The Bizarre And Unnerving Alien Abduction Claims Of Elsie Oakensen

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
July 27, 2022
Estimated Reading Time
17 min read
Posted in
Aliens, Abductions

Perhaps what makes the apparent alien abduction of Elsie Oakensen in the late 1970s particularly intriguing is how little-known it is compared to other similar claims from the United Kingdom. It is also an abduction that contains some intriguing and bizarre details and is an encounter that suggests the very purposeful targeting or selecting of Elsie on the part of these alleged extraterrestrial beings.

Picture of Elsie Oakensen with a UFO blended next to it

Just what happened to Elsie Oakensen?

According to Elise, not only did she witness a huge UFO hovering over the A5 road but moments later found herself surrounded by strange, flashing lights before discovering she had missed around 15 minutes of time.

It might be easy to dismiss these claims if it wasn’t for the many other sightings in the region around the same time, including a corroborating sighting on the same night. Indeed, the events of that late afternoon in November 1978 remain of interest to UFO researchers and enthusiasts alike today, over 40 years after they played out.

As Elsie has since passed away, it is almost certain that no further information will come to light regarding this most interesting claim. It is important to keep it in the collective memory of UFO researchers and investigators, as it will almost certainly have a part to play in the formation of the big UFO picture.

A Dumbbell-Shaped Object Over The A5

It was a little after 5 pm on 22nd November 1978 when 50-year-old schoolteacher, Elsie Oakensen, left her office and set out on her journey home to Church Stowe in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. It was a journey she had made many times and one that took only 15 minutes once she was on the A5 road. On this afternoon, though, while on this road, she witnessed something that would change her life forever.

As she drove along the A5, still around two miles from her home village, she saw a large, grey object, in the shape of a dumbbell hovering over the road at an altitude of around 100 to 150 feet. As she looked on, perplexed and mesmerized by the fantastic object hanging in the early evening sky, she noticed that it had a red and green light on its left and right side respectively. To begin with, she thought she was witnessing a small plane just about to crash land on the road. However, when she realized it was perfectly still over the road, she realized she was witnessing something altogether more unusual.

Artist's impression of the dumbbell shaped UFO

Artist’s impression of the object Elsie saw (pic from Haunted Skies, Volume 7)

She would later describe the craft as “smooth and plastic looking” and appeared to be “the color of old pewter”. [1] What’s more, the object remained completely silent and contained no signs of any engines or rotor blades.

She almost brought her car to a stop so as to get a better look at this mysterious craft, but she quickly thought better of it in case she caused an accident. Instead, she drove directly underneath it and toward her exit road. However, upon exiting the main road, instead of carrying on toward the village as she normally would do, she pulled the car to the side of the road where she could still see the highway and turned around. The curious vehicle remained hovering directly over the late-afternoon traffic.

She watched it for several moments, noticing that the green light was now flashing. Then, she put the car back into motion and set off for home once more.

Strange Lights Surrounding The Car

The rest of the journey was largely uneventful – that was until she was almost home. Out of nowhere, her car suddenly died and began coasting to a stop. At first, she managed to restart the engine and it appeared it was just a temporary and random blip. However, a few moments later, the car went dead once more. And this time, she was unable to restart it. And with the car’s headlights now dead, Elsie was plunged into almost complete darkness.

As she continued to try to get the car’s engine to come back to life, a suddenly appearing bright light appeared a short distance away, stretching from somewhere above to a point in the road in front of her. A second or two later, the light disappeared. She now sat in the car, anxious as to what was happening, and further anxious at the realization that she was somewhere near the gates of a local farm, a considerable distance from where she was only moments earlier, even though she had no memory of having traveled this far.

Map of the sighting location

Map of the sighting location (pic from Haunted Skies Volume 7)

Then, another light came on, this one much nearer to the front of the vehicle. A moment later, a second light appeared, this time at the back. This was followed by lights appearing on either side of her. They then began to flash, but at different times, as if a sequence had been programmed. Until this point, she had told herself the lights were likely searchlights from a helicopter. However, as she watched this strange display, she got the sense that these lights were somehow different from any she had seen previously.

Elsie wasn’t sure what happened next. She would later recall she went from watching the lights flashing behind her to finding herself driving along the road heading toward her village. By the time she realized she was missing around 20 minutes of time, she knew that something truly out of the ordinary had taken place.

The Attention Of The Newspapers

By the time Elsie arrived home, her husband, John, was already there. She rushed inside and told him of her bizarre experience. She rushed upstairs after briefly telling John of her strange journey home, eager to see if she could still see anything strange in the skies. It was as she was doing so that she first realized she was home later than she should have been with no memory of why the journey had taken so long.

