Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Encounter in Rendlesham Forest - A Review

In December 1980, there were a series of sightings of lights in the Rendlesham Forest near two USAF airbases located in England. American personnel assigned to those bases, RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge sighted strange lights and requested permission to investigate. Now Nick Pope, with John Burroughs and Jim Penniston have written a book, Encounter in Rendlesham Forest, dealing with their inside knowledge of the workings of the British UFO desk in the Ministry of Defence and their service with the Air Force during those sightings.

We get the perspective of the sightings from Burroughs who was first out of the gate and into the forest. Penniston, senior to Burroughs, arrived later. Both moved deeper into the woods, and as Burroughs stopped, away from a structured craft, Penniston walked forward and touched it. Both men later said that they became somewhat obsessed with the sighting. Penniston, unable to sleep in the days to follow, eventually wrote a series of ones and zeroes in his notebook that looks suspiciously like a binary code. He also felt compelled to return to the landing site where he found deep impressions in the ground. He made plaster casts of them.

Little of that has been discussed. It was the next night that involved Burroughs and the deputy base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, that has received the most attention. Halt, leading a group of men, entered the woods, moving toward the lights. Halt made a tape recording of what was happening and what he was observing as they worked their way toward the lights. Later, at the request of his chain of command, he would write a memo that eventually made its way into the public arena. That memo, written within several days of the event, seemed to underscore the strange nature of the event.

Nick Pope, who ran England’s Ministry of Defence UFO project, learned of the case through his work there. He was able to provide an interesting take on how the two governments, British and American, seemed to pass the problem of the sightings off on each other. Both denied jurisdiction over the case suggesting that the other had responsibility. Pope’s insights into that adds a note of credibility to the case.

The one problem I had with the book was its journey into material that while interesting did nothing to advance the case. As but a single example, there was a chapter Beyond Rendlesham that examined briefly, some a few semi-related cases, but not in enough detail help in our understanding of the Rendlesham case. The death of Captain Thomas Mantell while chasing a UFO over Kentucky is reduced to a single paragraph.

But the book shines when it discusses the Rendlesham report. There is new information found through the detailed memories of Burroughs and Penniston, and the information from Halt. Questions about the case have been answered, many for the first time. Skeptical arguments are examined, and according to Pope, do not explain anything. They merely get in the way of attempts to learn the truth.

For those who wish to understand more about this case, who want to see what has been reported by those involved, who wish to read the first-hand accounts of the men involved, this is the book. Others might suggest they were there. Others might suggest that they know more about the case, but it is here that we hear the voices of the men who experienced the UFO landing and the subsequent events.


David Rudiak said...

Looks like a book to pick up. I understand Halt has been working on his own book, but have not heard anything recently. Anybody know anything?

I remember Halt being quoted saying the events were so strange that he might withhold some information because it might disturb the public's sense of reality too much. One, of course, wonders what exactly he meant by that? Are we dealing with time travelers (and maybe we're doomed and free will is an illusion), entities from another reality/universe or a machine intelligence totally unlike us, we're nothing but a matrix/simulation universe and we're no more "real" than the Super Mario Brothers, we're being invaded and nothing can stop it, they are powerful telepaths who can read our innermost thoughts, can manipulate us and we are powerless to stop them, etc.??

All of these I find immensely disturbing possibilities to my sense of reality and security. Maybe the ultimate secret to UFOs, the reason for all the official lying and an ongoing coverup, is there is something so deeply disturbing about who/what is behind them that it would truly terrorize most of us to the point of losing all hope for the future. Society would probably disintegrate if that were to happen.

Lance said...

"I remember Halt being quoted saying the events were so strange that he might withhold some information because it might disturb the public's sense of reality too much. One, of course, wonders what exactly he meant by that?"

I think he means that he hopes to sell a few more books with those kind of silly pronouncements.

KRandle said...

Lance -

I don't believe Halt has written a book... shouldn't yoy wait for it before you condemn it?

Frank Stalter said...

One thing I can say for a fact is Jim Penniston is a real class act. Looking forward to reading this.

Woody said...

Agreed, Frank.


cda said...

Why are there so many books on Rendlesham? I suggest it is mainly because there have been an awful lot on Roswell (far too many and still ongoing), that UK writers, and a few US ones, simply had to try and beat this. They may do so yet.

