Saturday, October 19, 2013


Here from my personal archives is my original report on the Valentich mystery prepared between October 1978 and January 1979 and published in the newsletter "Australian UFO Researcher" by the UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC - known as UFO Research (NSW) between 1976 to 1991, with the original name UFOIC readopted in 1991, when a new organisation registered the name UFOR(NSW).  The latter organisation formed in 1991 and continues to operate today.  UFOIC also continues to operate under my direction as a low profile loose networking group.  See my UFOIC blog for details).
This article is presented here in its raw original form to capture the period, complete with typewriter creation, typos, paper white, and no doubt errors etc.  If you don't know what a typewriter, paper white, foolscap paper size etc are, you had to be there.  We created a newsletter on a shoestring budget. Anyone out there who wants to use OCR or retype this article in word processing format please do so and if you send me a copy I will love you for it :-) 
Some of the content may well be corrected by subsequent research, but this is a snapshot of a mystery that had us transfixed then, and today, 35 years later still is a mystery in many ways. 
Consider the plea for assistance in my previous post particularly if you were a farmer in South Australia, NSW or Victoria, who witnessed a close proximity encounter between a Cessna aircraft and an apparent UFO. 
To set the mood of this retrospective here is a picture of David Reneke and I at the group's first press conference one month before the Valentich disappearance where the group was presenting data that saw 1978 as the year of the UFO. Little did we know what was going to happen a few weeks later. We did know that it had been an extraordinary year so far for unexplained UFO activity. Then it just went through the stratosphere.  The 3 covers of the newsletter that carried this article are also included. To those thinking - the wild and wooly look - it was the 70s - you had to be there.

The rest of my 25 page report can be found in one zip folder file at:

courtesy of Mike Williams.  Thanks Mike.

Friday, October 18, 2013

“Strange days, strange tales” – a Valentich connection?

On Monday 21 October 2013 35 years will have passed since young pilot Frederick Valentich disappeared on a flight to King Island in Bass Strait.  
It is one of the major aviation mysteries of Australia.  
The following article has been prepared to see if there is anyone out there who can help with information pertinent to the story revealed here.
Background can be found via the following link:

Consider this as a preliminary progress report on some strange days and strange tales in the lives of some UFO researchers pursuing a possible resolution of one of the stranger folios from the OZ Files – the Australian UFO story.
“The Unexplained Files” series on the Discovery Science channel debut in September 2013 featuring a good recreation of the extraordinary 1978 Valentich mystery. My friend George Simpson (based in Melbourne Victoria) was instrumental in the excellent accounting of this story on the programme.
The disappearance of young pilot Frederick Valentich and the Cessna (VH – DSJ, Delta Sierra Juliet) he was flying over Bass Strait and the UFO encounter he described in his conversation with Melbourne Air Service controller Steve Robey are all extraordinary aspects of one of the major aviation mysteries of Australia.
The lost Cessna VH-DSJ
photographed at Essendon Airport in 1974
(VUFOA/Victorian plane mechanic archive)
The Roy Manifold photo showing a possible UFO
The programme featured Steve Robey obviously still distressed about the disappearance of Valentich. Frederick’s younger brother Richard gave the family’s dimension to the story.  Both these elements remind us that a disturbing and tragic element still haunts this mystery.  George Simpson interviewed Roy Manifold who took some intriguing photos at the time and locality of Valentich’s departure from the Australian mainland on route to King Island in Bass Strait. There were many other interesting aspects described in the programme.

George Simpson

Roy Manifold discussing his photos with George Simpson
In the wake of the release of the long awaited official Valentich files from the Australian government’s Department of Transport during June 2012, (largely through the persistence of Keith Basterfield) which provided information for a wide range of conflicting theories, the Discovery Science programme reminds us that the disappearance of Frederick Valentich and the Cessna is still a mystery for which we have no certain answers.

The Department of Transport "Valentich" file V116/783/1047
Dr. Richard Haines who investigated the case and authored a book on it – “Melbourne Episode – case study of a missing pilot” (1987) facilitated the airing of the actual strange sound heard at the end of Frederick Valentich's last radio conversation with Steve Robey. I heard the tape back in 1984 when I stayed with Dr. Haines in California.

