Case File: Rendlesham Forest Incident
Location: Woodbridge, England
Date: December 26 to December 28, 1980
Description: The Rendlesham Forest is a large woodland park in Suffolk, England owned by the Forestry Commission with recreation facilities for walkers, cyclists and campers.
History: On December 26, 1980, at around 2 am, airman first class John Burroughs was on security patrol at Woodbridge airbase with his partner when they saw an odd bright light come from the Rendlesham Forest, which separates Woodbridge from Bentwaters, another airbase. The men went back to call their superior from a nearby post, and they were still able to see the light. Almost simultaneously, another security patrol arrived and confirmed the lights. Burroughs and the second team were sent off base to investigate without their weapons because they were leaving American jurisdiction.
As the nervous men walked into the forest, they could tell that the animals were very upset. They received a radio transmission that contact was made with Heathrow Tower in London and that an object had been seen over Woodbridge base, then disappeared. The men soon arrived at the object, which had a bunch of blue strobing lights, then moved up through the trees and into the sky. Everything felt slower and strange to the men until the object vanished. For more than two hours, the men played an eerie game of cat and mouse with the mysterious object. At times it would get closer to the horizon and closer to them, then fly away.
The events of that December night set in motion a chain reaction that would eventually result in the best documented sighting in a American military history. Although the government has no comment on the incident, several witnesses agreed to an interview to tell what happened that night.
Five hours after the sighting, John reported to his post commander about the strange lights, and the commander said that they should try to locate any physical evidence. When they arrived, they found impressions in the ground, burn marks on the trees and other odd evidence. John and a police officer went to the area and showed him the physical evidence that was there. However, the officer dismissed the ground impressions as burrowing forest animals. Interestingly, the circles measured an equal distance apart and made a perfect equilateral triangle.
Early the next morning, Col. Charles Hart arrived at Woodbridge security headquarters and he was told about the UFO sightings. He was very skeptical at first, but as he began to investigate, he was surprised at how authentic the sightings were and still cannot explain them. That same night, more lights were spotted and flood lights were ordered to be set up in the woods.
At 9:30pm, Col. Hart received word of flood lights malfunctioning and other strange things. Base security was immediately dispatched to put more flood lights out. Col. Hart had a professional photographer come with him to take pictures and try to debunk, but when he arrived, several types of military equipment were malfunctioning, including the flood lights.
Hart and his men went into the woods armed with a tape recorder and other equipment. Sgt. Robert Ball, one of Hart's team members, located a site where they believed a UFO had landed. They got an instrument to do readings on the trees when one of the men noticed a red, glowing object about a few hundred meters away. It began zigzagging around the pine trees and winking at them, then as it moved away, the men followed it. They found a farmhouse that appeared to be glowing, as if it was on fire. As the red object began moving towards the house, it broke up into five white balls and disappeared.
The men began going towards the coast, when they looked to the north and saw three objects in the sky that began moving in strange patterns. The men believe that the objects were trying to communicate or warn them. Sgt. Ball believed that it looked like a grid search. Beams of light began shooting out from the objects, and several people at the base also reported the lights. John Burroughs woke up while this was happening, and he then saw several blue, transparent lights in the sky, and one dived towards them, went through a truck, and then went back in the sky. At virtually the same moment, Col. Hart and his men noticed an object in the sky that was coming towards them at a tremendous rate of speed, and a beam of light came down within feet of them. Then, the light disappeared, and Col. Hart went from a skeptic to a believer.
The next day, Col. Hart played the tape to his boss and he agreed with him and told him to write an incident report. His boss then sent the report and the tape to a staff meeting and everyone was confused and nobody knew what to do. Col. Hart's memo was sent to British military authorities, who did not act on it. Then in 1983, a private citizen used the freedom of information act to release Hart's memo.
However, many are not convinced. Some believe that the "UFO sightings" was really just a meteor shower. But the people that saw the UFOs are convinced that it was not a meteor shower, or a figment of their imagination. Col. Hart found that in January of 1981, and nine months later there were more sightings near Woodbridge. In total, fifteen men claim to have seen the unusual phenomenon at Bentwaters and Woodbridge during the first incident. To this day, nobody can fully explain what really happened in December of 1980 in Rendlesham Forest.
Background: Bentwaters is an American airbase located in Southern England. The 81st tactical fighter wing of the US air force works out of Southeast England. In a unique arrangement, the wing is housed on twin bases, Woodbridge and Bentwaters, that border a 3 mile expanse of farmland and woods known as Rendlesham Forest.
Investigations: James McGahay is an astronomer and noted UFO skeptic and director of two observatories. James does not believe that much evidence was there to prove that the objects seen were UFOs, but he believes that they may have been meteor showers. However, John Burroughs is certain that what he saw was not a meteor or meteor shower, especially because meteors do not move up and down and do not move in an erratic manner. James claims that what they saw was all in the mind because they were expecting to see UFOs. James believes that the red light that Col. Hart saw was from a lighthouse reflection, but Hart says that that is impossible, because it happened two different times in two different places and how it moved through the forest.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the September 18, 1991 episode. Interestingly, this event occurred just one day before the Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum UFO sighting in Texas.