The Almost Forgotten 1972 John Bruinier UFO Encounter

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
February 1, 2024
Estimated Reading Time
11 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Close Encounters

In the middle of a cold night in the winter of 1972 in the Netherlands, one of the strangest and most thought-provoking UFO encounters unfolded on an otherwise quiet housing estate. Not only that, but the witness to these mind-blowing events would witness the apparent occupant of this seemingly otherworldly craft. The incident is almost forgotten about over half a century later, but for those who do remember it, it remains a case very much up for debate.

What makes the incident even more intriguing is that it unfolded in the approximate region of the Netherlands as several other UFO encounters of the 1970s, prompting us to question if it might be connected to these other incidents. And if that is the case, we have to ask just what was going on there at this time. Were these incidents alien visitation, or were they a secret by-product of the Cold War, that was very much in the forefront of international politics at the time?

The encounter of John Bruinier, despite being little-known today, was the subject of intense media interest at the time. So much so, that Bruinier was forced into drastic public action.

A “Strong Buzzing Sound” And A “Bright, Blinding Light!”

At around 4:30 am on March 25th, 1972, in Soesterberg, John Bruinier was asleep when he was awakened by a “strong buzzing sound”. [1] To begin with, he thought he had left his stereo system on and the noise was coming from there. However, when he glanced over to the system, he could see that it was switched off, and so couldn’t be the source of the noise. Besides, he asked himself, if it had of been the stereo he surely would have heard it earlier.

As he looked around the ground floor room where he slept, he suddenly became aware of a bright light that was coming from outside. He immediately got out of bed and made his way to the window. As he looked outside, he could see a “bright, blinding white light” that looked as though “someone had lit a Bengal fire in front of the house”. He also noticed a strange fog around the light that stretched right along the pavement and was approximately 12 feet in height. When he realized his car was parked behind this light, he suddenly worried that his vehicle was on fire.

He quickly pulled on a jacket as well as a pair of slippers, reached for his car keys, and rushed outside the house. As he reached the Volkswagen, he could see that it was not on fire. However, it was “soaking wet, while other cars nearby were covered in a layer of ice due to the night frost”. He got inside the vehicle, inserted the key, and started the engine. As he did so, the strange events suddenly took an even stranger twist.

Something Strange Behind The Car

Almost as it had become aware of the car’s engine being started, this strange wall of fog appeared to suddenly head in his direction, completely surrounding and enveloping the vehicle. Not only that, though, as this strange fog closed in, he could feel the car “bounce, as if someone was jumping on the back of it”. He glanced into the rearview mirror and could see the light “dancing in front of the rear window”, making him contemplate if his car was, in fact, on fire. His first thought was that he should drive which might put the flames out.

He put the car in motion, driving a little way down the street before turning left onto a forest path that he accessed through a “dry ditch in between two trees”. As he drove, he pressed down on the car horn in order to alert other people on the estate, but no sound came from it.

At this point, Bruinier was beginning to feel a sense of panic rise up in him. He continued to drive, however, afraid to stop unless something untoward happened to him. Within moments, he came to a section in the road with a metal chain stretched across it. Just as he was about to crash into it, he saw the chain tighten and break, as if it had been pulled or stretched by some unknown force.

Then, the next thing he knew, the bizarre, bright glow behind the car was gone and he brought the vehicle to a stop. He took a moment to gather his thoughts before looking out of the window. To his shock he could see a “human-like figure” running past the car, heading to a point somewhere ahead of him. Then, it simply vanished into thin air.

A Metallic Object In The Clearing

Although still very cautious, Bruinier’s curiosity was piqued enough to make him exit the vehicle and walk in front of it to see if he could see anything more. Only moments after doing so, his focus settled upon a “huge object surrounded by a greenish fluorescent glow” around 50 feet in front of him. In his peripheral vision, to his left, he could see a “bright light floating over a row of trees” moving toward the object. He began to wonder if this was the same light that had “followed” his vehicle.

He further described the object as being oval-shaped, with what appeared to be windows along the side “behind which a greenish light shone”. He elaborated that this light was “like from a fluorescent blacklight lamp”.  The exterior of the object “had a metallic sheen to it” and it appeared as though it was made from “one piece” of material with no joins or welds. Even stranger, above the object, were “three diffuse green beams of light” that “shone straight up”. The bright, white light continued to approach the object, moving very much in a controlled manner.

It was at this point when Bruinier first noticed a “human figure” behind one of the windows who appeared to be looking up at the white light. It eventually reached the center of the object before it “faded into a diffuse green beam of light”. Thinking he was witnessing some kind of experimental military vehicle, he continued to approach the craft, eager to see more.

