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Old 19th March 2010, 05:20 AM   #1
23_Tauri
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1994 UFO Sighting by Schoolchildren in Ruwa, Zimbabwe

1994 UFO Sighting by Schoolchildren in Ruwa, Zimbabwe

I’ve just come across this UFO report from 1994 for the first time. I’ve searched the Randi forums to see if it has been discussed before, and could only this short thread here, but no in-depth discussion or alternative explanations as such.

Some links:

http://www.ufoevidence.org/Cases/case127.htm

http://www.johnemackinstitute.org/ce...ews.asp?id=314

http://www.witness.co.za/?showconten...%5B_id%5D=6379

A quick Google search and I couldn’t find any serious analysis of the childrens’ experience, only reports from the standard MUFON and other ufology sites. Does anyone have any knowledge or opinion about this event? What about historical reports of mass hallucination among children? Any alternative hypotheses that doesn't include little telepathic aliens in silver suits?

I would be very interested to hear some views. Thank you.
Tauri

Last edited by 23_Tauri; 19th March 2010 at 05:24 AM.
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Old 19th March 2010, 05:28 AM   #2
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Cottingley fairies, not Cottingham. And that wasn't "mass hysteria", it was outright fraud.

The incident as described seems remarkably implausible, the result of some very deliberate denialism on the part of the investigators. Ockham's Razor says it was made up by the kids "for a laff".
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Old 19th March 2010, 05:37 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by 23_Tauri View Post
1994 UFO Sighting by Schoolchildren in Ruwa, Zimbabwe

I’ve just come across this UFO report from 1994 for the first time. I’ve searched the Randi forums to see if it has been discussed before, and could only this short thread here, but no in-depth discussion or alternative explanations as such.
Don't expect any. You've linked three websites which basically say, "A bunch of these kids say they saw a UFO this one time." How are we supposed to analyze or investigate this 16 years after the fact? For that matter, how are you supposed to analyze or investigate it a day after the fact? Unless the UFOs are still hanging around right there in the sky, there's really not much left to do except ask the claimants to repeat the claim again, which doesn't really accomplish anything.
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Old 19th March 2010, 06:50 AM   #4
23_Tauri
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Don't expect any. You've linked three websites which basically say, "A bunch of these kids say they saw a UFO this one time." How are we supposed to analyze or investigate this 16 years after the fact? For that matter, how are you supposed to analyze or investigate it a day after the fact? Unless the UFOs are still hanging around right there in the sky, there's really not much left to do except ask the claimants to repeat the claim again, which doesn't really accomplish anything.
Hi Checkmite. I agree that anecdotal evidence is all we have to go on. I was wondering if there was a legitimate psychological explanation for 62 children all deciding they had had the same experience. How does one account for the story, apart from saying "they're all lying"?

re Cottingley fairies: I deleted this part of my post because I recalled that the photographic 'evidence' was exposed as fraud. Not the best comparison to make, in retrospect.
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Old 19th March 2010, 07:25 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by 23_Tauri View Post
Hi Checkmite. I agree that anecdotal evidence is all we have to go on. I was wondering if there was a legitimate psychological explanation for 62 children all deciding they had had the same experience. How does one account for the story, apart from saying "they're all lying"?

re Cottingley fairies: I deleted this part of my post because I recalled that the photographic 'evidence' was exposed as fraud. Not the best comparison to make, in retrospect.
More than 62 people at a time have falsely reported seeing things.
You only need a few to misinterpret a natural phenomenon, shout "Look, UFO", add to that the strong need to be part of a group that children tend to have, then ask the opinion of just a few of the group, who may answer " Oh yeah, we all saw it".
Hey presto you have a UFO seen by all, or not.
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Old 19th March 2010, 07:26 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by 23_Tauri View Post
I was wondering if there was a legitimate psychological explanation for 62 children all deciding they had had the same experience. How does one account for the story, apart from saying "they're all lying"? .
Peer pressure
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Old 19th March 2010, 07:58 AM   #7
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Old 19th March 2010, 08:04 AM   #8
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Thanks. This makes sense to me. Children do have a great propensity to group behaviour. It would only take one child to say "it's the aliens" for all to follow suit. Brave the child with the one dissenting voice saying "there's nothing there" and face being ostracised by his/her peers. It's not going to happen, is it?
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Old 19th March 2010, 08:10 AM   #9
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Some time ago I had about ten children telling me there was a UFO right in my front yard. Two of them were my own.
I went out and looked. It was dusk, and they were looking at a very bright star or planet at a fairly high elevation. "It's falling on us!" they said. They'd managed to get themselves quite worked up over it.
Even my own kids didn't like my explanation. Excitement was a lot more fun than being mistaken.
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Old 19th March 2010, 08:16 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by 23_Tauri View Post
Thanks. This makes sense to me. Children do have a great propensity to group behaviour. It would only take one child to say "it's the aliens" for all to follow suit. Brave the child with the one dissenting voice saying "there's nothing there" and face being ostracised by his/her peers. It's not going to happen, is it?
No its not.
Funny, the only person not to see it was the Teacher.
The kids drawings are presented as some sort of back up to their story. They cant even agree on the colours!

