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Rendlesham Forest Incident: The UK’s Most Famous Alien Incident That No One Knows!

Rendlesham Forest Incident is an obscure part of the RAF history that is often overlooked. Not anymore.
Rendlesham Forest Incident is an obscure part of the RAF history that is often overlooked. Not anymore.

The Rendlesham Forest incident was a string of sightings of strange lights reported in late December 1980 close to Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, England, which later came to be associated with reports of UFO landings.

The incidents occurred close to RAF Woodbridge, which the US Air Force was using at the time (USAF). USAF employees, including Lieutenant Colonel Charles I. Halt, the deputy base commander, reported seeing what they described as a UFO sighting.

The incident is among the most well-known reported UFO events globally and is the most renowned alleged UFO event to have occurred in the United Kingdom. It is sometimes referred to as “Britain’s Roswell” and has been likened to the American UFO encounter in Roswell.

According to the UK Ministry of Defense, the Rendlesham Forest incident did not threaten national security. As a result, it was never looked into as a security issue. According to skeptics, the Orfordness Lighthouse, a fireball, and bright stars are all examples of nocturnal lights that could have been mistaken for the objects seen.

What was the Rendlesham Forest Incident?

The events leading to the Rendlesham Forest Incident started after Christmas in 1980, in the woods close to RAF Woodbridge.

December 26

On December 26, 1980, at about 03:30 A.M. (Halt reported it as December 27 in his memo to the UK Ministry of Defence), a security patrol outside the RAF Woodbridge east gate noticed lights that appeared to be descending towards the surrounding Rendlesham Forest.

Astronomers have linked these lights to a piece of natural debris that was burning up as a meteor (fireball) above southern England at the time. According to Halt’s email, when servicemen went into the jungle to inspect what they initially believed to be a downed aircraft, they discovered what they characterized as a luminous metallic device with colored lights.

A representation of the Rendlesham Forest Incident

A representation of the Rendlesham Forest Incident

The animals on a neighboring farm flew into a frenzy as they attempted to approach the thing since it appeared to be moving through the trees. Sergeant Jim Penniston, one of the service members, later claimed to have come across a “craft of unknown origin.”

The Orford Ness lighthouse, which is located some distance away on the coast, was the only light source that local police could see when they arrived at the location shortly after 4:00 A.M.

Servicemen visited a tiny area on the forest’s eastern edge after dawn on December 26. They saw three little impressions on the ground arranged in a triangle, as well as burn scars and broken branches on neighboring trees.

The neighborhood police were once more contacted around 10:30 to check out the impressions, which they believed might have been done by an animal. Georgina Bruni shared a photo of the alleged landing spot taken the morning after the initial sighting in her book You Can’t Tell the People.

December 28

In the early hours of December 28, 1980, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, the deputy base commander, and numerous service members visited the location (reported as 29 December by Halt).

They used AN/PDR-27, a typical U.S. military radiation survey meter, to take radiation readings in the triangle of depressions in the vicinity. Although they measured 0.07 milliroentgens per hour, they also found background levels of 0.03 to 0.04 milliroentgens per hour in other areas. In addition, they found a similar little ‘burst’ more than half a mile from the landing spot. On a microcassette recorder, Halt captured the events. These are known as The Halt Tapes.

A woman near the statue of the alien ship that was installed

A woman near the statue of the alien ship that was installed

During this inspection, the same flashing light the witnesses had seen the first night was visible across the field to the east, nearly parallel to a farmhouse. In the same line of sight, the Orford Ness lighthouse is more discernible to the east.

Later, three star-like lights were noticed in the sky, two to the north and one to the south, around 10 degrees above the horizon, according to Halt’s memo. The brightest of them, according to Halt, hovered for two to three hours and occasionally appeared to shoot down a torrent of light.

These stars-like glows have been attributed to brilliant stars by astronomers.

Where did the Rendlesham Forest Incident Take Place?

The Forestry Commission owns the 5.8 square miles (15 km2) of coniferous plantations, broadleaved belts, heathland, and wetland areas that makeup Rendlesham Forest. About 8 miles (13 km) east of the town of Ipswich, it is situated in Suffolk County.

