A collection of documents from 1967 found in the national archives give us a hint into just how seriously the government used to take UFO sightings.
The documents outline how the government investigated UFOs—a process that most likely lasted for years afterwards—and breaks down six cases that are “of interest” to the government in detail. The investigations include a man burned by a UFO in Manitoba, some incredibly weird radar sightings by the Department of Defence, an RCMP officer in Nova Scotia who watched a UFO dive below the water and disappear, and a crop circle found in Alberta that was the first investigated by a government.
The documents were found in the national archive by Chris Rutkowski—a man that could probably be best described as Canada’s Fox Mulder—and recently posted to his Ufology blog. Rutowski routinely goes through Canada’s national archives looking for things like this and described the find as “a gem.”
"What we do have in here is rather interesting reports from qualified personnel and qualified sources and investigated by qualified investigators and still there is no explanation," Rutkowski told VICE. "What that tells me is that the UFO phenomena was taking quite seriously by them indeed."
While the government has some of tUFO research readily available online in a database it is still relatively unknown—especially among the general public—how they actually investigated cases and what the bureaucracy was like. This, Rutkowski says, might be “our best snapshot” into this process.
"This is certainly an interesting snapshot because it does show what was happening before and how it was going to move forward and I think it set the stage for how the Canadian military and government were looking at UFOs from that point onward,” said Rutkowski.
The 27 page set of documents—which Rutkowski was kind enough to direct VICE towards—was prepared by Wing Commander Douglas Robertson (a Canadian Forces officer well-known in the UFO community) for someone we do not know in November of 1967. Rutkowski speculates it could’ve been for a newly-appointed Minister of Defence as “the infamous Paul Hellyer [one of the world’s highest ranking alien believers] had left the position a few months earlier.” At the time, as Robertson writes, the National Department of Defence was the body in charge of investigating UFO reports.
The briefing breaks down the seven military categories of UFOs which include hoaxes, mass hysteria, misinterpretations of natural events, advanced military technology, and psychological conditions. However, the seventh and final category is “unusual sightings which the viewer is unable to identify or explain, namely, UFOs.” Hell yeah.
The documents show that the investigation into UFOs was a little bit of a hot potato in Canada as in it was frequently handed off between departments. When a new report came in, researchers would first decide if the object was a meteor or fireball—if so it would be directed to the NRC. If it was something else it would then be put in one of three categories Class A: worthy of investigation Class B: interesting but you don’t need to look into it; and Class C: boring.
The investigations varied and could be as simple as an interview or as a complicated as getting several other agencies including the RCMP, NRC, Defence Research Board (DRB) or (weirdly) the Department of National Health and Welfare on board. In many of the cases, you can see that post-secondary institutions like the University of Toronto and the University of Manitoba would help out with analysis. The government would also send professionals to investigate the sites in-depth and if the case was intense enough, partner with the United States.
The document was written during an interesting time for UFOs in Canada. As Rutkowski puts it, 1967 was a high water mark for this type of activity in the Great White North. The briefing indicates there was a jump in reports from 1966 to 1967—from about 40 to 167. The case files showcase A) just how strange these occurrences were and B) just how seriously the government was taking the investigations.
Here are breakdowns of the case studies Robertson concludes “may be of interest” to whoever the intended reader of the briefing may be:
The first one outlines perhaps Canada’s most infamous “UFO encounter,” the Falcon Lake case. The case revolved around Steven Michalak, a Manitoba man, who says he encountered two UFOs 90 miles east of Winnipeg. While Michalak was analyzing a rock formation he said two flying saucers appeared before him. One flew off at high speed while other landed about 100 feet in front of him. When he reached out and touched the object with his gloved hand, it burned him immediately. The object took off and the exhaust fumes reportedly burned him as well. Michalak was hospitalized for several days as a result.
In the briefing, Robertson writes that soil samples at the site were “analyzed and found to be radioactive to a degree that the samples had to be safely disposed of.” In the briefing, Robertson admits that “neither the DND nor the RCMP investigative teams were able to provide evidence which could dispute Mr Michalak’s story.” Furthermore, the radiologist dispatched to the area was unable to explain why the area was contaminated with radiation. The section ends with “although the investigation has been completed, a satisfactory ending or conclusion is still lacking.”
Many, many things have been written about the Falcon Lake case, including a book Rutkowski wrote with Michalak's son.
Calgary UFO Photo
The second case, again made in 1967, revolves around a famous Canadian photograph taken of a UFO near Calgary. It tells the story of Warren Smith who was out for a hike near Nanton, Alberta.
“A UFO suddenly appeared outside of an area of trees a few hundred feet above the observers,” reads the briefing which goes on to explain how Smith was able to snap two photos of the objects. Smith made prints of these shots, which were then sent to the DND. “The prints were subjected to a detailed analysis by the Photo Intelligence Interpretation Centre. The Centre concluded its investigation by stating, assuming the photos by Mr Smith to be genuine, the UFO fit the description of the objects by Mr Smith.”
