(C) 1991 by the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies.

ssExcerpted from the IUR, May/June, 1991; Volume 16, Number 3.

THE BELGIAN SIGHTINGS

by Auguste Meessen

- - Auguste Meessen is professor of physics at the Catholic

University of Louvain. This article, which first appeared in the

November 1990 issue of Inforespace, is reprinted by permission.

It was translated by Andrea Donderi, Mark Rodeghier, and W. D.

Milner.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

The sightings that occurred in Belgium between November 1989

and June 1990 have given us an impressive body of new data. We

have even been able to study in detail material from both

military and civilian ground radar screens. Moreover, an in-depth

examination of on-board radar data from one of the F-16s sent up

by the Belgian Air Force during the night of March 30-31, 1990,

is currently under way. As far as I know, this is the first such

opportunity in the world, but much remains to be done. I shall

therefore only give an overview of this research. I shall outline

what we are doing and briefly describe our methods.

I shall also include some remarks on the unwarranted

generalizations that are still too frequently encountered (from

skeptics) and on the reactions of eyewitnesses in the current

socio-psychological climate in European ufology. Finally, I shall

present a few reports of sightings made in Belgium and abroad.

One case in particular, the enormous lozenge-shaped object that

flew over the outskirts of the town of Eupen on December 1, 1989,

is representative of the quality and importance of the new

information. In assessing reports it is important to be aware of

what has been happening in other countries, so I shall include a

few foreign cases that suggest the wave of sightings may not be

over.

Ground investigations

At the beginning of December 1989 I joined the SOBEPS

(Societe Belge d'Etude des Phenomenes Spatiaux) investigation. It

was vital to familiarize myself personally with the number and

quality of the eyewitness reports. I concentrated almost

exclusively on the Eupen region, of which I am a native. I hoped

that my fluency in German and my profession as a physicist would

help loosen people's tongues. I have noted that many

eyewitnesses, and particularly the most reliable ones with

important social responsibilities, are reluctant to discuss what

they have seen because of irrational socio-psychological

pressures.

The evening of November 29, 1989, was decisive, because two

Eupen police officers had the courage to describe on television

the UFO they had painstakingly observed. There were several other

sightings that same day. I shall be compiling a list of them in

the book that SOBEPS is planning to publish. I have discovered a

series of eyewitness accounts that form a coherent sequence in

time and space that day. The sightings made by Mr. J (more on

which later) provide one example of what can be learned from

these witnesses. In my opinion, data of these kinds, when taken

together with the whole body of sightings worldwide, pose a

challenge to the scientific community and to every thoughtful

person.

Journalists have had an especially important role. Some of

them have performed their work conscientiously, but others were

simply seeking sensational stories. Yet more felt obliged to lead

a personal crusade against the gathering of eyewitness reports. I

will cite just one example whose immediate effects I observed.

A few days after December 18, 1989, a gendarme in the Eupen

area refused to tell me what he had seen, probably because on

that date a local daily paper had published an article which

asserted that the "most plausible explanation" for UFO sightings

was that the U. S. Air Force was secretly testing F-117A planes

over Belgium. This article was preceded by the impressive

headline "Explanation from Washington," and the subheading

referred to a "hysteria" of UFO sightings. I was sent a copy of

this paper the same day and immediately inquired into the matter,

since these stories also form an aspect of the UFO phenomenon.

It turned out that the "explanation" was only speculation,

put forward by the Flemish paper Het Laatste Nieuws. I phoned the

journalist who wrote the article that triggered off a rumor which

is still causing much ink to be spilt. He explained that he had

just read an article on the F-117A and wished to pass on such

information to his readers. To make his article more interesting,

he had suggested (gratuitously, with no reference to the actual

sightings) that there might be a possible connection with recent

sightings in Belgium. In the meantime, I had learned from Lt.

Col. De Brouwer, Chief of Operations of the Belgian Air Force,

that the Air Force had sought information from the American

Embassy to help them explain the reports. This should not have

been necessary if the sightings were caused by secret exercises,

as De Brouwer routinely would have been informed of any such

overflights. Instead, he took the trouble to secure accurate

information about what the many Belgian eyewitnesses had really

seen.

Learning that an official American disclaimer was to be

published, I telephoned the Eupen journalist to tell him the news

and to ask him to publish a correction as soon as possible. When

I asked him why he had spoken of "an explanation from Washington"

and characterized the eyewitness accounts of local people as

"hysterical " he responded, "I am against all that." I appreciate

his candor, but that does not square with the regard for

objectivity one expects of journalists. Such attitudes constitute

disinformation and serve to dissuade eyewitnesses; they make the

search for truth more difficult.

The search for more objective information

Having convinced myself of the reality and importance of the

wave of UFO sightings in our country, I concluded that it would

have been scientifically irresponsible to ignore this wave

without trying to find out what had turned up on our country's

radar screens. I did not know how to gain access to the data, but

I felt that reason would eventually prevail. Since early December

1989 I had been in contact with Lt. Col. De Brouwer at the

Headquarters of the Belgian Air Force, requesting that any radar

documentation be preserved for a thorough scientific study.

