The Schaffner Incident And Secret Activity On The UK’s East Coast

First Published: May 12, 2017 Last updated: March 20th, 2019 Written by: Marcus Lowth Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes Posted in: UFOs

The strange and unfortunate death of US Air Force pilot, William Schaffner, is just one of many, mysterious and highly secretive incidents connected to UFO activity off the east coast of the United Kingdom. Originally written off as “pilot error”, only the persistence of journalist, Pat Otter, and writer, Barry Halpenny, stopped the encounter from all but disappearing from history. Indeed, the amount of resistance that Otter experienced, made him believe that, at least in the military’s eyes, there was something to conceal.

UFO Chase pilot missing headline.

UFO Chase pilot missing headline.

We have written before of strange activities in the North Sea and the North Atlantic. For reasons unknown, the east coast of the United Kingdom seems to witness more than its share of UFO sightings.

These sightings seemingly stretch as far back as the 1940s, and still occur today. Many believe the North Sea harbors some form of underwater extra-terrestrial base – maybe even a gateway or portal. What’s more, based on their own reactions and secrecy, it would appear that world governments – in particular, the American and the British – are “in the know”, at least to a certain extent, to the activities that take place.

We will look in detail at the fateful flight of William Schaffner shortly. Before we do, let’s look at some of the more notable sightings and incidents from this region of the world.

Alien Attack In The Alley In The 1940s

Perhaps one of the more little-known other-worldly claims occurred in the spring of 1940 in Gateshead. That morning, five-year-old, Robert Hall, returning home after playing with his friends in the alleyways of the terraced housing, would step right in front of an egg-shaped, brightly lit aircraft. It hovered over him, several feet from the ground. It was then that his gaze found the three strange creatures in the alley.

He would state that one of the creatures “looked like Bigfoot”, while another had long hair and wings. The strange creatures would speak to Robert in “perfect English” and would ask if they might examine him. They would remove blood from his neck and then place a jelly-like substance on it. In all, the experience would last for twenty minutes, before he went on his way.

Strange? Not as strange as the visit from “men in dark suits” the following day. In no uncertain terms, they warned him of speaking of the incident. Or not even as strange as the “gray alien” who attacked him several days later. Luckily his uncle stood nearby, witnessed the attack and killed the creature by hitting it over the head with his coal shovel. They informed the police, who in turn had the army come to the house to collect the strange body. Incidentally, he has told the same story all his life.

Two years later in 1942 in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Squaddie, Albert Lancashire would be “zapped by a yellow light” before passing out. It wasn’t until twenty years later that memories of that afternoon returned to him. The yellow light was actually a beam-type of stairs. He walked along and went aboard a strange craft, accompanied all the while by a “pygmy-size man!”

Continued Sightings In The Fifties And Sixties

The strange sightings would continue throughout the following decades. These were aerial sightings as opposed to any type of interaction with species.

In 1950, a report surfaced of a strange “tadpole-shaped” craft, glowing bright yellow. In 1953, a “flying saucer” zoomed across the sky in front of three witnesses, heading north and out to sea. The following year in 1954, amateur astronomer, Mr. Brewis from Tyneside, would witness a “formation” of strange lights. He would state they were moving “much faster than jet planes!” The same year, four schoolboys from Ponteland would make a report to the local newspaper of seeing a flying saucer. They also made the report to their local police station for good measure.

In 1960, Brian Cassidy from Gateshead would report “a large orange ball” zooming across the sky. The following day, in the local newspaper, a report would show that many other residents had seen the exact same thing. Three years later in 1963, a father and daughter, traveling alone in the middle of the night to Alnmouth, suddenly noticed a large bright light above them. The father would bring the car to a halt. Both of them watched, terrified until the object sped off out towards the North Sea.

A claim in December 1968, would even say that a “disc-shaped craft” had crashed in the town of Haltwhistle. A walker would see the events unfold. He claimed that the strange craft began to sink in the boggy land where it came down. Needless to say, no craft was ever found.

By the time the seventies were in view, tensions, and sightings would appear to increase.

Operation Aeneid, 1970

Beginning in March 1970, reports were coming from the general public of strange lights in the sky. Most of these sightings would take place along the eastern coastal towns of the UK.

According to whistle-blower reports, Operation Aeneid went into action on 1st September. Its purpose was to monitor and, if required, intercept such objects. Reports were coming in on a nightly basis, both from radar operators and from the pilots themselves. Both American and British military personnel would make reports. In fact, Operation Aeneid was a joint operation between the Americans and the British and had further support from Iceland and Norway – which perhaps shows both how seriously the sightings were in the eyes of the military, and how far in terms of geology they spread.

On 2nd September two USAF Phantom Jets would scramble from their base in Keflavik, Iceland. A strange object had shown on radar heading straight towards the Icelandic coast. Three other objects would join the first as the Phantoms got closer to their targets. For two minutes, all communications were down. Then, out of nowhere, the objects accelerated vertically and vanished, leaving the two Phantoms to return to base.

Later that same day off the coast of Grimsby, two RAF-Lightnings would make a similar departure from Binbrook Air Base. This time the target was a large craft that had shown up on the radar – flying in from the North Sea. Before the Lightnings could get visual confirmation, the object vanished from radar.

