Thursday, October 12, 2023

Netflix's "Encounters", Episode 2, Promotes Sensational Claims but Ignores Answers

In the previous posting, we examined how the first episode of Encounters presented the 2008 sightings in Stephenville, Texas in loving detail, but ignored the already-known explanation for all of it. Second verse, same as the first!

Episode 2 of Netflix's Encounters (one of whose Executive Producers was.Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television) covers the alleged 1994 UFO and alien sightings by as many as 62 school children (but no adults) at the Ariel School in Zimbabwe. A great deal has been written about this case, I won't try to repeat that in any detail.

One of the children drew this Spaceman, with his Spaceship.

As described in UFO Evidence,

On 14th September, 1994, a UFO streaked across the sky over Southern Africa. Two days later, something landed in a schoolyard in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, with three or four things beside it, according to journalist Cynthia Hind. This was witnessed by 62 schoolchildren, who had little or no exposure to TV or popular press accounts of UFOs. Cynthia Hind interviewed them the day after the encounter and made them draw pictures of what they had seen.

The case has since gone on to become a classic. The Harvard psychiatrist and UFO abductionist Dr. John Mack (1929-2004) came to Zimbabwe two months after the incident, and spent two days at the school interviewing the children, and the school staff. Interestingly, while there were about 250 children playing outside at the time, only 62 claim to have seen it. Not all 62 children were interviewed by Hind or Mack. (It should be noted that Cynthia Hind was a dedicated UFO author and  investigator.)

What might have been causing such extraterrestrial excitement? A "UFO streaked across the sky over Southern Africa" on Sept. 14? Newspaper reports described it as a "meteor shower," but there was no meteor shower. Not until several weeks later was it determined that the object widely seen across southern Africa was, in fact, the fiery re-entry of a Zenit-2 rocket that had launched Cosmos 2290. This then-unexplained sighting had caused a great stir and great UFO interest across the area.

Satellite guru Ted Molczan recorded this visual observation of the rocket's fiery re-entry.

Charlie Wiser has written a very detailed account of the Ariel School incident, from a skeptical perspective. I wrote about this case in 2016, some of which is reprinted here. The French psychologist Dr. Gilles Fernandez reviewed all of the written and recorded material concerning the children's interviews. He wrote that

Interviewing children has been the subject of numerous scientific papers and experiments, adaptations and creations of interview standard protocols, in psychology or criminology, to well avoid or minimize biases that occur when such interviews (or questionnaires) "pollute" the evidence. Cynthia Hind's interview methodology with children is very far from these standards.... Cynthia Hind and an adult (Headmaster?) debrief and discuss "other planets", "space travel", etc. while children are in the room and hear everything ...

Cynthia Hind interviewed the children all together, not separately

Fernandez notes that the children were not being interviewed individually, but instead all together:

The child must be interviewed individually (again following proper procedure). Now, in the video-recorded excerpts above, it is striking to see that children are interviewed in a "line" from four to six. Sometimes other children are in the background and listen to another child being questioned. The adults talk to each other or "debrief" while the children are still very close and present ... Also, children hear what others say (including adults), and therefore are likely to influence each other. Even worse, a child who has seen very little or nothing, sees his classmates details and that this is something that greatly interests adults (verbal and non-verbal rewards). This could encourage them to participate in the "game".

These collective sessions have therefore enabled children to hear each other and even to copy each other, caught in a game where they see adults and a nice lady interested in the narratives. We must therefore deliver in our turn, not be excluded or unwelcome in this "game" that took place. This potential participation or having participated give a certain homogeneity to the stories and therefore reported details ...
Also, Cynthia Hind conducting the interview is constantly interrupting the children and not allowing the free narrative. We must also wonder if the fact that the interviews as drawings sessions were held in the school, this did not lead them precisely, encouraged or "biased" them to make what would be compilations of stories ... kinds of school events, where, for example, the child thinks he must absolutely answer questions, produce a drawing, the adult (or authority here) will be waiting for answers and therefore it happens.

