On the night of May 13, 1955, a group of USAF personnel stationed at the RAF Lakenheath base in Suffolk, England, witnessed a strange aerial phenomenon that would become one of the most compelling UFO cases in history.
The incident, which involved multiple sightings and radar detections of unknown objects over several hours, is known as the Lakenheath-Bentwaters Incident.
This post will explore the details of this classic UFO encounter and its implications for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
The Lakenheath-Bentwaters Incident: The Facts
Around 9 p.m. local time, the air traffic control tower at RAF Lakenheath received a call from the RAF Bentwaters radar station about 43 miles away.
The radar operators reported tracking several unidentified blips on their scopes, which were moving erratically and seemed to be flying in formation.
The Lakenheath controllers also noticed unusual echoes on their radar screens, which they attributed to birds or weather phenomena.
Soon after, two F-89 Scorpion fighter jets from the 81st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Bentwaters were scrambled to intercept the objects.
The lead pilot, Lieutenant Felix Moncla, Jr., and his radar operator, Second Lieutenant Robert Wilson, made visual contact with the targets and tried to close in on them.
However, the objects appeared much faster and more agile than the jets, and they soon disappeared from the pilots’ sight and radar screens.
Another pair of Scorpions piloted by Lieutenant Charles Metz and Lieutenant William A. Daniell was sent to investigate the objects flying over the North Sea.
Metz and Daniell also saw the lights of the unknown craft, which they described as round or oval-shaped, and tried to chase them. However, the objects again evaded the pursuit and vanished.
Throughout the night, various military and civilian sources reported more sightings and radar returns in the area, including ground observers, radar stations, and pilots of commercial airliners.
Some witnesses claimed to have seen multiple objects, while others saw only one or two. Some described the objects as hovering or pulsating, while others saw them moving at high speeds and making sharp turns.
One witness, a farmer near Ipswich, reported that a strange object landed in his field and took off again after a few minutes.
The Lakenheath-Bentwaters Incident: The Explanations
Despite the intense interest and investigation that followed the Lakenheath-Bentwaters Incident, no definitive explanation has been offered for the mysterious objects seen that night.
The official Air Force report, released in 1956, suggested that unusual weather conditions, aircraft reflections, and human error caused radar and visual observations.
However, this explanation has been criticized by many ufologists and skeptics as inadequate and implausible.
Several alternative hypotheses have been proposed, ranging from secret military tests to extraterrestrial visitation.
Some have argued that the objects were experimental aircraft or missiles of Soviet origin designed to test American defenses and provoke a response.
However, there is no conclusive evidence to support this theory, and the Cold War context alone does not explain the agility and speed of the objects.
Others have suggested that the objects were natural or atmospheric phenomena, such as ball lightning, meteors, or mirages.
While such phenomena may have caused some of the sightings, it is unlikely that they could account for all the observations and radar returns, especially those that involved multiple witnesses and equipment.
Finally, some have claimed that the objects were extraterrestrial spacecraft piloted by intelligent beings.
More UFO Incidents
Several other UFO incidents were reported around the same time as the Lakenheath-Bentwaters Incident in May 1955.
On May 21, 1955, a Royal Air Force pilot named Roger Wilcox reported seeing a metallic disc-shaped object over Milton Keynes, England, while flying a Meteor jet.
The object was estimated to be about 50 feet in diameter and flew at 12,000 feet before disappearing from view.
Another sighting occurred on May 22, 1955, in Langenburg, Germany, when a group of witnesses observed a silver disc hovering in the sky for several minutes before shooting off at high speed.
The day after, May 13, 1955, The Hopkinsville Goblins
A family in rural Kentucky experienced an encounter the following day, May 14, 1955, that would go down in history as one of the most horrifying UFO encounters in American history.
The Hopkinsville Goblins case, often called the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter, involves a family tormented by unexplained monsters who descended upon their farmhouse.
When it all began, Billy Ray Taylor, one of the family members, walked outside to get water from the well. He instantly ran back inside to inform the others after spotting a strange object floating over the sky.
The family then heard weird noises outdoors that were thought to be made by wild creatures.
Elmer Sutton, one of the family members, stepped outside to check, but when he turned around, he saw a strange creature with enormous glowing eyes staring back at him.
The creature was described as three and a half feet tall, with spindly limbs and legs and an abnormally colossal head.
With his shotgun, Elmer attempted to shoot the beast, but to no avail. The thing drifted off as though the gunshot had no impact on it.
The family then surrounded themselves inside the home as they observed some additional odd creatures emerge outside.
According to reports, the creatures moved in a jerky, almost mechanical way and possessed blazing eyes.
They were reportedly rumored to be able to scale the walls of the farmhouse and look through the windows.
The family yelled for aid because they were terrified, but the authorities could not locate proof of the unusual beings.
The military looked for the unusual entities but came up empty-handed. They did, however, mention spotting eerie skies lights.
35 years later, the Rendlesham Forest incident
The Rendlesham Forest incident was a string of sightings of mysterious lights reported in late December 1980 close to Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, England, which later came to be associated with reports of UFO landings.
At the time, the United States Air Force (USAF) used RAF Woodbridge and RAF Bentwaters, where the events took place.
Just to the north of Rendlesham Forest is RAF Bentwaters. RAF Woodbridge extends into the forest from the west, forming its northern and eastern boundaries.
Woodbridge was chosen because it was “nearly fog-free and had no obstructions for miles.” Rendlesham Forest had to remove over a million trees to make room for the new base.
USAF personnel, including Lieutenant Colonel Charles I. Halt, the deputy base commander, reported seeing what they described as a UFO sighting.
The incident is among the most well-known reported UFO events globally and is the most well-known claimed UFO event in the United Kingdom.
It has been compared to the American UFO incident at Roswell.
It has also been called “Britain’s Roswell.”
According to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), the event posed no threat to national security.
As a result, it was never looked into in terms of security.
Some researchers claimed that the Orfordness Lighthouse had been misinterpreted in the sightings.
- Witness Credibility: Good;
- Number of Witnesses: +8;
- Evidence: Video;
- Physical Evidence: none;
- Official Investigation: none;
- Close Encounter: First Kind;
- Documents: 1
More information about the Lakenheath-Bentwaters Incident – A UFO Encounter from 1955
- “Encounter at Rendlesham Forest: The Inside Story of the World’s Best-Documented UFO Incident” by Nick Pope
- “Left at East Gate: A First-Hand Account of the Bentwaters-Woodbridge UFO Incident, Its Cover-Up, and Investigation” by Larry Warren and Peter Robbins
- The US Air Force’s Report
- Mutual UFO Network (MUFON)
- UK National Archives