Opening The Secret U-Files
By Scott Simmie
Feature Writer
The Toronto Star
From UFO UpDates <>
GILMOUR, Ont. If, as The X-Files tells us, "The Truth is Out There", Agent Mulder may well be referring to rural Ontario. For deep in the hinterlands of this seemingly normal province, ordinary people are reporting seeing extraordinary things. Clusters of blinding lights. A V-shaped object glid ing low over a country home. Mysteries that fleetingly suggest Toronto may not be the Centre of the Universe.
Call them the U-Files. Unexplained. Unusual. And some times, just plain Unfathomable. (Oh yeah. 'U' is also for 'UFOs.')
Consider, if you will, the case of Barry Day.
Day is a commercial bush pilot with an excellent reputation in the Haliburton Highlands and beyond. In more than 30 years of flying, he's seen it all: the se ductive shimmy of the Northern Lights, the last brilliant gasp of mete ors etched against the black. Transmission towers, aircraft lights, satellites... you name it.
But what he saw late one wintry night from the bedroom of his rural Haliburton property scared the living hell out of him.
"I went to the window and looked up," he recalls, "and here is this fantastic array of lights up on top of the hill. I mean, you could have read by it. I was floored."
The lights were arranged in a tall, triangular pattern. "It looked like a huge Christmas tree." he says. "Except Christmas was over. There were no decorated trees on Day's property, no rum and eggnog on the table. It was inexplicable."
"I,m a little embarassed to say this," he lowers his voice, "but I was scared. And I have never experienced fear (like that) before or since in my life."
How scared?
"I have an old .303 army rifle. And I,m gonna tell you something. I pulled that thing out of the closet and loaded it. And I locked all the doors, made sure all the windows were locked."
"And I sat there with that damn loaded rifle and thought: "This is stupid. If that's what I think it is, with this kind of technology, what am I going to do sitting here with a silly rifle?,"
Day sat, transfixed, for nearly an hour. There was no sound, no motion. Suddenly, the lights dimmed to about half their previous intensity. And then
Day snaps his fingers and pauses for emphasis "They... just... went... out." Leaving a frightened man staring into the dark. It was years ago. But it left Day's world view irre ocably altered.
"Once you have seen something like this," he explains, "it changes you forever. You,re not a skeptic anymore. This was unmistakeable out of this world;"
"The Christmas tree description is actually very good," says astronomer and science writer Chris Rutkowski of Winnipeg. "It's actually very similar to what other people have reported. So it's right up there."
Up there, as in unexplained. The way Rutkowski likes 'em.
Rutkowski and fellow UFO re searchers (called ufologists) devote a considerable amount of their time to analyzing, categorizing, and scrutinizing reported sightings of UFOs. Their hope is to bring greater objectivity and credibility to a field long tainted by overzealous, unquestioning believers.,
Based on interviews and their knowledge of known sky and stellar phenomenon, ufologists try to find a rational explanation for what the observer saw: to turn a UFO into an IFO " an Identified flying Object. Maybe it was Venus or the star Sirius. Perhaps the sun's rays, bouncing off the j panels of a low-orbiting satellite. Maybe just one too many beer caps, spinning off the cottage deck.
"If we can't figure out what was seen, says Rutkowski, "then it's a pretty decent case.
In UFO circles, the most decent Ca- s nadian case of them all took place in * 1967, when Manitoba prospector Stefan Michalak received unusual and painful bums to his chest. His injuries, he maintained, were caused by a blast of hot gases from the vent of a saucerlike device that landed in the woods.
Numerous high-level investigations found traces of radiation in the area, and an RCAF report noted that "there are certain facts, such as Mr. Micha lak's illness and burns and the very evident circle remaining at the site, which are unexplainable. Late last month, at the age of 83, Michalak died of natural causes.
Such stories ones where 'evidence' is purportedly left behind are exceedingly rare. The overwhelming majority of sightings are simply cases of mistaken identity. But that, argue ufologists, is significant.
"Since most UFO reports can be explained and reclassified as IFOs," reads the 1998 survey, "we can observe that this attests to the reality of the objects seen. UFO reports actually reflect real events which occur."
Some witnesses, of course, merit more credibility than others. The survey attempts to rank that elusive qual ity, giving greater credence to cases with multiple witnesses, or to those whose profession demands that they be trained observers (police officers, pilots, etc.).
And that's where things get interest Mr. Rutkowski's survey is always left with a handful of cases that defy explanation. Last year, 13 of the 194 sightings were intrigingly categorized as "high-quality unknowns."
"That doesn't mean that they,re aliens," stresses Rutkowski. "All we can say at this point is: We really don't know what they are."
(The official U.S. Air Force study of UFOs, known as Project Blue Book, was also left with some mysteries. Re tired Colonel William Coleman Jr., who ran the project for three years, wrote last month in the Florida Today newspaper that 130 of the 12,800 cases examined remained "worrisome and unresolved.")
In 1998, three of Canada's unsolved mysteries occurred in rural Ontario. No surprise to Barry Hendry, local reporter with the Bancroft Times.
"I,ve seen interesting things in the sky up here since I first came up in the late 70s," he says. So have other people, folks who often call the paper or local authorities.
"So I think there is activity up here," says Hendry. "It's definitely hot." Hot enough that the local OPP detachment gets its fair share of calls.
"We,ve had reports of strange things in the air," says Community Services Officer Brett Reeves. "Bright lights in the sky. That's when we have to check with CFB Trenton to find out if a plane has gone down or whatever."
Cue Trenton.
"I get calls a lot here in the office from members of the public who see weird flashing lights in the sky, and are calling to find out what exercises we have or whatever going on," says public affairs spokesperson Holly Bridges.