Rendlesham is the 'British Roswell', and we are stuck with it, especially when a former Ministry of Defence employee revives the case. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Halt produces a book. In fact, it would surprise me if he didn't.

Are we now dealing with 'nuts and bolts' space craft, time-travellers, interdimensional beings or what?

Nick Pope? Isn't he an abductee, or did he hesitate to enlighten us on this point?

Terry the Censor said...

Kevin, I have read that Penniston's story changed and became more sensational over time. Does the book address this issue, or are the later claims presented as having been there from the beginning?

(I ask only because the Hill case suffers from the same problem, and I am curious about this curious editorial process.)

KRandle said...

Terry -

The book covers the story as it evolved, which is to say, it does address the issues you note and the reason for them.

Anthony Mugan said...

It's an enjoyable read.
Some concerns....Kevin has previously noted that the claim that the last of the Roswell witnesses have now past away is incorrect and that statement is made in the book. The alleged radar tracking of the Rendlesham UFO is presented as fact when this is based a report from one source with no documentary evidence and certainly no way of assessing the degree to which any anomaly was a good correlation with the visual report or if othe factors (AP etc) might be factors.
The story presented by the main witnesses certainly does evolve and while the factors impacting on the evolution if story is presented well elements fall into the category of 'interesting if true' to use a phrase from the book itself.
In some ways the book rather hollows out the middle ground. This was either something very significant or a very elaborate hoax by multiple participants. The hoax option seems unlikely in the extreme, but some of the more speculative discussion in the book left me feeling there was insufficient evidence to make such claims presented ( here I am referring to claims that the object was associated with time travel and the decoding of the alleged binary code, which I would want to see much more evidence for including forensic testing of the notebook and the detailed methodology used for the decoding... ). Combine that with the more specific issues mentioned above and I feel that I still need to check out the primary sources to form a firm opinion
I hope I don't sound too picky. Much of the book is well presented and it is a very good read.

Steve Sawyer said...

Is there any mention in the book about Jacques Vallee's speculation that perhaps Rendlesham was a "psychological warfare exercise," possibly involving some kind of "virtual reality" projectors?

Although it seems Vallee interviewed the "wrong person" about what happened at Rendlesham (Larry Warren, who seems to have been discredited as a witness), Vallee cites various aspects of the incident which seemingly suggest the idea to him that Rendlesham may have been a staged event to test, gauge and "calibrate" the reaction of those unwitting persons involved to one degree or another as witnesses, or so he said in Chapter 6 of his book "Revelations," over 20 years ago. What mention of Vallee's speculation is in the book, if any?

See: http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread646674/pg2

["...here is most of Chapter 6: "Special Effects" from "Revelations: Alien Contact and Human Deception" - that deals with Rendlesham." / corsair00 / almost halfway down page]

And, didn't Nick Pope at one time support Larry Warren's now dubious "testimony" about his alleged involvement in the Rendlesham incident? What changed his mind, if it was changed, anyway?

Anthony Mugan said...

Yes, the staged test and many other hypotheses are discussed. The issue with that idea, which I agree with, is that it would be normal to debrief participants in the exercise afterwards. The halt memo pretty much establishes that this is not a viable option.
In terms if Warren the book does bring out well how many of his claims are unique in terms of this case and at odds with those of other witnesses. He does not appear on the Halt tape nor is there an original statement by him in the documents on the case now released. As with everything in this field caveat emptor it seems

cda said...

The idea that a staged military exercise would take place on Christmas night is preposterous.

Terry the Censor said...

Anthony, Keith Basterfield, gives more examples of unsourced (and quite wobbly) assertions in the book.


One gets the impression of a story being told in the absence of fact-checking. Interesting to get the prespectives of the witnesses, but alienating to the reader who hopes to trust the witnesses. (I get this feeling reading Interrupted Journey, where witnesses to the corroborating evidence -- spots on the car, spinning compass, stopped watches -- are not named or quoted by Fuller; we are simply told by Betty what these people saw and said. People who are named and quoted didn't see anything.)

Anthony Mugan said...

