AUSTRALIAN UFO PHYSICAL TRACE CASES - A REVIEW
Including a catalogue of Australian physical trace cases
compiled by Keith Basterfield & Bill Chalker
1997 & February 1998)
Compiled and ©1998 by Bill Chalker
The author can be contacted C/-
P.O. Box W42,
West Pennant Hills,
Phone: Sydney, Australia + 9484 4680
The physical trace phenomenon is an enduring aspect of the
UFO mystery, having manifested for the entire duration of the
modern era of the UFO controversy. And like the UFO phenomenon
itself, it is global in its extent.
This range of events appears to substantiate the contention
that UFOs possess a physical dimension.
"Physical traces," particularly ground traces, can be defined
by "those UFO cases in which definite physical changes in the
immediate vicinity of a UFO sighting have been reported:
marks and surface changes on the ground, damage to
vegetation, residues..." (Phillips, 1975).
I have had a long term interest in UFO physical trace events.
I have undertaken both Australian and international reviews of the
UFO physical trace experience (Chalker, 1979 & 1987), and have
investigated numerous physical trace events, in particular
focusing on cases that appear to display clear correlations
between UFO close encounters and physical traces, i.e. close
encounters of the second kind (CE2) (Hynek, 1972)
On the basis of the physical trace evidence and the
collective evidence contained within the whole spectrum of UFO
evidence, I contend that a physical dimension to the UFO
phenomenon has been substantiated. We now need to conclusively
establish whether or not this physical evidence is consistent
with a true "alien" reality. The well-supported study of
UFO-related physical trace events could make a crucial
contribution to the resolution of this challenge.
As a scientist, I am always aware of the fundamental
position that extraordinary claims require extraordinary
evidence. To date mainstream UFO events have revealed some
compelling evidence for their physical reality. Similar
evidence to support the reality of abduction events has been
lacking or relatively uncompelling.
By "mainstream UFO events" I am referring to the traditional
mix of evidence that has built up about the UFO phenomenon. The
sort of thing I am referring to is the physical evidence events
- Physical traces from UFO landing cases, (for example the
extraordinary Rosedale case of 1980 represents a compelling
example of possible UFO reality.)
- The famous 1966 Tully "UFO nest" affair
also represents intriguing evidence;
- So called "EM" (electromagnetic) effects in close encounter
incidents, the best known being car stalling type cases -- a
classic example of this occurred at Norah Head during February,
1973, on the central coast of NSW;
- Radar-visual encounters -- an excellent example would be the
famous encounter of Royal Australian Navy pilot, Lt. Shamus
O'Farrell, on August 31st, 1954;
- Physical effects on witnesses, such as the alleged
fatalities after the 1959 Cooktown encounter. The famous Cash
Landrum encounter of 1980 in Texas is another
remarkable example, along with the frightening "chupa" encounters
in Brazil, where fatalities have been reported;
- To a lesser extent photographic evidence -- such as the
Benboyd UFO movie film of 1976 my group investigated and had
subjected to computer enhancement.
See my book "The Oz Files - The Australian UFO Story" (1996) for details on the Australian cases mentioned, Jerome Clark's "The UFO Book" (1997) for details of the Cash - Landrum case, and Jacques Vallee's "Confrontations" (1990) and Bob Pratt's "UFO Danger Zone"
(1996) for information on the "chupa " phenomenon.
While mainstream UFO events have delivered some compelling
evidence for their physical reality, similar evidence to support
the reality of abduction events has been lacking or relatively
uncompelling. And yet such events have come to dominate the extire
In my own research into Australian "abduction" events, from my
earliest work in the seventies to more recent times, it has been
difficult not to hold the position that abduction cases have perhaps
told me more about the human condition than they have about UFOs.
I'm sure there are many who might argue the point but I can only
speak my mind here as it has been directed by the evidence
uncovered in almost 2 decades of exposure to abduction stories in
Australia. During that period there have been some cases of an
abduction nature I have looked into that have stood out, but they have
been in the minority. The majority of these types of cases have
been conspiciously devoid of compelling physical evidence. The
1993 Narre Warren incident is one of the few outstanding exceptions
and this is because we are dealing with an event that appears to
involve physical evidence and 3 groups of apparently independent
witnesses that may confirm a disquieting reality.
