62 Zimbabwe children witness something extraordinary
In what is widely considered to be one of the best “close encounter” cases in UFO history, on September 16, 1994, sixty-two children of various races and ethnic backgrounds witnessed an extraordinary spectacle on the playground of Ariel School in the small farming community of Ruwa, Zimbabwe. Students ranging in age from 5 to 12 years old, described (and drew) the same scenario – a fleet of alien UFOs, one of which touched down near their school playground, and two “small gray men with thin necks and huge eyes” who warned the children that humanity should take better care of their planet – or else. Researchers and psychologists, including a noted Harvard University psychiatrist professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, descended on the scene of the sighting and in the end, ruled that the event “seemed to be what it is”. The children had seen something they could not explain – and it terrified them.
Prelude – September 14, 1994 “meteor”
Two days before the Ariel School mass UFO sighting, on September 14, 1994, thousands of Zimbabweans had witnessed a UFO pass across the clear evening sky. In a culture with no widespread knowledge or media coverage of UFO sightings or alien encounters, many felt the object seen in the sky was a meteor or some sort of crashing space vehicle from the United States (despite the fact that some witnesses claimed to have watched the slow-moving light for 2-3 minutes while others claimed it descended and then changed course, levelling off to “follow the tree line”). One witness noted:
“This thing, whatever it was, was beautiful. It had a circular-shaped bright light as the leader, and behind it were tails of light in beautiful colors: green, orange, and yellow. It moved slowly and looked as if it was just above the house. The amazing thing is that it moved absolutely silently.”
Settling on a scientific explanation for their experience (a meteor), two days later, they would rethink what they saw.
The Zimbabwe Ariel School mass UFO sighting
Ariel School is a private elementary school located in Ruwa, about 20 kilometers from Harare, the capitol of Zimbabwe. At approximately 10:15 AM on the Friday morning of September 16, 1994, while teachers were attending a mandatory weekly teachers’ meeting inside the school, the children of Ariel School were sent outside to play on the school playground. One adult supervised the recess that morning, a physiotherapist (Mrs. Kirkman) who operated a small snack bar for the students, selling soft drinks and candies. A wide variety of students of mixed age and ethnic heritage – over 60 black, white, and Asian students – witnessed what happened next.
As the students frolicked noisily around the playground (it was a beautiful, clear morning), several children noticed three objects in the sky (some reported five) above the school. Described as round, silver, and saucer-shaped with lit portals around the perimeter, the objects seemed to move extraordinarily fast disappearing in the blink of an eye and reappearing in another place in the sky a moment later. Eventually, one of the objects landed on the ground about 100 meters from the children.
The object settled in a brushy, wooded area that was uncleared and ruled unsafe for the children to venture into (some children reported that it “hovered” inches above the ground). One of the researchers on the scene described the geography of the landing area.
“Beyond their playground, which was dotted with several clumps of trees, the rest being mostly cleared ground, there was a bush area. The ground there belonged to the school and although attempts had been made to clear and level it, it really was still rough land: loving grass with thorn and other indigenous bushes, trees growing in higgledy-piggledy fashion, and undergrowth thick and heavy enough to hide a child should he venture there.”
Soon, what the students described as a “small man” could be seen standing on top of the UFO. The occupant of the craft was described as being about one meter (3 ft.) tall, wearing a tight, shiny black and silver one-piece suit (“similar to a wetsuit”), with a slender neck and very large black eyes. Some described the entity as having long hair, a mane, or cape of some sort. It walked down the craft and proceeded in the direction of the children.
As the extraterrestrial entity approached the children, it paused and in an instant, disappeared. Almost at the same moment, another creature (or possibly the same) appeared behind the grounded UFO and then after a brief moment, once again disappeared. Within seconds, the craft lifted off and vanished into the sky above the school.