She did her best to put the events out of her mind for the rest of the evening. However, she would speak about them with some of her colleagues the following day. It was during one of these exchanges that the idea that she might have encountered a UFO was first put to Elsie, urging her to report the incident. When she discovered a small scar on the back of her knee, she began to contemplate whether something truly bizarre might have happened – something such as alien abduction.

From there, the Northamptonshire Chronicle and Echo would get wind of her experience and would ultimately run a story on it. This would lead to UFO organizations, specifically, BUFORA, contacting Elsie with a view to investigating her case further. It was during one of these conversations that it was suggested that Elsie undergo hypnotic regression in order to recall the events of that evening, something she would agree to. And the revelations would be remarkable, to say the least.

A Partial Regression Session

The regression session took place around nine months after the events of the strange evening in November 1978. She was quickly taken back to where her call stalled on the quiet country road.

She recalled that in the moments following her car stalling, she began to feel extremely hot. What’s more, her head began to ache intensely, as if “a band has (been) tightened” around her head. This pressure would continue with no sign of any let-up.

Elsie Oakensen

Elsie Oakensen (pic from Haunted Skies Volume 7)

Then, a “brilliant white light” shone into her eyes, a light she described as “a pure white light”. She recalled that “circles of bright light” radiated from this initial light. All the while, she feels her temperature increasing and her head continuing to throb, and of even more concern, she could no longer feel her legs.

Then, she recalled that two shapes materialized, elaborating that “the first is a long, thin shape” which appeared on her left side momentarily, before disappearing. She would describe the second as “more rectangle” which appeared on her right side. Following this, the two shapes then appeared together. There was, she would state, a “silver glow” that outlined both the shapes, which were grey “smooth and rounded, rather ghostlike”.

At this point, Elsie began to become visibly distressed and so the session was brought to an early end.

Other Sightings Witnessed At The Same Time

In the book Haunted Skies: The Encyclopedia Of British UFOs, Volume 7, John Hanson and Dawn Holloway relay several other sightings that happened around the same time in the same region. For example, according to Georgina Laurie, she and three other women were heading toward Preston Capes in Northampton around the same time on the same evening and witnessed a “beam of light” pierce the clouds towards the ground. Furthermore, she recalled that at the same time, “the engine of the car then started to splutter”.

As the four women watched the strange aerial display, they could see that there were two lights, one red and one green. Of more concern, these lights appeared to be following their car. Then, with no reason, they simply disappeared.

Newspaper report of the incident

Newspaper report of the incident (pic from Haunted Skies Volume 7)

Perhaps of most interest is what Georgina informed the aforementioned authors of events following the sighting. Although she didn’t experience any missing time and doesn’t suspect she was abducted on the night of the sighting, she did notice she had “a new-found awareness involving the ability to heal” which was “coupled with an artistic flair”. She questioned whether this could be a coincidence or not, but it is something that is offered by many others who have had such close encounters. Of even more interest, was the apparent affect it had on one of her children – her son – he would often have “precognitions about things that are going to happen, which invariably do”.

Although the sighting of Georgina Laurie occurred on the same night and was almost certainly the same object reported by Elsie Oakensen, there were several other sightings unearthed by Hansen and Holloway over the weeks that followed, and it is to some of these sightings that we will turn our attention to next.

Continuing Sightings

According to the files of Contact UK, during the early evening of 23rd November, a silver, triangular-shaped object was witnessed following a commercial airliner as it came into to land at Heathrow Airport. As the plane approached the runway, the object suddenly shot off into the distance at high speed. The following evening, a similar, triangular object was witnessed by passengers aboard a Tristar airliner. The craft maintained its pace with the plane before disappearing.

There are also some intriguing sightings to be found in Bob Boyd’s files from the Plymouth UFO Group. According to Boyd, from the 24th to 26th November, there were several reports of strange objects in the region, with one of the most intriguing being an encounter reported by Mary Libberson.

She would claim that at around 4:45 pm on the day in question, her daughter telephoned her stating there was “something strange in the sky”. Mary went to her window and was astonished to see an object that “looked like the Goodyear Lightship” which was moving at an altitude not much higher than the rooftops. She would recall how it was “dark grey in color” and appeared to have a “light at each end”. The object in question sound remarkably similar to that witnessed by Elsie Oakensen several weeks earlier.

