The 1967 Stoke-on-Trent UFO Reports: A Year Of Compelling UFO Encounters In The UK
Updated: Feb 3, 2022
In 1967 reports of UFO sightings swamped Stoke-on-Trent, England, here is the story of a large-scale investigation, eye-witness accounts, and the response from the Ministry of Defence.
The vast majority of reported UFO sightings in the United Kingdom achieve very little official scientific interest. Most sightings are investigated by amateurs, many of whom have formed groups and linked themselves in a countrywide network of researchers and investigators who will compile reports on such incidents.
One such report, a masterpiece of its kind, was produced in February 1968 by two amateur astronomers, Roger Stanway and Anthony Pace, both from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, concerning a "wave" of UFOs which troubled the county during the months of August, September, October, and November 1967. The report, it was said, was based on information collected from more than two hundred eye-witnesses who had either been interviewed or had submitted written accounts of what they had seen, in some cases both. Most witnesses were interviewed within a day or so of their sightings; in some cases within hours. What they saw could therefore be assumed to be fresh in their minds and nut dulled by the passage of time or elaborated by afterthoughts. The witnesses represented a cross-section of the community, ranging from schoolchildren to housewives and professional men, not a few of whom were trained observers in civil or military service. According to what Stanway and Pace were able to discover there was a great to-do on the Bentilee Estate, Stoke-on-Trent, on the night of Saturday, 2 September 1967. That was the night a flying saucer was seen to "land" in a field and later take off again. Two women and several children were among the witnesses.
The excitement began just after 9 p.m. The children were playing outside a house in Beverley Drive opposite Wendling Close when one of them, David McCue, saw a brightly glowing object above the roof-tops travelling on a course roughly parallel to the Close. He shouted to the others: "There's a flying saucer!" Just then one of the women, a Mrs Stevenson, came out of her house and called to her neighbour, Mrs Bowen, "look at that thing in the sky." She said afterward: "It was a scarlet glow and dome-shaped, and was going over the Close towards the fields... It was like a wind when it came over but there was no sound."
All witnesses agreed about the general shape of the object: a disc that was dull orange colour surmounted by a dome glowing bright red. They thought it "landed" in a field beyond the end of Wendling Close and Mrs Stevenson said that when it came down the whole field "looked as though it was on fire - like a bonfire."
Six children ran towards the place where the UFO was thought to have landed and the two women followed with a dog, anxious for their safety but curious to see what the object was. However, they were prevented from getting near because of marshy ground. By this time also the women were becoming increasingly alarmed and decided to turn back and telephone the police. When they returned the object was no longer glowing in the distance but the children told them it had performed a hedge-hopping manoeuvre from one field to another before "going out."
David McCue and a friend, Kenneth Harrington, later told investigators that after the object landed, the bright red dome "went out like a light" and the whole thing seemed more of a yellow colour. It remained illuminated for about two minutes and then yellow also faded out.
The boys ran to the place where they thought the object had come down but the fields were dark and they could see nothing. This was the situation when the police, a sergeant and two constables, arrived in a van, having responded promptly to the telephone call. Another boy, who seemed scared, tried to show the police where the UFO had come down but the search for it was fruitless and the police gave up, laughing and joking about the whole business. But this was not the end of the affair. As the police left the fields to return to their van, a man shouted from an upper window that he could see a bright light arising from the fields. Everyone turned to look back. The light, now yellow, or orange-white, like a street lamp, appeared to rise about three hundred feet, hold still for an instant, and then dwindle out of sight in much the same way as a TV picture vanishes from the screen.
When UFO investigators questioned the police they agreed that they had seen a light in the sky but said it had gone out almost as soon as they turned to look at it. They were inclined to think it was caused by a car headlamp, it was the same colour. A search of the area by daylight revealed neither marks on the ground nor any other evidence that a tangible object had touched down in the fields.
But when Stanway and Pace returned to the Bentilee Estate more than six months later, curious to discover how much eye-witnesses still remembered of the sighting, they found it was still fresh in their minds. Mrs Stevenson told them that when she first noticed the UFO coming high over the rooftops it was "going round and round like a spinning top." It had been a mild evening, with a clear sky and she had not needed a coat to up to the fields.
Asked to describe the object in more detail, she said: "It was like a disc with something on top like a dome and about the size of an aircraft. I saw something like a silver gleam. I could see this as it came down. I wasn't sure if it was a light, more like a silver gleam on it, a grey colour... Mrs Bowen and I ran up the fields. We thought it must have landed, and yet we didn't hear anything... It came straight down as if it knew where it was going to land. I can't tell if it hit the ground, that I don't know."
