Thy Martian Clad Hills: NL Home to Some of the Best Canadian UFO Stories

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When it comes to Canadian UFO frenzies, Newfoundland gets the biggest entry in Wikipedia’s summary of sightings: Clarenville, 1978.

The Clarenville Craze of ’78

Though it’s not the only documented martian encounter in NL, a 1978 craze-inducing report from Clarenville came straight from a cop’s mouth, and what most people love about this story is the year and duration of the encounter. It was 1973. That’s well before everyone and their wi-fi mooching neighbour had a pirated copy of Photoshop. Photoshop hadn’t been invented yet. And drones were the stuff of sci-fi movies.

Better still, the unidentified flying object hovered in place for nearly two hours, between Clarenville and Random Island. So it wasn’t a “Wat’s dat?” moment of people scratching their heads as some chunk of metal zipped through the sky in the blink of an eye.

The story has added credibility because it was a cop who gave a detailed account of it, along with a dozen witnesses. And conveniently Constable Jim Blackwood of the RCMP happened to have some drug surveillance equipment on him that afforded him a good look at the thing.

Constable Blackwood’s drug surveillance equipment is described as a “special high powered viewing scope,” with “60 times magnification,” and he had a good long look through it, given the craft stayed in the area for an hour or two. Better still, Blackwoord was an aircraft enthusiast, and says the thing wasn’t “normal” at all. It was made of a coarse, dull material.

And it wasn’t just Clarenvillers making the claim: a radar in Gander picked the thing up, and a Canada-bound plane from Jordan had noticed the thing. So media from across the country and beyond badgered Blackwood for interviews. The BBC actually included the story in a doc on UFOs.

One of the more fun facts surrounding this X-files-y case was the alleged playfulness of the UFO: when Constable Blackwood turned on his police cruiser’s lights, the Flying Saucer is said to have mimicked the flashing patterns and colours of the cop car’s lights. Its exit from the sky was grand: “Vroom – it took off like a shooting star,” he’s quoted as saying.

Blackwood was only 25 at the time, and stopped talking about it much, because co-workers started to poke fun at the rookie believer. But the town itself loved to believe: a local hockey team changed their name to the Clarenville UFOs, and local retailers threw some extra special extraterrestrial-themed sales with prices that were undoubtedly “out of this world.”

Was That Clarenville Case a One-time Occurrence?

So, what about local sightings since? There’s been plenty. The Canadian UFO Survey reports over a thousand a year in recent years. Their latest report (2016) summarized all of 2015’s Canadian sightings, and there were 9 from here.

2015’s local sightings include one in Labrador City where the witness of the triangle-shaped object is said to have “lost ten minute of time.” A notable St. John’s report claimed there was a golden orb reportedly being “chased by jets.” Other sightings from last year were as varied as a “burger-like” form in the sky to one that bounced up and down in purple lighting.

Our province’s biggest year for sightings was 2012 (with a total of 23 WTFs in the sky), and 2010 saw national news headlines about unexplained missile-like objects in the sky in Harbour Mille, but the fact that UFO sightings are going up in conjunction with more and more people dabbling in drones and Photoshop makes the spike in sightings harder to buy.

Gander’s Near-Crash Between a UFO and US Navy Plane is a “Top 10 Encounter”

Bethune’s drawing of the encounter from a debriefing

It’s still the old timey UFO stories, because the truth was less malleable back then, that people are drawn to. Like the 1951 Gander incident. It was February, and the witnesses were Americans aboard a US Navy flight, that was stopping into Gander Airport to refuel after an overseas flight.

US Naval Reserve Lieutenant Graham Bethune and his co-pilot had eyes on the thing for 4-5 minutes before the object decided it didn’t like being spotted, and came barreling towards them. “Its altitude and size increased as though its speed was in excess of 1,000 miles per hour. It closed in so fast that the first feeling was we would collide in midair.”

A radar in Gander confirms the story. The flying object – which couldn’t be identified by either US Navy men nor Gander airport, was described as “definitely circular and reddish orange on its perimeter.”

Because word got out the Navy men had called Gander airport for a radar reading about their encounter, Intelligence officers were on the scene, waiting for them to land. They interviewed the entire crew, who signed reports, which is documented proof of the ordeal.

Bethune has said “”It was obvious from the questions and demeanor of the US Navy men who debriefed us that they’d seen things out there before.”

The crew couldn’t do much interviewing for professional reasons, but one of them supposedly gave an interview, anonymously, to Major Donald Keyhoes for a book called Flying Saucers.

Here is a passage from the chapter devoted to this incident: “My impression was that there was a small city ahead, because it was the same glow you get from a group of lights … I asked the navigator to check his ship plot. He replied that there were no ships plotted in this area and that we were not close to the shipping lanes anyway …

“There appeared a yellow halo on the water. It turned to an orange, to a fiery red, and then started movement toward us at a fantastic speed, turning to a blueish red around the perimeter. Due to its high speed, its direction of travel, and its size, it looked as though we were going to be engulfed … everyone began ducking, and a few heads were hit on objects.”

It was only a few seconds before the UFO was out of sight. They estimated its speed in excess of 1500 mph. The incident made OpenMindTV’s The Top 10 Strangest Canadian UFO Reports.

“When we landed at Argentia, Newfoundland, we were met by intelligence officers. The types of questions they asked us were like Henry Ford asking about the Model T. You got the feeling that they were putting words in your mouth.”

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Chad Pelley

Chad Pelley is an author, songwriter, and journalist who wrote for publications like the Globe & Mail and The Telegraph-Journal before founding The Overcast. Now he spends 25 hours a day keeping up with his email, and has no time to be his former self.

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