UFOs IN CANADA, 1998
- UFOs IN CANADA, 1998
BY MARK RODEGHIER
Mark Rodeghier, Ph.D., is scientific director of the J. Allen Hynek Center
for UFO Studies in Chicago.This article appears in the Summar 1999 issue of
the International UFO Reporter.
Understanding where and when UFO sightings occur is one of the core
activities for UFO investigators and organizations. Without that knowledge,
it is difficult to believe we will ever make any advance in our
understanding of the UFO phenomenon.
Although the importance of gathering statistics on the number and type of
reports is considered important, doing so has been honored more often in
word than in deed. There are no complete yearly statistics for the United
States because there is no central authority who can get the necessary
cooperation from the diverse groups and investigators to create a
comprehensive database. Peter Davenport�s National IJFO Reporting Center in
Washington state has become widely recognized as a reliable place to report
sightings, but Davenport doesn�t yet receive a majority of reports.
In other countries, though, the situation is not so discouraging, often
because there are fewer investigators or groups, so a better chance that the
report statistics can be gathered into one central location. Even so, only a
well-respected investigator can obtain the cooperation of colleagues and
convince them to send their reports in for compilation in a database.
Fortunately, Canada has Chris Rutkowski, a dedicated and longtime UFO
investigator from Winnipeg, who has taken on this task for the past 10
He has gathered reports from UFO organizations throughout Canada each year
since 1989, and just recently published the results for 1998 on the Internet
(www. geocities.com/Area5 I /Rampart/2653/). In this article, I summarize
the sighting data for 1998, compare it to earlier years, and list a few of
the best Canadian sightings in 1998.
COLLECTING CANADIAN UFO DATA
To provide some understanding of the vagaries of UFO report collection and
the limitations on the data, I quote at length from the introduction to
Many individuals, associations, clubs and groups claim to investigate UFO
reports or otherwise solicit reports from the general public. However, very
few of them actually participate in any kind of information sharing or data
gathering for scientific programs. Many are only interest groups, perhaps
based in museums, planetariums, church basements or members� homes, and do
virtually nothing with the case reports they receive. Indeed, because there
is no way to enforce standards in UFO report investigations, the quality of
case investigations varies considerably.
Further complicating this problem was the cessation of the collection of UFO
reports by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). The NRC routinely
received UFO reports from private citizens and from RCMP, civic police and
military personnel. Included among the NRC reports were many observations of
meteors and fireballs, and these had been added into the UFO report database
since 1989. However, in 1995. due to budget restraint and the lack of
continuing research in meteoritics at the NRC as a result of retirements,
deaths and other staff changes, the NRC announced it would no longer be
accepting UFO reports as a matter of course. In addition, RCMP reports of
UFOs and fireballs to the NRC summarily ceased.
As a consequence of these factors, what has been adopted for this present
study is a requirement for an "official" status regarding UFO reports. If
UFO sightings are reported to groups or individuals who do not share their
case data with serious researchers, those sightings are effectively lost to
scientific analyses. The reports may accumulate in impressive numbers
claimed by some organizations, but without the data being available for
study, they are of no value whatsoever.
Therefore, for the purposes of this and other scientific studies of UFO
data, only those UFO sightings which have been made to contributing and
participating groups, associations, organizations or individuals can be
given any kind of official status. Cases reported to any other group,
association, club or individual cannot be considered officially reported.
These factors made collection of Canadian UFO data rather challenging.
Certainly, because of the changes in the way in which reports have been
received, the results of the 1997 survey cannot be compared easily with
earlier annual analyses. However, it will be shown that the data obtained
for the present analysis yields similar results to previous studies and is
still useful in understanding the nature of UFO reports in Canada, and can
shed light on the nature of UFO reports elsewhere in the world.
The Canadian UFO report database contains both UFO and IFO (identified
flying object) reports. This might seem peculiar�why include a sighting that
has been explained?� but Rutkowski explains his reasoning thusly:
There are several reasons for including IFOs such as fireballs and bolides
in the UFO report database. First. previous studies of UFO data have
included meteor and fireball reports. In many instances, observers fail to
recognize stars, aircraft and bolides. and therefore report them as UFOs.
