A student working on his PhD in folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland is digging into the mystery surrounding an unidentified flying object that crashed into Shag Harbour, N.S., 49 years ago. 

Noah Morritt isn't like the many UFO enthusiasts that travel to the small fishing village, he's less interested in the object itself and more in the effect the story has had on the town.

Back on Oct. 4, 1967, people in Shag Harbour saw a light drop from the sky, hover over the water then disappear into the harbour. Many eyewitnesses who saw the light assumed a plane had gone down. 

RCMP officers on the scene also reported a plane had gone in the water, said Morritt. No wreckage was ever found and no planes were reported missing. Divers were sent into the harbour and also came up with nothing.  

"How did we get from plane crash to UFO? What does it mean for the people in Shag Harbour? What does it mean to live in a community where there was a UFO crash?" said Morritt.

"I think there's more to Shag Harbour than just a UFO."

UFO museum

The Shag Harbour Incident Interpretive Centre in Shag Harbour houses information related to the UFO sighting in the community. (shagharbourincident.wordpress.com/museum/)

The incident has led to changes in Shag Harbour — there is a volunteer group called the Shag Harbour UFO Incident Society focused on promoting and preserving materials connected to the crash. 

A small museum dedicated to the incident and an annual UFO symposium is held in the community.

There's also a stream of tourists who want to get a closer look at the alleged crash site. 

Research almost complete

Morritt has spent five weeks in Shag Harbour researching both the incident and how residents responded to it.

He said most people accept what happened as a part of their town's history, but would still like answers about what happened. 

"The object itself, the thing that crashed into the harbour always remains elusive, so I really think there's a desire for closure," said Morritt.

Laurie Wickens is one of those people who would like some answers, he was an eyewitness to what happened in 1967. 

"We always thought it was an airplane, but when you stop and think about it now... there's nothing conventional that could fly that slow ... whatever it was, I ain't got no idea," said Wickens. 

Bus tour offered

The UFO symposium in Shag Harbour just finished for this year, it included for the first time a bus tour that traced the route Wickens followed after spotting the UFO's lights back in 1967. 

The tour ended on the harbour's shoreline where Wickens stopped to and watched the lights hover above the water.

Wickens helped organize the event, he said 28 people took part in the tour.

"If you do the tour, people can really get an understanding of really what happened and really where everything was seen," said Wickens.

He wanted to run the tour as a test for next year, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the incident in Shag Harbour and will be accompanied by an even bigger celebration.   

Noah Morritt hopes to be back for the event with a rough draft of his doctoral thesis.