Scotland's Forgotten UFO Photographs
By Malcolm Robinson
Scotland has seen its fair share of UFO sightings over the years with much of the UFO activity occurring over the skies of Fife and the town of Bonnybridge in Stirlingshire. However, there are two cases involving photographic evidence that are rarely seen in the public domain, two very different but nonetheless quite incredible photographs and experiences.
THE CRAIGLUSCAR RESERVOIR UFO INCIDENT.
SCOTLAND’S MOST FAMOUS UFO PHOTOGRAPHIC CASE.
THE 19TH OF FEBRUARY 1994.
Good UFO photographs are few and far between; sophisticated computer enhancement rules the roost and blows out the water any potential UFO photographic candidate. Scotland has rarely seen what could be termed a ‘good’ UFO photograph, (apart from the Polmont Reservoir 1991 picture), but all this was soon to change, for on Saturday the 19th of February 1994, Scottish Ufology was presented with what I feel to be ‘the best UFO photograph to have been captured on film in Scotland’. Not only is the photograph clear and sharp, but the witness testimony in regards to the actual incident itself, is I feel, the most honest and lucid testimony that I have ever heard spoken in all my years as a UFO researcher. The actual case itself was passed on to me by Nick Pope of the British Ministry of Defence who at that time was still occupying his seat at the UFO desk in Whitehall, (Air Staff). In fact, Nick was informed about this case in the first instance, by the Scottish Daily Record Newspaper. In a typed statement to the author witness Ian McPherson (44) from a town near Dunfermline had this to say about his UFO encounter.
“On the afternoon of Saturday the 19th of February 1994, I drove to Craigluscar Reservoir just outside of Dunfermline in order to take some photographs of that area. I am an amateur artist, and wanted the photographs to assist me in producing a painting of the reservoir. I am a member of the local angling club who stock and have the fishing rights to the water. Already having taken photographs there in the summer, I wanted to have several of the landscape in the winter. I took a number of photographs as I walked along the bank of the reservoir, and pondering whether I should take some photographs looking east, away from the water, I became aware of what I can only describe as a kind of humming noise, such as that from high voltage power lines. I also felt very uneasy, and turned slowly towards the reservoir.”
“Fairly high in the air, and coming slowly in my direction, was a disc like object which was definitely an ‘aircraft’. I was holding my camera in my hand but somehow felt unable to use it. I have never experienced such a feeling before. I did not think of taking a shot. In retrospect, it seems as if there must have been some kind of compulsion. I was concentrating on the craft, yet not really absorbing what was happening. At that point I was very afraid, but I now realize that the fear passed and was replaced by a sense of ‘relaxed resignation’, (I don’t have better words to describe it). I later realised that I must have been looking at whatever it was for more than fifteen minutes. The craft came close enough for me to see that it was definitely metallic, and had several points of diffused light on it’s underside inside a darker colored ‘rim’. As the craft began to move away, all sense of the feelings that had stayed my hand disappeared. I raised my camera and took two photographs. The craft’s acceleration was phenomenal. By the time I had wound the film on between the two shots, it was a mere dot in the sky to the west. There was no noise at all, apart from the ‘humming’ when it was near to me. I know nothing at all about UFOs, and the subject does not interest me. But nothing of what I saw or experienced was in my ‘imagination’. Of that I am certain. Later that day, I telephoned R.A.F. Pitrevie to enquire as to whether there had been any unusual air activity that day. I was told there had not been. I am an aircraft enthusiast myself, and pride myself in their recognition. I know that what I saw was no conventional aircraft”.
FRIDAY 25TH FEBRUARY 1994, (EVENING).
“After speaking with Malcolm Robinson of BUFORA last night, it seems a lot easier to put down my thoughts about what I saw last Saturday without feeling ‘silly’. Because I did! Even when talking to the people from the newspaper”. (Ian knew that he had photographed something quite extraordinary, and that if he developed these photographs himself, he would probably be labeled a hoaxer, and so he felt that by handing them over to the Daily Record Newspaper to develop, this might be more acceptable. But then of course there was the added thought, that what he had photographed, might not come out on film! Still, he had to chance it. Something extraordinary had happened, and he not only needed verification, but he wanted to know what it was).
Ian continues the story. “I felt there was only so far I could go. But here was someone who was not only knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but someone who could if not explain it, then at least reassure me on certain points. Not least was Malcolm’s contention that the inability to use the camera at certain times was not unusual. I was glad to hear that. Because all week I have been asking myself “why”? It was not, as a friend suggested, the drama of the situation overwhelming me. Not at all. I didn’t feel that ‘anyone’ was ‘telling me’, I just had ‘NO RIGHT’ or ‘WILL’ to take a photograph. I was asked about the colour of the object/craft/whatever. I now think it was neutral grey, apart from the differences in tone, caused by the direction of normal light falling on it. It was not ‘shiny’, nor chrome, or aluminium like. The simple word I’ve been searching for to best describe it, was ‘dirty’!! It did not look pristine, either in form or finish.”
