The Still Unexplained 1994 Ariel School UFO Alien Encounter

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
June 7, 2018
Last Updated
September 5, 2020
Estimated Reading Time
14 min read
Posted in
Aliens, Encounters

The morning of 16th September 1994 began like any other for the children and teachers of Ariel School in Zimbabwe. However, an incident during the morning recess would ultimately capture the attention of the entire world. In total, 62 children would announce to their teachers that spaceships had landed near the school. Furthermore, “small men” had emerged from the craft in full view of the witnesses, all of whom, incidentally, would describe the exact same encounter.

Ariel School with a superimposed alien over the top

Ariel School

The late Cynthia Hind would be the first UFO researcher to speak with the children, who in turn, would invite equally experienced UFO researcher, Dr. John Mack to investigate. From Hind and Mack’s efforts and immediate documentation, the encounter is one of the most detailed and credible on record. And, at least officially, the incident is still unexplained.

The case still intrigues UFO researchers and enthusiasts today over a quarter of a century later, and is truly one of the most credible and thought-provoking UFO accounts of recent history.

UFOs Over The School Yard

The teachers at Ariel School in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, had a scheduled meeting while the children enjoyed the morning recess of the 16th of September. Although a lone parent who ran the “tuck shop” was supervising the children, they were for all intents and purposes, left to their own devices.

It was a Friday, the last day of school before the weekend. As the children shouted excitedly to each other in the schoolyard, several of them noticed a huge silver disc in the sky overhead. There were also several smaller crafts flying around the larger object. Within seconds, a temporary hush spread over the schoolyard as each child turned their attention to the gleaming objects above.

As the main craft passed overhead, it looked to land near a small hill on the other side of the schoolyard fence. The children ran to the fence to get a better look. Although the land was part of the school, it was off-limits to the children as clearing work was still going ahead.

Ariel School with a superimposed UFO over the top

Ariel School

As they watched, a “small man”, around three-feet high, suddenly emerged from the round object. The children would later describe him as extremely thin, with long, black hair and very large, black eyes. He jumped down from the craft and began walking in the direction of the fence where the children were watching. Perhaps they let out a collective gasp, as after only a few steps he noticed the children stood there and stopped. Meanwhile, another figure stood watching from on top of the craft.

After several moments of “direct eye contact”, the first entity turned and headed back to the craft. Moments later, the ship vanished, as did the smaller crafts overhead.

Telepathic Communication?

Some of the children would run into the school crying. The area was rich with legends of demons and evil entities, and some of the younger children were convinced this was what they had seen. The older children, though still unnerved, were experiencing what was later described as “telepathic communication” with the entity that stood in the field in front of them. Many of them already “knew” what they had seen.

The teachers inside the school were dragged from their meeting amid the commotion. One of them would later state, “We just heard them screaming and screaming. A child cannot make that up!” Another would offer, “I was very skeptical in the beginning” and that while they believed the children had “seen something”, they sought a more rational explanation.

Some of the drawings from the children after the encounter

Some of the drawings from the children after the encounter

The headmaster at the school also believed the children’s sincerity, but initially thought it best to let the matter rest. Following the weekend, however, the school began to receive phone call after phone call from concerned parents. Each would ask the same question. What had happened to frighten their children so intensely? Realizing the matter required investigation, the school would contact Cynthia Hind.

“The Trees Would Go Down And Nobody Would Be Able To Breathe!”

Cynthia Hind, along with Dr. John Mack, would speak to the children individually. Each would share the same details. In Mack’s opinion, he was convinced of the children’s sincerity and of the authenticity of the case. He would state of the witnesses, “They describe these events like a person talks about something that has (really) happened to them!” He was equally convinced the children were of “sound mind”.

Many of the children who claimed to have received telepathic communication from the dark figure who stood in front of them would have some interesting revelations. One witness would describe the experience as, “All of a sudden it was just like imaging going through my head. A message, telepathic communication!”

