Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Those darned Chinese lanterns... and a UFOROM database update

Geoff Dittman passed along another report for 2011, this one from a witness in Paudash, Ontario. I added it to the UFOROM database, making it the 41st UFO reported in Canada so far this year. If the numbers keep up, this will be a record month, if not year.

Anyway, the witness reported that on January 10, 2010, at 6:27 pm:

I was chopping a few pieces of wood ... I caught some movement above and to my left. I looked up, and was surprised to see the brilliant blue outline of a perfect square, with no glare whatsoever. There was a large red light in the exact center, again with no glare whatsoever. Whatever the body of the "craft" I saw was composed of, there were no reflections of any kind. It was pure black. I would estimate it's height at 500-700 feet, and it's size at around 25-30 feet to a side. What struck me was that something could move that slow and stay aloft, (15-25 km/h) as well as make no sound. It crossed ... on a North-easterly heading. 

Now, there's been a lot of discussion in ufology lately about Chinese lanterns giving rise to UFO reports. One grounded lantern was discovered in northern Manitoba following a series of UFO sightings around Christmas Eve. This is perfectly understandable.

The description of the object over Ontario on January 10th sounds remarkably like a Chinese lantern. My only question is who would release one in an isolated area on a non-holiday night? Why bother?

Oh, and further to the Canadian UFO Survey, with the numbers tallying for 2010, the total number of cases already in the database and awaiting data entry now total more than 10,000. That's ten thousand UFO reports recorded in Canada since 1989, a span of 22 years. That's an average of more than 450 each year, although since the number of cases each year has risen dramatically since 1989, during the past five years or so it's more like an average of 800 cases each year. That's at least two sightings of UFOs every day in Canada, a country with a population of around 31 million.

For those of you who like to play with numbers, we cam ask, "Are these values reasonable?"

We know from previous studies that only one in ten UFO witnesses reports their sighting. Furthermore, polls have shown that one in ten people believe they've seen UFOs. So, out of 31 million, we're down to only 310,000 people with UFO reports. We have about 10,000 reports on record since 1989. That means we're only a factor of ten or so from having all sightings on record. That's not bad, really, considering some of our assumptions could be off by that much at least. Also, we have no idea how many sightings there really were before our comprehensive annual survey began in 1989. Another 5,000 perhaps?

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." - Mark Twain

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Top Ten Most Interesting UFO Reports in Canada in 2010

Okay, after spending many hours reading through the 950+ UFO cases reported in Canada in 2010, I have managed to come up with a list of ten which seem more interesting than most. These are cases that met ad hoc criteria, including: witnesses who provided greater detail than most; multiple witness cases; cases that were investigated more significantly than most; witnesses who were above average observers; cases in which the objects seen did not appear to be conventional objects; or a combination of these.

Where possible, links to the original sources are provided. Images and photos of the UFOs observed can be found on some of the sites.

January 25, 2010    5:00 pm
St. Pierre, Newfoundland

Two people saw a “silver-grey bullet” moving through the sky towards the east. Photographs showed a strange rocket-like object with an “exhaust.” Many explanations were put forth, but none seemed satisfactory. The Canadian government was evasive about the incident.

April 3, 2010    11:30 am
Ste. Rose du Lac, Manitoba 

A man and his son watched a black, silent boomerang-shaped object fly slowly over houses in their town. The description matched that of a remarkably similar object seen over Westlock, Alberta, only a few weeks later.

May 19, 2010    2:00 pm
Winnipeg, Manitoba
A witness saw “a solid shiny silver object in the sky.” He watched it for about two minutes and realized that it wasn't a plane and it wasn't moving so he ran inside to get a camera. When he returned he took several photographs which show a fuzzy object. As he watched, the craft shot out another object which flew away at great speed.

June 12, 2010    10:30 am
New London, PEI
Two people saw a ball of fire fall from the sky and hit a hay field nearby. The hay was set on fire and the couple were able to put the fire out. Astronomers who were called in to investigate the “meteorite” said the observation and physical traces were “not consistent with natural meteoroids or space debris.”

October 5, 2010    9:05 pm
Montreal, Quebec
Several witnesses observed a large structured object hovering or moving slowly over buildings downtown. It was oval, with two “tails” and had a lighted “cabin” at the “bow.”

November 1, 2010    3:13 pm
Scarborough, Ontario
A witness photographed a stationary object in the clear blue sky. The photographs show the object was rotating silently clockwise. It was observed for five minutes, then it vanished.

November 2, 2010    8:10 pm
Campbell River, BC
A witness looked up through her car's windshield and saw a very bright light shining downward. As she got closer, the object silently passed over the top of her vehicle at approximately 100 feet and flew behind power lines and tree-line. The object was triangular in shape, with a middle large, bright light. On each of the three corners of the triangle there was a white light, and a neon red line of light ran the full length of one side of the triangle, with a similar green light on the other side. The next day, she drove out to where she had seen the UFO and found a slight impression of a triangle in the grass off to the side of the highway.

November 12, 2010    6:45 pm
Ingleside, Ontario
At about 1:45 pm, a woman driving west near Long Sault, Ont., noticed four strange shapes in the sky. "They looked like rockets or spaceships," she said. She stopped her car for a closer look, but after a few minutes the objects went “straight up” until they disappeared. Then, five hours later, she saw three lights that hovered in the night sky for about 30 seconds. One was lower and between the other two, and they turned very slowly. Several other people also saw the three odd lights.

