The Berwyn Mountain UFO  Crash - A British Roswell?



In 1958 author Gavin Gibbons wrote By Space Ship to the Moon, a sci-fi book which featured a UFO landing on the Berwyn mountains in Wales. Sixteen years later, in 1974, those same mountains would again be the focus for a story involving a downed UFO. But this time, some said, the story was for real.

                The Berwyn Mountains run south west to north east across central North Wales, separating Shropshire from the Snowdonia National Park. They have a long history of human habitation. Prehistoric man lived and worshipped on the mountains, leaving behind a dramatic ritual landscape to which many strange beliefs have become attached. UFOs are not new to the area either. Local folklore tells us that these peaks have been haunted by a multitude of aerial phenomena, including the spectral Hounds of Hell whilst to the south, at Llanrhaedr-y-Mochnant, the villagers were once plagued by ‘flying dragons’ - a common historical name for UFOs. Contemporary paranormal puzzles abound too and besides UFOs include ‘phantom bombers’, ghosts and lake monsters. The region is also the lair of that most modern of mysteries the ‘alien big cat’.

                Although popular as a tourist destination in summer the Berwyn Mountains can be highly dangerous and mountain rescue teams are frequently called out to search for the lost and injured.  The highest peak, Cader Berwyn, rises to 827 metres and several aeroplanes, both military and civilian, have crashed on its slopes in poor visibility over the past fifty years. In winter the area is especially remote, often snow-covered, and dark for over twelve hours a day. An ideal spot, if ever there was one, for a UFO landing.

                It is against this backdrop that an incident took place on 23 January 1974 which at first perplexed locals and later the UFO community. The events spawned a cascade of rumours which has led some UFO investigators to conclude that an extraterrestrial craft crashed on Cader Berwyn. These same ufologists also claimed that the alien crew, some still living, were immediately whisked off to a secret military installation in the south of England for study and that the whole fantastic business has been hushed up by the UK government. The Berwyn Mountain Incident has been described as ‘...the best example of a UFO retrieval in Britain’, and likened to the Roswell and Rendlesham events.

                A preposterous claim? Certainly. One easily dismissed by those with little or no knowledge of the case. But there is no smoke without fire and even the most bizarre story must have its genesis in truth, no matter how mundane or exotic that truth may be.

                Imagine for a moment the consequences if aliens really had fallen to earth that night in January 1974? If this speculation could be proved then we would know with certainty we were not alone in the universe. The possibilities and consequences of such an event are awesome. Such proof would also demonstrate that the government had been keeping The Greatest Story Never Told hidden from us. Proof of a genuine UFO crash on Cader Berwyn would blow the lid on the alleged world wide UFO cover-up.

                But if it can be argued that there was no alien craft, then just what does lie behind the longevity and tenacity of these persistent claims? Could it have been the crash of a secret military test craft such as one of the ‘flying triangles’ which have dominated ufo-lore throughout the 1990s? Or perhaps a failed missile test from the rocketry range at nearby Aberporth? A hoax even? Or something far more complicated. And if it is any of these then why have the claims of UFOs, alien cadavers and military cover-ups persisted for over twenty five years?

                Comparisons with Roswell and other UFO crash retrieval events show the Berwyn Incident to have many of the same components and motifs and therefore to be worthy of in-depth study. Yet whilst rumours of this crash have been in existence for a quarter of a century it has only recently drawn any serious attention from the UFO community. And although dramatic claims have been made no-one had investigated this potentially remarkable case in any great depth. The Berwyn Incident, far from proven, was a kaleidoscope of rumour and fact concerning crashed UFOs, alien bodies, military retrieval teams, earth tremors, meteorites, weapons testing, disinformation agents, Men In Black and geologically created lights.

                The story is a  complex one and I have pieced together a composite account from statements and articles by witnesses, informants, ufologists and newspapers of what allegedly happened on and around January 23rd 1974.  This is ‘the story’, the generally accepted account, variations on which have become enshrined in the UFO literature and which has seeped out into the public’s consciousness. It is closely referenced so that the reader can check the origins of these claims.

