Date: Sat, 01 Oct 2005
Animal Reaction Feature:
On a clear night at about 9:50 p.m., four boys camping out in an unfinished chicken coop saw a bright light with a fiery aspect. The light was erratically descending toward an open field in a falling leaf pattern. It then leveled out and rapidly approached. Their cat “took off like a bullet” as the object approached.
The object passed an estimated 150 feet directly overhead with a loud grinding, buzzing sound, and the boys saw it was not a helicopter or conventional aircraft. A dog slept undisturbed in the chicken coop.
As the object approached, one of the boys pointed a flashlight at it. The object appeared to slow when the light was turned toward it. As it passed overhead the boys saw a top-like or truncated upright egg shape with what looked like small arcs of cables on the top side, a bright white light on the leading side, which lit up the coop and the surrounding area, and a flashing red light (similar red to a heat lamp) on the trailing edge. A 10-foot fiery exhaust constantly changed colors as it poured from the underside. The object moved with its leading side tilted at a 45° angle forward. Four legs with pads projected downward. The object’s size was estimated as 1-2 car lengths long.
The boys bolted for the nearby house, and the parents of two of them saw the lights of a slow-moving object flying away low over a swamp. These adults, plus others, described a strange sound like a jet but different. One neighbor woman who looked out her window when she heard a loud noise that sounded like a jet but suddenly went from a loud roar to nothing. She did not see anything.
No EM effects or physiological effects were reported.
Fowler, Raymond E., 1974, UFOs: Interplanetary Visitors, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice Hall, pages 185-194, sketch p. 207, appendix summary p. 358 [Copied below]:
The Chicken Coop Caper
Another interesting low-altitude UFO sighting took place just a year later at Canterbury, New Hampshire. (14) On the evening of Sunday, May 14, 1972, I received a phone call from John Oswald. He, in turn, had just received a call from a contact employed at the Air Force-sponsored Satellite Tracking Station at New Boston, New Hampshire. He gave John the name and telephone number of a Mr. James Lilley, who had just reported a UFO sighting to the station. John told me that he had already conducted an initial telephone interview with the witnesses and related the following account to me.
Mr. James Lilley of Canterbury, New Hampshire, told John that shortly after 9:30 P.M. on May 13, he had accompanied his two sons and two friends to a partially constructed chicken coop where they were going to camp out. He had left them for only ten minutes, when they ran up from the field and burst into the house like scared rabbits! They claimed that a strange-shaped buzzing object with fiery exhaust had flown over the open chicken coop and shined a light on them. Mr. and Mrs. Lilley left their TV program and hurried outside to look. Flying away from them in the distance, low over a swamp, was a lighted object. It made a sound similar to but not exactly like a jet. Thinking it must have been a helicopter, he told the boys to go back down to the coop and go to sleep. They refused to go and insisted that it had not been a helicopter. Taking the two oldest boys aside, Mr. Lilley asked them to draw separate and independent drawings of the object. To his surprise, both sketches were consistent and showed a very unconventional looking craft! This fact, coupled with the unfamiliar noise and lights that he and his wife had seen, prompted him to phone the Air Force Tracking Station to report it.
On Monday, I phoned the Canterbury Police to see if anyone else had reported a UFO on May 13. No one had, but Police Chief Harold Streeter gave Mr. Lilley an excellent character rating as both a good citizen and friend. Tuesday brought a letter from John Oswald stating that Mr. Lilley had sent him photostats of the boys’ initial sketches. On Friday, I phoned Mrs. Lilley to find out if her sons had access to or an interest in UFOs. She stated that none of the boys involved had shown any prior interest in the subject. She said that she would be agreeable to a NICAP investigation if her husband approved.
On Saturday, I drove up to see John to take a look at his notes and the boys’ sketches. By Monday, I decided to conduct a detailed investigation and set up an appointment with the Lilleys for Wednesday evening. I then phoned the Air Force Tracking Station on Tuesday to see if any anomalous radar targets had appeared on their screens during the sighting period. The crew that had been on duty on that date were not available and I was asked to call back later. A call to the FAA Air Traffic Control Center initiated a check of the radar operators’ logs for the sighting time and place. Again, I was asked to call back later for the desired information.