Question: "What colour was it as it was coming down?" "Grey" Question: "You couldn't see any red at all?" "Only the big red glow. The fields were lit up with it, and the leaves. You know it was just as if someone had got a great big bonfire." Question: "Could you see where the red light came from?" "Yes, the round top part - the revolving part, to me. That was red, but the body was grey." Question: "What did you feel like? I supposed you were a bit worried?" "Terrible, I think I was white. The dog's hair stood on end from her tail, all along her back. This happens when she is frightened."
Mrs Stevenson said that she and Mrs Bowen had only managed to get to the edge of the field where it was thought the UFO had come down because they were unable to cross a brook. The police had turned up within five minutes of their call. By then they were very worried because some of the boys were missing, but after a while, the boys came out of the field and reported that they had not been able to find anything.
Question: "What did the object look like when it took off?" "There seemed as if there was a green light on it this time, but it was white, it came up white and seemed to be 'generating'. The light was getting red, vivid red, but it started off orange, as though the power was building up." Question: "Could you hear any sound as it rose up?" "No sound - nothing." Question: "When it came up, how did it rise? Did it go from side to side or did it shoot straight up?" "No, it moved slowly, the same speed as when it 'landed.' Slow, as if it were cushoined on air - an air cushion underneath it, as though it were never on the ground."
In reply to further questions, Mrs Stevenson said that when she first caught sight of the object above the rooftops she thought it was an aircraft in trouble and about to crash, but when it got closer it looked nothing like an aircraft and seemed as if it knew exactly where it was going. After it had come down and lit up the fields the red glow was not suddenly extinguished but seemed to fade out slowly.
In summarizing the Bentilee sighting, Stanway and Pace made the following points which indicate the objective nature of their approach to the subject of UFOs in general: 1. There is strong corroborating evidence that one, or perhaps two, similar unidentified
flying objects were observed shortly after 9.00 p.m. on Saturday, 2 September 1967;
2. The appearance of this object or objects was completely alien to the observers;
3. The motion of the object which appeared to "land" was unlike the normal action and operation of a conventional aircraft;
4. The descriptions of the object, or objects, made by different witnesses agree in basic configuration and detail within the limits of human error and memory;
5. The descriptions of the unusual "landing" motion of the object and its subsequent "take off" all agree in principle;
6. The presence of the object, or objects, in the vicinity of habitation caused fear and anxiety to a number of the inhabitants.
7. It was the unanimous conclusion of all who had witnessed the strange objects, that these were completely unknown in their experience and could not be explained.
A total of seventy sightings within a radius of about twenty miles of Stoke-on-Trent were outlined by Stanway and Pace. Some, they admit, must have been genuine misidentifications of aircraft or natural phenomena seen under unusual circumstances. Errors of human judgment and memory had also to be taken into account, especially since many witnesses were children who might have let their imaginations run away with them. But, as they pointed out, the fact that people make mistakes should not be regarded as justification for dismissing the whole mystery as "bunk" and flatly denying that UFOs exist at all.
Not the least encouraging aspect of the investigation, incidentally, was the negative attitude of many witnesses, their unwillingness to report seeing unusual objects or even talk about them for fear of ridicule. It was only after careful persuasion that some of the more detailed and inexplicable sightings were brought to their notice, the investigators say.
One of these concerned a Mr J.D. Strotter of Doxey, Stafford, who was confronted with a UFO while driving a lorry along the M6 Motorway on the evening of Tuesday, 17 October 1967. Mr Stotter was driving south and approaching the turn-off to Holmes Chapel. The sky was clear, with some scattered clouds. It was still fairly light although some vehicles already had lights switched on. Suddenly he began to have an eerie feeling he was not alone, that somebody or something was nearby.
Almost immediately, he said, he noticed through the top left-hand corner of the windscreen a strange craft moving in the same direction along the left-hand side of the motorway. The object was fairly low in the sky, comparable in size to a Boeing stratocruiser on its first circuit of an airport before coming into land. He had seen many large aircraft into land at Manchester's Ringway Airport. Mr Stotter, driving between thirty-five and forty miles an hour, was able to keep pace with the UFO which he later described as being "like a large apple pie dish" with no real colour to the main structure: it was just a dark mass. He had the impression that there was no paint on the hull and even thought to himself that it could do with a coat of paint.