Shortly afterwards I sent a similar written request to Guy Coeme,

Minister of National Defense.

I also met the head of the air traffic control at Zaventem,

the Brussels airport. I learned that he and his associates

preserve recordings of radar data for several weeks on magnetic

tape in the event of any inquiries relating to air safety. I

therefore addressed a written request to Mr. Vandenbroucke, the

General Manager of the Airlines Administration, for permission to

videotape certain excerpts. These would be restricted to

sequences selected on the basis of the number of fairly close-

range and reliable UFO sightings. The goal was to verify whether

there had been any suspicious radar traces before or after the

sighting times, given that the UFOs were doubtless below the

radar coverage at the time of very low-altitude sightings.

Although the response was delayed, a call to Vanenbroucke

brought immediate cooperation. I convey my warm thanks to him and

to the Chief Engineer and the technical radar personnel of our

national airport for their effective support, which proved

useful. In consequence I have been able to film and analyze more

than 180 hours of data from the Bertem radar installation, which

serves Zaventem airport. In brief, two surprising and significant

discoveries emerged from this material. I shall describe them

later. One of these discoveries concerned the fact that echoes of

unidentified origin often moved along linear trajectories of

limited length. This perplexed me. I continued to collect as many

data as possible, refusing to adopt any particular hypothesis.

Furthermore, it was vital to analyze these data quickly so that I

could assimilate their essential characteristics and determine

what was worth studying more closely. In fact, I was involved in

a race against time, since the magnetic tapes were retained only

for a few weeks. Any potentially important material that I failed

to save would be lost forever.

I also hoped to gain access to the military radar

documentation, although I knew this would be more difficult. An

increasingly close and productive collaboration had developed

with Lt. Col. De Brouwer and with Lt. Col. Billen, Chief of the

Glons radar installation. They shared my profound conviction that

an in-depth study was required, both to understand better the UFO

phenomenon and to elucidate the mysterious phenomenon that I had

discovered, probably of atmospheric origin.

During this stage of the investigation an important event

occurred. I knew that the Belgian Air Force planned to scramble

F-16 fighters in cases where UFO sightings were reported by

reliable eyewitnesses with additional confirmation by other

evidence. These conditions seemed to have been met during the

night of March 30-31, 1990. Although I was notified at an early

stage, I had to wait for the Air Force's preliminary evaluation

of the data before learning anything more.

For my part, I kept Lt. Col. De Brouwer informed about my

research on the data from the Bertem radar. He saw the benefit of

checking these data against those from the military radar at

Semmerzake. I was accordingly authorized to go there and obtain

extracts from these tapes. The information regarding the events

of the night of March 30-31 remained inaccessible since an Air

Force investigation was underway, but we were making progress all

the same. The Semmerzake data were more accurate and detailed

than those I already had.

Consequently, I was able to compare the data from the

Semmerzake military radar with those from the Bertem civil radar,

whose echoes are instantaneously transmitted to Semmerzake. They

are subject to even less filtering than on the air

controllers' screens at Zaventem airport. I could thus establish

the coordinates and other characteristics of each individual

echo. The analysis was laborious but made it possible to

decisively confirm the preliminary conclusions drawn from the

video films taken at Zaventem.

After the release of the Air Force report in the summer of

1990, there were irrational reactions on the part of some French

media. Lt. Col. De Brouwer responded by supplying more

information, hoping to demonstrate that the situation was more

complex and better documented than many supposed, and that it

merited further analysis. He resolutely followed an open-minded

policy. Some journalists had labeled the military "The Great

Mute"; by contrast, Lt. Col. De Brouwer maintained that "we have

nothing to hide in this matter." I can attest to his deep honesty

and courage.

After talking with a reporter from Paris Match (July 5,

1990, issue), De Brouwer also allowed some members of SOBEPS to

see an extract from the video film of the on-board radar from one

of the F-16s. The series of photos we were authorized to take

enabled me to make a preliminary assessment, and I realized then

the extremely strange nature of these data. Having made

considerable headway in interpreting some of the initial radar

data, 1 could see that the same explanation would not work for

these astonishing observations.

In order to go further, I needed the express permission of

the Minister of National Defense. Since my written request had

met with no response, probably because of bureaucratic inertia, I

decided to telephone the Minister, Guy Coeme. His response was

almost immediate: "I believe in openness." This was, I think, a

historic attitude. In any event, it was an exemplary action, from

which other countries will soon, I hope, draw inspiration.

After this everything went like clockwork, albeit one whose

hands moved slowly. For instance, I received the data from the

Glons radar for the main events of March 30-31, 1990, on November

2, fully seven months later. The appropriate permissions had all

been granted, but other military missions (in particular, the

Gulf crisis and the intervention in Rwanda) took precedence

compared to UFO investigations. Still, there can be a real

advantage to letting ideas settle for a while. At present

thorough studies are being undertaken in complete collaboration

with an officer-engineer of the Belgian Air Force. I do not wish

to name him so as to prevent him from being besieged with

inquiries. The conclusions of our study will be published but

only when this can be done in a responsible manner.

