Wednesday, July 18, 2018


The 2017 Canadian UFO Survey

The 2017 Canadian UFO Survey is out, and it has some interesting results. But what's more interesting is the reaction of UFO fans.

I'll get to that, but first, some of the results of the UFO report analyses:

There were 1,101 UFO sightings reported in Canada in 2017, or more than three each day. This is the fifth year in a row that UFO reports in Canada are at or above this level. 

I was actually surprised at this, because the huge pile of reports on my desk seemed to suggest there were more than usual this year. However, that was just an eyeballing of the pile. This year, with the exception of a small number of reports, I looked through, coded, and entered all the data, so instead of having bunches of reports at data processors, I had them all, for the first time in a number of years.

What this large number tells us is that UFOs are continually being reported at a very high level. I know that some statistical reports on UFOs in other countries are saying that the number of reports is declining, but that is simply not true in Canada. Since we began compiling the annual Canadian UFO Survey in 1989, the trend has been constantly upward, with a few notable outliers. This is most visible in a graph generated by CBC for its story on the 2017 Survey. (en francais)

The data itself, the huge list of UFO reports from 2017, is here. It was converted by Geoff Dittman into a PDF and put up online on the Survey website.

Quebec had an all-time record high number of UFOs reported in 2017, with 518 reports, up from 430 cases in 2016. In comparison, Ontario had 241 reports, BC had 128, and both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had 27 cases each. There were even two reports from Northwest Territories and three from Yukon

The result reflects the continuing trend of UFO report numbers following a population distribution. The higher the population density, the more people to potentially be able to see and report a UFO in the sky. But 2017 had a significant anomaly.

The fact that Quebec had the highest number of sightings may appear strange, but that province currently has the most efficient UFO reporting websites and its groups have a very public presence. UFO groups there also have regular and frequent TV appearances and public workshops on the subject.

Also, the Quebec overrepresentation of UFOs is partly due to a bright fireball late in 2017 that was seen by dozens and dozens of people and reported as a UFO.

[NB: At one time, BC also had far too many reports for its population, but that was mostly because Brian Vike was very often quoted in newspapers and on TV about the subject, plus he very successfully publicized his group HBCCUFO in many public forums.]
There is an overall average of two witnesses per UFO sighting.
This is often overlooked as being insignificant, but it's actually very revealing. It means that most UFO sightings are not simply something seen by a lone person out for a drive, but there's someone else in the car who also sees the UFO. It attests to the reality of the event. One person was not simply hallucinating. 

This average number of witnesses declined a bit last year. The actual number was something like 1.7, down from previous years where it had been closer to two. So we are getting more reports from individuals. This may reflect a trend where people are more willing to go on record as seeing a UFO themselves. Perhaps this is a sign of the times, that the stigma of seeing a UFO is lessening.

The typical UFO sighting lasted approximately 15 minutes in 2017.

This duration varies slightly from year to year, depending on whether there were more short-or long-duration events reported, obviously. Duration is a good indication of possible explanations for reported UFOs.

This is because short-duration events of only a few seconds are almost always things like meteors or bolides. Reports where the object seen was observed for in excess of about 30 minutes (in some cases hours) are inevitably stars or planets. It's the ones with durations of about a minute to several minutes that are the most interesting. That's long enough for a witness to get a good look at the UFO and note characteristics that would rule out aircraft, satellites and whatnot.
The study found that 43 per cent of all UFO sightings were of simple lights in the sky. Witnesses also reported spheres, cigars, and boomerangs.

I'm still trying to decide how to group these better. A diamond is a tilted square, for example. Boomerang includes V-shaped objects and chevrons. Is a round object a sphere? Did the witness mean a Frisbee? Cigars can also be cylinders.

The large number of point source UFOs include those that some witnesses describe as "orbs," even though there's no way a witness can determine if a distant light is spherical or not. Most reports of distant lights moving in the sky are point sources, and when a witness uses the term "orb" it's usually because he or she is a UFO fan and is using the term as convention. UFOs that turn out to be Chinese lanterns are very often called orbs, but of course are not spherical.
In 2017, about eight per cent of all UFO reports were judged unexplained. This percentage of “unknowns” falls to less than one per cent when only higher-quality cases are considered.
This was what everyone wanted to know. How many reports are "real UFOs?" 

This is where we get into trouble. Is eight per cent too low or too high?

