A UFO IN SUFFOLK?
Dubbed “Britain’s Roswell”, the Rendlesham Forest incident, which took place in a secluded corner of Suffolk over three nights in December 1980, still fascinates UFO enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists. Only last month, a rambler published new footage of unidentified lights in the sky above Rendlesham Forest, and Daniel Simpson, an expert on the subject, has released a new film based on the original sightings. Almost half of all correspondence directed to the Ministry of Defence about UFOs since 1980 relates to the incident. There is even an official UFO trail for walkers to follow through Rendlesham Forest. But what actually happened? And, 35 years after the supposed event, is anyone any closer to unravelling the mystery? Given the number of witnesses and written statements, it is easy to understand why people remain fascinated. Consider these points: 1) “This was not some vague ‘lights in the sky’ sighting – the UFO actually landed.” Nick Pope, a Ministry of Defence employee from 1985 to 2006. 2) “When I arrived [at the scene], it was going in and out through the trees and at one stage it was hovering.” Sgt Adrian Bustinza, a United States security police J to investigate the blue, red, orange and white lights in the sky. In his witness statement, published in 1981, Burroughs explains: “As we went down the road that leads into the forest, the lights appeared to stop in a bunch of trees… Also, the woods lit up and you could hear the farm animals making a lot of noises… whatever it was started moving back towards the open field… You could see the lights down by a farmer’s house. We climbed over the fence and started walking toward the red and blue lights and they just disappeared.” His supervisor, Staff Sergeant Jim Penniston, claims to have encountered a craft covered in characters similar to hieroglyphics. “I estimated it to be about three metres tall and about three metres wide at the base,” he said later. “No landing gear was apparent, but it seemed like it was on fixed legs. I moved a little closer. I had already taken all 36 pictures on my roll of film. I walked around the craft, and finally, I walked right up to the craft. I noticed the fabric of the shell was more like a smooth, opaque, black glass.” Burroughs does not record seeing the craft, but indentations on the forest floor, as well as damage to the trees in the area where the lights had been spotted, were found the following morning by British police officers. Radiation levels recorded at the site of the indentations were also unusually high. In the book Encounter in Rendlesham Forest, which was published last year, Penniston writes: “I left the forest a different man… I was in awe of the technology and yes, a knowing that it was not an aircraft which could have been manufactured in 1980 or even now.” As a result of what they experienced, both Penniston and Burroughs have since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. The following night, on December 27, a different set of US military personnel experienced similar events. On this occasion, when the lights were spotted, Lt Col Charles Halt was prepared. A pragmatic character, Halt set out with a tape recorder hoping to disprove the wild rumours swirling around Woodbridge and Bentwaters. The subsequent tape is now considered a key piece of evidence. The transcript of the tape runs to some 18 minutes but includes statements from Halt such as: “It’s back again… it’s coming this way… there’s no doubt about it… this is weird… it looks like an eye winking at you… it almost burns your eyes… we’re observing what appears to be a beam coming down to the ground… [there is] one object still hovering over Woodbridge base…”. Halt has since given interviews in which he claims that, whatever these objects were, they were picked up by British radar. By this stage, many local residents were also reporting sightings. One website dedicated to the incident has collected a total of 43 witness statements. On December 28, Larry Warren, an 18-year-old member of the US Air Force security police, who was not present at either RAF base on the night of the first incident, was sent out on patrol with Sgt Adrian Bustinza and a number of other military personnel. At some time after 11pm, the men left their trucks and headed towards the field where lights had been seen on the previous two nights. There, Warren claims to have seen “disaster preparedness officers” with Geiger counters, “going in an almost half-clockwise motion around this thing on the ground”. A small red light was then seen approaching from the direction of the coast. “It was the size of [an] American basketball. [It was] selfilluminated, not quite red, yet that’s the closest I can describe it.” Things were about to get even stranger. This red light suddenly exploded and a craft appeared on the forest floor. According to Warren, it had “no windows, no markings, no flag or country of origin. Nothing. You could hardly look at it head on, and if you looked at it through the side of your peripheral vision you’d get a shape of it... and there it was, clear as a bell.” At this stage, Warren and Bustinza were asked to retreat by a senior officer. From a distance, they then claim to have seen Wing Commander Gordon Williams approach the craft and encounter an “alien being” with “what looked like eyes, facial features, bright clothing and some other device”. Warren is clear that a “silent stand-off”, rather than any communication, took place. At around 4.30am, Warren returned to base but Bustinza says he saw the craft depart. “When it took off, it was, like, hovering. It went up and took off at about a 45-degree angle, and if you would have blinked, you would have missed it… And we got a cold draft of air that lasted about a good 10 seconds. You know, like when you get a good blow of dust or wind. No noise though; I do remember that.” This was the final sighting that year. Maybe Suffolk was simply not what the aliens had envisaged when they made the trip to Earth. Despite claims of a cover-up, the MoD’s stance has never wavered. Though there is no denial, it states in the official report: “No evidence was found of any threat to the defence of the United Kingdom, and no further investigations were carried out. No further information has come to light which alters our view that the sightings of these lights was of no defence significance.” Daniel Simpson takes a different view. The director of The Rendlesham UFO Incident, a fictionalised account of the story set in the present and filmed on location in Rendlesham Forest, is convinced that extraterrestrial life landed in a Suffolk forest in December 1980. “I honestly believe something very strange went on there and I believe that somewhere is the evidence to prove it but that’s hidden away. I think it’s an extraterrestrial encounter. I do.” Could there possibly be another explanation? In 2003, for example, former USAF Security Policeman, Kevin Conde, claimed the lights came from his patrol car. “You have to call into question the judgement of military officers who can’t distinguish a UFO from a bank of police car lights,” he said. Orford Ness lighthouse, meanwhile, is just 14 miles away from Rendlesham Forest. One of the British police officers said at the time: “I know from personal experience that...these beams were very pronounced and certainly caused strange visual effects.” Simpson bats all this away, however. “The lighthouse theory is rubbish,” he scoffs. “Lighthouses don’t fly down into forests, split up into five different lights and zap off into space at Mach-3. They don’t move through the trees and get mistaken by up to 20 witnesses from the United States Air Force.” ‘The Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident’ is out now on DVD