Artist's impression of the incident

Artist’s impression of the incident

Another child would tell Hind and Mack that the aliens had arrived to “tell us we don’t look after the planet properly!” Another even darker view came from another witness. They claimed they received images in their minds of the end of the world where “all the trees would go down and nobody would be able to breathe!”

These details are present in numerous UFO encounters and have been for decades. It is important to remember that the majority of these children, if not all, would have had little to no exposure to UFO encounters in any great detail. With the Internet still several years away, even television was far from the wide platform it is now. In short, it is unlikely that all 62 children, aged between 6 to 12 years old, would have concocted and maintained such a deception.

It’s “Obvious They Are Telling The Truth!”

Dr. Mack, who was tragically killed by a drunk driver while attending a lecture in London in 2004, was not only a respected UFO and alien abduction researcher, he was a product of Harvard and an experienced psychiatrist. When he began to investigate alien abductions and released the book Abduction, many of his colleagues would look to distance themselves from him. There was even a movement to have his clinical care credentials reviewed. The Dean of Harvard would ultimately perform this review and “reaffirmed Dr. Mack’s academic freedom to study what he wishes and to share his opinions without impediment!”

John Mack speaking with one of the children

John Mack speaking with one of the children

Mack’s contribution to the alien abduction phenomena is invaluable. And the fact that he would so strongly back the genuineness of the witnesses in the Ariel School incident should perhaps tell us of the authenticity of the account. Using all of his professional skills – both as a UFO researcher and a psychiatrist – he would state that the children’s “voice tone (and) their body language were so consistent” that it was obvious they were telling the truth. They “told their stories with such conviction!” He would highlight how one child claimed the alien figure had spoken into his mind that the human race should not be so “techknowledged” as an example of the bizarre authenticity to the claims.

Something In The Skies That Morning Over Zimbabwe

Others were similarly sympathetic to the events as told by the children. And certainly, many who have examined the case since have come to the same conclusions – that the children, whatever they saw, were very much telling the truth.

The BBC Bureau Chief for Zimbabwe, Tim Leach, for example, would also meet and interview most of the children who had witnessed the bizarre events that morning. And he would do so in the immediate aftermath of the sighting. He would state that the incident and the accounts of the children who witnessed it gave him a “new perspective on life, the universe, and everything”.

There were apparent explanations offered that the “pyrotechnic display” was, in fact, a meteor shower. However, there were multiple accounts from other witnesses of these fireball-like vehicles over the region that day.

A superimposed UFO over a lakeside

Are alien encounters happening all the time?

Of even further interest is an incident that took place only two days previously only 25 miles away at the Pier House School. On that morning around 100 schoolchildren watched a strange flying craft descending extremely low and looking as though it was about to land. What’s more, the radio system that the school bus service used went down completely during the sighting. Was it the same craft that landed in Ariel?

What’s more, at least one of the children who witnessed the incident at Ariel School had even seen something strange in the skies overhead earlier and joked with her friend that it was “a UFO” before stating that it “must be an airplane”. However, she still noted to herself how strange and “like a cigarette” the object was. Only later, when events at the school unfolded did she begin to think seriously that what she had witnessed that morning was the same object that had just landed near the school.

Intriguing Details That Show Up In Many Other Reports

Perhaps also of interest, at least regarding descriptions of the “creature” that had ventured a little distance from the craft, are the details of “long hair”  (“like a hippy” was one specific description) and a form that appeared black and “shadow-like”. They also appear to refer to the fact that they only saw the bizarre figure for a brief moment. Might we remind ourselves of descriptions and accounts of Shadow People, many of which surface in alien abduction encounters?

Another intriguing detail is the description of a noise that appeared to precede the actual sighting of the UFO. This was, according to one witness, a “scary noise” that sounded as though “someone was blowing a flute”. This is something that comes up in many close UFO encounters. Not only the whistle or buzz like noise but that there is an eeriness to it that evokes an uneasy feeling in those present.

