Monday, November 15, 2010

The Famous 1946 "Ghost Rockets" in Sweden - Were they Contrails?

The sightings of what were called "ghost rockets" in Europe, mostly in Sweden, in the aftermath World War II, is well-known to students of UFOlogy, if not to the general public. They were "ghost rockets" in the sense that people reported seeing objects they described as "rockets" or "missiles," yet no evidence of the actual existence of such objects has ever turned up. (See )  Some of the objects were reported to crash into lakes (why was it never a forest?), but despite numerous searches no rocket parts were ever recovered from any lake, or anywhere else.

While I was reflecting on the current epidemic of sightings of "mystery missiles", not only in California but elsewhere, it occurred to me that people were actually reporting "ghost rockets" today. After all, a "mystery missile" is no different from a "ghost rocket." Indeed, it seems likely that some future book about UFOs will contain a sentence along the lines of,  "Sightings of 'ghost rockets' began occurring in the U.S. and Canada around 2010." Thus far, all of these North American Ghost Rockets appear to be attributable to high-altitude contrails from jet aircraft.

Were there any high-altitude aircraft capable of creating contrails flying around Scandinavia in 1946? Large planes flying at high altitudes, such as the B-17 or B-29, will typically produce contrails when meteorological conditions are favorable. There is no need for them to be jets. A dispatch from the U.S. Naval Attache in Stockholm, dated Aug. 16, 1946 and formerly classified "Top Secret," talks of  "civilian observers reporting jet fighters, contrails and meteors as rockets" ( ) The U.S. used the high-altitude B-29 bomber for reconnaissance in the arctic following World War II, as well as in Europe.

Some of the "ghost rockets" were surely meteors, especially those seen at night, described as fast-moving and only seen for a few seconds. Still others were probably astronomical objects, described as bright lights hovering in the night sky. People tend to scrutinize the heavens more than usual when they have heard that unusual objects are zipping about. But other "ghost rockets" were described as moving much more slowly, and flying horizontally. These sound much more like contrails. The single "classic" photo of a Swedish "Ghost Rocket," seen in the Wikipedia article, is usually attributed to a meteor, but looks very much like a high-altitude contrail. Notice the cirrus clouds above it. "Contrails are a form of cirrus cloud," reminds us. Indeed, the meteorological conditions that produce contrails are the same as those producing cirrus clouds. If cirrus clouds cannot be produced, then neither can contrails.
The "classic" 1946 photo of a "ghost rocket" in Sweden. Isn't this a contrail? has several very interesting incidents of contrail hysteria in the U.S., going back as far as 1950. ( ). That's getting awfully close to 1946.

It has often been suggested that the Swedish "ghost rockets" of 1946, reports of which were carried worldwide, played a role in creating the "flying saucer" excitement that broke out over Kenneth Arnold's sighting the following year. And thus, in creating the entire UFO scenario. So, what I'm suggesting is that the "ghost rockets" excitement of the present year seems to be a replay of the earlier Swedish excitement. We know from present experience that jet contrails can fool even some very sophisticated people into believing that they are seeing rockets or missiles, and this in a time when contrails are already a very familiar sight.

Thus it seems very likely that the main stimulus behind the "ghost rockets" of 1946 was the presence of contrails in the sky, in a time when that phenomenon was new and not at all familiar. World War II had ended just the previous year, and it was known that the U.S. and the USSR were both frantically pursuing missile development, using captured German rocket scientists. Everybody knew that the Cold War could turn into a "hot war" at any moment, and on several occasions it nearly did. Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia were literally in the middle of it, between the allies US/UK/France, and their adversary, the Soviet Union. It is no wonder that, in such an atmosphere, people in Sweden, seeing the unfamiliar new phenomenon of high-altitude contrails, sometimes perceived them as menacing rockets launched by one great power or another.

Those in the U.S. and Canada today, however, who make up conspiracy stories in the same vein, even in situations where "ghost rockets" would have to have been fired on land, do not have the extenuating circumstances that the Swedes had sixty-four years earlier.


  1. It is hard to paint all these cases with a broad brush. However, it is possible that contrails may have played a role (although I think a minor one). The photograph looks like it was taken in daylight (or at least bright moonlight). The lack of any stars being visible indicates it was probably a daylight shot and the object was slow moving (like a contrail).

  2. Robert: Good luck with this story!! I have engaged with discussions with normally rational people, and many are convinced it was a missile in LA.. I have pointed out this story, and others that are clealy contrails, but to no avail! I am wondering just what sort of process can make one believe without evidence something so obviously false as a missile launch, when the same thing was filmed the next day!!


  3. Wow! to think that all the thousands of sightings i've read by pilots from cufos and nicap from the 40's til the present are all false sightings and hoaxes according to someone who was never there,and has the added security of knowing that all these airmen have passed on,sorta like makes me feel sorry for you.

  4. Interesting opinion, I offer a well documented alternative theory to what was behind the Ghost Rockets -

  5. I believe it was post-war hysteria that gave birth to both the ghost rockets and UOs.


Keep your comments relevant, and keep them civil! That means no personal attacks will be allowed, by anyone, on anyone. Commenters are welcome to disagree with me, or with other comments, but state your arguments using logic, and with a civil tone. Comments in violation of these rules will be deleted, and offenders banned.

Comments should be in English, although quotes from foreign-language sources are fine as long as they're relevant, and you explain them. Anonymous postings are not permitted. If you don't want to use your real name, then make up a name for yourself, and use it consistently.