Monday, January 25, 2016

AUSTRALIA DAY SPECIAL: Randolph Stow, Visitants and the call of the UFO part 2

In Part 1:
Randolph Stow was one of our great writers and I encourage you to embrace the literary legacy of Mick Stow and the highly anticipated 890 page biography "Mick: A Life of Randolph Stow” from UWA (University of Western Australia) Publishing by Suzanne Falkiner. 
Randolph Stow was one of the great Australian writers of his generation. His novel To the Islands – written in his early twenties after living on a remote Aboriginal mission – won the Miles Franklin Award for 1958. In later life, after publishing seven remarkable novels and several collections of poetry, Stow’s literary output slowed. This biography examines the productive period as well as his long periods of publishing silence.
In Mick: A Life of Randolph Stow, Suzanne Falkiner unravels the reasons behind Randolph Stow’s quiet retreat from Australia and the wider literary world. Meticulously researched, insightful and at times deeply moving, Falkiner’s biography pieces together an intriguing story from Stow’s personal letters, diaries, and interviews with the people who knew him best. And many of her tales – from Stow’s beginnings in idyllic rural Australia, to his critical turning point in Papua New Guinea, and his final years in Essex, England – provide us with keys to unlock the meaning of Stow’s rich and introspective works.
Suzanne Falkiner kindly shared some extracts of her Stow biography and aspects of her wider research.
I had written to her on 24 August 2015:
I am very much looking forward to your bio on Randolph Stow.  Part of my interest stems from his wonderful novel "Visitants" which I mentioned in my own book "The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story" (1996, Duffy & Snellgrove).
You may be interested in my posts on Bill Gill and his 1959 experience:
It is fascinating to see the multiple witness enquiry literary template that exists in both Randolph Stow's "Visitants" and John Fowles "A Maggot" - both with "alien contact" threads - 2 extraordinary books that weave "the other" in fascinating ways through their narratives.
I recollect Randolph had a UFO sighting with William Grono in 1966.
I would be very interested to learn of what Randolph Stow's private papers expressed on his thoughts about the 1959 Boainai events, which he learnt about upon his return and the other reports of that period.  Does he elaborate on his own experience?
Best wishes,
Suzanne replied the next day:
Dear Bill,
Stow did elaborate briefly on the events in his unpublished papers, and kept a cutting about the Gill experience. I attach the refs. 
However, if you don’t examine the papers yourself in the interim, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t quote from the unpublished text attached until after (or at least nearer to when) my book comes out (February 2016), and then credit it if you do.
I think the key to Stow’s approach is his comment that it's not whether such objects did or did not exist, which he couldn’t have any firm opinion about, ‘but why so many people want to believe that they exist.’ 
He applied the same precept to the 12th century stories of the ‘Green Children’ and the Merman of Orford, etc, written in Latin by chroniclers as if they were history, that he explores in The Girl Green as Elderflower. He draws a parallel here to Trobriand creation myths (and Christian myths), but maintains an open mind. 
Hope this helps!
All the best, 
At the same time Suzanne shared extracts from her forthcoming biography. 
Stow was in Papua at the time and while he did not hear of the sightings at the time, he was made aware of a similar event on Kitava (part of the Trobriand Islands (the customs and people of that island group were described in Malinowski's classic study "Argonauts of the Western Pacific" (1922)) and a strange disappearance. Stow incorporates both into the novel and the sightings of "star machines" are a recurring thread in the novel.
Suzanne’s extracts cover both of these aspects – Stow’s encounter with Kitava locals who described their “star machine” encounter, ostensibly shortly before their meeting and some months after the Boianai sightings. 
She explains that the Kitava information served as “the kernel of a second plotline in “Visitants.”  She quoted from Stows papers held at the National Library of Australia – Stow’s typed notes on Trobriand myth, magic and ‘cargo’: 
“One night we were visited by a group of men who wanted us to settle an intellectual dispute. The question was, whether or not the war with Japan was over. We told them that it had ended fourteen years earlier, and wondered why they were interested. They said that a ‘star’ or ‘machine’ had been passing over the island, and they wanted to know whether it was a Japanese or Allied ‘star’. They said that they were frightened, but they laughed as they said so.
We assumed that they had seen a satellite or space probe (though it should have seemed obvious at the time that they would never connect such a small pocket of light with a war-machine) and fobbed them off with some photographs of rockets in an old magazine. They [were] dissatisfied, and said that the rockets were the wrong shape—sketching a shape with their hands. But I was too tired and too much the know-it-all Dimdim to pay much attention.”
Suzanne also quotes from Tony Hassall 1982 interview with Stow – “Breaking the Silence.”  I was already well acquainted with this fascinating interview through Professor Hassall’s excellent book “Randolph Stow” (UQP 1990).  It had been originally published in “Australian Literary Studies” (1982):
No doubt there was a lot of talk about Boianai at the time, but I didn’t hear of it. …I thought they were talking about a Soviet Lunik, which was in the sky at the time and I dug out a copy of Time magazine, or something which had a picture of rockets on the cover, and said: ‘it’s like that, it’s like a bullet’. And they said: ‘no, no, it’s not like that’, and made a shape of it with their hands, which I think was, as far as I can remember it, a disc-shape. But I can’t actually swear to that now. Anyway, they told me that it certainly wasn’t like a bullet going through the sky, it was a machine that had a big light, and it chased some men along the path, when they were coming home from fishing, and they were frightened. And I suppose that I just put that aside; as I couldn’t answer the question I just forgot about it until years later…
In her book Suzanne elaborates: 
Six years on, at Point Barron in Alaska, Stow recorded, in an American magazine he came upon an account of the ‘New Guinea episode of 1959’ — a similar sighting of a flying object, some five months earlier in late June, at Boianai on the New Guinea mainland about 150 miles southwest —and found himself trying to recall every detail of the conversation. 
She notes:
“This was an extract from Jacques Vallee’s Anatomy of a Phenomenon (Henry Regnery, 1965), describing a sighting in June 1959 by Reverend William Booth Gill and 37 local people at Boianai, in Goodenough Bay, and in which the astronomer made a plea for statistical analysis of the incidence of sightings. See also NLA MS 10.128 Papers of Randolph Stow, Box 6, Pkt 23 - printed report on Reverend Gill’s 1959 sighting of a UFO at Boianai.”
Suzanne further shared: 
“In the same typed-up account found among his unpublished notes, Stow mused on the topic of faith, belief and rationality, particularly in relation to ‘cargo cults’, or ‘Vailala Madness’, as a particular variety of the Millenarian movement was called.
It is a tragicomic business, and the temptation, especially for a writer of fiction, is to emphasise the comic elements and to treat the cultists as a crowd of savage idiots. But we Dimdims are by no means always rational in ‘spiritual’ matters….The people of Kitava on this occasion conducted themselves like scientists—and the ‘miracle’ of Our Lady of Fatima might be considered a major event in the history of cargo-cult. 
Was missionary work allowing Fatima to leak into Kitava thinking or was this Stow just wondering about Fatima 1917 in general in this belief context?
There were Methodist and Catholic missionaries on Kiriwina at the time, but Mick makes little mention of the RC one, whereas the Methodist one, whose wife was a nurse, lived near the ADO station at Losuia and was more of a friend. No other mentions elsewhere in Stow's papers or correspondence of his being aware of, or interested in, any other incidents or sightings, or again of the Boianai or Kitava sightings. Or indeed of Fatima. 
In terms of the Fatima books originally published in Portuguese if Mick had ever encountered them they would not have challenged him.  He had a command of the language that supported his intriguing wider speculations on the madness that may have informed the Batavia tragedy.  But as Suzanne Falkiner notes Stow probably didn’t go down the deeper “rabbit hole” that is the wider UFO mysteries intertwined with these matters.
Suzanne and I did meet briefly at the special Stow event, which was a wonderful celebration of the life and legacy of Mick – Randolph Stow.
