rehearsed the wonderful dreams I have had, and coupling them one
day with the vision of the Lord Bishop's head and the latch
rising, I came down from the hill in the Parramatta Park firmly
convinced that the vision was gradually unfolding itself and `the
machine to go through the air' was a thing (through God's mercy)
to be accomplished.
"I sat down at the same end of the table where from I saw the
latch rise, calculating pressures etc. and taking a match box in
my hand and letting it drop on the table I said aloud 'But, how in
the name of goodness can I overcome 'gravity'.' I instantly felt in
my left air a sound like that produced by pressing a large sea
shell close to one's ear, and the words `Are not the sides greater
than a third'. Becoming excited and in great joy I said aloud,
"Yes, and the sides and bottom working together can overcome the
top'. This was the first practical clue as to forming the
interior parts of the machine I saw in the vision of the
aforenamed night 25th - 26th July, 1868. (About three years and
nine months had passed away viz to the 15th April, 1872)."
THE BACKGROUND TO THE MANUSCRIPT
Are we dealing with a copy of a legititmate historical document,
or a literary hoax perpetrated more recently? As far as it has been
possible to determine, the copy of the Memorandum Book of Fred. Wm.
Birmingham, from which the above account is drawn, was made by T.V.
Homan, during the late 1950s. Mr Homan acquired the manuscript,
when it was given to him, by a Mrs N. de Launte. Mr Homan came to
know the de Launte family during the fifties, apparently because of
his fringe interest in matters occult and spiritual.
Mrs de Launte obtained the original memorandum book from a Mr
Wallace Haywood, a teacher, who lived in the Park, Parramatta, a
street which ran along the south-western perimeter of Parramatta
Park. How Mr Haywood obtained the memorandum book is unclear, but
it is known that it was in his family for quite a long time,
either obtained directly or indirectly. It may be significant that
Haywood's home was situated within a few hundred yards of "the
highest part of the Parramatta Park" -- Parramatta Park Hill --
ostensibly the landing site of the ark in Birmingham's vision.
FRED. WM. BIRMINGHAM -- THE MAN
Fred Wm. Birmingham was a real person, and lived in Duck's
Lane, Parramatta, between 1868 and 1873, as alleged in the
I found nothing in the "Memorandum Book of Fred. Wm.
Birmingham... A.D 1873," which was inconsistent with information
known at that time in the 19th century. No apparent anachronism
exists in the manuscript's text. The allusion to Birmingham's
surprise as to why the ark's furnishings were "extremely thick" and
"very strong," and the reference to rubber, steel, centrifugal pumps
and "positive and negative electricity" are realistic for the period
of the manuscript -- 1868 to 1873.
The Memorandum Book is therefore consistent with the period in
which it is based. Research has taken the established existence of
the document, back at least to the early 1940s, when it was in the
possession of the Parramatta school teacher. The case for the
manuscript being what it purports to be -- a Memorandum Book written
by a Parramatta resident in 1873 -- is, I believe, well established.
The chance of it being a literary hoax perpetrated around the early
1940s or earlier, certainly seems quite remote.
Many aspects of the Birmingham vision are common to the rich
harvest of "contactee" stories of the 1950s, other "contact" tales
and even "abductions." Some of these elements include "the
invitation," "levitation," tours of the "machine," "alien
tutelage," ESP, precognition or other faculties, disorientation
and bizarre "follow up" experiences.
The bizarre nature of the Birmingham vision (the dream-like
quality of the account, floating heads, spirits, flying,
instantaneous relocation, poltergeists, voices and not-the-least --
visions -- all elements of dreams, psychotic episodes, hallucinations
or other realities, depending where your preferences lie), does not,
in my mind, lessen its relevancy to modern UFO accounts of contacts,
contactees, abductions and the like.
The impossible and the totally absurd are no longer strange
bedfellows in today's UFO accounts. So as the bizarre fabric of
UFO experiences continues to be woven onto the world scene and
incorporated into our culture at what seems to be both a subtle but
profound level, I consider it unlikely that such accounts will
cease. The bizarre and impossible will continue to emerge. But at
what level of human existence are these sorts of experiences
Were the visions of Fred. Wm. Birmingham objective or
subjective in nature? Does the Memorandum Book record a real
physical event or is it principally psychological in origin?
Perhaps the event had some physical basis, but was embroidered by
fantasy and imagination. Probably most contactee, contact and
abduction events of the modern era beg the same questions.
In 1873, Birmingham had a clear and undeniable daylight
sighting of a UFO.
"The most extraordinary cloud"
(And a UFO ?)
His strange memorandum book continues:
"My thoughts have been continually bent on unravelling and
learning the matter, and the little monies I could spare went
towards experimenting an d each experiment learnt me something but,
on the last of the three principal occasions, I was disappointed
and felt unhappy and laid on my back on my `couch' for a long time
(some hours) thinking and when I had finished all of my thinking I
said aloud to myself - `Well, I don't care, I believe it firmly and
try I will if I should fail a thousand times, to the day of my
death I will believe in it'.
"So saying I threw myself on my feet and went out to the
kitchen (at 7 p.m.) and slowly took my evening meal. The sun was or
had just set. My door was open and my eyes were toward the sky
which was quite clear, excepting three small clouds of Van Dyke
brown colour, in the south-west a little separate.
"The middle one being the largest, drew my attention and was
without doubt, the most extraordinary cloud in its wonderful
movements that I ever saw. I made a sketch of it which I keep
because it is evidence that we are taught betimes by the great and
Birmingham records the date as March 9, 1873.
Out of the middle "cloud" appeared two screw-like appendages,
which projected downwards. Between these "screws" appeared a
"second shape with like two flat necks on a turtle shaped body".
How it came there puzzled Birmingham. The "necks" bent up as the
screws rotated about seven times more.
"As the screws reversed the neck(s) came down gradually to the
horizon tal position and after a few minutes (2 or 3 minutes) the
screw part rotated the second time and reversed as before. After
this double operation the `turtle' disappeared, I then knew not
"After a few minutes lapse of time I was astonished (and said
aloud) ` Well I declare! The turtle is forming again', and sure
enough, in the same shape and place it remained for a pause of a
few minutes, and to my surprise the movements were exactly the
same as the previous series, namely twice screwed and twice
reversed all the same forms as before.
"After a couple of minutes the turtle began to fade away and
the last shred of it I saw winding around and going upwards to the
middle cloud and to my surprise the two big three-threaded screws
folded up like the arms of a bear and lost their shape in the middle
cloud! Just after this the whole three clouds which had remained
stationary in the sky for, as truly as I can reckon, (without a
clock or watch) twenty to twenty five minutes or so - moved quickly
south-easterly, formed into one cloud and in about three mi nutes
melted out of sight. This going away of the clouds was so quickly
done that I had to rise quickly and step out of doors to watch
"There may be a meaning in all this."
