For my work, I was recently asked to visit a park called ‘The Grange’ in Westall, which is an unassuming suburb in Melbourne. The park has a good covering of conifers, which surround a pleasant grassed clearing. The site slopes down away from the road, and so has a slightly private, secluded feel.
The story of this park quite blew me away, and I’m amazed that I haven’t heard it before. I should say, by the way, that this is not a piece of my fiction, but a real event. Feel free to Google it.
On April 6th, 1966, about 200 school-children, and at least one of their teachers, saw at least one flying saucer land in the park, in broad daylight.
The object or objects apparently landed at The Grange, leaving circular marks in the grass, which looked afterwards as if the grass had been boiled or steamed. Then, five ‘light aircraft’ saw off the object. Moorabbin airport, a small local airstrip, is not far away.
The stories the children told of the saucers were amazingly consistent, describing them as “a round humped object with a flat base being circled by what appeared to be light aircraft”. The drawings they did show a classic flying saucer shape, and apparently the objects were silver. There seems to be some confusion about whether or not one of the students touched the object.
At the time, there were stories in the paper, and also on Channel 9 news, although that footage (including interviews with witnesses) has been lost.
However, the teachers and headmaster of the school told the students firmly that ‘flying saucers do not exist’, and that they were not to speak of the incident. There seem to be reports of army and airforce personnel at the site and school reinforcing this message. Being the sixties, in a semi-rural suburb, the children seem to have followed these instructions.
The teacher who saw the craft, who was a science teacher at the time, Andrew Greenwood, says that two Air Force officers visited him at home and threatened him with destruction of his reputation and career if he continued to talk about what he had seen. In the word of Shane Ryan, who spent four years looking into the incident:
“He didn’t put any spin on it, he didn’t give nay particular interpretation, he wasn’t saying what the objects were because he didn’t know.”
Chatting about this incident with friends, I discovered that one of them had seen some of the women who had been students that day speak at a Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne. He said that he half-expected them to be weirdos, but they came across as very normal, middle class ladies, who were a bit sick of being told that they were crazy or on drugs. As he pointed out, these women had a lot to lose by coming out with this story now, and very little to gain. It seems to me rather a brave thing to have done. They did not say that the objects were from outer space, but just tried to explain what they had observed.
It’s a terrific mystery, and one which has been quite amazing well covered up.
After visiting the site, it was a hot topic in the office. Some people think that it must have been aliens. Others that it must have been a secret military trial, being so close to Moorabbin airport. But Moorabbin is not a military base at all – instead it tends to serve amateur flyers and small charter companies. It’s also in suburban Melbourne, and my feeling is that something as amazing as a flying saucer would surely have been trialled somewhere a little more remote. We’re not short of remote airstrips in Australia, after all.
I did wonder if perhaps it was a local crank, inventing the weird and wonderful in his shed at home. Perhaps he crash landed in the bay, or at Lysterfield Lake, and so the craft was never seen again. Who knows?
One thing I can say is that if I were an alien looking to buzz Melbourne, I could choose no more pleasant spot than ‘The Grange.’
POSTSCRIPT: As noted in the comments below, you can find the documentary about the ’66 Westall UFO incident at: http://www.westall66ufo.com.au