However, while the evidence for a physical reality behind UFO
abductions is not as compelling as the so called mainstream UFO
phenomenon, we have the extraordinary problem that it is the
abduction phenomenon that is now defining the UFO phenomenon. The
UFO phenomenon itself has been abducted by the alien abduction
phenomenon. Until we have gained a much greater certainty with the
abduction data, it should not define our central understanding of
the UFO mystery.
We are a great deal more certain about the physical dimensions
of the mainstream UFO phenomenon. Let us not abandon the firm
foundations developed over decades for the extraordinary
uncertainties and fantastic claims that dominate the field
today. We need to learn from history. If we don't we will be
condemned to relive it and the UFO phenomenon will be condemned
to stay in the marginalised fringe shadow it is now struggling
to emerge from.
The limited elaboration of the physical dimensions of the UFO
phenomenon has progressed slowly, but some good work has been done,
albeit under great difficulties. This should be expanded upon.
Fortunately there are a number of researchers who have focused on
the need to substantiate UFO physical evidence. In the specific
category of " physical (ground) traces" Ted Phillips (1975, 1980,
1985), Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos (1978), Maurizio Verga (1983),
Jacques Bonabot (1985), Wim Van Ultrecht (1985), Chris Rutkowski
(1994, 1997), Paul Fuller (1993-94) , myself (1979, 1987, 1997) and
others have provided a continuing focus in this important area of
research. Edward Ashpole provided an intelligent overview (1995)
and addressed one of my objectives. He wrote: "One cannot hope to
build up a picture of the phenomenon of UFO landings from a few
incomplete investigations. Adequately supported scientists need to
see each new landing site as another opportunity to gain better
understanding of the 'species UFO'."
Until serious, well-funded and timely, scientific investigations
of bonafide UFO reports becomes the norm rather than the exception,
the subject will continue to wallow in the marginalised fringe it is
anchored in now. Most people seldom confront the rich basis of the
UFO phenomenon. They are constantly exposed to a festival of the
bizarre and the absurd. We should not let the field be dominated
by the most controversial and less substantiated aspects -- and I
include abduction aspects.
The "crop circle" controversy is another less substantiated
aspect. It is a relatively recent phenomenon on the unusual ground
effects stage, with specific and limited physical and social
dimensions. The English crop circle milieu is a startling example
of a modern myth in the making. In the majority of cases no clear
correlation exists with apparent physical unidentified flying
objects, whereas in the better documented UFO landing events
substantial correlations exist (e.g. Burkes Flat (1966), Kettering
(1976) and Rosedale (1980).)
It is indeed puzzling that where a very dubious connection exists
between the UK "crop circles" and UFOs, that a theoretical
mechanism has emerged that seeks to explain both, namely the Meaden
"plasma vortex" hypothesis. However, the mechanism is on very shaky
ground in its patently flawed attempts to explain the more
provocative UFO landing cases.
I gave a guarded endorsement of the possible utility of the
hypothesis, in the BUFORA booklet "Controversy of the Circles"
"It appears to be a possible explanation for many of the
circle formations, that fit the topographic restrictions of the
theory...Providing researchers understand the limitations of the
vortex theory, then I see it as a reasonable hypothes is."
It seems that advocates of the theory have gone way beyond its
limitations and by so doing have critically damaged the
credibility of a hypothesis which still has a place to play in
explaining some cases.
The "crop circle" controversy has also been embraced by the New
Age community, some of whom view the striking complex patterns as
vindications of obscurely expressed signs that "mother Earth" is in
trouble and this is her way of alerting us to wake up and "do the
right thing" -- noble thoughts, but in this context more a tribute to
woolly thinking and gullible belief in very dubious "crop circles."
The 1969 north coast "UFO nest" milieu was something of a turning
point for me. It focused my interest in physical trace events.