"I thought silently over the thing that was shown one, and said
I to myself `How could these things be done!' So I concluded that
the cloud material was worked upon by positive and negative
electricity -- for wind there was none seemingly -- after some lapse
of time I said to myself 'There may be a meaning in all this' --
doubled over and twice each time. I then thought of Pharaoh's
`dream' of the fat and the lean kine - but said I (inwardly)
`Pharaoh's was a dream but this just now seen by me was in
"It sunk as it were deep into my soul and I concluded that the
thing was shown one by God, but I could not on that day unravel it
-- but my fixed belief then (and ever since) was that there was a
meaning -- a teaching for me in it."
There the account finishes.
Birmingham's memorandum book indicated he had become obsessed with learning the secret of the "ark". However he died, ostensibly
without finding out the secret, in 1893, 19 years before a more
prosaic "machine to go through the air" landed in Parramatta Park.
On June 29, 1912, William E. Hart, a Parramatta dentist and
holder of Australia's first aerial pilot's licence, won Australia's
first air race.
He challenged the visiting American flier, "Wizard" Stone, to a
twenty mile race for a stake of 250 pounds. Stone lost his way,
landing at Lakemba, but Hart, a much less experienced pilot,
finished the flight in 23 minutes and landed as planned in
"...I came down from the hill in the Parramatta Park firmly
convinced that the vision was gradually unfolding itself and 'the
machine to go through the air' was a thing (through God's mercy) to
-- Fred. Wm. Birmingham, 1873.
THE OLD DUFFER RUSH GHOSTLY OCCURRENCE
Our antipodean history continues. Consider the following
bizarre story published in the NSW country paper, the "Burragorang
Argus", of July 10 , 1869:
"EXTRAORDINARY OCCURRENCES.-- In these enlightened times it seems
almost an absurdity to talk about ghosts making their appearance,
but the following statement of what has befallen three respectable
men residing near Young is authentic, and may be relied upon by our
readers as being no hoax.
"The three men referred to are splitting posts and rails for
fencing at a place about four miles from Young, near the Three-Mile
and the old Duffer Rush.
"The first time they saw anything unusual was on one moonlight
night, about three weeks ago, when they were much startled by
seeing in the bush near their hut, a white object about the size
of a cat, but of no particular form.
"This extraordinary looking object suddenly before their eyes
sprung up into a white spectre about eight feet high. They called
out to it, but could no reply, struck it with a stick, and it
sounded hollow. It also chased two of them one way, and one
"On another occasion they retired to bed at the usual hour on a
calm still night, went to sleep, slept for some time and, upon one
waking up during the night, he was surprised to find that the whole
of the roof of the hut had been removed. On looking out they saw
the spectre, but no one else was about, and they are all quite sure
that neither on this or the former occassion was it either a man or
a woman. Its suddenly rising before their eyes from a mere nothing
to a height of eight feet quite dumbfounded them.
"Another night they were much surprised at seeing a strange,
unearthly-looking animal somewhat resembling a dog, with a long
chain attached to it. This animal came right in front of the hut,
and commenced grinning at them, but made no noise, either by
barking or otherwise, save the occassional rattling of his chain.
As the animal would not go away, one of the men (who was a good
shot) loaded a gun, and fired the contents direct at the brute, but
the shot took no effect upon it. The dog, or whatever it was,
remained for some considerable time.
"On another night the dog seemed to have returned, for they
heard the rattling of a chain and a noise like what a dog would
make when licking a plate.
Upon looking outside, they saw that a plate which had been
left there was in motion, but they could not see what caused it to
be so, although they could, while looking, distinctly hear the same
noise described above. They watched it for some time, the plate
being kept in motion, and the noise being distinctly heard as if
the plate was being licked by some animal. "On Sunday last these
men came into Young, and upon one of them returning in the evening
he found that the door of the hut had been pulled down and its
contents brought outside and left there.
"Two out of the three men are well known to us, and we feel
confident that what we have stated may be relied upon as being the
truth. A shepherd told these men that some time ago two men who
were splitting there quarrelled, and one killed the other with an
axe, and afterwards fell a tree on him, and that it was nothing
extraordinary for the murdered man's ghost to make its appearance."
While this bizarre tale may be better left in a book on ghosts or
poltergiests, the early description of the white object suddenly
changing into an eight foot spectre and apparent changes in form,
are intriguing and are curious reminders of the often reported
apparitional nature of alleged UFO entities. A few examples,
before we return to our historical narratives, will I think make
the point adequately.
Amidst the virtually impenetrable rainforests of the Dorrigo
plateau in north-eastern NSW, a road out of the small timber town
of Lowanna winds erratically and eventually comes to a railway
crossing. The rail line has been long out of use and the crossing
has taken on a sinister reputation, apparently based on reports of
strange goings-on. While in the local area documenting a UFO flap
in progress during 1973, I found the time to find out a little more
about the "haunted" Tullawooghie crossing.
On at least a dozen occassions during the period from 1964 to
1972 people travelling along this isolated timber road have
observed a brilliant white light "like a searchlight" shining up
through the dense inhospitable growth in the rainforest that
surrounds the crossing. On occasions curious travellers have
stopped to get a better look only to be terrified by the spectacle
of this light coming towards them, "bounding out of the forest and
across the road." The light appeared to consist of "four squares of
light" as it passed across the road in front of the frightened
During 1968 or 1969, within a month of seeing the bobbing
light, a married couple claimed they encountered a "ghost" at the
crossing. Just after passing over the railway crossing, the husband
saw a man apparently wearing a flannel shirt and dungarees and a
broad-brimmed hat, walking ahead of them in the same direction they
were travelling. As he drove closer the husband was suddenly
overwhelmed with fear. The "normal man" was transparent! This
"man" did not look around at all, as the car passed him -- instead he
continued walking along the road, apparently totally unaware of the
couple passing. Local lore suggested that slowing down at the
crossing flushed out either the light or the ghost. I tried that
out on a number of occassions and even camped there once; but no, I
attracted neither apparition, but found a lot of leeches.
An apparition called "the Yellow Lady" appeared before the wife
of a shooter visiting an isolated highland farming property in
Central Tasmania during the Easter of 1973. During the early hours
of the morning, a female figure entered their caravan by diving head
first first through the van's roof hatch. She seemed to be wearing
a yellow sleeveless dress and a light scarf over her heavily made up
face. She evaded the reach of the shooters wife. Finally after 2
or 3 minutes the shooter's wife despaired of the woman's strange
behaviour and said, "I want to go back to sleep." The figure then
slowly went back to the hatch and disappeared into the night. The
shooter was in bed with his wife, recalls that his wife had tried
to wake him up during the night, but was too tired to look.