“Malcolm asked me if I’d seen ‘port holes’ in the top structure, (because he had seen a copy of one of my first sketches in which I ‘did’ depict circular marks there). But, in retrospect, those marks appeared to be more of the surface rather than windows. It has taken me days of pondering and wondering to come to this conclusion. He surprised me too, by asking me if I’d had dreams about what I had experienced. Dreams have never meant much to me, it’s not so much dreams, but more an ‘inability to forget’. All the time, even when I am doing totally unrelated things, the experience comes back. Day and night. Maybe then it ‘does’ come part of ‘dreams’ I don’t know. Points of clarification. When I first saw the object or craft, I seem to be saying that it was both static and moving towards me. What I mean is, it was no longer traveling. I am certain that it did come very slowly nearer, but this came from its size and shape increasing almost imperceptibly, and not from any sight of actual movement, (I hope this makes sense!)”
“And had I not had my camera ready for use, i.e., out of it’s case, lens cap off etc, I ‘know’ I would not have been able to even attempt to capture anything, because from first moving off, when I became able to photograph it, till it disappeared in the distance, was definitely no more than one or two seconds.”
This then was the written statement submitted to SPI by witness Ian McPherson. He also related that he found himself continually trying to draw what he saw, but felt that he just couldn’t get it right. No matter how hard he tried, he was just short of creating the right impression to what he saw that day. Indeed, he tells that on one occasion, he found himself sitting in a chair in his living room not knowing how he got there. He doesn’t remember getting out of bed, or going downstairs to the living room, he just suddenly found himself sitting in a chair in his living room, looking at a painting that he had done of the reservoir. As stated, Ian was troubled by the image in his mind of the ‘craft’ he just had to sketch it correct. Another important point in regards to the photograph that Ian took of the UFO, is when he relates that on the photograph, the object actually looks slim, and resembles a frisbee, in other words it’s ‘thinly structured’.
However, when he was actually transfixed and staring at it, he informs me that it had a large squared structure on top which was quite noticeable, and just before the object departed from view, this square structure actually ‘descended’ into the main body of the ‘craft’ it then tilted slightly, then streaked off into the sky at a terrific rate. He only wishes that he had taken his photograph seconds earlier, for if he had, he would have managed to capture the object in all it’s entirety. The SPI Investigation of this impressive case was extensive, and we could find No evidence of any aircraft that were in that area at the time of the sighting. I spoke with the Daily Record’s picture Editor Mr Andrew Allan who has been with the Record for more than 2O years, and he said to me that he was very impressed with the photographs. He had seen others during his time at the Daily Record, but these were certainly the best that he had seen so far. Ian Torrence, the Record’s top photographer, developed the roll of film himself, and he was of the opinion that the negatives had not been ‘touched up’ in any way, and he too, was very impressed. Needless to say, this impressive sighting with accompanying photographs was featured in the Daily Record a few days later, with both comments from Ian McPherson and myself.
At this time, copies of both photographs were in the hands of the Ministry of Defence in London for evaluation, and I was told that I would be sent a full written report of their evaluation once it was completed. For the readers information, the make of the camera was a Chinon, model C.5, and its age was about 15 years old, but it was in good condition. The focal length was set at B-1OOO sec, and the F Stop at 2.8. By September of 1994, I still had not received any reply from the Ministry of Defence, and I remember continually phoning them nearly every two weeks. Nick Pope continued to inform me that the MoD had other things to contend with and that it was a case of prioritization but they would get round to it eventually! Copies of these photographs were also submitted for testing to the University of Paisley near Glasgow but they were unable to reach any firm conclusion as to what the object might be, however, what they could tell me, was that the object depicted in the photographs, was most certainly real. With the help of BUFORA’s (then) Director of Investigations Philip Mantle, we enlisted the help of Jeff Sainio of Heartland WI. USA. Jeff is MUFON’S staff photo analyst and was someone who has looked at numerous alleged UFO photographic and video evidence. Jeff conducted computer enhancement tests of the photographs, and the following is an extract from a letter that he sent to Philip Mantle, it reads as follows.
“Two photographs were submitted showing a lake under overcast skies. An aerial flat disc is clearly seen in one photo, the other shows a tiny dot. The second photo’s image is too small for any useful analysis; it could be say, a distant bird or airplane and be indistinguishable. The first photo is plainly not a misidentification. The disc is either an unknown object, or a fraud. The second photo corroborates the witness testimony but adds nothing more. A focus check of the UFO edges shows that the edge sharpness of the UFO versus the horizon is as would be expected for a distant object. The diffuse horizon trees appear noisy, as would be expected, and the apparently rounded edges of the UFO give the appearance of poorer focus than it really is. So the UFO is plainly a ‘distant object’.
