Distant Encounters: Canada’s Most Mysterious UFO

Nessie, Area 51, Roswell: names like this define UFO and paranormal lore. This is not a series about them. In Distant Encounters, we tour the strangest, most isolated tales of encounters with the unknown.

August 18th, 1991. West Carleton, Ontario – a rural farming community. Diane Labenek hears the barks of distant dogs across the field. She rises, looks out the window, and one of my favorite UFO cases of all time begins.

Labenek sees fire and lights: red flames and smoke. A UFO flies towards the bright fire. As Labenek watches,  the UFO departs. Ten minutes later, a helicopter flies overhead. She tells no one but her family.

This isn’t the first strange event to happen in West Carleton: in 1989, Labenek and many others report an “intense, bright light” passing overhead towards a nearby swamp, pursued by helicopters. But neither event draws much attention: with Labenek keeping the story to herself, it’s just another UFO sighting, a lone report without any proof to back it up.

The following year, proof arrived.

Six months later, UFO researcher Bob Oechsler received a package from someone identified only as “Guardian”. The anonymous present included a VHS tape and many crudely forged documents and photos of aliens. In short, most of what Guardian sent was easily dismissable bullshit: but the VHS tape proved harder to dismiss.

The tape corroborates Labenek’s 1991 sighting almost exactly, down to the barking dogs in the background. Seemingly filmed from the other side of the field, you can see the flares in the field, and the shining lights of a large, distinct UFO. Oechsler, who didn’t know about Labenek’s sighting, couldn’t have known that this wasn’t Guardian’s first enigmatic message.

After the 1989 sighting, researcher Tom Theofanous of the Canadian UFO Research Network received a package from Guardian alleging a UFO crash near West Carleton. With nothing but photo-copied photos of fake aliens as “proof”, researchers who toured West Carleton discovered little else, bar reports of a strange lights from a local couple, a rancher – and Diane Labenek. They safely classified Guardian’s first message as a hoax.

In 1992, researchers weren’t so willing to dismiss Guardian. Oeschler and Graham Lightfoot visited West Carleton and, along the way, Labenek. Having no knowledge of her story, they were stunned to discover that it matched the video nearly exactly. Perhaps this would be a rarity – a UFO case with genuine proof?

Yet the investigation was far from smooth. According to MUFON Ontario, Oeschler’s inexperience showed:

[Oechsler] pointed to vegetation that had “been treated with microwave radiation”! How did he come to that conclusion without using any instruments?

“It’s very dry and brittle, so it’s obviously been irradiated” Oechsler said.

The ‘irradiated’ plants were Juniper bushes that always look that way after a Canadian winter – bleached, dried and flattened by heavy snow, probably in much the same way as in Maryland, Oechsler’s home-state.

Some residents of West Carleton, apparently unaware of the threat posed by the alien-irradiated juniper bushes in their midst, took note of an unusually high number of helicopters flying overhead – black, green, and maroon helicopters, with tinted windows for that paranoid-90s flair.

Seeking to “flush out Guardian” – a purely selfless motive I absolutely believe – Oeschler managed to wrangle a story about the case on Unsolved Mysteries. Before their investigation was even complete, it also managed to make an appearance on Sightings, winning the prestigious dubious-90s-paranormal-show double. The investigation also drew in Bruce Maccabee, the famed MUFON researcher who would later think a mouse light in a room was a UFO.

By 1993, researchers had concluded that the Guardian case was likely a hoax. With everything else in the package a proven forgery, why not the video? Claims that it was too large, and too silent to be faked weren’t terribly convincing. Guardian went from one of the most exciting UFO cases in history to an embarrassment UFOologists would rather leave behind them. In 1994, Oeschler, the researcher who drove the case from the beginning retired from UFOology.

Guardian is a strange, beautiful mess. The VHS-quality video is oddly mesmerizing, with its blurred lights in the darkness. The tale of its investigation, meanwhile, is a trainwreck. Most probably, the video itself was a hoax, a simple case of lights on a truck. But there’s something so magically X-Files-y about the idea of an enigmatic, anonymous source leaking proof of UFOs to intrepid researchers, of a person keeping a strange event to themselves for fear of ridicule only to receive proof their experience was valid. Guardian burnt bright and it burnt fast. Among the shadowy-conspiracy genre of UFO sighting, Guardian is maybe the most archetypal one there is.