One of the children draws an example of the alien figures on the blackboard

One of the children draws an example of the alien figures on the blackboard

One witness, Emily Trim, would state almost two decades later that this sound was like a “high-pitched frequency” quickly followed by a “flash” before the craft appeared. She would also state, whether of importance or not, that she could not be certain in terms of time, as to how long the incident lasted for. We will return to this a little later.

Even the descriptions of the colors that flashed (reds, yellows, blues, and greens) can be found in many other UFO accounts, as well as the way they appeared to circle the edge of the ship and the speed with which they did so.

An Event That Could Have Been Forgotten About!

Of even more interest are the claims from one of the witnesses who stated that “some people” arrived to examine the land on which the UFO landed. Although the children were “not allowed” to go into the compound area, she stated that those who went inside found blackened, burned grass where the strange object had been.

As we might imagine, not only did the teachers struggle believing fully what the children reported that morning (at least initially) but many of the children’s parents also dismissed such wild tales. When they were asked during a documentary around 18 months after the incident how they felt about people not believing them, aside from the expected answers of “sad” or being frustrated, one child would state that it “makes you think it might not be true”.

John Mack speaks with one of the children

John Mack speaks with one of the children

Indeed, if this event had been witnessed by only one child, or even two or three, such dismissals might have seen the incident forgotten about before it could reach the next town never mind the outside world. That there were so many who had witnessed the same incident, though, ensured that they drew strength from each other as to what they saw.

While we have mentioned that there was a sighting at a school 25 miles away above, Cynthia Hind would also collect several reports of not just UFO activity in the Ariel area in the days leading to the sighting, but sightings of strange creatures also.

For example, in the days leading the Ariel School incident, a mother and her young son claimed to have witnessed a UFO in broad daylight. Perhaps the most unnerving of these sightings, though, came from a truck driver who claimed to have seen “strange beings” on the roadside one night while he was driving.

Further Connections Between The Environment And Alien Encounters

What is perhaps interesting about this particular incident are the connections to the environment. One child who made such claims, when pushed by Mack, would state that such thoughts had not occurred to her before she witnessed the “man” on the disc-like object. She would claim that they came to her hours later when she was at home. However, she was also very specific in stating that the “man” had put those thoughts in her mind.

It isn’t the first time that such environmental issues have surfaced in close contact encounters and alien abduction. If we assume that the accounts of the children at the Ariel School are genuine and not fabricated (and most who have studied the case accept they are) then what should we make of such details?

One of the children's drawings of the encounter

One of the children’s drawings of the encounter

If there is a genuine connection between the two, and if these visitors to Earth have a genuine concern for the welfare of the planet, what might that mean? Are such thoughts placed in people’s minds so that they might take action on such matters? If so, why not so the same with our world leaders, who are already in a position to make such changes?

Might such a focus on such issues by these strange visitors be a distraction for our collective selves for their real agenda and intentions, and just what might those be?

Whatever the truth of the connection between the Earth’s environment, our use of technology and alien visitation one day might prove to be, it is something that comes up far too often for it to be ignored in terms of UFO and alien research. Indeed, many UFO researchers, including Mack, suspect that the issue could very well lie at the heart of the UFO and alien question.

“Communication Through The Eyes”

Emily Trim, who we mentioned above, was one witness who claimed that “telepathic images” started coming into their minds, something she would further describe as “communication through the eyes”. This is an intriguing description. Is eye-to-eye contact important in such telepathic communication and the transferring of images that surfaces in numerous abduction encounters and other close contact incidents?

Might the children have not been “frozen” by fear, but in some kind of trance that forced them to look at this strange creature? It is perhaps also interesting that Trim claimed these images and messages revolved around technology and how humans were using such technology in a “bad way”.

