Sightings of UFOs in Cornwall are roughly 30% higher than the national average. I have found references to unexplained events, such as strange balls of fire and craft-shaped lights in the skies, as early as the 1880s. And over the years there have been several flurries of UFO activity in Cornwall, in the 1950s, again in the 1990s and some more recently.
Some history of Flying Saucers
Whatever your take on this well known phenomenon UFO (Unidentified Flying Objects) sightings have, some believe, been around for thousands of years.
In the Old Testament the prophet Ezekiel describes a ‘great cloud’ with ‘fire infolding itself’. He writes that this spectacle then became ‘a wheel in the middle of a wheel’ and apparently it then fired lightning bolts to the Earth. According to Bible scripture a voice was then heard which spoke of peace and good will. The encounter left Ezekiel able to see the future, and some conclude his description confirms that a UFO made contact in the Middle East around 1000 BC.
Another early case took place in Basil, Switzerland on the 7th August 1566. On this occasion numerous strange lights appeared in the skies above the city sending the people below into a confused panic.
During the 19th century astronomers often saw ‘meteors’ that behaved oddly but despite recording and writing about these strange occurrences in detail the concept of the UFO was not in yet their vocabulary. According to UFO aficionados in August 1883 a Mexican astronomer, Jose Bonilla, even photographed one while observing sunspots.
The term ‘flying saucer‘ was coined in 1947 pretty much by accident. Kenneth Arnold, a businessman flying his own private jet, encountered a number of bright objects in the skies above the Cascade Mountains, Yakima, USA. Arnold made the mistake of describing the objects he saw as flying “like a saucer would if you skipped it across water.” And despite the fact that he also repeatedly described them as being bird-shaped Arnold’s UFOs became the first flying saucers and from then on the name stuck.
UFO sightings became increasingly common through the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Sightings in the UK are relatively high overall considering the size of our small group of islands. Rural areas such as Scotland, Wales, Wiltshire, The Pennines and Cornwall tend to be the hot spots.
UFOs Sightings in Cornwall
“There are about 30 to 40 reports of UFOs in Cornwall every year. We get a lot when the space station goes over, but you can easily go online and pin that down. Sometimes the UFO sighting can be explained by drones, or laser pens, which can be quite powerful, or even Chinese lanterns. But there are a few left every year, maybe two or three, that can’t be explained at the moment.”
What follows is a list of various unusual and unexplained UFO sightings in Cornwall. It is by no means meant to be a complete or definitive list. I have cherry-picked interesting, strange or credible sounding cases.
Make of them what you will . . .
Morwenstow – 1888
On 23rd January 1888 the Cornwall and Devon Post reported a strange occurrence.
“On Monday and Tuesday evenings a very strange light has been seen to pass over what is commonly called the Pips Hill Road. About 100 to 200 ft high, a red light of peculiar shape, something like a boat. It took ten minutes to complete it’s journey and then vanishes at once.”
Sennen – 1950
By the 1950s the term ‘flying saucer’ had already become commonplace. But I expect this headline in The Cornishman in December 1950 still caused a stir.
*Fun Fact: A series of reports released by the National Archives between May 2008 and June 2013 documenting UFO activity from 1980 to 1996 included more than 800 individual reports across the UK, several of those were from Cornwall. In all there was more than 4000 pages of material.
Camborne – 1993
On the 4th August 1993 a police patrol spotted and reported blue/white light, circular in shape. The patrol officer said the light came through a cloud, there was no sound and then it “descended rapidly towards the ground”.
St Austell – 1993
In October 1993 a midshipman in Royal Navy reported seeing a UFO to the police. The witness said he saw an object in the sky, which he estimated to be around 10m (30ft) in length and 5m (15ft) wide with very bright lights. The sailor also reported hearing a voice which he believed spoke to him telepathically. It said, “Do not be alarmed, we won’t hurt you.”
*Fun Fact: Many bizarre experiences of this kind are reported to the MoD each year. In 2010 the ministry released around 6000 pages of material relating to otherworldly occurrences in the UK between 1994 and 2000.