The understructure was rounded with a group of circular lights or portholes towards the front. He could not remember how many portholes there were but said the colour was consistent with ordinary white light. Above the rounded section he saw what appeared to be a rim and from the rear of the rim came three continuous mauve-blue flames which he thought were the vehicle's exhausts and which streamed backward and downwards. Above the rim was a taller structure narrowing off to a flat top which seemed to be illuminated in the same way as the "portholes." Mr Stotter had plenty of time to observe the strange craft. After keeping it in sight for a distance of five and a half miles (which he checked the following day) he pulled into the stopping lane of the M6 and watched for a further ten minutes. The craft was travelling quite slowly, he said, and he could hear a sound like a jet aircraft only of a higher pitch, rather like air rushing from the pinched neck of a balloon.
"Suddenly," he said, "the craft veered to the left and came almost to a standstill, turned and accelerated back the way it had come but at an angle to the road, disappearing in a few seconds." As it crossed in front of him he could see the mauve-blue jet streams again; they seemed to straighten up behind the vehicle as it shot away. Mr Stotter told investigators that he had not reported the sighting to the police because he thought he would be laughed at. Although there were other vehicles on the road at the time nobody else appeared to have noticed the craft. He was quite sure it was not a conventional aircraft. He had been in the RAF for a number of years and had received training in aircraft recognition.
The Brogans and the Turners, two married couples who live opposite each other in Brieryhurt Road, Kidsgrove, Stoke-on-Trent, were saying good night when Mr Turner noticed what he thought was a shooting star. The time was about 11.10 p.m. on the night of 4 August 1967. All four people stood staring up at the shooting star. But it did not behave like a shooting star for it came right down out of the sky, changing direction on the way. It also slowed down as it dropped from the sky and came to a "standstill" above the rooftops at the end of the road. It also grew bigger and they could see it had the shape of a disc that seemed to be metallic with a bright red dome on top. The disc hovering in front of the watchers seemed between eighty and ninety feet across, spanning a distance equivalent to two bungalows placed end to end. And underneath the disc, they could see a ring of fifteen to twenty rotating red lights. After hovering for a few seconds the object began to move at a fantastic speed over buildings to the west. Neither when it approached nor when it disappeared again did the thing make the slightest noise.
This was the story that the four people told the UFO investigators in the course of interviews after the sighting. The way the object appeared, moving at great speed, its abrupt change of course, the way it hovered and then shot off again could not they said, be paralleled by any ordinary aircraft. Both couples said they were quite shaken by the incident and firmly believed they had seen what they termed as a flying saucer.
In their report, Stanway and Pace are emphatic that the story was told to them in good faith, and there was no attempt at leg-pulling. "We came to the conclusion that they had genuinely seen a flying object at close quarters which appeared unusual in shape and motion, and which they could not identify with any kind of conventional aircraft."
Not the least curious thing was that in the course of the interview, Mrs Brogan said this was not the first UFO she had seen. In fact, she had seen one almost identical in appearance over more or less the same spot seven years earlier. She and some other children had watched it hovering for several minutes while they ate sausage rolls. It had not made any noise and presently it had moved slowly away and disappeared behind some houses. Her husband had often teased her about this "space ship" she claimed to have seen.
Yet another strange sighting reported by the astronomers occurred about 8.30 a.m. along the Middlewich Road. Two newspaper boys, David Jones and Peter Hollander, were cycling along the road towards Crewe after finishing their morning round. They were approaching the bridge across Valley Stream. The weather was dull and dry with a light breeze and a lot of clouds.
Suddenly, David, who was ahead, spotted an object approaching them in the sky about a mile away to the left and called to his friend to have a look. At first, the boys thought it was an ordinary aircraft but when it came nearer they realised, they said, that it was a "flying saucer." It must have slowed down abruptly for in a few moments it was hanging almost motionless in the sky directly above them.
In his excitement, not looking where he was going, David rode into the curb and Peter collided with his back mudguard. A car coming up behind them sounded its horn as they both fell off and scrambled from their machines. By this time they were anxious only to get undercover. "We were scared," said David, "and we wived un a hedge and looked up."
From a crouched position they could see the under-structure of the object and stared at it for about thirty seconds before the thing made off so rapidly that they could not keep track of it.
A short account of this remarkable daylight sighting appeared in the Daily Mail of 31 August 1967 under the heading "Flying Saucer Hovered over Newsboys," and drew the investigators' attention to them. The boys, aged thirteen and twelve respectively, were interviewed a few days later. They described the UFO as being oval in shape and silver in colour with a transparent dome through which they had been able to see dark clouds; they had also seen what appeared to be a cross projecting at one side. As the object came towards them Peter had noticed a small yellow light at the front, and later, David had seen what he thought were exhaust openings at the back.