The fundamental results

Almost continually, radar screens show sporadic echoes not

correlated with aircraft. Radar operators call these echoes

"angels"as if they were pure spirits. For them the echoes

constitute annoying "noise" and are ignored as much as possible.

A priori they could just as easily be UFOs as natural phenomena.

They appear only occasionally, all over the screen. An air

traffic controller cannot afford to waste time and attention on

them. When I systematically recorded the positions in which these

"angels" appeared, however, I noted that they often moved in

practically straight lines. I have labeled this the "flying

angels effect."

The average speed of this movement is low relative to that of

aircraft (about 50 km//h). There are random fluctuations, but the

mean speed is well-defined. The lines of motion are of limited

length, and their direction of motion is not correlated with the

wind. Furthermore they can appear (perhaps even more often) when

the sky is clear. The Semmerzake radar could locate the physical

position of the radar returns. As the data accumulated, it became

evident that this phenomenon could not involve UFOs. It had to be

an atmospheric problem, albeit a fairly special one, since the

radar operators whom I consulted had not noticed this effect. A

comprehensive survey of the literature indicated that this

phenomenon had not been described either. I have finally

discovered an explanation based on known physical principles and

on some independent data. It will be described elsewhere when I

have had time to verify it further. The "flying angels effect" is

undoubtedly of atmospheric origin.

My second main finding was that I found no reliable traces

associated with eyewitness accounts of UFO sightings, even when I

examined the traces over a wide range of times and places. I

knew, however, that there had been previous cases of radar

detection of UFOs. The evidence in these cases seems to be

acceptable (and cannot be explained by the "flying angels"

phenomenon). Given the lack of radar confirmation in Belgium, it

would be easy to put forward one or the other of these two

simplistic hypotheses: either the witnesses saw nothing of a

material nature, or F-117 Stealth aircraft were involved. But

neither one nor the other hypothesis takes into account the whole

range of what was observed. The UFOs sighted in Belgium were

usually described as platforms, either stationary or moving

horizontally. This is sufficient to explain the low probability

of detection by ground radars. The radar beams would be reflected

back as if by a horizontal mirror. The same technique is used for

the F-117A Stealth plane.

On several occasions the UFOs had been described as having a

vertical edge and a dome on top. Seen laterally or from above, as

from an aircraft, radar detection might therefore be easier. So

an F-16 might possibly detect a UFO of this kind, if the surfaces

were not made of radar-absorbent material. This presents new

questions, since if UFOs are extraterrestrial, why are their

shapes now different from previously reported objects? Could they

have adapted their craft's shape in order to evade our detection

systems, or is it just a coincidence, resulting from the fact

that this batch of visitors come from somewhere else?

As for the data from the F-16 on-board radar, which operates

differently from ground radars and can record different kinds of

data, I can only say, for the time being, that they are

astonishing. In particular, there are abrupt changes in speed as

well as other strange features. This calls for a technical, far-

reaching, and careful study. We have made a start. I don't know

what conclusion we will reach, nor when we shall reach it.

The views of Science & Vie

With a few rare exceptions, the French media's coverage of

the Belgian UFO sightings has not been distinguished by its

objectivity. Some writers did not hesitate to quite openly make

fun of the "little Belgians" and their "tales " but we shall see

who laughs last. What surprised me most was the fact that the

magazine Science & Vie (Science & Life) had launched a sort of

anti-UFO crusade. I have often admired this magazine's articles

of scientific popularization. It has, in the past, taken a clear

responsibility for public's scientific education. It is all the

more deplorable, then, that in this area it traffics in

irrational, unscientific polemics. The only advantage may be to

document the fact for future generations that at the end of the

20th Century people reacted in this fashion, in spite of the

lessons that they could have drawn from the history of science.

When there is a conflict between a new kind of fact and the

established conceptual framework, people tend to hang on to

preconceived ideas. What does not fit in with the theories that

are regarded as unshakable is filtered out or repressed. People

refuse to face reality. So far as UFOs are concerned, the method

consists of selecting some facts that can be explained, it is

thought, in a conventional manner. Then it is believed that this

result can be extrapolated, without any effort's being made to

examine the rest of the data. This leads to what can be termed

unwarranted generalizations.

In its January 1990 issue (No. 868), Science & Vie showed no

hesitation in discrediting all the Belgian eyewitnesses on the

basis of just one photograph. This photo, taken near Eupen,

showed a big luminous dot. The photographers submitted the photo

to SOBEPS, along with several others from the same event. Even

though the photo had little to do with the many eyewitness

sightings, it could have been given an detailed analysis.

Instead, the editorial team of Science & Vie preferred an

unsupported interpretation, strongly suggesting that all

eyewitness reports smacked of "poetry" or optical illusions.