It was Richard Haines comment in the programme that the sound might be of contact between the Cessna plane (DSJ) and the UFO Valentich had been describing in the six minute conversation that caused me to suddenly reconsider a very strange story I had come across back in early 1995.

The "Coonabarabran Times" of Coonabarabran, in north west country New South Wales, Australia, in its November 17th, 1994 issue, carried brief details of an apparent close encounter with a diamond shaped UFO near ground level on November 15th, 1994, on the Mendooran road to the south of the town.    With the assistance of local police, I was able to interview the 4 principal witnesses to this apparent close encounter. 

The Mendooran Road UFO was initially seen as a large light source hovering over the nearby road.  An approaching car appeared to cause the object to start moving. and slowly move closer to a farm house, where the 4 adults witnesses were observing it.  At its closest point all witnesses described it as a massive object - a diamond shape with lights around the edges, with window like structures within the body of it.  There was a very bright yellow light inside it.   It appeared to be at tree height and of massive dimensions.  As the 4 adults left the house verandah to go closer to the silent object, which seemed to be only 300 yards away and slowly passing along side the house area, it suddenly accelerated at a phenomenal speed and disappeared in the distance.  After the object had passed by there was a tremendous high pitched engine noise, almost like a sonic wave.
The details were so striking I decided to do an on site investigation.  Further still I had long known that Coonabarabran seemed to be a haven for UFO stories.  There were many reports that my friend Robb Tilley and I would investigate over the days we were in the area.
Here are a few of them.  On the same section of Mendooran Road of the November 1994 incident a driver coming from Sydney to Coonabarabran had an encounter in which the radio and other electrical items in the car were affected.
I spoke with a gentleman who witnessed another massive diamond shaped object while timber cutting near Binaway, back in about 1979.  His companion allegedly took a photograph, which my informant indicates he saw.  It apparently showed a silvery shape with sections without the observed lights.  The informant states he was told the army took the photo and he believes that his companion ended up in a mental home.  He implied it was due to the photo incident.

The Sydney Morning Herald of January 11, 1995 ran an article featuring a UFO sighting by Dr. John Dawe, the manager of the Sidings Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran.  Dr. Dawe is an internationally respected astronomer. The article stated that many months ago he was driving back from Sydney with his wife and daughter.
"We were going up a hill near Merriwa, at the top of the Hunter, when I happened to look up at the sky.  There was a uniform, grey cloud cover, but suddenly something seemed to detach itself, hover for a while, then fall vertically very quickly below the brow of the hill.  I yelled an expletive, which made everyone take notice.  My wife saw the same thing, but by the time we got to the top we couldn't see anything.
"My tentative explanation was that it was a weather balloon.  But it was grey, rather than silver, and was elliptical horizontally, not vertically."
Dr. Dawe was quoted as saying it was "classic stuff."
"It was something I still cannot explain.  But I am 99.99 per cent certain it was nothing alien."
Dr. Dawe did not respond to a letter I sent him, but another Coonabarabran astronomer told me that he felt Dr. Dawe's report was only unexplained because unfortunately Dr. Dawe could not stick around immediately after the sighting and thoroughly investigate the matter.  The sentiment expressed was that an explanation would have been forthcoming had a prompt investigation occurred.