The area continued to intrigue me because "nests" continued to
occur in the area long after the 1969 outbreak. Indeed specific
localities seemed to feature more than others. In order to give
some indications of the occasionally tantalising dimensions of the
UFO physical trace phenomenon, I have described this local milieu in
THE "UFO NEST" MILIEU
During 1969, the New South Wales north coast region became the
focus of intriguing phenomena. This time there was something
tangible for those locals like myself who while curious enough had
not actually witnessed UFOs. There was a rash of unusual ground
effects in the area, the most prominent being a large flattened
saccaline crop site near Bungawalban found on April 17th. Others
find included "nests" at Tuckurimba (16 foot "charred" grass
circle), Omagh Road, near Kyogle (20-foot-wide circular area
consisting of a 12-inch annulus of "scorched" grass, with 4 distinct
squares of 18-inch sides, evenly spaced inside the circumference of
the circle), Goolmanger Creek, near Nimben (a "nest"), Afterlea
(an elliptical impression in swamp reeds, about 30 by 12 feet, with
the reeds flattened and entangled, and 4 flattened tracks leading
out, with half-moon depressions at the ends).
The talk was of flying saucers and that this was a "saucer nest".
The fact that the Bungawalban property involved was owned by Ian
Robinson, the local member of parliament, ensured the affair leapt
into national prominence. I joined the curious throng.
The 15 foot crop had been flattened in four distinct patches, the
largest being about 60 feet by 15 feet. Lodging -- a phenomenon
that can affect crops in a similar manner -- was ruled out by
locals familiar with it. Two night shift flood mitigation dredge
employees working about a quarter mile north of the farm observed a
glow in the sky in the direction of the saccaline patch, on the
night of April 16th. A neighbouring farmer had also apparently
observed "top-like objects" hovering or moving about in the area,
on a number of nights prior to the discovery of the impressions.
While at the time direct evidence for a UFO correlation to the
physical traces at Bungawalban was weak, I found the incident
intriguing. It helped galvanise my burgeoning interest into a more
active research and investigation role.
While fascinating, the north NSW coast "nests" found lacked clear
and absolute UFO connections. An extraordinary close encounter
report, which occurred on April 20th, 1969, at Harwood Island, on
the north coast, provided that missing dimension. The case remained
hidden for a few years, until the witness, a local woman, wrote to
me. That incident argued forcefully that the Bungawalban affair
may indeed have been UFO related.
Three days after the Bungawalban find, the Harwood Island woman
was out walking at about 7.30 pm. She saw and heard a large patch
of 2 year-old sugar cane rustling and waving violently, on what was
a still night. A very powerful beam of light came across the top
of the cane and very slowly turned about a half circle until it was
in front of the witness. The woman felt as if some powerful force
was lifting her off the ground and drawing her towards the source of
the beam. This "force" stopped when the "high beam" went out. The
woman found herself still on the ground. She could then clearly see
a strange object over the top of the cane. The "high beam" had been
replaced by a sort of "low beam" and "cabin lights" emanating from a
large helment shaped object, situated only some 40 to 50 feet away,
and about 8 to 9 feet above the top of the cane (which itself was
about 8 to 12 feet high). The woman described the object:
"It was a dark shiny, grey colour all over, and the glow from the inside
lights were pale yellow, pinkish red, and a very faint tint of
green. The glow came on to the brim of the object and around the
head part of it. Out of the top was this thin trail of smoke.
Below the object the violent movement in the cane had given way to a
mere slight rustling. It seemed that after about a minute the
arrival sequence was totally reversed, with the violent movement in
the cane reoccuring. A whistling sound commenced then nothing."
The woman did not see the object depart, but assumed it just
disappeared at fantastic speed. Note that the witness said
the experience had taken place at about 7.30 pm. Another woman and
her daughter were fishing nearby, downstream from the Harwood
bridge. They saw "a very bright red light, with a whitish tail,
which appeared to be suspended above the bridge. We saw it for
several seconds and then it just disappeared." They said their
sighting occurred around 8 p m, half an hour after the striking
close encounter. Although the connection seems weak, at another
time, like now, such details might be siezed upon as proof postive
of a possible "missing time" incident. The woman felt only a short
time had passed.
NEW ENGLAND MYSTERIES & FORBIDDEN SCIENCE
By then I had thoroughly immersed myself in the exotic world of
UFOs. There was much that was rubbish and silly in the extreme, but
through it all there was a compelling body of evidence for
something that seemed truly anomolous. I joined a Sydney-based
organisation UFOIC, the UFO Investigation Centre. At
that time they did not seem to be investigating and researching the subject
in the depth and manner I thought was appropriate. I was more
comfortable with the loose network of people I had developed on the
north coast. This expanded to include the New England region, when
I went to Armidale, to further my academic studies, at the
University of New England. I also joined the US organisation APRO,
the Aerial Phenomena Research Organisation, led by Coral and Jim
Lorenzen. Their international connections were exceptional and my
association with them served to reinforce the international
dimensions of the UFO "problem".