In the June issue (No. 813) the magazine provided information

about the F-I 17A Stealth aircraft. This sort of information had

just been made public by the U.S. Air Force. The title of the

article-"The UFO: This Is It," showing an example of an F- 117A-

speaks volumes about the magazine's commercial rather than

scientific intentions. Again, it insinuated that all the

witnesses must have been mistaken, like the Belgian Air Force.

The author of this article and everyone involved clearly felt no

need to conduct on-the-spot inquiries in order to obtain more

information and acquire an objective view of the facts.

The October issue (No. 877) of Science & Vie announced on its

first page that it was "on the track of the Belgian UFOs." In

fact, the author was concerned only with the events of March 30-

31, 1990, and the involvement of the Belgian Air Force.

Apparently he felt that this constituted the core of the matter,

and that by debunking it he could dispose of the whole story. He

considered only the initial reports, which contained raw,

unanalyzed information. The author of the article is intelligent

and able, but his method resembled more that of a lawyer

defending a specific brief than that of a scientist representing

the quest for truth. After the press conference given by Lt. Col.

De Brouwer, the F-I 17A hypothesis had been discredited, but that

need be no obstacle; plenty of other hypotheses can be

constructed.

Why not suggest the existence of another secret plane, with

all the capabilities necessary to explain the apparent paradoxes?

Perhaps the U.S. Air Force was testing this secret plane over

Belgium without notifying the Belgian Air Force -a friendly

nation which uses American F- 16s. Does this seem practical or

likely? Consider that testing new planes inevitably involves the

risk of an accident or crash, in which case the Belgian

authorities would have to be notiFied to help protect essential

secrets.

Why not suggest that the Belgian police were so unaccustomed

to seeing stars that they got all confused at the sight of some?

Or, above all, that there is no supporting evidence to back up

any of the Belgian sightings, even though there were more than a

thousand reports and they went on for more than six months?

Following this line of reasoning, everything is for the best

in the "best of all possible worlds" in which profounder

questions must not be asked.

On the contrary, it seems to me that it's always a good idea

to be guided by the Facts, especially when they are unexpected.

What thousands of witnesses have seen for many years throughout

the world deserves serious study. I am not advocating a specific

hypothesis, only asking people to open their eyes.

The witnesses' reactions

Witnesses' reactions are diverse, as might be expected. In

most cases people simply relate what has happened in a factual

manner, being explicit about what they have been able to observe

and confessing their perplexity. What now seems to me to be new

and significant is that many witnesses are annoyed at not being

taken seriously.

As regards the socio-psychological hypothesis, which explains

UFO sightings by the desire to make contact with extraterrestrial

beings, I do not believe that this is compatible with my

experiences interviewing a fairly sizable number of witnesses.

Naturally there are pathological and even psychiatric cases, but

let us again refrain from unwarranted extrapolations. I have

noted, like other investigators, that at the outset of their

strange sightings, witnesses practically always try to find a

conventional explanation; as they take in more details, though,

the conventional explanation no longer suffices. This reaction

violates a basic assumption of some "socio-psychologists."

It is true that witnesses are quicker to think of a UFO after

the media have told them other people have seen them, and they

report sightings more readily once they know that organizations

are studying UFO reports seriously. Some people have

intentionally scanned the skies, but they have not necessarily

seen anything.

It is absolutely normal for someone to filter and analyze

sensory data on the basis of pre-existing conceptual models. What

happens when there is a discrepancy? Some witnesses describe

extraordinary events, repeating that they do not believe in UFOs.

Perhaps they're trying to reassure themselves, perhaps they're

afraid of seeming insane to the interviewers. On several

occasions I have met witnesses who, although accepting the ET

hypothesis, are visibly upset about these "intruders." Humanity

could be defenseless and dependent on the goodwill of an unknown,

technologically very superior, external power. I have met only

one witness who told me in a confiding manner: "I should very

much like to meet them." He said this spontaneously when I asked

him what he thought of his sighting.

Reality is far less clear-cut than the supporters of the

socio-psychological hypothesis imagine. The collective

unconscious does not, for the most part, desire contact with

extraterrestrials. We cannot assume we are dealing with religious

beliefs, either. On the contrary, it is clear that a fairly

sizable number of witnesses have no wish at all to communicate

what they have observed. We know this because of the cases

discovered entirely by chance and long after the fact. The 1989-

90 Belgian wave encouraged a number of people to tell

investigators about much earlier sightings. One man wrote to me

describing a sighting made during the mobilization before World

War II, when he was all alone on a road. He was so excited and

frightened by the experience that he told no one except his wife.

A member of an embassy told me of a sighting made aboard an

aircraft with many other people. Afterwards, he asked me not to

say anything about it to the other embassy personnel, saying,

"They'll think me crazy."

The fact that the UFOs reported here are generally of a

different type from the traditional "saucer" is also significant.

If the witnesses had invented their accounts, they would probably

have tried to make them seem more believable by corresponding to

the standard model. This is not what happened. One new feature is

that the Belgian UFOs travel over cities at very low altitudes.

