Birmingham UFO Group Case Report
Author: Dave Hodrien
Release Date: 09/05/2022
In March 2022 I decided it was time to organise another sky watch, as it had been a good while since we’d held one. Our original destination was Barr Beacon in Walsall, but after discussing the event with Nath and Luna Lockley it was discovered that they had also organised a sky watch for their group UPRISING UFO & Paranormal Investigation at Cannock Chase on exactly the same night! We decided that rather than hold two sky watches on the same night at different locations it would make the most sense for us to join forces.
And so it was that on the evening of 30th April 2022 many members of both BUFOG and UPRISING all headed out to Cannock Chase for a joint sky watch! The chosen location for the watch was an open area of land just North East of the War Cemetery, and West of the German Military Cemetery in Brockton.
We initially met up at Aspen Car Park, before making our way along the path to the South East to reach our base of operations. The first couple of hours went by really fast. Camp chairs were set out. Snacks were distributed. Nath and Luna held a very extensive raffle. I went over some local UFO sightings that had taken place over the years, including some I’d directly investigated. Nath then did the same for ghostly incidents.
At about 10.15pm many of the sky watchers, myself included, decided to have a walk down to the borders of Cannock Chase War Cemetery. By this time the sun had fully set. It was overcast, with no stars visible in the sky, but was dry and extremely still. Others stayed behind to continue to socialise and watch the (admittedly cloud-covered) sky.
Between 10.30 - 10.45pm numerous people who had remained at the field witnessed an orange orb of light in the sky. Interestingly there are a number of discrepancies in their accounts including the direction, manoeuvres the object performed and time it occurred.
The initial witness to report the incident to me was Catherine who was present on the watch with her husband Mark. I found out about it in discussion with her on the following day. By the time we had returned from the walk to the cemetery Catherine had already left, and the remaining witnesses did not mention it to me on the night.
Catherine stated the following about the incident:
“I did see an orange glowing light. It looked to be falling quickly in an arc behind or in the trees in the direction you'd gone off on the walk. So wondered if it was something to do with that? By the time I'd gone 'oh' Mark looked but there was no sign of it. I heard people behind me discuss it too.”
I asked her whether she thought a meteorite (shooting star) could have been responsible, to which she replied:
“I've only ever seen white, tiny ones before. This was bigger, and definitely appeared orange. It could have been something huge miles away, or smaller and nearer.”
The orb was also witnessed by BUFOG Investigator James Brodie and his friend Ian. Here is James’ more detailed written statement about what took place:
“About 10.25pm I was looking up at the sky. We had the forest to our right. If you looked directly ahead, you would come to the path which would take you to the car park to the left. I was scanning the sky, and I noticed a couple of small pinpricks of light. When I first saw the small lights, I assumed that it may have been drizzle illuminated from the ground light into the sky, which would give an initial impression of the light being in the sky, rather than the drizzle simply being illuminated as it fell.
I spoke with my colleague and asked whether he had noticed anything else in the sky and he thought he had seen a couple of small lights in the sky. However, I couldn’t rule out the possibility of auto-suggestion from myself and then my friend simply witnessing the same phenomena.
Another 5-10 min passed and my friend and I both saw an orange luminous light in the sky. It appeared to be quite high in the sky and it appeared to blink in and blink out. We watched the sky and were trying to understand whether it was being obscured by the cloud, as there was heavy cloud cover at the time. From my recollection, the light appeared to rapidly change direction in the sky before disappearing. When discussing this with my colleague, he suggested that it may be cloud cover obscuring its movement, however, I felt it had quite quickly changed direction.
We both have apps on our phones which let us know in real-time whether there is anything in the sky. We were both able to confirm there were no flights in the area and this was backed up when later we saw another low moving light which we were able to confirm was a commercial flight. I was aware on that night that there was the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter which would both appear as bright stars. Neither were visible due to the cloud cover and would have been the wrong colour.