Clear Water Bay
The next case outlined in the briefing is focused on a family that was returning to their home in Clear Water Bay by boat when they encountered a UFO. According to the briefing the object appeared about 50 feet away from “Mr. Green” (how he is referred to in the document) and Green decided to investigate it. When he approached the object ripped towards Green and he “immediately retreated using maximum power.” Then the object returned to its original spot.
Green and his family docked the boat and ran to a nearby home to wake all the occupants so they could come and look at the object. They were able to do so for about 15 minutes until it took off. In a nearby home, a neighbour that was interviewed by the government said that while he didn’t see the object he was “listening to his radio at the time the UFO was sighted and received so much static he was forced to turn it off.”
A “detailed investigation conducted by the DND in cooperation with the RCMP” found that Green was a “reliable, competent, and sincere witness with no indulgence tendencies.” They also checked to see if alcohol was consumed at the time, found none, and tested Green’s eyes. Wilted leaves were found at the top of the trees near where the object was allegedly hovering and some were sent to the University of Manitoba for lab testing. The Department of Forestry also checked and found “that they are unable to explain the reason for the wilting.”
The section ends with “the investigation has been concluded without any fixed conclusions or findings being made.”
The RCMP’s Diving UFO
The next sighting was seen by an RCMP corporal out near Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia. The RCMP officer describes seeing an object about 60 feet in length with white lights flying over the water at a low altitude. The object started making a high pitched whistling sound and slammed into the water leaving only one white light visible. RCMP Cpl Wereisky approached the light by boat and it rapidly sank underneath him as he got close. The area was then searched by the Canadian Coast Guard and other boats but nothing was found.
The government conducted a rigorous investigation into this sighting which included an underwater search and wasn’t able to find anything. The government investigation ended, once again, “without finding any fixed findings.”
Department of Transportation Radar Sighting
The next investigation outlined in the briefing is one Rutkowski described as being “very unique.” In July of 1967, the Department of Transportation reported that “an unidentified radar target was tracked through seven sweeps of their radar, witnessed by three controllers, and two technicians some 70 miles east of Winnipeg.”
The target was ripping at intense rate. As outlined in the briefing, it increased from a speed of “720 knots [1,333 km per hour] to 3,600 knots [6,667 km per hour] in one minute and ten seconds.” The briefing explains that the five people who witnessed the radar object are “certain it was a radar target and not something associated with mechanical, electrical, or equipment faults.” On the same day in Kenora, Ontario, a similar object was picked up on the radar.
“The unknown object was under the positive radar for 29 minutes,” reads the briefing about the Kenora sighting. “The object followed Air Canada Flight 405 for a period before disappearing from scope. It reappeared and followed Air Canada Flight 927 for a period of time. DOT are unable to explain these radar returns.”
The DND again did an investigation into this and again were unable to find any conclusions.
Camrose Crop Circle
The final case outlined in the briefing is one in Alberta and, according to Rutowski, contrary to popular belief shows that it was in Canada, not Britain, where a government first investigated crop circles. It occurred outside of Camrose Alberta in August of 1967 when “several deep impressions were made in an unknown object in a pasture.”
The Department of Defence sent out a man who is referred to as “Dr. Jones” in the document to investigate and he found “no physical evidence of any damage to trees or shrubs in the field and no evidence to suggest a deliberate interference or involvement by a person.” Rutowski was able to find further documentation of Dr. Jones investigation and again was kind enough to share them with VICE. In the documents, you can see just how in depth the government got with their investigation.
In the documents, Jones said that he believed it could be a “deliberate hoax” but the hoaxers would “require some equipment and a great deal of determination.” He estimates that in order to do such spherical circles the hoaxers would need two wheels on a 30-foot axle that put pressure of three-quarters of a ton on a pasture. Next Jones has us “consider the UFO possibility” and he breaks down the math behind what size a flying vehicle would need to be in order to produce such marks and comes upon 135 tons.
“This load of 135 tons would be in the right ballpark for a large aircraft, or presumably, small space craft,” ends this section of Jones’ report.
After the case studies, Robertson uses the briefing to discuss possible future plans regarding UFO research in Canada and give several recommendations to our unknown reader. He proposes that the DND hands off the responsibility of investigating UFOs to the National Research Council and that the Director of Operations works as the coordinating agency between the DND units providing field investigations and the NRC.
“It is evident that from investigations conducted by the DND, and from the findings made by prominent and highly qualified personnel, that the primary interest of UFOs lies in the field of science, and to a lesser degree, to one that is associated with national security,” writes Robertson.
Robertson writes that the workload in 1967 regarding UFOs was so large that it was actually becoming detrimental to government workers as it took up so much time. He also writes that the government should be more open with the public about their work in UFOs. This is something Rutkowski—even over 51 years removed—still admittedly agrees with.
"By not being able to comment it made it look like there was something to hide. Of course, this document does show there was some very interesting conclusions, some unexplained cases that should have been made more public,” said Rutkowski. “But when a public relations officer just keeps saying no comment, no comment, it shows that perhaps there is something that is being hidden.
"My reading from this document is that the Canadian Forces didn't really know what to do with UFOs either. It's not that they were hiding everything they just didn't have the expertise in the field and the scientific community didn't want anything to do with it so they were kinda hung out to dry."
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