The incident occurred next to two former military installations: RAF Woodbridge, which stretches into the forest from the west and is bordered by it on its northern and eastern sides, and RAF Bentwaters, which is immediately to the north of the forest.

Both were currently in service with the US Air Force and were commanded by wing commander Colonel Gordon E. Williams. Lieutenant Colonel Charles I. Halt served as the base commander under Colonel Ted Conrad.

RAF  Woodbridge East Gate that leads to the Airbase

RAF Woodbridge East Gate that leads to the Airbase

Security guards first observed mysterious lights descending into the forest from the East Gate of RAF Woodbridge, where they first noticed the incident.

The main events of the incident, including the alleged landing or landings, took place in the forest, which begins at the east end of the base runway or about 0.3 miles (0.5 km) to the east of the East Gate of RAF Woodbridge.

After East Gate, the forest continues to the east for about one mile (1.6 km), ending in a farmer’s field at Capel Green, the supposed location of additional incidents.

The Orfordness Lighthouse is located in the same line of sight about 5 miles (8.0 km) further east of the forest’s edge and is thought by skeptics to be the flashing light the airmen saw off to the coast. It was one of the UK’s brightest lighthouses at the time.

Halt’s Memo About the Rendlesham Forest Incident

A memo from the deputy base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles I. Halt, to the Ministry of Defense, was the first primary piece of evidence made accessible to the general public (MoD). This document, referred to as the “Halt memo,” was made accessible to the public in the US in 1983 under the Freedom of Information Act.

The message was titled “Unexplained Lights” and was dated “13 Jan 1981.” The dates and timings provided may have needed to be corrected due to the two-week gap between the incident and the report.

There was no secret information in the memo. The National Archives expert David Clarke has looked into the history of this document and the MoD’s response to it. In addition to finding no evidence to support any other reports on the incident made by the USAF or UK aside from the Halt memo, his interviews with the involved personnel proved the MoD’s probe was only superficial.

Rendlesham Forest Incident UFO trail draws thousands each year

Rendlesham Forest Incident UFO trail draws thousands each year

Halt has stated publicly that he thinks he saw an extraterrestrial occurrence that was hushed up.

In 1984, Colonel Sam Morgan, who had by that point replaced Ted Conrad as Halt’s boss, gave a copy of what came to be known as the “Halt Tape” to UFO researchers.

Halt’s study in the forest is captured on tape in real-time, including radiation measurements, the flashing light between trees, and the objects that resembled stars and twinkled. Researcher Ian Ridpath transcribed the tape and provided a link to an audio download and a step-by-step breakdown of the tape’s entire contents.

Eyewitness Testimony from The 26th Of December

The original witness accounts provided by individuals engaged with the sightings on the first night were acquired by Scottish researcher James Easton in 1997. Ed Cabansag, one of the witnesses, claimed the following in his testimony: “Since there was nothing to be seen when we walked through the dense forest, we deduced that the lights were emanating from beyond it.

“When we got closer, we discovered that the bright object we saw near the beacon light was a lit-up farmhouse. We finally reached a point where we could see that the object, we had been pursuing was nothing more than a distant beacon light.”

A newspaper clipping from the time about the Rendlesham Forest Incident

A newspaper clipping from the time about the Rendlesham Forest Incident

John Burroughs, a different participant, also said: “We moved in the direction of a beacon that we could see moving around. Before we could [see] it was coming from a lighthouse, we tracked it for about two miles (three kilometers).”

Burroughs also claimed that “you could hear the farm animals making many noises” and that it sounded “like a woman was screaming.” Halt experienced the same sounds the following night. A Muntjac deer in the forest, known for its loud, harsh bark when scared, may have generated such a noise.

Affidavit of Halt

In a notarized document that he signed in June 2010, retired colonel Charles Halt reiterated what had occurred and said he thought it was an alien occurrence covered by both the US and the UK.

There are inconsistencies between this declaration and the facts as they were stated at the time in Halt’s memo and tape recording.

