After disc- or saucer-shaped UFOs, the most reported shape for these elusive objects is that of a black triangle or deltoid. Sometimes they are described as V-shaped or similar to a boomerang, but the triangular structure is the most commonly reported of this type. More often than not, they have bright lights at each corner and a larger one at the centre, although some are described as having rows of lights along the edges.
It is often said that Black Triangle (BT) sightings began in the 1940s and peaked in the late 1980s and 1990s, but they have been reported throughout history. Cave paintings, frescoes and woodcuts have all depicted triangular objects, as well as the more common discs, cigars and circles/spheres. Two triangles were observed manoeuvring close to the Moon in July, 1882.
It was the post-war years, though, that saw an explosion in BT sightings. Not all triangles are described as ‘black’, with some appearing metallic or luminous. It has been suggested, with merit, that the BTs sighted after the end of World War II may actually be top-secret aircraft flown by our governments. This theory is supported by the various delta-winged aircraft that were developed, as well as the numerous ‘flying wing’ planes like the Northrop YB-35 and YB-49.
Kenneth Arnold’s famous sighting of 1947 could be counted as a triangle sighting, although the objects he saw were described as ‘crescent-shaped’. His description (see photo above right) was very reminiscent of the Horton Ho-229 fighter, although these Nazi-designed aircraft were unable to achieve the 1200-1700 mph calculated by Arnold for the craft he observed.
Although described as a ‘flying disc’ in the official press release, the downed Roswell craft has been depicted by various witnesses as a triangular, winged vehicle. Based upon these descriptions, forensic artist, William Louis McDonald published his technical diagrams of the craft. They created such a stir that model kit firm, Testors, added it to their range of successful scale models.
It is curious that both of the UFO incidents that kick-started the modern age of ufology have craft that are decidedly aircraft-shaped. Over the following decades, more triangle sightings occurred.
In March, 1965, near the village of Skeeby, North Yorkshire, nine triangular objects, each about 100-feet long and flying in a V-formation, were witnessed by a man driving his 1951 Ford. His engine sputtered and died and he climbed out to investigate the fault. It was then that he saw a large object moving about 100-feet above the moor. As he watched, it shot skywards and joined eight other, identical, objects.
In 1969, the British Petroleum (BP) oil tanker, British Grenadier, was sailing through the Gulf of Mexico. Suddenly, a triangular UFO appeared over the ship, described at the time as being like an ‘arrowhead’. It remained above the tanker for the next three days, appearing dark blue during daylight hours and silver at night.
According to the ship’s log, on the first day, at one minute past midnight, the engines shut down and only emergency lighting and steering were operational. Launched in 1962, the tanker was only seven years old and pretty much state-of-the-art for the time. The engines were restarted, but only after a full manual shutdown and restart of the pumps.
On the second day, the food refrigerators failed. No reason was found for this.
The third day of the sighting was the most dramatic. A crewman noticed that the lights in the air-conditioning room were off. He noticed a door open that led to one of the crews’ sleeping quarters and passed through it. A few minutes later, at one minute after midnight again, the engines shut down. It was discovered that the starter motor for the engines had been dismantled and the parts laid out as though for examination. Twelve hours later, the craft vanished.
The crewman who had noticed the air-c0nditioning room lights being out and passed through the open door into the nearby crew quarters was shocked to discover that the same door had been welded shut before the tanker had left port because of a fault. How could it have been open at the time of the second engine shutdown?
[UFOData Magazine has contacted BP Shipping for more information about this case and, hopefully, will be able to share what we discover later]
In the 1970s, there was a spate of BT sightings over France. In June, 1976, an aircraft mechanic in Pierre-de-Bresse saw a triangular craft with flickering orange and white lights and the forward point and bright, white lights to the rear. The witness observed it moving slowly and silently for five minutes before it disappeared to the north.
A few months later, military personnel saw a similar object over Marseille and just days after that another was spotted over Saint-Nazaire-d'Aude, this time with a red light at the centre.
In December, 1977, a triangle with yellow lights at the tips and a red light at the centre was seen near Brettnach in north-eastern France. The craft moved slowly and silently before angling to 45-50 degrees and vanishing ‘as though into fog’.
On the last day of December, 1981, a retired police officer from Kent, New York, saw several lights to the south. At first he thought that a plane was in trouble, but as it drew closer, he realized that this was no conventional aircraft. It became apparent that the lights were attached to a triangular structure and he was amazed that it was travelling so slowly and almost silently, save for a low hum.
More sightings came in and in March, 1983, a telephone hotline was opened, receiving three hundred reports on its first night! That same night, the police switchboard in Yorktown, New York, was also swamped and a road became blocked as motorists pulled over to watch a triangle flying overhead. Between 1982 and 1986 over 5,000 reports came from the Hudson Valley area.
The Hudson Valley wave led into what is probably the most famous flap of BT sightings – the Belgian UFO Wave.
