Sunday, 27 November 2016

Moneymore Man Manhandles Mystery Machine While Wife Watches in Wonder - The Anniversary

I can’t believe that I failed to acknowledge the 60th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s best UFO incident. To be honest, I don’t think it was acknowledged anywhere. But that’s no excuse. I’m genuinely ashamed.
To make amends, I’m posting a shortened version of an article I wrote for UFO Matrix in 2011. I’m also posting a news report of a possible earlier sighting of the object.

The Man Who Caught a Flying Saucer

Northern Ireland is not normally associated with UFOs. A recent release of MOD files seemed to underline this fact, with only two sightings recorded here over a ten year period. However, this should not be taken as evidence of an absence of interesting UFO cases here. Northern Ireland has had some curious UFO incidents over the last few decades, and one in particular is so quirky that its absence from the literature is a mystery.
At noon on Friday, 7 September 1956, Thomas and Maud Hutchinson saw an object drop from the sky and land in an area of bog land, about 200 yards from their home in Moneymore, County Derry. They both ran from their house to investigate.
When they arrived at the site they found a motionless, red, egg shaped object with a saucer shaped base. It was three feet high and one and a half feet in diameter. It had three dark red stripes and dark red markings at each end. 
Thomas Hutchinson’s curiosity could not be sated by just observing this strange object. After watching it for a few minutes he kicked it over. However, the device immediately righted itself to its original position. Unperturbed, Hutchinson got down on his knees for a closer look – which was when the object began to spin.
Hutchinson grabbed the spinning object with the intention of taking it to the police station in nearby Loup village. According to Thomas Hutchinson: ‘The police station was the only place for such a wicked looking thing as this and I started to carry it there.’  As Hutchinson carried the device his wife walked along with him. Maud recalled: ‘Ah, it was a terrible thing. My husband warned me not to go near it, but you know a woman’s inquisitiveness, I just couldn’t keep back.’
They reached a hedge and Thomas set the device town to make his way through. It was at this point that his strange prize escaped. According to Maud: ‘Then all of a sudden the monster rose and it nearly pulled my husband off his feet when he tried to hold it. I started to panic and then I ran home and prayed.’ After escaping Thomas’ clutches the device rose quickly and disappeared within a few seconds.

Our Old Friend the Weather Balloon

According to the ‘Derry Journal’ of 10 September 1956, ‘experts’ were of the opinion that what the Hutchinsons had encountered was a stray meteorological balloon. An unnamed RAF officer, stationed at nearby Aldergrove Airport (now Belfast International Airport), was ‘nearly certain’ that the object encountered by the Hutchinsons was a weather balloon. According to this officer, these balloons are sometimes red, and can fall to the ground when they’re wet - taking off again as they dry out. And while this particular weather balloon didn’t belong to them, he suggested that it may have originated at another weather station. However, he didn’t say which station this balloon may have come from or that any efforts had been made to contact other stations to confirm his missing balloon theory.
While the weather balloon theory is certainly plausible, the RAF officer was unconvincing; and, importantly, he was unable to confirm that the Moneymore object was a weather balloon. In addition, the weather balloon theory does not adequately account for the behaviour of the device encountered by Thomas and Maud Hutchinson.
Interestingly, while the official police position was to accept the balloon theory put forward by the RAF, the police at Loup village were unconvinced. According to the desk sergeant there: ‘Thomas Hutchinson is a level-headed God fearing chap. He’s not the sort of man who would imagine he seized a flying saucer if, in fact, he didn’t have one.’ It’s also worth noting that according to the ‘Grimsby Evening Telegraph’ of 8 September 1956, another unnamed RAF officer had said that the Hutchinson device definitely wasn’t one of theirs – and he couldn’t ‘even hazard a guess’ at what it might have been.

‘Flying Saucer Captured in the Land of Leprechauns’

Initially the story provoked some interest across the Atlantic and appeared in newspapers across the United States. Much was made of the location of the strange encounter: ‘… a bleak, boggy land near Lough Neagh, where leprechauns, ghosts and witches have been reported sighted through the ages.’
One USA paper recognised the uniqueness of the event in Moneymore: ‘To see a flying saucer is no longer unusual. There have been those persons who claim to have ridden in them and talked to their occupants. But to wrestle, even if the match was a losing one, with a flying saucer, this is a new twist.’
But despite this new twist, the Moneymore incident failed to excite the press in Northern Ireland. Even though something quite unique, and of international interest, had taken place in a small corner of our country, the newspapers that did actually cover the story contented themselves reporting the views of the unnamed RAF officer. As far as I can find, no follow up enquiries were ever made.

Update: A Possible Earlier Sighting?