A depiction of a UFO over woodland at night

There were many UFO sightings in the UK in late 1978

At 7:45 am the following morning, on 25th November in Ducklington, Oxfordshire, were reports of a dark, triangular object with pale yellow lights on its underside moving overhead. Later that afternoon, two women who were driving in Sherborne, Dorset, reported a “long, black, cigar-shaped object” which had a bright light at the front and a lesser light at the back. The two women watched the object before it came to a momentary stop and then shot directly upwards into the sky.

Later that evening, once more at Heathrow Airport, a yellow-colored triangular object was witnessed moving overhead. Further reports would come from the Hounslow area a short time later. These particular sightings, incidentally, were reported in local and national newspapers. Also worth noting, according to Contact UK, there were almost 50 reports of silent triangular craft over the UK in November 1978, the vast majority of which were reported in the south. Might these triangular crafts have a connection to that witnessed by Elsie Oakensen?

On the afternoon of 26th November in Plymouth, at 2:15 pm, a “greyish-black cigar-shaped object” was witnessed by Roger and Sue Whitman who were walking their dog with their daughter Abi. They immediately felt a sense of fright and nervousness about the situation and made the decision to leave the area as quickly as possible. They eventually reached their car and made their way home.

An Example Of Being Selected For Abduction?

In the years that followed Elsie Oakensen’s encounter, there has been much debate within UFO circles as to just what happened that later afternoon in November 1978. [2] And these more rational explanations ranged from an optical illusion to an hallucination on Elsie’s part. As we might imagine, Elsie would reject these explanations.

There are several details worth noting, however. For example, although there were seemingly other witnesses who saw the same object as Elsie, no other motorists have come forward to corroborate Elsie’s sighting over the A5, which we might recall was so busy with traffic at the time of the sighting that Elsie was unable to stop or even slow down. And while it is possible that some of those motorists did see the object but had no desire in publicly speaking of it, we might imagine, particularly when her encounter was covered in the media, that at least one or two of these potential witnesses would have come forward.

Might we consider, then, that this object was only visible to Elsie, at least at that time. There are many cases of UFOs where the witnesses have spoken of being “called” to see the object as if they had been targeted by the intelligence on board. We might also recall the object flashing its green light as Elsie drove away, something she believed might have been an effort to communicate with her.

An Apparent Build-Up

We should also note that Elsie seemingly had suffered the same intense headaches she experienced during the sighting both before and after the encounter on the quiet country road. She would state at lunchtime on the day of the sighting, she had gone to a nearby restaurant with several colleagues. While they were waiting for their food to arrive at their table, Elsie suddenly felt the intense pain in her head, so much so, that she almost fainted. Furthermore, around an hour after she arrived home, at around 7 pm, the intense pain struck again.

Some researchers have put forward that this headache was the result of some kind of electromagnetic anomaly that Elsie was unfortunate to drive into, which, in turn, they claim, caused her to hallucinate. However, if this was the case, then why did this headache strike earlier in the day while in a different location, and then again at her home?

Might they be connected to the sighting (again, if we go back to the “calling” aspect of the case), or could they merely be nothing but coincidence?

Elsie herself would make cautious suggestions of being targeted by this seemingly otherworldly vehicle. John Spencer would offer in Gift of the Gods that she believed “that she was somehow selected by the UFO” and that this selection occurred during that lunchtime break in the restaurant.

A Credible Encounter Or A Hoax?

As well as some of the suggestions and offering of explanations for the event, there have been many, including in the UFO community, who have accused Oakensen of fabricating the whole affair – in short, that it was all a hoax. However, many consider Oakensen a perfectly credible witness, not least that she was a teacher who had held her position for many years. Her husband was also a serving police officer, and so was unlikely to go along with such a hoax (and perhaps would have been alert to it also).

There is also the fact that Oakensen had no apparent knowledge of or interest in the UFO phenomena. In fact, it would appear she was largely unaware of the attacks from skeptics she would receive when speaking of the strange encounter.

A depiction of a UFO

What should we make of Elsie Oakensen’s claims?

There is also the fact that Oakensen made very little money from her encounter, which we would expect to be the main ambition of someone behind a hoax of this nature. And while she did publish a book telling of her encounter, it was a very small publication deal meant to simply put her side of the story across in light of the many accusations in the media as well as the general ridicule both she and her husband faced from members of their local community.

If we accept that Elsie Oakensen is a credible witness – and it would appear that she was – then we have to look at her encounter once more. It is unlikely that what she saw was some kind of blimp or that she was caught up in a bizarre helicopter exercise. From her account she was only 150 feet away from the object she witnessed hovering over the road, meaning the chances of her misidentifying a conventional aircraft are slim, at best.

There is also the fact that 1978, in general, was quite a year for UFO sightings and strange encounters in the United Kingdom.