Why are half the reports labeled as Insufficient Evidence? Because, quite simply, few reports are adequately or fully investigated. This can be debated by UFO groups, but let's face it, Canada is a huge country, and well-trained UFO investigators are few and far between. In a large urban area like Toronto, sure, regional reports can be followed up. But a case in Wawa? Likely not. Saskatchewan? Not at all.

It should also be noted that the data points for Conclusions were set through a review of available information on the reports. Obviously, case investigation reports on file with specific UFO organizations are not available for review, but in some instances, we know that there has been detailed investigation and analyses, so that helps decide if something is a high quality report and allows a categorization of Unexplained or Possible Explanation, or whatever. If witnesses' statements are available, that helps. If there is an indication that official investigators were involved, even better. But if all we have is a one-liner that an anonymous witness says an orb flew over him at high speed, it's not high on the Reliability or Strangeness scale.

While media coverage of the 2017 Survey results was overwhelmingly positive, it's the ufology community that was the most critical.

The very first comment I saw in a UFO Facebook group was something along the line of "Rutkowski is just blowing steam. Nothing of substance. He has no idea what people are seeing."

To which I respond: "Hunh?"

Then there were some who were offended that I didn't include their sightings among the High-Quality Unknowns. Even if all they actually saw were lights moving in the night sky.

The debunkers took up the gauntlet of focusing on the 10 High Quality Unknowns as a challenge to explain them away, so that there were no Unknowns left.

(One of these, in fact, was explained by MUFON, although I didn't find out until after the Survey was published.)

But overall, the 2017 Survey was acknowledged by most ufologists as a good effort to try and understand what Canadians had seen last year.

And really, that's all it is.

I started out by wondering, back in 1989, what a national overview of UFO reports might look like. There were many groups with their own collections of reports, but no one had tried to gather them all together. So I contacted all the active UFO investigators and researchers in Canada that I knew about, and asked them to help in my study. 

There was reluctance, of course, because of distrust and proprietary ownership of witnesses' reports, but I soon was able to get a nice set of Canadian UFO data. It helped that the Archives Canada provided easy access to UFO reports from the National Research Council. (I've noted this before; that there was no need for "Disclosure" in Canada because all officially-reported UFO reports were always available to serious researchers.)

The annual Canadian UFO Survey started simply as a way to count how many UFOs were being reported, and how the reports were distributed across the country. 

That's it.

There were also some objections from people who "know" that there were more UFOs seen than reported, therefore the Survey is inaccurate. 

In a sense, that's true, because polls, including one organized by Geoff Dittman and myself, found that only about 10 per cent of UFO witnesses actually report their experiences.

I've made it clear many times that what the Survey looks at is what people report as UFOs. Whether they file an official report with a government agency or simply fill out an online UFO report form with one of several major UFO groups on their websites, the witness is reporting seeing a UFO.

Not that they've seen an alien spaceship, only that they report seeing an unidentified flying object. 

One critic quibbled with the definition of UFO used in the Survey, noting that a "proper" definition of UFO includes a caveat that only a report that has been investigated by experts who eliminated all explanations can be considered a "real" UFO report. By that standard, there are virtually no UFOs on record. (Debunkers will agree.)

Again, what the Survey measures is what witnesses report as UFOs. And what UFO organizations list as UFO reports on their websites.Even the Canadian military files sightings of UFOs by civilians and troops as "UFO Reports." 

Soon after I began collecting UFO report data, it made sense to include data points for shapes, colour, duration, etc. And since no other country was doing this systematically in a similar way at the time, it was viewed as a way to develop a tool for understanding the UFO phenomenon. Also, I thought this could be a way to compare Canadian UFO data with other UFO data sets, including Blue Book and others.

And so, after nearly 30 years, we are approaching 20,000 Canadian UFO reports on file during this period. Blue Book operated between 1952 and 1970, about 18 years, and it collected about 12,000 UFO reports worldwide.
20K / 30 = 66612K / 18 = 666
Same ratio. 



Monday, June 04, 2018


It's Lake Monster season!

I was interviewed recently about Manipogo, Manitoba's version of the Loch Ness monster.

As part of my research into Manitoba Forteana, I included a chapter about Manipogo (and friends) in my book Unnatural History.

I investigated some reports of the creature, and even did a TV special for CKND (now Global TV) many years ago.

Well, the interest is still there! CBC says so!