So there were many stories to look into in the area. One of the area witnesses told me that I should seek out Laurie a local businessman, who had a lot of UFO stories to tell that he himself had heard. 
One story was utterly startling and unbelievable, but it was apparently connected to the Valentich mystery, initially told to me by one of the Coonabarabran witnesses who had heard it through Laurie.  Others encouraged us to ask Laurie about other stories.  We did both, but the story in question stood out.
Laurie told us he had heard the story directly from a South Australian farmer who had bought a property in the north west of New South Wales.  The farmer had come into his business and the talk had strayed onto UFOs.  He shared with Laurie an experience he had on his South Australian property on the day following the disappearance of Frederick Valentich.
The farmer said he was harvesting lucerne when he heard a loud screeching sound coming from the harvester. He thought it might have been a bearing, so he uncoupled the harvester from the tractor’s power drive, and jumped off and went back to have a look.   The farmer was trying to work out the source of the continuing noise, when he became aware that he was in shadow.  He looked up and saw he was directly underneath a large “saucer” shaped object, and going by the size of his harvester, he estimated it to be about 30 metres across (approximately 90 feet).  The loud screeching noise continued. 
From directly underneath the object the farmer reportedly could see two concentric outer rings or bands that were counter rotational and were operating at different speeds.   One went very fast, so fast that you had to blink to see that it was moving. The other one was moving very slowly in the opposite direction.  There were two small protuberances that the farmer took to be rudders, and two large holes, one had ‘shimmering heat’ coming out, the other was shooting small flames.
The farmer began to think there was something horribly wrong with this huge object and that it might crash down on him.   So he ran to get out from under it. He got the impression that one of object’s engines had stopped working. 
As he moved away the farmer looked back at the object which he could now see edge on.  It had a large dome on top, and what looked like a black weather seal along the base of the dome structure.  He then noticed what looked like a “church door with a curved top, but no windows or handles were visible.”
He then told Laurie the most unusual thing was that he saw the massive object had a Cessna stuck to the outside of it – “the whole aircraft.”  It was flat up against the side of the object with it’s tail hanging down.  Laurie said he was not sure whether the farmer said there was engine oil running down the outside of the Cessna but he could clearly see the plane’s registration markings.
He found a nail and scratched the plane’s registration number into the paint of his tractor.  
According to Laurie, the farmer said the object – “the saucer” – still accompanied by the screeching sound then flew away over a ridge in the direction of a nearby Army range.
The farmer said to Laurie he told no one about what happened.   He went into town later in the day.  One of his neighbours saw him and apparently said,  “I see you are doing some more crop spreading”.  He said no, why do you say that.  The neighbour said, “I saw the Cessna today up in your top paddock.”  The farmer told Laurie, he replied to his neighbour, “There’s no Cessna in my top paddock.”  The neighbour insisted,  “Yes there is,  I was up near there, I saw it there today.”  The farmer said,  “That’s interesting, I’ll have a look when I get home.”
He went up to the top paddock and saw no plane, but he did see three tyre marks and some tracks from a plane. He followed the tracks to where they ended, and there was “a pool of ’flamin’ engine oil” on the ground. 
I recorded the story from Laurie on two separate occasions, one over the phone in January 1995 and face to face in Coonabarabran one month later in the presence of my friend Robb Tilley.  Laurie was impressed with the story.  Robb and I simply did not know what to think.  Getting further information proved elusive.
As I had lived through the Valentich mystery unfolding at the time in 1978 and had written extensively about the research and investigation of the extraordinary events I was acutely sensitive to the bizarre and strange aspects.  I also had contact with Guido Valentich, Frederick’s father and I knew that he had been exposed to various claims about what had happened to his son.  He even helped me investigate one claim, which ultimately ended in no real resolution, just another unverifiable claim.  Sadly Guido Valentich passed away without a definitive answer to his son’s disappearance.
With Laurie’s account from the farmer I had yet another extraordinarily bizarre and unbelievable claim.  Laurie told me the farmer returned on another occasion with the Cessna’s registration number.  It was DSJ the number of Valentich’s Cessna.  This in itself was not convincing for me because that information was widely reported at the time of the plane’s disappearance.
I did not want to burden the Valentich family or authorities with yet another  unverified story.  The biggest problem the story had for me then was that Laurie couldn’t recollect the farmer’s name.  He told me he had written all this down in notes, but he had not been able to find them.  I stayed in touch with Laurie for a while but despite attempts to come up with a name, without his notes we couldn’t progress the investigation unless we had a vast amount time and resources available. 
I circulated a brief account on Paranet (a favoured research internet facility) at the time but nothing came of it.   So the story stayed a sleeper until Dr. Haines comments on the Discovery Science programme “The Unexplained Files.”  I immediately accessed my notes and tapes and began to evaluate whether the considerably improved resources of the internet, social media and other resources would now allow another attempt at getting to the heart of the story.  Sadly, I quickly learnt that Laurie had past away about 7 years ago.
I contacted George Simpson and shared the story with him.  We both agreed that despite the bizarre nature of the story we should try to see if we could track down anyone who had knowledge of the story and see if we could get a name for the farmer.  We have since been tracking down all sorts of clues.

