UFOs Over British Columbia
From Brian Vike - Director
HBCC UFO Research
By Naoibh O'Connor
Staff Writer - Vancouver Courier newspaper

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 window.
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 and 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 as kooks."
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 not man-made.
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: five minutes.
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 whitish/yellowish light."
"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 Bay.
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," said Moller.
"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," Simpson wrote.
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
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 at.
"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 out there."
Murphy insists he'd love to get to the bottom of the mystery and wonders whether anyone else in his neighbourhood saw something similar.
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 and
The web site for the Houston B.C. Centre for UFO research, which can be reached at 1-250-845-2189, is at <>
Brian Vike, Director
HBCC UFO Research
Home - Phone 250 845 2189



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