95% of UFO sightings can be written off as nothing: weather phenomena; misidentified aircraft; mistakenly identified stars or planets. 5% cannot be explained. In this series we’ll be looking at the mass sightings. The abductions. The unexplained deaths. Real cases, with real people...
These are the 5%. These, are the UFO files.
4 October 1967, Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia
Barrington, Shelburne County, is home to a host of small villages, the small fishing community of Shag Harbour is just one of them. Sitting on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, the population of roughly 400-450 gets most of its income from lobster fishing. One such fisherman, Laurie Wickens, is driving home with friends from a dance. The mood is relaxed, and the group are in high spirits when, off in the distance, Laurie spots unusual lights. He alerts his friends and a discussion breaks out as to what they are. The lights are moving low above the surface of the waters of the harbour. The first thought is that it’s a plane, and the mood quickly changes because it’s clear that this plane is in trouble. Because of the natural landscape, they lose sight of it over a hill, but when they top that hill, they do so just in time to see the plane crash into the murky waters of the harbour.
They rush to a nearby payphone and call the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As is customary in such incidents, the RCMP get in touch with local fishermen, asking them to help in the search efforts. The fishermen quickly take to the waters expecting to find fire, wreckage, and bodies.
As the search is being carried out, the RCMP are conducting interviews with residents who have gathered at the scene, drawn from their homes by the crash. They report the same as Laurie Wickens and his friends: a light above the surface of the water which vanished into the flat calm waters of the harbour. They too think they have been witness to a plane crash, although there was something different about this. Something odd with the way it vanished beneath the surface.
The local fisherman arrive on the scene where the witnesses watched the light disappear. No fires. No wreckage. No bodies. What they do find is something highly unusual, and it quickly becomes clear that whatever they’re searching for is no plane. The air is thick with a smell of sulphur, the source of which is a thick yellow foam stretching half a mile long. The density of the foam and the way it dissipated, it was unlike any foam seasoned fisherman have seen before or since.
150 miles away, a few hours earlier, 12 year old Chris Styles was about to experience something life changing. He saw the lights over the waters where he lived, and despite the late hour and chilly October air, he rushed outside to watch the unusual lights. He was certain that these were not the lights of a plane. In fact, he got the distinct feeling that he should not be there: like he should not be watching. He got back in the house and received a long distance call from his grandfather over in Shag Harbour. He too had seen the lights. And they had crashed.
He’s convinced that the fishermen aren’t looking for a plane. They’re looking for a UFO.
Reporter Ray McLeod writes a story for the local paper. He also meets Wilfred Eisnor. On the night of the crash, Eisnor was burning an old boat along the shore. He took with him a camera to record the moment for posterity. About an hour before the lights vanished into Shag Harbour he saw the lights and was able to take a photograph. It soon becomes clear that whatever crashed in Shag Harbour is no plane. Through his research, McLeod is pointed in the direction of an Air Force general by the name of Bain. He is shocked to find that Bain is the head of a Canadian UFO research project, the equivalent of the US project ‘Blue Book’. He had no idea such a project existed. His research also reveals that RCMP officers saw the light and went on the record saying as much.
Navy divers are called in and they start searching the bottom of Shag Harbour. The waters are shallow and currents strong, but if the currents hadn’t taken the craft, they are convinced that whatever crashed will still be there. They search for days with crowds of locals eagerly watching from the sidelines. The official records state that the search is without success. Witnesses say otherwise. Jagged pieces of metal are seen being recovered. The official story is that they are simply markers. Used by the divers to denote areas of interest. The sightings of jagged metal don’t jibe with the official story, but eventually the search concludes and the people of Shag Harbour move on with their lives.
Well, most of them…
12 year old Chris Styles would never forget the night of October 4th and as he grew older, he started digging into the events of that night. Chris Styles has spent years researching the incident, building up a case that didn’t fall apart under scrutiny, but grew stronger. He looked into the military records of the time to get more information on what really happened in Barrington Passage. Official telexes reveal something startling: the authorities themselves thought they were dealing with a UFO. The official paperwork of the time actually shows handwritten notes from officers, one going so far as to underline the word UFO three times.
One day, Chris gets an anonymous contact from someone claiming involvement in the official search back in ’67.
He said that this was a “big event” and described it as “something out of the normal”. According to the source the object almost hit a plane outside Quebec before crashing into Shag Harbour. While it was beneath the surface he said that it was joined by a second craft which tended to it. Both moved away later, but where to?
As the Shag Harbour search was going on, something had been tracked on radar travelling underwater along the coast to Canadian Forces Station Shelburne, a joint US/Canadian submarine detection base. When this craft appeared they moved a flotilla of ships above it. Divers told researchers that they were diving over the UFO for a week and they confirmed that they saw a second craft aiding the first. As you can imagine, working on such an unusual mission, tensions between US and Canadian divers were high. One reported exchange had an officer tell arguing divers not to fall out over a ‘Russian submarine’. The diver turned and told him “I don’t know what that God damned thing is down there, but it’s no submarine. It isn’t anything from this planet. You can say whatever you want. We know what we’ve seen.”
It would be easy to write all of this off as hearsay, but a 1993 top secret RCMP X-File is revealing.
According to the official document, a second search was taking place at the same time as the search at Shag Harbour. One line towards the end of the discovered document is telling: “Perhaps it is like the thing they are looking for down off Barrington Passage [Shag Harbour], or off Shelburne.”
This confirms two things: simultaneous searches were being carried out; the object they were searching for is not a conventional aircraft. Exactly what were they searching for? We may never know for sure, but with the multiple eyes witness sightings, the strange foam left behind reported by the fishermen, and the files confirming searches taking place in two locations, the Shag Harbour Incident must rank highly in the canon of UFO research.
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In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.