The light or orb itself was fully luminous and was bright orange in colour. To the naked eye it appeared to be a few inches in size, but it was difficult to estimate what its actual size was relative to its height in the sky. There was no associated noise or visible markings. We did not experience any electromagnetic interference.
One other point of note which may or may not be relevant is that at the time of the sighting I had been ‘asking out’. That is to say quietly in my mind, is anything out there? Will you show yourself? When I spoke to a couple of people I was aware that they had been doing the same thing (but that was independent of each other).
We felt we could discount any possible ground illumination as there were no other light sources or street lights in that area in the direction we were observing. We can discount the object as anything like a Chinese lantern due to a change in direction and there was little wind at the time. We can also discount the international space station as it wasn’t in the vicinity of the time. Another possible suggestion could be ball lightning, but again that seems unlikely due to the perceived change in direction.
I then remarked to another member of the sky watch team, Rachel, that we may have seen something. Who I believe then went on to the see light in her own right.”
I spoke with Rachel, a regular attendee of Birmingham UFO Group. She sent the following written statement about the incident:
“I was sitting on my chair looking in the direction of the cemetery as I was watching the lights of the torches as you guys were walking to the cemetery. I then heard James and Ian talking about seeing something orange although I can't remember exactly what they said. I then turned 180 so the car park was on my left and the path we had walked to get to our site was in front of me running left to right (and the cemetery was behind my right side).
I moved to see what they were referring to and I then saw an orange orb shaped light floating. It was in the direction of the break in the tree line where I could see lights from a nearby residential area but the orb was much brighter and closer than the distant lights I could see. The orb was to the right hand side just before the treeline started again. I stood up to look at it for a few minutes and saw it appear to glow slightly brighter it seemed to have a darker centre and slightly lighter around the edge then it just faded out quickly and it was gone. There was no sound and I didn't see any movement only the fading.
Not long after someone shouted about a white light coming from the opposite direction. Me, Ian and James were all standing as we had started to chat about what we saw and James said to Ian to check his app to see what the white light was as there was no noise however as it got closer we heard it and Ian then told me that it was a plane as shown on his flight radar app.
I'm not sure of the time of that flight exactly but seeing the orb must have been between about 10.30pm and 10.45pm as I was sending texts to Amanda about the apps and points that Ian and James were telling me about so I wouldn't forget them. My texts started at 10.46pm.”
As you can see, there are numerous discrepancies between the three different accounts. The most obvious of these is the direction the orb was seen in. Catherine stated that the object had been seen to the South in the direction of the cemetery. She provided the following photographic overlay which shows two possible positions it was situated over the tree line, and its trajectory:
However it is clear from both their initial statements and later discussion that both James and Rachel believe that the orb was situated to the North East at the right of the gap between the trees. The below photograph I took on the night shows this gap:
I contacted Catherine to discuss this discrepancy with her. She confirmed that it was definitely slightly to the right from where she was sat.
Next it is apparent that the witnesses who provided statements all remember seeing the orb perform different manoeuvres. Catherine saw it appear and immediately perform a sharp angled descent in an arc and vanish from sight (as can be seen on the photographic overlay). James recalls it performing darting manoeuvres for a number of seconds. Rachel remembers it being stationary and just dimming after a period of time. While it is possible that Rachel merely didn’t notice the erratic movements, the sharp descent which Catherine witnessed seems wildly different.
Lastly, both James and Rachel recall seeing the orb prior to the appearance of the commercial aircraft which Ian tracked on Flight Radar 24 mobile phone app (I also tracked this same flight using the app while down the cemetery. As expected it looked like a glowing white light until it got close enough to see the other navigation lights, nothing like the orange orb which was witnessed). In speaking with Catherine, she remembers overhearing James, Ian and Rachel discussing the plane before she saw the orange orb to the South, implying that it was a separate sighting not the same incident.
I feel that all of these discrepancies are enough to propose that one of two things took place. Either the orb was seen by James and Rachel to the North East, it then vanished for a period of time, before re-appearing briefly to the South and descending rapidly. Or there were two completely separate objects that just happened to have a similar appearance to one another and were both seen within a similar period of time.
