The List: Strange encounters

Fortean Times editor David Sutton picks five of his favourite reported sightings of the past 60 years, writes Charlie McCann

Wels catfish © Alamy

Concerned at the recent lack of UFO sightings, the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena is having a conference at the University of Worcester on Saturday. It’s a problem foretold by the Fortean Times, a magazine of “strange phenomena” and “weird news”. Here its editor David Sutton picks five of his favourite reported sightings of the past 60 years.

1. Olympic monster (2011)

Rumours of a monster in the River Lea, near London’s Olympic Park, began to spread last year after boatman Mike Wells said he had spotted a large Canada goose being pulled below the surface by an unseen creature. “It disappeared so fast it didn’t make a sound,” he told reporters. It was probably a goose-eating Wels catfish, a non-native fish that had escaped and made its way into the Lea. That, or the goose may simply have been a floating log.

2. The moon (2008)

One evening, a confused local in south Wales called 999 to report a “bright, stationary” UFO that had been hovering “in the air” for “at least half an hour”. The police arrived to investigate. The transcript of the ensuing Control Room conversation reads:

Control: “Alpha Zulu 20, this object in the sky, did anyone have a look at it?”

Officer: “Yes. It’s the moon. Over.”

3. Dog-headed man (1999)

Just over 10 years ago, one of our readers wrote in to inform us that she’d seen a dog-headed man: “He was kind of like a basset hound with long floppy ears.” This is a new phenomenon as far as we’re aware, but we’re always quite delighted to find a new genre of strange encounters.

A group of schoolchildren reported hearing a bell-like sound and then seeing 60 small, gnome-like men with long white beards and red hats emerge from the woods in Wollaton Park, Nottingham. They were driving little red bubble-cars and playfully chased the children. It’s hard to see what could be misidentified as bubble-car driving gnomes, which would suggest these kids were fibbing – although they all stuck to their story, and adult witnesses also came forward to claim similar sightings in the area.

5. Roman soldiers (1953)

A young apprentice plumber was working in a house in York when an apparently solid Roman soldier walked through the wall, followed by more than 10 others, some on horseback and all moving at a lower level so their feet could not be seen. It turned out that an old Roman road ran through the building. This is a candidate for the Stone Tape theory, in which past events somehow leave a “recording” in the environment that is replayed to witnesses – though how this works remains a mystery.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.

More on this topic

Suggestions below based on Life & Arts