“Distance with many lenses can mearly be past 5 or 1O meters easily in range of a thrown model, so this proves little. A thrown model may show evidence of motion streaking during the camera exposure, none was found, nor was any of the horizon appeared to be streaked due to camera motion as the photographer paced the UFO. This also corroborates the witness testimony, although a quick exposure or a thrown model which is moving directly away from the camera would naturally show no evidence of motion streaking. The ring on top of the UFO appears to be evidence of more than mearly a paint ring typical of a frisbee. Since it is not visible on the opposite side of the UFO this is consistent with a raised disc attached to the main disc. This shape is typical with a frisbee, but some hubcap would need to be considered. The disc is slightly reddish green on the central disc, and bluish on the outer disc. After colour correction compared to the sky. A simple chrome hubcap would ‘not’ show this colour variation. The evidence is weak, but argues ‘against’ a hubcap theory”
The findings from Jeff were not conclusive ‘either way’, but at least we had tried to get someone who receives material like this on a daily basis, to have a look at what we had. Further research with flying clubs and model aircraft enthusiasts, drew a blank. We wondered if perhaps any people living locally to the reservoir might have seen something peculiar that day, and I telephoned a nearby farmhouse to ask this question.
STRANGE CASE OF THE LANDROVER !
I spoke with a local farmer in which after telling him a brief part of what had happened near to his farm; I asked if either he or any members of his family had witnessed anything strange that day. He replied that they had not, but there was one incident which had them perplexed, and it was something which had happened to his daughter and her friend. After speaking with his daughter, I then asked her to type out a statement concerning what had happened, and the following is Shona’s (*) statement. She wrote;
“My friend June picked me up in her Landrover Discovery diesel between 7:45pm and 8: OOpm. We left straight away and I did not notice anything unusual until we were half way down the farm road when I could not get the radio to work. I had been trying to get a tape to work since just after leaving my house, but it wouldn’t play so I took it “Out. I continued to play with the radio until we reached the end of the road when June and I both realised that the head lamps of the Landrover were really dim. I think they had been gradually getting dimmer since we left the house. For some reason, just as we crossed the cross roads at the end of the farm road, June switched the window wipers on, and they went unusually slow.”
“I was still playing with the radio which by this time had no light coming from it, and I told June that it was not working. At around the same time, we noticed that the lights on the car phone had gone off. The headlights were getting dimmer all the time, until they just ‘faded out completely’ about half a mile on from where they had began to fade. We did not know what was happening, and June drove really slowly as we could hardly see. I can remember that the engine was running normally. After passing a bend in the road, the lights slowly came on again, as did the lights on the phone and the radio. I could not be sure about how long everything was completely out, but I don’t think that it could have been longer than 2 minutes, possibly less. We then drove to June’s house about half a mile away where we phoned a friend to come and see what was wrong. He said that he could not see anything wrong with the car at all. June took the car to a garage the next day where it was checked over, but nothing was found to be wrong with it”.
Shona Green. (*)
The above account is quite unusual, and came ‘two days’ before the actual observation of the UFO by Ian McPherson. Of course the event described here, may have absolutely nothing to do with what followed two days later, but let us bear in mind the fact that this type of effect has been heard of time and time again within the realms of the UFO phenomena, but Usually however, some form of aerial object is seen during the course of a car stalling or a car’s lights and radio failing. Was a UFO the reason for this vehicle’s strange interference? Nothing was seen by the two girls. I present this incident here purely as a side issue on this important photographic case. It may mean absolutely nothing, but then again it might strike a chord with a Ufologist elsewhere into remembering that they too have had something similar documented. This is why, we Ufologists should present ‘all’ pieces of information, no matter how irrelevant they may seem. We should, as I’ve said before, be very careful that we don’t end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater!! The Craigluscar Incident then is one of those cases which has the added bonus of some photographs, but the witness testimony that we also have from Ian McPherson, is equally impressive. I am of the opinion, that this case is not a hoax, and is not the result of mis-interpretation by Ian, of something that might have been thrown up into the sky. Let us not forget, Ian saw this object for nearly 1O minutes, an incredible amount of time for anyone to have witnessed a UFO. Frisbees and hubcaps don’t stay in the air that long. !
THE POLMONT RESERVOIR PHOTOGRAPH.
I’ve said many times before, that it is extremely easy to fake a photograph and claim that it represents either a ghost or a UFO. When one is researching the UFO subject, you tend to find that from time to time someone will approach you with what they claim is a photograph of a UFO. Of course having witness testimony backed up with a photograph of a UFO is extremely valuable and one must look very carefully at not Only the claims of the witness, but to ensure that proper analysis of their photograph is undertaken as well. Such a photograph came to my attention during the early years of my Investigation into the Bonnybridge phenomena. Phil Trevis is an aspiring musician who plays guitar in a local Grangemouth rock band but on the night of November 12th 1991 (before the Bonnybridge wave exploded) was taking photographs with a friend for a project about photography. In a written statement to the author, Philip had this to say about his sighting.