“What interested Stow more, Stow told Hassall in 1982, was not whether such objects did or did not exist, which he couldn’t have any firm opinion about, ‘but why so many people want to believe that they exist.’ 
In response to Suzanne’s kind sharing of this research I expanded in my 26 August 2015 email:
Hi Suzanne,
Thank you for sharing this information.  It seems to replicate much of the material Tony Hassall aired in 1982 and 1990.
I have Tony Hassall's 1990 "Randolph Stow" (UQP) which features "Visitants" and his detailed interview.  I was going to quote from that in "The OZ Files" (1996) but in the end I only referred to "Vistants" and brief background on Mick. 
Given that Mick didn't offer "any firm opinion" on UFOs but key was "why so many people want to believe that they exist" the nexus of belief, fact and fiction seemed to be important to him.  
Given that Rev. Bill Gill wrestled with the very same dynamic, I thought the evolution of thought he went through was worthwhile drawing to your attention:
“…. my understanding of the evolution of Bill Gill's thoughts on his sighting.  Not really belief, but anchored in fact, and apparently privately mediated by his faith.  But he put that out there as just an idea for thinking about. Perhaps the glowing "radiance" "sparking, etc that surround the "men" and the object led him privately in that direction.  Publicly "aliens", "Americans" or "aliens", he did not know, but he was certain of what he saw.
Perhaps that’s where Mick resonated.  Your reference to Bill Grono's belief that he saw a weather balloon with Stow at Greenough in 1966, doesn't seem to sit well with Mick's description of "a point of light making a falling-leaf, and then going away and vanishing with great speed, and then coming back at great speed from another direction, and going through the falling-leaf motion again" (Stow to Hassall) all this about 45 minutes, and they just gave up watching it.  This appears to be a remarkable "weather balloon", unlike any I have investigated over decades of research.  Perhaps Bill's response was mediated by belief, rather than the facts of the event? 
Was there an actual date, apart from year - month, day, time? Direction?
I note that Bruce Bennett wrote in the Westerly (55:2, 153) that when Stow died in 2010 he had "some half-century of memories of this region of England (Suffolk) to supplement his still vivid memories of Western Australia."  
I have read Bruce's interview in both the Westerly & Tony's anthology and was left wondering (after Bennett in Hassall, 375) if the interview had been in 1983 rather than 1981, whether the nexus of belief, fact & fiction may have played out differently, given the Harwich & East Bergholt Suffolk location and the mix of memories of place.  
I suspect while Mick may not have favoured "News of the World" as reading material, locals of Suffolk would no doubt been agog with the front page of 2nd October 1983, which went global and was reported upon even here in OZ:
There seems no evidence that Stow revisited the dynamic of "Visitants" published in 1979 with its famous 1959 sighting as a prologue.  Only slightly removed and certainly in close proximity in sense of place and time and maybe belief - December 1980 Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, aired by the "news of the World" in October 1983.
I suspect at least that Stow would have heard about it? 
I was struck by reference to "Our Lady of Fatima" in Stow's musings about it "might be considered a major event in the history of cargo-cult" by "the people of Kitava.  Is there an accurate date to Stow's encounter with locals on Kitava (presumably between September 1 and November 1959)?  Was there a sense that the locals were telling Stow about something that had just happened, maybe only by days?
Was missionary work allowing Fatima to leak into Kitava thinking or was this Stow just wondering about Fatima 1917 in general in this belief context?
He may have wondered even more if had been exposed to recent writings on Fatima (2005, 2006, 2008, all before Stows passing in 2010, published earlier in Portuguese.
These are very intriguing recent works and in part extend Vallee's research in his 1975 book "The Invisible College - What a Group of Scientists has discovered about UFO influences on the human race". Therein he had a chapter focusing on Fatima: "A morphology of miracles."
Stow had "an open mind."  Had he come across all this - Fatima "re-envisioned", Rendlesham Forest 1980 in Suffolk, one can only wonder in light of "Vistants" and its cousin "The Girl Green as Elderflower"?  
"Visitants" is considered by many as one of Stow's best books and possibly one of the finest novels in "Australian" literature, therefore these connections are I think are of merit and worth sharing. 
Although the Saturday event appears to be "sold out" I plan to dally at the library to see if I can get my foot in the door.  
Perhaps we can have a chat there if we cross paths.
Best wishes, 
Suzanne kindly responded with the following additional clarifications on 26 August 2015: 
Dear Bill,
Thank you for all that interesting information. I hope I’ve answered your queries below:
Suzanne added:
Bill Grono told me that he himself believed it was a weather balloon that he saw with Stow at Greenough.”
Was there an actual date, apart from year - month, day, time? Direction?
I agree the weather balloon theory seems unlikely, especially as Bill Grono saw the object or light shooting up into the air as well (do weather balloons have lights?). Nearest I can date sighting is sometime between about 7 January 1966 (approximate date of Stow's arrival back in WA from USA, after 3 week sea voyage from 17 December 1965) and 4 February 1966 (the date he mentions the trip north in a letter, after returning to Perth), and probably more towards the end of that period than the beginning. It was their last night staying in the holiday shacks on the Greenough river before their return, and after they’d had 'a few drinks’ (which probably would have been rather more than a few), and presumably quite late, ie after they'd had dinner, as Stow wanted to wake the guy in the neighbouring shack to see it also, and he wouldn’t be in it. I imagine the shacks would be looking out to sea, but that’s a guess.
Is there an accurate date to Stow's encounter with locals on Kitava (presumably between September 1 and November 1959)?  Was there a sense that the locals were telling Stow about something that had just happened, maybe only by days? 
Stow was on Kitava, on and off between visiting other islands, between 16 October and Friday 13 November 1959. No indication of when in this period the men told him about the object. No indication either of whether it had been a recent sighting, but presumably it was, as other patrols had recently passed through.
Suzanne’s kind sharing and my revisiting of “Visitants” and particularly its curious sister novel The Girl Green as Elderflower immediately alerted me to one more Suffolk mystery that may have (but probably didn’t?) become known to Stow – the strange incident of the Aldeburgh flying platform which took place in the middle of World War One (1914 – 1918).
Stow had a literary connection with Aldeburgh through his appreciation of the near-forgotten poet George Crabbe (1754-1832), who is perhaps more widely remembered through Benjamin Britten’s opera “Peter Grimes,” which was based on a chapter in Crabbe’s lengthy piece “The Borough”.  While the Suffolk town of Aldeburgh is not mentioned by name it is generally understood that Crabbe’s birth place of Aldeburgh is its basis.  Britten founded the Aldeburgh festival in 1948. Stow was in good company for Crabbe’s work was admired by the likes Byron, Tennyson, E.M. Forester, Jane Austen and Walter Scott to name a few.  Stow mentioned Crabbe and Aldeburgh in an interview by Bruce Bennent in 1981 (Westerly, No. 4, December, 1981).
While Randolph Stow was living in England (either London or Leeds) during the period 1966 – 1969 the son of the Aldeburgh flying platform witness from World War One sort to share his mother’s fascinating story beyond the circle of family and friends where it had circulated since it happened.  His letter appeared on page 16 of the Daily Mirror of August 8, 1968. 
There are some similarities to Father Gill”s Boianai sighting. “Return to Magonia – Investigating UFOs in History” (Anomalist Books) gives an excellent analysis of the Aldeburh Platform incident and gets into the kind of mythic aspects Stow might have been interested it. 
We can’t be certain Randolph Stow became aware of the Rendlesham  Forest case via the “News of the World” account or the Aldeburgh Platform story via the Daily Mirror letter.  We can be sure he was intrigued by UFOs, had first hand testimony given to him from native witnesses, and had his own sighting in 1966 with his friend Bill Grono. This was in the period of the well publicised Queensland “Tully flying saucer nest”. There were also  sightings by farmers in remote parts of Western Australia. 