We have even talked with a farmer who described a similar experience - a UFO over his property with a Cessna attached to it on the day following the Valentich disappearance!  His is a story with bizarre additions to the tale told to Laurie.  It seems this farmer may not have talked to Laurie in Coonabarabran.  He was not from South Australia and his property was in southern central News South Wales near the Victorian border! 
The former farmer, from southern New South Wales, talks of a part of his property he gave over to UFOs that would land from time to time.   This became an obsession that his neighbours became aware of.  He even tried crude strategies to catch the UFOs.
Then allegedly, there was the day and night the UFO came with a Cessna plane attached to the side of it.  The story this farmer told included a visit to his homestead by a pilot, accompanied by a strange person,  seeking aviation oil, a strange story of a pilot “forced” to fly a Cessna away from the area and an impossible tale of an object from the plane left in a tree stump as a clue, the farmer thought, that the pilot and “the plane” had been there, hoping to be found.  The farmer thought this was a flight recorder “black box,” but this certainly could not be, as civilian Cessna aircraft, such as VH-DSJ, did not have one.  That connection and other factors make this former NSW farmer’s story both troubling and problematic.  His former neighbour, who I have spoken to, does not confirm details attributed to them, but does confirm curious UFO stories all coming from the former farmer, some seemingly predating October 1978 – the period the Valentich disappearance occurred in.
Had he heard the story of the South Australian farmer and made it his own, absorbing it into his own UFO obsessions?  There are perhaps curious echoes with other diverse tales of Valentich returning from Spanish, Russian and American sources, none which convinced me upon trying to thoroughly examined the dubious evidence for them.
We have not yet found the South Australian farmer who spoke with Laurie.  All our investigations to date have supported that Laurie had a great memory, but unfortunately in this case when it came to names we need his notes and these may be lost to us.  We hope not.  Our investigations continue as we go through a number of different names and clues.  We hope that our investigation or someone reading this might have facts that will stand up to scrutiny and give us the possibility of figuring out if this wild tale is the stuff of UFO high strangeness and an answer to the Valentich mystery, or just another ultimately unverified story.  Hopefully time will tell and we will be able to report further on this fascinating or beguiling story.

We owe it to the Valentich family to find out.  Contact George Simpson or me if you have any information that might help in our investigation at or  
Some things are certain in our wild ride – these are strange days, strange tales.  Far less certain is whether we are trying to resolve a genuine story, strange echoes of one, or a tall tale from down under – a strange kind of bush “urban legend” in the making.  So far it has been an intense, intriguing and occasionally frustrating investigation of a tale from the OZ files.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ufology - "One Way forward": use the approach of science

Debunking Skeptics (CSICOP & the Australian Skeptics for example) would do well to read Edward Ashpole's new book "Signatures of Life - Science searches the Universe".  So would the UFO "true believers."  For the benefit of the latter it is easily to acquire via Amazon even as an e-book on Kindle. Skeptics should find it even easier - it has been published by their favoured publishing House - Prometheus Books.
From the publishers:

Informative and fascinating, this book delves into the topic of extraterrestrial life in a thought-provoking yet scientifically responsible way. Are we alone in the universe, or is life a universal phenomenon? For fifty years, astronomers in SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) have scanned the universe for intelligent signals, but with no success. In this intriguing book, Edward Ashpole explains the probable reasons for this and discusses other avenues of investigation more in line with the nature of science and technology. The author examines the problems inherent in scanning the universe for radio or optical signals from an alien intelligence. These include the difficulty of trying to communicate with another species possessing a completely unknown form of technology and the vast distances that alien communications would have to travel to reach us. This leads the author to other ways of finding evidence for extraterrestrial life, given that advanced civilizations would probably use artificial intelligence for interstellar travel. Our scientists now know how to detect the presence of life on a planet by observing its spectral lines, so more advanced alien researchers would have had ample time (about two billion years) to investigate these "signatures of life" coming from Earth. Hence, the author argues, alien space probes could exist within our own solar system; there might be evidence on the erosion-free Moon or on another moon or planet. In fact, a few scientists have scanned NASA's best photography, looking for evidence of such "alien archaeology." In a final chapter, the author urges an open-minded attitude on the part of scientists to all credible sources of information, along with the use of the scientific method to test various hypotheses and weed out the fantasy factor, which so often interferes with serious attempts to find hard evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.