The reporter said that he only asked a few of the kids?

The reporter said the kid smiled when he said he believed. Doh!
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Old 19th March 2010, 08:20 AM   #11
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This forum's such a breath of fresh air! How did I survive so long without this sanity check in my life? (answer: woo-fully...)
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Old 19th March 2010, 08:41 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by MG1962 View Post
Peer pressure
That's actually a very good reason, and not the less because it doesn't have to be direct or obvious.

I found myself guilty of this just last evening, in fact. I arrived at school to see a tow truck, nearby in the parking lot hooking up an nice-looking new car. This particular parking lot is the one for the Automotive Tech building, and I figured one of the day students had been working on his car for a class and hadn't been able to finish something vital on time - rule is "drive, push, or tow, at the end of the day the car is out of the building". I parked and went inside to find two other students watching - they told me the new car had been normally parked in the lot when this tow truck came up, and the tow driver got out, jimmied the car's lock, put it in neutral and pushed it away from the curb so he could get the tow hooked up - the car had evidently been repossessed.

Only a few minutes later, I was telling another student who'd just arrived (after the tow truck was gone) what had happened, and ended up describing the incident as if I'd seen it start to finish, even though I hadn't actually witnessed all the events myself.
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Old 19th March 2010, 09:10 AM   #13
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Kids' sketches of the saucer were not similar (unless you think "round" is all it takes); kids' sketches of the "alien" were not similar (unless you think "small" is all it takes).

So, once again, move away folks, nothing to see here. Unless you are an UFO creduloid eager to find straws to fuel belief's fire or a charlatan trying to make some profit out of creduloids.
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Old 19th March 2010, 10:51 AM   #14
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It can also be explained with group lying.
I have no source for this but I have noticed in schools in underdeveloped countries you often find large classes of varying ages, say, 10-14 years old. The reason being that all of the kids in the village are in one class. It makes sense. It saves money. I dont think its too much of a stretch to conclude that one dominant kid pressures the others into lying to Teacher before class.

"Anyone not going along with me gets a beating outside later"

A kid with a reputation ( All kids from same village they know and fear him/her) could pull that off
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Old 19th March 2010, 03:03 PM   #15
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When I was about twelve or thirteen, a bunch of us kids would sometimes hold "seances". One girl in particular was "good" at hearing from the spirits, and once she heard from the spirits, others would chime in that they heard them too. I guess I was a skeptic even then, because I never heard any and never claimed to. But I'm guessing if you asked any of the others, they'd say, "everybody heard them".
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Old 19th March 2010, 10:00 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Zep View Post
The incident as described seems remarkably implausible, the result of some very deliberate denialism on the part of the investigators.
This.

Not sure if I’m reading this right but…

[from the article by Cynthia Hind in the 1994 UFO AFRINEWS linked to in the OP]
“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.

[snip]

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.”
Note this is four days later and…

[emphasis mine]
“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.”
And finally…
“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)”
So a believer in alien abductions spends two days “interviewing” the children before the press arrives and they’re asked to draw what they saw and she wonders where the children may have leaned about “flying saucers” as portrayed in the media?

[imagines Dr. Mack showing them pictures of flying saucers and asking them “Is this what you saw?”]

Seems to me asking the children to “Draw me a picture of the helicopter and man you saw” would naturally produce a different result than “Draw me a picture of the flying saucer and alien Dr. Mack believes you saw”…

[hypothetically speaking of course]
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Old 20th March 2010, 02:10 AM   #17
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Here's some video with John Mack interviewing some of the children. At the beginning, the voice-over tells us that Mack visited Zimbabwe two months later, to interview the children. From this I deduce he was not in the country at the time of the incident.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgZE8...eature=related

Things I noted about this video. The children don't refer to aliens and spaceships, but to "the man" "a silver thing, a man standing next to it", "on top of the silver object". When one of the little girls is asked about the eyes she makes a wrap-around gesture around her eyes that to me looks like she is describing a visor.

It is others who appear to have interpretated this as an alien visitation.

Although I think Mack, as a trained child psychologist, would be adept at not putting suggestion into the minds of the children during interview, what we don't know is how much conversation between the adults (staff, parents) the children would have heard that would have coloured their perception and interpretation of the event, as intimated by AccessDenied in his post above. I can imagine the staff/parents having that "OMG! it sounds like an alien" conversation which could be overheard by the children.
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Old 20th March 2010, 11:50 AM   #18
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Interesting, apparently that Stephane Allix documentary began production just prior to Dr. Mack’s death in 2004, some ten years after the incident. From another documentary being made by the John E. Mack Institute, there’s this regarding the footage of Dr. Mack interviewing the children…

http://www.johnemackinstitute.org/ce...ews.asp?id=314

“The program is being made from original Betacam footage that was shot between November 28 and December 6, 1994.”