On Wednesday, I contacted the FAA Control Tower at the Manchester, New Hampshire, airport. I wanted to check on possible helicopter flights that might have instigated the Canterbury UFO report. I was told that there were no helicopters at the Manchester airport but that fifteen National Guard helicopters were located at the Concord, New Hampshire, airport and that they flew regularly over the Canterbury area! At this point, I could envision canelling my appointment to interview the witnesses. A military helicopter combined with some imaginative youngsters seemed to provide an easy answer. To be quite truthful, I wasn’t too keen on driving eighty miles to Canterbury on a wild-goose chase after a day of work. Nevertheless, I phoned the FAA Flight Service at Concord Airport to check out the whereabouts of these military helicopters during the sighting time frame.
To my surprise, the Flight Service informed me that their logs showed no aircraft in the Canterbury area at that time. Their logs indicated that the last two National Guard helicopters had landed between five and six o’clock on that evening, four hours prior to the reported UFO sighting! I decided to double-check their records and put in a call to the National Guard. They confirmed what the Flight Service had told me. The FAA had also informed me that the only other helicopter that flew over that area on occasion originated out of Wiggans Airways, Norwood, Massachusetts. It would operate out of Concord Airport to perform a periodic check of power liens in the area. But, the FAA official told me, it had not been in the area for a long time. A personal call to Wiggans Airways confirmed this. The official did tell me of another possibility. He said that an Air Force search mission had been conducted for a lost private plane earlier in the month. This had consisted of a series of low-level flights by C-130 Hercules aircraft across Canterbury and other area of New Hampshire. The downed plane was reported missing on May 2. He said that he doubted the search was still going on as late as May 13 but that it was worth looking into. I agreed and made a note to check this possibility out before leaving work and heading north up Route 93 to Canterbury.
I arrived within town limits at about 5:30 P.M. and parked just off the road beside some power lines to eat a typical flying saucer investigator’s supper—dry sandwiches! While munching away and glancing up the road, I saw a man staring at me from the porch of a distant house. Soon he began walking down the country road toward me. Then, one of the coincidences I encounter so many times during investigations occurred again.
“Hi!” he said, “Are you in trouble? Saw your car off the road and wondered if you need any help.”
“No, just eating my supper,” I replied. “You might be able to help me out on something else, though. I’m going to be visiting a Mr. James Lilley. According to his directions, I can’t be too far away from his home.”
The man looked very surprised. “Why, Jim Lilley works for me!” he said. “I’m Arthur Stavros.”
We shook hands and I introduced myself.
“You must be the fellow who is interested in the flying object,” he said.
“Yes, that’s me. What do you know about it?”
“Well, only what Jim told me at work last week. Strangely enough, I saw a bright red light flying north right over these power lines earlier on that same night from my backyard down there. I thought it must have been a helicopter and never gave it a second thought until Jim told me what was seen up at his place. His house is just a few miles from here.”
Before he returned home, I asked him what he thought about Jim Lilley.
“Well, he’s honest and hard-working. Not the type to create a hoax.”
I thanked him, gulped down the rest of some cold coffee, and drove to the Lilley home, which was located on “Sno-Shoe Hill.”
I arrived there to find the Lilley family, their sons’ two friends, and the local school science teacher waiting for me. I felt that my first step was to get the four boys away from the adults and down to the now completed chicken coop where the object was initially observed. We went down to the coop. After a detailed cross-examination, I took compass readings and some photographs of the area before returning to the house to interview the boys’ parents. The boys’ story is as follows.
It was about 9:30 P.M. when Jim Lilley said goodnight to his sons (Jimmy and Scott) and their two friends, Tommy and Peter. Their sleeping bags were spread on the floor of the nearly completed chicken coop located beside the barn. The coop was still without one wall, and this particular side opened onto a very large field facing the west. According to the U.S. Weather Service, the skies were clear and visibility was unlimited. Just before their father left, they asked him what the bright star was that was setting in the west. He didn’t know, so they called it the “North Star”! In actuality, it was the planet Venus.
