April 6th, 1966 - Australia
Greatest UFO Mystery in Australia (Today Tonight) - Over 200 students and teachers witnessed an unexplained
flying object on Wednesday 6th April 1966 around 11.00 am. They reported
it descended into a nearby open wild grass field adjacent to a grove of
pine trees in an area known as The Grange. The object then ascended in a
north-westerly direction over the suburb of Clayton South.
Ryan has interviewed about 30 witnesses, mostly former staff and
students from the Westall secondary and primary schools. He has tried
obtaining police and RAAF reports, but so far with little luck. The
story was covered then by Channel Nine, The Age and local newspapers.
the UFO, everyone seems to agree, Mr Ryan says. It was a low-flying,
silver/grey shining object, either of classical flying saucer shape or
close to it, "a cup turned upside down on a saucer".
The students were
familiar with light aircraft because the schools were close to Moorabbin
Airport. Although the UFO was of similar size, "everyone said straight
away that they knew it was not a plane", Mr Ryan said, nor a weather
The object was in view for up to 20 minutes, and many
saw it descend. Most agree it landed behind pine trees at the Grange
Reserve. Dozens of students ran across what was then an open paddock to
the reserve to investigate, but the object had lifted off and vanished.
details are sketchier. The UFO appears to have left a circle of
scorched grass; others say several circles were left in paddocks
bordering Grange Reserve.
Many witnesses, not all, report seeing
aircraft, up to five, trailing the UFO. Some say it made no sound,
others say it did.
Many reported that police/air force/military
personnel inspected the site; some (not all) say the authorities burnt
the site. The Dandenong Journal, for which the story was front-page news
two weeks in a row, reported that "students and staff have been
instructed to 'talk to no-one' about the incident". Nevertheless, one
teacher, Andrew Greenwood, gave the paper a detailed account.
was silvery-grey and seemed to thicken at times," he said. "The
thickening was similar to when a disc is turned a little to show the
underside." One of the closest witnesses was a boy whose family
leased land at Grange Reserve for horses.
Shaun Matthews (not a
student at Westall) was on holidays and spending time on the land. "I
saw the thing come across the horizon and drop down behind the pine
trees," he told The Sunday Age this week. "I couldn't tell you what it
was. It certainly wasn't a light aircraft or anything of the like ..."
saw the thing drop down behind the pine trees and saw it leave again. I
couldn't tell you how long it was there for, it was such a long time
ago." Mr Matthews, 51 and now living in Greenvale, said the
object "went up and off very very rapidly".
A rough sketch of what was seen that day in an open wild grass field known as 'The Grange'
"I went over and
there was a circle in the clearing. It looked like it had been cooked or
boiled, not burnt as I remember," he said. "A heap of kids from Westall
primary and high school came charging through to see what had happened —
'look at this, look at that, we saw it as well', that sort of thing. It
was a bit of a talking point for a couple of days."
said the object, about the size of "two family cars", passed him at a
distance of about "four football fields". "It was silvery, but it had a
sort-of purple hue to it, very bright, but not bright enough that you
couldn't look at it," he said.
"I saw that it dropped down behind
the trees, and I thought, 'hello, hang on'. A minute or so later, it
went straight up, just gone."
He said police and other officials
interviewed his mother. But he cannot remember them burning the landing
site, as others have alleged. And he did not see any light aircraft
trailing the object, as others did.
"The way this thing moved
there is no way it could have been a weather balloon or a light
aircraft," he said.
"A helicopter? No way — no noise, wrong
shape, and it didn't move like it. It came out of the distance, stopped,
and then just dropped.
"It didn't just sort of cruise and then slightly descend at an
angle. It just stopped, dropped, and then went straight up."
The Victorian UFO Research Society investigated the incident.
VUFORS secretary Tony Cook said Westall remained one of Australia's
major unexplained UFO cases.
The top one was the case of Frederick Valentich, a 20-year-old
Melbourne pilot whose light plane disappeared while flying over
Bass Strait in 1978. In the last minutes of radio communication, Valentich reported
seeing a UFO hovering above his plane. He and his craft were never
"It's pretty well documented," Mr Cook said. "That's probably
the most important one because it involves the disappearance of a
Mr Cook said the society's stance on UFOs was that, "there are
people out there seeing unusual things in the sky at times and they
can't be explained. But it's a very big leap to go from unexplained
things in the sky to extraterrestrials."
Most witnesses, including Mr Matthews, say the UFO was not an
aircraft or helicopter. But Westall is only six kilometres from
Moorabbin Airport, and the object was roughly headed in that
direction, travelling north to south.
"It sounds to me like some sort of experimental craft, very much
Earth-based," Steve Roberts, of Australian Skeptics, said.
"It is an interesting event with lots of witnesses and what
now call a crop circle.
"Accounts are confused. Some have the object landing and taking
off again, others say 'a paddock over which the object seemed to
As well, "if there was a whole swag of officials investigating
it, there must be an official report in RAAF archives
somewhere". But Mr Ryan said that no one at the RAAF knew of the
But given the history of the case — the way students and
staff were told to keep quiet from the start — that was not
surprising, he said.
"As I got a little bit older, I got a little more interested in
the social and historical aspects of the story, how something like
this could have happened and how it reflected society at the time,
and how authorities responded to it," he said.
"There's been a layer of secrecy that was very, very prominent
in this story from the beginning."