Many of the smaller children were terrified and began crying for help. The “little man” evoked memories of African legends they had heard about demons and ghosts who ate little children. Some of the children ran to Mrs. Kirkman, who was attending the snack bar, but she did not believe their story, and continued with her duties. A researcher documented the testimony of the first adult witness, the snack shop operator, Mrs. Kirkman.
“Mrs. Kirkman told me that when the children came running into the Tuckshop, talking excitedly about ‘a small man running around with a band around his head and a one-piece suit’, she was totally skeptical. [She later said that she thought the children were playing]”
Upon hearing the children’s story, Colin Mackie, the Headmaster, had the children return to the classroom and sketch what they had seen. By the time researchers arrived on the scene the following day, they had 35 various drawings waiting for them. All of the drawings were similar in their depiction of the UFO and its occupants, illustrating the same disc-shaped craft and small, bug-eyed alien entity.
One of the older girls described the entity she had seen as a creature with a “small nose and a mouth that was a small, straight line” adding that “the eyes were very big and slanting”. Another described the ET as “thin and skinny with a scrawny neck and eyes that were large and oval-shaped”.
Pointing out that the alien entity never spoke to them directly, a few of the older students noted that they had communicated with the craft’s occupants and were informed by the ET that we were destroying Earth by polluting it, and unless we changed our ways, there would be dire consequences.
“Those thoughts came from the man – the man’s eyes.”
Preconceived notions of aliens and UFOs were quickly ruled out – many of the children admitted to never having heard of “UFOs” before the event.
Noted UFO investigator and psychotherapist Cynthia Hind and Harvard psychiatric professor and Cambridge Hospital physician Dr. John E. Mack spent two days interviewing the parents, teachers, and children about their experience. Video of the interviews shows a group of very serious children calmly, and convincingly, explaining what they saw. One witness to the filming of the interviews noted:
“When they were interviewed by Mack, with all his professional skills, it was clear they were telling the truth — their voice, tone, their body language. They were so consistent, they told their stories with such conviction. And they spoke about it in their own language. One child recalled being told by the alien that we should not be so ‘techknowledged’ — why make up something like that?”
Dr. Mack analyzed the interviews and concluded that the children did not experience a mass delusion – what they had witnessed that day was real.
“[The children] experienced a very powerful encounter with these beings and we’re left with a rather disturbing fact that this seems to be what it is and it seems to have no other psychiatric explanation.”
Typically with children’s “tall tales”, experts point out that in almost all cases, the child will eventually admit to the lie. In 2010, the children, who were now adults, were again interviewed about their experience. Sixteen years after the event – not one of the 62 children recanted their story. Here are snippets of what the witnesses, who are now adults, said 16 years after the event.
“It was that face, that craft. It will never go out of my mind.”
“We [the witnesses] met up on many occasions after that and hugged and shook our heads and said ‘that was the most amazing experience of our lives’.”
“It was strange, it was exciting. You don’t see stuff like that every day. That was like a once in a lifetime experience.”
“We *know* we didn’t just make this up. Something definitely was happening. Whether it was UFOs or whether it was who know what else, we can’t say for sure one way or another but definitely there was something that happened there that day and it got the whole school riled up.”
“If there was one experience in my life that I’d like to relive, it would be that particular experience.”
“He never stopped talking about it. He has *never* stopped talking about it. And he has believed all this time that it did happen.”
A teacher professed that she believed the childrens’ story and was convinced that they had witnessed something extraordinary.
“I don’t believe for a minute you could get that many kids to agree to do something like that. I really don’t. I know children well enough, I just don’t think that could happen, so I’m absolutely sure that something did happen there that day.”
Six years after the incident, UFO investigator Cynthia Hind died after a short battle with cancer.
Shortly after the event, Dr. Mack, a tenured professor, was censured by Harvard University. According to BBC, it was the first time in history that a tenured Harvard professor, who was not suspected of ethics violations or professional misconduct, was subjected to such an investigation. He was later cleared and given Harvard’s blessing to continue his research. A few years later, Mack was struck by a “drunk driver” during a visit to London. He died on the scene.