About a quarter of an hour later, Scott, who was still looking out at the so-called North Star shouted to the others, “Hey, there are two North Stars out there and one’s on fire and coming this way!”
The older boys sat up and saw a very bright light source erratically descending toward the open field “like a falling floating balloon” from the WSW. They all jumped up and went outside onto the grass. The object had leveled out and was rapidly approaching them. Jimmy, who had taken his father’s large flashlight out with them, turned it on and pointed it at what they thought was an oncoming helicopter. (Jimmy’s father had once flashed a light at a military helicopter and it had responded to coming overhead with hits landing lights on.) The object abruptly slowed when the flashlight was turned on. A loud grinding, buzzing sound filled the air as the lighted object passed directly over the boys’ heads. It was just in these last few seconds that they saw the object was neither helicopter nor conventional aircraft. Shocked by what they saw, four very terrified young boys made a beeline for the Lilley house!
The boys described the object as a decahedron or perhaps toplike in shape. It was flying with its forward moving side tilted ahead at a forty-five degree angle. It had four pipelike legs with round pads affixed to their ends. A bright white light on its forward moving side lit up the coop and the surrounding area. A flashing red light (“like the color of a heat lamp in the coop”) was noted on the object’s trailing side. A fiery ten-foot exhaust poured down from the object’s underside, which alternately changed colors as if they were switched from one to another. All the boys caught a fleeting glance at a number of silver U-shaped cablelike things sticking into and around the top of the object. Tommy thought he saw some boxlike protrusions attached to the object’s sides.
The strange buzzing craft appeared to have passed at only 150 feet above their heads. Its real size was estimated to have been one-to-two car lengths long and high. A dog slept undisturbed in the coop, but their cat “took off like a bullet” as the object bore down on them.
Mr. and Mrs. Lilley were watching television when the four boys came tumbling through the front door yelling about a strange object outside. The Lilleys went outside and were just in time to see the lights on a slow moving object moving away from them low over a swamp across the road from their house. An unfamiliar sound somewhat like a jet but different came from the direction of the receding object.
A house-to-house check in the area revealed others who saw or heard the object. Marilyn_______, who lives nearby, told me that around nine o’clock on that night, she heard a very loud sound “like a jet” and opened her bathroom window to see what it was. She saw nothing but said that the noise was unusual. “It suddenly died from a loud roar to nothing. It didn’t gradually fade away as jet aircraft usually do.”
During the same time frame, Peter and Tommy’s grandparents, also neighbors heard “a loud roar like a low-flying, throttled-back jet bomber.” The grandfather quickly stepped outside to see what it was. He observed a bright moving light shining downwards. The old gentleman told me that he was skeptical about his grandsons’ description of the object and that it had probably just been a jet bomber with lights shining down through an open bomb bay.
Another resident, Mr. Alfred_____, told me that he had seen strange lights between the power lines and the Lilleys’ home during that week but could not remember if it had been on the same date. Other than Arthur Stavros’s earlier sighting of a red light over nearby power lines, I could find only one more group who saw strange lights in the area around the same time as the principal sighting. Two ladies reported seeing a “strange horizontal set of little square white lights” from the Sky High Drive-In Theater at nearby Boscowen.
THE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
During the course of my investigation, I contacted the Air Force Public Information Officers at both Hanscom Field and Pease Air Froce Base to ascertain whether any low-level military flights could have provided the stimuli for the reports. They checked and phoned back. The last low-level mission in the Canterbury area had been performed by an Air Search and Rescue unit stationed at Pease Air Force Base on May 2. It had been in connection with an air search for the downed private plane mentioned previously by the FAA.