Then, as if the problems in the interrogation technique were not bad enough, Fernandez notes

Finally, and this is rarely mentioned or noticed, there was also a session where the children were invited [by Hind] to draw on the board this time around-and not just on paper. Again, this does not back it literally "to send the child to the table"  ? And it is still in my opinion a methodological error: the child is placed as in a school exercise status, "forcing him to produce" adult authority and waiting for something (and "authority" that the reward verbally or non-verbally) ... John Mack also, two months later, again invited children to draw ..

Dr. Fernandez' article detailing all of the problems with Ms. Hind's and Dr. Mack's interviews is well worth reading (in French, which Google can translate).

But then, unexpectedly, Encounters shows us a fellow named  Dallyn (all of the students were identified by first name only. Later he was identified as Dallyn Vico) who claims to have made up the entire ufo/alien story to get out of class. He claims it was a “shiny rock” and somehow supposedly persuaded the other students they were seeing spacemen. To say that this guy was disbelieved on social media would be an understatement, and I don't believe him, either. Journalist Nicky Carter interviewed Dallyn Vico and other students two weeks after the event in 1994. At that time he made no mention of making anything up. He said that he had seen the "meteorite" the night before, and the object he supposedly saw at the school looked like that, so he thought it was a meteorite, too. Asked if he believed that people could live on other planets as well as earth, Dallyn replied "yes."

Dallyn Vico in 1994

In a second interview in 2008, Dallyn said,

I believe that the Ariel sighting, although we do not fully understand what happened, there was something definitely that did occur there that was out of the ordinary... I looked up into the sky and I saw these lights in the sky, but they weren't fixated in one area..."The lights were flashing like different colors, blue, red, yellow, purple. But they would like flash and then disappear and then they would flash again, but maybe a kilometer or a large distance in the air. They would reappear and flash again, in a different area.

He made no mention of his alleged role in any of this. When the story told by an alleged witness changes in such a major way, that person is a liar. Either he was lying before he changed his story, or else he is lying afterward. Which it is doesn't matter.

So what actually triggered the Ariel School incident? It is difficult to say for sure. But let us recall that this is far from the only incident of apparent mass contagion or mass hysteria, especially among children:

  • "The Voronezh UFO incident was an alleged UFO and extra-terrestrial alien sighting reported by a group of children in Voronezh, Soviet Union, on September 27, 1989. The area has been popular with UFO-hunting tourists.

    "According to TASS, boys playing football in a city park "saw a pink glow in the sky, then saw a deep red ball about three metres in diameter. The ball circled, vanished, then reappeared minutes later and hovered". The children claimed to have seen "a three-eyed alien" wearing bronze coloured boots with a disk on the chest, and a robot, exiting the object.According to the children, the alien used a ray gun to make a 16-year-old boy disappear until the object departed."
  • "In 1959 Papua New Guinea was still a territory of Australia. June of that year saw the spectacular sightings by Father William Gill, an Australian Anglican missionary, and 37 members of his Boianai mission. Gill made notes about the experience, which the media obtained. Stories appeared in August, causing a sensation...One above the hills west, another over- head. On the large one two of the figures seemed to be doing something near the center of the deck, were occasionally bending over and raising their arms as though adjusting or “setting up” something (not visible). One figure seemed to be standing looking down at us (a group of about a dozen). I stretched my arm above my head and waved. To our surprise the figure did the same.... Hynek and Allan Hendry, the the [CUFOS] center’s chief investigator, concluded the ‘lesser UFOs’ seen by Gill were attributable to bright stars and planets, but not the primary object. Its size and absence of movement over three hours ruled out an astronomical explanation." While this account does not involve children, the fact that Father Gill was the spiritual leader of this religious community makes it very likely that his followers would simply agree with what he claimed they saw. Chapter 22 of UFOs Explained by Philip J. Klass discusses this case, and gives compelling reasons why these claims should not be taken seriously.

