A 1994 UFO Sighting by Children Changed Lives. What If This Guy Made It Up?

The second episode of VICE Studios' Netflix series "Encounters" casts a new light on a legendary UFO sighting.
A 1994 UFO Sighting by Children Changed Lives. What If This Guy Made It Up?
Images: Netflix

What happened during recess at a rural elementary school in Zimbabwe in 1994 depends on who you talk to. To many in the UFO research community, the event—where dozens of school children claimed to have seen a UFO and alien on the playground—is one of the most significant encounters between humans and extraterrestrials in history. For the children who were there, and then went through the global media circus that surrounded their alleged encounter, the event has in many ways defined their lives since. 


But what if it's all made up?

“No, I didn't see the UFO. I made up the whole thing,” said Dallyn, whose last name is withheld along with all of the former students in "Believers," the second episode of VICE Studios’ Netflix UFO documentary series Encounters. He claimed that wanting to get out of class, he and a friend came up with “a crazy idea which never, ever should have worked.”

Dallyn began pointing to a rock shining in the sun: “there's a spaceship, there's an alien.”

“Within half an hour, all the kids were talking about it. All the kids were running around and the whole school was buzzing,” he said.

Mystery solved, right?

Not for Emma and Salma. The two were playing together when they both claimed to have seen “a being.”

“Huge eyes that you just can't not look towards. And once we got that eye connection, everything else around us just disappeared,” said Emma. “That's when I started feeling messages. The ideas just came across over into me, into my being. It wasn't talking. It was almost telepathic. It was just a feeling, this overwhelming feeling, of how important the environment is.”

“It didn't touch me physically, but it felt like with that stare, it touched every ounce of my body,” said Salma. She too, felt messages: “We need clean air, beautiful plants, clean soil to be able to live and thrive.”

Dallyn's confession, which could not be independently verified, is a stunning moment that casts a legendary UFO encounter in a light not often seen. 62 children in total claimed to have seen either an alien or spaceship on Sept. 16, 1994 at the Ariel School in the town of Ruwa, in one of the largest mass sightings in modern times. “Believers” features interviews with a handful of the now adult former students about the event, even showing archive footage of some of them being interviewed as children at the time. Indeed, the supposed sighting became a media sensation, championed by a controversial Harvard Psychologist named John Mack who travelled to Africa to hear their stories. 


Mack became well known in the 90s for his work with people who claimed to have seen UFOs or been abducted by aliens, appearing on a wide variety of popular day time television shows of the time like The Oprah Winfrey Show and Maury. Mack unequivocally believed the children after his trip to Africa and considered the Ariel School sighting to be one of the most credible sightings ever.

In one old grainy video, a young girl named Lisil looks visibly shaken talking about the sighting, describing her ongoing fears at night, “I worry that the man is still looking at me and he is gonna kill me.”

Now, she said that she is still traumatized by the event years later. “You try and live a normal life, you try and move on. But it's always this experience that just opens up wars again,” said Lisil

“I remember seeing big black eyes. And I don't know if it was telepathic, I don't know. But the message I was receiving and the message I remember was that we were harming the planet,“ she said.

Many of the witnesses, including brothers Tapfu and Kudzanai, said that people over the years tried to discredit their experiences or convince them that what they saw wasn't real. 

“It definitely was not a rock, I know what a rock looks like,” said Tapfu, laughing. “On the lower half of it there were lights.”

Kudzanai said he saw the being and that it “terrified” him. “Short, long arms, crazy, greenish, oval shaped head.”

In an interview, Dallyn maintained that his former schoolmates were duped, saying, “Maybe they truly believe they'd seen it, but I'm sorry to tell you, that it never happened. They're lying to themselves.”

Tapfu said that people “can go in different directions” after something like what happened that day on the schoolyard, “but that's what makes us human.”

“Some people chose to dig deeper. Some people chose to just shut it down and not think about it. Some people may have found answers that make sense to them. Some people, it may still be a puzzle piece that doesn't fit anywhere. The people that were that day, that say, that didn't happen, that's okay, too. That's a choice, too.”

Encounters is now streaming on Netflix.