Computer scientist and well known UFO researcher, Dr. Jacques
Vallee, saw "the UFO problem" as a "forbidden science" where he
"Witnesses of the strange occurrences numbered in the
millions. But the study of their observations had been forcefully
driven under-ground. It had turned into a fascinating discipline in
a hypocritical modern world that claimed rational thought and open
inquiry as its highest standard: it had become a Forbidden
In 1973, I was a third year Science student majoring in chemistry
and mathematics at the University of New England. I was also
engaged in "forbidden science". It was not the first time, nor
would it be the last. I was experiencing some difficulties in
analysing soil samples from a UFO landing site at Emerald Beach,
near Woolgoolga, on the north coast of New South Wales.
A contact suggested I approach Dr. Keith Bigg, then Deputy
Director of Radiophysics - CSIRO. Dr. Bigg was helpful in his
advice. He was most intrigued about my descriptions of the Emerald
Beach incident and the fact that "circles" had been found. "Seems
quite a classic case", he wrote. Dr. Bigg's parting sanguine
advice had an instructive twist to it. "Never admit that your
interest is in UFOs or you'll get nowhere. You're more likely to
get cooperation in hunting witches. Think up a 'scientific'
reason..." he wrote. Dr. Bigg's analytical advice was in the
true spirit of science, a tribute to his own open mindedness, but
his closing remarks were a sad reflection of the prevailing myopic
view of mainstream science. The English visionary, William Blake,
referred to it as "Newton's sleep."
A UFO LANDING ON HARWOOD ISLAND?
Two people holidaying on the north coast of NSW
experienced an intriguing UFO encounter on June 3rd, 1995.
Christine and Darryl were staying at a caravan Park on Palmers
Island. At about 8 pm they had gone fishing 400 metres away on
the bank of the Clarence River. Across the river is Harwood
Island -- which has extensive sugar cane planatations, scattered
housing, and a sugar refinery. Darryl was using a new torch,
which he waved up and down. A long, thin, white cigar shaped
light was noticed in the sky. It remained in the sky for about
15 minutes, until for a 20 second period, the light started
dimishing in size, and then zig-zagged up higher into an orange
dot. For a further 5 minutes the couple were distracted by
problems with snagged fishing lines. Then, emerging from an
area on the other side of the river, a large oval object seemed
to rise up from the ground and proceed towards the unnerved
couple's position. It seemed to be huge, and was likened to the
size of a caravan in close proximity. The earlier light now
seemed to have increased in apparent size. The object
approaching from Harwood Island seemed to tilt on its side as it
reached the river.
It appeared to expose a large under section, which had 2
circles of "laser bright orange light -- one inside the other",
according to the Independent Network of UFO Researchers
(INUFOR) investigator, Moira McGhee. By then, the couple
were terrified, but their dog seemed oblivious. They rapidly
packed their gear into their car and frantically attempted to
drive out of the area. At that point the object seemed to veer
back over to the other side of the river and, as the couple
left, moved smoothly and slowly towards the hills in the
opposite direction. They got back to the park by 9.20 pm.
Christine could not sleep until 4.30 am, and Darryl suffered
from bad nightmares. Their dog began vomiting and had to be
taken to the vet 4 days after the event.
Such effects could be of prosaic in origin, in the absence
of clear correlations. Two weeks after the encounter, the
couple returned to Harwood Island with Christine's father to
search the area where the strange object appeared to rise from.
In an area that appeared to be consistent with the possible
locality of the object's initial presence, they found a large
area of depressed sugar cane. The outer "walls" of the
depressed are were intact all the way around. There did not
seem to be any sign of footprints or tyre tracks. Because of
the delay in reporting and the tenuous nature of the connection
between the sighting and the possible "physical trace" INUFOR
investigators did not directly examine the sight. They received
copies of photographs of the damaged cane taken by the
witnesses. While there is dubious benefit in delayed searches
for possible physical trace evidence, the Harwood Island incident
You will recollect that the north coast is my home territory. The
locality of Palmers Island and the landing on Harwood Island made
me recall two events. One provides a startling coincidence.