Later, the FAA Control Center at Nashua, New Hampshire, phoned back to tell me that their radar did not cover the Canterbury area. They did add that nothing unusual was noted in those sectors of New Hampshire covered by radar. Having gone as far as I could, regarding the presence of conventional aircraft in the area that night, I decided to check out the character of the boys through their schoolteachers and minister.
One of the boys’ teachers told me that Jimmy and Tommy told her about the incident when they returned to school on the Monday after the sighting. She said that she gave them a good cross-examination and was personally convinced that the boys were accurately describing what they had observed. She added that both boys had scored high on special “observe and report” tests that she administers from time to time. In her estimation, both boys were top students and not the type to fabricate or exaggerate such a story.
The pastor of the local church said much the same thing. He told me that he had overheard Jim Lilley talking about the incident after the Sunday morning service. This was just a day after the sighting. He was most curious and decided to pay a visit to the Lilley family on that very afternoon. After talking with the boys, he too was convinced that they were telling the truth. He told me that he found no evidence of a hoax. The pastor had been the first to personally interview the Lilley family.
THE “CANTERBURY TALES” ANALYZED
After analyzing this sighting thoroughly, I found myself in agreement with the schoolteacher and pastor. Evidence seemed to be in the boys’ favor that something strange was indeed observed. My checks with civil, FAA, and Air Force authorities seemed to preclude any conventional aircraft flying low over this rural area. Also, the boys were very familiar with the sight and sound of the National Guard helicopters that flew regularly over their neighborhood. Several minutes before the sighting, they had seen and recognized a high-flying commercial airliner. The reported shape, sound, exhaust, padded legs, maneuvers, and very low altitude of the strange object would imply the grossest of misinterpretations. I found such a possibility hard to accept under the overall circumstances. The only bright astronomical object in the sky was the planet Venus. However, the witnesses had both Venus and the object in sight at the same time. The description and movements ruled out astronomical phenomena. A research balloon was also ruled out for the same reasons, as well as the fact that its movement was incompatible with wind direction. A hoax seemed highly improbable in light of the good character references obtained on the witnesses and the fact that there were supporting witnesses. Visibility was unlimited and allowed for excellent seeing conditions. The sideways zigzag descent or falling-leaf motion is a consistent flight characteristic of UFOs. The boys, not well-read on the UFO subject, described this maneuver in such a way that it obviously did not presuppose prior knowledge of this peculiar characteristic.
It is highly probable that Marilyn______ heard the object as it transited the fringe of the neighborhood. Likewise, the flight path and description of the object seen at a distance by Peter and Tommy’s grandfather appears to fit that of the same object seen at close range by the boys. The sudden cutoff of engine noise reported by Marilyn and the inability of the grandfather and the Lilleys to differentiate the sound as being either a jet or prop-driven aircraft adds to the strangeness of the event. It is interesting to note that both Marilyn and the grandfather were familiar with normal aircraft but that both immediately tried to see what was causing the noise. Marilyn had opened a window to look out and the grandfather had rushed outside to investigate. The strange lights seen over the area by Arthur Stavros and Mr. Alfred_______ add to the intrigue.
What would be flying low over the area that night? The falling-leaf descent over the field was unconventional and certainly could not be duplicated by any known aircraft. On the other hand, the description of the reported object did not fit the typical oval or cylindrical UFOs usually reported. It is possible that in actuality the object was shaped like a top or upright egg. These configurations have been reported in the past. My evaluation of the Canterbury sighting placed it in the “unknown” category. Again, I had noticed a familiar and recurring pattern: 115-kilovolt power lines ran parallel to the chicken coop about three thousand feet to the west of the observers. Another set of 230-kilovolt power lines lay parallel to those, about four miles to the west. The object descended in the vicinity of the power lines!
(14) Personal Files, UFO Report No. 72-5.
Summary in Appendix I, page 358, for case 72-5:
A decahedron or top-shaped object issuing a 10-foot colored vertical exhaust and carrying a yellowish and a red-orange light descended with a falling-leaf motion to tree-top level and disappeared behind trees in a large swamp.
Page 207 (Figure 4D) sketch by witnesses of 72-5 object.