I got home from work late last week Friday night and, being exhausted as I was (it was a really rough day at work) I sat in my parked car in the car park of my apartment complex, and just breathed. I tried to breathe out the nagging exhaustion of the work day now gone (And the words! Oh so many words from too many documents!), and to breathe in the time-for-me that the weekend promised.
After doing this necessary breathing exercise for a couple of minutes, I got out of the car and, being a particularly lovely starry night, I looked up and watched the stars a bit. As I looked across the wide expanse of the Jamaican air space above me, a light way up in the night sky blinked across my line of vision, and I watched as the blinking light (blinking light … tee hee hee!) traveled across the sky until it was lost from my sight behind a mountain. Of course I knew it was a plane, but it occurred to me that it was so far up in the sky, why should I assume it to be a plane? It could’ve been anything. It could’ve been an unidentified flying object (UFO). But, of course it was a plane … right?
So I guess you know what today’s post is all about, right? UFO sightings in Jamaica’s history.
Regular readers of Jamaican Echoes should know by now that my historian’s curiousity does get the better of me, and when a topic flashes across my brain, no matter how silly it may seem, then it must be explored. And usually there are historical echoes from Jamaica’s past on that same topic.
So with the Gleaner Archives up in my Google Chrome window I went to finding out if Jamaicans ever reported UFO sightings in our history; well, at least within the years of the Gleaner Archives, 1834-2012.
Readers, you’re in for a surprise…
UFO ‘Hysteria’ comes to Jamaica
According to Hartley Neita “hysteria … accompanied sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) in North America and here in Jamaica during the 1950s and 60s” (Neita 2002). I’m not certain just how hysteric things got surrounding these sightings; but here are several UFO sightings in Jamaica I was able to uncover from the Gleaner Archives.
Date of Sighting: Saturday, August 26, 1967
Location: Willow Run, Stony Hill
On Wednesday, October 18, 1967, the Daily Gleaner published the following letter from a Mrs Shirley Mercier from Willow Run in Stony Hill, reporting her sighting of a UFO on Saturday, August 26, 1967:
On the fourth Saturday of August last, I was sitting watching television at about 7:30 p.m. when my attention was attracted to a moving object in the sky, going in a South Easterly direction. As this appeared to be a satellite I got up to look at it as I am always ver interested in satellites.
This object then became stationary for approximately five seconds, and to my surprise reversed, now directing its path to a South Westerly course. It continued in this manner for a further minute and then changed to a Northerly direction towards where I live (Stony Hill).
As it continued on this coursse, it became lower and enlarged to approximately 14 inches in diameter. It had an orange glow and a very short beam, and made absolutely no sound.
I continued watching this object (which at its nearest was 150 yards away and about 1/2 mile upwards) with a great deal of interest, surprise, (and a certain amount of fear I may add). It was now going only Northerly and reversing Southerly periodically.
It eventually disappeared in the South, after being visible for approximately 18 minutes.
It would be most interesting to find out what this object really was. I rather doubt that it was a satellite, as I’ve never heard of a satellite reversing!
Date of Sighting: Monday, October 9, 1967
Location: Stony Hill, St. Andrew
Hmm, this second report of a UFO sighting also comes from Stony Hill, several weeks after the above UFO sighting.
On Tuesday, October 10, 1967, the Daily Gleaner reported the following on its front page, under the heading “Unidentified lighted flying objects” (pp. 1-2):
Two unidentified flying objects … were … sighted last night [Monday, October 9] in the sky by residents of Stony Hill. The objects which appeared with bright reddish lights were reported to be flying one behind the other in a zigzag sideway manner and disappeared and reappeared at about five-minute intervals. The objects were sighted four times at intervals of five minutes from about 9.30 p.m. until about 10.15 p.m.
A resident in the Manor Park area, a Miss Judy Sasso, called the Gleaner and reported that:
…the objects had a reddish tint like a flare and after watching them in the eastern sky in the Stony Hill area they disappeared only to reappear after about five minutes. While she was speaking on the phone with the GLEANER, the object appeared again she said and what appeared to be two pieces of light dropped from them. The objects then disappeared.
The Gleaner conducted checks with Mr. Charles Hanna, the president of the Jamaican Astronomical Association, about these reports of UFO sightings. Mr. Hanna explained that:
…there was a special type of satellite launched by the National Association of Space Agency (NASA) in the United States, which is designed for making dimensional measurements of the earth and it is equipped with blinking lights which goes off at about five-minute intervals. He said it is a special type of satellite and this could have been what the residents saw.
This sounds like a rational explanation for the above two sightings. However, we must admit that for those who witnessed these flying objects, it was indeed quite unknown to them that they originated out of NASA, hence referring to them as UFOs.
Hartley Neita, in his regular Daily Gleaner feature, Interesting Historical Highlights, for Friday, October 22, 1999 (p. C10), noted the following as occurring in 1958:
Arthur Newman, his wife, brother and a friend, along with porters at the Palisadoes International Airport, see what they believe to be an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO), travelling north-weterly over Kingston. When first seen it appears as a round, white light travelling “at terrific speed”. It changes to a blue colour, back again to white, and then fades.
I wasn’t able to locate references to such a sighting in the Gleaner editions for 1958.
So there you have it folks. It is possible that there were more UFO sightings during the 1960s and 1950s throughout the island, but they were not reported in the Gleaner during that time. Maybe they were spoken of on the radio? Who knows? Indeed if you know please do drop Jamaican Echoes a line.
How about now? Has there been any UFO sightings in 21st century Jamaica? You might be surprised by this but yes! On May 23, 2012, On the Ground News reported that:
Six unidentified lights were seen above St. Catherine in the vicinity of Back Road, hovering for over 20 minutes at around 9:00pm. Some of the lights had a ‘trail of light’ as they moved. The lights then drifted apart then disappeared one by one.
Was this an actual UFO sighting or was this the work of the Canadian Air Force in preparation for their air show on Labour Day, May 24, by the Kingston Waterfront?
Until next time…
Daily Gleaner, The (1967) Unidentified lighted flying objects. Tuesday, October 10, 1967, pp. 1-2
Daily Gleaner, The (1967), Unidentified Lighted Flying Objects, Tuesday, October 10, 1967, pp. 1-2
Daily Gleaner, The (1967), Letters to the Editor: Flying Object, Wednesday, October 18, 1967, pg. 12
Mercier, Shirley (1967) Letters to the Editor: Flying Object. The Daily Gleaner, Wednesday, October 18, 1967
Neita, Hartley (1999) Interesting Historical Highlights. The Gleaner, Friday, October 22, 1999, p. C10.
Neita, Hartley (2002) The Yesterdays of our History. The Sunday Gleaner, February 3, 2002, p. 9A