Chinese Balloons Over Hebden!

In the summer of 2008 the skies over the Calder Valley were invaded by mysterious lights, seen by witnesses from Mytholmroyd to Todmorden. MYSTERY LIGHTS FUEL UFO SPECULATION was the headline in the Hebden Bridge Times of 21 August 2008. All the sightings were remarkably similar.

In Todmorden on 26 July, Gemma Kipping’s guests had just left her house when they phoned her to say that ‘aliens’ were hovering above her roof. These ‘aliens’ were yellow glowing balls that moved slowly and silently through the night sky. Many others contacted local newspapers to say that they had seen similar objects. According to Chris Granger, an ex-RAF technician, the lights could not have been aircraft:

They moved in a very erratic manner and did not display the flight characteristics of a conventional aircraft. Nor did they display the normal lighting array of a conventional aircraft – flashing white strobe and red and green navigation lights.[i]

The mystery seems to have been solved by two girls out walking their dogs. Amy Cheetham and Louise Neil found the spent remains of Chinese lanterns on their walk and suggested that these might have been behind the sightings.[ii] This is certainly plausible: Chinese lanterns glow orange or yellow, appear as eerie lights in the sky and change direction unpredictably as they are buffeted by air currents.

In fact, the Sun newspaper told its readers of an ‘alien invasion’ several times in June 2008, many of the descriptions and photos being very similar to the ones described in the Calder Valley. It appears that the trend for letting off Chinese lanterns at wedding receptions and birthday parties triggered a nationwide UFO flap. The significance of these lanterns should not be underestimated: UFO authority Jenny Randles, who fielded reports of UFOs for Jodrell Bank Science Centre, gave the following breakdown. In 2007, 15% of UFO sightings she investigated were likely to have been Chinese lanterns. By 2008, this had risen to 50% of sightings. By November of 2009 it was a phenomenal 90% of UFO sightings that were suspected of being caused by lanterns.[iii]

History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes, and hot air always rises…

[i] Hebden Bridge Times 21 August 2008

[ii] Halifax Evening Courier 1 September 2008

[iii] Fortean Times 255 and 256

Published by Paul Weatherhead

Author of Weird Calderdale, musician and songwriter

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