In 1980 we received a letter from a lady who had recently become a reader of FSR, stating that she would like to talk with someone from the Review and give us a confidential account of a strange experience that she had had many years before. It had been terrifying at the time and had left a most vivid impression in her memory. Having no knowledge of UFOs then, she had no clue as to what she might have seen. It was only after the chance purchase of a few books, and the discovery of FSR, that she had realized the possible nature of her experience.
The lady is from one of the countries of Western Europe that are members of NATO. She is now married to an Englishman, and it so happens that her home is not far from mine. For reasons which will be evident, she has asked that on no account should her name and address, or her nationality at birth, be divulged. I have interviewed her twice, and FSR Director R.H. Bryan Winder also heard the first account which she gave. Her statements are supported by a lengthy and detailed written version and a sketch. For reasons of economy I have reduced her story to more compact proportions.
The gist of it is as follows:
The events which I now describe took place in the first or second week of May 1963.
I was at the time working for NATO, as an English language secretary, and based in Paris. On the day in question I was one of a party of 50 NATO personnel who were en route to Canada for the NATO Ministerial Meetings in Ottawa. Our plane, an Air Canada DC-8, carried what seemed to be the usual crew, and two stewardesses, though I had the impression that the flight was under military or NATO control.
We took off from Orly Airport, Paris, some time after 10:00 a.m., and we were told that the flight to Ottawa would take about seven hours. As there were only 50 of us, the plane was relatively empty. I took a window seat on the port side, left side, near the wing. The other two seats in my row remained empty throughout the flight.
As NATO personnel we were all of course well known to each other, and very much a family group.
The weather was beautiful, and the Captain announced that we would fly at 36,000', or maybe 38,000', I do not recall clearly.
After lunch had been served, I sat enjoying the view of the vast expanse of sky above the clouds. The windows of the DC-8 were very large, the largest I seem to recall having seen on an aircraft, and came down quite low beside the passenger.
I was just reaching down to take a book from my hold all, and was astonished to glimpse below the plane something dark and absolutely tremendous that stood out in vivid contrast to the brightness all around. I could not believe my eyes. I pressed close to the window in unbelief and there, almost beneath the DC-8, was a gigantic dark grey torpedo. It seemed menacing and frightening, and I had the impression that it was stationary. It was utterly unlike anything that I had ever seen in my whole life. It looked as though made of steel. No portholes or windows were visible. No wings or projections.
Nothing but the long perfect torpedo form, with its bullet shaped head, and the rear end which was cut off sharply and squarely. The monster, and I emphasise that it was this terrifying size that impressed me, was well below us. I thought maybe 6,000' or so below us, but of course I had no way of being able to gauge this or to estimate the size of the thing.
I looked down again quickly at the monster, and saw that a swathe of tiny clouds were beginning to pass over it, though it remained visible through them for a few seconds before being lost to my sight.
I sat there in utter amazement that such a craft could exist.
Why, I thought, had I never heard, in all my life, of the existence of anything like this. I felt stunned, and dazed, contemplating my utter ignorance that such things could be, and that I could know nothing whatever about them.
I glanced around the cabin. Most of my fellow passengers were reading, or dozing, or asleep. Only from the rear came sounds of animation from a group who were playing bridge.
I sat there feeling utterly frustrated, both because of my inability to explain to myself what it was that I had seen, and because apparently not one of the others had seen it. At any rate, not one gave any sign of having done so, and I felt too baffled to ask, and too scared lest I might prove to be the only witness in which case they would simply laugh at me. I sat back and closed my eyes, feeling that my mind had been completely blown. I resolved that, when back in Paris, I would talk about it to one of the NATO experts on nuclear weapons, a man whom I knew well, and with whom I had often chattered on all sorts of subjects, such as earthquakes, problems of energy, and so on. But when I next saw him, and had the opportunity to tell him about my monster cigar, I just could not bring myself to raise the subject. My courage failed me. I did not want to be laughed at. The whole thing seemed too incredible to be taken seriously.
As for the rest of the NATO party, I never dared to mention it to any of them, out of fear of being thought completely mad. But I made a private resolution that I would go on trying to find out what it could have been. Little did I realize then that it would take seventeen years.
I had of course heard the occasional story about flying saucers, but I always thought that the name meant that these were just little things, no bigger than a real saucer. I had no idea whatever that craft of all shapes and sizes were being seen, all over the world, and that they were all being given the blanket name of flying saucers.
To be truthful, I had already heard one story about a cigar, said to be some 45' or 60' long, seen by people a few years earlier at Santa Maria in the Azores Islands. 45' or 60' was nothing in comparison with what I had just seen. And in any case, everyone had said that the thing seen over the Azores was simply a Russian secret device.
