Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Mystery of the Rendlesham Forest Incident.

Twas the night after Christmas, and all through Rendlesham Forest, not a creature was stirring, except for some mysterious lights and a lot confused American Airmen.
The 26th of December, 1980. It's the early hours of the morning, the night is still and cold. Personnel at the American Air Force operated bases of RAF Woodbridge and RAF Bentwaters (in Suffolk, England.) are expecting a calm, if not a little boring, night shift. They aren't expecting to see unidentified lights descending upon the nearby Rendlesham Forest. Despite the Cold War still being frosty enough to ice skate on, it was decided that it must be a downed aircraft, albeit one that hadn't called for help and was on an unannounced flight plan. The police were called and immediate aid was sent out, in the form of a three unarmed men, Burroughs, Penniston and Cabansaq. They didn't find a downed plane or helicopter. What they found was straight out of an episode of the X-Files. 
They found what can only be described as a UFO: a metallic cone shaped object, with glowing coloured lights, surrounded by a sickly yellow mist.
Penniston's sketch of the craft.
The object just sat there on three tripod like legs. It had settled down in a small clearing in the forest, seemingly unbothered by the curious humans surrounding it. It sounds like a bad 1950's B movie. I think most people would have just run, but these were soldiers and they had nerves of steel, they chose to hold their ground. Braving the fear of the unknown, these witnesses were able to get quite close to the object. Penniston even edged close enough to touch it, pulling out a notebook to draw the craft and describing the air as being full of electricity in a later interview. It was estimated to be about 10ft long and about 8ft high, with strange symbols on it's hull, not dissimilar to hieroglyphs. A short while later the unknown craft retracted it's legs and shot off into the sky. Although the men attempted to follow it, there was no earthly way they could have caught it. While this was occuring, the local police had arrived at the base. In their opinion the only lights they could see were from a lighthouse at the coast, a few miles away at Orford Ness. However the Orford Ness lighthouse is unlikely to show up on radar, which is exactly what the unknown craft that was seen that night did, when it was reported by a nearby military radar station. Sightings occurred again the following night, when a young Airman by the name of Lori Boeon spotted the craft whist on night watch. She wasn't alone in seeing it, as there were five fellow airmen with her that night. The strange lights were passed off as nothing more than fireworks.
Events seemed to come to the head the following evening. Whilst a party was happening at the base the UFO was spotted again and a team lead by Lt. Colonel Charles Halt headed back to the clearing where the the first sighting had taken place. Lt. Colonel Halt was second in command at the base, showing just how seriously this odd event was being taken. Although his initial intention may have been to debunk the incident from the previous two nights, he soon found that to be an impossible task. Searching the clearing they found clear evidence of the first nights events. Trees surrounding the clearing had been visibly singed and had broken branches from about 20ft up, in the center of the clearing were three visible indentations from the objects feet*, which measured out a perfect triangle and match Pennington's sketches. They had bought scientific equipment with them, a test with a radiation survey meter revealed that the levels of radiation in the clearing were much higher than the normal background levels of radiation found outside of the clearing. Not enough to be dangerous, but still abnormal. And if that didn't alarm Halt and his team, what happened next most certainly did. They saw IT for themselves.
UFO statue, based on Penniston's sketches. Photo by myself.
This time the craft flowed through the trees, dripping what appeared to be some kind of molten metal, traces of which were never found. Halt and his team chased after the UFO as it zipped along, causing no damage to the trees as it passed through them. It hovered through the air, firing beams of light at the air base and, at one point, it's fascinated pursuers. As Halt and his men followed it into a field outside the forest, the UFO seemed to explode into five different points of light before vanishing. Both bases reported having beams of light shone into them from above that night and, like the soldiers who first sighted it, Halt and his group had radio issues for the entire time the UFO was flying around.
During all of the incidents livestock in the area became franticly distressed and both Burrough's and Halt's groups heard what they described as a woman screaming, although it is possible that could have been a fox as they do make very similar sounds. It is also worth mentioning that the Police officers theory of the lights being from the nearest light house was debunked, since the lights of the mysterious craft and those of the lighthouse were both visible at the same time and a good space apart. What adds further credibility to the incident is that it was witnessed by Airbase personnel of all levels of command, from lowest to highest. These aren't just kids messing around, someone after a quick buck, someone stoned out of their mind or a drunk on their way home from the pub. These are sensible, down to earth people. In their line of work they have to be. Even Lt. Col. Halt was so convinced that something odd was going on that he personally got involved in the investigation. He recorded his experiences on a hand held tape recorder, which you can listen to here, and wrote an official memo on the subject to the MOD, which you can read here, a couple of weeks after the event. Someone prone to imagining little green men doesn't get that high up the chain of command and to this day he swears what he saw was a UFO.
I imagine that after reading all of that that you are asking the same question that everyone asks, the question that I've asked myself. What the hell was it? Not an easy subject to approach when there's so many conspiracy theories around the event, but at the same time so much evidence. To this day UFOlogists swear that it's the most compelling evidence of life on other planets visiting us, it's what has lead to the incident being referred to as the British Roswell. The most popular theory that I've read is that the base was either being used to secretly hold nuclear weapons or experimental jets, and that the UFO was attracted by that since it seemed more interested in the base than the humans around it. Adding fuel to these theories is that some evidence from the investigation was allegedly removed from RAF Bentwaters and was transferred to another American Airbase in Germany. This has lead some to believe that even though information on the incident was released to the public, something important is still being covered up. Further proof for these theories also comes from reports that Airmen involved in the incident have been bullied into changing their stories with threats of bodily harm or worse. Seeing that these claims come from the airmen themselves, I'd say these threats failed.
Rendlesham Forest. Photo by Myself.
More recently there have been reports that the whole thing was a prank, one played by the SAS on the terrified American airmen using a weather balloon, but even that doesn't sit right in my mind. Funny, but otherwise difficult and expensive to pull off, as well as being a PR nightmare if it turned out to be true. And, seriously, how does a weather balloon zip through trees? How does one drip molten substances, effect background radiation levels and just vanish into thin air. The simple answer is that it doesn't. I would love to tell you it was an alien space craft. I would love to be able to sit here at my computer, doing my very best Giorgio Tsoukalos impression, ALIENS! But I can't. Because I don't believe it was aliens. I'm not a big believer in them as we see them depicted in the media, little grey fellas with big, dark eyes. I do believe there's something out there, I believe we're aren't alone in this huge, crazy, magical universe. And I do believe those airmen saw something. But I don't believe this was the work of little green men from mars. What I do believe is that there is something going on there. You don't remove evidence if there's nothing going on, you don't try to silence people if there is nothing to hide. The announcement that it was a prank played by the SAS, which itself came from an anonymous source, comes across as a lame excuse. My personal opinion is that it was some sort of experimental equipment designed for observation, maybe some sort of early drone prototype, and that whoever built it was using the two bases for a test run. The sighting where the thing exploded and disappeared could have been down to a design fault or built in explosive charges. This is just my theory, it's most likely as far from the truth as any other theory out there. But when it comes down to it, theories are all we have. We will never know what the UFO was, where it came from or what it wanted.

