They had metal domes, emitted a strange and ominous hum and appeared in a straight line one morning in the south of England. The public, the police, and the Army believed they had landed extraterrestrial spaceships until it was revealed that it was a student joke. But how did they make the deception so successful?
Apparently, extraterrestrial ships unleashed a major military and police operation witnessed by Ray Seager who was with other children playing when one of the six saucers was found on Sheppey Island on September 4, 1967.
“We came running, and there it was,” he says. “It was real: it was in front of us!”
“It had the shape of the ancient flying saucers: a large silver dome in the middle with a thing around. Indeed , it was a flying saucer .”
Although the children were excited, remember that they were also afraid.
“When the police arrived on the hill, they beckoned us from below to get us away. I think they were as scared as we are.”
Dishes were monitored, listened to and weighed at police stations and a Royal Air Force base (RAF) throughout the day.
Sheppey’s saucer was removed by an RAF helicopter.
But as the object found in Berkshire squeaked, emitted whistles and was filled with a mysterious liquid, they preferred to take the experts to the place of “landing.”
The cymbals were brought in for examination before their creators confessed that they had been responsible for the “invasion.”
Doubts regarding the saucers arose after batteries were found in one of them.
From the moment the Farnborough Royal Aircraft Establishments (RAE) devised deception, they were determined to be convincing, says engineer Chris Southall.
Everyone was interested in science fiction and set out to create a design that not outside human recognizably.
Therefore, the saucers could not have traits similar to those of terrestrial inventions, like airplanes or boats, so things like tortillas or antennas were discarded.
First, they made the fiberglass plates and covered with metal. They were built in two halves in plaster casts that they then joined, but not before putting electronic sound equipment inside.
The objects were filled with flour and water, a mixture fermented inside them, resulting in an explosion when drilled.
“When you turned the dishes upside down, you moved a switch and turned on a battery,” Southall says.
“As we were going to put them in the fields in secret, we did not want them to make noise. When we were ready to leave, we turned them around so they would start making noise and we would run away.”
The saucers were also filled with a mixture of flour and water that was fermented and turned into a foul-smelling.
“We wanted to do something that looked strange,” he said.
Once completed, they were placed in six places in a straight line from east to west: Queenborough on Sheppey Island, Bromley in South London, Ascot, Welford Village, near Newbury, Berkshire, Chippenham in Wiltshire and Clevedon in Somerset.
The newspapers showed that the saucers “landed” in a straight line.
Engineer Rog Palmer, who was also on the committee, organized teams of two or three apprentices to bring the dishes to each place and instructed each group on how to carry out the task, and what to say if the police stopped them: who had stayed late at a party.
By the time the saucers were discovered, the pranksters were back in their hostel-where 500 apprentices lived-with dark circles under the night sky, but very excited.
They had successfully carried out the task of planting the “spacecraft” undetected.
The question was whether they were prepared for the extraordinary success of their deception.
Engineers Rog Palmer (left) and Chris Southall were the ones who created and led the joke.
Southall, who is now 72 years old and is an environmental activist who runs an eco-home in Clacton, Essex, remember that was the time of Sputnik and space exploration, and says that the purpose of l a joke was always that l to take n seriously.
“We thought the government should have some plan in case the aliens landed,” he said.
“So we gave them a chance to try out any plans they had … but they did not have any.”
He remembers the surprise when police and army officers exploded a saucer and dropped another.
David Clarke, an expert in media law at the University of Sheffield Hallam and a consultant and curator for the UFO project of the British National Archives, said the authorities’ response to the appearance of the dishes left much to be desired.
The “landings” fired a large police and army operation. “When they pierced one of the saucers that were filled with a jumble of paper mache, it exploded and the material, unknown to them, fell on the cops.”
“If it had been a radioactive material, it would have been a disaster area.” “And what did they do?” They washed and let the radiation hazard run down the drain. ”
Clarke and Southall agree that in 1967 the public imagination was dominated by UFO fever, and the Ministry of Defense received almost daily reports of sightings.
Despite this, the apprentices did not expect such a large reaction from the media, which included international coverage and double-page reporting.
At that time there was “UFO fever, ” and that contributed to making the joke seem a reality. The press cuts of the time reveal the official sources “tended to be irritated” when asked about the deception. But police confirmed that he would not take any action against the pranksters, with a Bromley official quoted as saying: ” We are taking it as knights .”
Southall admits that putting the police and the military in such a situation today would have different consequences.
“It was the days of hippies,” he says. “We were apprentices of the RAE, and the people were kinder to us for what we were. Also, in those days it was different.”
Today, the reaction would be very different, particularly the fate of the pranksters.
Now, he says, the cymbals would be treated as explosive devices and detonated and their creators could end up in jail.
“That’s one of the cool things when you remember what happened 50 years later.” “The times we live in now are much tougher, and I do not think such a thing could be done today .”