Tomorrow is World UFO Day: an annual event that encourages us to ponder the possibility that unidentified flying objects – also known as flying saucers - are not only real but may actually be vehicles from other worlds.
This year, World UFO Day being held on 2 July to commemorate the famous flying saucer crash on a farm near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Most people will be familiar with the “Roswell Incident”. But what about the UFO crash in Manorhamilton or the one in Portglenone?
You see, UFOs crash all the time – and sometimes they crash on this side of the Atlantic.
THE MONEYMORE MATTER
On 7 September 1956, a red, egg-shaped object landed in bogland belonging to Thomas and Maud Hutchinson, in Moneymore, County Derry. As the object was quite small, Thomas believed he could carry it to the police station in nearby Loup village.
The route to Loup was blocked by a hedge, though, and getting through it required Thomas to set the UFO on the ground. Which was a mistake.
"Then all of a sudden the monster rose and it nearly pulled my husband off his feet when he tried to hold it," Maud recalled shortly after the incident. "I started to panic and then I ran home and prayed."
A Royal Air Force officer stationed at Aldergrove Airport – now Belfast International – opined that the Hutchinsons had encountered a stray meteorological balloon. This was also the official police position.
However, it wasn't the position of the local police.
"Thomas Hutchinson is a level-headed God-fearing chap," said the desk sergeant at the Loup village station. "He's not the type of man who would imagine he seized a flying saucer if, in fact, he didn't have one."
THE PORTGLENONE EPISODE
A seven-foot-wide UFO that resembled a black cloud whizzed over Joseph Bennett’s head at “many times the speed of a jet plane” and crashed through a row of trees in Bracknamuckley, County Antrim, on Sunday, 28 December 1958.
While the UFO continued on its journey as if nothing had happened, a 40-foot oak tree came crashing to the ground. It had been cut clean through.
Strangely, none of the experts who investigated the incident believed that a supersonic flying cloud was responsible for the tree’s demise.
The meteorologists suggested that it had probably been felled by a whirlwind; while the director of the Armagh Observatory declared that a waterspout was the most likely culprit.
Locally, though, no one doubted Joseph Bennett’s story.
“Mr Bennett is a most reliable witness,” said Alfred Connolly, who owned the field where the incident occurred. “If he says he saw a black flying object you can be sure that he saw it.”
THE CLONSHARRAGH CAPER
At 4am on Saturday, 8 September 1962, following reports of a mysterious flashing light in the sky and an explosion in a field in Clonsharragh, County Wexford, some curious locals made their way to the field and found a very strange black, spiked object nestled in a crater.
They called Duncannon Garda Station.
Come morning, the now cordoned off site had become a place of pilgrimage. And speculation was rife among the pilgrims: it’s a US missile, said one man; a Russian satellite, said another.
An “ingenious hoax” was how Commandant McCourt of the Ordnance Corps described it.
According to McCourt, the object was a cistern ballcock that had been pierced with brass rods, painted black and stuffed – albeit expertly - with electronic gadgetry.
Locals railed at McCourt’s use of the word hoax, however, preferring to believe that the incident had just been an ambitious experiment by a budding Clonsharragh rocket scientist.
THE MANORHAMILTON AFFAIR
Gardai had received a number of reports of mystery blueish-green lights over the town that evening before getting the call that launched an extensive air and ground search.
Nothing was found, and Superintendent Sheridan blamed the incident on meteorites.
Curiously, on 13 February 2001, an almost identical incident occurred just a few miles away, in County Fermanagh.
On that occasion, an air and ground search lasting several days was launched after witnesses on both sides of the border reported seeing a plane crash on Benaughlin Mountain. Again, nothing was found, and no planes were reported missing.
THE BOYLE EVENT
According to the story pieced together by journalists and UFO researchers, a UFO crashed on the Curlew Mountains, just outside Boyle, County Roscommon, in the early hours of 7 May 1996.
A man who was camping in the area claims to have seen the object crash, while a local man said he saw the scorched ground and trees at the crash site. Other Boyle residents reported seeing helicopters searching for the UFO.