Thursday, January 30, 2014

Belgian UFO wave 1989-1992 – Part 1

Nearly 25 years ago, Belgium was under an unprecedented wave of UFO observations and, like in all cases of significant UFO wave, no truly satisfying explanation could be given. This series of posts will re-visit these events under the light of parasociology, in an attempt to provide a different perspective and a potential explanation.

This case is probably the best documented UFO cases out there, and it is infinitely better than the all the speculative books combined together on the Roswell incidents of 1947. Most of the material gathered on this case is based on the work of Belgian UFO research organization called SOBEPS (Société belge d'étude des phénomènes spatiaux), who enjoyed the substantive collaboration of the Belgian police, and especially, the Belgian military. The SOBEPS produced two volumes of about 500 pages each on what happened and provided various analyses on different aspects of the events. The empirical evidence used to write the two books was the sum of about 300 audio cassettes (60 and 90 min) of witness interviews, 650 investigation reports, and 700 questionnaires filled by the witnesses. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 51).

Although the members of the SOBEPS are for the most part seeking to demonstrate the validity of the Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis (ETH), their work was very sober and rational, and built on a healthy dose of scepticism. The Belgian military also produced and made publically available a report on the UFO chase of March 1990, known as the Lamprecht Report. The report concludes that something real happened but it could not be explained. This combination of sober UFO research and open support from the authorities makes it an exceptionally interesting case.

To investigate this case, a general overview of the available evidence will be provided, followed by a more detailed look at some of the key events of the Belgian wave. Afterward, other elements will be incorporated in the analysis, timing of the events in particular, as well as other features from the wider social and symbolic context. The SOBEPS material and the additional elements will be analyzed using the five parasociological indicators developed in previous posts (and published in parapsychological literature) to study Socially Relevant Anomalies (SRA). Finally, and once more, the events will be also analyzed in light of Walter von Lucadou’s Model of Pragmatic Information (MPI), and some interesting comparisons with the 1952 UFO over Washington D.C. will be suggested before concluding on this UFO case.


The “official” starting date of the Belgian UFO wave was 29 November 1989, when Belgian police officers (gendarmes) and civilians observed and reported on seeing a strange object in the night sky, near the German border. That night, there were 143 well documented observations (125 when the SOBEPS published its first book in 1991) in the region of Liège. From that point on, numerous observations were made over time until a last spike of 27 sightings on 26 July 1992. Other key moments of this wave were: 11 December 1989 with another spike of observations with 24 sightings (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 82); the night of 30-31 March 1990 when two Belgian Air Force F-16 jet fighters unsuccessfully chased UFOs in the sky; and a 3rd spike of observations on 12 March 1991 with 27 sightings presented by SOPEPS (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 260-279). The main sighting period, overall, is between late November 1989 and late April 1990.


Many sightings were involving a dark triangular shaped object with three very bright white lights in each corner and a red light in the middle of the triangle. The size of the object was often described as large as a jetliner. It is to be noted that there were only a few closer encounters of the first type (CE1) from the Hynek classification, and they were deemed not credible by the SOBEPS investigators (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 150). Similarly, only a handful of physical marks were found (CE2), associated with the observations, and they too were considered at best as inconclusively related to the UFO observations by the SOBEPS (Boitte, 2012). The bulk of the observations were either close looks at the object (CE1) or night lights (NL) and day disc (object) (DD) seen at a distance. The SOBEPS eventually build up an inventory of over 1200 cases in all for that period (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 78).

The photographic and video evidence was disappointing in general, as it was essentially faded lights in the night sky that revealed very little useful information (Ferryn, 1991: 397). There was one notable exception, a picture that became quite famous and was the object of many analyses, and controversies. It was the picture known as “Petit-Rechain”, named after the locality where it was allegedly taken on 4 April 1990. But on 26 July 2011, the author of this hoax (Patrick M.) confessed and explained how he created the picture on the French-speaking Belgian television (RTL). Ironically, when the SOBEPS investigators were contacted in 1990 to look at the picture, their first gut reaction was that it is “too good to be true” (Ferryn, 1991: 414). Lastly, there was as many UFO buffs know one night of high quality radar tracking by NATO and the Belgian military, and we will come back to it later.

The first day: 29 November 1989

The first reported observations of the wave was around the town of Eupen, in the German-speaking part of Belgium. Here is a synopsis of what is reported in the SOBEPS book.

Eupen and surrounding area

1030: A military officer (Major D.), while participating to a marching exercise saw a strange object at about 2000 meters of altitudes. He first thought it was a plane, but it was very flat, 3 to 4 times bigger than a normal plan, making no noise, and there was no condensation trail. He did not know what to make of it. (Meessen, 1991a: 25).

Afternoon: 8 observations, with variations. Cigar shape; ovoid shape; banana shape; triangle with rectangular portholes; blue lights. In most cases, it was slow or stationary not very high above the ground, and in all cases it was noiseless. (Meessen, 1991a: 25-27).

1700 to 1730: 1 police officer near the German border, at Eynatten, saw at 500 meters an object with powerful lights flying low, moving slowly between 60 and 70 km/h. The officer was surprised that it was moving so slow (Meessen, 1991a: 16).

1713: A Eupen municipal government official while being with a friend saw a flying triangular object with 3 powerful lights and moving slowly. It had also a flashing red light. They are surprised by the slow movement of the object (thinking it was a helicopter). The object was making no noise. They saw the object a second time around 1745. (Meessen, 1991a: 18-19).