                Prior to the Berwyn Incident the north of England, had been plagued by an aerial phenomenon dubbed the ‘phantom helicopter’. Over a hundred good sightings were made of this anomalous object which was seen flying low at night, often over dangerous terrain and in appalling weather. These sightings largely took place between spring 1973 and spring 1974 and ceased, coincidentally or curiously, immediately after the Berwyn Incident. Despite the numerous sightings and keen police interest, which led to a still-secret official report, no one explanation was ever found. But something, was flying around the northern skies and many of the witnesses concurred that whatever it was, ‘it seemed to be looking for something’.[]

                Wednesday the 23rd of January 1974 was just another day in Bala and the nearby villages of Corwen, Llandrillo and Llanderfel. UFOs were the last thing on the villagers’ minds as Britain huddled in the depths of winter and the recently introduced three day week. But as night closed in an event took place which was to change all that.

                Just after 8.30pm thousands of people in the area were jolted from their winter musings by at least one, possibly two, explosions, followed immediately by a terrible rumbling. The whole event lasted four or five seconds. Furniture moved, ornaments rattled, buildings shook. Livestock and domestic animals voiced their terror. As people shot to their windows some saw lights streaking across the sky. Villagers flooded out into the streets in an attempt to discover the cause of the violent disturbance. As they looked up into the mountains several saw a mysterious white glow, lasting a few seconds. Others saw beams of light being projected into the night sky.[]

                Many villagers immediately called the emergency services believing that a disaster of some kind had taken place. After speaking to the police one local nurse was certain that an aircraft had crashed and set off for the mountains in her car, dreading what she might find there, but eager to offer help until the emergency services arrived. Once above the tree line and on the high mountain road she stopped her car, baffled and startled at what she could see. For there, high on the desolate mountain side, was what appeared to be a large glowing sphere. Whatever it was lay too far from the road to be reached on foot and all the nurse could do was watch. The sphere seemed to pulsate, changing colour as it did so from red to yellow to white, while other white lights, ‘fairy lights’ as the witness described them, could be seen above and below it on the hillside. Realising she could not possibly reach the lights she drove back to her village. As  she did so a group of police and soldiers stopped her and forcefully ordered her off the mountain, saying the road was being cordoned off.[]

                Official reaction was quick to the initial explosion. Suspiciously quick some say, with more police and military arriving within minutes, turning people away from the mountain roads. In the days following it seems there was an unusual and large military presence in the area. Roads remained closed and farmers reported they were forbidden from tending their stock. Something was obviously being sought, or why would military jets and helicopters be criss-crossing the area and strangers combing the mountainsides? Scientists from university departments also came to tramp the hills, but far more suspicious were the official-looking outsiders who turned up in the villages immediately after the event, tight-lipped about their business but keenly interested in the events on the mountain.[]         

                The incident was immediately taken seriously by the media, with national TV and radio reports being broadcast over several days. The Guardian, The Times and other national newspapers gave the event in-depth coverage as did the Welsh regional and local press.[]  Speculation about the cause of the explosion, rumbling and lights was rife. An aircraft crash would have accounted for the noise, lights and keen official involvement. Indeed one local newspaper was certain that whatever had taken place involved a crash of some kind and that something had been retrieved from the mountains, noting, ‘There is a report that an Army vehicle was seen coming down the mountain near Bala Lake with a large square box on the back of it and accompanied by outriders.’[]. But the authorities steadfastly refused to acknowledge that anything unusual had taken place. And in any case, not one of the ‘explanations’ took into account the totality of what had been reported by witnesses.  Meteorites and earth tremors were also suggested as being the cause, and indeed would have explained some of the mystery. But what could possibly explain the ‘glows’ and ‘beams of light’ seen on the mountain? They were swiftly dismissed as the villagers’ imaginations, shooting stars, or more ludicrously as people out poaching hares. Natural phenomena was also unlikely to lead to roads being closed by the army or large areas of mountain side being closed off.

                With no further information coming to light the media soon forgot about the incident. The locals too let the matter fade from their immediate concern if not entirely from their memories. UFO researchers realised that something had taken place which had not been satisfactorily explained. Lights in the sky, and mysterious explosions, together with unusual military activity are avidly noted by the UFO community. However, in 1974 UFO crash retrievals were barely mentioned in the UFO literature, especially in the UK, and there was no immediate template for the events in the Berwyn’s to fit into. Various UFO journals reported the events at the time but no investigation was undertaken and no real conclusions were offered.

                But shadowy forces appeared to be at work. Within months of the event UFO investigators in the north of England began to receive official-looking documents from a group called Aerial Phenomena Enquiry Network (APEN). These documents claimed that an extraterrestrial craft had come down on the Berwyns and was retrieved for study by an APEN crash retrieval team which had been on the scene within hours of the event. More significantly APEN claimed there had been a key witness to the UFO crash who they were recommending for hypnotic regression. Hypnotic regression was at that time virtually unknown in the UK UFO community. In fact besides having being used in the 1961 Betty and Barney Hill ‘abduction’, hypnosis was not used within ufology at that time.