The same area became the centre of unusual UFO activity for
much of 1975. Unusual lights were seen from about March,
coincidentally from the time when lights were installed. They
became so frequent that a system was set up amongst people working
on the property to alert everyone to their presence. Lights
appeared to land on Table Mountain. Two locals climbed the
mountain and found evidence of small indentations and other possible
ground traces. The connection with the strange light activity
could not be proved.
The "Yellow Lady" may have put in an appearance again, during
March, 1975, coincidentally the time when UFO sightings first took
hold of the highland farm area. A number of hunters were on the
farm. They had had a few beers, but were emphathic that they had
seen something quite strange. One of them had gone outside the
farmhouse, and turned around to find just behind him "a figure of
what he thinks was a woman." She appeared to have on a 19th century
period dress. The man could only make out an outline of the
figure, the rest being white in colour. He called out to the
others to join him as the "figure" seemed to glide up some steps
away from the house. One of the other hunters saw an elongated
oval area of light near a shed by the house. The light -- or
figure? -- seemed to pulse in illumination as it faded away into
nothing. This second witness felt the light may have had some UFO
connection and was not a "ghost". The whole incident lasted some 3
minutes and it appears 5 persons in all saw the figure or light.
One of these witnesses, like some of the others, had hunted in
the area for years. Back in January, 1965, the hunter was stalking
deer near marsh area when a "man in dark clothing" suddenly
appeared "out of nowhere" beside him and stayed with him in the
walk, of about 150 yards, down to the marsh. The hunter tried to
no avail to engage this man in conversation. He saw that the man
seemed to have an incredibly old face marked by cracks and
wrinkles, "like a skeleton with skin on it." The man wore a big dark
military coat with light epaulettes. At the edge of the marsh the
hunter turned to the man and asked to no avail what he wanted. He
then looked down and was shocked to see that the man had no feet!
Then the man vanished. Next day the hunter questioned an old timer
who told him of a ghost with no legs. He found that this ghost
also had a military style uniform and epaulettes. The ghostly
encounter took place near an area called Leg-O-Man Marsh!
In my travels around Australia investigating UFO reports I have
found the coincidence of apparitional tales, and other so-called
paranormal phenomena, in areas of UFO activity, occurring so
frequently, that it no longer suprises me. You will notice this
from time to time as you read through this history. Sometimes the
coincidences and possible connections are startling.
THE GOULBURN GHOST LIGHT
The Goulburn Herald recorded the following interesting
phenomenon during March, 1878:
"Lately there has been much excitement amongst the superstitious,
numbers of whom go off in
parties, with guns & c., to the range above Stewart's Garden, where
there is an unfinished stonehouse. Here an apparition is said to
make its appearance in the form of a light, and to travel, sometimes
very slowly, and frequently very quickly, from the riverbank just
below, up to, and around the house, then varying the performance by
a run among the trees. This is said to be kept up from an early
hour in the evening until about 3 in the morning; all endeavours to
get near the light are said to prove futile."
Ransome T. Wyatt's "The History of Goulburn" records that one "Grunsell claimed to have disposed of it with a shot gun."
A "REMARKABLE METEOR"
In 1879, Mr. S. Worsley Clifton, Collector of Customs, at
Freemantle, Western Australia, forwarded the following account of a
"remarkable meteor" , to R.J. Elleig, of the Melbourne observatory.
Elleig in turn passed it onto the science journal "Nature" which
published the following account of the February 1st, 1879,
"A small black cloud on a clear day appeared in the east
travelling not very swiftly towards the northwest, which burst
into a ball of fire with an apparent disc the size of the full
moon, blood-red in colour; It left a train of black or
dark-coloured vapour across the heavens which was visible for
three-quarters of a hour. No sound was heard, sky perfectly
clear, and the thermometer, 100F, in the shade."
THE RAYMOND TERRACE "PORTENT"
One morning, during 1890, in Raymond Terrace, was a little
different to most. Some thought the end of the world was at hand.
Mrs. L. Meredith provided the following tale:
"My mother remembers that in Raymond Terrace out from Newcastle,
NSW, one morning in 1890, a huge cloud shaped like a fish with
a long tail, appeared in a clear sky. Everyone in the district
noticed it and soon word passed that should the fish-like cloud
move its tail, the world would end. Grown-ups and children
believed this, and even elderly folk stopped up all night
watching it. After about three days it disappeared and the
world kept going."
Seems like something fishy was afoot in Raymond Terrace
that day in1890.
GHOST LIGHTS AND STRANGE ENCOUNTERS
During the 1890s, "ghostlights" were frequently observed moving
along the roads and about the countryside in South Australia.
Farmers at Orrorro and Cornish miners at Moonta, often mistook these
small, detached lights for bicycle lamps at a distance. But once
they were observed at closer range, only a white light source could
be discernible. Sometimes, two lights could be seen together. Many
attempts were made to catch the elusive lights as they moved about
at fence level. These attempts were no more successful than they
are today. After a few years the reports of the elusive lights in
this remote area of South Australia, seemed to die out.
An anecdote handed down within a farming family told of an
extraordinary UFO story that was alleged to have happened in 1893
in central NSW. A farmer claimed that a saucer shaped aerial object
landed in a paddock on his property. As he approached the object,
a man in strange clothing emerged from it. The farmer walked
towards the being. The stranger shone some kind of torch at him.
The farmer was thrown to the ground stunned. His hand where the
"torch" beam had hit him, was allegedly paralysed for life. This
story was told to Dr. Miran Lindtner, president of UFOIC during the
1960s. Unfortunately no record of the details behind this tale
survived after Dr. Lindtner's accidental death in 1969.
AN EARLY ASTRONOMER'S SIGHTING
At 9.27 am, November 20th, 1902, "a remarkable phenomenon was
witnessed in the heavens by Mr. Griffiths, the assistant
astronomer, and others," at the Adelaide observatory in South
"Two officers were taking weather observations, when
they noticed a brilliant globular light having a planetary disc. It
appeared SSE, at an altitude of about 45°. It moved slowly
northwards, passing within 15 or 20° of the sun, and was brightly
visible till 9.31, 4 minutes in all. Mr. Griffiths, who observed
it for a minute, states that it covered about 20° of an arc in that
time. The object appeared like Venus does when it is at its
greatest brilliancy soon after sun set. Mr. Griffiths lost sight
of the meteoric object at an altitude of 45° above the horizon.
Other observers say it travelled at least 90°, and was lost sight
of, in the great glare of the sky. When it was near to the prime
vertical it became elongated and took an elliptical form, the long
axis lying south to north".
