- Just past 6 p.m. on Aug. 11, last year, Diana Luca and
her mother, who was visiting from Romania, were chatting at the kitchen
table in Luca's New Westminster home. It was a beautiful windless evening,
the clear blue sky visible from their seats in front of a large south-facing
- Out of the corner of her eye, Luca spotted a black object
behind the trees in the back alley. "Look, it's a balloon," she
told her mother. But when the two stepped onto the patio, they saw what
they now insist is a UFO. "It still freaks me out. I could see it
flying behind the trees and on top of the shorter trees," says the
34-year-old, recalling the incident from the living room of her new house.
- Luca claims the object-flat and shaped like a Frisbee-flipped
to its underside, which was as red and shiny as a Coke can.
- Scared, she called her common-law husband, Mark Murphy,
who was inside. By the time he reached the porch, the object looked cigar
shaped and was an estimated three kilometres away. Murphy rushed inside
to retrieve a camcorder purchased two days earlier, documenting the rest
of the sighting on tape, which he keeps under lock and key. The 35-year-old
property manager has since copied the tape onto a DVD that he plays over
- From the right side of the screen, a small, shiny object
moves towards the centre, then heads rapidly towards the camera. As it
gets closer, it becomes a round, black form that vibrates slightly, at
one point turning on its side, giving it the cigar shape.
- Murphy loses sight of it several times and is forced
to refocus to recapture the object on film. It zips across the screen so
quickly on another occasion that it can only be seen later, when Murphy
watches the tape in slow motion.
- "It's something I'll never forget for the rest of
my life - I was in shock. The clarity of this is just incredible,"
he says. "I heard about UFOs but had written [them] off in my head.
I'm a skeptical kind of person who has to touch it to believe it, but now
I'm not too certain."
- It sounds farfetched, but he's got a lot of company locally.
- According to the 2003 Canadian UFO Survey, reported by
Chris Rutkowski of UFOlogy Research of Manitoba, more than 673 sightings
of UFOs-defined literally as flying objects that can't be identified-were
documented across the country last year, including 41 in Vancouver, making
it the city with the highest number of reports. Sources of the reports
include the National UFO Reporting Center in the U.S., UFO*BC, the Houston
B.C. Centre for UFO Research and the Meteor and Impacts Advisory Committee
to the Canadian Space Agency.
- Only 17 per cent of the 673 sightings remain unexplained-the
rest were simply fireballs, meteors or other natural phenomena.
- Skeptics may brush off UFO sightings as the side effect
of too much B.C. bud, but some members of an organization called UFO*BC
believe the earth has been visited by alien ships.
- Graham Conway, the group's vice president, claims to
have spotted 30 himself, and insists many more individuals are willing
to admit sightings these days. "The social acceptance has changed.
People are prepared to come forward and not feel they'll be written off
- In 1947, Kenneth Arnold, a pilot involved in a search
for a downed aircraft near Mount Rainier, reported seeing nine objects
flying at an estimated 1,200 miles an hour across the mountains. They were
crescent-shaped, so he described them as saucers skipping across the water-hence
the term "flying saucers." For Graham Conway, it sparked an interest
in UFOs that's never diminished. At the time, he was living in Sheffield,
England and interested in enigmas. "Fifty-seven years later, I'm nowhere
nearer a solution than the day I started," he says from the living
room of his middle-class home in Delta.
- Aside from what many would consider a quirky obsession
with UFOs, the 76-year-old has led a relatively normal life, working in
the hospitality industry and teaching food studies and consumer education
in Ontario and B.C. After retiring in 1986, he worked for the Salvation
Army for eight years before landing a job with the Delta School Board as
a noontime supervisor at a secondary school.
- For a few years, he was associated with an American group
called the Mutual UFO Network, which bills itself as the world's largest
civilian UFO research organization, but found B.C. reports seemed to drop
into a black hole, never to be heard of again. Frustrated, Conway and a
small group of like-minded friends formed UFO*BC in 1995, and were later
joined by Martin Jasek, a 40-year-old engineer for a utilities company.
- The non-profit society operates a 24-hour hotline for
reporting sightings, a web site and a quarterly newsletter. Members also
host lectures on subjects ranging from alien abductions to cattle mutilations
and crop circles. Each year, they investigate a few UFO reports in the
Lower Mainland or Interior.
- Jasek, the group's mild-mannered treasurer, developed
an interest in the subject while living in Whitehorse, where he said reports
of unidentified flying objects were plentiful. Unlike Conway, he's only
spotted one UFO-a term he uses literally in this case, although he suspects
that some UFOs are "intelligently controlled craft" that are
- Jasek's brief sighting occurred in 1998, while driving
across Manitoba during daylight hours. He glanced over to a slight hill
on his left where a white ball, three metres in diameter and roughly 200
metres away, appeared. Seconds later, it was obscured by trees as the vehicle
travelled along the highway. By the time the trees cleared, it had disappeared.