Moreover, there were no marked electromagnetic disturbances, as

has often been reported in the past. These differences are worth

considering with a view to understanding the technology rather

than simply assuming that the witnesses can't relate accurately

what they've seen.

An enormous lozenge at Eupen

Mr. J observed the same type of object twice. I heard of his

sightings indirectly, and when I telephoned him, he firmly

insisted on anonymity: "I don't want anyone to tell my children

that their father was out of his mind." He told me that the

machine he had seen was "incredibly large." This assessment was

based on his first sighting, which was on December 1, 1989. I

visited him on January 15, five days after his second sighting.

He is an amateur photographer and described the UFO with the

precision of a careful observer.

On the evening of December 1, he was going to take his wife to

a private exhibition organized by his club. At around 5 p.m. two

of his five children, aged 14 and 15, had already told him about

"strange planes in the sky." After school they had been playing

on the street with a Moroccan boy who lived in one of the

neighboring houses. It was already growing dark and one of the

children said, "They're UFOs," using the German word for UFO. Mr.

J had replied, "Of course not, they must be planes."

At 6:50 Mr. J was ready to leave. He was sitting in the

living room in his usual chair near a window that looks out on a

terrace at the rear. At that moment one of his children came

rushing up all excited, saying, "Look, they're here again!"

Struck by his child's insistence, Mr. J rose and went out onto

the terrace. This forms, together with the garden, a large L-

shaped open space behind a cluster of houses. Mr. J saw the young

Moroccan, who was at the back garden of his house, in the other

branch of L, pointing at the sky and stating, "See, one's just

coming." Mr. J told me, "I don't understand how this boy could

say that so calmly, as if it was a commonplace remark, because I

almost fell over backwards when I looked up. I tell you that if

you have not seen one, you cannot believe it. It was enormous."

Mr. J then spontaneously set about drawing the object, which

was lozenge-shaped, with two white lights at each corner and, in

the center, a kind of illuminated bell projecting from the

platform (figure 1). The surface of the object was dark but

clearly visible against the brighter sky. It had been a sunny

day, and the sky was perfectly clear. Stars were visible around

the object. It glided slowly from southwest to northeast, without

the slightest sound. It could be followed at a comfortable

walking pace. The large diagonal of the lozenge was perpendicular

to the direction of movement and was at least 35 meters long.

During my visit Mr. J went onto the terrace to show me his

reference marks. The nearest end of the large diagonal had been

directly above his house and the other end had passed above a

large building 350 meters away. He was unable to determine the

altitude of the object, but he noticed that he could see the sky

between the object and the building opposite. As a result he felt

that the object could have been even larger than the distance

between his house and the building.

A little later on, Mr. J reported that the white lights

flashed off and on regularly. I asked him whether they did this

at the same time. He replied, "I don't know. I couldn't see the

four corners simultaneously. I had to crane my neck." These

lights were circular and large. "The most extraordinary thing

about them was their power," he said. They illuminated the ground

with a white light. In the center of the lozenge was an "inverted

bell" which was wholly illuminated by an orange light. At the

bell's apex was a green light, darker than green traffic lights.

The skirt of the bell was surrounded by a row of red lights,

changing brightness sequentially. This gave a false impression of

revolving lights. "These lights never completely went out, but

they grew distinctly brighter at certain moments."

The lights did not illuminate the underside of the object,

which remained dark. The red lights "chased each other" with a

slow, comfortable movement. "It wasn't an alarming flash, like

that from an ambulance or police car. It was even pleasant to

watch." Mr. J also remembered that "the luminous bell was

strange, because you couldn't tell whether the light came from

its interior or the surface." Since the witness was an amateur

photographer, he considered going to find his camera but realized

it was too big to capture adequately. Knowing that he had 100 ASA

film loaded, he gauged that the mass of the object, which was

almost black, would not be made out on film since the white

lights were too dazzling.

He did what he could. "I tried to remember as much as

possible. I also called my wife and daughter so that someone from

my family could see it." Mrs. J did not see the object. She heard

her husband but was in the bath. His daughter arrived after the

object was already some way off, having passed over the roofs of

the houses. Mr. J went with her to the front, where they stayed

long enough to see the object leave, still at a fairly slow

speed, passing over the Eupen cemetery.

Mr. J bitterly regrets not having taken photos. Since then

he has been to Aix-la-Chapelle to buy infrared film, which he

keeps in the refrigerator. The young Moroccan came over while Mr.

J was drawing his picture for me. He said, unasked, "Yes, it's

like that." The vertical edge (on figure 1) was not visible on

December 1. Mr. J drew it based on his second sighting.

