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2016 bus tour retraces 1967 Shag Harbour UFO incident


SHAG HARBOUR, N.S. – Laurie Wickens points off to the horizon, above the tree line. It’s like he’s 18 years old again and it’s Oct. 4, 1967.

He remembers details. The tree line was different. This building existed. That one didn’t.

They saw lights. They heard no sound.

He speaks with a lot of certainty except that 49 years later he still can’t say with 100 per certainty what he and others witnessed that night in Shag Harbour, Shelburne County.

And so he sticks with the only logical explanation there is, that it was an unidentified flying object – a UFO – which is how it is referred to in Government of Canada documents.

No one, Wickens says, has proven otherwise.

Nor has research over the decades disputed his belief.

'Part of the 2016 Shag Harbour UFO Festival included a bus tour retracing the 1967 incident. Laurie Wickens, an eye witness to the 1967 Shag Harbour UFO incident led a bus tour and a visit to the crash site on Oct. 1, 2016. The RCMP and Coast Guard participated in the tour.']
'Part of the 2016 Shag Harbour UFO Festival included a bus tour retracing the 1967 incident. Laurie Wickens, an eye witness to the 1967 Shag Harbour UFO incident led a bus tour and a visit to the crash site on Oct. 1, 2016. The RCMP and Coast Guard participated in the tour.']

 

RETRACING EVENTS

It’s Oct. 1, 2016, nearly 49 years to the day that Wickens won’t ever forget. That night he and some friends drove on the road in a 1956 green and white Pontiac, mesmerized by lights they were driving parallel to.

Driving in a tour bus as part of the annual Shag Habour UFO Symposium and Festival, Wickens describes to others about what he saw.

“The lights would come on in sequence, one, two, three, four, then they’d all go off for a while and then start that sequence over,” he says. “Everybody got the feeling for it?”

“Was it like this?” asks bus driver Calvin d’Entremont, operator of a Day by the Sea Tours, as he flicks the interior bus lights on and off. Everyone, including Wickens, laughs. But everyone also takes what Wickens is saying very seriously.

He’s peppered with questions.

Was there a sound? No.

Were you scared? No.

Wickens estimates the length of what he saw in the sky to have been about 60 feet. He figures it was 1,000 feet from the ground. Low, he says.

"They weren't high because we wasn't looking up, we were looking out."

Eventually the lights crossed over the road and for a few seconds he and others lost sight of them.

But then they watched the lights dive in a rapid 45-degree movement towards the water’s surface. At that point they thought they had witnessed a plane crash.

The bus takes the same route that Wickens took 49 years earlier to reach a payphone. They needed to call the RCMP, he says. The person on the other end of his phone call was skeptical, though.

“When I called the RCMP the first thing he wanted to know was what I was drinking,” Wickens says.

But then came other phone calls. From other residents and an off-duty RCMP officer. It wasn’t long before the RCMP, Coast Guard and fishing vessels had descended on the scene.

The fact that there was never any debris found made Wickens certain it wasn’t a plane crash he has witnessed. But what had left the yellow foam on the water’s surface, and what were the lights they had seen in the sky and then watched for about an hour on the water’s surface?

Well, that remains the million-dollar question.

OTHER WITNESSES

Peter Goreham is another witness to the 1967 Shag Harbour UFO incident. He recalls telling his parents about it the next morning. They didn’t believe until they saw the story on the news.  

Like others, he continues to wonder what he saw in the sky and on the water that night. He also wonders about a cylinder-type device found by a lighthouse keeper the following morning. It was damaged, smouldering and had wires or something else coming out from it. Someone from the American military, he claims, took it away and told the lighthouse keeper not to talk about it.

“They took it to a secluded wharf and that was the last we saw of it,” he says. "The Americans confiscated it."

INTRIGUING INCIDENT

Area resident Ken Chetwynd is standing at the site of the 1967 crash when the bus pulls up Saturday evening. He was 11 in 1967.

“I was in bed and I heard people in the kitchen wondering what was going on. I didn’t get up but you knew there was something really strange happening,” he recalls. “Then the next morning when I got up they were talking about people and the Coast Guard searching for something. It was very eerie. Everybody was wondering what was going on.”

The incident lives on in the community. There is a Shag Harbour UFO Incident Centre, where the history of the event is chronicled.

On the evening of the bus tour, even the RCMP and Coast Guard participate in the anniversary event.

Tapping into what the community felt and thought is what Noah Morritt is looking to do. He’s on the bus tour with Wickens and the others on Oct. 1, but he came to Shag Harbour five weeks earlier.

He’s with the Folklore Department of Memorial University in Newfoundland and he’s writing his PHD dissertation on the Shag Harbour incident. He first stumbled upon the story when watching a documentary on television. He researched the incident for two years and then came to where it happened.

“I wanted to come to the ground because I wanted to know what are people doing with this? I discovered there’s a UFO museum, there’s a UFO festival, a number of the witnesses are still around,” he says. “I think the thing I take away from this is people saw what they saw and they’re very honest about that, and that honesty is important to this story. People around here look for closure, they want to know what crashed into the harbour that night and there aren’t answers for them.”

Despite the passage of time, Wickens’ story hasn’t changed over the years. He knows what he saw, even if he still doesn’t know what it was.

And at the age of 67, it’s as intriguing to him now as the night he experienced it at the age of 18.

As the bus tour comes to a end and Wickens has one again relived his experience, he ends by telling those who came to experience it as well, “That’s my story. And I’m sticking to it.”

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