                If APEN were hoaxers then they displayed an uncanny and detailed knowledge of both ufology in general and the Berwyn Mountain incident in particular. Some researchers have speculated that APEN may have been part of a government cover up, using UFO mythology to spread disinformation and so divert attention from secret weapons testing. APEN also issued similar enigmatic communications in conjunction with other UFO events, notably the Rendlesham Forest case.[]

                The Berwyn Incident lay largely dormant throughout most of the 1970s and 80s, being little more than a footnote in the literature. But intriguing pieces of information did surface, later becoming part of the lore surrounding the case. Jenny Randles was a frequent visitor to the region in the late 1970s. staying in the Llandrillo area for weeks at a time. She recalls the locals speaking to her about military activity on the mountains in the wake of some form of crash-like event. Jenny was very interested in the case and initially put it down to a possible ‘earthlight’.

                In Paul Devereux’ book Places of Power, he briefly relates the Berwyn Incident, attributing the cause of the odd lights seen on and above the mountain to geophysical stresses. Known as ‘Earthlights’ to ufologists these are literally lights formed by Earth. Devereux notes that a colleague, Keith Critchlow, was in the area several days after the incident and ‘fell in with scientists who were investigating the mountain’. They had a geiger counter with them which allegedly gave extraordinary readings in the vicinity of a Bronze Age archaeological site known as Moel ty Uchaf, on the slopes of Cader Berwyn[]. 

                The 1990s brought growing interest in the UFO subject and the Berwyn Incident was recalled. Jenny Randles lectured on the case at the 1994 Fortean Times UnConvention and mentioned the anomalous radiation count at the Moel ty Uchaf circle. Following her lecture she was approached by a science correspondent from the Sunday Express. He mentioned rumours of a leukaemia cluster among children in the Bala area which had arisen in the years following the Berwyn Incident. At the time he connected it with possible leaks from the Trawsfynedd nuclear power station but could not prove this. In the light of later claims of UFO crashes or secret military hardware it could be implied that whatever had crashed had possibly been radioactive in nature and of sufficient strength to affect the human organism.[]

                By 1996 the Berwyn Incident had featured in UFO books, several UFO magazines and national newspapers. Television programmes on Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel covered the case, and by 1997 it was the focus of an entire chapter in Nick Redfern’s best-selling book about the government cover-up of UFO information, A Covert Agenda[].

                The Berwyn incident was big news once again. From its humble beginnings it was now a ‘British Roswell’ just waiting to burst, firmly enshrined in ufo-lore as one of the United Kingdom’s few UFO crash retrieval cases. This surge of publicity brought forward new witnesses whose testimony added new and dramatic dimensions to the case.

                In an article for UFO Magazine, veteran ufologist Tony Dodd recounted how his anonymous informant was part of a military unit put on stand-by several days before the date of the Berwyn Incident. His unit was moved northwards through North Wales until he and four others were sent to the village of Llanderfel to collect ‘two large, oblong boxes’. They were ordered to take these to Porton Down in Wiltshire. Once at Porton Down, a UK government research establishment, the boxes were opened and Dodd’s informant told him: ‘We were shocked to see two creatures which had been placed inside contamination suits. When the suits were fully opened it was obvious the creatures were clearly not of this world and when examined were found to be dead. What I saw in the boxes that day changed my whole concept of life.’ Dodd’s informant goes on to relate details of the creatures; ‘The bodies were about five to six feet tall, humanoid in shape but so thin they looked almost skeletal with covered skin.’

                The military man did not actually see a crashed UFO himself but claimed that: ‘Sometime later we joined up with the other elements of our unit, who informed us that they had also transported bodies of ‘alien beings’ to Porton Down, but said their cargo was still alive.’[]

                This interest by the media, together with the claims made by researchers Jenny Randles, Nick Redfern, Tony Dodd and Margaret Fry led to me re-investigating the Berwyn Incident in 1998. There was a wealth of information available and I reasoned that somewhere, amid the accounts of the witnesses and the claims of the ufologists, lay the key to what really happened on that January night in 1974.

