Acclaimed Canadian ufologist Christopher Rutkowski can be best described as Canada’s Fox Mulder.
He recently travelled to Duncan, B.C., a small town on Vancouver Island that was home to Granger Taylor, whose story is told in CBC Docs POV documentary, Spaceman. Taylor, who became obsessed with space travel, left a note telling his family he could communicate with extraterrestrials and was going on an interstellar journey — and then vanished.
But Taylor wasn’t only one who reported a strange encounter in Duncan. Lisa Nydahl was a teenager in 1980 when she saw a boomerang-shaped object in the sky over the town, gliding toward the mountains. “It just did a 90-degree turn and went straight up and just disappeared,” she recalls. “It was unlike anything I’d ever seen.”
Rutkowski says that UFO sightings in Canada are more common than we think. “There are about 1,000 UFO reports filed in Canada every year, and the number remains high.”
Ufology Research, an organization Rutkowski belongs to, has collected and analyzed Canadian UFO report data since 1989. Their 2017 survey showed that a total of 1,101 sightings were reported across the country, at a rate of roughly three per day — the fifth highest number since the group began collecting data in 1989.
The survey also showed that there was an average of two witnesses per UFO sighting and that the sightings lasted about 15 minutes each. Many witnesses were police officers, pilots and other people with keen observational skills.
Most sighting reports in 2017 came from Quebec (518) and Ontario (241), with B.C. coming in third (128). Out of the major metropolitan areas the country, Montreal and Toronto topped the list.
In its final report, Ufology Research broke down cases by the number of witnesses, the level of “strangeness” (an alien encounter being more unusual than flashing lights, for example), the reliability of the sighting and its duration. They also compared the shape of the objects.
The report notes that while an increasing number of cellphones, dashcams and traffic cameras means that reported sightings are more frequently accompanied by a photo or video, these visuals are often of poor quality and less useful to researchers. What’s more, the majority of sightings can be explained as aircraft and other astronomical objects.
Still, about eight per cent of all UFO reports in 2017 remain unexplained — but this doesn’t mean that they are proof of alien visitation.
“There’s no incontrovertible evidence that aliens are visiting us, although it’s a wonderful theory,” Rutkowski told The Canadian Press, but adds that “there is a real phenomenon [that] I think is worth scientific study.”
Here are a few of Canada’s most famous UFO sightings:
Falcon Lake, Manitoba
In May 1967, Stefan Michalak reported seeing two flying saucers near Falcon Lake. He claimed that one of the aircraft hovered only 45 metres away from him, landed and, as he approached, emitted a beam of light that knocked him to the ground as it lifted off.
Michalak said that he became ill in the following weeks, and a photograph of his chest eight months later showed burn marks in a pattern of dots. The incident was commemorated by a glow-in-the-dark coin released by the Canadian Mint in 2018.
Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia
During the same year as the Falcon Lake sighting, people reported that the night skies over Shag Harbour were glowing with four lights that flashed off and on before crashing into the harbour. Eyewitnesses claimed they watched as a large, orange-glowing object sank into the water.
The RCMP, thinking a plane had crashed, organized a rescue effort, but were unable to recover an object. Divers searched the sea floor but also came up empty. Since no planes were reported missing, the case was classified as a UFO sighting. To this day, Shag Harbour holds an annual festival dedicated to the strange incident.
In 1989, several people in Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir reported being awakened in the middle of the night by a noise that sounded similar to an electric generator. Witnesses also reported seeing an intense blue light shining outside their windows.
Two days later, a perfect circle, about 20 metres in diameter, was found outside of the home of one of the witnesses. The RCMP were called to investigate, but the source of the lights and strange markings remains unknown.
If you’ve spotted a UFO, here’s how to report it a sighting to Ufology Research.
Watch Spaceman on CBC Docs POV.