Thursday July 2 is World UFO day; a day for wondering whether the truth may in fact be out there.

And whether you’re a stone cold cynic or a veritable Agent Fox Mulder, it is safe to say that there have been some pretty freaky unexplained events over the years.

So, let’s kick back, tee up the obligatory X-Files music and run down some of the strangest encounters of (relatively) recent times.

Rendlesham Forest (UK) – 1980

Why not start with something very close to home? Rural Suffolk may not be the most evocative of locations, but what happened at British Royal Air Force bases Woodbridge and Bentwaters from December 27, 1980 is worthy of Hollywood.

A security patrol reported strange lights in the forest (so begins any good story), so servicemen checked it out and saw a glowing metal object with flashing lights amongst the trees. As they went to approach the craft, it moved away erratically and flying unlike any human-made vehicle.

What makes this incident so intriguing is that the witnesses were not your stereotypical insomniac truckers but rather military personnel, with Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt even stating later he believed he had seen an ‘extraterrestrial event’.

Cynics have tried to blame the nearby lighthouse or suggested the whole thing may be a prank, but nobody can give a particularly plausible explanation.

UFO trail sign at Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England (Photo by: Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Photo by: Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

New Jersey Turnpike (USA) – 2001

Rather than choosing a dirt lane in the middle of nowhere, UFOs decided to present themselves in a much more public setting on  July 14, 2001.

Drivers on the busy New Jersey Turnpike just after midnight pulled over to watch as orange and yellow lights flew into a V.

Experts have confirmed that the lights couldn’t have been any of the usual suspects (military planes, space flights etc)

The show lasted for 15 minutes and was apparently witnessed by 75 baffled motorists

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (USA) – 2006

Anyone who has flown out of O’Hare will tell you that delays are all too frequent, but ‘UFO’ is not a commonly-cited cause.

On November 7, 2006, United Airlines Flight 446 was ready to set off for Charlotte, North Carolina, when the pilots, airline management and mechanics saw a saucer-shaped craft above them.

Spine-tinglingly, the object did not appear on the air traffic control radar.

Eyewitnesses said that after a while the object darted through the clouds and disappeared, presumably having seen quite enough of Chicago.

The Federal Aviation Administration refused to look into it and insisted it was a ‘weather phenomenon.’

Melbourne (Australia) – 1966

This sighting may not be the most widely reported, but it has all the elements of a great UFO encounter.

Reports back in 1966 stated that students at Westall High School in Melbourne were on the sports field when a grey saucer-shaped craft appeared.

More than 300 students and multiple teachers then watched five planes trying to capture the UFO.

It is rumoured that the head teacher attempted to stop any of the witnesses talking and that the customary men in black suits even attended the school to look menacing.

It obviously didn’t entirely work seeing as we’re still talking about it and a 40th anniversary event was held for witnesses at Westall Tennis Club Hall in 2006.

Photo by Colin McPherson/Sygma via Getty Images

Ruwa (Zimbabwe) – 1994

Students at Ariel School in Ruwa, 22 km south-east of Harare, saw several UFOs in September 1994.

There were around 60 witnesses, aged between six and 12, who were understandably shaken up.

Some witnesses claimed to have seen two extraterrestrial beings, one inside the craft and one in the grass, and described them as having big heads, no nose, no mouth and long black hair.

One striking feature was how much the children’s accounts correlated. Another was the message that some children said was imparted telepathically from the beings’ eyes.

One child told investigators from the John E. Mack Institute that the aliens had said: “the world is going to end, maybe because we don’t look after our planet or the air.”

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