                Ufologists, particularly those who believe that there is a global conspiracy to conceal evidence of extraterrestrial visitation are keen to stress the importance of the ‘paper trail’. By this they mean that any event, however secret, must have generated some official documentation, and that by finding this documentation clues as to what happened can be gleaned. It seemed reasonable that an event of the magnitude of the Berwyn Incident would have left at least some trace in official records, no matter how small or obscure. But those ufologists who had pursued the case up to 1997 had not followed this line of enquiry, claiming that either the documentation no longer existed or was part of the cover-up. They clearly hadn’t looked hard enough, because I found a wealth of official documentation from  a variety of sources. I used it, together with witness statements, to piece together the true events of January 23rd 1974.

                What follows is the results of that re-investigation.

                In A Covert Agenda Nick Redfern suggested that the numerous ‘phantom helicopters’, seen in the months leading up to the Berwyn Incident, were flown by military UFO crash retrieval teams. Redfern also claimed they had received advance knowledge of a UFO landing and were on permanent standby, suggesting that ‘Perhaps the idea of a joint CIA-Ministry of Defence project designed to respond on a quick reaction basis to UFO incidents should be considered...’.[]

                But the phantom helicopter story is a red-herring. Although a number of people had described the phenomenon as a ‘helicopter’, a motif quickly seized upon by the media, most witnesses were in fact describing an unknown light of many shapes and colours. The ‘phantom helicopter’ was more Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon than Unidentified Flying Object - a big difference. Some genuine helicopters were proved to be responsible for some sightings, but the rest remained unexplained. Additionally, the phenomena was not seen in the Bala area and there is no real connection between the ‘phantom helicopters’ and the Berwyn Incident other than the circumstantial link made by Nick Redfern. During my research into the Berwyn Incident I discussed this in some depth with Nick Redfern and he still stands by his published link between the ‘phantom helicopter’ and the Berwyn Incident. But in correspondence he qualified his belief with ‘All I was really trying to do was get people thinking about what might have taken place - nothing more.’[]

                January 23rd 1974 was a strange night by anyone’s standards. In retrospect it was one of those evenings when nature was staging a son et lumiere display on a scale rarely seen. Witnesses in the villages surrounding the Berwyn Mountains reported seeing a great deal in of aerial phenomena that night. Besides the odd lights seen on the mountain itself their reports and those of the media describe at least four incandescent balls of light which streaked across the Welsh skies between 7.30 and 10.00pm that night. These sightings have been seized upon by ufologists with the implication being that what was seen were UFOs, at least one of which crashed or landed on Cader Berwyn. To the villagers of north Wales they were UFOs -literally Unidentified Flying Objects - and they described them in terms which make them sound highly unusual.

                One farmer described what he saw in these terms:

                ‘I saw this object coming along the mountain, about the size of a bus really, white in the middle, it came across the mountain and dipped. I thought it was going to crash.’[]

                A dramatic description which certainly sounds like a many UFO accounts. But there is a rational explanation for Farmer Williams’ sighting and all the other aerial phenomena seen that evening.

                Records kept by the Astronomy Department at Leicester University, among other places, show that a number of outstanding bolide meteors were  seen that night. These coincided with the approximate times given by witnesses in north Wales. The first was at 7.25pm, followed by another at 8.15pm. The third, at 8.30pm, co-incided with the centrepiece of the evening’s events. And yet another, the most dramatic of all, was seen at 9.55pm. Bolide meteors are considerable brighter and longer lived than ordinary ‘shooting stars’. They can appear to be very low, depending on the position of the witness, and often trail ‘sparks’ of blue and green across the sky. Bolide meteors are responsible for many misperceptions of UFOs and even fool the emergency services who are often called out to ‘plane crashes only to discover the witnesses had seen a bright bolide meteor.

                At exactly 8.38pm the Bala area was rocked by a huge explosion, closely followed by a deep rumbling. One witness recalled it as being ‘like a lorry running into a house’. Crockery rattled, furniture moved and walls rippled slightly. Some people were certain it was a plane crash on the mountains. Other, older residents of the area, recalled earth tremors of the past and assumed it was the latest in a series of such disturbances which have taken place along the geological rift know as the Bala Fault.

                This is the primary incident which has subsequently caused many UFO investigators, and the readers of their books and articles, to suggest and believe that a UFO crashed. In effect they are saying that the noise heard and impact felt was the UFO impacting on Cader Berwyn. The crashed UFO story however only came out years after the event. At the time confusion reigned as to what had caused the impact.