Discover the literary legacy of Randolph Stow and read of his life – a great Australian, a “Visitant” here in OZ, Sussex and Papua New Guinea.  For a little while he was intrigued by the UFO mystery and became focused on “why so many people want to believe that they exist.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My new blog continuing my more than 40 year search for historical (pre-1947) UFO (or UAP) reports in the Australian region

Sunday, December 06, 2015

A feast of UFO books for serious consideration

Here are some interesting books that have my attention at the moment. 
Each are fascinating and controversial and warrant your attention. Some are controversial and targets of intense debate. 
I hope to review each in more detail later, but as the year is counting down fast, with too much on my plate, at the moment I'll just do some very brief comments on how each has struck me to so far:

"A Trojan Feast - the food and drink offerings of aliens, fairies, and sasquatch" by Joshua Cutchin from Anomalist Books - for a first book in the field of anomalies this is an excellent foray into a controversial area - definitely "food for thought" in the Fortean way - a lot of intriguing information, speculation and analysis.

"Walking Among Us - the Alien Plan to control Humanity" by David Jacobs from Disinformation Books - definitely a controversial continuation of the trajectory set out by his "Secret Life" and "The Threat." The totality of the evidence rests on David Jacobs hypnotic regressions and the dynamic interplay between researcher and subject. Underlying this but unstated is the "Emma Woods" controversy, which needs to be properly assessed and understood, Rightly or wrongly, it affects our take on the the research that David Jacobs has done. I would have liked to have seen DNA evidence to back up the extraordinary claims put forward, but there is none. My own book "Hair of the Alien" offers a take on the the value of anchoring the extraordinary claims underpinning abduction claims with carefully examined biological evidence. So much is riding on this and regression data and what witnesses say is insufficient to validate the scenario. David Jacobs doesn't shrink from the implications of his narratives but his intense focus cries out for a more comprehensive approach anchored in physical evidence and rigorous analysis. This one is guaranteed to fuel controversy and debate.