This second sighting took place on Wednesday, January 10,

1990, at about 1:35 p.m. It was dark. The witness, on his way to

a photo club, had taken the E5 highway after reaching the

Herbesthal road and was proceeding inland. He had gone only a few

kilometers when he saw a stationary object in the sky. It was

exactly "the same model." Mr. J stopped his car on the side of

the road. Other drivers seemed not to notice anything. Mr. J

leaned on the hood of his car, watching the object with arms

crossed. Everything was identical to the first sighting, but on

this occasion the lozenge was oriented sideways, and he could see

it had a constant and considerable height. It was about 500

meters away. Its lights seemed less bright this time, perhaps

because of the highway illumination.

Mr. J was exasperated that he hadn't brought his camera.

There would probably be no point in returning home. After 10-15

minutes the object started to move off toward Fagnes. It left

slowly and silently. Just as it was departing the luminosity

increased. "It was as though the voltage of the lights had been

intensified as it moved gently away."

It may seem strange that Mr. J saw the same object twice. It

should, however, not be forgotten that the events of December 1

had been deeply etched in his memory; as a consequence, his

mental "filters" would have been adjusted in such a way that he

would more easily notice a similar object in the sky at night. I

have no reason to doubt this eyewitness report. His sincerity and

spontaneity were evident. The witness had spoken with only a few

people and had learned to be cautious. "I have seen many things

in my life," he said, "but when I talk about this, people look at

me oddly."

A UFO flies over Aix-la-Chapelle

On December 5 or 12, 1989, Mr. and Mrs. O were driving

northward on the Triererstrasse in the town of Aix-la-Chapelle.

It was about 9:50 p.m. when they suddenly saw a flying object cut

across the road right in front of them. It moved steadily to the

right. It had two headlights in front, emitting beams that

slanted downwards. The light was white and intense without being

blinding. In addition, there was an orange light on the

underside, Dashing at the same rate as an ambulance's lights. Mr.

O was driving and had to pay attention to traffic, but Mrs. O

continued to observe what they still thought was an aircraft

flying exceptionally low. She kept it constantly in sight. When

it had crossed the road, it extinguished its headlights, but the

flashing orange light remained illuminated. This made it possible

to see that the object was describing a half-turn on a tight

curve, heading back in the opposite direction.

Mrs. O first saw it through the front right-hand window. Then

she turned around to look at it through the back rear window. The

object approached again, passed over the car, and reappeared in

the front left-hand window. It had cut across the road

diagonally. At a certain distance from the car, its headlights

came on again. Since the headlights were at the front of the

object, they could no longer be seen directly, but the beams that

they emitted were visible. Unlike an aircraft, there were no rear

lights or flashing red and green side-lights. All that could be

seen was the flashing orange light, which became fainter and

fainter as the craft went away.

Mr. and Mrs. O returned to their home, near Aix-la-Chapelle.

That same evening, at 11:15 p.m., Mr. O stepped outside to let

the dog out and noticed exactly the same object. It was flying

above their street, in the direction of Stollberg. Mr. O

immediately called his wife. The headlight beams were less angled

than they had been before, but the machine was flying lower. Its

motion was linear and uniform, with a speed about that of a

helicopter, but to the great astonishment of the witnesses it

made no sound. Mrs. O was insistent about the absence of noise,

for conditions were such that she and her husband ought to have

heard it had the craft been equipped with a motor.

I asked them later about the apparent size of the object,

suggesting that a thumb held at arm's length might cover it. The

immediate response was, "No, it would have required a whole

hand." The sighting occurred fairly late, so the sky was dark.

The object stood out clearly against it, because it was somewhat

brighter. The witnesses saw an elongated shape, less high than

long, with curved edges. The outlines were different from those

of an aircraft or helicopter. The hypothesis of night gliders or

ultralights is not very credible, particularly in the case of the

first sighting. The next day a police car passed down the street,

its loud-speaker requesting those who had seen "anything

abnormal" to report it to them. Mr. and Mrs. O did not do so.

Were there other witnesses? They do not know, because they don't

read the local paper. Mr. O, who is Japanese, subscribes to a

Cologne daily paper and the Financial Times.

I was alerted to this case by Mrs. O's sister, who lives in

Eupen. The German police habitually ridicule UFO witnesses, so it

is not surprising that Mr. and Mrs. O didn't want to report their

sighting. I also conducted an inquiry into a close encounter

involving two German families living in Lontzen, in Belgium on

November 29. The children involved were frightened, so one of the

mothers called various places, including the Aix-la-Chapelle

police. She told me that they laughed at her and that their

derisive response had shocked her.

A triangular UFO at Coblenz

The following case was described in the July-August 1990

issue of the Journal fur UFO-Forschung (Journal for UFO Research)

of the GEP group (Society for the Investigation of the UFO

phenomenon), based in Ludencheid, Germany. The investigation was

carried out by W. Kelch. This case is interesting in itself,

since it involves the sighting of a triangle in another country,

but it also has interesting psychological aspects. The principal

witness, a 33-year-old woman, works at a military base and seems

to have a solid character.

The sighting took place on the evening of February 21, 1990,

at 9:07 p.m., in Karthause, near Coblenz. The lady was returning

home by car, accompanied by her mother (aged 69) and her son

(aged 14), who had been to a judo lesson. They were driving

through an attractive residential district on a fairly wide road.