To this day, Jasek, a soft-spoken, serious man, isn't sure what he saw.
- Conway, however, has no reservations about his sightings.
- With little prompting, he rattles off several anecdotes.
In one case, he was heading up Canada Way towards Edmonds Street when traffic
hit a standstill. Looking up, he spotted a red, disk-shaped object, possibly
six feet in diameter. None of the passengers in the cars beside him appeared
to see it. When traffic moved forward slightly, the object became more
mirror-like, then headed in a northwesterly direction. Total viewing time:
- Another time, Conway was moonlighting as a security officer
at a large parking lot on Annacis Island when he observed a square aluminum-like
craft hovering above a plant emitting steam that was being circled by seagulls
and eagles. Viewing conditions were excellent, according to Conway, who
watched it head northeast towards the Fraser River for about 10 minutes.
- Lack of physical proof does nothing to shake his confidence.
In fact, both men looked puzzled when asked if others see them as eccentric
or odd. "Most people do believe [in UFOs]," insists Jasek. "You'd
be surprised how many people you know have seen something totally unexplainable,
but they don't divulge it without being prompted."
- Conway speculates special psychic gifts passed down through
families make people like him more susceptible to seeing UFOs. "We
have thousands and thousands of reports. Every one can't be a case of misidentification."
- The National UFO Reporting Centre out of Seattle, WA.,
registered two notable UFO sightings in Vancouver last year. One, on Feb.
12, just past 9 p.m., was from a self-described "harsh critic of aliens
and all that stuff," who lives in downtown Vancouver on the 16th floor
of a high-rise. The witness was about to watch The Simpsons and spotted
an object flying over some buildings, initially brushing it off as light
from a construction crane. But that turned out not to be the case-nor was
the high-rise on a flight path and the lights weren't blinking, as on an
aircraft. Instead, they were "constantly beaming a hazy sort of weird
- "At first I didn't see the three lights on the triangular
craft until it very, very slowly, and I stress silently, without the smallest
sound, just hovered towards my building. I mean anything made by man that
flies only 500 meters away has to make a sound."
- After failing to find a camera in the apartment, the
witness, whose gender isn't apparent from the write-up, ran down to the
street and saw the "craft" travel vertically into the sky, remain
stationary for a while, then leave. "Some other people saw this downstairs
and they didn't care. They said it's no big deal, probably some governmental
plane. But what would a governmental plane be doing in downtown Vancouver?"
- At 3 a.m. Oct. 31, another person reported seeing red,
orange, green, blue, yellow and white lights rotating under and around
the edges of an object. The lights weren't bright. It was eerily silent
and the object was moving in "more of a hover, almost a slight wobble
from too low a speed," notes the entry. "It had to be enormous
in size. I guesstimate I was 1-2 kilometres from it, then it passed behind
a building." According to the witness, it would have been visible
to anyone outside at 3 a.m., near English Bay or the Stanley Park area.
Its altitude was very low, a few hundred feet over the water at English
- Don't bother trying to convince Lee Moller of the existence
of alien space crafts, however. To the computer programmer, a founding
member of the B.C. Society for Skeptical Enquiry, UFOs are exactly that-unidentified
flying objects that likely have a rational explanation.
- Moller argues the sheer distance between stars makes
the prospect of space travel highly unlikely. While the earth is one "astronomical
unit" or 98 million miles away from the sun, the next nearest star
is 300,000 astronomical units away from the sun-that's four-and-a-half
light years. "I'd actually be quite shocked if there wasn't extraterrestrial
life out there, but you have to understand how big the universe actually
is. [Travelling] about between the stars is not a cheap thing to do."
- "If we ever talk to [extraterrestrial life], it's
almost certainly going to be through radio waves, not through personal
visits-at least in the short term."
- Some people confuse conventional aircraft, landing lights,
satellites or planets with UFOs, suggests the 47-year-old skeptic, because
the average person is unfamiliar with natural phenomena such as sun dogs-reflections
of the sun that look like big glowing balls-meteors or Venus, for instance.
- Thanks to a temperate climate in B.C., more people also
go out walking, and are thus more likely to spot objects they can't identify
in the sky, Moller adds.
