Most UFO sightings are quickly dismissed as the delusions of lone believers or quickly explained away with more rational, down-to-earth interpretations. However, over the years there have been a few UFO encounters that were backed up by numerous witnesses, giving them credibility from more than just the UFO enthusiasts of the world. One such case is the Westall UFO encounter.
The Sighting – Westall UFO Encounter
The Westall UFO encounter took place on April 6, 1966, in Melbourne, Australia. According to at least 200 witnesses, a flying object descended from the sky and appeared to land in a large field near the two schools where the majority of the witnesses were located. The witnesses first spotted the aircraft at around 11:00 am. Most of the children who first spotted the UFO were excited by the strange object in the sky, and their exclamations brought others outside to witness the incident. It was reported that a few students collapsed in fright when they saw the UFO. The students and faculty at the two schools watched for 20 minutes while the object hovered over the field, made quick lateral movements, and eventually descended into the field of wild grass. After a few minutes, it took off again at a higher speed, appearing to head toward Clayton-South, a nearby suburb.
The witnesses, most of whom had just completed outdoor exercises at Westall High School, described the craft as a silver disc with a slight purple hue. Some claimed that the disc was more green in color. Witnesses agreed that the object was about twice the size as an average sedan.
Some of the witnesses also claim to have seen other aircraft, more similar in shape to a typical aircraft, higher in the air. Some said that the other crafts resembled Cessna planes. They stated that these other crafts began to circle the mystery object as it flew back into the air from the field. The other crafts appeared to be pursuing it as it flew away from the scene.
The weather that morning was bright and sunny, so the witnesses had a clear view of the sky. Some investigators claim that as many as 400 witnesses from around the area reported spotting the strange object in the sky.
After the UFO and its contingent of pursuers disappeared, many of the students stayed outside hoping that it would return. Shortly after, authorities in military uniforms reportedly appeared on the scene to forbid the witnesses from speaking to the press. The official explanation from the Westall High School principal was mass hysteria: he stated that when one student claimed to see the UFO, other students let their imaginations run away with them. However, the witnesses were not all from Westall High School, so his explanation doesn’t resolve the other accounts.
Evidence is Found
Later in the day, after hearing about the reports, engineering student Kevin Hurley decided to investigate the area where the UFO was said to have landed. The area was a field of thick, knee-high grass known as “the grange.” After a brief search, he located an area of the grass that was much flatter than the grass around it. He stated that the grass was bent in such a way that it appeared as if something circular had landed there and rotated while on the ground, twisting the grass as it did so.
Hurley left the site, fascinated by what he saw. He returned days later to investigate further but was surprisingly unable to approach the site where he had found the odd depression. According to him, the area where he found the strange markings was being guarded by armed men in military uniforms. Before he was aggressively removed from the site, Hurley saw a number of military men milling around the markings. They appeared to be taking readings using a device resembling a Geiger counter.
According to some reports, the field was later burned, effectively destroying any evidence that may have existed in the field where the UFO was said to have landed. The farmer who owned the land publicly stated that he burned the area himself to discourage UFO hunters from trespassing on his property. However, many believe that the RAAF was behind the fire and that they were attempting to destroy evidence of UFO activity.
Days after the sightings, the local newspaper of another nearby town published a photo of a “mushroom-shaped” object that was spotted flying in the sky. The photo was taken approximately four days before the Westall UFO encounter. Close inspection of the photo reveals a silvery disc hovering low in the sky. The photo appears to match descriptions of the craft spotted above Westall, suggesting that the two incidents could be linked.
The Investigation – Westall UFO Encounter
The Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society (VFSRS) and Phenomena Research Australia (PRA) heard about the reports and quickly arrived in Melbourne to investigate the alleged UFO sightings. Because of the large number of witnesses, this sighting had an air of credibility that many sightings lack, drawing the interest of numerous UFO investigators.
The VFSRS group interviewed a number of students who claimed to have seen the craft. They investigated the area where the UFO appeared to have landed, in the area they called the “ground mark.” They described it as an area of grass that had been flattened, leaving a swirl pattern. The PRA investigators later took samples of grass and dirt from the ground mark for further investigation. The field was burned before further investigations could be planned.
The Greenwood Interview
Almost 40 years later, in August of 2018, a group known as Queensland UFO Sightings and Research released an audio recording of one of the witness interviews conducted by UFOoligists. In this recording, James J. Kibel, or James E. McDonald as he’s sometimes referred to, discusses the Westall UFO encounter with Andrew Greenwood, a science teacher who claims to have witnessed the incident. Greenwood is the only faculty member who has spoken publicly about what happened on that day in 1966.
In this recording, Greenwood describes the encounter in detail. He claims that as many as 360 students and faculty witnessed the incident, but that the school’s headmaster silenced them out of fear. He states that the headmaster demanded that the witnesses go back inside the school and threatened to fire any staff members who discussed the incident. He notes that at least one student and one faculty member who witnessed the encounter alongside him later refused to discuss it. Many of the students who witnessed the events later gave interviews providing details about what they saw, but the teachers remained unwilling to make similar statements.
Greenwood’s account gives greater detail about the additional crafts that appeared to approach the main craft after it lifted off again. He asserts that the pursuing crafts engaged in complicated aerial maneuvers and that they appeared to be doing everything possible to apprehend the UFO. He says that the UFO would make quick jumps in one direction, too fast to follow with the naked eye, before slowing and allowing the pursuing crafts to get close to it. It would then make another quick jump, almost as if it was toying with its pursuers. Greenwood staunchly believed he had seen an alien craft.
When the Westall UFO encounter was first publicized, many believed that it was most likely a commercial, private, or military aircraft. However, investigators found no records of commercial or private aircraft scheduled for that area at that time and the RAAF reported no military maneuvers scheduled for the area.
Not everyone believes the RAAF’s denials about military activity. Some skeptics have put forward a theory that the craft sighted in Westall was actually an experimental military craft that is being kept under wraps. The Westall UFO encounter did take place during the Cold War, so the development of experimental technology at the time is not unlikely. The prevailing story, first put forward by an anonymous source identifying himself as a former RAAF navigator, is that the main craft that the witnesses saw was a nylon target drogue being towed by one aircraft so that the other “experimental” crafts the witnesses spotted could shoot at it for target practice.
This isn’t the only government conspiracy theory to come to light. Some believed that the UFO was actually an HIBAL program balloon being used to monitor radiation levels as a result of controversial nuclear testing. Documents located in the National Archives in 2014 describe this secret radiation testing program and indicate that testing balloons were being used in the area. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know whether a balloon had been launched in the area on April 6, 1966, as the records for that day are mysteriously missing from the archives.
Despite these explanations, the at least 200 witnesses who were there that day have repeatedly insisted that what they saw bore no resemblance to a standard aircraft or balloon.
Could so many witnesses have been wrong? According to some psychologists, the “bandwagon effect” could have played a role in the Westall UFO encounter. They claim that once a few people began to report their encounters, others panicked and began to see what they wanted to see, making their own reports and swelling the numbers of reports. They believe that the encounter is an example of mass panic.
However, the disparate locations of the witnesses make this explanation seem less likely. Some point to the minor inconsistencies in the testimonies as proof that the stories are false. Yet, because many reported being pressured to keep quiet, the truth of this story remains a mystery.