"Illuminations - the UFO experience as a parapsychological event" by Eric Ouellet, PH.D from Anomalist books - having delivered lectures last year and this year - "UFOs, Alien Abduction & Contact: The Parapsychological Connection" and "Strange Brew: Are parapsychology and ufology compatible?" I was looking forward to this book. Straight away I am caught in a frustrating impasse when Dr. Ouellet argues there is no compelling physical evidence for UFOs. As a physical scientist, with a background as a chemist, I baulked at that straight away. One could argue that the physical evidence may not prove an alien reality, but a physical reality, yes. Dr. Ouellet needs to ignore the physical dimensions of the UFO problem in order to sustain attention for the hypothesis that UFOs are "US." We create them and they are symbolic creations full of parapsychological import. Well Ouellet overlays the so-called MPI - model of pragmatic information - which emerges from Walter von Lucadou's quantum entanglement takes on RSPK (poltergeist) (which have been somewhat tested in parapsychological circles and not been validated (via Drs. Watt & Tierney)). Quellet also largely ignores the entity problem, so pressingly overlaid in UFO reports, but largely absence in polt reports. Some very strange sociological and symbolic takes emerge from Quellet's strained analyses to the point where I was feeling I was seeing "the emperor's new cloths" being put on display - an interesting flawed bridge extended too far, which needs to be more soundly anchored in the type of cases that it might even do some limited exposition to - UFO cases where the paranormal connections are strong, not the UFO wave modelling and the lack of coherent analysis, where the MPI model seems such a poor fit often leading to odd symbolic "connections" (if thats what you would call them - 1952 Washington DC - Democratic convention, the 1989-91 Belgian wave - the NATO headquarters star, 1980 Rendlesham event with the 1983 Greenham Common peace quilt, 1961 Betty & Barney Hill case with the freedom bus rides! By this stage I was convinced any symbolic connection could have been pulled out of the hat, and could be equally as unconvincing. Some nice initial modelling but some reworking and close personal field work with cases that yields lots of psychic overload - try the Dorothy Izatt case from Vancouver, on Dr. Ouellet's Canadian doorstep, which even had a lot of parapsychologists looking at it and coming away startled by the apparent reality of the milieu that surrounded the witness.

"Return to Magonia - Investigating UFOs in History" by Chris Aubeck & Martin Shough is an excellent study that confirms Anomalist Books leading position in the publishing of great books on anomaly studies - a very impressive contribution to the study of pre-1947 UFO events that has much to offer to modern day UFO study.

"Halt in Woodbridge - an Air Force Colonel's 35 year fight to silence an authentic UFO whistle-blower" by Peter Robbins is a potent contribution to the controversy that has blown up around Colonel Halt's attempts to "white out" Larry Warren from the Rendlesham saga. This book joins and informs the already heavily laden debate about the 1980 Rendlesham UFO controversy. It will take the dedicated researcher to properly unravel the realities at play here.

Philip Mantle's new Flying Disk Press has a fascinating first offering: "UFOs over Poland - the land of high strangeness" - I have always liked well researched regional takes on the UFO subject and this is a good one, well worth your attention.
The UFO field continues to generate a lot of interesting books that deserve your attention. These are some of them. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Search for Historical UFO reports in Australia

The Search for Historical UFO Reports in Australia
by Bill Chalker
(from an article published originally in the Ufologist magazine (Australia), Vol.15, #6, March-april, 2012)
Back in 1978, in an article entitled “Historical reports in Australia,” I included a reference to a possible UFO sighting during the 1861 Burke and Wills expedition, around June 23rd.  Within days both Burke and Wills would be dead, victims of an expedition gone wrong and paying the ultimate price in the harsh conditions of the Australian outback at Coopers Creek. 2011 was the 150th anniversary of the epic and tragic Burke and Wills expedition.
While death was only days away William John Wills recorded in his journal dated Tuesday June 23, a strange apparition witnessed by John King, who would ultimately be the sole survivor of the cross-country expedition party.  King at 22, a “veteran” (1857-1859) of the Indian Mutiny, brought to the expedition his expertise with camels.  Health problems would seem to have made him an unlikely choice, but he soon distinguished himself as “a versatile and capable member of the party…. Always calm and reserved, with a strong sense of duty, King melted into the background and got on with his job.  His reward was a place in the forward party.” (pgs. 183 – 184, “The Dig Tree”, Sarah Murgatroyd, 2002) 