The Final Evening Of William Schaffner

7th September brought with it the sightings of a huge rectangular craft moving silently over Salisbury Plain. While the strange object moved over, the nearby RAF base suffered a cut to all their power.

Twenty-four hours following this incident, the last flight of William Schaffner would be in the air on its fateful, final journey.

Sightings had been happening for several days. When the order came through to prepare to take off, William Schaffner was more than ready. He would depart the runway in his plane without following standard procedure for take-off – including leaving the ground without a full tank of petrol.

Another unidentified craft had suddenly shown up on the radar at just after 8 pm over the North Sea. Once again, two Lightning jets were scrambled to intercept the object. They patrolled the skies of the east coast of the UK for over an hour without visual confirmation. Two US Phantom jets were again launched from the Icelandic air base to join them. Such was the concern that the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System was even alert for action.

It was just after 10 pm when Schaffner would take to his plane. He was soon out over the North Sea. It was only a matter of minutes before he achieved visual contact.

“Ditch The Plane!”

Schaffner would describe a conical shaped object. It shone so brightly that it “made his eyes hurt” to look at it for too long. Alongside the object – although not attached physically – was a glass sphere, around the size of a soccer ball. It was then that communication went down.

For several moments, there was complete silence over the radio, and ground control feared that his plane had crashed. Then Schaffner’s voice came over the intercom. He claimed he must have blacked out, and that he felt extremely dizzy. He even stated to be seeing “shooting stars” such was the deterioration in his well-being.  All his instruments in the plane were no longer working and his fuel gauge was at thirty percent.

Schaffner would state his desire and ability to bring the plane into the ground. However, the reply came back “negative” – he was to “ditch the plane” in the water. He did his best to bring the plane to as slow a speed as possible before it hit the water.

A recovery plane circled the area, making repeated requests for a recovery helicopter to get closer to the surface of the water. They couldn’t see Schaffner anywhere in the area. They circled again, thinking the pilot would be swimming away from the wreckage before letting off his flares. By the time they had circled around a third time, with still no sign of Schaffner, it began to become obvious of the young pilot’s fate.

Recovery and Unanswered Questions

Incidentally, Operation Aeneid would run until March 1971. Along with the investigation into Schaffner’s death, it would come to a discreet close. However, to anyone familiar with the procedure in such instances, it was perfectly obvious that there was plenty amiss.

The wreckage of the plane lay on the seabed, but there was nobody in the pilot’s seat. In fact, the cockpit canopy was seemingly closed after Schaffner had departed the plane. This would suggest, that after hitting the water, he managed to free himself and close the hatch before the plane sank. Or, as bizarre as it might sound, he simply vanished from within the plane – as if he had been “teleported” out of it.

Was Schaffner’s body recovered in secret, and then held by the British or American militaries? Perhaps it is a simple case of alien abduction? Or might it be simply, although no less tragic, that his body became lost to the vastness of the cold water? Whatever did happen to William Schaffner, his body was never seen again.

Despite whistle-blower testimony and information that, by its very nature, is secretive and bordering on illegal to divulge to anyone outside of those authorized to see it, there is still no solid proof to suggest the involvement of UFO activity.

Incidentally, William Schaffner’s son would state that he rejects any notion that his father died in any other way than that of the official inquiry. Most in the UFO community, however, have great strength of conviction that they are correct in their assessment – at the very least that the American and British militaries have withheld a certain amount of information concerning the case.

The video below looks at some of Britain’s most interesting UFO encounters.

Other Incidents Throughout The Decades

Although there were no UFO incidents as disastrous as that which would claim the life of William Schaffner, the sightings would continue throughout the seventies and eighties. In 1977, reports of strange lights over the North Sea by a soldier at RAF Boulmer would cause alarm. The following year, a young nurse claimed to see a “cigar tin” shaped UFO pass low to her house. So low in fact, the sound was deafening.

In 1980, while walking through Jarrow Park, a sixty-one-year-old woman witnessed a strange glowing orange ball. It was floating just feet from her. Two police officers would make a report of seeing a UFO hovering over Tyne Valley for around an hour. In October 1985, two separate reports of a strange orb-like UFO hovering over Newcastle Airport would make headlines.

Maybe one of the strangest incidents of recent times in this area of the world took place in August 1990. In the small town of Calvine, close to the A9 road, several members of the public spotted a diamond-shaped UFO hovering in the air for close to ten minutes. It then proceeded to shoot directly up into the air. Several photographs exist of the object.

What makes this sighting even more interesting is that the Ministry of Defense, in an internal memo, stated that the media and public should be told that “no definite conclusion” is available. The fact that the MoD are so publicly involved in such a sighting, is possibly evidence of how high up on their list of concerns the incident is.

Check out the videos below. The first is a short clip that features dramatized versions of the Calvine Incident. The second features former British MoD UFO researcher, Nick Pope, talking in-depth.


The stories, accounts, and discussion in this article are not always based on proven facts and may go against currently accepted science and common beliefs. The details included in the article are based on the reports and accounts available to us as provided by witnesses and documentation.

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About 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 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.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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