A Sudden Departure

As he got closer to the object, he could see that it was approximately 100 feet across and around 10 feet high, and it appeared to “float above the ground like a hovercraft”. Of more concern, the human figure had now noticed his presence and was gesturing at him to move back from the craft. He stepped back several feet, but still close enough to be able to see the figure clearly, who was counting down – four, three, two – while gesturing with his hand.

He later described the figure as being around five feet tall and dressed in overalls that were a “dull metallic” color and appeared similar to “paper foil”. He could also see that the overalls appeared to be made from one piece of material and fit “snugly”. From the neck of the overalls, a tube extended and was connected to a belt around the figure’s waist. Its head had a distinct oval shape with “large almond-shaped eyes”.

He also noticed a “panel” behind the figure that was “divided into sections” with “all kinds of colors” shining and flashing on it. Before reaching the end of the countdown, the figure turned to look at the panel, as if checking everything was in good working order.

When the countdown reached one, the object “jumped off the ground” and rose several more feet into the air. It then began to move toward the nearby trees in a controlled and gentle manner. When it was directly over the trees it “suddenly accelerated” and disappeared into the distance in a second “glowing blue-white in the center”. As the object sped away, Bruinier could hear “a sound reminiscent of a roof tile sliding off a roof” while also seeing “two exhaust streaks with a light green discoloration in between”.

Evidence Of A Landing Event?

Immediately after the object had disappeared Bruinier noticed that the atmosphere appeared much colder. He took a moment to gather his thoughts before returning to his car. He switched on the engine and made his way back home.

Upon his arrival, his wife had also awakened and was more than worried about where he had been. Their children had also awoken. He looked at the clock, noting that it was 4:15 am, meaning he had been gone around 45 minutes. He told them of the strange events, although he offered that he suspected he had had a “bad dream”. However, when they went to the car outside, they could feel that the engine was still warm and that tire tracks were clearly visible suggesting that he had, in fact, been driving the vehicle and not dreaming.

The following day, the children went to where their father said the encounter unfolded. Not only did they find the broken chain but also a clearly flattened area on the ground where they presumed the strange craft had stood. Furthermore, they also could clearly see the tire tracks of their father’s car. Ultimately, whatever had happened the previous night, it was seemingly something very real.

Investigation Of The Scene

The incident would eventually come to the attention of the Dutch Ufological Center (NUSC) which would send out two investigators – chairman, Jan Veenstra, and vice chairman, Hans van Kampen – to the location several weeks later on April 9th, with Van Kampen writing of the encounter in his 1973 book Flying Saucers: Delusion or Science.

A NUSC diagram of how the light appeared from Bruinier’s window (c) NUSC

They would note the dirt road that Bruinier had gone down, and it appeared very much as he had described it. Perhaps of more interest, the location of the encounter was at a location where many paratroopers used to land on the weekends. What’s more, judging from the distances in Bruinier’s report, it appeared that the object would have been right on the edge of the landing circle. Although they examined the ground at this location, no markings were found on the ground to indicate the object’s presence (although we should perhaps recall that Bruinier was uncertain if the craft was hovering ever so slightly above the ground).

Investigators also learned that this location was accessible to the public except when there were live ammunition military training exercises when it was then put off limits with a large chain across the entrance. This was the chain that Bruinier witnessed. What’s more, investigators found what seemed to be file shavings near where the chain would have been (investigators also established, incidentally, that these filings were several weeks old).

Problematic Details

The investigative pair were certainly a little perplexed by the events. And while they believed the witness to be a man of integrity, they still had their doubts about the encounter. They questioned, for example, if this might be a case where after telling his family what had happened to him and then facing their questions and queries, suddenly felt the need to enhance or even embellish certain details in order to make what was a very event more believable, and so avoiding ridicule.

It is certainly an interesting notion, and one that has been considered in other cases previously, perhaps the most well-known being the apparent encounters of George Adamski, who some researchers have put forward had initial genuine encounters with mysterious beings, but then went on to manufacture subsequent encounters.

They also considered if Bruinier had simply recalled some of the details incorrectly. After all, several weeks had passed since he visited the location with them and the actual encounter. To make their point, in their report, investigators highlighted the detail of the lack of frost on Bruinier’s car compared to others on the street, a detail which he offered he “only realized later”. Could it be that, perhaps due to the surreal nature of whatever he was witnessing, Bruinier’s memory of whether his car was covered in frost or not was not clear?

While each of these suggestions is certainly possible, we might think that they are perhaps more opinion-based than offering a solid explanation. There were, though, other problematic details of the encounter that investigators highlighted.

An Incident That Felt Real But Wasn’t?

It was noted that at the time of the sighting, a popular weekly science-fiction show was running on German television that featured UFOs and their occupants. Investigators highlighted that these UFO occupants in this show looked remarkably similar, if not exactly, like the description of the apparent occupant witnessed by Bruinier that cold night in 1972, right down to the wide belt and the connected tube that reached to the collar.