UFO Sightings And Apparent Abduction Around The UK In 1978

The fact is 1978 was a particularly busy year for UFO sightings in the United Kingdom, as were the years that followed, perhaps culminating with the Rendlesham Forest incident several years later in the early 1980s. And this is certainly the case towards the end of the year. If we take November alone, in the weeks leading up to Oakensen’s encounter, we can find multiple other encounters on record.

On 1st November, for example, at 7:20 pm in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, Diana Brunt was walking with a friend when they noticed a strange flashing light overhead. They watched it for several moments, eventually seeing another light below the flashing light. They then realized, that whatever it was, it was heading toward them.

Brunt would later state that when the object passed over them, the light suddenly went out. When it did, they could see “something resembling a white/grey upside-down bowl”. They could also see “three large red lights and one large green light” as well as multiple smaller lights on the underside. As they watched, the object “made a sound like nothing” the witnesses had heard before “and was gone in a flash”. Where the object had been only moments earlier, was now a “small flashing white light” that moved around “all over the place”. When the Brunt looked at her watch, 15 minutes had passed (it is unclear if this was as the witness expected or whether this is a case of missing time).

The following evening at 6:45 pm just outside of Worcester, several residents witnessed two “red globes of light” moving overhead. One of these lights appeared to morph into a triangular shape, before the lights headed off into the distance one after the other in a line. Almost exactly 24 hours later, at 7:45 pm in Penkridge in Staffordshire, there was another sighting of a saucer-shaped craft with red, green, and white lights.

A depiction of an alien entity

Just what was happening in the UK in late 1978?

Two days later, just after 7 pm on 5th November again in Staffordshire, as many around the United Kingdom celebrated Guy Fawkes Night with bonfires and fireworks, one couple noticed a “ball of solid light” moving overhead. The couple would state that the object “suddenly changed direction”. And of even more concern, it was heading in their direction. Even more amazing, a “conical light projected” from the underside of the object and illuminated the ground below. They watched as this light then retracted back up to the object a moment later.

According to the 24th November 1978 edition of The Observer newspaper, at around 6 pm on 6th November, Mr. and Mrs. Hughes witnessed a red light with a white light on either side of it moving over Bognor Regis. The lights eventually merged into one single object. Mr. Hughes would later state that the object “stopped still in the sky” and that he tried to take a picture of it. However, before he could do so, the object began in their direction “with great acceleration”.

The Portsdown Hill Incident

Perhaps one of the most intriguing sightings of this period occurred at around 7 pm on 7th November in Portsdown Hill in Hampshire. According to the BUFORA report, on the night in question, husband and wife Kevin and Lynne Mailing were driving toward the town of Droxford with their children Karen and Kevin. Suddenly, they noticed an oncoming light that was clearly descending.

Kevin would recall that, to begin with, he thought they were witnessing nothing more than a conventional aircraft. However, as it came closer they noticed two red lights appear near the main light which then hovered one of the fields that lined the roadside, barely 15 feet above the ground. He would further recall that this object appeared “like a great big building – the size of two semi-detached houses”. As well as the two hovering red lights, another searchlight-type light was visible on the top. There were also two further red lights that had green lights beneath them.

The family looked on in shock as the object hovered directly over their vehicle at an altitude of around 20 feet. At this point, Kevin pressed down on the accelerator in an attempt to vacate the area. However, when he did so, he felt some kind of force pulling the car back. This happened several times, and even when he did manage to make ground, the strange craft followed them. Eventually, a motorcycle approached them from the other side of the road and the UFO suddenly disappeared, heading into the distance at a blistering pace.

While the Mailing family’s encounter was one of the most dramatic, there were plenty of other witnesses to the sighting that evening. For example, at around the same time, around a mile away, Jessie Burley noticed an object in the sky (in a similar location to the Mailing’s sighting) while in her garden. They also noted that the object had several “piercing colored lights”. Also around the same time, Sidney Dyer witnessed a bizarre object almost identical to the other sightings that evening, adding that whatever it was it was “moving fast” and had disappeared from sight within 30 seconds.

A Wave Of Sightings Across The UK

At around 7 am on 13th November at Southend Coastguard Station, coastguard, Joe Cousins, was on duty right at the end of his night shift when he noticed “two very bright lights in the sky”. He would later describe them as looking like “a pair of headlights” hovering overhead. After several moments, the light turned to the side and dimmed a little. They then rose steadily upward before heading away with “alarming speed”. Later that afternoon, at around 5 pm, a mother and her 10-year-old daughter witnessed two disc-shaped objects as well as a smaller spherical craft and a dart-shaped craft hovering overhead.

