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 such as:
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 UFO scene.
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" (1989):
"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 some detail.
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 wrote,
"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 Science."
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 is intriguing.
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.
Ashpole, E. "The UFO Phenomena" (1995)
Ballester Olmos, Vicente-Juan. "Ovnis - El Fenomeno Aterrizaje" (1978)
Bonabot, J. "Belgique cas avec Traces", Bulletin du GESAG, No.79, March, (1985)
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)