It seems that during November, 1902, eastern Australia hosted
an incredible array of "fireball" reports. Much of it may have been
related to dust storm "devils" or related natural electrical
phenomena. "An electrical fire ball" started a fire near the shaft
of a new Barambagie mine, a man in Harris Park in Sydney was
knocked unconscious and left partially paralysed when a "fireball"
exploded above him and fireballs the size of houses were reported
from many different locations.
Perhaps the most interesting period of the historical
antipodean UFO legacy was the fascinating "airship" wave that swept
Australia and New Zealand during 1909.
THE WAVE OF 1909
The wave began during July, 1909, in New Zealand, with numerous
sightings of unusual nocturnal lights and "airships" seen both
during the day and at night. The sightings initially appeared to be
most intense over the southern end of the South Island of New
Zealand. In the following weeks the reports appeared to move
northwards, and eventually by August, Australia also fell under the
grip of "aerialitis."
Like many of the modern UFO waves, there were some striking
cases set against a background of misinterpretations, sensationalism
and, to a lesser extent, outright fraud.
One of the earliest, interesting "airship" reports of the wave
occurre d at about noon, on July 23rd, when a woman and several
schoolchildren at Kelso claimed to have observed an "airship".
Initially it was reported that a "man" was observed sitting in the
craft. This was not confirmed in later retelling. The media
accounts of the day even carried sketches of the "Kelso airship"
attributed to some of the school children allegedly involved.
It should be noted that the local children were exposed to
fictional "airship" stories via a children's magazine "Chums",
namely the story "The Peril of the Motherland". The "Evening
Star" of July 30th gave the following account of the Kelso
"Mrs Russell, evidently the only adult who saw the phenomena,
said she was going down towards the station about 12 o'clock
when she saw a streak of blackness shoot over the hill on the
left and apparently come straight towards her. Then it suddenly
turned and swerved away over some trees out of her sight. She
was very frightened when she saw it, as she had been ill. In
appearance it was just like a boat.
It was black in colour. She saw it for just a few minutes. It
was travelling very fast at first, but when it turned, it came
lower and went somewhat slower. She was very flustered as she
thought the end of the world had come."
Years later some of the children reported that the story was a
hoax that had got out of hand. It is difficult to assess these
apparent recantations, since in part they looked like attempts to
deflect persistent media interest, and yet other statements suggest
fabrication or embellishments by the journalist who originally
wrote the story. Most of information reported years after the
incident tends to point towards the Kelso airship being a lot of hot
air kept aloft by contemporary fascination with the concurrent
"urban myths" of "secret inventors" and "invasion" by the German or
"yellow" peril. Confirmed pioneer aircraft flights did not get of
the ground for the first time until 1909 in Australia.
In New Zealand the story was similar, with the first flight
generally recognised as taking place in 1911, but with some evidence
supporting successful short distance flights as early as 1903 or
1904. However none of these efforts were of the "secret inventor"
genre nor were any of them in the aeronautical class of the alleged
airships of 1909.
We have seen that an Australian surveyor, one Frederick William
Birmingham, pondered deeply the mystery of an alien "machine to go
through the air" in 1868. Another surveyor, this time in New
Zealand, one Robert Grigor of Balclutha, in a letter to the "Otago
Daily Times", July 29th, 1909, provided a fascinating speculation
on "atomic powered spaceships" and endowed a Martian origin theory
with a more benevolent anthropomorphic image, than that of H.G.
Well's classic science fiction tale of Martian invasion, "War of the
Worlds" first published in 1898:
"In Holy Writ we are told that God created man in His own
image. Is it not reasonable to suppose, with this high ideal
before us, that they are men of superior intellect, endowed with
wisdom and knowledge acquired in long generations through wbich
they have progressed, and that they have been able to solve some
of the natural mysteries which we have as yet been unable to
grasp (which sounds remarkably like the UFO contactee credo that
was to infest and damage the credibility of the UFO subject in
the 1950s and 60s - B.C.).
"We will presume that they have been able to make a machine
capable of going through space -- say, an airtight cylinder
supplied with compressed air from their own atmosphere, capable
of keeping them alive for an indefinite period with radium as a
motive power and for light. They arrive in our atmosphere in
the vicinity of New Zealand, and are hovering around to get
accustomed to our atmosphere. They see the electric light at
Kaitanganta and the lights about the Waikaka dredges and
Mataura, and they are seen at Kelso and at Invercargill, which
is probably the largest town they have as yet been able to
discover. They seem to be able to live at an altitude of 3,000
feet or 4,000 feet and their first landing will certainly be at
that height on some of our high lands."
Thomas Robertson, a baker, reported seeing a large boat shaped
object, with three lights, flying over Oamaru, near Sumpter's Hill,
at 3 am on August 2nd. The moon in the west was reportedly clearly
illuminating the vessel. It appeared to have two figures inside it.
The "North Otago Times" of August 4th, reported that the object
disappeared in the direction of Weston at "a fast rate".
Several intriguing accounts, that have not been accurately
dated, bear mention. The "Bruce Herald" of August 2nd, carried a
reference to the "Clutha Free Press" receiving a letter from a
correspondent who claimed an "airship" had landed at Port
Molyneux. He reported that some of the occupants, whom he took to
be Japanese, had emerged and engaged him in conversation.
Unfortunately no copies of the "Clutha Free Press" survive to
confirm any further details of the tale.
The "Nelson Evening Mail" reported that on about August 6th, a fisherman at Marlborough Sounds claimed to have been attacked by an airship. He alleged that it was flying low when first observed. When it was overhead the occupants threw "missiles" at him which hissed as they hit the
water and fizzed before sinking. This may have been more a case of
implied "occupants" than ones actually observed.
Whatever the actual stimuli were for these reports there was
even, way back in 1909, a minority view that was prepared to invest
in the reports, perhaps somewhat cynically, an "alien invaders"
explanation. "W.H.T.", a correspondent with the "Southland Daily
News", of August 4th, 1909, clearly with tongue firmly in cheek,
"The inventor of a new flying machine would not be likely to
experiment with it in the dark rather than in the daytime, nor
could the owner of such a machine find any pleasure in aerial
locomotion on cold winter nights.
An aerial invasion of New Zealand by Germans or Japs is not
probable, and in any case the invaders would have
attacked Wellington or Dunedin (large towns - B.C.) before
appearing at Cromwell or Kaitangnia. It seems to me more
likely to be the beginning of an invasion from Mars. Water
being scarce on that planet, the Martians are...looking out
for a new world to inhabit; and New Zealand being a
conspicuous object on our globe, they will probably attack us
first. The presence of a dead squid on the beach at Burkes a
few days ago is fairly conclusive evidence that if that is not
a Martian invasion it is at all events a serious
reconnaissance from that planet. It is well known that in
Mars the highest development of the brain has been in
Octopoids, and to me it is quite evident that one of our
invaders fell out of the Martian airship when crossing Otago
Harbour, and being an indifferent swimmer was drowned, and
washed ashore at Burkes. This is clearly a case for the
Certainly W.H.T.'s witty missive owes much to H.G. Wells'
classic science fiction tale of Martian invasion, "War of the
Worlds", first published in 1898.