Two nights later, on 15th November in Farlington, Portsmouth, Eric Carter was standing on the forecourt of his Garage when an attendant suddenly called out that they could see a plane crashing. When he looked to where the attendant was standing, he could see a bright oval object hovering over one of the buildings next to his. He would recall that the object was making a terrible noise “like stones turning in a cement mixer”.

He quickly realized he was looking at something out of the ordinary, noting that he could see “no rotors or downward thrust”. After several moments, the object began to move, showing “several crackling lights” as it did so. As it disappeared from sight, he could hear a “loud crack – like a gun going off”. Several other people witnessed the same object at the same time.

A week later, at just after 7 am on 20th November, again in Portsmouth, Iris Whitehill was making her way to work as usual. However, on this morning, she noticed something strange in the morning sky – a bizarre “bright orange beam of light”. She continued to watch the strange aerial display before she continued on to the bus stop. Upon arriving, she noticed two other people were also looking up at the sky. When she turned her head to look to where their gaze was, she noticed a silver crescent-shaped object hovering overhead with “three beams of light being projected from it”. It was then that she noticed the first object she had seen, a cigar shape. After several seconds, the objects simply disappeared into thin air.

Although the exact date is not certain, around the same time as the above sightings, at around 7 pm one November evening, school student, Paul Razzell was making his to the local shop near his home. Suddenly, he had a sudden compulsion to look upward. When he did so, he saw a “massive object with hundreds of lights around it”. He would continue that it was “covered in shiny material” and eventually “dashed into the clouds” and disappeared.

A Long History Of UFO Sightings In Northampton

Further to sightings and encounters of 1978, the region has a long history of UFO sightings going back, at least, to the start of the century. [3] For example, on 23rd March 1909, a police officer, Constable Kettle, reported seeing a strange airship near Peterborough. This airship (or airships) were spotted around the UK in what was a wave of airship sightings similar to those that were witnessed across the United States in 1897.

In the mid-1950s, an eight-year-old boy saw a strange object overhead emerge from the clouds as he played in his backyard. Even stranger, he would hear what he would describe as instructions coming from the object.

A depiction of a UFO

There have been many UFO sightings in the Northampton region

In 1980, a patient at Northampton General Hospital reported seeing an anomalous object moving through the sky as he looked out of an upper-floor window. Four years later, in June 1984 also in Northampton, a local man witnessed a strange object hovering over the city. He described the object as having a similar appearance to a Chinese lantern, although it was an octagonal shape, approximately 20 feet long and 35 feet high. He would estimate it was at an approximate altitude of 100 feet. He would further recall that there was an orange light at each of its corners and that he could hear the sound “like electricity shorting out”, while every now and then, he would see a blue spark from the object.

There were two sightings of strange lights over Northampton in November 1995, while two years later, in 1997, a woman from the Kingsthorpe area witnessed several glowing, round, red objects moving through the sky at a considerable pace. A similar sighting was reported from the same area in October 1998.

Perhaps most intriguingly, in September 2003, the Ministry of Defense actually recorded two rust-colored objects moving in the skies over Northampton – a sighting that has yet to be explained.

Are these subsequent and previous sightings in the same region where Elsie Oakensen experienced her encounter connected?

A Unique And Mysterious Incident

The encounter of Elsie Oakensen, as well as the many other sightings around the same time certainly paint a picture of a wave of sightings at the time. And what’s more, while some periods are more eventful and busier than others, this UFO presence is persistent, to say the least.

Additional sightings around the same time aside, we have concentrated mainly in the southwest region of England here simply due to it being the location of Oakensen’s encounter. Might this particular region of the United Kingdom be of some kind of importance to these potential alien visitors? If so, what might that importance be?

And what should we make of the encounter and claims of Elsie Oakensen? Despite the many people who have been critical and suspicious of the claims over the years, on balance, it would appear that her claims should be treated a little more seriously than they have been. It is perhaps interesting that, despite her attempts at hypnotic regression, there appears to be so much left that we don’t know of the encounter. Was Elsie abducted by entities from another world, or might there be another explanation?

The fact is, the encounter remains as much of a mystery now as it did when it happened. And will likely remain that way for the foreseeable.

You can check out the short video below that examines this case a little further.


1 Haunted Skies: The Encyclopedia Of British UFOs, Volume 7, John Hanson and Dawn Holloway, ISBN 9780957 494404 
2 UFO Case: Elsie Oakensen, Near Daventry, Northamptonshire, Cabinet of Shadows
3 Elsie’s UFO Encounter on The A45 in South Northants, UK, The British Earth and Aerial Mysteries Society

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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