So two months later would appear to be correct.

Now here’s the original BBC footage of Cynthia Hind talking to the children ostensibly shot four days after the incident….

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
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YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE

It may be interesting to compare these early interviews with the later ones. I don’t see Dr. Mack in that footage so I’m not sure why she would apparently assert that he was there before she was?

Ah, figured it out. Found her original article in UFO AFRINEWS #11 (Feb. 1995) here…

http://www.ufoafrinews.com/pdfs/UFO_AFRINEWS11-150.pdf

The article on the “UFO Evidence” site attributed to her that you linked to in your OP appears to be a conflation of two different articles, one about the actual incident in September and one about Dr. Mack’s visit in November. Both articles contain more information. For example, some interesting quotes that were left out…

"They could also hear a whirring noise and see a bright white light, silverish light coming from the objects."

"When all this happened, a very strong wind passed over them."


I should know better than to trust anything I read on a UFO website without verifying it with the original source.
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Old 20th March 2010, 12:58 PM   #19
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As an aside, not derailing the conversation, but could anyone answer a question regarding youtube links please? I posted a youtube link in one of my posts earlier, but the link was not replaced by the normal disclaimer regarding JREF not being responsbile for content of external sites, which I expected to happen. Am I allowed to post youtube links direct into my posts or do I have to follow a different procedure? I read on the FAQ that JREF doesn't handle hyperlinks and I searched the FAQ regards youtube clips but couldn't find the answer to my question.
Hope someone can help, I don't want to be transgressing rules regarding posting urls. Thanks.
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Old 20th March 2010, 01:26 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by 23_Tauri View Post
As an aside, not derailing the conversation, but could anyone answer a question regarding youtube links please? I posted a youtube link in one of my posts earlier, but the link was not replaced by the normal disclaimer regarding JREF not being responsbile for content of external sites, which I expected to happen. Am I allowed to post youtube links direct into my posts or do I have to follow a different procedure? I read on the FAQ that JREF doesn't handle hyperlinks and I searched the FAQ regards youtube clips but couldn't find the answer to my question.
Hope someone can help, I don't want to be transgressing rules regarding posting urls. Thanks.
Begin with [ YT]; end with [ /YT], but without the space after the opening bracket. In between you put, not the whole URL, but what comes after the =. In this case it would be bgZE8s0hBRQ.

I don't believe there is any requirement that you do it this way; I have seen many links to youtube using only the URL. I have only used the youtube tags once. Let's see if I can make it work with your link:

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
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ETA If you hit "quote" on a post that has a youtube video with the disclaimer, you can see the tags and the URL.

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Old 20th March 2010, 01:27 PM   #21
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Thank you Lucian
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Old 20th March 2010, 01:31 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by 23_Tauri View Post
Thank you Lucian
No problem. It took me months to figure that out.
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Old 20th March 2010, 01:37 PM   #23
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More "undocumented" BB code tags here...

http://www.internationalskeptics.com....php?do=bbcode

Like the [noparse] tag I just found so you can show somebody how to use the [yt] tag for YouTube...

[yt]bgZE8s0hBRQ[/yt]

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Old 22nd March 2010, 07:38 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Access Denied View Post
Ah, figured it out. Found her original article in UFO AFRINEWS #11 (Feb. 1995) here…

http://www.ufoafrinews.com/pdfs/UFO_AFRINEWS11-150.pdf

The article on the “UFO Evidence” site attributed to her that you linked to in your OP appears to be a conflation of two different articles, one about the actual incident in September and one about Dr. Mack’s visit in November. Both articles contain more information. For example, some interesting quotes that were left out…

"They could also hear a whirring noise and see a bright white light, silverish light coming from the objects."

"When all this happened, a very strong wind passed over them."


I should know better than to trust anything I read on a UFO website without verifying it with the original source.
Interesting, thanks Access. How many ufologist filters do the testimonies of the children go through to get from "small man with band around his head" and "small whitish object" to "encounter with alien entities and spaceship"?

What man-made flying machine creates 'a very strong wind' and a 'whirring noise'? Hmmm....toughie that one....

Thanks for the link to the code tags also.
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Old 22nd March 2010, 08:18 AM   #25
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I think this thread is relevant to this thread. Hundreds of school children claimed to have seen a vampire and actually went out hunting for it, including at least some of them who admit to never actually seeing anything and who didn't even know what a vampire was at the time.
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