                Because of reports of lights in the sky that evening, it was initially thought that a meteorite had impacted on the Berwyns. Many people across North Wales claimed to have seen a light in the sky ‘trailing sparks’. But this was seen at 8.30pm, eight minutes before the explosion, and witness descriptions indicate that it was yet another bright fireball meteor. Nonetheless in the minds of many it has become conflated with the ‘explosion’ to create evidence of a crash.

                The explosion was heard only in the Bala area but the tremor was felt as far away as Liverpool. By 2pm on the 24th January seismologists had determined the explosion and tremor were caused by an earthquake of 4-5 on the Richter scale. It’s epicentre was the Bala area at a depth of eight kilometres. To cause a reading of that magnitude, a solid object - meteorite or UFO - would have weighed several hundred tons and left a massive crater. Therefore, unless a UFO had crashed at the exact moment of an earth tremor,  it can be safely assumed that the explosion and rumblings were the result of a purely natural process.

                Following the explosion Llandrillo district nurse Pat Evans ran out into the village street. She saw no lights but the explosion and the accounts of other villagers convinced her that something had crashed on the mountains. It took her a while to get through to the police as the ‘phone lines were jammed with 999 calls, but eventually she spoke to Colwyn Bay police HQ. They suggested it could have been a ‘plane crash so she bundled her two young daughters into the car and set off up the mountain, intending to offer help until the emergency services arrived.

                As Mrs Evans reached the point where the B4391 mountain road levels out she was puzzled by what appeared to be a large illuminated ball of light on the hillside. Unable to identify it was she drove on for a few minutes before returning to the same spot. The light was still there so she parked and observed it for a while. A light drizzle was falling but the night was otherwise clear and Mrs Evans was able to describe the ball as ‘large’, and forming a ‘perfect circle’. But it didn’t appear to be three dimensional. In an interview she recalled, ‘There were no flames shooting or anything like that. It was very uniform, round in shape...it was a flat round...’. As she watched in puzzlement the light changed colour several times from red to yellow to white. Smaller lights, ‘fairy lights’ in Mrs Evans’ words, could be seen nearby.  It was too far away to reach on foot and so she returned home to bed.[]

                Many ufologists who have written about the Berwyn Incident have claimed that Mrs Evans was turned back from the mountain by soldiers and police. This is untrue and arose from a misunderstanding when she was first interviewed by ufologists. Pat Evans is furious that she has been misrepresented in this way and stated unequivocally to me in 1998 that she saw ‘not a living soul’ on the mountain that night. More importantly a letter from her exists, pre-dating any  interview, noting that she saw no-one. This fact is significant because the misreporting of Mrs Evans’ experience has lent credence to claims that a crash retrieval team was on the mountain shortly after the explosion.

                  Nonetheless what the nurse saw on the slopes of Cader Berwyn was still crucial to any explanation of the case and I wanted further evidence untainted by time or ufologists. For that evidence I turned to records kept by the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh. The BGS records, untouched for twenty four years, revealed that within days of the explosion a team of investigators had been sent to the Bala area. This, incidentally, is almost certainly the source of rumours of ‘officials’ who came to the area, stayed in local hotels and questioned villagers closely about the event. That is exactly what the BGS field team did. A total of six interviewers came to the area and conducted door to door enquiries about the event. This is the procedure by which the BGS investigates earth tremors and earth quakes. These interviewers worked to a set questionnaire which asked questions such as ‘Were you at all alarmed or frightened?’, and ‘Did you hear any creaking noises?’. These and similar questions must have seemed quite odd to the locals especially when asked by a team of outsiders who just arrived from nowhere. Over two hundred witnesses were interviewed. Nurse Pat Evans was one of them.

                The BGS field notes were enlightening. Most ufologists have always assumed that Pat Evans must have been on the mountain almost immediately after the explosion. They use this assumption to argue that the lights she saw surrounding the anomalous red lights she saw must have been from a pre-alerted crash retrieval team as no-one else could have got on the mountain so quickly after the ‘crash’.

                But the BGS records from her 1974 interview are very specific about time and say she, ‘left house during ‘Till Death’....’. I took ‘Till Death’ to be a reference to the popular TV sit-com ‘Til Death Us Do Part and checked the TV schedules. Sure enough, ‘Til Death Us Do Part had started at 9.30pm that night. ‘Til Death.... was the only post-8.30pm sit-com that evening. Knowing that the Evans’ left the house after 9.30pm means she would have observed the anomalous light sometime after 9.40pm, an hour later than previously thought. That hour’s difference is crucial.