On November 29th, 1989, two police officers driving between Eupen and Kettenis in eastern Belgium saw a ‘dark solid mass in the form of an isosceles triangle’ over a field beside the road. The object had bright, white lights at each corner and a red light at the centre. They reported what they had seen and discovered from the Belgian military that no aircraft were in the area. A little over an hour later, they saw it again hovering over a watch tower on the nearby Lake Gileppe. They watched it for over two hours before it ascended in a spiral flight path and disappeared.
Over 150 reports came in that night from police officers and members of the public.
On March 30th, 1990, a BT was seen over the city of Glons by a police captain. He reported it to the military and two F-16 fighters were scrambled to intercept. They encountered the UFO and managed to attain a radar lock. The footage of this encounter is now world famous. The jets played cat and mouse with the object for over an hour. Each time they got a lock, the craft would quickly move away. The pilots reported that the UFO executed manoeuvres that were impossible for them to replicate. At one point, the craft descended from 10,000 feet to 500 feet in only five seconds.
An investigation of the incident by the Belgian Air Force came to the following conclusions:
The Belgian Air Force was unable to identify neither the nature nor the origin of the phenomena. However, it had sufficient elements to exclude following assumptions:
a. Balloons. Impossible due to the highly variable speeds (confirmed visually and by radar).
b. ULM. Same as for balloons.
c. RPV. Impossible due to the hovering characteristics.
d. Aircraft (including Stealth). Same as for RPV. No noise.
e. Laser projections or Mirages. Unlikely due to lack of projection surface (no clouds). Light spots have been observed from different locations. Light spots moved over distance of more than 15 NM. Form of inlighted part of spots has been observed with spectacles. Laser projections or mirages cannot be detected by radar.
The man who signed the official report, Colonel Wilfred de Brouwer (now Major General), agreed to write a postface at the end of the Belgian Society for the Study of Space Phenomena’s (SOBEP’s) report into the sightings. His conclusions were:
The day will undoubtedly come where the phenomenon will be observed with technological means of detection and recording which will not leave any doubt as of its origin. This should raise part of the veil which covers the mystery for a long time. A mystery which thus remains whole. But it exists, it is real, and this is already an important conclusion.
More sightings were reported over the following months. One photograph has become synonymous with the triangle phenomenon. It depicts the underside of a triangular object with a bright light on each corner and another at the centre. In all over a thousand reports have come from Belgium and triangle sightings continue to this day.
Three years to the day after the Belgian F-16 encounter, the UK had its own triangle mystery. Known as the Cosford Incident, it was investigated in an official capacity by Nick Pope for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and, for him, remains as one of the best cases in the government’s files.
Nick has written extensively about the case in UFOData Magazine, so we’ll just cover it quickly. On March 30th, 1993, reports came in of triangular craft from locations as far apart as Somerset and Staffordshire. At RAF Cosford in Shropshire, an RAF police officer reported a craft fly over the base at an altitude of about a thousand feet with no engine noise. A meteorological officer from nearby RAF Shawbury saw a large craft shining beams of light down to the ground before moving quickly away to the horizon.
Nick made out a report that concluded that what was seen was of ‘considerable defence significance’. His superior officer agreed and stated in a memo to the Assistant Chief of Air Staff that ‘there would seem to be some evidence on this occasion that an unidentified object (or objects) of unknown origin was operating over the UK’.
Black Triangles continue to be sighted to this day. One of the most recent was submitted to Brian Vike’s hbccufo.org website on June 12th, 2007:
I was outside, walking our dog, about 10:30 p.m. and heard a strange vibration overhead and behind me. I turned around and saw a similar object such as that witnessed by the gentleman in Alabama [a BT case from 2002 that was also submitted to Mr Vike - SJ]. It was approximately 500 feet above our house and moved from west to east, following the river upstream. I could make out the triangular shape of it and also noted that the three lights were there, but they did not illuminate myself or anything else as it passed right over. I did notice some red lights that were constantly on in the rear of the object as it passed over. That has given me the idea that the object was some military plane. But what propulsion it used is beyond me. It only made the strange vibrating sound and there was no sound usually associated with a plane or helicopter, which frequently fly over our house. I asked my wife if she heard the vibrations when I returned to the house and she said she had and was going to ask me what caused it when I came back in. Perhaps it is some advanced military vehicle stationed at nearby McChord airbase. I'd be interested to know if anyone else in the area has seen anything similar.
No doubt BT sightings will continue into the future, alongside all the other shapes and sizes of the UFO phenomenon. Are they extra-terrestrial? Are they Top Secret aircraft? As they have been sighted since before the advent of powered flight, this would suggest that they are not the latter. We all know that there are some very weird and exotic aircraft being developed by our governments, but can they be testing craft that can perform ‘impossible’ aerobatic manoeuvres? Why would they be testing them in areas where they can be detected on radar, witnessed by hundreds of people and entering busy commercial air corridors?
As Major General de Brouwer said it is “a mystery which thus remains whole. But it exists, it is real, and this is already an important conclusion.”
© Steve Johnson - 2007
(Article originally appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of UFO Data Magazine)
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Updated 16th August, 2012