Have you seen Manipogo?


Saturday, May 05, 2018


When UFOs and music meet

Music and the Saucer

On Sunday, April 29, 2018, an original choral work was premiered in Iles-des-Chenes, Manitoba, Canada. The Seine River Singers, accompanied by a small orchestra, presented Burns From Beyond, a musical retelling of the UFO experience of Stefan Michalak in 1967 at Falcon Lake.

I and Stefan's son Stan Michalak, accompanied by our wives, were invited to sit front and centre at the performance. We were introduced at the sold-out event by the composer, Stephen Haiko-Pena, who explained how he had been reading our book about the case, When They Appeared, when he had been asked to compose "something new" for the choir. (We were honoured when he held up his copy of our book.)

Our book was his inspiration for the choral work, and he created the five-part "opera," focusing on Stefan Michalak's own words from his original booklet and reprinted in our book.

Stan (on the right) visited the site of his dad's experience for the first time in 2017.

The entire choral work was recorded that night and the video has been uploaded for viewing. 

Haiko-Pena's introduction is here.

The choral work Burns From Beyond is here. The entire script is in the link as well.

The website of composer Stephen Haiko-Pena is here.


Thursday, April 12, 2018


Another 1967 case: Glace Bay, Nova Scotia

Still poking around in the National Archives, I found yet another documented UFO case from 1967, this time from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.

Not only that, but the submitter of the report helpfully provided a map of Glace Bay, showing where the UFO was sighted.

And the reply from DND?

Well, that was that.

Except... Alistair Scott didn't give up. Also in the file is a set of answers to questions apparently posed by Scott to DND, prodding them for more information. His letter with the questions isn't on file, by DND's answers are:

Note the answer to Scott's question number six:

"Although the majority of unusual aerial sightings can be explained, there is a small number which cannot be correlated with any known object or phenomena."

Yes, Commodore F.B. Caldwell, Secretary of the Defence Staff, told a civilian, Alistair Scott, that some UFOs could not be explained by the Department of National Defence.

F.B. Caldwell, when he was Lieutenant-Commander of the HMCS Haida in 1947.

Caldwell was also mentioned by Palmiro Campagna in his book The UFO Files, in reference to a comment he made about the Warren Smith photo: "The possibility exists that the object might be a secret military project..."

It's interesting that a high-ranking military officer was so candid about UFOs in 1967.


Thursday, March 29, 2018


An increase in media interest in UFOs?

Regarding media reporting of UFO stories:

In response to many people proclaiming that UFOs are being "finally taken seriously" by media and that UFO stories are now "mainstream," because I've been studying the phenomenon for several decades, my intuition was that this claim was not true.

I therefore took some time to do an online search of the keyword "UFO" in an online media database, looking at both wire stories and in newspapers for the period 1997/98-2017/18 (two decades).

The results show that while wire stories (in blue) about UFOs have increased during the past two decades, 2016/17 had more stories than 2017/18, so that the recent news coverage isn't higher than last year.

The newspaper database (in red, and the bar graph) is even more obviously at odds with the claims, as the number of newspaper stories about UFOs 20 years ago was almost double today's numbers.

The view that recent UFO stories implies a surge in media interest is equivalent to media attention concerning some publicized earthquakes means that seismic activity worldwide has increased, or that a few traffic fatalities in one neighbourhood means that neighbourhood is no longer safe.

Statistics show that average numbers have not increased, at least according to a very simple, "quick and dirty" count of articles.

A more rigorous analysis is needed to verify this and to dig down into the media stats in more detail.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018


How the government handles media requests about UFOs

How does the government handle media when it comes to inquiries about UFOs?

With "tact."

At least, that's what we can learn directly from a series of documents in the National Archives of Canada. And it's how the government responded to media in 1965, more than 50 years ago.

Have things changed since then?

Back in 1965, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), like all major networks, was interested in the topic of UFOs and wanted to do a special show about the subject. So they contacted the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) for information on what the RCA was doing about UFO reports.

In a Confidential memo dated February 22, 1965, Canadian Air Training Command (CANAIRTRAIN) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, asked Canadian Forces Headquarters (CANFORCEHED) in Ottawa for help in replying to a request from the CBC in Winnipeg.