John King - witness to an 1861 "UFO vision" during the final days of the tragic Burke and Wills expedition. Source: From the La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, via Sarah Murgatroyd, "The Digg Tree", 2002, pg. 180. 
William John Wills, the expedition astronomer. Source: From William Strutt, Dixson Library, State Library of NSW, via Sarah Murgatroyd, "The Digg Tree", 2002, pg. 77.
Wills wrote:
“Near daybreak King reported seeing a moon in the east with a haze of light stretching up from it to be quite as large as the moon and not dim at the edges. I am so weak that any attempt to get a sight of it was out of the question; but I think it must have been Venus in the Zodiacal light that he saw, with a corona around her.”
Maybe Wills was right. After all he was the surveyor and astronomical observer for the ill-fated expedition. Between 1858 and 1860 Wills had worked as an assistant at Melbourne's Flagstaff observatory.  His written instructions included, “All astronomical phenomena of particular interest should be observed, if the means at the disposal of the astronomer do admit of such observation …. Observations on the Zodiacal Light may be made with a great facility and advantage for science…. A good look out should be kept for meteors.” (pg. 306, “Burke & Wills – The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition,” edited by E.B. Joyce & D.A. McCann, 2011)
In his 1976 Boyer lecture historian Manning Clark stated:
"The story of Burke and Wills could be told to illustrate many things about life. Like all great stories it had everything.... To feel the full force of that tragedy one has to stand on the banks of Cooper’s Creek at the spot where Wills died. Right to the very end Wills had believed, like Mr Micawber, that something might turn up.... The most difficult thing of all for a historian is to learn how to tell his story so that something is added to the facts, something about the mystery at the heart of things."
Well, something may indeed have turned up. Astronomy software reconstructing the early morning sky for the period in question suggests that Venus was below the sunrise horizon, and the moon was in the west. So if these tentative reconstructions are correct we have a mystery on our hands. I suspect it was something prosaic that the lone expedition survivor - John King - saw that morning, more than 150 years ago. Perhaps given the dire and tragic circumstances closing in on the 3 men, precision in observations may have understandably started to lapse. Perhaps King had a hallucination due to the severe condition he was in?
The excellent 150th anniversary book “Burke & Wills – The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition,” edited by E.B. Joyce & D.A. McCann, highlights William John Wills “as scientist”, as an excellent observer even to his dying days. I wonder if Wills had had the strength to look and verify King’s observations whether the mystery would have continued.
What did John King see? - Hallucination, Venus, the moon, a UFO, or something else?
I first read John Wills account of King’s “vision” back in 1975 when I read Alan Moorehead’s account of the expedition, “Cooper’s Creek.”
I have been interested in historical UFO events in Australia and the near region ever since I began my interest in UFOs. My initial conclusion back in 1978 was, “Australia like many other counties has a rich crop of UFO sightings long before the modern popularisation of the mystery.  The UFO phenomenon seems to be as old as man himself.” In my original account I used “UFO phenomena”to equate with the likelihood that many things come together that are collectively called the UFO phenomenon, but I prefer to have the latter linking directly to the “core” unexplained and alien phenomenon.
The only pre-1947 UFO event supported by a photograph I had come across was a sighting I briefly described in my 1996 book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO Story.” The account of it I have been able to find was the story in the U.F.O.I.C. Newsletter No. 21, December, 1968:
Sighting and UFO photo back from 1935 Only now, a report and a negative of a UFO photographed in 1935 have been received and investigated by UFOIC. As the case was, the person concerned wondered at the time what the object might have been but has only recently become aware of the extraordinary nature of his experience and the significance of the photograph which he took. That year, Mr. Patrick A.M. Terry of Mosman, Sydney, was stationed with the military at Newcastle and on the night of 10th October he went fishing to Nobby’s Head. The sky was overcast and there was no moon. At about 10 p.m., while sitting on the rocks, he noticed a flash of light in the sky out over the sea. Then a steady light appeared. It was brighter than a full moon and was hovering about a mile away and possibly 10,000 feet high. It was yellow – bright on the lower part gradually diminishing through three dark bands into grey. The whole complex appeared actually as a tremendously large mush-room-shaped object, consisting of three floors, smaller supporting the larger one, and the light from the bottom floor illuminating all three upper sections. The object then suddenly descended to a height of about 5,000 feet and remained stationary for a few seconds. It then moved quickly back to its original position. At that time Mr. Terry’s curiosity and surprise were fully aroused and while he had a Kodak Brownie box camera with him, he took a snapshot at 1/25th sec. exposure. After about 10 minutes of hovering, the object began revolving with increased speed and moved away, disappearing towards the north and out of sight in seconds. The photos later showed a definite circular object with details seen well at enlargement. (The photo will be published in the next Review).
The report refers at one point to “photos” but only one seems to have been taken. The next Review – the Australian UFO Review (UFOIC edition), No. 10 - did not appear until December, 1969. There was no account or photo of the 1935 incident in the issue. The magazine did report on the accidental death of UFOIC’s long time energetic president Dr. Miran Lindtner. Not reported was a story I had heard a few times from various sources that a UFOIC committee member had allegedly been bombarding Dr. Lindtner’s widow about retrieving some trivial items. The alleged insensitivity of the UFOIC member apparently led to the widow disposing of some UFOIC items in a backyard bonfire. If this story had any validity it may be a depressing explanation for the non-appearance of the 1935 photo in the UFOIC Review magazine. Another piece of UFOIC folklore also refers to its sighting officer being a bit of a “bower bird” when it came to unique and significant UFO related items. In other words one didn’t tend to leave items of this nature for his attention as they would disappear into his alleged “private collection.” When I joined the UFOIC group committee in 1975 I came across evidence of this man’s “bower bird” activities (lining his “private UFO nest” with “bright” (important) items as a bower bird does in nature). Unfortunately I was not then aware of the 1935 UFO photo story. When I did find out of it a number of years later I made attempts to locate the photographer and any evidence for it, unfortunately without success.
If anyone has any knowledge of the 1935 incident or Mr. Terry I would be pleased to hear of it.
There have been a number of other early Australian photos that show items that look like UFOs, but these do not have any related UFO story. For example the Australian magazine Ufologistreproduced one taken of Brisbane Hospital in the late 1800s, courtesy of Gordon Bagnall, in their Vol.9 No.4, 2005 issue. It shows a black disk shaped “object.” It is not clear if the people in photo are noticing anything unusual. The dark item may even be a photo defect or from some other prosaic source. The lack of any UFO related sighting narrative makes the photo interesting but not of any strong probative value.