Thanks for the link. Largely agree with Basterfield's criticisms. I perhaps would be less concerned about Pope et al stating there is 'confusion' or 'controversy' on certain points, which strikes me more as a simple statement of fact.
Claims that this is the best documented case or 'bigger than Roswell' are unfortunately exaggerated and many claims are indeed lacking in substantiation.
That said the core of the case (in a similar way to Roswell) is well documented and there is enough solid information to substantially reduce the likely options to UFO or very large scale hoax. Given the documentation on the case and the level this involved ( Lt-Col writing am official report to the MOD noting personal involvement, radiation readings in official documentation etc) a hoax would be extremely unlikely

Steve Sawyer said...

Anyone here know a link to the best online chronology of events during the Rendlesham Forest incident? What is the most accurate timeline for events, from beginning to end, IOW?

Wikipedia cites around 3 am on Dec. 26, 1980 as when the initial events transpired, namely lights seen in the sky. Is that a correct start point time and date, or not?

And/Or what was initially seen, by who, and from where when the first indications of something drawing any kind of personnel attention began?

starman said...

If Halt or anyone else just wanted to sell books, he wouldn't say he'd WITHHOLD information, but "include it, however reluctantly..."@David Rudiak, I have no doubt there is a deeply disturbing secret which underlies the coverup. A.D. AFTER DISCLOSURE hints at it but another book, THE ALIEN PLAN FOR EARTH (just a POD work--no doubt because no real publisher would touch it) theorizes about the reason for the coverup (and the circumstances under which it'll end) at greater length than anything else I've seen.

Ian Ridpath said...


Yes, 3am on December 26 was the start time, when something was seen apparently descending into Rendlesham Forest. Col Halt got the time right in his memo but the date was wrong by one day. We have documentary evidence for the correct date from the local police who were called to the scene shortly after 4am

By curious coincidence, a bright fireball was seen over southern England at 3am on December 26:

As we know, bright fireballs give the impression of something descending to Earth and are a common source of UFO reports. Hence it may well be that the entire chain of events was sparked by nothing more unusual than a small rock from space – an ET origin, certainly, but not the sort that the UFO buffs would have liked.

Seems to me that the Deeply Disturbing Secret of this case is that USAF troops were fooled by a series of natural and man-made lights and have sent the last 30 years spinning ever more fantastic yarns about it. As the history of UFOlogy shows, they are far from alone in that.

nsurround said...


The fireball idea that Ian Ridpath is espousing is nonsense. While there could have been a fireball over Southern England near the same time line it does not fit into what the witnesses said they saw. Viewing a fireball lasts only a matter of seconds. It is true what Ian says in that they descend to Earth. However the event is fleeting. John Burrough and others at the east gate started seeing the unusual lights for at least minutes not seconds. Ian may say that the fireball triggered their imaginations and other man made lights took over. Again does not fit the witness accounts. In order to believe Ian Ridpaths account for the event as a whole you will need to assume that the actual witnesses are not believable or are totally inept and dumb founded by natural causing events. Your observation that a decent timeline/map would be very helpful to readers is spot on. I have yet to find one that gives enough detail to really understand when and where all the events took place.

John & Erin (Our Life Together) ❤ said...

So who is the guy now saying that he was telepathically given pages of code to write down? And he's cracked it at being gps coordinates or something. That he's discovered they weren't aliens at all! Just some kooky time travellers lol. I remember thinking this case had a lot of credibility when I first heard about it. But how does anyone still believe these claims after their obvious intentional false claims and fabrications? Can we agree he wasn't telepathically sent code or Gps coordinates? And that time travelers is not a logical or likely explanation. When someone goes to such a great length to lie about their sighting how is it still seen as credible within the ufo community? It makes us all look bad, like schmucks, deserving of the scorn heaped upon us.

nsurround said...


It was Jim Penniston, the following day after his experience, who said he began to see images in his mind of thousands of ones and zeros. He then wrote them down in his notebook along with drawings of the strange glyphs. This part of his story has received a lot of skepticism and I agree seems to detract from the event(s) as a whole. However in later years Betty Hill from that famous abduction case also kind of went into the bizarro world trying to prove she and Barney were abducted. I believe Jim and Johns initial recounting's of their experiences at Rendlesham. However as time has passed their accounts have changed somewhat leaving many to suspect they are not being entirely truthful now. In any case it definitely points out that the phenomena(s) are an enigma where truth and fantasy are incomprehensibly blurred. Where one begins and one ends seems difficult to sort out.