The boys said the "undercarriage" of the craft appeared about the size of a half-crown piece held at arm's length. David estimated the height of the thing as about one hundred feet. They could see the underneath quite clearly and said it had a silvery perimeter with an inner oval which appeared to be largely composed of millions of black tubes or wires against a silver background. Along the centre ran a silver rectangular section containing three identical solid black circles, one towards each end and one at the centre. See below sketch.
Commenting on their interview with the boys, Stanway and Pace remark: "The whole episode seemed incredible but after an hour of questions and answers and the boys' calm attitude to the extraordinary experience, we came away feeling that this was a genuine account and that they had in fact observed at close quarters the operation of an aerial craft of unknown origin."
"It could be asked why the passing car carried on apparently unaware of the UFO. On reflection, however, it is very unlikely that the occupants of the car could possibly see an object which was near yet almost above them in the sky through the restricted view of the car windows."
"From the newsboys' story, the apparently deliberate motion of the strange craft could have indicated that it was directed by intelligent control, particularly when it hovered above them as if observing their actions and perhaps also their reactions to its presence. Could it be that this aerial vehicle, completely unfamiliar in appearance, was, in fact, a remotely controlled surveillance craft which had detected the boys they moved along the road and had come down for a closer look?" The first thing to be noted about the foregoing sightings is that in all cases the observers saw much the same sort of object. There was the wide understructure and there was the dome on top which at night glowed a bright red. In all cases, too, the object seems to have had some interest in the observers, as if observing them in return. The manoeuvres carried out were pretty similar also: the swooping out of the sky, the hovering, the rapid disappearance. And the silence. It should not be forgotten, however, that inasmuch as all this is evidence at all, it is only hearsay evidence. Ufology as a science, if it can be so-called, is at a big disadvantage in that investigators cannot deal with firsthand evidence; there is none. They are obliged to consider not the substance but the "shadow" of things other people claim to have glimpsed and to form judgment based on the characters and qualifications of the observers whose memory may be faulty or whose motives suspect. In addition, there are complicated psychological factors to be considered.
We may begin by asking ourselves: were the people listed in the four sightings all liars? Is it conceivable that in Mr Stotter, in the women and children at Bentilee, in the neighbouring couples at Kidsgrove, and in the two newsboys, that Stanway and Pace picked on a group of people without the slightest regard for the truth? It seems very unlikely. In any case, why should they want to tell untruths? Possibly they were jointly involved in a carefully worked out plan to hoax the investigators? This again is patently absurd, apart from the fact that there is no evidence that any of the separate groups were even distantly acquainted with the others.
Then what about hallucination? Perhaps, to take the case of Mr Stotter, one might be tempted to think that he was "seeing things." After all, on his own admission, nobody else using the M6 appeared to notice the UFO he described. Indeed, if nobody else anywhere in the area had seen anything at any time, Mr Stotter's evidence would certainly look pretty odd, to say the least. But this, as we have seen, was not the case. Other people in and around Stoke did see quite similar objects at other times.
The same argument can be applied to the newsboys, but in the other two cases, there were too many witnesses for the hallucination theory to work. Could all these people have suffered the identical hallucination?
What it clearly boils down to is that the women and children of Bentilee, the Brogans and Turners, the newsboys, and Mr Stotter, must all have seen something whatever it may have been. It was certainly not something in their own eyes. It was something in the sky; something that their accounts of it suggest was not moving any haphazard fashion but with deliberation and purpose - in a way, that is, which could hardly be ascribed to any natural phenomenon like ball lightning, the planet Venus or even an artificial satellite or lump of space debris decaying in the atmosphere.
It is hardly necessary to add that in these four sightings the observers could not have mistaken conventional aircraft for UFOs. To begin with, none of the UFOs made any noise and as we know to our cost, ordinary aircraft make a considerable amount of noise. The glowing object that "landed" in the fields at Bentilee may have behaved to some extent like a helicopter this could have been established in a very short time once the police had been called in. One is left facing the very odd conclusion that all these people really did see a flying machine or machines which, for the time being, cannot be explained in familiar terms. This is certainly what they themselves believed.
The Staffordshire Report was widely circulated to interested bodies including the Ministry of Defence, Stoke-on-Trent City Police, the Central Electricity Generating Board, the officer commanding RAF Tern Hill, and Air Traffic Control at Birmingham and Manchester Airports. In addition, the two astronomers had an interview with officials at the Ministry of Defence to discuss the report.
