- WINNIPEG (CP) -- Explorer
David Thompson got the ball rolling with Canada's first recorded UFO sighting
in 1792, a tale lifted from his Hudson Bay journals that would do very
nicely as an episode of The X-Files.
- "He and a companion were camped out in the middle
of the winter in a very isolated area near a lake and they saw what he
described as a large gelatinous blob ... flying through the air,"
says Chris Rutkowski, a Winnipeg UFO researcher and author. "It appeared
to fall to the earth on the frozen lake not far from them." The sighting
took place near what is now Thicket Portage, just south of Thompson, Man.,
which isn't named after the famous fur trader and map maker. (It's named
after former Inco president John Thompson, who paid the guys who built
- At any rate, David Thompson and his companion failed
to find any sign of the blob on the ground, but they did see a similar
object in the sky a few days later.
- Ever since, Canadians have continued to see strange objects
or lights in the sky and report other contact with what many insist are
- Rutkowski has been chronicling and investigating these
stories for almost 25 years and he has culled what he considers to be 11
of the strangest tales of the last 100 years from his files. "Whether
or not they are real is irrelevant," says the founder of Ufology Research
of Manitoba, whose latest book on the subject, Abductions and Aliens, has
just been published by Dundurn in Toronto. "They have each fired the
Canadian imagination and fascination with the possibility of life elsewhere
in the universe."
- Rutkowski's weird and wonderful list starts with a 1915
phantom invasion of aerial objects over wartime Ottawa that was never explained.
- It was scary enough for officials to turn out the lights
on Parliament Hill to avoid presenting a tempting target to the "enemy."
"It caused such a concern that they actually did put Ottawa on alert."
- The list concludes in Duncan, B.C., in 1980 with the
strange tale of Granger Taylor. The teenager was obsessed with aliens and
UFOs, building a full-size mockup of a flying saucer in his backyard. One
day he announced to his friends he was going to be taken away by aliens.
He was never seen again.
- But those aren't the strangest stories as far as Rutkowski
- "Out of all of them it would be a toss-up between
Shirley's Bay and Shag Harbour."
- Shirley's Bay, Ont., is where Wilbert Smith, a Canadian
Defence Department engineer, set up equipment in 1954 he said detected
a large magnetic disturbance which he believed to be from an alien spacecraft.
- More important perhaps for UFO researchers, it was from
Smith's meetings with American investigators at the time that they learned
of incidents like the alleged crash of a flying saucer near Roswell, N.M.
- Shag Harbour, N.S., is where something crashed into the
ocean in October 1967 that had people in the area gossiping for years.
- American navy vessels appeared, divers recovered something
and mysterious green foam was seen on the water, but there was never a
satisfactory explanation. "I would classify those as the most unusual
among all the 11," says Rutkowski.
- If those are the strangest, he says the most significant
is the case of Steve Mihalak, burned by an object he said landed near Falcon
Lake, Man., in May 1967, the same year as the strange goings-on near Shag
Harbour. "It was investigated by American and Canadian military and
government officials and it stood the test of time," says Rutkowski.
- Mihalak died last October. "Right to the very end
he insisted that what he had seen and what occurred to him happened just
as he said."
- Rutkowski says there has been a slight decline in the
number of UFO sightings in Canada, to about 200 a year. He had been expecting
a little "millennium fever" that might push up the number of
sightings as 1999 draws to a close.
- But while the numbers may be down, interest is definitely
up, he says.
- "People are very much into this sort of thing."