My friend Paul Cropper, who shares my passion for searching out old records for unusual Fortean type material, drew my attention during 2011 to another early “UFO” photo which has an accompanying contemporary narrative. Our decades’ long searching for this sort of material has more recently been greatly assisted by the increasing digitisation of old newspaper archives available on-line. Paul’s discovery was of an interesting 1931 Queensland newspaper report of a “strange light” which also carried a photo. Now it could be of a meteoric sourced “trail” of light or the result of the luminous trail its passage left behind. The details supplied are not sufficient to have certainty with regard to an explanation, so we will give it a tentative label of “UFO.” I will note that 4 months earlier Francis Chichester had his curious airborne encounter off the Australian coast over the Tasman Sea – “the dull grey-white shape of an airship … like an oblong pearl,” as described in his 1933 book “Seaplane Solo” (also published as “Alone Over the Tasman Sea”).
From the Rockhampton newspaper the Morning Bulletin of Wednesday 21 October 1931, various independent observers reported a curious sky phenomenon in the Winton district. One described “a strange trail of light, seen in the western sky between 6.30 and 7 pm, on Saturday evening, October 17th. When first seen, this trail of light was shaped like a capital “T” or a figure “7,” then it changed into a long wavy line like a great serpent. Much brighter and bigger at the lower end. It stayed in the sky about twenty minutes and then suddenly disappeared.” The correspondent sent two photos with time exposures of one minute, taken at 6.45 pm. Only one photo was carried in the paper (reproduced here).
1931 Winton Queensland photo sourced from the  Rockhampton Morning Bulletin,
Wednesday, 21 October, 1931. Located by Paul Cropper.
Another observer, a stockman, reported the “dazzling affair. The sun was down a good time and the moon’s light not very bright. The time must have been a little past 7 o’clock. The affair resembled a thick snake, head downwards, all brilliantly white, while several clouds nearby were quite black. In fact, there was not another white cloud in the sky.”
The stockman further described, “It held its shape for quite a while. Then the tail changed and it started to pale, turning quite pink as it did so. The head stayed strong and pink to the last. I had no watch, but before it paled I had ridden a mile watching it all the time. I have an idea that it came on suddenly, as I shut a gate several minutes before and saw nothing. Superstitious people will be wondering what it fortells. I’m trying to believe our long delayed rain is close at hand.”
The paper’s Winton correspondent reported that many residents saw the phenomenon as dusk was approaching. The correspondent wrote, “It took the form, when first observed, of a pencil of white steam-like substance. It was located in the sky, south of Winton, at an altitude of about halfway between the horizon and the zenith, close to the pointers of the Southern Cross.”
“This mysterious white streak stood almost vertical and unravelled slowly downwards, at the same time growing thicker, until it was about the length (to the eye) of the distance of the Southern Cross pointers.
“After about ten minutes it began to bend as if blown by an air current, and gradually lengthened, the tail growing fainter and assuming the shape of a reversed mark of interrogation. The lower end was now in the shape of an arrow head and drifted lower and in a westerly direction, until, as darkness came on, it faded from view.”
The newspaper account ends with a possible source of the aerial phenomenon: “An enormous meteor or shooting star, which fell in a north-westerly direction, was observed in the Winton district. It reached the dimensions of a huge electric light, and had a brilliant red sword-like tail.”
Several Australian studies and reports have focused on the earlier historical phase of sightings, i.e. reports that preceded the beginnings of the modern era of UFO sightings which began in late June 1947 with the famous Kenneth Arnold sighting in the USA.
These include:
In 1958, Jack Kunst, a reporter, and Ken Hatton, an airline navigation officer, both members of the UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC), compiled a listing of “Australian Sightings” from 1874 to 1958. 4 pre-1947 sightings were included: 1874 Oct 11 Beechworth Victoria, 1942 Feb 26 Timor Sea, 1944 Feb Bass Strait, and 1946 Grenfell district.
In 1965 Australia’s first flying saucer book appeared – “Flying Saucers over Australia” by James Holledge.  It also lists the 4 historical sightings described by UFOIC’s Jack Kunst and Ken Hatton.  Holledge reports “From their own research, Australian ufologists believe that the first published report of an unidentified flying object in this country occurred as far back as October, 1874, at Beechworth in Victoria.” Around 1975 I located newspaper references related this event.During October, 1874, a “celestial display” of considerable magnitude was observed over a wide area.  The Sydney Morning Herald of October 8 and 9, 1874, documents the story.  The event occurred on October 4 at about 6 p.m., and involved “a meteor of great size, (which) suddenly flashed in the western heavens immediately over where the sun had set, and bursting like a rocket into numerous brilliant spangles, left behind it a straight silvery line resembling a streak of lightning.  This line shortly afterwards, seemed to assume a sinuous or spiral shape, the folds of which gradually contracted or became as it were compressed till they presented somewhat of a zig-zag appearance, the angles being particularly bright and silvery.”  The phenomenon lasted for about 20 minutes over Victoria.  One witness suggested it might be “Venus transmitting a telegram to the sun (about) her approaching transit.  Whatever it was certainly a most beautiful as well as a most extraordinary occurrence.”  The event was probably of a celestial nature – a striking meteor with a pronounced and enduring tail, seen over a widespread area, such as Beechworth, Victoria, and Goulburn, Gosford and Wagga in NSW.
In 1969 Michael Hervey mentions a few further historical cases in his book “UFOs over the Southern Hemisphere.”  Hervey made an undated reference the 1879 “remarkable meteor” at Freemantle, W.A.  While writing the book Hervey made some public requests for reports.  Amongst the numerous letters he received were a number of historical cases, which were listed as “First Hand Reports”.  These included 1931 - Baradine, NSW; during the war years – Sale, Victoria; 1936 – Willow Bark, Queensland; and 1934 Ashley Clinton, New Zealand.
“Items from the Australian flap, 1909-1910” by Paul Norman, FSR (Flying Saucer Review), Vol.22, No.6, 1976. This was a one page piece which referred to the 1910 account of the crew of the “Wookata” near Althorp Island near Cape Spencer, South Australia. The account recovered from an old newspaper lacked the date, but it was widely reported in Australian newspapers on or about August 3 or 4, 1910.  Norman also included a brief mention of some of the well known New Zealand 1909 “airship” reports, but with no reference to the 1909 Australian reports.
“Historical reports in Australia” prepared by me in 1978 was expressed in various forms between 1978 and 1979 in the “LGM” – the little green magazine - as the ACOS (Australian Co-Ordination Section of the Center for UFO Studies) Bulletin was often called, along with some other brief historical collations.  It was the first focused piece that discussed historical Australian UFO sightings including circa 1830s – Oven River region of eastern Victoria; 1861 – Coopers Creek, central Australia; 1868 – Parramatta, NSW; 1879 – Freemantle, WA; 1881 – at sea between Melbourne and Sydney; 1890s – Orrorro and Moonta, SA; 1893 – central NSW; 1902 – eastern Australia “fireball” epidemic; 1902 – Adelaide SA observatory; 1909 “airship” & “mystery light” reports in New Zealand and Australia; before and after 1912 – Boulia, Qld with the Min Min reports; 1925 – near Moora, WA; 1931 – Francis Chichester’s Tasman sea sighting; 