We should note that such suggestions were flung at Betty and Barney Hill in the years following their apparent alien abduction encounter – that they had either used such television characters as inspiration for their fabrication or that they had recalled the details subconsciously. If we accept that Bruinier had little reason to orchestrate such a hoax – as UFO investigators also believed – then we have to turn to the possibility that the description of the occupant was recalled from Bruinier’s subconscious mind.

Did John Bruinier, intentionally or not, base his description of the occupant on this German sci-fi TV character?

What is interesting about this last possibility is the detail that Bruinier offered that he “suddenly felt cold” when the UFO disappeared – a detail that was seized upon by the Dutch UFO investigators. Could it be, they asked, that the UFO hadn’t disappeared before he felt cold, but that he had suddenly woken up?

Of course, if this is an accurate explanation then we have to ask just how did John Bruinier arrive at the location if he had been asleep? Had he sleepwalked there (or even, sleepdrove)? Or had he experienced some kind of episode that made his recall before “waking up” off-limits to him? Indeed, these suggestions only serve to add further complexities to an already murky case.

One Final Twist

Following the encounter and the media interest in it, John Bruinier quickly became a household name in Soesterberg as the man who had “seen little green men”. And it was not something that sat well with him. Years later, his son, Reggie, would recall that after having served as a Sergeant Major in the army, including working at The Hague, his father had begun working with the Business Association for Health, Mental, and Social Interests – and he didn’t want the perception of his encounter to have any adverse effects with his new job.

Furthermore, almost as soon as the story appeared in the media, Bruinier began to receive regular and persistent phone calls from researchers, investigators, and enthusiasts alike, all wanting to ask him questions about his experience – questions he had little time for and did not, for the most part, wish to answer.

So much so, in fact, that by 1976 – four years after the incident – he made the sudden and brash claim that he had made the whole thing up. His apparent confession also appeared in the media, specifically, in the November 1976 edition of Accent. Strangely or not, almost everyone believed the confession, and the case was forgotten about. However, those close to Bruinier insisted that privately, he maintained that what had happened to him was exactly how he had described it. He had stated publicly it was a hoax only to stop the constant attention the incident had placed on him, and to stop him being made out to be a “fool”.

Of course, to some at least, the incident and whether it did happen or not, remains open to debate. We have to wonder, though, why Bruinier’s friends and family would insist, years later, that the confession was a false one when it had, essentially, distanced Bruinier and his family from the affair. Unless, of course, they were telling the truth.

One Final Thing To Consider

There is one more detail to examine about this sighting – the location and, specifically, its close proximity to the nearby military facility. Indeed, Soesterberg was the location of several other UFO encounters during the 1970s, prompting us to ask not only whether they might be connected, but whether they could be a connection to the military facility itself.

Could it be that what Bruinier witnessed that evening was some kind of military experimental aircraft? We might recall that he recalled the occupant as being distinctly human-looking. And not only that, but this occupant communicated through gestures we would expect any human being to use. Perhaps the occupant was a member of the military and was part of a top-secret test flight.

We also know there was a substantial United States military presence throughout all of Europe, much like there is today. So, we would also have to consider that the speculative military experiment was an American one.

One of the encounters to have occurred nearby occurred a short distance away from Bruinier’s encounter – an incident involving Josie Zwinenberg. Years later she would learn that some kind of “special forces” unit was somehow connected to her sighting. Although it is pure speculation, might we consider whether the sighting of John Bruinier also involved special forces from the nearby base? Or perhaps the sightings of the early 1970s provoked the military to assign such a unit over the following years.

An Encounter With More Secrets To Reveal?

The alleged UFO encounter of John Bruinier is certainly an intriguing one. And one that could very well have further details and revelations locked up within it. If, for example, there was a military connection there is the possibility of the release of documents, or that a whistleblower might come forward. That is, of course, if we accept that Bruinier’s confession was made only to avoid further public scrutiny.

Did John Bruinier witness a vehicle from another world? And if so, just what was the reason for it being there? And was this sighting connected to others in the (relatively) same region of the Netherlands that would unfold over the rest of the 1970s? And further still, just how does this incident fit into the overall big picture of the UFO and alien mysteries?

Whether any new information on the case surfaces in the coming years remains to be seen. As does whether any newly reported sightings might inadvertently shine a new light on the events of March 1972. Depending on what happens with these points in mind, the encounter of John Bruinier could prove to be another important UFO incident that was almost lost to the sands of time.

The short video below looks at some of the most intriguing UFO encounters on record.


1 John Bruinier’s UFO, 1972, UFO Zaken

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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