                Meanwhile, 14 year old farmer’s son Huw Thomas was also watching TV that night. At about 9.20pm he answered the door to find several policemen in the farm yard. They wanted to commandeer the farm Landrover, saying a ‘plane had crashed up on the mountain. Thomas’ parents were out so, with his neighbour Enoch driving, they set off up a track leading to the mountain, other police following in a car. As they neared the mountain-gate they had to waste valuable time moving a car which blocked the road. Huw Thomas recognised the car as belonging to local poachers.  Once through the mountain gate several policemen spread out on foot with torches, whilst the Landrover and police car drove slowly up the track.[]

                The time it took Huw Thomas to speak to the police, load the landrover, drive up to the mountain and move a car from the road would place the police search team on the lower slopes of Cader Berwyn at about 9.40pm.

                The BGS also interviewed one of the poachers whose car Huw Thomas had moved. This interview confirmed their time and position and states that the poachers ‘carried on work for 45 minutes (after the explosion) and were almost back at the car when met party (police etc) coming up.’[] Huw Thomas, now a farmer in his own right, confirmed this meeting in a 1998 interview.[]

                That the search party comprising of police and farmers met the poachers as they went up the mountain is further backed up by other BGS materials. Besides interviews the BGS records also contained an Ordnance Survey map on which important witness locations and sightings of lights were plotted. This map was a revelation. It showed the anomalous light seen by the nurse, the location of the poachers and the police search party to be all in the same small area of hillside. And as already noted the times given to the BGS by all three parties place them there at the same time.

                The logic and conclusion is inescapable. Neither Huw Thomas nor the police saw the light seen by the nurse. Conversely the nurse did see the police, though she didn’t realise it at the time. The drawing on her BGS notes clearly shows and describes ‘vehicles’ and ‘torch lights’. This was the search party. Between them, very close to both, is the anomalous light source. Whatever she was seeing must have been visible to the search team and the poachers. So either the farmer and police lied about what they saw to the BGS in 1974 and myself in 1998, or it wasn’t noteworthy at the time.

                But what was it? Well, there is one possibility which would account for it. The BGS notes also confirmed the poachers were using powerful lamps made from car spotlamps powered by car batteries. Pat Evans recalls the weather was clear but drizzling. Lights seen in those conditions can appear to change colour and size by refraction and to ‘glow’. As for the size, which she described as larger than vehicle lights, this may be a perceptual trick. Remember that Nurse Evans was looking across a dark mountainside with no visual points of reference and expecting to see a ‘plane crash or some other scene of devastation. On the evidence available it is certain that the nurse saw the poachers with their lamping lights at the point they met and talked to the police.

                Some ufologists claim that although bolide meteors were seen throughout the evening, the beams of light seen on the mountain immediately after the explosion were not astronomical in origin and were connected to the UFO crash. Several of the BGS notes refer to people seeing these beams ‘on the brow’ of the hill, ’sometimes on and sometimes off but always vertically into sky’. Another witness saw one beam ‘processing about the vertical’. These accounts were puzzling until I looked closely at the locations of the witnesses.

                All the witnesses who reported seeing these ‘light beams’ were in the village of Llandrillo at the time. The land rises sharply to the south and to an observer in the village the ‘brow of the hill’ is not the summit ridge of the Berwyns (actually over three miles away), but the plateau area around the 548m point. The exact area in fact where the poachers with lamps were. The BGS records note the poachers, ‘continued work for half an hour to forty five minutes’ after the 8.38pm earth tremor, and it was early in this time period the beams were seen. Some villagers were convinced that poachers lamps couldn’t be responsible for the beams, others not so sure. One witness told the BGS he had seen the poacher’s lights on previous occasions and they were exactly the same as the beams seen that night.

                This theory may appear to be debunking or to be twisting the facts to fit a theory. But we must use logic and probability in solving any case and the facts are that poachers with powerful lamps were in the exact area where the beams of light were seen. When questioned by the police the poachers claimed their lamps were not responsible, that they had kept them trained on the ground. Yet they also said they had not seen anything unusual. It’s reasonable to suggest that as the poachers and their bright lamps were in the same location as the beams of light seen from Llandrillo, it was their lights people were seeing and misperceiving. Perhaps because of excitement caused by the earth tremor, perhaps because of belief in a crash of some kind.

