by Charles Lear
Remember that UFO sighting by all those school children some years back? That was in Australia, right? No, it was Florida… or was it Wales? Perhaps it was in Africa? The answer is that there were incidents of significance in all four locations. All were similar enough to cause confusion but the reactions by school and public officials involved were strikingly different.
The first occurrence was April 6, 1966 at Westall High School in Clayton South, a suburb of Melbourne, capital of Victoria, Australia. Around 11:00 am a student ran in from the school sports field (the oval) shouting that there was a flying saucer outside. The teacher whose class had been interrupted demanded his students remain seated until the recess bell, at which time, students and teachers flooded the oval and over 200 people were witness to a silvery disk. At the time, 5 light airplanes were attempting to get near the craft and it displayed extraordinary flight characteristics in evading them, which were described by teacher, Andrew Greenwood, to a fellow teacher arriving late to the scene. Another teacher, Barbara Robbins, was reported by student witness, Graham Simmonds, to have been taking photographs of the object. The object then flew to a wooded area called, “The Grange” where it landed and the students followed it. By the time most of them caught up with the object it had lifted off but one student, “Tanya”, possibly had arrived early enough to see it landed. The object flew off and the spot where it had been was reportedly marked by a swirled patch of grass.
It’s at this point that the story takes a dark turn. In the aftermath, witnesses reported a military presence around the landing spot and that the area was later seen to have been burned. “Tanya” had a nervous breakdown shortly after returning, was taken away by ambulance and never seen at the school again. An assembly was called by the headmaster, Frank Samblebe, where he told the students that they hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary and that they weren’t to speak of it on school grounds. By this time journalists had come to the school and police were on hand to keep order. Students were not permitted to speak to journalists on school grounds and those that gave interviews off the property were told to go home and later disciplined. Graham Simmonds reported that Robbins was forced to relinquish her camera by Samblebe and a man in uniform. Investigator Shane Ryan reported that Greenwood told him that he was ordered to keep quiet by two “officers” under the Official Secrets Act. The “officers” were also said to have threatened Greenwood that they would portray him as an alcoholic (he wasn’t) which would destroy his new career as a teacher. Attempts to find official documents regarding the event have come up with nothing that even hints of its occurrence.
In an odd coincidence, on the same date April 6, a year later in 1967, a metallic craft was seen by a student and a teacher who were the last to return from recess at Crestview Elementary School near Miami, Florida. The student became known throughout the school for his sighting and was relieved the next day by a return visit of the original object accompanied by two smaller escorts. He now had between 100 and 200 corroborating witnesses as students and teachers crowded to view the objects. A “military presence” was reported by those who were children at the time, who interviewed teachers and children later that afternoon and the explanation offered was that they had seen helicopters.
On Friday, Feb. 4, 1977, children at the Broadhaven Primary School in South Pembrokeshire, Wales reported seeing a strange flying object throughout the day. Student David Davies, a firm skeptic, decided he’d investigate after school and uncover what he was sure would be a down to earth explanation. Despite the drizzling rain, Davies made his way to the perimeter fence and saw a craft as he was stepping over. He described it as 45 feet long and cylindrical with a dome over its middle third and a pulsating red light on top. The following morning he brought a reporter, Hugh Turnbull of the Western Telegraph to the spot and they established that there were no vehicle tracks in the muddy ground there. The following Monday, the Head Master, Ralph Llewellyn, put 14 children into exam conditions and asked them to draw and describe what they had seen. The pictures and descriptions were all similar and some included a silver-suited humanoid. A media circus followed and the case received worldwide attention. A similar event occurred in October that same year in Cheshire, England where ten 7-11 year old Upton Primary School students reported seeing a craft. They were also told to draw what they’d seen and the pictures depicted a disk with a ladder underneath floating behind some trees. Notably, some of the pictures were among files released by the Ministry Of Defense and are included in a 2018 book, “UFO Drawings From The National Archive” by David Clarke.
Finally, a 1994 case from Zimbabwe, Africa, which will be featured in an upcoming documentary, “Ariel”, was thoroughly investigated and witnesses have recently come forward to publicly speak about their experience. On September 16, 1994, a group of around sixty school children attending the Ariel School, located in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, were sent out for their morning break. Beyond the edge of a large playing field was an area of thick brush and it was there that some children witnessed three or four discs fly in and land. A crowd soon gathered and watched as small humanoids emerged from the crafts. They were described as being one meter tall, with large heads, large, elongated oval eyes lower than ours, barely noticeable ears and a slit for a mouth, long, black hair and wearing shiny black suits. Children who made eye contact with the creatures reported that they received telepathic messages regarding our planet’s environment and the need to take better care of it. Though parents and teachers were skeptical, they allowed researchers to interview the children and have them draw what they’d seen as well.
The differences in the reactions to the above cases obviously reflect the culture of the times in which they occurred. In 1966, the cold war was the major concern and Western defense agencies were still strongly influenced by the report from the Robertson Panel recommending that UFO reports be downplayed for fear that communication channels might be flooded in the event of a panic. In November of 1977, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was released and highly successful, as paranormal subjects of all sorts had become popular. The open-mindedness of the public plus an increasing distrust of governing bodies continued and by 1994, there were widespread accounts of abductions by aliens with academic researchers collecting these accounts and publishing best-selling books exploring the subject. It was one of these researchers, Harvard psychiatry professor, John Mack, who thoroughly documented the Ariel case through taped and filmed interviews. After Mack was killed in 2004 by a drunk driver in England, his work was taken up by Randall Nickerson. Nickerson has located witnesses and was able to convince a few, most notably Salma Siddick who was interviewed by Martin, to come forward publicly.