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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2005 > Oct > Oct 1

Academic Throws Light On 40-Year-Old UFO Mystery

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Sat, 01 Oct 2005 16:42:13 -0400
Fwd Date: Sat, 01 Oct 2005 16:42:13 -0400
Subject: Academic Throws Light On 40-Year-Old UFO Mystery

Source: The Age - Melbourne, Australia


October 2, 2005

[Picture at site]

Academic Throws Light On 40-Year-Old UFO Mystery

Just what did flash out of the sky and into the lives of
hundreds that April day? Stephen Cauchi reports.

A CAnberra academic is investigating one of Australia's most
compelling UFO mysteries, a sighting by hundreds of people in
the Melbourne suburb of Westall on April 6, 1966.

More than 200 students and staff from two schools watched as the
object landed in a nearby paddock, lifted off and vanished.

Shane Ryan, an English lecturer at the University of Canberra,
is interviewing dozens of witnesses for a book he hopes to
publish on the 40th anniversary of the sighting.

Mr Ryan, 38, was alerted to the events in the 1980s by a
housemate who was there. Unlike most UFO sightings, the Westall
object had a large number of credible witnesses. It was viewed
in daylight and attracted a forceful response from police and
the RAAF.

"It had these rather interesting elements which indicated to me
that, unlike some other so-called UFO stories, there was some
substance to this," he told The Sunday Age.

"I knew the 40th anniversary was coming up next year, so I
thought it was timely to do some research on it."

Mr Ryan has interviewed about 30 witnesses, mostly former staff
and students from the Westall secondary and primary schools. He
has tried obtaining police and RAAF reports, but so far with
little luck. The story was covered then by Channel Nine, The Age
and local newspapers.

On the UFO, everyone seems to agree, Mr Ryan says. It was a low-
flying, silver/grey shining object, either of classical flying
saucer shape or close to it, "a cup turned upside down on a
saucer". The students were familiar with light aircraft because
the schools were close to Moorabbin Airport. Although the UFO
was of similar size, "everyone said straight away that they knew
it was not a plane", Mr Ryan said, nor a weather balloon.

The object was in view for up to 20 minutes, and many saw it
descend. Most agree it landed behind pine trees at the Grange
Reserve. Dozens of students ran across what was then an open
paddock to the reserve to investigate, but the object had lifted
off and vanished.

Other details are sketchier. The UFO appears to have left a
circle of scorched grass; others say several circles were left
in paddocks bordering Grange Reserve.

Many witnesses, not all, report seeing aircraft, up to five,
trailing the UFO. Some say it made no sound, others say it did.

Many reported that police/air force/military personnel inspected
the site; some (not all) say the authorities burnt the site. The
Dandenong Journal, for which the story was front-page news two
weeks in a row, reported that "students and staff have been
instructed to 'talk to no-one' about the incident".
Nevertheless, one teacher, Andrew Greenwood, gave the paper a
detailed account.

"It was silvery-grey and seemed to thicken at times," he said.
"The thickening was similar to when a disc is turned a little to
show the underside."

One of the closest witnesses was a boy whose family leased land
at Grange Reserve for horses.

Shaun Matthews (not a student at Westall) was on holidays and
spending time on the land.

"I saw the thing come across the horizon and drop down behind
the pine trees," he told The Sunday Age this week. "I couldn't
tell you what it was. It certainly wasn't a light aircraft or
anything of the like =85

"I saw the thing drop down behind the pine trees and saw it
leave again. I couldn't tell you how long it was there for, it
was such a long time ago."

Mr Matthews, 51 and now living in Greenvale, said the object
"went up and off very very rapidly".

"I went over and there was a circle in the clearing. It looked
like it had been cooked or boiled, not burnt as I remember," he
said. "A heap of kids from Westall primary and high school came
charging through to see what had happened =97 'look at this, look
at that, we saw it as well', that sort of thing. It was a bit of
a talking point for a couple of days."

Mr Matthews said the object, about the size of "two family
cars", passed him at a distance of about "four football fields".
"It was silvery, but it had a sort-of purple hue to it, very
bright, but not bright enough that you couldn't look at it," he

"I saw that it dropped down behind the trees, and I thought,
'hello, hang on'. A minute or so later, it went straight up,
just gone."

He said police and other officials interviewed his mother. But
he cannot remember them burning the landing site, as others have
alleged. And he did not see any light aircraft trailing the
object, as others did.

"The way this thing moved there is no way it could have been a
weather balloon or a light aircraft," he said.

"A helicopter? No way =97 no noise, wrong shape, and it didn't
move like it. It came out of the distance, stopped, and then
just dropped.

"It didn't just sort of cruise and then slightly descend at an
angle. It just stopped, dropped, and then went straight up."

The Victorian UFO Research Society investigated the incident.
VUFORS secretary Tony Cook said Westall remained one of
Australia's major unexplained UFO cases.

The top one was the case of Frederick Valentich, a 20-year-old
Melbourne pilot whose light plane disappeared while flying over
Bass Strait in 1978.

In the last minutes of radio communication, Valentich reported
seeing a UFO hovering above his plane. He and his craft were
never recovered.

"It's pretty well documented," Mr Cook said. "That's probably
the most important one because it involves the disappearance of
a person."

Mr Cook said the society's stance on UFOs was that, "there are
people out there seeing unusual things in the sky at times and
they can't be explained. But it's a very big leap to go from
unexplained things in the sky to extraterrestrials."

Most witnesses, including Mr Matthews, say the UFO was not an
aircraft or helicopter. But Westall is only six kilometres from
Moorabbin Airport, and the object was roughly headed in that
direction, travelling north to south.

"It sounds to me like some sort of experimental craft, very much
Earth-based," Steve Roberts, of Australian Skeptics, said.

"It is an interesting event with lots of witnesses and what we
now call a crop circle.

"Accounts are confused. Some have the object landing and taking
off again, others say 'a paddock over which the object seemed to

As well, "if there was a whole swag of officials investigating
it, there must be an official report in RAAF archives

But Mr Ryan said that no one at the RAAF knew of the incident.

But given the history of the case =97 the way students and staff
were told to keep quiet from the start =97 that was not
surprising, he said.

"As I got a little bit older, I got a little more interested in
the social and historical aspects of the story, how something
like this could have happened and how it reflected society at
the time, and how authorities responded to it," he said.

"There's been a layer of secrecy that was very, very prominent
in this story from the beginning."

Contact Shane Ryan on shaneryan.nul

The internet discussion list of this incident is at:


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