                The poachers had very good reason for not wishing to own up to causing bright beams of light in the sky as it was reports of ‘light beams’ which partially led the police to believe an aircraft had crashed. However there were a very small number of genuinely unexplained lights seen that evening. One witness opened her curtains immediately after the tremor to see a ‘big bright glow in the sky over the brow of the hill’. Another saw a ‘glow several times brighter than the sun’ to the south east which ‘came and went’. Maria Williams of Llandrillo saw this white glow at the same time as the poacher’s lights. Some scientists have suggested this short-lived white glow was caused as a result of the huge tectonic stresses involved in the earth-tremor. An earthlight. But witnesses to this were few. And as it was seen at the same time as a bright meteor and the poacher’s lights, it may well be yet another misperception. Indeed one witness described the ‘glow’ as ‘twinkling....like a streetlamp seen through heavy rain’, just how a bright lamp would appear.

                Claims by ufologists that a military presence was on the scene immediately following the 8.38pm explosion and in subsequent days also bear close examination. As we’ve already seen nurse Pat Evans, by her own admission, was not stopped by soldiers or police and saw no-one out on the mountain roads. She set off at 7.00am for work the following day and saw nothing unusual in the village. So how did stories of a massive police and military presence arise? To understand that we need to return again to the official records.

                Following the 8.38pm earth tremor the police opened a Major Incident Log. This log shows that the police initially thought a ‘plane had crashed and Fire and Ambulance services were put on stand-by. At 9.09pm the police contacted RAF Valley Mountain Rescue Team (VMRT) based at Valley on Anglesey some seventy five miles away. A three man team left Valley at 9.20pm and, arrived at Llandrillo at 00.10am.  The VMRT log lists the incident as ‘Unidentified lights and noise on hillside’ and comments, ‘VMRT requested to investigate lights and noise on hillside. Advance party covered relevant area with negative results. Incident produced much local excitement.’ The fact that VMRT only deemed it necessary to send a three man team argues strongly against the event being of any significance. On their arrival in Llandrillo the mountain rescue team consulted with local police who suggested they wait until morning before initiating a search.

                At 7.00am on 24th January VMRT, together with local police, searched the mountains. They found nothing and abandoned the search at 2.15pm, possibly following official notification that the ‘explosion’ had been caused by an earth tremor. Neither the police or VMRT logs mention any military involvement other than the RAF Mountain Rescue Team. Farmer’s son Huw Thomas was again out on the Berwyns that day, acting as guide for Ron Madison, a scientist who was working on the theory that a meteorite may have impacted. Madison and Thomas recall seeing no-one else on the mountain other than the police and VMRT. The intense media interest however led to various helicopters flying over the area throughout the week and Ron Madison used his contacts at RAF Valley to overfly the area in a plane to take a series of photographs.[]

                But this low level of official activity wouldn’t account for reports of closed and guarded roads, the military presence, or for the aircraft and twin engined ‘copters seen overhead. Looking at the paper trail, none of the police, Mountain Rescue Team or British Geological Survey documents from 1974 mention this alleged military activity. In fact the only contemporary record of a military presence comes from the article in the Border Counties Advertiser which is the source of rumours of bodies being brought off the mountain. In looking for an explanation to this component of the story there are two crucial factors.

                Firstly, none of the Berwyn Mountain Incident witnesses were formally interviewed by ufologists until at least twenty years after the event. And secondly there had been at least one other event in the locality which contained all those elements. On 12th February 1982 an RAF Harrier jet carrying top-secret equipment crashed on Cader Berwyn. The RAF descended on the area in force, using Gazelle and Wessex helicopters, together with Harrier and Hercules planes, in the search. The tiny village of Llandrillo was the centre for this activity and was alive with RAF trucks and personnel for several days. The crash site was sealed off and guarded until the wreckage could be removed. Additionally there was another crash of a military ‘plane, also carrying top secret equipment on the same mountain in 1972, two years before the alleged UFO crash. Again the area was sealed of with a large military presence. It is almost certain that these incidents, at the same time of year on the same mountain, were conflated with the 1974 events.

                But, the believers in the crash of a genuine alien crash say, what about the military informants who came out of the woodwork in 1996 claiming intimate knowledge of and participation in the crash retrieval. Initially this strand of the story seemed promising. After all when ex-military men are speaking out surely there must be something in their story?