As for Guardian, their identity was never found.

Biblioteca Pléyades, a sprawling library of the paranormal and strange, has a in-depth article about the Guardian case that you really should read.

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Throwback Thursday: The Lawton Triangle of 2002

George Filer, a retired Major and Eastern Region Director for the Mutual UFO Network, compiles UFO events every week. In April 2002, he published a report of a UFO in Oklahoma:

LAWTON – Investigator Jim Hickman reports on the Flying Triangle-MUFON Case #1-774 that took place on March 11, 2002. Jim received a sighting report from “Joe W.” taken near Lawton with a fairly strange photo attached. Dr. Bruce Maccabee, agreed to conduct the photo analysis and asks what could this craft have been? It certainly doesn’t seem to be any military device or any type of object normally in the sky. Internally lighted blimps seem like very strange objects at night, but they have a distinctive shape. (There was a rash of blimp sightings and videos back in the early 1990s, so we have video “data” on the types of images they make…nothing like this.) Hence, unless someone has a better idea, I would have to classify this as a True UFO (TRUFO), which might be some sort of Alien Flying Craft (AFC) (or two such craft)?

All evidence pointed towards the Lawton Triangle being a true UFO, probably an alien flying his craft over the skies of Oklahoma. Or at least that was the conclusion of MUFON’s esteemed investigators when they saw this image:

What solid proof! Look at that strangely familiar red light, floating around in a void that provides absolutely no frame of reference, so judging its distance and size is impossible. You can read the full “report” here.

In May 2002, Filer’s Files published another report of the same event.

FORT SILL — Jim Hickman reports that on May 20, 2002, “TJ” was out on the Quanah Range on Fort Sill earlier tonight, and saw the strangest objects in the sky that he ever saw! TJ reports, “The nature of my job requires that I carry a camera in my vehicle for documenting accidents and incidents on Fort Sill training areas, so I was able to get a picture of the objects.” When I got home, I started searching the web trying to figure out who I should report this to, since I’m definitely NOT going to report this to the military authorities. If I did I’d probably end my career real fast. When I came across your website I almost fell out of my chair! The Lawton Triangle picture is almost exactly like the objects I saw, and Lawton is just south of Fort Sill where I saw these objects! Is this bizarre or what? TJ continues, “I was looking west when I first spotted the objects low to the ground behind some tall trees.” At first I thought they were the lights from military vehicles. “Then suddenly these lights shot straight up in the sky and just hovered for a minute or so.” I just sat there dumbfounded for a moment when it suddenly dawned on me that I should take a picture.

MUFON’s Dr Bruce Maccabee’s comments on the new photo: “WOW! Got to pull out all the stops on this one! A rare event, two photos of the same (apparently) thing! The numbers of lights at the corners may agree (do agree at two corners) and the shape of the red “car” is as I had predicted (the left and right outlines of the “car” in the Lawton photo would be the actual shapes of the left and right sides of the red UFO image if photographed without camera smear).”

If there are two similar pictures of this event – well, that’s some proof. We have to conclude that there are UFOs over Lawton, Oklahoma because –

So where these images “True UFOs” or “Alien Flying Craft” of some sort? No… In reality these pictures were nothing more than a picture of Microsoft Optical Mouse taken with the room lights and camera flash turned off!

IT WAS A MOUSE

THEY CONCLUDED A GLOWING MOUSE IN A DARK ROOM WAS A “TRUE UFO”

These weren’t some random people. One was a “regional director” for MUFON. Another investigator mentioned, Bruce Maccabee, is a well-known UFOlogist and former physicist. MUFON has its own TV show, called Hangar 1. It claims to reveal stories from their “UFO files”. THESE ARE THEIR FILES. We’re literally reading MUFON’s files, and they conclude that a mouse in a dark room is a “true UFO”.

Jim Hickman, who investigated the second sighting, planned to go on a radio show in September 2003 to explain how he “uncovered” the hoax. When the hoaxer called in to say that they revealed it themselves and Hickman didn’t expose anything, Hickman mysteriously failed to show for his interview. Apparently, it wasn’t the first time he failed to show. You can download the audio clips off the hoaxer’s page, and the radio host wonders why he was given a second chance.

In 2002, a man fooled UFOlogy’s Top Minds. And it didn’t take much: just a mouse hanging off a chair in a dark room.

Via Museum of Hoaxes.