Nothing to see here, it’s only another flying saucer... | Steve Canavan

You may not be aware but it’s 39 years since ‘the most complete’ UFO sighting of all time. I know, exciting.

Saturday, 11th January 2020, 3:07 pm
Updated Saturday, 11th January 2020, 3:07 pm
Aliens coming in to land on The Green at Rowlands Castle... possibly. Image created by Deborah Croker
Aliens coming in to land on The Green at Rowlands Castle... possibly. Image created by Deborah Croker

When I read the word ‘complete’ I assumed it meant something thrilling – maybe a huge spaceship landing in a field near Rowlands Castle, 200 green aliens with pointy ears emerging, nipping to The Castle Inn for a pint, then getting back on board and flying off again.

Disappointingly, as seems the case with most extra-terrestrial sightings, it wasn’t that enthralling.

The Trans-en-Provence case happened in January 1981 and occurred in the town of the same name in France.

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Just before teatime, a farmer, Renato Nicolai, 55, was ploughing when he heard ‘a strange whistling sound’. He saw a saucer-shaped object land 50 yards away.

‘It was the colour of lead,’ Nicolai reported. ‘Under the machine I saw two kinds of pieces as it was taking off. They could be reactors or feet and extended about 20cm below the machine.’

Nicolai claimed that no sooner had this object landed than it took off again as though the driver had misread the map.

Nicolai carried on ploughing – presumably thinking, ‘nothing odd about that’ – and went to bed, only deciding to report it to the police the next day. They interviewed Nicolai, took photos of the scene and collected soil samples which were sent to the French Space Agency and an investigation began.

The soil was interesting – it had been compressed by ‘mechanical pressure’ of five tonnes and heated to between 300C and 600C. But no plausible explanation could be found.

The best part came when it emerged the initial police report said marks on the ground ‘looked like those made by the tyres of a car’. This was dismissed by the agency because ‘the sole witness said otherwise’. In an interview for French TV, Nicolai confirmed there had been vehicles passing at the time. Unbelievable. So, if his story is to be believed, why did none of the drivers see a flying saucer land and take off?

If this is the ‘most complete’ UFO sighting of all time it doesn’t persuade me of the existence of other life being out there. But there are plenty of people who do believe.

The British UFO Research Association has 1,000 members and is dedicated to ‘investigating UFO phenomena’ in the British Isles. On its website I found a story headlined ‘An alien craft sending energy beams to the ground’. It is marvellous and contains a detailed account of a girl called Jane taking photographs of the sunrise behind electricity pylons last January, while ‘travelling on a Megabus’ near Exeter.

It wasn’t until months later, when Jane downloaded the photos, she noticed ‘a strange looking black object in the sky with two long thin protrusions reaching down to the ground’.

The author writes a 1,500-word essay detailing the mysterious sighting, which, midway through the story, reads that Dave (a British UFO Research Association Astronomy specialist) ‘felt the shape of the object resembled a double legged streetlamp’.

There is then an account of a Google maps search which concludes the mystery object’s identity is… a lamppost just outside Exeter.

It may seem I’m poking fun. I’m not. I love stuff like this and I’m tempted to join and attend its annual conference. Better still, for just £49 the group offers an investigator training course which, if you pass, means you’ll be sent all UFO reports from your area.

Although I don’t believe in UFOs, who am I to say for certain? Who knows, there might be a planet out there inhabited by aliens who have supermarkets and spend their evenings listening to the alien equivalent of The Archers. Maybe when I pass my investigator course, I’ll find out.