The following letter was later received from the Ministry of Defence:
Dear Mr Stanway, When we met last month I promised to write to you about your Flying Saucers Report. First I should like to say that those of us in the department who read the report were very impressed by the amount of time, effort, and enthusiasm put into the project by you and Mr Pace. Since we covered the ground faily extensively at our meeting, I hope you will forgive me if I set down our views fairly briefly. The Ministry of Defence's approach to the question of unidentified flying object reports is quite straightforward. Each report we receive is fed into our air defence system and we are able to call on the highest scientific and technical advice within the Department. We also take advice, where necessary, from other government departments and outside bodies such as the Royal Observatory, the Meteorological Office and the British Museum. Reports are examined in sufficient depth to establish that there are no air defence implications and that they can be reasonably related to known phenomena. But we do not undertake to pursue each report until we have established an indisputable correlation with a known object. So far we have found no evidence of air defence implications or of craft under extra-terrestrial control. We have an open mind on the possibilities of new evidence and are interested to see the restuls of serious studies such as yours. Your report has been examined carefully and although we have found much of interest, we are unable to find any new scientific evidence in it. I am sure you will have found from your own investigations, that prompt reporting is often a prerequisite of positive explanation. The sightings covered by your report were between eight and sixteen months old when we received them. In view of this lapse in time we do not feel that an examination in depth by the Department at this stage would be likely to produce positive explanations. We are, of course, ready to look at any new reports from your area, but I must emphasize again the virtues of promptitude in these matters. Finally, may I thank you personally and on behalf of Mr Cassie and Mr Dickison for taking the trouble to come and see us. Yours Faithfully, L. W. Akhurst
After studying the letter, Stanway and Pace wrote back as follows below:
Dear Mr Akhurst, Thank you for your letter of 23rd July and for the kind sentiments which you expressed. Although the contents of your letter were not unexpected, Anthony Pace and myself were nevertheless disappointed that your letter did not tell us anything that we did not know already. We are surprised that you have made no reference to the fact that certain events described in our Report appear to be without explanation in terms of natural or man-made phenomena, especially as Mr Cassie, Mr Dickison, and yourself were unable to offer any explanation for the events that took place on Saturday, 2nd September, 1967. We can understand Mr Cassie's reaction when he said that he thought it was rather worrying that no explanation could be found for the 2nd September sightings, but we fail to see why you should then say that the Ministry is unable to find any new scientific evidence in our Report. Also, we submit that the presence of unidentified flying objects in the vicinity of Stoke-on-Trent on 2nd September, 1967 and directly under the Amber 1 air route has definite air defence implications and at least warrants a full scale investigation to discover why it is not possible to identify these "unknown aircraft." We appreciate that at the time of the sightings it would have been difficult to locate and identify these objects by means of our air defence system, as for most of the time the objects appeared to be no higher than a few hundred feet from the ground, and therefore, well under our radar detection network in this country. We are sure that the Ministry is aware of the danger inherent in the false assumption that unknown flying machines cannot possibly exist if they are not detected by this country's radar network and defence system. We also consider that steps should be taken to find the owners and pilots of these "unidentified aircraft" as it does appear that prosecutions should be brought for apparent breaches of a considerable number of air laws and flying regulations. However, the fact that there were no identification markings or signs on most of the flying objects described in our Report does present problems. Normally the lapse of time between reports and the investigation into them materially affect the possibility of finding explanations. However, in our case, we must again confirm that our Report contains only the salient details of sightings, and on our files we have the very fullest accounts and detailed drawings made by witnesses within days and sometimes hours of their sightings. Therefore, we must stress that investigations were made as soon as possible, and naturally, we should be very pleased to give you any further information that you may require. We must again confirm that a personal visit was made to a member of your department on 29th September, 1967, when the events of the previous month were fully described to him. We were told that even if the Ministry wanted to interview witnesses and make its own field investigations, it could not possibly do so, as the Ministry did not have the necessary money, facilities, equipment, or personnel to carry out such investigations. We are very worried about this inability to make the necessary investigations, and that is one of the reasons why we visited you on 20th June this year. We hoped to persuade the Ministry to change its policy by releasing all information relating to unexplained reports to the scientific world in general so that some serious research could be done at universities and scientific colleges. Naturally, we are dismayed that the Ministry's policy is one of treating all reports as confidential and that there appears to be a complete reluctance to investigate and solve scientific mysteries of this nature. However, we hope that we may be able to interest various scientific bodies in this subject, and if you have any further information or advice that may assist us in our investigations we should be very pleased to hear from you. Yours faithfully, A. R. Pace and R. H. Stanway
This is another very compelling UFO story that has come from the United Kingdom. Now you have researched this UFO encounter from England, make sure you check out the Moigne Downs Craft, reported by Angus Brooks.