It is a little difficult to capture my thoughts at the time of the first sighting. I was only thirteen years old at the time and had been returning home late from piano lessons at school. The school was Mackie Academy in Stonehaven… It would have been around six o’clock at night. Muchalls village had no street lights in that era (1971) and the main Stonehaven-Aberdeen road was much narrower with no lights. When I got off the bus it was so dark that you could hardly see in front of you. Because of this we used to carry torches to get up the road. Particularly important here is to note that the sightings had nothing to do with Muchalls village! I only call the sighting the Muchalls UFOs because Muchalls was the nearest landmark. A better description would be the Cookney UFOs or Cairnhill UFOs, but most people outside the area (even in Stonehaven or Aderdeen!) know Muchalls as a landmark but not the other places. So those from Muchalls village reading this can rest assured that Muchalls village itself was to my knowledge free from all UFO activity.
So anyway, here I was on my way home going west from Muchalls in the direction of Cookney when to my right hand side (to the north near Cairnhill) was a strange red light that flashed on and off about once every second. It was quite low on the horizon but I thought little of it at the time. After all, it was the start of the Aberdeen oil boom and there might have been helicopters in the area. Similarly, aircraft fly in that direction towards Dyce airport in Aberdeen. What I did find strange was that the light seemed to be moving parallel to me, stopping when I did and starting when I did. Its velocity appeared to be the same as mine. I was a little bit more startled when to my left hand side near the Whinwood plantation (we called it the “big wood” though in reality it was quite small!) there was another identical red light flashing away. Two helicopters I thought – must be something up. Then I saw a third red light straight ahead of me – again flashing on and off. I think on that evening there was possibly a fourth but I cannot recall. From the distance I could hear no sound but I did not find this surprising as sometimes the sound from aircraft in the distance cannot be heard until they are quite close. I did get the feeling that I was somehow being watched. A few weeks earlier I had seen a similar object over Cairnhill whilst getting eggs from the Burn of Pheppie farm.
What concerned me a bit as I was walking home was that I was surrounded on all sides by these silent objects (unless I went back towards the main road). I was more intrigued than scared to begin with. When I reached the top of the road (the Cookney road directly opposite the village) I paused for a bit to view the Cairnhill light to see what it was up to. It came a bit nearer – it seemed to be getting closer and it dipped beneath the rise in the road out of sight. I thought it had landed nearby. My next thought was to get home quickly.
I turned round to proceed further and immediately froze – for right in front of me (fifteen yards) on the avenue was standing a figure which seemed to glow. I can only remember a big head and what looked like a long robe or gown. I was frozen to the spot out of fear for about half a minute. Eventually I plucked up enough courage to move one step forward and the figure simply melted away. In retrospect I wonder if it was some form of holographic projection. (I know the psychologists will laugh and say it was a hallucination!) I never saw a figure like it ever again.
When I reached home I was in a state of shock. I told my mother and father and sister. Only my sister seemed interested as both my parents were busy. After supper my sister (fifteen at the time) suggested we both go down to the same spot where I had seen the lights. I agreed although I was a bit reluctant and still shaking from fear. In fact as would happen to me many times later, my curiosity seemed to overcome my fear.
When we arrived at the bottom of the avenue there was nothing to be seen. I was thinking to myself “Just my luck – no other witnesses to these lights.” I said to my sister “Well, one of them appeared to be very low, as if it had landed over there,” and pointed to the spot. I had no sooner finished the sentence when it appeared again and moved further towards us. My sister rushed towards it and I reluctantly followed. Had I not seen the figure in the road earlier I would have had more enthusiasm. The two of us and the flying machine met at the roadside. It hovered above us for several minutes at an altitude of about twice the height of the trees. It was completely silent. We saw a circle of smaller red lights around what we thought was the perimeter of the machine. After a few minutes it slowly and silently moved off in a southerly direction over the church and stopped over a nearby wood called the “Whinwood plantation” (next to Muchalls Castle on the map). There it stayed for hours on end. My sister watched it until bedtime. I believe it was still there when she went to bed. I for one did not sleep well in that house for many years later.
As you will read in the next section, this was just the beginning.
Again and again
The day after our first experience I remember telling the tale to the science teacher at school. I could tell that he was not quite ready for such a story as he said I must have at the time been looking though the bottom of a whisky bottle! Quite shaken and with no one to turn to except my sister I decided to tell no other adults of my experience. Instead I would study the phenomena and draw my own conclusions. I felt very alone.
My sister and I were surprised that the next evening (14th December) a similar red light appeared on the horizon and slowly moved over Cairnhill and then subsequently hovered over nearby Greenheads farm. From there it passed over the church and ended up over the Whinwood plantation where it stayed for hours on end.
In fact this pattern or similar ones went on for years. Every night of the week during the winter months, the same thing. From farmhouse to ordinary house they would do their rounds, hovering at a low altitude above the rooftops, pausing for maybe fifteen minutes or more at a time over each house. When an aircraft flashed by on its way to Dyce airport, the lights would duck gracefully behind Cairnhill only to reappear after the aircraft was out of site!
Sometimes they would come in pairs or in three or fours. Sometimes they would come from all points of the compass. Some would then go away and others would stay and hover as before. Sometimes they would be white and still – when an aircraft came over. In this state they appeared like a star! When the aircraft had gone the colour changed back to red and flashed.
Three years later my sister left to go to Aberdeen University and stayed in Aberdeen most of the time. I pursued their observation (or was it the other way around?) on my own. I was occasionally quite nervous. A few times they came quite close – in fact one time one of them silently took off from the field behind our house. That gave me a shock, thinking that they might have been watching us too. I do not remember these lights ever appearing directly over our house.
They were quite literally always there. When I went outside, within five minutes I could see them, sometimes more than one. On a few occasions I would try to walk towards them, only for them to manoeuvre gracefully away from me.
In 1975 I left Scotland to study in England. I remember telling my student friends of my experiences. Some were skeptical, others were understanding. Why did you not take pictures they would say? Well, I did not have a camera of any sort was the reply. I soon bought one, however, and during the Christmas vacation tried to capture on film the lights. This was a great failure. I had a cheap camera and knew little of photography. I found out later that you needed to be a bit of a photographic expert to satisfy the requirements of night photography. A similar phenomenon in Norway had thousands of pounds’ worth of equipment to study it including telephoto lenses etc (see Project Hessdalen in links page – a Norwegian University studies this one).
When on holiday (back in Muchalls) I used to see these machines of the night regularly up to as late as the early 1990s. A colleague at work (I now live near Glasgow, Scotland) suggested I use a video camera to film the phenomena. This I did and have over half-an-hour’s film. When I showed the film it to my sister she thought it was not the same lights as we had seen in the early seventies. I have to agree. However, they are still a little strange. On one occasion in the early 1990s they all seemed to gather when I started to film. I was spoilt for choice and did not know which one to film. They seemed to arrive from all points of the compass like the early days.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Surely they were some form of aircraft
The argument against this theory is that in 1971 it is unlikely that we had such technology. To manoeuvre silently for hours over people’s houses, avoiding normal aircraft, just does not make any sense. Remember, my sister and I were directly underneath one and it was completely silent. I thought that some form of model aircraft could be used or model balloon. For the former case, model aircraft make a lot of noise when close-up, are small and do not hover. Model helicopters do hover of course but are equally noisy. So-called “drone” craft which the military use are also noisy (or would have been at that time). In recent times, helicopters with near-silent blades have been developed.
You were looking at the northern lights!
Most definitely not! Every night of the week, small(ish) red lights flashing and moving over houses – I think not! Moving away when aircraft appeared. Also, we were underneath one. No way!
What about a geological effect?
Paul Devereux has [a] theory that geological activity near faults in the earth’s crust can cause balls of plasma to appear… After reading my witness account you must realise that in this case, if it was plasma it was pretty intelligent! Also there was no random element to the phenomenon – these lights appeared literally every night of the week during the winter months. During the summer it took a long time to get dark and we were not aware of the phenomenon. However, that is not to say that during our sleep the same drama did not take place. As a passing note, I would like to state that no radio interference was experienced as I even took a radio out with me on several occasions.
Surely others must have seen this too
It was not until many years later that I became aware of other witnesses. An investigator in the early 1990s from BUFORA put an advert in a local paper calling for witnesses. Several came forward. One witness surprisingly turned out to be a friend of my mother’s who had seen with her whole family a classic “flying saucer” near Cammachmore in 1968. This was three years earlier than my era. The witness was a schoolteacher who now lives in Newtonhill. She is a reliable witness who was very reluctant to come forward. In fact she only mentioned it to my mother because she had previously brought up the topic concerning my interest. Her father could not believe his eyes as he had always been very sceptical of such things. In more recent times UFOs have been sighted at the Bridge of Don near Aberdeen.
Did you ever see the strange figure again?
Never again did I see the figure that glowed in the dark! However, a couple around the same time period (early 1970s) later reported the same figure in the air in front of their car. Their car was parked in the “Den of Logie” lay-by just outside Stonehaven at the time. The couple did not want to be identified publicly, though I gather they got quite a shock! I only know about this because of the BUFORA investigation in the early 1990s.
Why did you not report this earlier to the police etc?
What you have to remember is that during the early 1970s such things as UFOs were treated with extreme scepticism. Nowadays there is some degree of tolerance due to television exposure. I was also quite young at the time, with little or no influence in the community. I would have been ridiculed. Even my attempt to gain support at school failed miserably.
In the early 1970s my sister and I had been watching one of these lights above the Whinwood plantation (just a usual evening for us)…
I once plucked up enough courage to phone Dyce airport in Aberdeen to ask them if any helicopters were in our area, or had been. The answer in the vernacular was “Dinna be feel min, fit wid we be puttin helicopters oot there for at nicht?” [“Don’t be a fool, man, what would we be putting helicopters out there for at night?”] This can be translated as “Definitely no!”
Were you abducted or did your life change after this?
After the first experience my life did change. I became very nervous indeed when at home! I have had no experience of so-called “missing time” and to my knowledge was definitely not abducted! I did however have a series of strange dreams, which lasted for years on end. This I believe was triggered more out of fear than because of a real incident. After a year or two it became part of everyday life to view these phenomena, and even a bit of a bore at times. I remember studying up to nine o’clock in the evening for my O-grades and Higher Exams (Scottish examination system at that time), after which I would go out for a look for maybe half an hour.
What is my explanation?
I can tell you what they most certainly are not! They are not aircraft (military or otherwise) built by mankind at this time. Neither are they balls of plasma. They are not “drones” or model aircraft…
What do you do for a living, and are you qualified in any way to make such claims?!
Well, I did not reveal such information in the past. However, sometimes it strengthens the case if you do. I am a professional (chartered) electronics engineer and hold BSc and PhD degrees. I admit I am no Albert Einstein by any stretch of the imagination, but I am well versed in how to put two and two together. I am also very “mainstream” in my education, having published around 50 papers in various (but related) electronic areas. Thus I do have some understanding of where technology stands and the history of our own technology. Anything is possible with military applications (so-called “black” projects), but I doubt very much if mankind had developed this technology at that time. As you have seen by my account, I was by no fault of my own drawn into the phenomenon. If you are thinking “This guy is just another weirdo” or words to that effect, try and see through my eyes and my experiences. What would you have done? I had no choice but to study the phenomenon or bury my head in the Muchalls sand. One of the things that convinces scientists of the truth is that experiments are repeatable. Whilst not quite my experiment, this phenomenon was certainly repeatable on a daily basis for years on end. That convinces me at least. The boat of truth may shake but it will never sink.
Are you doing this for publicity?
I have never looked for publicity and never made a single penny out of this. In fact we kept the whole thing secret for many years, as you know by now. The only reason I am telling this account is that I believe strongly that the truth should be told. In my opinion the area in which I lived was surrounded by strange “alien” flying machines studying the local people like mice in a maze. It was like living at the alien equivalent of Piccadilly! I did not have a normal childhood because of this.