Trim would further state, years later, that it appeared to her as though some kind of “energy” had surrounded them during the encounter that appeared to stop time. Remember, Trim also declared that she could not at all be certain just how long the incident occurred for. Might it even be that time, for all intents and purposes, did not exist for the children who witnessed the strange events that morning as it does normally?

What is further interesting here, although the incident – at least on the surface – is a close encounter with a UFO and the occupants, such details surface most often in alien abduction cases. Might this be the case here, only the abduction – or the objective of it – was carried out within the energy shield as described by Trim?

It is to the discreet hints of alien abduction where we will turn our attention next. First, however, check out the short video below.

Hints Of Abduction?

It is also of particular interest that the descriptions of the beings themselves – aside from the black appearance (which could easily be explained by some kind of suit) – are essentially identical to the grey alien beings that many alien abductees claim to have been behind their own encounters.

Although we should perhaps not read too much into it, it is also of interest that many of the children who witnessed this bizarre event would claim to have suffered strange dreams and even nightmares since. One such child would claim that she had had nightmares of the strange figure that she had seen in the trees appearing in her bedroom before it “took me from my bed”. We might also recall the notion from the previously mentioned Emily Trim of her uncertainty on the timing of the incident.

A depiction of a UFO over a mountainous terrain

Might alien abduction have taken place at Ariel School?

Might such nightmares have been exactly that? Or might abduction encounters have happened in the months that followed? It is perhaps unlikely and is pure speculation. However, for those who examine and investigate the case further, it is something to keep in the back of the mind. Especially when we consider that at least one of the witnesses that day (the previously mentioned Emily Trim) claims to have had several subsequent encounters with such entities – creatures that she claims can “alter perception”.

If this is the case, for what reason would these alien visitors wish to alter how we see and understand reality? And perhaps in more urgent need of an answer, would it be for our benefit? Chillingly, the more we examine the Ariel School UFO incident, the more layered it becomes.

Signs Of Fallibility Or A Carefully Planned Agenda

What might the purpose of such a landing have been? Why would a highly advanced alien race land in such a (relatively) open and public space where dozens of schoolchildren could see them only to take off and disappear so quickly? Is there more to this one-off landing than we might know?

Or might it show that these apparent extraterrestrials are indeed fallible like our collective selves? Many of the children – as scared as they themselves undoubtedly were – would speak of a sense of astonishment or shock on these assumed aliens’ part. Certainly, as if they had not expected the children to be there.

Perhaps, if their intentions toward us are of an ominous nature, this apparent fallibility might provide us with hope to fight back.

Maybe we should turn our attention to the alien agenda for a moment. If these landings are connected to “altering perception” and even to abduction events, might we find connections in similar landing encounters such as the Crestview School UFO landing in Miami in 1967? Or perhaps even the landing incident in Voronezh in Russia in 1989 which, according to declassified reports, saw an alien entity not unlike the one described in Ariel five years later venture outside of the landed craft for several moments.

Or maybe we should consider the idea that whatever the reason is for such landings there are no actively ominous intentions to us at all. Whether it is just indifference or a desire to help humanity, perhaps such landings (and even abductions) are an attempt to change our perceptions of the world around us.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the largest question still remains – why?

A Lasting Legacy On The Lives Of Those Who Witnessed It

If anyone has viewed any interviews with some of the children (as adults) as they speak of the encounter, it appears that, while they expressed happiness that the craft had landed at their school and that they wished to see them again, there is a certain weight or heaviness carried by at least some of them. And furthermore, not one of them has gone back on their claims.

One witness “Sarah”, would perhaps express this weight better than others when she claimed that not only does experiencing (and speaking of) such an encounter “brand you” for the rest of a person’s life, but it also leads to a “permanent fear of these things returning one day”. She would continue during an interview with the Mail & Guardian media platform that she could even “sense when they back in our atmosphere”.