It was only about two years ago that, while browsing through a secondhand bookshop, I found, and bought, a few books on UFOs. It came as an immense shock to me when I found that what I had seen, came under the general term of flying saucers, and that other people had also seen giant cigars or torpedoes in other parts of the world, and at other times.
But there is a second part to my story which was far more terrifying than the sight of the huge torpedo, and which I found it equally impossible to explain to myself. I must emphasise that whether or not it was in any way related to the torpedo, I cannot say, as I do not have sufficient technical knowledge. Yet I have the feeling that it might be unwise to exclude this part from my account, so I give it here now for the experts to pronounce upon:
After my glimpse of the monster torpedo, I sat there brooding on it for half an hour or so, as I recall, when suddenly the DC-8 started to shudder and pitch up and down violently, nosing steeply upwards, then steeply downwards, and this went on for a long, long time. I might explain that I had often encountered turbulence and air pockets when travelling by airplane, but it had never been anything remotely like this. This was as though we were in a gigantic lift that was shooting up and down madly. And, as though that was not enough, there now came a succession of reports, like cannon fire or thunder, filling the cabin. Meanwhile the plane continued to shudder and buck violently, and each time it came down I had the sensation that it was going to break in half.
Throughout all this, everybody in the passengers cabin sat there petrified, absolutely silent, white faced.
After a while of this, I felt such panic that I rushed up front in search of a stewardess, and shouting: What's going on? I'm scared.
I lifted a curtain in front of what seemed to be a sleeping berth, and found a stewardess lying on the bed there, her hands covering her eyes as though she were weeping. She gave no response to my shouts, and all around there was total silence still, apart from the sound of the engines, overlaid by the repeated claps of thunder, and the continued bucking up and down of the plane.
I went back to my seat, and suddenly found myself bathed in perspiration. Every pore in my body seemed to be hard at work. And yet I noticed that the light dress I was wearing was still completely dry.
A second time, I ran forward to the stewardesses quarters but there was nobody there. I hammered on the door leading to the cockpit, and shouted again, asking what was happening, as I was scared to death. The other stewardess came out and looked at me as though I were an idiot, and for a while said nothing. Then, calmly, she announced:
Ladies and Gentlemen, do not be alarmed, the cabin is being depressurized.
Shortly afterwards, the Captain was heard to make the same announcement.
I should like very much to know whether all that I have just described, about the violent behaviour of the aircraft and the loud reports, is explicable as being due to the process of depressurization and, if so, what are the circumstances that are likely to have made it necessary for such alarming and drastic steps to be taken? Is this sort of thing usual and normal, as the calm behavior of the second mentioned stewardess seemed to indicate? And why, in that case, had the other stewardess, as it seemed, been weeping? Was this simply because she, like all the rest of us, found the turbulence just a bit too alarming? Or is it possible that she was still suffering from shock after seeing the gigantic torpedo? It certainly would be interesting to know the answers to these questions.
If an expert were to say that the behaviour of the aircraft was definitely not normal, and not explicable as due to depressurization, then it is possible that such a situation could have been brought about by either the action or the close approach of a UFO?
Either the same thing that I had seen, if it was indeed a UFO, or some other UFO that was also active over the North Atlantic on that same day?
Whether or not this frightening behaviour by the DC-8 was in any way connected with what I had seen is something that I have so far found no way of knowing. Nevertheless, even if this second part of my story is found fully explicable and discountable, I am still anxious that my account of the great torpedo shall find a place in the records.
Did anyone else aboard the DC-8 see the torpedo? That is the key question. Given the position of the torpedo in relation to the passenger cabin, only a passenger looking out and downwards at that precise moment would have caught a brief glimpse of the object and, as I have said, I found no evidence that any other passenger did see it.
As for the plane's crew, there was only the one stewardess who seemed upset. What is certain is that the pilots up in the cockpit certainly would have had abundant time in which to see the cigar, as it cut slightly diagonally across their route from their port side and well below them. No explanation or comment whatsoever about the cigar was given by the Captain or any other crew member, and no statement was made by the authorities when we landed in Canada.
It must however be borne in mind that, although the machine was to all appearances an ordinary DC-8 civilian passenger carrier, the party on board consisted entirely of NATO personnel, and NATO is a military organization. We were flying under NATO auspices and in that sense we were under military control. In such circumstances it would not be surprising if the cockpit crew and the stewardesses were less forthcoming about a UFO than perhaps they might have been, were it an ordinary passenger flight.