St Ives – 2009
It appears that there were numerous sightings of UFOs in Cornwall, eleven of which were reported to the Ministry of Defence, in 2009. These strange flying objects which range from coloured lights to balls of fire and triangular shaped craft were seen various locations including Fowey, Lelent, Redruth, Newquay, Penzance, Looe and St Ives.
One man visiting St Ives had rented a two bedroom flat near St Ives Arts Club with views over the harbour. The flat was for him and his girlfriend’s family for a October holiday. At between 2am and 4am, the man woke up and felt compelled to look out of the window. The witness described what he saw:
“As I looked out, a huge black triangular craft rose up out of the water in the bay slowly, silently and steadily. It rose high up in the air, hovered for a second or two and then suddenly sped off to the north-east and in a millisecond vanished from view. I’d guess the whole episode took no more than ten to fifteen seconds.”
He also described it as silent and “absolutely colossal” and possibly “football pitch size or even much larger.”
Carn Brea – 2010 & 2011
Carn Brea, close to Camborne and Redruth is thought by some to be a sort of hot spot for UFO sightings, and there is a theory (explained below) as to why that might be. As well as many other strange but vague accounts (and the police report above) here are just two. These men believe that they spotted UFOs over Carn Brea near Redruth in 2010 and 2011. I have quoted them unedited.
“Witness Statement: I was walking home from my mates house and I saw a object in the sky aboout 8 stories high and it was the size of a mini car and it had a orange light on the front I looked up and the light was shining at me and it was following me up Falmouth Road in Redruth. I saw the orange light about a week before and I saw somthing blow up in the sky I thought it was a plane but it wasn’t on the news and I have photo evedance [sic] of it.”
There was another sighting by witness, Matthew Thompson, in 2011.
“I also saw one near Redruth flying over Carn Brea. Approx 150ft high. Looked like a black ball with two flashing red lights on each side. Saw this thru binos [sic] from about half a click away. it descended rapidly then vanished.”
Both these incidences were reported to UK UFO Sightings website.
*Fun Fact: There is actually a large flat stone on the top of Carn Brea known as the Saucer Rock . . . coincidence??
Theories on what UFOs actually are, or whether they exist at all, are extremely varied and controversial.
But I thought it might be interesting to recount one very local explanation which was put to me during an interview in 2016.
Bart O’Farrell, a dowser known as the ‘Wizard on the Lizard’, studied earth energies and had some interesting thoughts on UFO sightings in Cornwall . . .
“There’s an interesting thing about geological faults, one of the biggest areas of UFO sightings is Carn Brea . . . Carn Brea has a geological fault going through it, an absolute cracker. We get earthquakes, they happen all the time, the two sides of the geological fault rub together. And because it’s quartz and granite these two rub together and you get sparks . . .
Bart believed that these sparks caused some kind of light effect in the skies above Carn Brea. This might sound far fetched but earthquake lights are in fact a known and studied phenomena.
For example, in 2017 a magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck Mexico and eerie green and blue lights were seen in the skies soon after. This strange effect has been puzzling experts for hundreds of years and some believe this bizarre luminosity could, in part at least, have led to the idea of UFOs and other otherworldly apparitions. So, is it possible that Cornwall’s complex geology is part of the ’cause’ of at least some of these curious sightings? Bart certainly thought so:
This is what’s going on at Carn Brea. You are getting these light sensations coming off it when you have an earthquake, and that is when the UFO sightings occur. A lot of sightings actually take place near to these faults . . . So they see the phenomenon above Carn Brea and they think it’s a UFO . . .”
You can listen to the full interview with Bart HERE.
I’m not an expert, I’m just interested. Interested in the stories and the people and ideas behind them. You can find lots more imformation on the Cornwall UFO Research Group website and you can also report your own experiences to them there too, should you wish to.
Whether UFOs are evidence of aliens, or just earthy technology we don’t yet know about, whether they have any connection to the Egyptian pyramids, the Mayan Calendar or crop circles is as much a mystery now as it has always been. But mysteries are fun and a great distraction if nothing else!
And forgive me if I coin a phrase … ‘The truth is out there’.
I provide all the content on this blog completely free, there’s no subscription fee. If however you enjoy my work and would like to contribute something towards helping me keep researching Cornwall’s amazing history and then sharing it with you then you can donate below. Thank you!