Even though such speculations owe more to early science
fiction, the fact that there were reports of "airship operators"
suggests they were not unreasonable contemporary speculations.
Two men working on the Syndicate No. 2 dredge on a river in
the Waikaka Valley, a few miles north of Gore, in New Zealand, got
an excellent view of what was dubbed "the nocturnal mystery of the
air." At 5 am, on July 30th, the men saw it descend out of the
mist. The object had a light at both ends. Inside two figures
could be plainly observed. The dredge winchman, Mr. F. Green, said
the object rose and fell like a bird. It appeared to be a narrow
boat-shaped aerial craft, that circled the dredge several times
quite closely over a period of several minutes. The "airship" made
"curious and seemingly impossible manoeuvres", apparently
travelling at speed, then suddenly decelerating. Eventually it
disappeared into the mist, in the direction of Otakarama, leaving
behind a curious yellow glare.
The "Hawkes Bay Herald" of August 6th, 1909, carried
the following account of an observation of "airship operators" on
"A circumstantial story is being early discussed in
Waipawa of the seeing of an airship by a man on Tuesday
night. He was riding near the racecourse and his horse
became restive. He discovered the cause was a large
torpedo-shaped structure passing over his head. The airship,
he states, was painted grey and three persons were visible,
one of whom shouted out to him in an unknown tongue. The
ship rose to a great height, showing lights at prow and
stern, and, after circling around, disappeared behind a hill.
On the same night another resident saw a ship-like structure
high in the air, which emitted a loud humming sound. The
ship was so high that it appeared only a yard or so long. A
faint light came from the ship. Another resident asked her
husband about the same hour that night, 'What is that humming
The first Australian reports of 1909 apparently came from
Goulburn, NSW, on August 5th, when 3 or 4 residents of North
Goulburn, reported seeing a bright moving blue light in the northern
sky. The "Sydney Morning Herald " and "Daily Telegraph" of August 10th and 11th respectively reported the visitation. "It moved to
Governer's Hill, swerved and passed over the range to the east." The
reports at Goulburn continued for the next 5 nights. The mystery
light was described as big as "a motor car lamp."
On August 7th, at about 10.30 pm, 4 young men, at the brick
kilns near the North Goulburn railway station, saw the light. "It
was pale blue in colour. The brightness of the light attracted the
youth's attention. Only the light was seen, their being nothing to
show the presence of a supporting body." "The light was extremely
brilliant. It came from behind the eastern ranges, and after
ascending a considerable height, circled round in the direction from
which it had come." On August 8th, "the light made its appearance
from the south (at about 7.30 pm) travelling once again towards
Governor's Hill, inclining thence towards the east and returning
back to the south."
Reports of the "nocturnal mystery of the air" began to flood in
from all over Australia. The Australian wave was never as
compelling as the "air ship" wave that immediately proceded it in
New Zealand. At the time the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus,
particularly prominent in the west north west night sky, generated
One of the more substantial Australian reports occurred at
about eleven o'clock at night on August 13th, in Glen Innes, when
"several responsible residents described an object like a balloon
moving in a northerly direction. A night glass was obtained and
the object was found to be shaped like an inverted top. The lower
portion was lighted, and as the body revolved a light like a small
flashlight kept turning on the land beneath. The upper portion was
in darkness and the object continued drifting in a northerly
The Sydney "Daily Telegraph" of August 13th, 1909, reported:
"The taniuha of the ancient Maori and the tiger of
Tantanoola, whose allegedly fearsome and phantom like forms
are said to have flashed before human vision from time to
time are in shadow just now. The talk is of "those
mysterious lights" reported first from New Zealand and later
from various points of the country in this state."
However by the middle of August the Australian reports seemed to
stop as quickly as they had begun.
As if to rekindle speculation about the existence of an
"airship" down under, a number of reports occurred in New Zealand,
in early September, 1909. On September 1st, at 4.30 pm, two well
known Gore residents observed a cigar shaped object with a "car"
attached, drifting over the Tapanui Hills. It gradually
disappeared over the horizon towards Kelso. A few days later,
the "airship" apparently appeared for the last time. The Gore
correspondent of the "Southland Times" reported:
"Between 5.45 and 6.15 pm, it appeared in view, coming
over the hills on the eastern side of the town Otaraia. It
apparently sailed backwards and forwards at a great pace and,
turning around, gradually disappeared over the same hills,
although it was subsequently seen in the direction of the
Gore race course.
"The children of a prominent resident also saw it, and
stated that it was cigar-shaped....Reliable testimony to the
sight is also borne by a party of golfers who were on their
way home from the golf links when they saw it."
A "mystery airship" was observed at Minderoo Station, near
Onslow, Western Australia, on October 25th, 1909. Mrs. A.J.
Roe, wife of the station manager, was the first to spot the
object. She stated, "It looked compact, like a dirigible
balloon, but appeared to be squarer and more like an aeroplane.
The sun shone on it, and flashes came from it, as though reflected
from something revolving, or from metal work." Three station hands
also saw the UFO.
STRANGE LIGHTS AND VANISHINGS
The official files do not confirm military activity before
1950, however research has confirmed involvement by the military,
albeit in some cases, cursory in nature, back as far as 1920. The
Navy submarine depot ship, the Platypus, was involved in the search
for a missing schooner, the Amelia J, in Bass Strait. Mystery
lights, thought at the time to be "evidently rockets", were
observed. Two aircraft left the flying training school and aircraft
depot at Point Cook to join in the investigation. One was piloted
by a Major Anderson and the other by Captain W.J. Stutt -- an
instructor for the NSW Government Aviation school at Richmond (a
forerunner to the Richmond RAAF base, established soon after the
birth of the RAAF in 1921). Stutt and his mechanic, Sergeant
Dalzell, were last seen by Major Anderson flying into a large cloud.
Their plane and the schooner were never found. Fifty eight years
later the Bass Strait became the centre of another extraordinary
plane/pilot disappearance, namely the Valentich affair of 1978.
AN EARLY VISITOR
Fernvale, a small village in north eastern New South Wales
played host to a bizarre procession of usual phenomena during a few
short weeks in 1927. I investigated the story between 1985 and
1986, interviewing the main reporting witness, who was a 10 year old
boy at the time of the events, and his younger sister, who was also
The affair began with the arrival of a dancing aerial light.
Over several nights it returned for repeat performances. The
property cattle were apparently disturbed by the aerial apparition.
One cow went beserk and had to be put down. The light returned on
the following night, and once again the cows were very disturbed.