Whether Sarah has had any further encounters with these strange entities or not is perhaps open to debate. However, she claimed in the same interview that – at least locally – the strange visitors were correct about the environmental issues, pointing to the Miombo forests that have “disappeared for firewood”. We might recall the words of one of the witnesses in the aftermath of the incident stating of the images projected into her head of “the trees falling down”.

Cynthia Hind’s Finest Work?

The efforts of Cynthia Hind should also not go unpraised. Particularly as the case involved children as the main witnesses. It would have been easy for adults to dismiss what they saw that morning. In fact, in an article she wrote on the incident before her death in 2000, Hind would reflect on some of the teachers and parents’ initial attempts to do just this when she said, “What a frightening indictment of our society that when we are confronted by something we don’t understand, we don’t even attempt to open our minds to the event!”

If we turn our attention back to “Sarah” speaking to a journalist in 2014, she would state bluntly that “I don’t think you would be here talking to me now if it wasn’t for” Cynthia Hind. She believes that the incident would be long-forgotten “if Hind hadn’t made such a fuss!” It was Hind who would conduct interviews as well as getting “the news out to all sorts of important people”. This would, of course, include Dr. Mack.

One of the children's sketches of the UFO

One of the children’s sketches of the UFO

The importance of such figures as Dr. Mack would lend everyone credibility – including Hind. From her own writings, it is obvious this realization was not lost on her, when she would write how he had “risked his credibility with his colleagues to come out and say he believes the experiences of abductees are very real indeed!” She also described him as “not only open-minded and prepared to listen, but an academic of some standing!”

We should most definitely place the 1994 Zimbabwe Incident on a pedestal of authenticity. We should also applaud the work Cynthia Hind and Dr. John Mack achieved in thrusting the case into the public arena. As well as lending the overall credibility of the UFO and alien question a little more kudos.

Something Of Importance Happened That Morning!

Perhaps the lasting feeling of the Ariel School UFO encounter is that whatever the strange craft and the even stranger figures that appeared from it might one day prove to be, it is almost certain that the children did see “something” that morning in September 1994.

Each of the students, who will be in their 30s today as we enter the 2020s, maintains that what they saw that morning was very real. Some of them who witnessed the strange, black-clad figures close up further maintain that they will never forget it looking directly at them. Indeed, we can only imagine how many times these witnesses have awoken from dreams of that morning of the strange creature they witnessed throughout not only their childhood but as adults also.

What’s more, not just those in the fields of UFO research but many with expertise in child behavior claim it would be simply unrealistic that so many children at such a young age would be able to agree and stick to the same story – and do so for an extraordinary prolonged amount of time. In short, there appears to be little doubt that the children themselves were completely honest in their telling of the events of that morning. And they remain so today as adults.

Whether the encounter was one that was planned or not, we should note once more that the same telepathic messages received by the witnesses that morning were the same that shows up in multiple cases of alien abduction and close contact. Ones that revolve around the misuse of technology and the damage happening to the planet. And ones that need to be addressed.

Check out the video below. It is one of many online that looks at this fascinating case a little further.

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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  • E. Lam says:

    Adults often time do not give children enough credit. They can be very perceptive if something affects them greatly. They were obviously “traumatized” by the event yet composed. It’s sad what had happened to Dr. Mack but one day he will be vindicated. There are too many closed-minded fools in leadership roles or greed is their salvation.

  • jerry perttula says:

    Dr Young hae Chi has written about slender insectoid aliens creating alien Human hybrids to survive the coming near extinction. These interdimensional creatures are in the Quantum spin-foam between perceivable dimensions…….w-i zulux999

  • David Lanatti says:

    Interesting that “the trees going down” is what is happening throughout the world today.
    Hopefully the visitors can return with some information to help us prevent this ccatasrophe, or how to correct the damage.

  • BRIAN TURNER says:

    When and where can this film be watched. I heard about this case some 15 years ago and I also cant understand that there is not nearly enough publicity about such a starting experience from so many people!

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