Colonel Ted Conrad, the base commander, gave Clarke a statement about the incident in 2010. We saw nothing that matched Lieutenant Colonel Halt’s descriptions, either in the sky or on the ground, according to Conrad, who also said that “We had personnel in a position to confirm Halt’s story, but none of them could.”

In an interview, Conrad criticized Halt for the allegations in his affidavit, saying, “He should be humiliated and ashamed of his accusation that his nation and Britain collaborated to mislead their population on this matter. He is better aware.”

Sergeant Jim Penniston said he touched an alien spaceship, but Conrad refuted this claim, claiming that he had not mentioned this incident during the period he had interviewed him. Conrad also mentioned the possibility that the whole episode was a fabrication.

An art installation about the Rendlesham Forest Incident

An art installation about the Rendlesham Forest Incident

From a 1983 Omni story, “The base commander, Colonel Ted Conrad, recalls that five Air Force policemen saw lights coming from what they mistook for a small plane descending into the bush. On foot, two of the soldiers pursued the item and discovered a sizable tripod-mounted craft.

“Even though it was windowless, it was covered in vivid red and blue lights.”

Conrad claims that every time the crew got within 50 yards of the ship, it levitated six feet in the air and retreated. Before it raced off at “phenomenal speed,” they pursued it for over an hour into the woods and through a field.

Colonel Conrad launched a quick investigation into the incident in the morning after acting on the information provided by his soldiers. He entered the forest and discovered what appeared to be a tripod’s triangular layout. He spoke with two of the witnesses and concluded that the boys “saw something, but I don’t know what it was.”

Police Log for Suffolk

The first night of the sighting and the next morning, Suffolk police were summoned, but neither time did they discover anything strange. They claimed that the Orford lighthouse’s lights were the only ones visible on the night of the initial event.

They claimed that animals were responsible for the ground indentations. The Suffolk Police Department’s case file was made public in 2005 due to the UK’s Freedom of Information Act and is available online.

The Orford Ness Lighthouse

The Orford Ness Lighthouse

It contains a letter from Inspector Mike Topliss dated July 28, 1999, in which he notes that one of the police constables who responded to the scene the first night went back in the light to see whether he had missed anything.

Topliss said that “there was nothing to be seen” and that “he remains doubtful that the experience was genuine.” “Strong light beams from the Orfordness lighthouse and a landing beacon at RAF Bentwaters swept the nearby region.

“I know from personal experience that these beams were highly pronounced at night and under specific weather and cloud circumstances, which undoubtedly resulted in peculiar visual effects.”

Minister of Defense document

Claims of a cover-up were sparked by the discovery of a sizable MoD file on the topic; some saw this as a component of a larger pattern of information suppression by the British and American governments over the true nature of unexplained flying objects.

The file, however, turned out to be primarily internal correspondence and responses to public questions when it was made public in 2001. The MoD’s earlier claim that they should have taken the situation seriously is consistent with the lack of thorough inquiry in the publicly available records.

Defense Minister Lord Trefgarne’s justification for the MoD’s lack of further investigation is one of the documents that have been made public.

Skeptical Evaluation

The incident may have been a fabrication, according to one theory. According to the BBC, Kevin Conde, a former U.S. security police officer, took responsibility for lighting up the woodland by driving around in a police car with lights he modified. However, there is no proof that this practical joke was played on the aforementioned occasions.

Other theories about what happened have included a downed Soviet spy satellite. However, there is no proof of this.

The confluence of three major reasons is the most logical skeptical explanation for the sightings. The original sighting on December 26 at 3 a.m. coincided with the arrival of a large fireball over southern England, which is a regular source of UFO claims.

The airmen spotted what appeared to be descending toward the forest. Police and foresters determined that the alleged landing marks were actually rabbit burrows. There is currently no proof that anything truly fell in the forest.

The flashing light observed from the woodland was pointed in the same general direction as the Orfordness Lighthouse, according to the witness reports dated December 26. The witnesses discovered the light was farther away than they had imagined when they tried to approach it.