On the third night the light apparently did not appear, however the
cow herd were terribly disturbed. In the morning 3 cows were found
dead, all looking as if they had been "scared to death." Neighbours
had similar experiences. A neighbour was terrified by an
"apparition", while walking home. The reporting witness was soon to
see the nature of this "apparition."
Three pigs kept in a special fattening sty were apparently
attacked by a mystery intruder. Two of them were found dead, with
puncture marks on their necks and scratches and puncture marks over
their bodies. The other pig was missing. There was no evidence of
it having broken out, and besides, the railings of the sty were too
high for it to get out. An unsuccessful day long search ended with
the bizarre discovery of a huge patch of blood with tell-tale pigs
hair present, just some 150 yards away from the cow yards. The cows
were in a frenzy. No further evidence of the missing pig was found.
One night during this period, the boy (the reporting witness)
was awoken by strange night noises, unlike any he had heard before.
He told his parents but by then the noises had stopped, and it was
put down to his imagination. The noises return on the next night,
this time much louder. The boy's parents also heard the noise, and
were unnerved by it. The windows and doors were closed, however in
the morning footprints like those of a "wellington boot tread" were
found leading from the front door through to the back. Both doors
The nocturnal light visitations continued for a while but soon
the novelty wore off and the family stopped looking out for it.
However one night the boy and his older brother returning from a
night of cards with neighbours witnessed an extraordinary brightly
lit, flying object travel through the valley, light up the whole
area, turn slightly following the valley contours, and finally come
to rest on a hill. The object glowed for some time on the ground.
Eventually there was darkness. The boys investigated in the
morning, confirming the presence of a complete circle of scorched
grass, about 30 feet in diameter, where the object had been seen to
land. The site was apparent as a brown area amongst the green
grass. Indeed the neighbours where the boys had played cards also
had seen the light landing. They to had come to the site to see
what had been there.
The boy also reported seeing a huge bird sitting in a tree,
while on his way to school. It seemed impossibly large, but was
gone by the time he had fetched his teacher. When he told his
parents, they told him that the nocturnal "apparition" that had so
terrified one of their neighbours had been a "huge bird" that had
"appeared out of the darkness", ambling towards him and flapping
its wings. It was also recalled that during the 2 nights of
strange night noises there was a strong smell of poultry, and the
boy had found, near the house, 2 big feathers, which were unlike
those of any bird he had seen. While coming off a nearby mountain
the brothers also saw 2 giant birds soaring overhead. They were
bigger than any bird they had ever seen, ostensibly at least 3 or 4
times bigger than a wedged tail eagle. The "birds" seemed to be
gliding with wings outstretched. The boy recollected, "They were
monsters... making sounds like unintelligible conversation." One of
the boys' sisters and a parent had also seen "a huge big bird"
"hopping down the hill (near the house) with its wings flapping." On
another night, again from the house, they had seen "a dull type of
a light - a round thing" travelling liesurely across the sky.
Apparently other people in the area also reported sightings of "big
One other puzzling event was described. One night the family
had gone to neighbours. The oldest son had remained behind at the
house. "A strange man" dressed in an incongrous "white suit"
arrived at the neighbours house. Everyone thought he was with the
others. He said nothing and only stayed for a short time. Back at
the house, the oldest son was in darkness. He heard a noise in the
house, and sang out, "Who is there!" The boy got out of bed in time
to see someone in a white suit disappearing into the dark ness! The
ground between the two neighbours was tricky, even more so on a
pitch black night. There were 2 large creeks, that were crossed at
certain points by planks, and a big stream, that were navigated by
picking ones way steadily over a fallen tree truck - no easy matter
for a stranger at nigh t! The stranger was never seen or heard of
again. One wonders if he was wearing wellington type boots and kept
an unusually large aviary!
The "visitors" came to the Fernvale area in 1927 drawing the
locals inexorably into a flirtation with an antipodean version of
the Twilight Zone. The experience became an enduring mystery that
puzzled and haunted the reporting witness for some sixty years. The
"visitors" had brought to Fernvale a bizarre, and at times,
terrifying mystery, that appears to echo an enigma that would begin
to hold sway over mankind some two decades later.
AUSTRALIA'S FIRST OFFICIAL UFO INVESTIGATION?
In 1930, an Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) officer, Squadron
Leader George Jones, was sent to Warrnambool, Victoria, to
investigate reports of mystery aircraft flying over the coast. No
explanation was found in this first official RAAF UFO investigation.
Further "mystery aircraft" reports were made in the near Pacific and
Papua New Guinea area in 1930, and in 1931 the RAAF was denying any
of her planes were the explanation for "mystery planes reported
widely in Tasmania." Jones was to become RAAF Chief of the Air
Staff during World War Two, and subsequently Air Marshall Sir George
Jones. He was himself to become a UFO witness in 1957. He also
became a valuable advocate of serious UFO research, being a patron
of the short lived national civilian UFO research organisation
CAPIO - Commonwealth Aerial Phenomena Investigation Organisation,
and a member of VUFORS - the Victorian UFO Research Society.
"ET" IN A MANDURAH HUMPY
In 1982 a 67 year old woman saw a picture of "ET", Steven
Spielberg's cute alien creation. It made her think of an experience
she had as a 15 year old girl, near the estuary at Mandurah,
Western Australia. She supplied a report to the Perth UFO Research
Group which stated:
"(In 1930 I was) sitting reading with my parents in a humpy, on
a block in Mandurah, in Greary Rd, by the light of a hurricane
lamp, with the door partly open. The time (was) about 8 pm as
we went to bed early. "A little pink creature walked in. (It
was) about 24 inches in height (with) large ears, big bulbous
eyes, covered with a film, small hands, large feet, slit of a
mouth, no hair, and shiny as if wet or oily.
"We were terrified and my father went white and being a
religious man said it was the work of the devil.
"Picking up a prawning net, he picked it up in it and it made a
noise like EE...EE and my father put it outside. We never saw
it again and went to bed feeling very scared. This was in 1930
and I never thought any more about it until I saw a picture of
ET, although only its eyes were the same.
"...It did not have a round body, more straight down like a
childs body. I cannot remember seeing any sex organs... (It's
shape was) like an elf."