From the contents pages:
I found that the author referred to me in the book:
The endnote in the text:
The quote from me comes from my chapter on "Physical Traces" in the book "UFOs 1947-1987" where I focused on the ground traces left in UFO landing events - Close Encounters of the 2nd kind in Dr. Allen Hynek's UFO parlance:
The "witches" reference comes from my 1996 book "The OZ Files - the Australian UFO story."  I elaborate:
In 1973, I was a third year Science student majoring in chemistry and mathematics at the University of New England.  I was also engaged in "forbidden science".  It was not the first time.  Nor would it be the last.   I was experiencing some difficulties in analysing soil samples from a UFO landing site at Emerald Beach, near Woolgoolga, on the north coast of New South Wales.
 A contact suggested I approach Dr. Keith Bigg, then Deputy Director of Radiophysics - CSIRO.  Dr. Bigg was helpful in his advice.  He was most intrigued about my descriptions of the Emerald Beach incident and the fact that "circles" had been found.  "Seems quite a classic case," he wrote.   Dr. Bigg's parting sanguine advice had an instructive twist to it.  "Never admit that your interest is in UFOs or you'll get nowhere.  You're more likely to get cooperation in hunting witches.  Think up a "scientific" reason...," he wrote.   Dr. Bigg's analytical advice was in the true spirit of science, a tribute to his own open mindedness, but his closing remarks were a sad reflection of the prevailing myopic view of mainstream science.  The English visionary, William Blake, referred to it as "Newton's sleep."

In my 2005 book "Hair of the Alien" I took the search for trace evidence into the more controversial area of alien abduction claims (see pages 6-7 of my book):
One of the great pioneers of scientific detection or forensic science was Dr Edmond Locard.  He is perhaps best remembered for the basic principle or idea behind the whole body of forensic science: every contact leaves a trace. While Locard clearly had in mind crime committed by human felons, the application of the principle in this very controversial area is of critical significance.[i] If alien abductions really occur in the manner described by thousands of people around the world, then at the very least a “crime” against the sovereignty of human kind is being perpetrated. Most of the claims of alien abduction describe situations that are clearly against the will of the individuals involved. Thus the “crime” interpretation and the forensic approach it inspires are well founded. Beyond the striking biological perspective there is a much broader and complex dimension to the forensic viewpoint. As in classic crime scene investigations the evidence for the reality of abduction claims can come from diverse avenues, such as the biological, physical, intuitive, and just plain commonsense.  There is also a cautionary element to forensic investigations; they require considerable care. Even while looking for the traces of alien “contact”, we must carefully examine the impact of the “contact” that comes with the intrusions of researchers, investigators and other participants into these bizarre situations. Their involvement can often give a less than satisfactory or reliable dimension to the more prosaic senses of “contact” with possible alien realities. Not every contact leaves a reliable trace.  Every aspect needs to be carefully considered. Beyond these cautionary elements, the idea of a “contact” resonates powerfully with the otherworldly implications of alien abduction experiences.

[i] For an interesting discussion of Locard’s principle see the prologue of Dr. Zakaria Erzinclioglu’s book “Every Contact leaves a trace”.

Edward Ashpole makes very important points in his book:

Debunking Skeptics and true believers would do well to read Edward Ashpole's fascinating new book. It highlights the need for UFO research to focus on good science, something I have been advocating throughout my own journey through the extraordinary UFO mystery.  While Ashpole is providing a broad brush and in the process misses many scientific touchstones in ufology it is a great bridging work. However I suspect that those that really should read it - the debunking skeptics and the uncritical true believer may be very stubborn demographics if history is any measure.  The book is a call for a more sensible path beyond the dogmas and beliefs of both extremes.