That is why some UFO investigators often spend many hours sorting IFOs from
UFOs. Historically, analyses of UFO data such as American projects Grudge.
Sign and Blue Book all included raw UFO data which later resolved into
categories of UFOs and IFOs. Another reason is that observed objects are
sometimes quickly assigned a particular IFO explanation even though later
investigation suggests such an explanation was unwarranted.
The issue of including IFOs in studies on UFO data is an important one. One
could argue that once a sighting is explained, it has no reason to be
considered as a UFO report. However, this overlooks the fact that the tFO
was originally reported as a UFO and is indeed valid data. It may not be
evidence of extraterrestrial visitation, but as UFO data, it is quite valid.
It must be remembered that all major previous studies of UFOs examined UFO
reports with the intent to explain a certain percentage of cases. These
cases were the IFOs definitely part of the UFO report legacy.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 1998 SIGHTINGS
Rutkowski summarizes the features of 1998 UFO sightings in these points:
The number of UFO reports made in Canada averages about 203 cases per year.
There were 16% fewer UFO reports made in 1998 than 1997.
The distribution of UFO reports in Canada was somewhat related to the
distribution of population. However, UFO reports come from all regions of
Canada: from coast to coast and from the prairies to the high Arctic.
During the past ten years, there was no definite monthly trend found in
Canadian UFO reports, although there are some regional monthly fluctuations.
UFOs are as likely to be reported in summer as in winter. However, 1998 had
an anomalous percentage of cases in the fall.
Approximately 80% of UFO sightings were merely of lights in the night sky.
Most UFO sightings occurred between 9:00 p.m. and midnight.
UFO incidents usually have more than one witness, and most have two
In 1998, the typical UFO sighting lasted about 15 minutes, down from last
year�s average of 20 minutes.
Most reported UFOs were white in color.
CANADIAN UNKNOWNS IN 1998
Figure 1. Classification of Canadian UFO rreports. 1999.
There were 194 UFO reports in Canada in 1998. Of this total, Rutkowski and
his collaborators found that 22 remain unexplained after either
investigation or review. That is 11. .3% of the total number of reports,
slightly above the long-term percentage of unidentifieds. Fully 39% of the
reports had insufficient information to reach a conclusion. Figure 1 shows
the evalution of reports. Also, Rutkowski includes reports of crop circles,
cattle mutilations, and other related phenomena in the sighting database,
and there were 19 of these reports in 1998.
Using the Hynek classification system, we find that of the 22 unknowns,
three were close encounters, four daylight disk sightings, seven objects
seen at night, and eight nocturnal light sightings.
Although extensive details are not provided on these reports, a brief
account of some of the more interesting unknowns provides a more complete
picture of the UFO phenomenon in Canada last year.
May 29, near Bancroft, Ontario, 10:30 p.m. CE2. When a V-shaped object flew
over a house, car lights and an outside spotlight turned on by themselves.
,Iune 1, Sorel, Quehec, 9:45 l).m., Nocturnal Disk. After hearing a loud
noise, a witness observed a triangular object hovering nearby. After several
minutes, the object departed at a tremendous speed.
June 9, Surrey, British Colurnhia, 4:08 p.m., Daylight Disk. While driving a
woman saw two flashes of light and then, about 1000 feet distant, a silver,
disk-shaped object, giving off a "sunny glow." The disk was estimated to be
20 feet in diameter.
September 16, Serpent River, Ontario, 1:00p.m., Daylight Disk. Two people
observed a silver oval-shaped object hovering overhead below the clouds for
a few seconds. It then moved further away and hovered again, then left at a
high rate of speed.
October 19, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 10:20p.m., Nocturnal Disk. A witness
observed three square yellow objects fly low overhead. No sound was heard,
and no airplanes were over the city at the time.
Although these reports are interesting, they are hardly dramatic, and there
are no cases with physical traces or humanoids. This pattern continues the
trend that knowledgeable observers have noticed for the past decade, as most
reports continue to be distant sightings, not close encounters.
UFO REPORTS BY YEAR
Although the number of reports from year to year has fluctuated, there is a
certain constancy in the number of reports. Figure 2 displays the number of
reports each year, including all reports, not just unidentified cases. The
great increase in 1993 was caused almost entirely by a single major fireball
event reported by hundreds of independent witnesses across Canada.