1720: 2 police officers on the road between Eupen and Eynatten, (east of Liege), saw an area of 30 metres of diameter lighten with intensity. Then they saw an object looking like a platform, an elongated triangle, with 3 large lights placed in a triangular position. The dimensions were about 30 to 35 meters for the base, 25 meters for the length, and 2 meters thick. The object was at about 120 meters in the air. It was silent. There was a red rotating light in the middle of the white lights. The police officers are stunned by what they saw. They called dispatch and they tried to get closer with their car. The object stops, and leaves abruptly in the opposite direction back towards the east. The police officers continue driving for a while and can follow "discretely" the object. (Meessen: 1991a, 16-18).

Later: the same officers went back to their station and asked dispatch to contact the military authorities about possible AWACS planes in the area. They meet scepticism from their colleagues at first. The military confirmed that there were no AWACS in the area. They returned in their vehicle and saw the object again. They followed it and it stop and remained in stationary position over a small lake in the area. Red search lights were seen, and mystified the officers. When search light went dim, a red ball of light was “left” where the search lights were aiming. The red balls went back to the flying object. This happened several times. The officers compared this to a harpoon, thrown away and brought back to its point of origin. The object eventually left at 1923. They also saw a second triangular object coming out of the first one at very high speed, with rectangular portholes lighten from inside, but with a cupola on top of the triangular shape. The second object was seen by another police officer at the Eupen station. (Meessen, 1991a: 23-24).

1715-1730: 2 other similar observations of a triangular object with powerful lights in the same area, including one witness having a repeat from a 3 November 1989 observation. (Meessen, 1991a: 20).

1730-1800: 2 witnesses noted additional smaller white lights on a in a triangular shape object with a cupola on the top. (Meessen, 1991a: 22).

1720-1800: 7 observations from witnesses who were north of Eupen. The descriptions were more varied: banana shape with portholes, and 3 lights; large stationary triangle just above a house, with 3 lights and a red light and noiseless. In 2 cases, the object was directly above the witnesses. (Meessen, 1991a: 27-29).

1830-1915: 22 observations. Some of the main features were: light noise, as a deep vibration. Elongated triangle, equilateral triangle, and cupola observations. Slow or stationary and low above the ground (100 meters). Moving at very high speed. 3 lights were very common in this set of observations. It was describe as being the size of a Boeing 727. In other cases it was round in shape, with 4 white lights, or multiple of lights. Many thought it could be an AWAC, but rejected the idea as it did not behave like an airplane. A number of witnesses had a second encounter with the object during that night. (Meessen, 1991a: 29-38).

Liege and surrounding area

1715-1915: There were 17 recorded observations (east and over the city of Liege). Some observations described 2 objects, triangular, with white lights and a red one in the middle, showing rectangular portholes, a making a light sound. In other cases 3 objects were seen, with 2 leaving the area very fast. In some cases, the object had an ovoid or a cupola shape, hovering low above ground (30 meters), with a slow movement. Simultaneously, west of the city of Liege an additional 17 observations were made. There were common descriptions of a huge triangular object with 3 powerful lights, making a light but low pitch noise. Many witnesses first thought it was an AWAC, but all rejected the idea as it was not behaving like a plane. Other witnesses mentioned seeing 4 objects moving abnormally slow, with two different witnesses, again, having a second encounter with the object on the same evening. In some cases, the object was reported as having a rectangular or lozenge shape. (Meessen, 1991a: 38-45).

Further west of Liege

1715-2130: 5 observations are reported. Some witnesses noted lights of many different colors: green, red, orange. It was at time described as moving very slow, and then very fast. It had the apparent size of a big plane. Yet, the triangular shaped object, with bright with lights, making no noise is also reported by some. (Meessen, 1991a: 45-47).

General comments

There are a number of interesting elements in the events of the 29 November 1989 night. The first is that pretty much all the observations started concurrently at around 1715, or 5:15pm, in Eupen, east of Liege, west of Liege, and further west of Liege. And with the exception of the area further west of Liege, they all ended around 1930, or 7:30pm. This is pointing towards more than one objects appearing about the same time, and disappearing also about the same time. Then, the shape and appearance of the object varied quite a bit across the witnesses’ reports, although the “classical” dark, thin, and triangular shape with bright lights in each corner and a pulsating red light in the middle is also found in a number observation.

One striking feature is that people in position of authority (military officers, police officers, and municipal government officials) are among the very first to witness a strange object in the sky. As well, during the very first night a contact is made between the police and the military to verify if there is anything unusual in the airspace at the time.

Another key element was that the two police officers of the Eupen detachment who had a long engagement with the object were interviewed on the Belgian television about their experience and it was aired on the next day (30 November 1989). The following day (1 December 1989), most of the French-language Belgian newspapers took up the story as well (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 69). By then, the UFO wave of observations became a publically known event, and fits the basic criteria to be considered as a Socially Relevant Anomaly (SRA).


Boitte, Franck. (2012). Belgian Ufology: What Future Developments Are To Be Expected After The Petit-Rechain Fiasco? Report available at

Bougard, Michel and Lucien Clerebaut. (1991). "Chronique d'une vague". In SOBEPS, Vague d'OVNI sur la Belgique: Un dossier exceptionnel. Bruxelles: SOBEPS., pp. 51-296.
Ferryn, Patrick. (1991). "Vidéofilms et photographies". In SOBEPS, Vague d'OVNI sur la Belgique: Un dossier exceptionnel. Bruxelles: SOBEPS., pp. 397-422.
Meessen, Auguste. (1991a). "Les observations décisives du 29 novembre 1989". In SOBEPS, Vague d'OVNI sur la Belgique: Un dossier exceptionnel. Bruxelles: SOBEPS., pp. 1-50.