- Moller cites several cases in which experts have exposed
so-called proof of UFOs. Philip Klass, known as the top UFO debunker in
the United States, has come up with plausible explanations for a number
of UFO sightings, including uncovering the truth behind a striking photo
taken by a Florida man. It turned out to be a double exposure of an outdoor
light with a paper shade. "All I can really say is that if aliens
did really take the time and effort to travel the light years that's required
to actually come to the earth, somehow I don't think they'd be communicating
with us by zipping around the night sky or drawing big patterns in crops,"
- "Having said all that, I would love for it to be
true. Nothing would be more cool or interesting than the day humanity talks,
in any sense, to something off the planet-it's going to be one of the greatest
days in history."
- Barry Beyerstein, a UFO skeptic and psychology professor
at Simon Fraser University who's been involved in brain research, pointed
out quasars and pulsars were once thought to be signs of extraterrestrial
life by noted scientists.
- In 1970, he added, English physicist David Simpson conducted
a controlled hoax to expose UFOlogists' readiness to unquestioningly accept
sightings. Late one evening, he set up a 12-volt high-intensity purple
spotlight directed towards a hill three-quarters of a mile away in the
town of Warminster, England, where a group of 30 sky-watchers stood. It
was switched on and off at intervals. One of Simpson's colleagues operating
a fake magnetic field sensor was placed amongst the sky watchers. At one
point, he sounded its alarm buzzer, which signals the presence of a strong
magnetic field-supposedly a sign of UFOs.
- Meanwhile, another colleague pretended to take a picture
of the light from a camera on a tripod. Part of the film had already been
exposed, capturing two images, according to an account of the experiment
written by Simpson. They depicted a night view of street lamps with a bogus
UFO superimposed. The photographer took two real photos so the developed
film would show four negatives-two with UFOs and two without. "They
were designed to present substantial inconsistencies that would allow any
moderately critical investigator to cast strong suspicion on their authenticity,"
- For more than two years, the hoax was kept secret while
UFOologists debated the supposed sighting.
- Correspondence collected by Simpson during that time
indicates many concluded it wasn't a fake.
- "...It is important to be aware of the general calibre
of UFO enthusiasts, even if they do not appear to have been directly involved
in the case. Their irrational thinking is infectious and has frequently
provided the media with entertaining headlines," he wrote. "As
a result, certain members of the general public, on seeing something in
the sky that is strange to them, describe not what they see but what they
think they ought to have seen."
- Although both Conway and Jasek argue it's equally important
to be skeptical of the skeptics, whose agenda is to disprove everything,
Beyerstein points out "the burden of proof is always on the claimant."
- Mark Murphy and Diana Luca insist they have proof of
a UFO in their tape, but Moller, for one, isn't convinced, after watching
a version of it posted on the web site www.rense.com.
- While Moller doesn't doubt the couple's sincerity, he
said he's seen a lot of UFO photos and movies that look similar. He argues
that a small, shiny object the size of a Frisbee or pie plate launched
into the air could look exactly like what's captured on film, pointing
out the object only appears to stay in the air for about three seconds.
The shininess suggests it caught the light of the setting sun and the cigar
shape simply comes from a change in the angle from which it's viewed.
- Moller suspects the object disappears at the one third
mark of the tape simply because it fell from the sky, perhaps into a neighbour's
yard or field.
- "In my view, this is an unremarkable movie,"
he wrote in an e-mail. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary
evidence. I find 'pie plate' more plausible than 'extraterrestrial,' although
I am happy to let the whole thing remain a UFO (or perhaps TIFO, Tentatively
Identified...), but not one I am going to lose sleep over."
- Murphy, who maintains he didn't make the tape to make
money although he is in "talks" with a producer from California,
is unmoved by critics, stressing the extreme rate of speed the object travelled
- "You can hear it in my voice how shocked I am. It's
not a plane, it's not a balloon, it's not a bird-that's no transportation
for humans. [Debunkers] can call me up-I'll debate any skeptic," he
said. "It could be the military, it could be aliens-who knows? It
was one of those things where the universe opened up and said look what's
- Murphy insists he'd love to get to the bottom of the
mystery and wonders whether anyone else in his neighbourhood saw something
- Luca said she never believed in extraterrestrial life
until the August experience. "Now, at this point, after I've seen
it I have this feeling-it's not a belief-that it's from another world,
something which we don't know, something we cannot explain with our intelligence
or something we can't perceive.
- "It happened. We caught it on tape-that's it."
- For information about UFO*BC or the skeptics society,
check out www.ufobc.ca and www.seercom.com/bcs/index.cgi
- The web site for the Houston B.C. Centre for UFO research,
which can be reached at 1-250-845-2189, is at <http://www.hbccufo.com>www.hbccufo.com
- Brian Vike, Director
- HBCC UFO Research
- Home - Phone 250 845 2189
- email: email@example.com
- Website: http://www.hbccufo.com