The Rendlesham Forest UFO Incidents
Startling revelations have erupted following a forensic examination of one of the UK’s most famous UFO sightings.
Gary Heseltine is a retired police officer who, some 20 years ago, set up an unofficial database for UFO sightings made by his UK colleagues. Since then, he’s lectured all over the world on the subject.
His book, Non-Human: The Rendlesham Forest UFO Incidents: 42 Years of Denial, tells the startling true story of military personnel who witnessed inexplicable phenomena in Suffolk in December, 1980. BTN Editor Duncan Little spoke with Gary shortly after the book’s publication.
UFOs: Unidentified Flying Objects
The Zoom call erupts into life and there’s several things I quickly notice about Gary Heseltine and his office.
The first is that he has very sharp eyes. Eyes which say that nothing’s going to get past him and he’s going to notice a lot of stuff. Stuff that the rest of us would probably be quick to discount and forget about.
The second is a photograph of a younger version of himself which is hanging on the wall behind him (above a well organised array of post sitting in a letter tray).
It’s a black and white still of Gary receiving a Certificate of Merit from the West Yorkshire Assistant Chief Constable.
The award ceremony took place to mark his bravery in tackling a burglar when he was off duty. He had given chase to the criminal before pinning him down and waiting for backup. The Incident resulted in the man trying to bite Gary’s ear off.
The now 63 year old can still recall the events as if it was yesterday – even though it happened several decades ago.
I’ve learned much in a short space of time. Gary’s memory is sharp and he isn’t prone to ‘flights of fancy.’ He’s approachable and keen on detail in a ‘no nonsense copper kind-a-way.’ He also likes to cut to the chase (literally as well as figuratively).
And so, he’s probably just the chap to delve deep into one of the country’s most enduring modern mysteries: The Rendlesham Forest Incident. The accepted version of events is fairly straightforward. It goes like this…
The ‘official’ version
The height of the Cold War sees US personnel based at a number of sites across the UK, including at RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk.
It was Christmas in 1980 when staff notice a number of strange occurrences around the base over a period of several nights.
Glowing orbs with coloured lights. Strange markings on the ground. Weird lights coming and go. Beams are also seen.
An air force colonel (Charles Halt) decides to investigate having been dragged away from Christmas celebrations to investigate the UFO. He is accompanied by a small team from the base.
He decided to take an tape recorder with him. He provides a running commentary about what’s happening and what he’s seeing (a transcript of Halt’s experience can be found at the back of Gary’s book).
The audio lasts for nearly 20 minutes and documents the incredible encounter with a UFO (the term being used in a true sense of the acronym as no one actually knows what it was).
The tape notes how farmyard animals are heard making ‘very strange sounds’ before falling silent ahead of the appearance of a ‘strange, small red light.’
It moves towards the group with ‘pieces of it shooting off.’ Halt goes on to describe it as being like an ‘eye winking at you’ before ‘observing what appears to be a beam coming down to the ground.’
Official reports were written and (eventually) made public. Books, programmes and films were subsequently made.
‘Rational’ explanations were provided. These varied from the plausible to the (frankly) incredible. Anything and everything was (and has been) said about the Rendlesham Incident.
There was talk of Top Secret military tests. A Soviet satellite crashing to the ground was mentioned. There was even speculation that a nearby lighthouse was the source the spectacular light show.
All of which seemed to stretch credulity to the limit. So, what is the truth behind The Rendlesham Incident?
‘Non-Human: The Rendlesham Forest UFO Incidents: 42 Years of Denial’
‘As a former detective I’ve stuck to the facts,’ explains Gary. ‘My overriding concern is that no one had put together as much information on Rendlesham as I have done.’
And information is aplenty in Gary’s book. It extends to a colossal 500 pages with a substantial section dedicated solely to reproducing documents and maps connected to the mystery.
There’s an interview with one witness who recalls discharging their weapon at the object which appeared above them (Gary points out that this testimony is a new development in the Rendlesham story).
The book quickly introduces you to his 19 year-long detective skills which were honed while in service and reflects his approach to examining a huge array of evidence, including affidavits.
His approach provides a fascinating glimpse into how evidence is gathered. Who knew that witness statements should be written without the use of paragraphs?
We also learn that his training as a specialist interviewer allowed him to utilise his skillset during the London bombing investigation.
The idea behind advanced interviewing techniques is to allow someone to access key memories which can often become ‘forgotten’ or ‘hazy.’ Retrieving fresh information is known as finding ‘fresh snow.’
‘If something is seared into your memory then the memory is still there and you can retrieve information. One interview lasted four and a half hours. It was mentally exhausting. It’s the most important interview I’ve ever done.’
‘The book is a rite of passage. All I wanted was peer reviews from researchers and the response has been very humbling. There’s some things I’ve learned since then that could go into a second review. It needs to be more widely read.’
‘It’s not just about lights in the sky and it’s very complicated and there’s a lot of politics in the subject, especially from America.’
60 hours of material
Gary had never intended to write a book on the subject but decided to do so having become involved in the making of a documentary some six years ago. He went on to amass more than 60 hours of material. It was more than enough to write a book.
‘I thought I would do a deep dive into the subject and I came across military witnesses and little known interviews and I began to question people and used my advanced interview skills.’
‘I interviewed key Rendlesham witnesses and it was brand new and I thought they should be in the public domain and I felt it was important testimony.’
UFOs are a subject which has grabbed the public’s imagination for centuries. For art lovers, you might want to look at Masolino da Panicale’s The Miracle of the Snow.
It’s a ‘go to’ painting for ufologists as the 15th Century artist depicts a number of ‘flying saucers’ in the sky. Where did they come from? No one knows.
A population explosion from two billion at the start of the 20th century to more than seven billion today means there’s been a natural increase in reported UFO sightings over the past 100 years.
Some are explainable. Some aren’t. Better tech means we can see photos and video of inexplicable craft. The now famous ‘tic tac’ videos from the USAF have left its aircrews (and investigators) baffled to what they had seen.
The UK has seen its own pilots bewildered by the phenomenon. Graham Sheppard had been a commercial pilot in the late 1960s when he witnessed an object with changing lights that moved at ‘an impossible rate for known aircraft.’
Rewind the clock further back and Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill fired off a memo on the subject when he was PM back in the early 1950s. ‘What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to?’ he asked. ‘What can it mean? What is the truth?’
Seventy years later and researchers are still trying to discover the truth. ‘Non-Human: The Rendlesham Forest UFO Incidents: 42 Years of Denial,’ is, perhaps, a step on a pathway to try to answer that age old question: are we alone in the universe? And, if not, have beings from other planets already visited us?
‘Anyone who’s investigated the best evidence realise there’s a hard core that are truly real,’ says Gary. ‘Too many credible people have seen strange things.’
Featured Image: Breaktime News artist’s impression