Progress of documentary
The South African newspaper The Witness reports on the progress of the John E. Mack Institute’s documentary about the Ariel School Sighting.
April 16, 2008
American film maker Randall Nickerson is currently visiting southern Africa to make a documentary that follows up an incident that happened at the Ariel School in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, in 1994, when 62 children aged between eight and 12 reported seeing a UFO and “strange beings” during their morning break.
Those children are now young adults scattered around the globe. Nickerson is tracking them down and interviewing them about the experience. “Their stories have not changed at all,” he says. “Not what you would expect if they had made it all up.”
So what exactly happened on that day in 1994 at the school in Ruwa just east of Harare? “It was morning break and they were out in the school yard playing,” says Nickerson. “They saw one main silver craft that had four others around it,” says Nickerson. “It came down on a hill beyond the school yard that was out of bounds. The boundary was the edge of the school yard, then it was bush and the hill.
“They ran to the edge of the school yard to see what this thing was. They saw this small creature walk around on top of the craft while another came down to check out the children. He was all in black, with a very tight suit. The children said he had big eyes ‘like rugby balls’.
The children had direct eye contact with this creature. There seems to have been some kind of communication with the children about the state of the world — what we are doing to the planet, the destruction we are causing, although not all the children got this message. Some of the children were traumatized, others were excited. The young children were the most traumatized as they were at the front of the group.
“They all went screaming back to the teachers. The teachers didn’t believe them at first. But then they went home and told their parents who came to the school and wanted to know what had happened.”
Soon afterwards the children were asked to draw pictures of what they had seen. “They did this separately. The drawings were all the same.”
A BBC television crew were first on the scene to follow it up. In November 1994, Harvard professor of psychiatry John E. Mack visited the school and filmed interviews with the children. He was assisted by South African producer Nicky Carter who had already made a short documentary on the subject for the SABC. “I had a half-brother at the school,” she says. “He was off sick on the day it happened, but the children told him all about it and he contacted me.”
Carter has no doubt the children were telling the truth. “When they were interviewed by Mack with all his professional skills it was clear they were telling the truth — their voice tone, their body language. They were so consistent, they told their stories with such conviction. And they spoke about it in their own language. One child recalled being told by the alien that we should not be so ‘techknowledged’ — why make up something like that?”
Mack, a Pulitzer prize winner for his biography of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) titled A Prince of Our Disorder, was a highly respected psychiatrist. However, when he began researching the phenomenon of reported alien abductions, his fellow academics looked askance. In 1994, when his book Abduction appeared, a committee was appointed to review Mack’s clinical care and investigation of the people who had shared their alien encounters with him. According to the BBC, “It was the first time in Harvard’s history that a tenured professor was subjected to such an investigation.”
After 14 months of inquiry, Harvard issued a statement stating that the dean had “reaffirmed Dr. Mack’s academic freedom to study what he wishes and to state his opinions without impediment”.
In 2004, Mack was killed by a drunk driver while he was visiting London to lecture at a T. E. Lawrence conference.
Mack was guarded in his interpretation of the abduction phenomenon. To one interviewer who said that Mack seemed “inclined to take these [abduction] reports at face value”, Mack replied saying: “Face value I wouldn’t say. I take them seriously. I don’t have a way to account for them.”
In a BBC interview he said: “I would never say, yes, there are aliens taking people. [But] I would say there is a compelling powerful phenomenon here that I can’t account for in any other way. Yet I can’t know what it is but it seems to me that it invites a deeper, further inquiry.”
Nickerson sees himself as taking that inquiry further after being commissioned by the John E. Mack Institute, along with producer Dominique Callimanopulos, to make a documentary incorporating the interview footage shot in 1994 with follow-up material shot in the present.
“I want to present the story objectively,” says Nickerson. “To show the original raw material. That’s what initially interested me about this case. These children all describing seeing the same thing. You can tell they are not lying. But having seen this footage I thought: I need to go to this place, to talk to people, I need to investigate it for myself. Did this really happen?