To the right was a continuous line of trees 15-18 meters in

height, bordering a cemetery. The left-hand side of the road was

fringed with houses 20-25 meters high on a small hill. Through

traffic is virtually nil and, at this late stage of the evening,

there was no residential traffic. In fact, no car went by during

the episode. The weather was cool and it was dark. The sky was

clear.

The mother was the first to see two lights beaming straight

down at them at a 45-degree angle (figure 2a). The object bearing

these lights slowed down, but the driver, fearing it might crash,

pulled to the right side of the road. There she stopped, with the

car at an angle. The object stopped above the road, almost

directly overhead. The driver switched off the engine, lowered

the window and looked out. She saw a large triangular object,

absolutely stationary and noiseless, at rooftop height. From

other reference points it was possible to determine that the

sides of the triangle measured about 20 meters (figure 2b). The

witnesses watched the object closely, but no one dared get out of

the car.

Three milky, yellowish-white lights were at the corners of

the triangle. They were bright but not blinding. In the center of

the triangle was a much larger light. Its color was changing but

the prevailing hue was grey-blue. These changes seemed to imply

something revolving, reminding the witnesses of the mirror-globes

in discos. The witnesses said that "this light shone in a strange

way." They saw only the lower side of the triangular platform.

The object had a metallic appearance. It was dark-gray and

colorless, with solid and sharp outlines The base was slightly

illuminated by the lights on the object, allowing the witnesses

to observe structures which they described as riveted plates

(figure 2b).

The object stayed overhead for two or three minutes then

departed suddenly in the direction of the houses. The driver of

the car felt a breeze through her rolled-down window. The object

accelerated and disappeared from view in less than a second,

behind the roofs of the houses. It had arrived from the west, but

departed towards the southwest. Its departure was speedier than

that of a jet aircraft.

The witnesses then went home, and the woman immediately

informed her husband, who was on nightshift. At first he was

unwilling to believe her story but finally, at her insistence,

called the local police. Although the police had not received any

other calls, they agreed to send a police squad to the area. Her

husband also called the air-traffic sections at the Frankfurt and

Cologne-Wahn airports. They responded that radar detection was

not possible at so low an altitude. The three witnesses were

unable to sleep that night. The mother, feeling afraid, stayed in

her daughter's apartment.

Later on the wife tried to clear up the mystery on her own

initiative. She found the address and telephone numbers of the

GEP, who sent her a questionnaire which she completed and

returned by mail. She succeeded in locating two other witnesses.

Between 8:30 and 8:50 that same evening, a lady saw "something

bright heading quite rapidly towards my car," near the

intersection of the A61 and A48 highways. Frightened, she braked.

Through the sunroof she saw a bus-shaped metallic object with

fairly bright, bluish lights. The object went by noiselessly,

disappearing finally in the dark. A UFO was also seen by a 30-

year-old man, just before 9:07 p.m., near the same spot. When

questioned, however, he distanced himself from the incident,

saying, "Nobody's going to believe me anyway."

When the GEP investigator contacted the police, they asserted

that they could not recall having received any telephone calls

about UFOs and that they knew nothing of the matter. The lady and

her husband were annoyed by this denial. The investigator had the

impression that the wife was a down-to-earth sort of individual.

He found no discrepancy between her account and the questionnaire

she had completed. So far as the witness was concerned, she had

seen an unidentified flying object.

The GEP tried to find a conventional explanation. A balloon

was ruled out because there had been a light east wind and the

object was first seen moving west to east. And how could it have

turned around and left so fast? The police use BO-105 helicopters

to patrol the highways for trucks, but this too was ruled out.

Could it have been a military plane? There is in actual fact a

military exercise ground (Schmitenhohe) two kilometers away,

where German and NATO forces run nocturnal infrared

reconnaissance flights and other exercises. But that night there

had been no exercises.

In Germany a CH-47 Chinook helicopter is often suggested as

an explanation for UFO reports. Such aircraft are used between

Mendig and Mainz, but the flights take place almost exclusively

during the day at a height of 800-1000 meters. Taken as a whole,

the evidence in this case renders that explanation unlikely.

Nevertheless, the investigator thought it necessary to consider

the possibility that the three witnesses were in shock and had

perhaps not heard the noise, having been paralyzed by fear. The

investigator thus concluded noncommittally that "the available

data do not allow us to make an unambiguous identification as a

known flying object." You can make what you like about this

statement. Who is frightened? The witnesses by a somewhat

hypothetical helicopter, or the investigator by social and

psychological pressures?

A recent sighting in Switzerland

This event occurred on Sunday, October 14, 1990. The Swiss

sighting was relayed to me by the witness, Mrs. Wengere, who has

authorized me to cite her name. She telephoned me from

Switzerland and confirmed her account in writing. An editor by

profession, she was clearly looking for people who would listen

seriously to such reports. She wrote to a Zurich paper and

personally collected various recent eyewitness reports a copy of

which she sent me.