  • More recently, "On Monday October 2, 2023, news reports from western Kenya told of a bizarre condition that had swept through St. Theresa’s Eregi Girls’ High School. At least 62 students were hospitalized after exhibiting uncontrollable twitching of their arms and legs, including rhythmic muscle contractions and spasms. At times the girls were reported to appear as if possessed by spirits and complained of headaches, dizziness, and knee pain. Many were unable to walk and had to be taken in wheelchairs to waiting ambulances. The strange outbreak occurred in the town of Musoli, about 230 miles northwest of Nairobi...Samples of blood, urine, phlegm, and stool were taken, along with throat swabs. All proved to be unremarkable. By Thursday, Kenyan health officials also ruled out the role of infectious disease and instead concluded that they were suffering from “hysteria” in response to stress from upcoming exams." Psychologist and skeptic Robert E. Bartholomew suggests that it was "mass psychogenic illness... Motor-based outbreaks are most common in less developed countries. They evolve more slowly, often taking weeks or months to incubate. They typically occur in the strictest schools where there is tension between students and administrators or some other conflict. Under such prolonged stress, the nerves and neurons that send messages to the brain become disrupted, resulting in an array of neurological symptoms such as twitching, shaking, convulsions, and trance-like states. This is the same type of outbreak that affected the young Puritan girls in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and led to the infamous witch craze."  Which brings us to:
  • Saducismus Triumphatus by Joseph Glanvill might be thought of as "The Scientific Study of Witchcraft," as it attempted to prove the reality of witchcraft on purely empirical grounds. In the 1689 edition, we read that in 1669, reports reached the Swedish king concerning a large-scale outbreak of witchcraft in the village of Mohra. The king dispatched some commissioners, both lay and clergy, "to examine the whole business." They found that the Devil had apparently drawn hundreds of children into his grasp and had even been seen "in a visible shape." After a careful investigation, they found no fewer than seventy adult witches in the village, who had managed to seduce about three hundred children into the practice of black magic. The commissioners interviewed each of the children separately (they were wiser than John Mack), and found that "all of them, except some very little ones" told stories that were highly consistent, of being supernaturally carried away to the witches' fest, riding through the air on the backs of animals (see chapter 7 of my book UFO Sightings, which can be purchased on Amazon, or "borrowed" from the Internet Archive library.).

So, whatever you choose to call it, "mass hysteria" and "social contagion" are not at all unlikely as explanations for bizarre incidents such as this.


  1. Maybe it matters, maybe it does not, but one of the teachers (possibly the principal) says she saw the object and being as well. She only came forward in the last couple years. But memory is affected by time and we can believe things are true that we never actually experienced, especially decades after an event.

  2. Any case that hinges on 'the child/children couldn't have been lying!' is a pretty flimsy case indeed. We were all children at one point and I don't know why some of us act as though we never told big fibs, for any number of reasons.

  3. The truth is out there

  4. This incident should stay as it really is - a childish thing, and nothing more.

  5. Cynthia Hind actually knew of the Russian satellite launch when she visited the school four days later. On the BBC footage she says to the children: "We don’t know what it is and it could be just some - there was a Russian satellite went up on the 27th August and it’s a possibility something came down, but it would not account for the figure you saw."

    In her 1996 book UFOs Over Africa she acknowledges that many of the sightings 2 nights earlier were that rocket re-entering. As for the figure they saw - the kids told her it was an ordinary-sized man walking around normally. Most likely a laborer or the gardener, as two children offered. She said she wanted to talk to the gardener but apparently never did.

  6. The boy in the beige hat is not Dallyn, according to what he told me. Ariel Phenomenon twitter account posted that excerpt and attributed it to Dallyn. He says the kids wore colored shirts for their houses (presumably during sport) and that boy is Green. He was Red. Also, he told me he's never said what that boy says about a meteor shower.

