The UFO Sightings of July 1947
In the not-so-distant past, it was common for ordinary people who witnessed extraordinary phenomena to preface retellings of their experiences with the assurance, “I’m not the kind of person who believes in flying saucers,” as if the concept of Unidentified Flying Objects was so absurd that any serious consideration of the subject was the boundary stone separating the credible from the fanciful. Due to astonishing revelations made by the United States Department of Defense in the summer of 2021, however, sightings of what the Pentagon has styled ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena’ have rapidly become perhaps the only secular variety of unexplained phenomena to gain some modicum of public acceptance in the Western world.
Long before the American Director of National Intelligence released the DOD’s unclassified Preliminary Assessment of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena on June 25th, 2021, ufologists, or students of the UFO phenomenon, have quietly, diligently documented thousands of sightings of mysterious flying objects all over the world, most of which took place between the 1940s and the present day. One of those ufologists is American researcher Gary S. Mangiacopra, curator of what is perhaps the most extensive archives dedicated to the subject of unexplained phenomena in the world. We are going to dust off some forgotten UFO reports from Mr. Mangiacopra’s files, all of which took place in Canada in July 1947- the same month in which the famous alleged UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico, took place- and present them for the first time in this article.
The first UFO sighting we will examine took place sometime after Sunday, July 27th, 1947, just off Pelee Island, a 12-kilometre-long isle near the western end of Lake Erie, just north of Ontario’s border with Ohio. The witness- one R.C. Schramm- sent a description of his sighting to the editor of the magazine ‘Fate’, who printed it in the Fall 1948 issue of that publication.
That week, Schramm headed out on a long-awaited fishing trip with his friend, Mr. W. Gorlmey. Perhaps embarking at Windsor, Ontario, or one of the smaller municipalities scattered along Lake Erie’s northern shore, the anglers headed out to Scudder Bay at Pelee Island’s northern end, cast their lines, and slowly began to troll towards Lighthouse Point, where the eponymous Pelee Island lighthouse stands.
“All at once,” Schramm wrote, “a large round disk appeared in the sky. It was as round as the moon, and about 50 feet in diameter. It was stationary in the sky and as near as I could judge, no more than 100 feet in the air. A dull, metallic disk… It had the round, flat side toward us, and we couldn’t tell how thick it was. It was dull aluminum in color.”
Schramm pointed the spectacle out to Gormley, and the two fishermen stared at the silent hovering disk in mute amazement. At that very moment, a strident chirping erupted from the back of the boat, announcing a bite on one of their lines. The anglers peeled their eyes way from the aerial mystery to reel in the fish, and by the time the hauled their catch into the boat, the flying object had disappeared. “It was a clear, sunny, day,” Schramm wrote, “and we could see for many miles in all directions… It must have had tremendous speed to get out of sight in the short time we reeled in the fish.”
R.C. Schramm was not the only Canadian to report seeing a flying saucer that weekend. On Saturday, July 26th, 1947, Mr. Charles Franklin of the hamlet of Marlboro, in west-central Alberta, caught a glimpse of a mysterious flying object while driving home from the easterly city of Edmonton with his children, Clarence and Isobel. At around 8:00 P.M., while driving on the Yellowhead Highway about 47 miles outside of town, in the vicinity of Entwistle, Alberta, Franklin and his children saw a clearly defined disk hovering at the edge of some dark clouds ahead of them, directly to the west. Miss Isobel Franklin, whose version of the event appeared in July 30th, 1947 issue of the Edmonton Journal, wrote, “It was so clearly visible against the dark cloudbank but with the sun shining on it from the south-west that we saw it simultaneously – a distinct silvery-colored disc travelling so swiftly westward that it disappeared in the space of perhaps a half-minute. Although it was difficult to judge, the object must have been at least from four to five miles away when we first saw it, and was moving so swiftly that it appeared to be going lower as it moved west and faded into the distance.
“We do not wish to hazard a guess as to what it may have been,” Isobel concluded, “but ‘flying saucer’ seems to be a most apt description of its appearance.”
Around the same time as Schramm and Franklin’s sightings, Mrs. Mary Waltenburg of Southampton, Ontario- a community on the western shores of Lake Huron about 190 miles northeast of Pelee Island- claimed to have seen a mysterious flying object from the comfort of her own home. Unable to sleep on account of a pain in her shoulder, Mrs. Waltenburg got out of bed one night in late July, 1947, and gazed out her bedroom window. To her astonishment, she spotted a strange lighted object hovering in the sky. Newspaper articles which described her account quoted her as saying that the object “opened and closed three times, revealing bright lights or stars inside.”
Another contemporaneous spate of UFO sightings took place in British Columbia’s Upper Fraser Valley. Although most of these alleged sightings were only vaguely alluded to in tangentially-related newspaper articles, the July 30th, 1947 issue of the Chilliwack Progress ran with a story describing a sighting which took place that very evening. Five residents of Cultus Lake, a recreational destination just south of the city of Chilliwack, British Columbia; which native Chilliwack Indians incidentally designated a slalakum, or place of mystery; reported seeing a flying saucer between 7 and 8 P.M., floating in a southwesterly direction several hundred feet above a mountain range south of the lake. “It seemed to be an aluminum color,” the article contended, “and glinted in the setting sun, no sound as of an aeroplane was audible.”
Authorities from the Royal Canadian School of Military Academy stationed at Camp Chilliwack, a local Canadian Forces Base, proposed that the ‘flying saucer’ was probably a flare parachute, perhaps taking their cue from a number of newspaper articles which purported that regional UFO sightings could all be attributed to weather balloons released in the southerly state of Washington. The remains of such a balloon were discovered by Bernard Hawley, an inspector for the British Columbia Department of Fisheries, just several days earlier, hanging from a tree on Nicomen Island just east of Chilliwack, prompting newspapers across the province to dismiss all local ‘flying saucer’ reports as misidentifications of this meteorological aircraft. As one article explained, “the diameter of the balloon is approximately four feet and from a distance would appear to be circular… The balloon ascends to a height of four miles and automatically bursts. As the equipment descends on a parachute an enclosed radio broadcasts weather conditions.”
Whether the contemporaneous UFO sightings reported by Schramm and Gormley, Mrs. Waltenburg, and the Franklin family could also be explained by weather balloons, authorities did not venture to guess.
- Report by R.C. Schramm in the Fall 1948 issue of Fate, courtesy of Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra
- “Flying Saucer?” by Ms. Isobel Franklin in the July 30th, 1947 issue of the Edmonton Journal
- “‘Flying Saucer’ Goes a-Courting”, in the July 30th, 1947 issue of The Sault Star (Sault St. Marie, Ontario)
- “Southampton Flying Saucer Opens, Shows Lights, Closes,” in the July 29, 1947 issue of The Sun Times (Owen Sound, Ontario)
- “Cultus Lake,” in the July 30th, 1947 issue of the Chilliwack Progress
- Photo in the July 30th, 1947 issue of The Province (Vancouver, British Columbia)
- “Find ‘Flying Saucer’ in Valley,” in the July 28th, 1947 issue of The Province.
- “Flying Saucer Mystery Solved,” in the July 28th, 1947 issue of the Nanaimo Daily News