For many years UFO believers have been the subject of mockery and ridicule but this is starting to change. In recent years several high-profile military leaders and politicians have come out and admitted that world powers like the US have been tracking and documenting UFO encounters for decades.
Once the realm only of conspiracy theorists we can now perhaps seriously look at famous UFO sightings from throughout history and ask the question: what really happened? Take for example the Ariel UFO incident outside of Ruwa, Zimbabwe.
The Ariel UFO Incident
The Ariel school is located in Ruwa, a small agricultural area located 22km (13.6 miles) from the capital city of Zimbabwe, Harare. Made famous by the UFO incident, at the time Ruwa wasn’t even really a town, just a local place name associated with farming.
Ariel was an expensive private school. The majority of its children in attendance at the time were from wealthy, middle-class white families who lived in Harare. In the lead-up to the Ariel UFO incident, there had been a series of other UFO sightings across the south of the African continent.
The Ariel UFO Incident occurred on September 16th, 1994. While the adult faculty were inside suffering through their morning meeting the pupils were outside enjoying their mid-morning break.
When the children returned to the classroom they had an amazing tale ready for their teachers. And when they got home the children then passed on their story to their parents.
The next day many of these parents went to the school themselves to find out just what on earth had actually happened the day before. Soon the story was also over the popular ZBC radio. Soon after that foreign journalists and UFO experts began descending on the school.
What Did the Children Claim to Have Seen?
The first reporter on the scene was the BBC’s Tim Leach who visited the school three days later on September 19th. He was shaken enough by what he had heard during his interviews to state, “I could handle war zones, but I could not handle this”.
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Leach was followed by Cynthia Hind (a local UFO researcher) the following day. She interviewed the children and asked them to draw what they had seen. Two months later John Mack, a Harvard University Professor of psychiatry visited the school and carried out yet more interviews.
The interviews made by the three professionals tell a startlingly similar story. 62 students said that, while playing outside, they had seen at least one UFO. They described having seen silver objects, normally described as discs, appearing in the sky. At least one of these discs supposedly floated down and landed in a field just outside the school boundary.
Between one and four big-eyed creatures dressed in black then disembarked the UFO and approached the children. Some of the children admitted to running away at this point but the older children stayed and watched the creatures approach.
Here versions of the story differ. In Professor Mack’s version, the aliens telepathically communicated with the children. It was claimed the aliens communicated an ecological warning to the students that humans must stop polluting the planet or the world would end. Hind later adopted Mack’s claims and added them to later versions of her own interpretation.
Was the Ariel UFO Incident Real?
Of course, the question is, what did the children actually see? Ufologists have claimed that the Ariel incident is one of the most significant UFO sightings in modern history. Skeptics have taken one look at the incident and put it down to being yet another hoax.
Hind believes that an important factor that lends the incident credence is that the children did not universally agree. Many of the children believed they had seen something but did not believe the creatures to have been alien in origin. The students were from diverse backgrounds with different beliefs.
Some students turned to local folklore to explain what they saw, believing the creatures were “Zvikwambo” (human spirits raised by magic) or “tokoloshe” (evil goblin creatures from Shona and Ndebele folklore). Since the students reported seeing similar events but interpreted them differently Hind came to the conclusion that the witness statements must be reliable.
Furthermore, Hind felt that due to their rural upbringing the children were likely unfamiliar with the idea of UFOs in pop culture. She stated in an interview that many of the children lived in the country and didn’t get to see Hollywood alien films or tv shows. As such, she felt their testimony was reliable as their imaginations hadn’t been tainted by UFO pop culture, as evidenced by their varied interpretations.
The problem with Hind’s interpretation is that the children were likely very familiar with the idea of UFOs. Africa was gripped by UFO mania at the time as there had been a series of high-profile UFO sightings across southern Africa leading up to the Ariel incident. UFOs were all over the news.
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The children themselves were also from wealthy families and had access to all the modern conveniences that come with wealth. They had not lived a sheltered existence away from modern media. Hind also interviewed the children in groups, making the cross-contamination of their stories more likely.
Mack’s results were even more problematic. He had visited the children several weeks after the incident. This gave the children time to corroborate their stories. It also gave their imaginations time to consolidate their stories, ironing out any wrinkles.
Mack also had somewhat of a reputation for leading his witnesses. In particular, it is believed that Mack may have “fed” the children the idea that the creatures had communicated with them telepathically.
There is also the issue that while 62 children claimed to have seen something, dozens more claimed to have seen nothing strange. Why is it that only some of the children experienced the incident? If it was only one or two children who missed it we could put it down to perhaps a mental block due to trauma. But dozens?
Lastly, we have the fact that despite the children having had weeks to consolidate their stories, and the fact that they were interviewed in groups the stories still vary greatly. Some saw one UFO, saw some several. Some saw one creature, and some saw four. Surely they should have all seen the same thing? It’s a big difference between seeing one alien and seeing four after all.
A Sighting or a Hoax?
At the end of the day, people will continue to make their own conclusions in regard to the Ariel UFO incident. Ufologists will keep finding reasons to believe in it and skeptics will keep picking holes in the testaments of children.
While the evidence may point to it being a hoax or a case of mass hysteria, remember that skeptics always fall back on these two excuses. They state the incident was likely a case of mass hysteria, but give very little evidence for why they think so. Likewise, they state the inconsistencies in the children’s stories show it was a hoax or prank that got out of hand.
But memory is fluid, not fixed. Our memories of events change over time. It is why finding a reliable witness to crimes is often so difficult. People misinterpret and misremember things, especially traumatic events.
To this day many of the children present at the time maintain that their stories are true. They believe they saw something that day, and no amount of skepticism will change their minds. Maybe the Ariel UFO incident happened. Maybe it didn’t. Whatever the case, it never hurts to keep an open mind. Who are we to call these young men and women liars?
Top Image: 62 children at the Ariel school claimed they saw a UFO. Source: Joeprachatree / Adobe Stock.