EPISODE XXXVII: THE CLARENVILLE UFO INCIDENT

The sighting took place October 26th 1978 (some sources say November 26th), about 2AM  in a rural harbour town of Clarenville, Newfoundland. The initial report of an Unidentified Flying Object came in over the police radio in the wee hours of the morning…

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It was Chester Lethbridge who, along with his wife and a few other locals, spotted something anomalous in the sky. It was the second time in less than two weeks the couple had sighted an unidentifiable object, but this time there would be more than just the two witnesses. RCMP officer Jim Blackwood attended to the scene, fully expecting the locals to have gotten into too much moonshine and were no doubt hallucinating, however, what he saw that night would change his opinion on the UFO question, forever.

The sighting lasted approximately 2 hours, and the craft was visible on the water above Random Island for the entire duration. Officer Blackwood became the centrepiece of the story, which was picked up by all major media outlets in the following week. This is his official account, paraphrased from his official statements and a 1978 Interview.

 Blackwood’s Interview

Blackwood’s Interview

On the 27th of October, Blackwood received a call from dispatch that a resident had reported a UFO sighting in progress. At the time of the call, Blackwood was on the other side of the town, so he made his way down Marine Drive where he met the resident, a Mr. Lethbridge, his wife, and several other locals. Blackwood said he looked into the sky and saw an object coming from the west, heading eastward, flying at least 2 - 3,000 feet in altitude. At this time, Blackwood’s impression was that it was simply a jet flying over head. Lethbridge gave Blackwood his binoculars for a closer look, and the 25 year old Officer saw something strange hovering over the area that he identified as district of Weybridge.

Blackwood at this time could still not identify the object, so he sent a dispatch and asked for an industrial telescope that the police had for narcotics surveillance. The telescope was brought from the detachment office with another officer (unnamed) and was positioned looking towards the northeast coast of nearby Random Island.

Through the telescope lens, Blackwood noticed that there were strange blue lights on either side of the object and a red one on the top of the object, but it did not appear at this time to be shaped like a plane. The bottom half of the object was completely illuminated by a white light, at this time the blue lights were flashing very very rapidly, much more rapidly than any other craft he had ever seen.

Officer Blackwood watched it at max range for a while, focusing on the top of the craft, now trying to figure out what the shape of the craft really was. The UFO appeared to be an oval shape, with a triangular jutting out at the back that was alternatively described as a pyramid-shape.

Blackwood began thinking that his mind was playing tricks on him, that maybe it was a combination of a plane and then a bright start, possibly a falling star. The officer stated:

“That's about all I can tell you about it” “The size appeared to me to be a little larger than a 747 aircraft, a few hundred feet in size, no wings, the style was clear there wasn’t a cloud in the sky”.

It turned around as Blackwood watched it and he was able to see each side. It was a slow movement but then making quick movements up and down but always returning to the same spot in the sky. Blackwood stated repeatedly that he saw no windows. No doors. However, Blackwood did say:

“It was definitely a metallic structure, but what type of metal I wouldn’t care to guess, it was like a dull metal.”

“I’m familiar with aircrafts of all shapes and sizes. But the metal on it was not like aircraft metal. It was very dull and not shiny at all. It wasn’t even smooth. It was very coarse looking,” he said.

 The Location of the Sighting (Random Island can be seen in the distance)

The Location of the Sighting (Random Island can be seen in the distance)

The still unidentified craft was essentially stationary throughout the duration of the sighting, hovering high above the water near Random Island for what felt like an eternity but was actually a couple hours. Blackwood then attempted to contact the craft using his high-beam cruiser headlights, and noted that the craft responded instantly, mimicking the flickering light perfectly. This mimicking phenomenon is reported in many other sightings, notably the regular occurrences of Charlie Red Star in Manitoba during the 70’s, who often mimicked cars, flashlights and other sources of light. Then, as Blackwood watched, it slowly start to move, then, the craft picked up to speed of a jet, and like that was gone in a split second.

The description of the craft given by Blackwood and other witnesses parallels many of the classic UFO cases - an oval shaped craft (similar to a blimp or a cigar-shaped craft). Interestingly, Blackwood was able to pick up the outline of a fin of sorts protruding from the top of the craft extending out to the ‘back’ - this triangular or pyramid-shaped tail was seen to be moving back and forth as the craft shifted in mid air throughout the sighting. No wings were noted, which confirmed in Blackwood’s mind that they were dealing with a plane.

 Blackwood’s Drawing of the UFO

Blackwood’s Drawing of the UFO

Another classic factor was a distinct lack of sound coming from the craft. All known aircraft at the time were audible to a certain extent, and this craft was mysteriously absent of such, further confirming to Blackwood that this was something extremely out of the ordinary. The size of the craft was estimated to be comparable to a Boeing 747 passenger jet. No doors or windows were visible using the binoculars, even when using the high-powered scope at maximum enlargement, however, a bright light emitted from the bottom of the craft precluded a full view of the strange craft.

Whatever it was witnesses saw that evening, it wouldn’t be the end strange encounters in the Clarenville area. in 1985 another sighting took place at nearby Gander Lake, Newfoundland. Two brothers were on a fishing trip and had set up camp for the night along the edge of the shoreline. It was at first light the following morning that one of the brothers claims to have awoken and sighted a large object hovering above the tree line nearly a kilometre away. The craft was huge, the witness estimated it was about 100 metres across. The object was motionless until take off, and was reported to be a dull metallic grey that reflected some sunlight but not much. When the two brothers approached, the craft activated light blue lights and took off at a very high rate of speed at a 45 degree angle, operating in complete silence the entire time.

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It appears that Newfoundland has a colourful history of UFO encounters. More recently in 2010, residents of Harbour Mille reported seeing three missile-like UFOs fly near their community on the night of January 25th. Several residents reported seeing the objects, including a woman who was able to photograph one of them. She reported to the RCMP that she had seen three missiles soaring over the ocean and it looked as if they had come up out of the water. According to CBC, the Department of National Defence had no official explanation for the objects. The Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence reported: "The object is not a ballistic missile, not a cruise missile in boost phase nor a cruise missile in-flight phase. It is also not a licensed model rocket launcher." NORAD similarly had no explanation and no record of any officially sanctioned aircraft in that airspace at the time. in 2016, the sighting repeated itself, when Darlene Stewart reported to the CBC that she had seen an object rise out of the ocean at a high rate of speed.

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But that wasn’t the end of it. In February 2016, Clarenville resident Chad Haines reported witnessing a UFO hovering in the skies for an extended period of time in a very similar sighting to that of Blackwood and others in the 1970’s. The craft was reported in the vicinity of Random Island once again, where it hovered in the night sky for hours, then zigzagged up and down before shooting off into thin air, just like the behaviour witnessed by Blackwood. Clarenville has since become famous for its UFO sightings. The hockey team changed their name to the Clarenville UFOs and local business feature an assortment of UFO and alien themed sales. The sightings remain unexplained to this day.