Otherworldly media

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Just after 10pm on October 4, 1967, 12-year-old Chris Styles spotted something weird through his bedroom window overlooking the Dartmouth side of Halifax Harbour. "It was a round object, glowing orange, the colour of iron heated in a forge," Styles writes. He ran down to the harbour to get a closer look. From a distance of about 75 to 100 feet, he watched the orange ball drifting silently past him, just above the surface of the water. "I hadn't realized how big it was---it was easily 50 or 60 feet in diameter." Styles was only one of dozens who saw strange things that night. The Halifax media received several calls about the orange ball gliding above the harbour. Earlier, two airline pilots flying over southeastern Quebec had observed a huge orange rectangular object trailed by a string of smaller lights. Fishers off the coasts of Nova Scotia saw strange lights as did an RCMP officer and two game wardens on a deer-poaching stakeout near Weymouth. At around 11:20pm, the RCMP detachment in Barrington Passage received several calls from people reporting they had seen a large, lighted object descending toward the ocean near Shag Harbour. Callers reported whistling noises, a whoosh and a bang. Three RCMP officers raced to the scene fearing an airliner had crashed. They and about a dozen other people watched as a craft with a white light on top bobbed about half a mile out to sea until it seemed to slip slowly beneath the surface. Later, fishers and Mounties who sailed out to the site encountered a patch of glittering yellow foam about 80 feet wide and half a mile long, but no other trace of what official government documents referred to as the "Dark Object."

That is only part of the suspenseful story Styles tells in Dark Object, the 2001 book he co-authored with Don Ledger. It's a meticulously researched account of "the world's only government-documented UFO crash." The Shag Harbour incident was back in the news briefly last month as the two authors addressed an annual symposium near Shag Harbour. The speakers' list included Stanton Friedman, a nuclear physicist in Fredericton who has been investigating unidentified flying objects for more than 40 years. In his most recent book, Flying Saucers and Science, Friedman outlines what he sees as overwhelming evidence that alien spacecraft are visiting Earth. Yet he notes that government officials continue to deny such visits or suppress information about them while the mainstream media and so-called academic "experts" debunk them.

Surprisingly, in 1967, the Halifax Chronicle Herald initially took the many eyewitness accounts seriously. The paper ran a huge front-page headline saying the Canadian air force believed the UFO might be a concrete reality. It carried a detailed report on a second UFO sighting in the Shelburne area less than a week later and published an editorial urging readers to keep an "open mind" about the possibility that the UFOs could be alien spacecraft. The editorial also speculated that the UFOs might have been experimental US warplanes, as some scientists had suggested. Then, the Herald carried a lengthy report quoting a priest/astronomer at Saint Mary's University who asserted flatly that the UFOs did not come from outside earth's atmosphere and may simply have been optical illusions. Suddenly, the many consistent descriptions from eyewitnesses were overridden by an "expert" with no direct experience.

It's a familiar reporting pattern in journalism where "credibility" is king. Controversial claims get dismissed unless they're endorsed by officials or academics. Styles and Ledger cite evidence that the UFO was observed floating at sea, submerged and made its way underwater to Shelburne Harbour where it was joined by a second craft. Navy divers were sent down to take pictures from half a dozen ships anchored above, but the government has never revealed what its investigations turned up. The strange events of October 4, 1967 remain shrouded in mystery.

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