The Rendlesham Forest UFO trail
The UFO Trail is very well marked. Photo by Myself.
Shortly before writing this blog I was lucky enough to visit the forest with my two friends, M and D. Although aware of the forest and its story, D didn't realise we were that close to it and I somehow had it in my head that it was further north. So when we stumbled upon Rendlesham by accident, it was a delightful surprise. The forest itself is dense and lush, a place of rich greens and deep shadows. With well marked trails its nearly impossible to get lost, but very easy to lose all sense of time. Not ideal if, like me, you messed up with the parking meter and only have two hours to explore**. We would have liked to have had longer time there, but we had a great time. The only UFO we found was the statue placed in a clearing, deep in the forest. We saw no odd lights and the trees are so thick, so close together that I don't see how mysterious lights drifting through them could have been mistaken for those of a light house. You'd be lucky to see lights from the coast at all. There were a few areas of the forest that seemed unnaturally quiet, which I found odd since it's breading season and birds are quite vocal when it comes to announcing their territory. However the rest of the forest was teeming with life. There's a well laid out and clearly marked UFO Trail that you can follow, compleat with information boards about what happened that night. Unlike Roswell you won't get arrested for taking photos. It even leads you past one of the bases, presumably RAF Bentwaters, which was handed back to the MoD in 1993 and is now no longer used. An interesting place, but not one accessible to the public. If you're interested in this story at all, or even just like a nice countryside walk, I would recommend a visit. It's a fascinating place.

What are your theories on the Rendlesham Forest incident? Have you an odd story of your own from the area? If so, you can tag me on Twitter using my Twitter handle or just drop a comment here on my blog. Don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you!

*The local police were called in to look at these indentations too, but claimed they were the footprints of some woodland creature. There are no creatures in Rendlesham forest that make footprints that shape or size, or are capable of burning trees.


  1. My first thoughts are definitely right there with yours. This feels more like a military cover-up of their own project. I think the clever bastards may have created the UFO story as a diversion.

    1. For something that would normally be laughed at, they seem oddly keen on drawing attention to it, like "LOOK AT THIS AND NOT THAT!"

  2. I've always believed that the UFO sightings (which mostly peaked during the Cold War) were test flights of espionage craft of some description from one side or the other. Given that the "carrots help you see in the dark" rumour was created and spread by the MOD during WW2 to try and cover up the invention of radar on the planes, it really wouldn't surprise me if they invented alien spaceships as well.

    Ruth -

    1. Oh! I want to look more into that too. What is MOD? Sorry, new to these acronyms.

    2. Agreeing with you there. What better way to test an espionage device than on an ally? We'd have shared the tech with them so they would have forgiven us anyway. The radiation this is worrying though.

  3. Fascinating read. Like you, I'm not a big believer in the aliens we see in films and drawings, but the idea we're alone in this universe is equally preposterous to me �� In any case, I agree that the UFO was some kind of military craft. I also grew up near Suffolk, but hadn't heard of aliens at Rendlesham before! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the blog. Rendlesham is an odd one, I'm surprised it's not talked about more.