Before we leave this quaint tale behind, I will mention
anthropologist's Dr. Charles Mountford's description of a "spirit
child" in his fascinating study, "Nomads of the Australian Desert":
"This child, called mulu-kuranti (nose-spirit), was a mamu
(malignant being ). Its fingers were twisted, it had ears like a
kangaroo, large eyes resembling those of an owl, a grotesque
face, and projecting teeth. When Kuntunga (mother of all
spirit-children, the "julanja") was suckling this infant, it bit
her so often that she finally killed it and left the body in the
creek, where it was transformed into (an) irregularly-shaped
"THE LONELY SEA AND THE SKY"
While making the first solo plane flight across the Tasman Sea
between New Zealand and Australia, on June 10th, 1931, the famous
adventurer Francis Chichester encountered "a dull grey-white
airship" of ghost-like manner. Chichester was a truly remarkable
man. His encounter with an inexplicable aerial phenomenon is
described in his excellent book, "The Lonely Sea and the Sky". At
3.00 pm, after seeing the S.S. Kurow battling its way through heavy
seas below him, Chichester decided to fly north-west, to avoid
facing a storm that lay in his path:
"Round the storm we flew into calm air under a weak lazy sun. I
took out t he sextant and got two shoots. It took me thirty
minutes to work them out, for the engine kept back firing, and
my attention wandered every time it did...
"Suddenly, ahead and thirty degrees to the left, there were
bright flashes in several places, like the dazzle of a
heliograph. I saw a dull grey-white airship coming towards me.
It seemed impossible, but I could have sworn that it was an
airship, nosing towards me like an oblong pearl. Except for a
cloud or two, there was nothing else in the sky. I looked
around, sometimes catching a flash or a glint, and turning
again to look at the airship I found it had disappeared. I
screwed up my eyes, unable to believe them, and twisted the
seaplane this way and that, thinking that the airship must be
hidden by a blind spot. Dazzling flashes continued in four or
five different places, but I could not pick out any planes.
Then, out of some clouds to my right front, I saw another, or
the same, airship advancing. I watched it intently, determined
not to look away for a fraction of a second: I'd see what
happened to this one, if I had to chase it. It drew steadily
closer, until perhaps a mile away, when suddenly it vanished.
Then it reappeared, close to where it had vanished: I watched
with angry intentness. It drew closer, and I could see the
dull gleam of light on its nose and back. It came on, but
instead of increasing in size, it diminished as it app roached.
When quite near, it suddenly became its own ghost - one second I
could see through it, and the next it had vanished. I decided
that it could only be a diminutive cloud, perfectly shaped like
an airship and then dissolving, but it was uncanny that it
should exactly resume the same shape after it once vanished. I
turned towards the flashes, but those too had vanished. All
this was many years before anyone spoke of flying saucers. What
ever it was I saw, it seems to have been very much like what
people have since claimed to be flying saucers."
A MINI UFO NEAR NAMBOUR
A fifty year old man recounted in 1974, the story of his
encounter with a mini-UFO back in 1932 or 1933, near the town of
Nambour, in Northern Queensland. He was 8 or 9 at the time, and at
about two one afternoon, in about late March or early April, he was
playing with some local children. He strayed from them and went
over to a nearby hillock, which was surrounded by a small body of
"....I put both hands up in front of me and parted this tall
grass to look through. I heard a low humming sound, and saw a round
object directly in front of me, about four feet away.
"It looked the same shape as if two ordinary saucers were
placed face to face and then turned on their sides ... The colour
of the object was the same shade of silver grey as a Canberra bomber
looks on a dull, rainy, overcast day ... The size of the object was
12 inches in diameter. It hovered 3 inches above the surface of the
water. There was a slight almost imperceptible shiver of the water
surface directly below the object as if it was directing a force
directly downwards in order to stay in the air ... The waves (of
water) were going outward in concentric circles directly below the
"...There was a very high speed shiver motion of the object as
if a gyro-stabiliser of some kind were keeping it up right.
"As I bent forward to look more closely, the humming sound rose
suddenly in pitch and volume, and at the same time a whitish mist
begun to form between me and the object, but close to it ...
"At the same time ... I felt a tight feeling in the head and
as the noise increased, I let go of the tall grass and stepped
back. I could not see it any more, and I felt stunned in the head,
but I could still hear it humming behind the tall grass ....
"Soon afterwards, everyone decided to go up to the house, and
on the way one girl said suddenly, "What was that?" Something flew
up between those trees. "It was a magpie," someone said. "No it
was not," said the first girl.
I did not see anything, but I knew what it was; it was the
object flying off. "That night I noticed large white blisters on
both of my hands and I felt out of sorts. Sometime during the
night whilst I was asleep most of the blisters burst, and one or
two remaining burst during the day and a clear fluid like water
came out. I felt better after that..."
A UFO ABDUCTION IN 1933
Australian mysteries researcher Rex Gilroy records an
intriguing tale allegedly from 1933 that reportedly involved an
aboriginal woman in a UFO abduction experience at the isolated
locality of Discovery Well, on the northern edge of the Great Sandy
Desert, in Western Australia.
The story echoes the tribal legends and traditions of men and
women being abducted by "sky gods" or "culture heros" in the
dreamtime and the initiation experiences of aboriginal "men of high
degree" or shamans.
In Rex Gilroy's account, the aboriginal woman claimed her
tribe had been frightened off from Discovery Well when a "large
shiny egg" suddenly came down out of the sky. In broad daylight
the strange object flew low over them. Several beings, described as
strange, grey-skinned and man like, came out of the "egg". The
woman said she was "stunned" by an object carried by one of the
beings. Her story indicates she was carried aboard. Inside the
"egg" the interior was glowing. She was strapped to a shining
table and apparently "experimented with". The woman told stockmen of
her experience, but perhaps not surprisingly they laughed at her.
This 1933 tale also anticipates the spate of UFO abduction
tales that would virtually domininate the UFO landscape by the
1990s. It was not until 1957 that the sexual abduction experience
of Antonio Villas Boas from Brazil occurred. The famous Betty and
Barney Hill abduction story in the United States did not take place
until 1961. Neither story was well known until the mid 1960s.
On October 10th, 1935, an off duty military man took what was
possibly Australia's first UFO photograph at Nobby's Head near
Newcastle, NSW. Although the photos are now apparently
unavailable, investigators who saw the photo during 1968-69
reported it showed "a definite circular object with details seen
well at enlargement."
We have already seen that Bass Strait was no stranger to
extraordinary UFO mysteries. The crew of a Beaufort bomber flying
at 4,500 feet over Bass Strait, during February, 1944, bore witness
to what may have been Australia's earliest "electromagnetic" (EM)
case. At about 2.30 am the plane gained a most unusual companion.
A "dark shadow" appeared along side the plane and kept pace with
it, at a distance of only some 100 to 150 feet. The Beaufort was
travelling at about 235 miles per hour. The object appeared to have
a flickering light and flame belching from its rear end. Only about
15 feet of the rear end of the UFO was visible to the bomber crew,
apparently due to "reflection of light from the exhaust." The
strange object stayed with the bomber for some 18 to 20 minutes,
during which time all radio and direction finding instruments
refused to function. It finally accelerated away from the plane at
approximately three times the speed of the bomber.
