I was a teenage UFO investigator who explored an infamous alien sighting near Ottawa
Photos, secret documents and video suggested aliens had landed and the government had covered it up
I was very young when I saw my first UFO. It was the 1980s and the encounter came via VHS.
Growing up, I was a movie junkie. Two of my favourite films were E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I watched them so many times I practically wore out the tapes.
But it was The X-Files that made me want to become a UFO investigator.
I found a kindred spirit in Fox Mulder, the UFO-obsessed FBI agent working paranormal cases with his skeptical partner, Dana Scully. Like Mulder, I was a bit of a loner, especially at school, where it was decidedly uncool to be interested in UFOs and the paranormal. But I didn't care. The truth was out there, and I was prepared to find it on my own if I had to.
Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of UFO cases to investigate in Whitby, Ont.
I spent my time reading every book on UFOs I could find, familiarizing myself with popular cases like the Roswell, Falcon Lake, Shag Harbour and Rendlesham Forest incidents. I watched documentaries and TV shows about the paranormal. I dreamed of the chance to investigate my first case.
Then, one night in 1993, I saw a videotape that would not only give me that chance, but would also change the course of my entire life. This story would also become the focus of a CBC documentary, UFO Town.
A possible UFO sighting near Ottawa
In 1989, UFO investigators in Canada and the U.S. began receiving packages from someone calling themself "Guardian."
The packages contained a typewritten story about a UFO crash that allegedly took place in West Carleton, which was a rural township outside of Ottawa. There were also photographs of what Guardian claimed was an alien being.
Most investigators dismissed the material as a hoax. The story of the UFO crash read like bad science fiction, while the alien photos looked like nothing more than someone standing in a field in a dark outfit and a hockey mask.
A couple of years later, Guardian returned, and they'd upped their game.
In addition to more reports of UFO crashes in the West Carleton area, they also sent documents allegedly from Canada's Department of National Defence (DND), diagrams explaining how alien spaceships evaded our radar systems, and a series of playing cards covered with ramblings about religion and government conspiracies.
This new material from Guardian was even stranger than the first batch. The so-called DND documents didn't read like government papers, but instead told a rambling story about an ideological war involving "Red China," "Iraqu" (sic) and "Grey Aliens." There was also a bit about a secret project test centre in Carp, Ont.
Investigators probably would've dismissed Guardian's latest material as a hoax once again if it weren't for one other item he included: a videotape.
A local mystery goes international
I saw the Guardian tape for the first time on the popular TV program Unsolved Mysteries.
The footage takes place at night and shows a large brightly lit object sitting on the ground next to a cluster of four red flares. There's no sound except, at one point, the distant bark of a dog. At the end of the tape were several still images of a humanoid figure dressed in black with a luminescent white head and hands. An alien, presumably.
Despite the spookiness of the video, and the mysterious nature of its arrival, as evidence of an extraterrestrial encounter, it was lacking.
The video didn't show the arrival or departure of the object, and freeze-frame close-ups show what looked like the cab of a very earthly pickup truck, complete with a partially raised windshield wiper. Also, the supposed extraterrestrial spacecraft, which was capable of flying many light years to reach Earth, required the aid of road flares, as seen in the video, in order to land.
As for the alien images, they were easy enough to fake. One night, a friend and I went out to a farmer's field and created our own "alien" photos — with me dressed all in black, latex gloves on my hands, and a white garbage bag wrapped around my head.
Despite all of this, I decided to check out the case for myself. I can't explain why I was interested in something that most other investigators felt wasn't worth their time. It wasn't that I thought the case was legitimate. In fact, I was fairly certain it was a hoax. And yet, I was still curious about Guardian. Who were they? How were they able to perpetuate a hoax that managed to get the attention of major U.S. television programs? And more importantly, why did Guardian go to such lengths to convince people that UFOs were landing in rural Ontario?
I borrowed my mom's car and headed to West Carleton.
I travelled to the area several times over the following year, exploring towns like Almonte, Carleton Place and Carp, where the UFO landing was alleged to have taken place. I met a number of colourful characters and tromped through farmer's fields and mosquito-infested swamps searching for signs of a UFO landing.
If this were an episode of The X-Files, I'd tell you I managed to track down Guardian and discovered they were a government agent working out of the decommissioned Diefenbunker, where they had a secret editing suite in which they worked on their UFO videos.
Looking back decades later
For all the time I spent in West Carleton, I never found out who Guardian was or how exactly they staged the hoax.
Looking back 25 years later, I wonder why I bothered to investigate the case. There were several reasons, but it boiled down to a perfect storm of events in my life when my interests and my aspirations converged with one of the most infamous cases in Canadian UFO history.
I spent a lot of years disappointed that I didn't solve the case — feeling like I was so close to the truth, but it was just out of reach.
Eventually, I grew up and became a writer. Today, I create mysteries of my own. If I learned anything from that strange period in my life when I was a teenage UFO investigator it's that not all questions need to be answered.
Sometimes the mystery is better.
Watch UFO Town on CBC Docs POV.
Ian Rogers, profiled in the CBC documentary UFO Town, is the author of the award-winning collection Every House Is Haunted. His work has been selected for several "best of the year" anthologies, and many of his stories have been optioned for film and television. He lives with his wife in Peterborough, Ont.