“My friend and I were taking photographs of the B.P. Chemicals Plant in Grangemouth from Polmont Reservoir, when we noticed a dim, or rather two small dim flashing lights over by the two flashing pylons at Kincardine Bridge. We watched the object which we thought was a helicopter, fly slowly over the bridge to above the brightly lit Grangemouth Stadium. We watched it hover for about 5 minutes. It was then that we noticed that the ‘craft’ wasn’t making any noise. Normally if it was a helicopter you would hear the rotor blades. It then turned round and faced our direction. It was roughly 2, OOOft above the ground. Then it dipped, and increased dramatically in speed. At the point of the photograph, (See photographic plate section), it was about 2OO to 3OO feet directly above. It was then that we heard the light pulsing ‘hum’ of the object. My friend and I were quite shaken at the time, but afterwards had an overwhelming sense of excitement. Since then I have shown only a handful of people my photograph, and have also destroyed the negative. I have no reason for destroying the negative, but now obviously regret my actions”.
The actual photograph was handed over to me by a friend of the photographer’s at an SPI meeting held in Stirling, it was taken by a Halina 35mm, camera using Kodak 24 exposure on gold film. What one should bear in mind whilst looking at this strange photograph, is that what you are actually looking at, is the underside of the object, because when this strange device was above both of the startled witnesses, Philip had to actually bend over backwards in order to take his photograph. In the photograph you can see that the middle of the object appears to be concave, various bright white lights are seen shining out from this circular object which creates a sort of halo effect in the sky around it. So what did our Investigations uncover, was there a natural explanation to account for this photograph? I firstly contacted the local police to see if any members of the public had contacted their station with a similar sighting, no one had. I then submitted many letters to the various Scottish Airports to see if perhaps some kind of aircraft or helicopter had been flying in this area on the night in question. Prestwick Airport at Atlantic House in Ayrshire replied in June 1995 by stating that, (A) Records for the period in question were no longer held. (B) It was improbable that a Military Aircraft flew over Grangemouth on the night in question. (C) Gas Venting often takes place at this petro-chemical plant, an occurrence which could appear alarming. Both witnesses were well aware what this ‘gas venting’ looked like, and this most certainly was not what they both had witnessed. Aberdeen Airport was not able to offer any explanations as were both Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Ministry of Defence in London replied that because this sighting was of no defence significance, they were unable to assist, (now where have I heard this before)!
But what if anything could the B.P. plant offer in terms of information? This plant which is extremely explosive is a beautiful sight when lit up at night, and looking at it from a distance, one could be forgiven for thinking that they were looking at Las Vegas such is the enormity and brightness of this complex. In a letter received by the author from a Mr Bill Moore, press officer for B.P. Chemicals dated 9th June 1995, Bill stated, and I quote, “I can confirm that helicopters carry out pipeline inspection duties on behalf of B.P. Chemicals. These flights occur at fortnightly intervals and only take place during daylight hours at weekends. I should point out that the helicopters do not tend to fly over the site as they are more concerned with following the separate pipeline routes connecting Wilton and Mossmorran to Grangemouth. Micro-lights or controlled kites with cameras do not fly over the complex. I have checked our records, and there is no indication of any aircraft having flown over the Grangemouth complex on the 12th of November 1991”.
In a further letter, this time from a Mr K.W. Smith, Estates & Pipelines Coordinator for B.P. Oil at the Grangemouth Plant, he stated and confirmed that B.P. Oil do not use micro-lights or any other controlled flying devices to inspect pipes, and that air space immediately above the B.P. Petrochemical complex is a ‘restricted area’ to aircraft. He went on to state that according to a limited search by him, he could find no evidence of anything unusual on the night in question.
After these checks and several others, it was plain to see that nothing conventional was to blame for what both witnesses saw. Analysis on the photograph proved very little and did not help to prove the case either way, and as we know, the witness destroyed the negative for reasons which even now, he can’t fully understand. In fact, he was actually going to destroy the photograph as well but was talked out of it by a friend. Having spoken to Philip on a number of occasions now, I still have no reason to doubt his honesty, and I do believe that what he and his friend saw that night, was something totally unexplainable by rational means. Sadly Phil’s friend passed away in a motor accident and so therefore I was unable to obtain any clarification to Phil’s story. The Phil Trevis photograph is clearly unusual, and is most certainly part and parcel of the Bonnybridge phenomena. The area, in which he took his photograph, is only several miles away from Bonnybridge itself. An unusual photograph then and one of the very few photographs that we have which shows UFO activity over Scotland.
© Malcolm Robinson.
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