So what could the orb/orbs have been? While they had the colour of a sky lantern, I would agree with James that it very improbable this was the explanation. Lanterns tend to drift very slowly on a slow course. They can sometimes waver, or get buffeted around by air currents, but it was an extremely still night, so a lantern would have floated very gradually and performed no sudden fast movements. The downward arc which Catherine observed would definitely not fit in with a lantern in still weather conditions. While lanterns do fall to the ground when they go out, by this point they would no longer be glowing.
The object which James, Ian and Rachel observed was definitely not a tracked commercial or private aircraft, as this was confirmed using Flight Radar 24. 360 radar confirms that the area is not within any airways:
It also confirms that the area lies within controlled airspace:
These two aspects greatly reduce the possibility of the orb(s) being untracked aircraft. These aspects aside, the appearance and noted sudden movements also make it extremely unlikely for any of the sightings to have been a distant aircraft.
While it could be argued that it would possible for a drone to perform such manoeuvres, James feels that the movements were too rapid, and he owns a drone himself so is very familiar with what they are capable of. Drones also tend to have bright red or white lights on them, not orange. It was also extremely quiet at the location with very little noise pollution, so a drone would likely have been audible, even at a distance.
It seems obvious that the object or objects were only present in the sky for a brief period of time. From the statements provided it is clear that the orb(s) appeared only briefly before vanishing. Although an orange-coloured meteorite could potentially have explained the orange light which Catherine saw, it would not be able to perform the sharp darting manoeuvres which were observed by James and Ian or stationary hovering reported by Rachel.
This short length of time is also the main reason why no photographs or video footage was taken. Obviously some people on the watch had either smartphones or cameras with them. But by the time the witnesses would have even thought about capturing the object on camera it had vanished from sight. If it had remained for a more extended period of time then we may have had some footage to examine.
While earth lights can sometimes be orange in colour, they are not known to appear in the vicinity, and tend to drift slowly. Ball lightning tends to be white or blue-white in colour, and would only appear in stormy weather conditions, so cannot be the explanation.
Here are James’ conclusions on what took place:
“When there are a group of people together, ‘willing’ to share a group experience especially if they are inexperienced, there is a danger that there can be a group hallucination where people feed off the story or reaction of one another. However, we don’t believe this is the case in this instance. I only spoke to Rachel and it wasn’t until most of the group had left, that people had independently reported seeing an orange light.
I can confidently discount any astronomical influence due to the cloud cover. I can also discount any commercial flights as there weren’t any at the time. What also discounts it is a drone or Chinese lantern was the unusual movement pattern. The luminosity of the object was also interesting as it was self-lit and very bright. Planes and drones tend to have flashing lights and this light was solid.
On the above basis, I believe this to be an Unidentified Ariel Phenomenon and will require further investigation. What gives this an edge is that multiple people saw it independent from one another.”
Looking at mundane explanations, I feel that a deliberate hoax like a silent flare seems the most probable. The sky watch was advertised online and on West Midlands radio, so it is conceivable that someone may have headed to the area intentionally to trick the sky watchers.
However even this explanation comes with multiple issues. Firstly the two locations the orb was observed were quite far apart from one another, yet the sightings seemed to only happen minutes apart. Unless there were numerous groups of people individually launching flares at different locations, it seems unlikely that those responsible would have been able to move between the locations quickly enough. Even then, flares tend to drift slowly down to the ground over a number of seconds, they do not perform erratic manoeuvres or descend rapidly.
It was also extremely quiet at the location and nobody else was seen or heard in the vicinity. A parked car was observed alongside the cemetery, and obviously it would be possible for someone to sneak around the outskirts and purposely launch fireworks or flares to trick those present on the sky watch, it genuinely felt like we were on our own out there.
With most mundane explanations not fitting what was observed, and remaining possibilities impossible to verify, technically the object or objects remain a mystery… one or multiple UFOs observed during a UFO sky watch!
Copyright Dave Hodrien 2022