1932 0r 1933 – near Nambour, Qld; mid 1930s – central Qld; 1935 – Nobby’s Head, NSW “UFO photo”; 1944 – Bass Strait; and 2 events from 1947 – Greta Army camp, near Maitland, NSW, and near Newry, Victoria.  Those 19 references spanning the1830s to 1947 started a major quest by me to locate further reports. 
My “Historical reports in Australia” article was reprinted a number of times including in the ACUFOS (Australian Centre for UFO Studies) Journal, Vol.2. No. 1 to 4, 1981, and in “UFOs over Australia” edited by Mark Moravec & John Prytz (1985).
In 1981 I circulated a “Preliminary listing of Australian Historical UFO Events - Prehistory to 1949” to try to ignite interest in historical UFO cases. This sighting material was largely put together from diverse sources by Paul Cropper and me.  I choose the end year of 1949 because it seemed based on research at the time that 1950 marked the significant beginnings of the Australian UFO experience.  I listed the year, location and a few words about over 110 events, plus 56 New Zealand “airship” events from 1909, as well a few more Fortean or apparitional phenomena.
1770 - near Timor possible “Aurora” during Cook’s voyage; circa 1830s – the Oven River area “ghost light”; 1861 – Burke & Wills, 2 events from 1862; 1866 – “atmospherical phenomena”; 1868 – Birmingham’s Parramatta “UFO vision”; 1868 – sailor killed by “meteor” off Queensland; 4 further “singular phenomena” in 1868;  1869 – 4 separate “supernatural” events, the most extraordinary being a white object turning into an 8 foot spectre near Young, NSW; 1870 – 5 separate events, 3 being of strange “meteors”, the others ghost type events; 1871 – 3 events; 1872 – “ghost”; 1873 – Birmingham’s “daylight disc” over Parramatta’; 1874 – 5 separate events, including the Beechworth “meteor”; 1875 – 3 events;  1876 – 3 events; 1877 – 2 events; 1878 – 3 events;  1879 – the Freemantle event; 1881 – the “ghost ship” sighted by crew of the “Bacchante”;  1881 – the great “comet” debate; 1883 – a light near sun with beam seen from Perth, and one in New Zealand; 1885 – fireball falls into the Pacific; 1890 – a strange “cloud” over Raymond Terrace; 1890s – “ghost lights” at Orrorro and Moonta, SA; 1893 – central NSW “paralysis” case; 1896 -  “airship” over Bass Strait. 
With the 20th century: 1902 – the “fireball epidemic; 1902 “daylight disc” at Adelaide, SA; 1904 – flying “cigar” at Nildottie, SA; 1908 – mystery lights in New Zealand Southland; 56 reports from the 1909 airship wave in New Zealand and 18 for Australia.  A further 2 events from New Zealand in 1909 occurred after the main wave.  1909 – Rockhampton, Qld; 1910 – 2 reports; 1911 – 4 reports; the 1912 nexus of the Boulia Min Min light reports; 1914 – mystery plane over Savernake, NSW; during World war I – a “close encounter” at Rushworth Victoria; 1919 – an “entity” case in rural NSW, and a “landing” at Greendale, New Zealand; 1920 – “flare” reports possibly linked mystery disappearances in Bass Strait; 1921 – the apparent debut of the Qld Blairmore Station “ghost light”; 1924 – strange light over Melbourne; circa 1924 – Moora WA “landing” with physical trace; during the 1920s & 1930s – “ball lightning” events at Rooty Hill, in Sydney; 1928 – “auditory phenomena” on the Dorrigo plateau – a curious possible forerunner of the Tyringham area “phantom truck” noises that played out during an intense UFO flap in 1973; circa 1928-1929 – a recurring “fireball” at Coffs Harbour, NSW; between 1923 – 1929 – a recurring nocturnal light at Tinonee, near Taree, NSW; circa 1930 – a “zeppelin” over Port Moresby, PNG; 1931 – the Chichester UFO sighting over the Tasman Sea; 1931 – flying “disc” at Berrigal Creek; 1932 – the Guilford “dirigible” and “meteoric hole”; late 1920s – 1930s, UFO sightings at Dalma Road Qld; during the same period further “ghost light” traditions are established – the “Yatton”, the “Quinn”, the “Malchi” and “One Tree Plain” lights; circa 1932 – 1933 – the Nambour Qld “mini-UFO” encounter; 1934 – “daylight disk” in NZ; 1933-1935 – “black planes” and “mysterious balloons” over the Pacific Islands; 1933 – “brilliant fiery mass” in SA; 1935 – Nobby’s Head “UFO photo”; 1936 – the first of mystery light sightings at Crows Peak, Oberon Dam, NSW; 1936 – Willow Bark encounter and “aerial observation” at Scots Head; 1936 – aerial phenomena over Melbourne, and Manilla, NSW; early World War 2 – “daylight discs” at Sale and Korrumburra; 1942 – Colin Norris’ “nocturnal light” at Geraldton, WA; 1942 – the Timor Sea RNN Tromp ship encounter; 1942 – alleged UFO tale off Tasman Pennisula; circa 1944 – Beaufort encounter over Bass Strait; 1944 or 1945 – Christchurch NZ entity UFO encounter, and 1946 – Grenfell UFO sighting.  In 1947 – UFO sightings near Newry in Victoria, Vaucluse in Sydney, and Bondi, Sydney.  In 1948 – Scone, NSW, Berridale, Tasmania, off Cairns from Army ship Tarra, and Semaphore Beach. In 1949 - a close encounter off North Palm Island and a nocturnal light display over the Melbourne suburbs.
I had thought with this extensive historical UFO sightings listing considerable interest would have been ignited.  Instead apart from some researchers passing on a small amount of material, generally speaking interest was non existent.  Rather than put out a detailed document at that point I chose instead to concentrate on detailed case studies of select compelling cases. From this approach emerged the 1868 Birmingham “UFO vision” and 1927 Fernvale documents:
“A UFO Vision? The mystery of ‘A machine to go through the air’, 1873, Parramatta, NSW, Australia”, by Bill Chalker, UFORAN, Vol.3, No.1, Jan./Feb.1982. I also wrote a separate article on the 1868 affair for Fortean Times, “Encounter in the Outback”, September, 2002.
“The Terror Down Under”, by Bill Chalker, Fate, September, 1988 (re 1927 Fernvale, NSW, UFO milieu). A much more detailed account was to appear in the Fortean Times special issue devoted to the Mothman, but for whatever reason (possibly length) it did not appear despite being listed in 2 issues as coming in the next issue.  Further details passed onto me by Cecil McGann (the primary witness of the 1927 events) before he passed away, were incorporated into an extended document.
Further material on historical cases emerged in a fragmentary way, including: 
Robin Northover wrote a short piece for Australiasian Post magazine in 1982, entitled “Seeing things way back.”  It described 4 events – 1873 – a sea event, 1893 – the NSW “paralysis” encounter, the Minderoo Station “airship” event erroneously dated as 1909 (an error I continued with my account of the event in my book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO Story”, until it was corrected to 1910 in Brett Holman’s excellent on-line series “Scareships over Australia” at 
“An Old Australian Phenomenon” by John Auchettl, appeared in the VUFORS publication “The Australian Annual Flying Saucer Review” (undated but apparently 1983) and was reproduced inRobert Frola's The Jarrold Listings (1990).  It listed 18 events: early1800s – no location; 1868 – Parramatta, NSW – the Birmingham “UFO vision” I had documented; 1873 – S.A; 1874 – Beechworth; 1885 – 2 events in the Pacific; 1893 – central NSW “paralysis” event; 1909 – 4 events from New Zealand “airship” wave; 1909 (should be 1910) Minderoo Station event; 1910 – the Wookata sighting off SA; 1911 – Ballarat “airship”; 1919 – central NSW (with erroneous reference); 1920 – Sydney; 1920 – “rockets” in Tasmania and 1925 – Moora, WA.
“UFOs in Australia and New Zealand through 1959”, by Bill Chalker, pages 333 -356 in Jerome Clark's “The UFO Encyclopedia”, Volume 2, “The Emergence of a Phenomenon”, Omnigraphics/Apogee, February, 1992.
“Early Australian historical encounters” by Bill Chalker, on the Project 1947 web site for over a decade, now at:
“Australian 1947 UFO cases” by Bill Chalker, in “Project 1947” by Jan Aldrich, 1997.
In 1996 my book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO story” listed more than 19 historical UFO events: 1793 – Sydney; 