On the evening of October 14 she and her husband were on

their way to a hospital to visit a friend. It was about 7 p.m.,

already dark, with stars easily visible. The sky was clear and

there was no wind. They were driving from Lostdorf, near Olten,

toward Zurich. Mrs. Wengere spotted two bright white lights.

They were motionless, a little to the left ahead of them, over a

range of mountains. The couple could not see light beams but only

two large, luminous, perfectly round disks, surrounded by a light

atmospheric halo. The left-hand light was higher than the right.

Mrs. Wengere at first thought the lights must be on

transmission towers on the mountaintops, although they would have

to have been erected recently since she had never seen them

before. There was still enough light in the sky for her to

observe that there was nothing between the lights and the range

of mountains. She thus deduced that the lights had to be

supported by one or two flying objects whose shape was not

discernible. She told her husband, "There's a UFO over there! "

She asked him to stop. He saw the lights and could not

explain them either, but he didn't stop because there was no

parking space along the road and it would have been dangerous to

stop in the dark. The bright lights must have been of excessive

dimensions since the stars appeared minuscule and pale in

comparison, as did the lights of an approaching aircraft. There

was one approaching the UFO (figure 3a) at that very moment. If

the lights were at the same distance as the plane, each of them

ought to have been almost as large as the plane itself. Mrs.

Wengere expected the object to react to the plane, but at that

moment she and her husband were passing a village and lost sight

of the object. They even had to wait for a red traffic light.

When they once more had a clear view, the lights had

disappeared. Mrs. Wengere was annoyed that her husband had not

stopped when she had asked him to. He exclaimed, "Look, there

they are again! " The lights were hanging a little higher in the

sky, above the mountains to the right of the road. The new

position and the previous location formed an angle of about 100

degrees. Since the witnesses had not observed the shift, this

could have been another object entirely. In fact, they now noted

a third light, identical to the first two, a little to the left

of the others. It was separated from them by a distance almost 10

times as large as the distance between the other two lights,

which were still stationary.

The third light was at first motionless, but after some time

it shifted slowly towards the others with a linear uniform speed.

It stopped after having covered two-thirds of the distance that

separated it from them (figure 3b). The other two lights began to

move together, as if they were joined, their diagonal alignment

becoming horizontal. The pair became smaller and less intense,

but at the same time two chains of red and green lights appeared

joining the two. The distance between them grew greater and

eventually the two lights disappeared, leaving only the red and

green crown of light visible.

The third light also changed during this time it became

fainter and acquired its own oval crown of small red and green

lights. The vertical axis of the ellipse thus formed grew

gradually longer, but the second crown was smaller than the first

(figure 3c). The two witnesses thought that the chains of light

were fixed to the sides of objects that were changing their tilt,

but neither of them could actually see the objects. Followed by

other vehicles, they continued to drive on. Mr. Wengere had

slowed down only slightly. The lights were lost once again behind

some houses, this time for good.

The Wengeres were already aware of the UFO phenomenon as a

result of a previous sighting. On July 20, 1989, at about 6:50

p.m., they had both been out in their garden. The sun was shining

and the sky was cloudless. Mrs. Wengere noticed an elongated,

silvery object. It moved like an aircraft, but she could see

neither wings nor tail. It was simply cigar-shaped and completely

silent. She pointed it out to her husband, who was equally

surprised. Mrs. Wengere thought it so strange that ten minutes

later she telephoned the air-traffic control at Zurich-Kloten

airport. She learned that there had been no "official flight" at

that time over her home and that nothing abnormal had been

recorded on the radar screens.

Mrs. Wengere was unable to stop thinking about what she had

seen on October 14. She remembered having read about a large

number of sightings of UFOs in Belgium. On October 20 she decided

to telephone the air traffic center at Zurich-Kloten. They had

seen nothing unusual on their radars during the evening of

October 14, and no one else had reported a similar phenomenon.

The man who answered the telephone said, "It must be an optical

illusion due to some sort of reflection." He said this haughtily,

adding that he received many telephone calls of this kind, but

that they were almost always optical illusions. This indicates

that there were other UFO reports, although the explanation he

offered was purely gratuitous.

I note that in the United States a photograph was taken on

May 26, 1988, near Southbury of a beautiful crown of alternating

red, yellow and green lights against a black background. This is

documented by a magnificent slide that I have received from

Philip Imbrogno, co-author of the book Night Siege. This shows

that one must not treat each case in isolation as if it were

unique, but search for correlations as has to be done for any

physical phenomenon. For this reason we must not focus our

attention solely on the events of March 30-31, 1990, whatever

their possible importance may eventually be.

As for the "flying angels effect," which has led to some

notable problems in atmospheric physics and useful knowledge for

radar operators, this discovery was simply a by-product of

rational study of the UFO problem. As such it underlines that it

is worthwhile to look carefully at mysterious phenomena. I expect

that the thoroughness and seriousness of our study of radar

"noise" will help our credibility as we examine other aspects of

the UFO phenomenon.