Ed Cabansag, one of the witnesses, characterized it as “a beacon light off in the distance,” while John Burroughs, another, called it “a lighthouse” (see Statements from eyewitnesses on 26 December.)

The timings on Halt’s tape recording during his sighting on December 28 show that the light he saw, which pointed in the same general direction as the light is seen two nights earlier, flashed at the same pace as the Orfordness Lighthouse: every five seconds.

The Rendlesham Forest Incident was dubbed as the UK's equivalent of the Roswell Incident

The Rendlesham Forest Incident was dubbed as the UK’s equivalent of the Roswell Incident

Some skeptics believe that the star-like objects that Halt saw hanging low to the north and south were actually bright stars that were misinterpreted due to air and optical disturbances, which is another typical cause of UFO claims.

The position of the brightest of them, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, was to the south.

Scientific skeptic author Brian Dunning examined the initial eyewitness accounts, audio recordings, and the ensuing media coverage of this incident in his Skeptoid podcast episode from January 6, 2009, titled “The Rendlesham Forest UFO.”

After conducting a thorough analysis, Dunning came to the following conclusion:

 “Despite Col. Halt’s admirable thoroughness, mistakes happen to everyone. Every single thing he said on his taped audio and in his memo has a completely reasonable and ordinary explanation… All that is left is the rumor that the men received a debriefing, were told not to publicize the incident, and were cautioned that “bullets are cheap.”

 As we’ve seen on television, the men all discuss it fairly openly, and even Col. Halt claims that no one has ever debriefed him to this day. This, therefore, is yet another dramatic television fabrication, possibly from one of the men who have developed their plots over time.

 You can avoid falling into the pattern-matching trap and discovering correlations where none exist by carefully examining each piece of data on its own worth.

  The light overhead transformed into an extraterrestrial spacecraft in the forest, even though the meteors had nothing to do with the lighthouse or the rabbit diggings when you hear all three tales together, as the airmen did.

  Remember that disparate weak bits of evidence only add up to a single strong piece. Cowpies won’t convert into a bar of gold no matter how high you stack them.”

A Tribute to the Aliens?

Due to public interest, the Forestry Commission used lottery proceeds to build the UFO Trail in Rendlesham Forest in 2005. The Forestry Service hired an artist in 2014 to produce a piece later erected near the trail’s conclusion.

The piece, according to the artist, is based on sketches that are said to depict many iterations of the UFO allegedly observed at Rendlesham.

People Change their Stories

In 2010, Jenny Randles, who broke the story for the first time in the London Evening Standard in 1981 and co-authored Sky Crash: A Cosmic Conspiracy, the first book on the case in 1984 with the local researchers who discovered the events, emphasized her earlier expressed skepticism that alien visitors brought on the incident.

What truly happened at Rendlesham Forest in late December 1980 remains unsolved

What truly happened at Rendlesham Forest in late December 1980 remains unsolved

She stated that while a UAP, or unidentified atmospheric phenomenon of unknown origin, may have contributed to some of the case’s circumstances: “We can probably state that no extraterrestrial craft was spotted in Rendlesham Forest, notwithstanding certain unanswered questions.

“We can also confidently assert that the events were mostly centered on several misunderstandings of commonplace items met in unusual situations.”

Potential hoax

A British UFO researcher named David Clarke asserted that the SAS staged the encounter as part of a scheme to get revenge on the USAF in December 2018. This tale claims that the SAS parachuted into RAF Woodbridge in August 1980 to evaluate the security at the nuclear facility.

The USAF’s recently updated radar picked up the SAS men’s black parachutes as they fell to the base. The SAS soldiers were assaulted, interrogated, and labeled “unidentified aliens,” which was the height of contempt.

The SAS carried out their vengeance and “set up lights and colored flares in the woods as December drew near, giving” the USAF their own interpretation of an alien event.

Black helium balloons were also attached to remote-controlled kites to lift suspended goods into the air.” But Clarke’s inquiry revealed that the narrative was a fabrication in and of itself.

Next, read about Momo The Monster from Missouri and Herb Baumeister And The Killings At Fox Hollow Farm


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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

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