The following comes from the Belfast News-Letter. 
The object tallies in its description with that seen over the Stormont area of Belfast for more than two hours on Wednesday night.
On that occasion Mr Richard Lapham, who lived in Thornhill Park, almost opposite the main entrance Parliament Buildings, reported that from 9pm until until after 11pm he and neighbors watched a strange object in the sky which seemed to turn alternately from black to red.
So far as Mr Lapham could judge, its size was about the same as the object reported yesterday. Both Mr Lapham, who served in an A.A. regiment during the war, and a nieighbour, who was in the R.A.F., were completely mystified as to the identity of the object.
Mr Lapham told the “News-Letter” last night : “It is strange that Mr Hutchinson, without having any connection with us, has a very good description of what we saw.”
Sources:
  • UFO Matrix, Volume 2 Issue 1, 2011
  • Belfast News-Letter, 8 September 1956

Monday, 21 November 2016

Scene in the Sky

At 6:30am on 14 December 1850, in the parish of Dunboe, County Derry, the family of a “most respectable farmer” watched an unusual brightness above the eastern horizon. And as they watched, “two large vessels of the line” appeared in the brightness.
After a while the ships disappeared, “and the eastern hemisphere became occupied by a grand panoramic representation of two armies approaching in warlike conflict.” As the armies neared each other, an officer from each came forward and engaged in single combat. According to the Northern Whig, “so distinctly visible was the representation, that their actual manoeuvres  could be distinguished.”
The entire episode lasted until 8:00am.
Ten years later, on Sunday, 2 September 1860, there was a very similar incident in neighbouring County Donegal. Another family was walking on a hill near Quigley’s Point “when their attention was attracted by a wonderful appearance in the heavens.” In the north, they saw several ships “sailing across the face of the sky from east to west.”
The line of ships appeared to be five miles in length, and they seemed to be “sailing down a river, whose high banks could be made out behind the ships.” Some of the ships were moored close to a “fortress, built on a rock.”
Like the Dunboe event, the Quigley’s Point witnesses were astounded by the clarity of the scene - “sailors pulling at the ropes were made out with ease.” But it was a shorter event, lasting only 30 minutes.
According to the Coleraine Chronicle, these incidents, though “very startling”, were not infrequent along the shores of the northern counties. To illustrate, they recounted an earlier incident.
About twelve years ago we recollect a very curious instance of mirage, which was seen in Lough Foyle [which lies between County Derry and County Donegal]. Some fishermen had been out at night with their nets. The face of the heavens was overcast and black, when the clouds suddenly parted, leaving a bright gap of clear sky in the zenith.
Across this space the astonished fishermen saw some thousands of soldiers pass, rank after rank, and regiment after regiment, and so near did the phenomenon appear that the dress of the officers could be clearly distinguished from that of the men.
It was two hours before the marching ceased, or rather before the clouds closed in, and shut out the scene from view.
Sources:
  • Northern Whig, 31 December 1850
  • Coleraine Chronicle, 8 September 1860 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

"Brap Brap" Goes the Weasel

Weasels [actually, they’re Irish stoats, but we insist on calling them weasels] are my favourite fortean creatures. They’re hard as nails and are always up for a ruck. The following stories illustrate this perfectly.
In October 1954, Patrick Bonner of Crickamore, County Donegal, was crossing a field near his home when he saw a rabbit being attacked by a weasel. Bonner intervened and – if you’ll excuse the expression – “beat off” the weasel. The weasel, needless to say, was vexed. Putting its tail in its mouth, it whistled – “frantically,” calling out his weasel buddies, who immediately set upon Mr Bonner. Bonner struggled for some time to fend them off, and it was only the arrival of his dog – alerted by Bonner’s cries - that tipped the balance.
Thomas Ward of Ardara, County Donegal was cycling home around midnight, on an April night in 1951. He was about a quarter of a mile from his village when he came across a pack of weasels walking four abreast on the road. Unable to avoid them, he clipped one with the front wheel of his bike. Not having the benefit of Fortean Ireland to warn him of such folly, he got off his bike “to investigate.” He was attacked, of course. Fortunately, he was able to shake them off and cycle his way to safety.
On the morning of Sunday, 11 October 1840, “a poor man was attending his cow” at Ardnagannon, near Killygordon, County Donegal. He took “a Testament” from his pocket and began to read. A weasel appeared, grabbed the book and scarpered. The man chased the weasel, caught it, and recovered his property. This caused the weasel to chatter loudly, which is never good. Fortunately, the weasel’s call for back-up went unheard.
According to the Dublin Evening Mail, what was remarkable about this incident was that the man was reading “the 9th verse of the General Epistle of Jude” at the time. [From what I can gather, via Google, the 9th verse is: “Yet Michael the Archangel, when he strove against the devil, and disputed about the body of Moses, durst not blame him with cursed speaking, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” I’m happy to hear from anyone who gets the relevance of this!]
One day in August 1953, John Cairns was cutting turf on Eilaught Bog, County Tyrone, when he spotted a weasel carrying a bird. As Cairns watched, a hawk swooped out of the sky and lifted the weasel into the air. But, within moments, both fell to the ground. The weasel made off into the heather. The hawk lay dead.
Despite appearing to be invincible, weasels are mortal. On Friday, 21 July 1939, Dan O’Donnell of Upper Keadue, Burtonport, County Donegal, was working on Belcruit Mountain, moving turf from the bog to the side of the road, when he came across a large group of weasels. They were gathered round a piece of turf. On closer inspection, O’Donnell could see that the turf had been hollowed out, and in it lay a dead weasel. O’Donnell believed the weasels were holding a wake. It could have been a funeral. But the weasels chased O’Donnell away before he could see more.
Sources:
  • Derry Journal, 28 July 1939, 6 April 1951, 14 August 1953 and 29 October 1954
  • Dublin Evening Mail, 23 October 1840