Exactly 20 years to the day, on June 3rd, 1975, the same area was
the scene of a dramatic UFO close encounter. At 7.30 pm two young
men visiting 3 other men on the Yamba Road to Palmers Island
noticed a bright red and green object approaching from the west.
When it appeared to hover nearby, the group began it watch it
closely. All 5 men followed it by car as the object began to move
off in the direction of the road to Palmers Island. After
travelling over a bridge, the UFO approached the car and hovered
within 200 yards, at the beginning of a long straight stretch in the
road. It appeared to be about 30 feet wide with a disc-shape
apparent, when lights on it dimmed. As the car closed in, the
object shot off down the straight at high speed and then appeared to
hover at the end of it, as if waiting for the car. It then
zig-zagged across the road, eventually moving across the Clarence
River and hovering above trees in the sugar cane fields on Harwood
Island. The object went down twice, dimming and revealing a
definite disc shape. Then the object moved to the left "fading" or
"landing" behind the sugar cane storage sheds. No landing "nests"
were found in this area, however the farmers reported disturbances
amongst the dogs and animals.
Fishermen at Yamba reported seeing a fast moving light travel
from the ocean horizon to Yamba at about the beginning of the
Palmers Island close encounter. I was able to interview 3 of the
men on June 7th, on location. Other intriguing sightings also
occurred on the north coast at that time, including a June 5th
sighting of a ball of orange light, apparently flying parallel to
power lines, near South Grafton. TV interference over a wide area
was reported during the sighting.
I had been expecting activity like this on the North Coast, and
had been on standby in Sydney ready to travel at a moments notice.
This preparedness had developed out of studies of local waves of
sightings, or "flaps". North Coast and New England area "flaps" had
occurred in 1966, 1969 and 1972, and I was quitely "predicting" a
flap on the north coast for the middle of 1975. Of course this
remained in research circles so as not to "create" a flap through
publicity. This pattern even continued into New England
"predictions" for early 1978, which seemed verified with the Bakers
Creek events and reports from Lismore and other areas. After that
the element of a regular temporal and spatial pattern disappeared
with the usual unpredictable nature of UFO sightings reasserting
itself. It was an intriguing time for investigation and
research, and reinforced my interest in the strange phenomenon
of localised UFO flaps as being a possible context for
worthwhile scientific study.
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Ballester Olmos, Vicente-Juan. "Ovnis - El Fenomeno Aterrizaje" (1978)
Bonabot, J. "Belgique cas avec Traces", Bulletin du GESAG, No.79,
Chalker, B. "Physical Evidence for UFOs in Australia - A Preliminary Study of the Physical Trace Experience in Australia", UFOCON 4, Sydney,
NSW, Australia, October, (1979) (a condensed version appeared in the MUFON UFO Journal, No. 157, March, 1981)
Chalker, B. "Physical traces", in Evans & Spencer, "UFOs 1947-1987" (1987)
Chalker, B. "The Australian UFO Physical Trace Experience",
Cuadernos de Ufologia (Spanish), Spain, May, 1997
Fuller, Paul. "Ted Phillips' Physical Trace Catalogue", The Crop Watcher, 16, 17,18 & 20 (1993-94)
Hynek, J. Allen. "The UFO Experience - A Scientific Enquiry" (1972)
Phillips, T. "Physical traces associated with UFO Sightings - A preliminary
Catalogue", Centre for UFO Studies (CUFOS), July, (1975)
Phillips, T. "Physical Traces of UFOs", in R. Story's "The Encyclopedia of UFOs", (1980)
Phillips, T. "Physical Trace Landing Reports: The Case for UFOs",
MUFON (1985) UFO Symposium Proceedings.
Rutkowski, Chris. "The Falcon Lake Case: Too Close an Encounter",
Journal of UFO Studies, (1994)
Rutkowski, Chris. "The Langenburg CE2 Case: When UFOs left their mark", UFOs 1947-1997 (1997).
Van Utrecht, W. "Trace Cases in Belgium", SVL-Journal, 4/15, July, (1985)
Verga, M. "Il Catalogo Dei Casi Italiani con trace", Notiziario UFO, Sept-Oct, (1983)