The thing that made people watch the skies (Warminster UFO)

09:42 - 03 December 2004. Forty years ago on Christmas Eve, the Warminster UFO scare began - and Wiltshire remains a hotspot for sightings. On December 24, 1964, Warminster people started hearing a loud, high-pitched whine from the sky and, no, it wasn't Santa arriving - it heralded years of UFO encounters in the area.

Not only were the typical circular or oval "flying saucers" reported, but also cigar-shaped objects and fireballs, and Warminster's new-found fame went global.

Cley Hill and Cradle Hill became the places to go and wait for UFOs. Satellites were regularly observed from here, and UFO-spotters claimed they saw alien craft. Their reports went on at least until 1977.

Today, the hills are still used as vantage points from which to "watch the skies" - the words which concluded the 1951 cult sci-fi movie The Thing From Another World which rode the crest of the first wave of the UFO phenomenon in the USA.

The Warminster scare was investigated by a local journalist, Arthur Shuttlewood, who dubbed the noise and sightings "The Thing" - a phrase which then passed into popular parlance - and recorded 5,000 incidents. He wrote a book, The Warminster Mystery and, in a follow-up, Warnings From Flying Friends, he asserted that the objects were "not of this Earth".

Why Wiltshire? Perhaps it's something to do with the fact that, of all English counties, it has the highest average contour, with large high plateaux and few deep valleys - Warminster itself is 400ft above sea level, and Cley Hill 800ft - or that a military training area on Salisbury Plain is nearby.

See the UFO Casebook archived article of The Warminster Thing


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