Thanks in so small part to movies like Close Encounters and Signs, the imagery of UFO encounters and alien abductions is deeply tied to the American mid-west.
Aliens rustle amongst fields of corn. Strange sounds emanate from big red barns. People in plaid shirts recount grabbing the shotguns out of their pickups because they saw some strange lights up in the sky and wish to respond the only way they know how. But the American heartland doesn’t have a monopoly on UFO sightings — hell, neither does the entire contiguous United States. People believing that aliens are real transcends all borders; possible UFO sightings crop up all over the world constantly, even in our tiny, huge corner of the world.
Arguably the biggest incident in the Australian UFO mythos is the Westall UFO encounter. According to a combined 200 students and teachers, on April 6, 1966, a UFO was spotted hanging around over two different schools (Westall High School and Westall State School) for about 20 minutes, before landing in a nearby paddock and eventually flying off again.
The object was described as being a silvery disc with a purple hue, roughly the size of about two cars. One of the explanations put forth is that they saw a weather balloon but, 50 years later, we still have no concrete idea what all these people saw.
Studio 10 spoke to a bunch of the witnesses for a special 50th-anniversary show and a bunch of them are still pretty adamant about what they saw:
Also in 1966 was another prominent Australian UFO sighting: the Tully Saucer Nest. Tully is about 200km northwest of Townsville in northern Queensland, and it’s where a 28-year-old banana farmer named George Pedley claimed to have had a pretty close encounter with a flying saucer while driving his tractor.
The man described seeing a blue-grey disc around 25 feet in diameter rise out of a nearby lagoon before flying off. Upon inspection, a section of the lagoon the size and shape of the saucer appeared to have formed a whirlpool ‘devoid of all plant life’. Afterwards, dead reeds started to float to the surface, forming the ‘nest’ from which the incident takes its name. According to Pedley, when he told the owner of the sugarcane farm on which the incident happened, the owner said that, a few hours before Pedley saw the saucer, his dog had been acting strangely, barking in an agitated fashion and running in the direction of the lagoon from which the saucer supposedly emerged.
Pictured: It’s definitely aliens.
Albert Pennisi, the owner of the neighbouring sugarcane farm, reportedly told a journalist from Sydney that he had been dreaming of UFOs all week before the event. Hell yeah, dude.
Next, we cast our beady eyes on South Australia in the year 1988, when a family driving through the Nullarbor claimed to have their entire car lifted off the ground by — you guessed it — fuckin’ aliens.
According to a wonderfully detailed dive into the story by the ABC, the Knowles family was making the long drive from Perth to Melbourne when they were ‘tormented’ by a large glowing sphere of light for 90 minutes. The glowing ball chased them before landing on the roof and lifting them clear off the ground, as described by a police spokesperson at the time:
It apparently picked the car up off the road, shook it quite violently and forced the car back down on the road with such pressure that one of the tyres was blown.
One of the family members in the car reported hearing their voices distort as if time was slowing down, either a symptom of shock or just the coolest UFO shit in the world. If that’s not creepy enough, here’s what the mum told reporters happened after it picked them up:
I wound down the window and I felt this thing on the roof… all of this smoke stuff started coming into the car, the car was covered in black stuff. It was a small light and all of a sudden it became big like this, like a big ball.
I think we can all agree: what the fuck.
Five years later, we had the Cahill Abduction, in which a woman driving back to Melbourne from the Dandenong Ranges claimed to have been abducted by aliens in Narre Warren North. Kelly Cahill (not her actual name) and her husband Andrew reported seeing what looked like a blimp with a ‘ring of orange headlights’.
Cahill said that, as they got closer, she became blinded by the light coming from the object and then woke up later, noticing that she had lost an hour of time. It doesn’t end there though: she claimed to notice a new, triangular shaped mark on her stomach and, after a few weeks, began to recall more and more details of the abduction.
Cahill described seeing ‘skinny black figures with bulging red eyes’, in addition to seeing people in two other cars who also witnessed the abduction — although none of these people have spoken to the media outside of UFO researchers.
Pictured: Cahill’s depiction of the aliens, which are REAL.
Keen-eyed UFO enthusiasts may have spotted a rather prominent omission from this list, which is, of course, the disappearance of Frederick Valentich in 1978. Valentich and his Cessna 182L disappeared after he reported being followed by a flying object that he described as “not an aircraft“.
I didn’t get into this one because someone else has already done the hard work for me, in the form of our Australian mysteries podcast, the All Aussie Mystery Hour (available on iTunes and Spotify). Mel and Jose get way, way deep on this one and it is well worth your time if you reckon aliens are either a) real or b) fake but super cool.