Upon landing, the pilot reported the incident to his base
superiors, but he claimed he was only laughed at. Such a reaction
seems extraordinary in retrospect since it turns out that Beauforts
figured heavily in official RAAF list of planes that "went missing
without trace" during World War Two in the Bass Strait area - an
area that was not linked to any significant enemy activity. I have
been told that the Beauforts had a mechanical problem that may have
accounted for some of these losses.
THE "LITTLE FELLAS" AT THE SIGN OF THE TAKAHE
Mrs. E. Church, a sister-in-charge of the operating theatre of
the Cashmere Sanitorium, at Christchurch, New Zealand, encountered
something truly extraordinary in August, 1944 or 1945, while walking
alone amongst the low hill slopes and scrub at the Sign of the
Takahe, in the Port Hills area. Noticing a cloud coming in quickly,
she decided to head back to catch a train. On the way, Mrs. Church
encountered a strange object resting on a rise, near the road. She
approached it and stared at it for about 8 to 10 minutes. Before
her was a bizarre sight.
The object was like an "upturned saucer" and appeared to be
primarily constructed of what looked like vertically laid tiles,
"that fitted together perfectly." It appeared to be about 18 to 20
feet wide and 8 to 9 feet high.
Mrs. Church though, "What will they invent next?" Then she saw
the "little fellas". Small entities, no more than 4 feet tall, one
inside and one outside the object, were present. They gave the
appearance of just a green-coloured form in a transparent oblong
packing casing. They seemed to be watching the Industries Fair and
the city below. The city lights were coming on. The figures seemed
to have quite big "heads" in proportion to their "bodies" - nearly
half body height.
The cloud observed earlier came right down and enveloped the
scene. Mrs. Church decided to get closer. She got to within
about 18 feet of the object, when a sound her approach made, drew
the attention of the "chap" outside. He had a "plastic" helment
which flipped over and he "drifted" into the object in "a kind of
sliding movement", through a very small opening. A whirring noise
commenced and the craft rose slowly in a vertical fashion. She lost
sight of it in the cloud. Mrs. Church felt a sense of loss with
Her experience was investigated during 1973 by Bruce
Harding. Mrs. Church never checked to see if the "thing" left any trace of
its presence at the Sign of the Takahe.
While many reports of UFOs were made in Australia during the
period from 1947 to 1950, few were widely known at the time. Many
were reported later. Here is one example:
A STRANGE AERIAL CONSTRUCTION
In October, 1949, two men observed a UFO near Townsville,
Queensland. One of them, Mr. J. Baxter, recalled the event in a
1967 letter to the UFO Investigation Centre:
"I was a commercial fisherman, fishing at the time for spanish
mackerel, with a chap named John Campbell ... It was a bad season,
and we were fishing desperately to get out of the red, (and) not to
be easily distracted by any thing unusual.
"Well! We were fishing off North Palm Island ... on a clear,
bright, sunny day, with perfect visibility, when we saw this object
- a bright, shining, metallic cigar shaped construction, (over 100
feet long) poised about 70 to 80 feet above the sea, and about 500
or 600 yards distant.
"There was no sign of wings, propellers, or portholes ....
"At the time we were making circles in the boat, to try and
excite the mackerel ... We would lose sight of it (as they turned)
for a minute or maybe two. But we kept watching it, mainly because
we were intrigued by the fact that it was motionless, just poised
there, between sea and sky.... "We had a noisy engine ... so we
did not hear any noise from it.... We watched it, as we made our
tight circles, for maybe, half an hour, and while I was intently
watching, the bow swung between us and it, and it was gone - without
any fuss, or even a contrail. This was incredible, and really
rocked us, that anything could get out of sight on a clear day,
almost instantaneously. Not even the modern planes of today could
equal such a performance."
The contemporary and widespread public flirtation with "flying
saucers" in Australia really only got under way in 1950 with
reports from Geelong and Avoca, Victoria, during June and July.
We have already seen evidence of earlier cursory interest by
the military. However, the earliest still extant sighting report
in the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) files was a
nocturnal light account at Bass Point, NSW, on July 16, 1950. The
growing number of reports that involved official agencies and
highly regarded sources served to heightened official interest,
initially from two quarters, namely the Royal Australian Air Force
(RAAF) and the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).
An Account of the English Colony: Collins 1804, 211.
A machine to go through the air: Chalker, 1982.
The Goulburn ghost light: Goulburn Herald 16 March 1878;Wyatt 1972,75
A 'remarkable meteor': Nature, Vol. 20. pg.121, 5 June 1879; Fort
1974, 23 5; Chalker 1985, 33.
Ghost lights: Chalker 1985, 33-34.
An early astronomer's sighting: Chalker 1985, 34.
THE WAVE OF 1909: Chalker 1992, 333-336, in Clark 1992.
AN EARLY VISITOR: Chalker 1988, 72-80; based on interviews with
primary witness during 1985 and 1986.
Australian mysteries: Gilroy 1995, 29.
FRANCIS CHICHESTER: Chichester 1967, 185.
MILITARY MATTERS: Chalker 1985, 37-38.
THE 'LITTLE FELLAS': Mrs. Church's report was originally investigated
by Bruce Harding with an account published in A.P.R.G (NZ) Journal 1974,
pages 11-14. In October 1949: Letter to UFOIC, 1967.
Chalker, Bill. 1982. A UFO Vision? The mystery of 'A machine to
go through the air', 1873, Parramatta, NSW, Australia. UFO Research
Australia Newsletter, Vol. 3. No.1, Jan./Feb. 1982. Adelaide:
Chalker, Bill. 1985. Historical reports in Australia. (in Moravec
& Prytz 1 985; article first published in the ACUFOS Journal, Vol.
2, Nos. 1 - 4, Feb to July/August, 1981).
Chalker, Bill. 1988. The Terror down under. Fate, September 1988,
Chalker, Bill. 1992. UFOs in Australia and New Zealand through
1959, in Clark 1992.
Chichester, Francis. 1967. The lonely sea and the sky. London: Pan
Clark, Jerome. 1992. The Emergence of a Phenomenon: UFOs from the
Beginning through 1959. The UFO Encyclopedia, Volume 2, Detroit, MI:
Collins, Lt.-Col. 1804. An Account of the English Colony in New
South Wales. London: T. Cadell & W. Davies.
Dykes, Mervyn. 1981. Strangers in our skies: UFOs over New Zealand.
Taita, Lower Hutt: INL.
Fort, Charles. 1974. The complete books of Charles Fort. New York:
Gilroy, Rex. 1995. Mysterious Australia. Mapelton, Qld: Nexus
Moravec, Mark & Prytz, J (editors). 1985. UFOs over Australia.
Sydney: Australia Centre for UFO Studies (ACUFOS).
Wyatt, Ransome. 1972. The History of Goulburn, N.S.W. Sydney: