Friday, June 1, 2012

Cold case investigation - Heyfield, Victoria - 24 Apr 1968

Hi all,

Michael Hervey's 1967 book, "UFOs Over the Southern Hemisphere" ( click here) page 86 provides details of a case from Heyfield, (click here) Victoria on 24 Apr 1968. It reads:

Hervey's entry:

"The truck in which two sanitary collectors were travelling in, broke down, some two kilometres from Heyfield. They were thinking of getting a tow when they saw a string of red lights approaching. They stood on the bonnet of the truck to get a view when the lights didn't get any closer. It had a row of red lights and a dome with a light on the top. Next day they found an area of wilted grass."

RAAF files:

Based on the above information, in my Australian UFO catalogue (click here) I gave the case a classification of a close encounter type two. Recently, I came across a detailed account of the event in the RAAF's UFO files (file series A703 control symbol 580/1/1 Part 9 pages 214-221). This RAAF report was prepared by a Flying Officer D V Crain, and dated 2 May 1968. The report reads in part:

"At 0330 EST on 24 Apr 1968, Mr Whelan's truck broke down on the Heyfield-Maffra road approximately two miles east of Heyfield. Mr Whelan and his employee, Mr Lord were repairing their vehicle, when they looked east towards Maffra, and observed a banana-shaped object on the ground. It appeared to be like the lights of a semi-trailer coming towards them, but never actually reaching them. It then appeared to rise into the air (about 50 feeet) then moved very slowly in an easterly direction.

"It appears that the witnesses did not actually observe when the object disappeared from sight. An estimate of the time of observation varies from 3/4 hour to two hours. Both witnesses state that the object was about 45-50 degrees elevation when last observed."

Both Mr Whelan's and Mr Lord's report forms indicate there was no sound from the object.

The investigating officer's report indicates that the wind was calm at the time; cloud was 2/8 sc 4000; there was a slight inversion at 1000 feet and visibility was 20 miles.

Another sighting:

On the 25 Apr 1968, the same object was again seen by Lord, Whelan and a third witness, a Mr Hemphill, at 0430 EST from the Heyfield railway station. The weather on this occasion was calm, visibility 20 miles, patches of shallow fog, with a temperature inversion at 1500 feet. The object this time was last seen  at about 0630 EST by Mr Hemphill, who " of the opinion that the object could have been the Moon."

Wheland and Lord described "the object as of a red colour, changing to an orange glow. The colour in latter stages of the observation was not described by the witness."

The investigating officer's report included findings:

"On investigation, the Air Almanac, it was found that the Moon rose at 0312 EST, and 0412EST, on 24 Apr 68 and 25 Apr 68 respectively, that is the top of the Moon was coincident with the horizon. The azimuth of the Moon was 098deg T on 24 Apr 68 and 090deg T on 25 Apr 68. The Moon on each occasion was in the last quarter." The officer concluded:

" is my form opinion that the object seen by the witnesses on each occasion was the Moon."

Mr Hemphill's report form in part says, there was no Moon visible at the time of the UFO sighting, suggesting that their UFO was actually the Moon.

There was no mention anywhere in the RAAF material of an area of wilted grass being found.

My comments:

A check of Sky View Cafe confirmed that the Moon was where the RAAF reported it to be.

At 0330EST on 24 Apr 68 the Moon was just slightly south of east, near the horizon.  The Moon was a thin, banana-shape, crescent. By 0530 EST on the 24 Apr 68, the Moon, and the planet Saturn, were both visible to slightly north of east. The Sun rose at about 0655 EST that morning.

At 0430EST on 25 Apr 68 the Moon was just slightly north of east, near the horizon. The Moon was a thin, banana-shape, crescent. By 0630EST, the Moon, together with the planets Venus and Saturn were all in the ENE sky.  It should be reiterated, that witness Hemphill said he did not see the Moon when he saw the UFO, suggesting that the UFO was actually the Moon, as both UFO and Moon should have both been visible. There was also no sound, and the object was at some unknown distance from them.

I therefore concur with the RAAF's conclusion in this case, that the object was most likely the Moon. I have come across other Australian cases where people have been clearly misidentified the Moon, for a UFO when it is low in the sky, and crescent shaped.


  1. Hiya Keith, Stellarium has it at ~30 degrees at 3:15 and ~40 degrees at 4:15. When I double-check it with another website, the Moon is rising at 03:22 on the 24th which supports you and the RAAF. Stellarium might be 'having a moment.'

    I'm curious about the 'red dome' and 'string of red lights.' How did Hervey get these details? Also, I wonder at what aspect the 'banana' was lying? If it was horizontal, we'd struggle to lay blame at the Moon's door; vertical and we've almost certainly got a Moon. On the other hand, the 'red lights' is in conflict with approaching truck lights which would be white (Moon-like). Claimed elevation is problematic for the Moon and yet so is the average human's ability to estimate degrees of elevation.

    It's quite amazing that anyone can reach adulthood and be alarmed by the bloody Moon! Venus and the Moon have been in our skies from birth and yet some few people find the time to gasp and gosh in shiny-eyed amazement.

    It isn't like there's a shortage of other reports that are more difficult to explain. As such, I tend to agree that this one might as well be the Moon. Often, people are so busy trying to expand the scale of reports that they'll include every claim regardless.

    Throwing aside the ambiguous ones seems to make a lot of sense.

  2. Hi Kandinsky,

    Just found that page 222 of the file is a newspaper clipping dated 26 April 1968 from "The Herald" Melbourne. It contains the details Hervey mentions. I hadn't noticed before, that page 22 related to pages 214-221!



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