                However these ‘military informants’ who contacted researchers Nick Redfern, Margaret Fry and Tony Dodd did so only after the story had been in a 1996 issue of UFO Magazine. They fuelled the controversy surrounding the story, offering much speculation but no verifiable fact. Redfern has recently told me that his informant’s telephone number is ‘dead’, whilst Dodd refuses to expand on the identity or veracity of his contact. A close reading of Dodd’s account throws up more questions than answers. If the military had obtained aliens, alive or dead, would they really ferry them by truck? Surely a helicopter would have been the fastest, most efficient and secret form of transport.  Porton Down, the research establishment to which they were taken would hardly compromise security or  contamination by opening the boxes in the presence of what were essentially the ‘delivery boys’. Until these ufologists can back their claims up with some substantial proof they remain unsubstantiated anecdotes, interesting but inconsequential to the solution of the case.

                These ‘revelations’ came also at a time when several UK ufologists were being contacted by alleged ‘military sources’ offering secret UFO-related information, none of which amounted to anything tangible. Researcher Kevin McClure suggested that this was a well organised hoax, basing his suppositions on the number of contacts made within a short time-span and the absolute absence of hard proof.[] APEN, the organisation which circulated pseudo-official documents following the Berwyn Incident are widely regarded by most serious ufologists to have been a hoax perpetrated by ufologists on ufologists. This sort of hoax is not new to the UFO community, the most famous of the hoaxed documents being the MJ-12 papers which fooled ufologists for over a decade.

                Despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary, Jenny Randles is not convinced that the Berwyn Incident is completely solved. She cites the alleged anomalous radiation readings and the rumour of a leukaemia cluster as possible evidence that the incident may have involved a military accident involving perhaps a radioactive missile. Yet there are problems with Jenny’s interpretation. The radiation readings taken at the Moel ty Uchaf circle in 1974 were a one-off. To have any scientific relevance at all a series of geiger counter readings prior and subsequent to the 1974 event would be required.  As for the alleged leukaemia cluster there is no evidence to support this. Enquiries at the records of the National Radiological Protection Board, Greenpeace, a former radiation monitor at the Trawsfynnyd Nuclear Power Station and the archives of local papers did not reveal so much as a hint of a leukaemia cluster. 

                That’s where the Berwyn case stands in 1999. There are still a few loose ends and uncertainties; the symmetry of any UFO case is rarely complete, especially when it is not properly investigated for twenty five years. But I think the account I have given is the best, dare I say it, ‘explanation’ for the disparate events which coalesced into the Berwyn Mountain UFO Crash.  Of course, there are those who still to believe a UFO crashed and continue to insist that documents have been falsified, that witnesses have been misquoted and so on. That’s their prerogative and understandable in light of the complexities of the case and the power of belief in the extraterrestrial hypothesis.

                My conclusions are based not on belief however but on the ‘paper trail’ left by police, RAF, VMRT and the BGS, and the pattern which has emerged from studying those sources is largely consistent with witness reports. So until some hard, consistent evidence is produced I think the notion that an alien spacecraft crashed in the Berwyn mountains is redundant.

                It’s hard to believe that a concatenation of prolific meteor activity, an earth tremor and poaching activity could lead to the conclusion that a UFO had crashed. It did, and sometimes - often - the truth about a UFO case is far stranger than any fiction. Although I’ve been investigating mysteries for twenty years every case teaches something new or reinforces some basic principle. The Berwyn Mountain case taught me (again!) never to trust material originated by ufologists, but to always go back to source documents and witnesses, and try to reconcile the two. It also taught me (again!) about the flaws of perception and of the care needed in interpreting witness statements. However certain a witness may seem memory often combines disparate events and speculation into a convincing reality.

                The indefatigable researcher and inspiration behind Fortean Times magazine, Charles Fort, had much to say about the connections - or non-connections - between earth tremors and meteorites.[] And it may be that  there are other, deeper factors at work in the Berwyn Incident. Perhaps earth tremors and bolide meteors are in some way connected by mechanisms at present outside our understanding. Or perhaps extraterrestrials have learned how to enter Earth’s atmosphere under cover of meteor showers, even disguised as meteors. The adventurous believer may even wish to accept that aliens may even have prescience of earth tremors and be able to effect a landing at exactly the same time. In lieu of hard facts the speculative possibilities are as endless as they are futile. On the other hand it could all be a gigantic cosmic coincidence, a tangle of belief and wishful thinking from which ufologists have spun yet another saga in the continuing extraterrestrial mythos.

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