"So we do get a lot of these phone calls." Calls that Bridges, in turn, often passes along to the Rescue Co-ordina tion Centre, a National Defence/Coast Guard search and rescue operation based at Trenton.
"Most of the things we get are weird lights," says the Centre's Captain David Elit. "If they don't match any dis tress signals, we don't investigate."
"Usually," he chuckles, "They get passed along to local police." Full saucer. Er, circle.
So what on earth (or off) is causing all this stuff? Some suggest that many of the objects being seen could well be the next generation of military aircraft being tested in Canadian skies.
"Let's face it," says Winnipeg's Rutkowski. "Canada is very involved with the States. So the likelihood that Canada's co-operating or allowing the U.S. to test things in our airspace is actually very, very possible."
Errol Bruce-Knapp, the communications director of MUFON -- the Mutual UFO Network of Ontario -- agrees. But he says some of the objects being reported appear to pull impossible stunts.
"A lot of the manoeuvres this technology pulls, as far as our science and physics is concerned, are impossible," he says.
Surely, with all this alleged activity in the skies, our airline pilots would be seeing things? Saying something?
"In my four years here, the issue of UFOs has never been mentioned," says Peter Foster, who manages the Technical and Safety Division of the Air Canada Pilots, Association. "So it's a non-issue." End of discussion.
"I personally have never had that experience," says Sheldon Scholtz, Unit Operatkrns Officer for Nay Cana da, which is responsible for air traffic control. "I,ve been here 32 years and haven't had anything like UFO-type things."
The denials do not discourage Bruce-Knapp, who also hosts a two-hour CFRB program on the topic of UFOs and other unusual phenomenon. Discussing UFOs publicly, he says, can be a career-limiting move; many professionals still fear that talk ing about unknown objects in the sky implies you believe in little green men.
Chat with those same pilots and air traffic controllers away from the office, he insists, and you,ll hear a very different story.
"Get any of these guys at a party somewhere," says Bruce-Knapp, "give them an hour or two and a couple of drinks, and they,ll tell you stories. They,re not about to report them unless radar confirms there's some thing there, because they have credibility problems if they do."
It didn't take a drink or a party to get Capt. David Beatty talking. Just a phone call to the Maritimes, where he's a regional pilot with a major Canadian airline. Beatty, who calls himself an "interested skeptic", says he's seen things in the sky that don't belong. Says some of his colleagues have, too.
"The press normally treats this stuff as a joke," he says. "But you look out your (cockpit) window and say: 'I don't know what that is for sure' and you scratch your head. The frequency of this kind of thing is on the increase. So it looks like something's going down."
Perhaps the most astonishing thing Beatty has seen was not in the sky, but in a steel quonset south of Bancroft, in quiet Gilmour, Ontario. For it is there that 75-year-old David Hamel, veteran of two wars, is attempting to build a spaceship: a craft modelled on the one he says he rode in back in 1975.
"It,ll be 64 feet in diameter," says the 75-year-old, his arms spread to convey the eventual magnitude. He leans closer, lowers his voice: "You can take nearly 1,000 men on board."
The Quebec-born Hamel is a case ufologists would classify as a C4: Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind. These are the cases involving alleged abduction or contact, the fodder for all those cheesy tabloid covers.
Yet a lot of people believe, even revere, him. His guest book has entries from around the world. Hundreds of people have made the pilgrimage to see his work-in progress -- a ship being constructed of magnets, steel and granite.
"It will fly," says Hamel, without a hint of doubt. "It will fly." (Hamel previously built a smaller prototype, which he says flew away and never came back.)
Already the subject of two books, Hamel believes he has been chosen by residents of a parallel world to con struct this craft. He says he was permitted to see the inner workings of their ship, and that they continue to invisibly guide his work today. And yes, he's had people question his sanity.
"They should have their heads examined," he says abruptly.
Capt. Beatty is one who believes there may well be a method to his magnets. Beatty has studied papers related to Canada's own high-level investigation into the world of UFOs (called Project Magnet), and found documents from the late 50s with undeniable parallels to the concepts Hamel discusses. He's visited him twice, leaving both times "dumbfounded, amazed and profoundly impressed."
"If it works," says Beatty, "this could be tremendously important to us. If it doesn't, there's nothing lost. He hasn't hurt anybody."
"If we find he's gone some day," muses MUFON's Errol Bruce-Knapp, "We,ll know it works."
"Exactly", beams Hamel, as he gazes toward the beckoning sky.
'Once you have seen something like this, it changes you forever. You're not a skeptic anymore' -- Barry Day - Commercial bush pilot
You look out your (cockpit) window and say: 1 don't know what that is for sure, " and you scratch your head... It looks like something's going down, - David Beatty - Commercial airline pilot
Strange Sightings This Year In Ontario
Feb. 25: A man and his sons, looking rig out their apa"' over Lake Ontario. They said the bright object "moved slowly at first, grew brighten then zipped to the right of our view, which is at least 30 miles unhindered, in one or two seconds."
Blind River
Mar. 24: While driving towards town at 1120 p.m., a woman saw a cigar-shaped object lifting off from behind some trees. It was wider than the highway, she reported and made the car vibrate as it passed overhead. She checked the site and found no physical trace of any kind.
Val Caron Apr. 13: Two Sudbury residents, driving at 9.45 p.m., saw a blue, ball-shaped light with a flaming tail moving across the sky. It "was going too fast to be a plane and yet too slow to be a meteor or shooting star... Three cars in front of us seen it too, and slammed on the brakes."
Toronto May 1: A computer systems manager, travelling in a taxi on Lake Shore Blvd W at 10:22 pm saw a black, triangular-shaped object hovering above the CNE and watched it for two minutes. He was convinced it was not a blimp, because it was rock-steady, despite the breezy night.