By Rob Johnson
Later this month, the Town of Ladysmith will again be abuzz with the excitement of the shooting of the TV series Resident Alien. The producers will be returning to shoot more episodes about an alien coming to visit our community and becoming our town doctor.
This storyline is all make believe, but could we have been visited by alien creatures before? Maybe.
According to newspaper reports, residents of Ladysmith spotted UFOs darting through the night skies around here in 1969. The first newspaper article reported an incident on April 14. Six young people were out at Ivy Green Park (now the area around the A&W) when they spotted the strange flying object. According to Gloria Partiak, Marilyn Larson and an unidentified girl, all from Ladysmith, along with their friends, Dale Henderson and Allan Manke of Nanaimo and John Alten of Chemainus, the group first saw the craft at about 9:20 pm. It had a large, very bright light that separated into 14 evenly spaced lights as it flew above the treetops, making a strange sound. When the craft came closer to their car, they fled the area and rushed to report the incident to the Ladysmith RCMP, who searched the area for about 30 minutes, but failed to find anything unusual.
Six months later, another sighting of a UFO was reported in the Nanaimo Times. Mr. Grahram Toole, 24, and his friend, Albert Birkeland, 22, spotted a strange craft travelling about a mile a second from Thetis Island, heading north at around 9:30 pm on Wednesday, November 12. This sighting was confirmed by one of Ladysmith’s best-known citizens, Mr. Ray Knight. Mrs. Knight happened to look out her back door when she spotted it and immediately called for her husband. They watched it hover over the harbour and take flight a moment later. Ray, who had been trained as an aircraft spotter during the war, knew the shapes and sizes of aircrafts. This was definitely not a shape he had seen before, but this was not the first time that Ray Knight had seen what we call a UFO. The year before, while he was returning from Nanaimo, he spotted a strange light in the sky as he reached South Wellington. He stopped his car and got out to get a better look. It was about a mile up in the sky and 60 to 70 feet ahead of where he parked the car. He could clearly see cabin lights on the craft as the object remained stationary for about 10 minutes before it took off towards the mainland at high speed.
A side note of interest: My research divulged that Marilyn Larson, who was one of the youths that were part of the April sighting, ended up marrying Graham Toole, one of those that took part in the November sighting. They didn’t realize they shared similar UFO experiences until they were dating. Strange!