Did UFOs visit the region before WW2? And East Anglia's top five 'alien' incidents
PUBLISHED: 12:01 19 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:39 21 January 2019
New play delves into the stories behind some of our region's most fascinating unexplained phenomena.
The continued popularity of The X-Files and films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the Oscar-nominee Arrival illustrate the fascination we still have for UFOs and the whole idea that we are not alone in the universe.
Suffolk and Norfolk have long been a hot-bed of UFO sightings with unexplained events going back to the Second World War. Radar development at RAF Bawdsey and Orfordness seems to have triggered a spate of strange lights and hovering shapes in the sky – events which have continued to this day.
Some sightings can now be explained away. A strange dark, silent triangular shape which didn’t show up on radar which flew out to sea from the mouth of the River Deben, under cover of darkness, during the late 1980s has now been recognised as test flights of the then top secret stealth bomber which was based, for a time, at RAF Woodbridge.
Other sightings remain unexplained, particularly World War II sightings, which happened before helicopters or manoeuvrable aircraft like the Harrier Jump Jet. The greatest unexplained event remains the Rendlesham UFO incident during Christmas 1980. It has been described as Britain’s own X-Files or Roswell Incident where a number of US servicemen at RAF Woodbridge saw something land in Rendlesham Forest. The scene of the ‘landing’ was investigated and confirmed by base commander Lieutenant Colonel Charles I. Halt which gave the two incidents on December 26 and December 28 instant credibility.
The Rendlesham Incident has provided the springboard for a new play In Your Skies, by Suffolk actor and writer Mark Finbow, who has spent the last couple of researching UFO sightings and meeting the people who were either unwitting participants in the event or people who have dedicated their lives to investigating these strange incidents.
“Although Rendlesham was very much the starting point, In Your Skies, is not a play about the Rendlesham UFO Incident. It’s more about the whole UFO phenomenon and the people who are caught up in this on-going mystery – some by choice others because they experienced something they can’t explain.”
The play is being supported by local touring theatre company Eastern Angles who stage new works about East Anglia, its history, its people and its folklore.
“It’s a play about people. I grew up in Suffolk and I was fascinated by the number of UFO sightings over the years,” said Mark, “But, when these incidents were reported it was always from the military point of view and I have wondered about what the people involved thought about their experiences.
“So I conducted lots of what I called Flying Saucer Cafes – informal gatherings where interested people with a story to tell could get together and relate their experiences over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. So the play is about them. It looks at possible explanations and I think it will surprise audiences who only have a passing familiarity with the topic or only know what they have seen on television or in the cinema. My research has come up with stories that have even surprised me.”
Mark, who is the co-founder of The Keepers Daughter theatre company, said that the play really concentrated on the people rather than the events but there real life tales used in the play which were recounted at his Flying Saucer Cafes which give audiences a sense of what it felt like to be involved in a UFO incident.
“It’s a fictional story but it is very much inspired by real events and the people I have met.”
He said that one of the strangest incidents involves a retired pilot who now lives in Norfolk and he was buzzed and shadowed by an unidentified flying object while flying over the Mojave Desert in the USA. “He wasn’t interested in UFOs or considered himself a UFO person but couldn’t explain what this object was, so he took a photograph of it, has had it analysed and no-one can tell him what it is. This happened in 1983.
“There are lots happening in East Anglia including a strange incident in Hollesley in August 2017 which involved strange lights hovering over a building before disappearing, vibrating lights and an unexplained time slippage.”
So are we alone? “I don’t know to be honest. I think a lot of the stories probably have a down-to-earth explanation but some things you can’t explain and I am drawn to the idea of extra terrestrials, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens – what we can discover.”
A rehearsed reading of In Your Skies by Mark Finbow is being staged at Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich on February 8 at 7.30pm (Box Office: www.easternangles.co.uk or 01473 211498) and at The Garage in Norwich on February 9 at 1.30pm (Box Office: www.thegarage.org.uk or 01603 283382)
Entry is free but donations would be welcome. As a result of the performances the play is hoped to be developed into a fully staged tour. The reading will be followed by a Q+A and will last approx 90 mins.
Suitable for ages 15+.
Five key East Anglian UFO incidents compiled by Mark Finbow
LOCATION: Spixworth, Norwich
SIGHTING: A young mum and her father and her friend witnessed a gold disk hovering in the sky.
WITNESS TESTIMONY: “It had a small dome. There was no sound whatsoever. After a while several tiny crafts emerged from the disk zigzagging around the sky.”
LOCATION: Reedham, Norfolk
SIGHTING: Two black diamonds flew directly over a young couples’ car at approximately 11pm.
WITNESS TESTIMONY: “They didn’t sound like planes. More like a really deep moped. I think they were military drones.”
LOCATION: Sudbury, Suffolk
SIGHTING: A black diamond moving along a distant treeline.
WITNESS TESTIMONY: “It moved horizontally then shot up vertically at such a speed.”
LOCATION: Buxton, Derbyshire
SIGHTING: A young couple driving home in the early hours experience booms and lights in the sky.
WITNESS TESTIMONY: “we heard massive booms and a massive portion of the sky lit up. We discounted it as meteors.”
LOCATION: Mojave Desert
SIGHTING: A Norfolk based pilot witnesses and takes a photo of a UFO.
WITNESS TESTIMONY: “A huge black shadow passes over us with no noise and then two very shaken pilots both slowly come up from below the cockpit and ask each other “what the hell was that?””