“The subject has to be approached as scientifically as possible,” he says. “There are questions that we need to ask. It’s a case of presenting the evidence just like court.”
Despite this rigorous approach, isn’t there a danger he will simply encounter those on the “lunatic fringe”? “I have found those are the people who have all the answers, but people to whom something like this has really happened don’t. They have millions of questions. There is a humility about them, they realize it’s not about them.
At the beginning of the project Nickerson set about contacting those people who had been among the 62 children who had witnessed the sighting. They are mainly students in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Britain.
Tracking them down hasn’t been that difficult. “They are contacting us because of what we put up on the John E. Mack Institute website. What is interesting is that their stories remain the same as in 1994.
“They were affected profoundly,” says Nickerson. “At the time one girl was told by her parents not to talk about it, that she had imagined it all. But then she found other people’s stories on the Internet. She got in touch with them and realized ‘Oh my God, that was real’.
Others I’ve met never doubted it. They say the experience opened up new horizons for them.”
Nickerson cites two students who are now studying in the U.S. “Their father said they would never have done that, but after their experience the children were totally changed, that’s what convinced him that something really happened.”
Nickerson’s first stop during his visit to southern Africa was Ariel School. “I interviewed teachers and workers who were there at the time.” He also came across people from two different schools in the area who had similar sightings on the same day.
Nickerson is now in South Africa trying to track down those living here who were witnesses on that day. He will be here until the end of April following up leads resulting from two radio interviews he has given.
Article from The Cape Times regarding the documentary
August 26, 2008
UFO sighting in Zimbabwe
By Tom Powell
American film-maker Randall Nickerson is in Cape Town this week seeking inspiration for a documentary he is putting together about a UFO sighting in Zimbabwe in 1994.During morning break on September 14 of that year, 62 schoolchildren between the ages of eight and 12 saw a strange craft land 150 metres from the Ariel School in Ruwa, from which two small beings emerged which were described as having “big eyes like rugby balls”.The children’s individual descriptions of the phenomenon were so similar that news of the sighting spread around the globe. Nickerson was approached with footage taken by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Professor John Mack, who travelled to Zimbabwe to interview the children after the event.
Nickerson said: “This is a story the world needs to see. Personally, I think it’s moving. I’ve found hundreds, if not thousands, of people who believe it and couldn’t find anyone who didn’t. It blew my mind when I saw it.” Although Nickerson admits the footage of the event makes it difficult to disprove the phenomenon, he doesn’t want his film to be biased. “I don’t want to steer the documentary in any direction at all. I’d rather present all the evidence and let people make up their own minds.”Refusing to believe so many people can be mistaken, Nickerson is visiting southern Africa to shed light on those events.Having visited the school itself, Nickerson is now in Cape Town to track down some witnesses and investigate some “unearthly” sightings that occurred in South Africa, including two UFO sightings in Port Shepstone and Johannesburg in April. Anyone who saw the event in Zimbabwe can contact Nickerson on 082 815 4731 or by e-mail at email@example.com@inl.co.za.
Original AFRINEWS report about the incident
Cynthia Hind, UFO AFRINEWS 1994
The Children of Ariel School – Case No. #96. Ruwa, Zimbabwe
UFO AFRINEWS 1994
On Friday 16th September, at approximately 10:15, 62 children from Ariel School, a private primary school in Ruwa (about 20 km from Harare) were in their playing field for the mid-morning break. Suddenly, they saw three silver balls in the sky over the school. These disappeared with a flash of light and then reappeared elsewhere. This happened three times and then they started to move down towards the school with one of them landing (or hovering) over a section of rough ground made up of trees, thorn bushes, and some brown-grey cut grass with bamboo shoots sticking up out of the ground. The children are not allowed in this area although it is adjacent to their playing field and is not fenced off, because of snakes, spiders and perhaps other harmful creatures. One can soon disappear from view while walking here, and there is only one very rough track used by tractors in an attempt to clear this area.