  7. “’Mass hysteria’ and ‘social contagion’ are not at all unlikely as explanations for bizarre incidents such as this.”

    Yes. Mass hysteria and social contagion also characterize war fever and religious squabbles.

    I’m seeing a great deal of mass hysteria and war fever right now.

  8. I asked satellite guru Ted Molczan if it is possible that the students might possibly have seen a fragment of the rocket body, as some have suggested. He replied:

    “Shortly after of the launch of Cosmos 2290, the USAF catalogued six (6) pieces of debris from either the satellite or its rocket body. Jonathan McDowell has attributed two (2) fragments to the satellite, and four (4) to the rocket body. None of the catalogued fragments decayed on 1994 Sep 16 UTC.

    For the sake of discussion, let us assume that some uncatalogued fragment of the rocket body decayed on Sep 16. For it to have been the cause of the incident at the Ariel School shortly after 10 AM local time, the school would have had to have been in or near its orbital plane at hat time. On the morning of 1994 Sep 16, the school passed under the orbital plane that had been inhabited by the rocket body, at about 7:09 AM local time. This was about 3 hours before the incident in question; therefore, it was impossible for a fragment of the Cosmos 2290 rocket body to have been the cause.”

    Another suggestion is that the students may have seen NASA's “Discovery” Space Shuttle, STS-64, which contained bright lasers pointing at the ground. Molczan replied,

    "On 1994 Sep 16, STS 64 briefly passed above the horizon of Ariel School three times. The incident that reportedly occurred shortly after 10:00 local time did not fall within any of the periods during which STS 64 was above the horizon; therefore, the Lidar on STS 64 was not involved."

  9. On Halloween (31 Oct 2023) the Pentagon launched a new portal where current and former service members, government employees and contractors can report “UFO sightings.”

    The online form will help the Department of Defense’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office compile endless millions of “sightings” to include in its congressionally mandated Historical Record Report, which is due to Congress by June 2024.

    The AARO website also encourages civilian pilots to report anything unidentified to air traffic control, so that endless claims can be forwarded to the FAA for disposal.

    Reporting eligibility will soon be expanded to the general public, so that “UFO” reports will be nearly infinite. Anything unidentified will be a “UFO.” Clouds, bats, bugs, birds, stray balloons, paper scraps– all “UFOs.”

    Finally everyone will be able to brag that, “I filed an official UFO report with the Pentagon.”


    In July 2022 the Biden regime established the Pentagon’s “All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office” (AARO) to “investigate UFOs.”

    The head of the AARO, Sean Kirkpatrick, will retire next month. Kirkpatrick says that since July 2022 the AARO has investigated more than 800 “cases.”

    Kirkpatrick’s deputy, Tim Phillips, will serve as acting director until the Pentagon hires a permanent replacement.

    AARO has been in the news in the last few months for its role in helping the U.S. detect Chinese weather balloons.

    Kirkpatrick himself made headlines this summer when David Grusch, the clown who called himself a “whistleblower,” claimed with zero proof that the government is covering up a decades-long program to “reverse-engineer alien craft.”

    Kirkpatrick called Grusch's claims “insulting.”

    For me, this entire business of “Pentagon UFOs” is insulting. What a waste of time.

  11. Sean Kirkpatrick, who will retire at the end of this year as head of the Pentagon’s “All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office,” says that more than 30 self-styled “whistleblowers” have approached the office, and all their claims were investigated. None panned out.

    UFO fable-spinner David Grusch has consistently refused to come forward despite being invited on five different occasions. Grusch uses various excuses -- e.g. it would “jeopardize his whistleblower protections.”

    As I have said before, the difference between UFO skeptics and UFO true believers is that skeptics are sincerely interested in UFOs, whereas true believers are only interested in their fantasies about UFOs.

    Skeptics regard people like David Grusch as garden variety hucksters.

  12. Phil Klass was right on the money. In real-life, alien spacecraft simply do NOT exist outside of pathetic sci-fi tales.


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