1868 – the Birmingham “UFO vision”; 1873 – Birmingham’s “daylight disc”; 1878 – Goulburn “ghost light”; 1879 – Freemantle, WA; 1890s – Orrorro & Moonta SA “ghost lights”; 1893 – central NSW “paralysis” event; 1902 – Adelaide observatory “daylight disc” sighting;  1902 – “fireball” epidemic; the 1909 “airship” in New Zealand; 1909 – Australian reports; 1909 (should be 1910) Minderoo Station event; 1927 – Fernvale NSW events; 1931 – Chichester sighting; 1933 – abduction of aboriginal woman at Discovery Wells, WA (courtesy of Rex Gilroy); 1930s – WA aboriginal “entity” encounter; 1935 – Nobby’s Head “UFO” photo, and 1944 – Bass Strait; 1944 or 1945 – Christchurch NZ “entities”.
Even Keith Basterfield’s prolific and helpful cataloguing activities caught up with historical cases with his 2011 document “A catalogue of pre 24 June 1947 Australian Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” listing 38 events.
The increasing availability of on-line digital newspaper archives and related web sites has created a marked increase in the number of researchers taking an interest in uncovering accounts of possible historical UFO events.  The excellent Magonia Exchange List has been a striking manifestation of this, but its focus on encouraging somewhat ad hoc almost daily declarations of 0n-line “discoveries” has been difficult for me to regularly participate in.  Instead I sent them some of my document collations, and occasional “discoveries” when time and resources permitted.  The irony is that many of the online discoveries made more recently have already been found through “old-fashioned” direct methods years ago.  Never-the-less the increasing coverage of on-line digital newspaper archives is a definite asset to historical UFO researchers.
For me the 1868 Birmingham “UFO vision” and the 1927 Fernvale affair were the 2 standout historical Australian reports. They allowed very detailed research and investigations.  Of course many of the historical reports may be about natural or prosaic phenomena (these have a value all of their own), but many provocatively suggest indications of a much earlier UFO history than the watershed year of 1947.