Otherwise, there appears to be no pattern of reports increasing or
decreasing with time (although there are only ten years to compare).
The number of reports each year may not seem very large, especially the
number of unidentifieds, but even when UFO reports were more frequent in the
1960s and 1970s, only a few thousand reports were made in the entire United
States. The UFO phenomenon is not rare, but it is not common, either.
Figure 2. UFO sightings by year in
UFO REPORT CHARACTERISTS
Most reports come from two provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, although
not from Quebec, another heavily-populated province (perhaps because of the
language barrier). About half of the unidentified cases are from Columbia,
but this may be caused by an active group of investigators there.
The mean number of witnesses per case was 1.59 in 1998, somewhat below the
long-term value of about 2.0. There is no difference in the number of
witnesses in lFO and UFO cases.
A majority of UFOs were reported as nocturnal lights, about 59%. But about a
quarter of the sightings involved an object of some type. A definite shape
was visible in only 65 of the reports, and the most commonly reported was a
triangle or V-shape, in about 35% of the cases. Next most common was a disk,
in 20% of the reports. These results follow the new pattern in UFO sightings
that triangular or delta-shaped UFOs are more common than the classic disk
shape. Other shapes reported include ovals, squares or rectangles, and
The primary UFO color reported is white, although no specific color is
reported more often for unidentified reports.
The duration of unexplained sightings was longer than for explained or
possibly explained reports. Unidentified reports lasted about 13 minutes on
the average, but other sightings lasted only about 3 minutes. There is wide
variation in these numbers, though, and some unidentified sightings lasted
less than a minute.
STRANGENESS AND RELIABILITY
Once a report has been made, it is helpful to code it for the reliability of
the witnesses, quality of the investigation, and amount of information. This
factor is called the reliability of the case. Similarly, a report can be
coded for how odd or unusual its details are compared to mundane reality. An
observation of a single, stationary, starlike light in the sky, seen for
many minutes, is not very unusual and might likely have a prosaic
explanation. Conversely, a detailed observation of an object seen on the
ground that leaves landing traces and is shaped like an egg would be much
more strange, compared to ordinary earthly events. This second factor is
Figure 3. Strangeness of UFO reports, 1998.
Rutkowski and his colleagues coded as many reports as possible for
both these factors, which are measured on a scale of 1 to 9, where 9
indicates the highest reliability or strangeness. No report received
a reliability rating of 9, and only one got a rating of 8. The distribution
of strangeness ratings is displayed in Figure 3, where it can be seen that,
just as for reliability, no reports were rated as 9, and only one report
received an 8. Most reports received strangeness ratings of 2 or 3, but this
is because most reports aren' t that strange and could be identified as more
.As we would expect, the unidentified sightings had a significantly higher
strangeness rating. Their mean strangeness, 6.27, is well above that for the
They also had a significantly higher reliability rating than cases with
insufficient information or that were possibly explained, but not,
interestingly enough, for cases that were explained. I believe this is
simply a consequence of the fact that, by definition, more reliable cases
have more information and! or a better investigation, which makes it likely
to either find an explanation for them or conclude that are truly
For unidentified reports, there is no relationship between strangeness and
reliability. That is, stranger reports are not necessarily more reliable.
Thirteen of the unidentified, slightly over half, had strangeness and
reliability ratings above 6, and these might be considered the best of the
best. These reports comprise 6.7% of the total, which is comparable to the
fraction of high-quality unknowns reported from other countries and eras.
Although Rutkowski would be the first to admit that he was not able to
collect all Canadian reports, he did secure the cooperation of 12
organizations and several independent investigators (down somewhat from
earlier years). And he has now completed ten years of this work, for which
he is to be heartily commended. His research shows the persistence of the
UFO phenomenon, whatever its ultimate cause.
As I stated when reviewing the 1996 Canadian data two years ago in IUR, "we
are desperately in need of more centralized reporting [in the United
States]." Unfortunately, we remain in the same situation in 1999.
Paul Krugerstraat 6
7551 GX Hengelo (ov)
+31 (0)74-24 25 514
7500 CD Enschede
tel: +31 (0)53 4310412
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