The record of this memo is:

Document Title: Intelligence - Sighting of unknown objects. (See also microfilm reel No. T-3291)
Document Date: 3/4/1965
Record Group: Department of National Defence
Record Series: E-1-c
Record Number: C-940-105

MIKAN No: 135965

Directed to the Director of Information Services (DIS), the memo noted: 


The memo was bounced around a few offices during the next few days and was referred to the DIS on February 24, 1965. Someone named S.L. Tetreau added in handwriting: "What do we on this type of request?"

Obviously, no one really knew what to do with such a request. The CBC was Canada's most-watched national TV and radio network. It was not to be treated lightly, but at the same time, what could the RCAF actually say?

It took ten days, until March 4, 1965, before a decision was reached. In a memo from Colonel L.A. Bourgeois, Director of Information Services, to his staff at the DND Office of Information at RCAF Station Winnipeg, he noted:
1. This HQ does not wish to become involved with such a program. It is policy to stay clear of this subject whenever possible.
2. Many inquiries are received on this subject. They are answered by a standard letter as per attached copy.
3. Please tactfully say "NO" to CBC.

The UFO "hot potato" was to be avoided at all costs, even to the point of sending a national broadcaster a standard form letter.

This was reiterated in a memo signed by S/L Totman in the DIS office, who noted:

"I suggest the policy would be to stay clear of this type of program except to answer the query with information contained in attached "form letter" that has been used by DPR (now DIS) for some time."

Of course, this is more than staying clear of the topic. The DIS had no idea what angle the CBC was going to take with its program, and likely was going to use a comment from the RCAF to lend authority or credibility to the show. But refusing to be interviewed at all was distancing themselves from the subject completely. Was this because they were "covering up" the fact that alien spacecraft were hovering in Canadian skies, or because they had already decided that the subject was foolish and that witnesses were either themselves foolish or mistaken.

This latter view is perhaps borne out by a few other documents from that same time.

Coincidentally (or perhaps serendipitously) there was a UFO sighting on February 20, 1965, only a day or two before the CBC request. 

A witness in Pouce Coupe, BC, just outside of Dawson Creek, saw a bright orange light moving slowly north, apparently at a high altitude. This was at about 7:11 pm local time, and the object was observed for four to five minutes.  The case was listed as a "Fireball and Meteorite Observation," even though it could not have been either.

What's more relevant is a small accompanying memo, kind of a routing slip, to Dr. Peter Millman of the Geophysics Section of the Defense Research Board. Millman was later to become the chief debunker of UFO reports for the National Research Council of Canada. In this memo on February 23, 1965, by a writer named Smith, Millman's explanation that the UFO over Pouce Coupe was "Probably Echo I or Echo II" was noted and apparently accepted.

Given that scientists such as Peter Millman were advising the RCAF that reported UFOs had simple explanations, it was not surprising that the RCAF was reluctant to go on camera or do a radio interview about a subject that, to them, had no value.

One can wonder if this view of UFOs by the military has persisted, and whether the reluctance to cooperate with media is still policy.


Monday, March 19, 2018


What’s going on in Nova Scotia?

What’s going on in Nova Scotia?

I just received another UFO report from Nova Scotia from last weekend, this time near St. Margaret’s Bay Road and North West Arm Drive in Halifax.

A UFO was seen early Sunday morning, March 18, 2018, starting at 2:25 am.

An object with lights was seen for about 1.5 hours. According to the witness, the object was: “Hovering, still at times, moving short distances in all directions. Initially surrounded by other lights, off white, yellowish brown. These surrounding lights faded quickly, but the center part stayed for over an hour. The bright white light at front of object seems to be moving almost as if it was searching and “looking around.”

The lights were changing between white, yellow, green, blue and red. The lights changed direction and intensity frequently.

The shape of object seemed to change, and the lights at times seemed to be detaching. No sounds were heard. The weather was clear, with light cloud, and the object seemed to be below the clouds. It faded away gradually and then disappeared.

This was about 125 km due east and about six hours after UFOs were seen in Clementsport.

The Clementsport UFOs were a series of “strange lights” hovering over the treeline on Saturday, March 17, 2018, at 8:07 pm, while it was snowing. As many as 7 were seen at one time, and they lasted 3-4 minutes. A husband and wife saw them and took some photos. They said: “We don’t know of anyone who seen them and so far anyone we mentioned it to says they are flares, etc. They hovered awhile and it was gusting 50km/hr; they weren’t flares.”

The witness gave me permission to post on of the photos.


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