December 16, 2010,    2:00 am
Grand Barachois, New Brunswick
Across a marsh, four large very white “canisters” with black numbers and small black crosses on their sides appeared towards the ocean. “It looked like a construction site had dumped them there.” Then there was “a flashing movement like a hologram changing and a page was turned over slowly and the marsh reappeared.”

December 25, 2010    9:15 pm
Hudson, Quebec
A total of 16 witnesses, including two commercial airline pilots, observed two reddish-orange lights moving low over some houses in an urban area. The objects did not look like or behave like any aircraft. A check with nearby airports did not show any traffic that could explain the sighting. (Currently under investigation.)



Classifying and Studying UFO Cases

Since it will take a while to enter the past two years of UFO report data into our database, we won't have a full statistical breakdown of the 2010 UFO cases for some time. However, I thought that I could at least read through the 950+ Canadian UFO reports for 2010 and pick out some that seem more interesting than most.

Most cases appear to fall into several categories, apart from the usual Hynek classification scheme. Many reports are cases in which witnesses see fireballs or bolides that are greenish in colour and seem to fall to Earth within 5 seconds or so. Many other cases involve witnesses seeing starlike lights that hang in the sky for several hours, flashing different colours. Those are likely stars or planets.

More and more, people are uploading videos of UFOs to Youtube. Most of them show starlike objects that, again, are likely stars or planets. This is exacerbated by people who don't use tripods to steady the images, or use camcorders that autozoom to infinity and turn a perfectly decent starlike point into a mottled disc that is often called an "orb" or a "lightship" or "mothership."

Many people send in or post photos with comments like:"I didn't see anything at the time, but when I uploaded it to my computer, there was this odd object..." Daytime photos like this are usually blurred birds or bugs (translated as "rods") while nighttime photos of tiny dots in a black sky could be literally anything.

Another category is that of moving points of light in the night sky that sometimes appear in clusters. While the ones that move in twos or threes in the same direction are possibly satellites, there are many cases where clusters of 5, 6 or 10 or more move together, or in disparate directions. Birds can be explanations for some of these, especially daytime observations where white dots seem to "play tag" with one another in the sky. But there are some cases for which that explanation does not seem to be viable. What these might be is not clear.

An interesting set of cases involve daytime or nighttime observations of "slow-moving rockets" in the sky. There are several photos and videos taken of these every year, and TV news often features them in "Weird News" segments. Most are probably not rockets at all, but contrails of high-altitude aircraft caught by the setting Sun. This is borne out by the fact they often appear at dusk.

Beyond all those, there are cases in which witnesses report seeing structured craft that do not appear to be conventional aircraft. There are cases of multiple witnesses reporting unusual objects, including cases where witnesses are pilots or others familiar with aircraft.

The biggest problem with ufology today (if I had to pick just one) is that most UFO reports are never properly investigated. Sure, there are hundreds of new cases listed each month on various UFO websites, but in most instances, that's about as far as it goes. This is not a fault of the webmasters; it is a problem with investigation.

Back in the "good old days" of ufology, UFO groups garnered members by the bucketload every year. These members received newsletters (by snailmail), attended meetings, studied UFO investigation manuals and took tests to become "qualified investigators." If a UFO sighting was reported to a UFO group, they would immediately notify a nearby member/investigator and the witness was soon interviewed and details sent to other members of the group. APRO, MUFON and CUFOS were particularly good at this. In the 1970s and 1980s it was not unusual to visit a police station or sherriff's office and see a CUFOS sticker or MUFON logo on the blotter or switchboard.

But who investigates UFO reports in person anymore? Except for some major case clusters or events like Stephenville or O'Hare, most UFO reports are noted on websites and that's that. MUFON, the group still training new investigators, has far fewer of them around.

Because, let's face it: UFO case investigation takes time and labour and is much less glamourous than Mulder and Scully made it look. Several times during the past three decades, I have agreed to let some well-intentioned UFO buffs who had been pestering me to help me in some way become "interns" to go and investigate reports that came in. Their first missions were well-written-up and detailed, even though they may only have been simple nocturnal lights. Their second and third investigations were pretty good, too. By about the fifth or sixth, they were getting tired of chasing stars and planets and fireballs and aircraft. None lasted beyond about the seventh UFO reported.

So most UFO reports that we hear about on websites or on blogs or on TV newscasts are never properly investigated. A few emails and phone calls may be exchanged with a witness at best, but rarely is a case attended in person by an investigator. One reason is because the number of cases reported each year has risen to the point where it is impossible for a single person to adequately investigate cases. It is especially true when UFO witnesses are very long distances away from the webmasters, who in some cases are one-man operations. Peter Davenport admits he is overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases reported to him, but he does accept help from time to time.

Nevertheless, most UFO sightings are reported by witnesses online and appear as narratives that in most instances lack adequate details to assess them. In Canada, where the 950+ cases in 2010 mean UFO report numbers continue to increase, it does not mean that the quality of the reports are increasing as well. In fact, as the number of reports increases, the overall quality of the cases decreases because fewer are being properly investigated. Technology and social media have stripped ufologists of the ability to effectively investigate UFO reports.

If there is some good news, it is that because the majority of UFO sightings seem to have simple explanations or possible explanations based upon key characteristics noted in the narratives, the number of "good" cases may float to the top of the milk and can be skimmed off. It still means that most cases are never investigated, but it may mean that the really interesting cases can get attention.

Of course, the other thing that may happen is that a truly good case may not be recognized as such because what little information as was posted was not enough to indicate its actual importance.

Having said all that, my next blog post will list my "Top Ten Most Interesting Canadian UFO Reports of 2010," based on available information and intuited criteria.


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