There is a line of electricity pylons and according to one boy, the object followed along this line prior to landing. There is also some controversy as to whether the object _landed_ on the ground or hovered above it. On Tuesday, 20th September, I went out to the school with a BBC reporter and their television equipment, as well as my son and Gunter Hofer, a young man who builds his own electrical equipment, viz, a Geiger counter, a metal detector and a magnetometer, to try and see if the object left any traces behind.
The headmaster of the school is Mr. Colin Mackie, who was most co-operative, and although he had never been involved with UFOs or a believer in them, said that he believed the children had seen what they said they saw.
I was able to interview about 10 or 12 older children and this was recorded for BBC television.
One eyewitness, Barry D., said he had seen three objects flying over, with flashing red lights. They disappeared, and reappeared almost immediately, but somewhere else. This happened about three times. Then they came and landed near some gum trees; Barry said the main one (object) was about the size of his thumb nail held at arm’s length. The reports were similar although some children were more observant than others. The consensus of opinion was that an object came down in the area where they indicated, about 100 metres from where they were at the edge of the school playing field. Then a small man (approx 1 metre in height) appeared on top of the object. He walked a little way across the rough ground, became aware of the children and disappeared. He, or someone very like him, then reappeared at the back of the object. The object took off very rapidly and disappeared. The little man was dressed in a tight-fitting black suit which was ‘shiny’ according to one observant girl (11 years of age). He had a long scrawny neck and huge eyes like rugby balls. He had a pale face with long black hair coming below his shoulders.
I had suggested to Mr. Mackie prior to visiting the school and before the children had been interviewed, that he let the children draw what they had seen and he now has about 30-40 drawings, some of which are very explicit and clear, although some are rather vague. The children’s’ ages vary from 5/6 to 12 years. I have 22 photocopies of the clearer drawings as Mr. Mackie kindly allowed me to page through the pictures and choose those I wanted. Most of the descriptions are similar but some of the craft are very obviously ‘flying saucers’, and I wonder how many of these children have had access to the media. Others are crude but more or less in this saucer shape.
The children vary in cultures: there are black, white, coloured and Asian children. One little girl said to me, ‘I swear by every hair on my head and the whole Bible that I am telling the truth.’ I could see the pleasure on her face when I told her that I believed her. The smaller children from 5-7 years were very frightened at the time and ran shouting ‘Help me, help me.’ When the older children asked why they were saying this, the reply was, ‘He is coming to eat us.’ I should think this applied more to the black African children who have legends of _tokoloshies_ eating children.
Their teachers were in a meeting and did not come out. When I queried the headmaster about this he said the children always shouted and yelled during their playtime and no-one thought there was anything unusual going on. The only other adult available at the time was one of the mothers who was running the tuckshop. When the children came to call her, she did not believe them and would not come out: she was not prepared to leave the tuckshop with all the food and money. Gunter and the men thoroughly examined the ground around where the children had seen the object, but could get no reaction on the geiger counter or any other equipment. If the object was hovering perhaps nothing would show.
I walked, on my own, along the electricity pylons for quite a away, caught up in thorn bushes, trampling blithely over snake holes and discarding all caution. I found no place where some object could have landed and pressed down the foliage. In fact, I should think the bamboo stumps would have been a deterrent. The day was hot, around 33 C (91F)…
Dr John Mack was visiting Zimbabwe at the time of the event, and he spent two days at Ariel School with the children. He also spoke to the Headmaster, Colin Mackie, the teachers and some of the parents. John and his fellow researcher, Dominique Callimanopulos, were able to get through to the parents and teachers and convince them that even if they did not believe the children, it was counter-productive to accuse them of lying. Listen and think about what they were saying, he advised. His particular interest in child psychiatry was also of great use during the questioning and many former hidden memories came to light, something John is sure to make public when he has had a chance to reassess his interviewing.(sic)
There is a lot more to this incident than has been uncovered now and we will report further in UFO AFRINEWS No. 12.