Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Belgian UFO wave 1989-1992 – Part 4

As discussed in part 1 of this series of posts, the Belgian UFO wave of 1989-1992 was definitely something that could be described as a Socially Relevant Anomaly. The UFO wave was a well-covered event in the press media, and got the attention of the authorities. Furthermore, the review of the evidence provided by the SOBEPS and the Belgian military, in part 2 and 3, also demonstrates that there is no sound explanations for what happened. A central element that made the Belgian UFO wave a genuine anomaly was that what people were seeing and observing, and what machines were recording did not match.

In an attempt to shed a different light on this mystery, it is proposed to consider that what the witnesses were observing was something parallel to what machines were recording, but in a different spectrum of reality, so to speak. Namely, it is proposed that what they saw was something of a comparable nature to hauntings and poltergeists (i.e., involving psi effects); something that the human mind can capture but not necessarily machines. This post and the following one will try to assess the case for a possible large scale or social psi effects.

As proposed before (Ouellet, 2011: 79-80), a parasociological method can help to narrow down the number of elements required to assess the social dimensions of an anomaly, and assess the possibility of a social psi effect. There are five criteria that were identified, namely that (a) the observation system is social; the anomaly has (b) geographical and (c) chronological proximity to a meaningful social context, the anomaly carries (d) a symbolic meaning that can be related to a meaningful social context; and that (e) the first four criteria are mutually reinforcing each other (i.e. has substantive internal validity).

Observation system is social

The first criterion is to ensure that the observation system is social, as for a social psi effect to occur the wider society needs to be aware that an anomaly is occurring. In the case of the Belgian UFO wave, there are no doubts that it was. After the first spike of observations, the journalist’s interview of two police officers who witnessed a UFO was broadcasted on television. Then a few days later, the rest of the press was on it, and became further interested after the second spike of observation of 11 December 1989. The close collaboration established early on between the SOBEPS and the police and the military created a context were reporting could be captured in ways than remained within the public domain. The SOBEPS became also at the center of media interest with their first press conference on 18 December 1989, with military representative also present (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 123).

Geographical proximity

The second parasociological dimension is the geographical proximity, and it helps figuring towards who the social psi effect is directed. The UFO wave was very much a Belgian affair [1]. There were only a handful of sightings in the Netherlands, and little if any in Germany, in spite of the wide media coverage given to the UFO stories. This is particularly relevant as during the first spike of observations there was a widely shared sense that the objects were coming from the east (Germany). Similarly, the night of the UFO chase, the radars were tracking an object going from east to west.


The observations were concentrated in two ways. One was the focus on the wider area surrounding the city of Liege, and the second focus was a wide corridor going from the city of Liege to Mons. This particular set of geographical proximity is interesting and raises the possibility of proposing a potential “candidate” for whom the social psi events were directed at. During the Cold War, Belgium was very much at the heart of NATO’s defence system. The UFO “corridor” ends at Mons, where is the military headquarter of NATO, known as SHAPE (Supreme Headquarter of Allied Powers in Europe). The intensely anomalistic event of the 30-31 March 1990 UFO chase happened very much midway between Mons and Brussels. The political headquarters of NATO are in Brussels.

The Glons NATO radar station, which is just north of Liege, was very near in the epicenter of the UFO events that occurred in the overall Liege area. The Glons station was at the center of the NATO AWACS surveillance system at the time, a key military asset for the Western defence system And let’s note that many of the witnesses speculated about the possibility that they saw an AWACS, a NATO capability, because they saw them all the time.  

Chronological proximity

Socially relevant anomalies that have a social psi dimension are expected to occur at a time where there are socially meaningful events with a potential of a high emotional charge. One very fascinating aspects of the Belgian UFO wave is how much the documentation about it ignored nearly completely the surrounding world. The UFO wave happened at the exact same time as the end of the Cold War, which defined the lives of so many in Europe for over 40 years.

The second broader contextual element that is also rarely connected to the Belgian UFO wave was the UFO wave in the Soviet Union, also happening at the same time. In the case of the Soviet wave, some have made the connection between the wave and the impending end of the Cold War and of the Soviet Union itself. Jacques Vallée wrote in 1992 a lesser known book on the topic, and wondered if the anxieties created by new policies of Gorbatchev could be related to the Soviet UFO wave. An interesting report for the year 1989 can be found here.

A fuller chronology of events is proposed here to provided that missing larger context.

Anomalistic Events
Political Events
Hungary allows East German refugees to leave to the West. Opens its borders.
Press reported the landing of a UFO near Moscow, and humanoid sighting. (Meessen, 1991a: 11)
Triangular, and intense light observed (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 52).
Slow motion object with powerful lights observed. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 52).
Czechoslovakia allows East Germans to leave for the West.
Hungarian Communist Party scuttles itself, and the one party ruling system.
Soviet Union officially announces that a UFO has landed near Voronezh, in late September 1989.
Large and silent big lights in the sky. Large triangle. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 53)
Large mass with 3 lights, and a red light. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 55)
East German Honecker forced to step down. Replaced by Egon Krenz.
Gray triangle. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 55)
500,000 demonstrate in Leipzig, in East Germany.
A slow moving flying object, with powerful lights, is seen near the German border. (Meessen, 1991a: 20)
Protest at East Berlin's Alexanderplatz attracted 500,000 people,
Large, silent, slow moving mass with powerful lights looking at the ground.  (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991:55)
Berlin Wall opened, demands for reunification of East and West Germany grew louder
Communist Party of Bulgaria scuttles itself, and the one party ruling system.
Air Force reserve officer sees large, silent, slow moving mass with powerful lights looking at the ground. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 55)
Beginning of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Students riot
500,000 people demonstration in Prague
Triangular object seen near Namur. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 55)
Large, silent, slow moving mass with powerful lights looking at the ground, lit and flew over a house . (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 56-57)
Object over a house, lightening the house. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 59-60)
Communist government of Czechoslovakia resigns
Large, low sound, slow moving mass with powerful lights looking at the ground. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 61)
Communist party of Czechoslovakia puts an end to single party ruling
Triangular positioned lights. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 62)
First significant set of observations reported to SOBEPS. 125 observations reported for this day. (Meessen, 1991a: 11)
Massive media involvement starts, 7 observations on that day (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 64-71)
Strange radar blip at Glons and 4 observations (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 71-76)
East German leadership resigns, and Bush-Gorbachev summit in Malta. Cold War declared to be over.
4-9 Dec 89
6 observations  (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 73-76)
Press confirms that the Belgian military is investigating, but without much results yet. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 78)
24 observations, on the axis Liege to Mons (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 82)
12-18 Dec 89
Press in full swing while UFOs are very quiet (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 118-122)
Riots in Timisoara, beginning of the Romanian revolution.
Ceausescu is arrested the day before, and executed with his wife.
New observations after a relatively quiet period
Feb and Mar 90
More observations, but at a slower pace. Phenomena does not vary much from previous events
30-31 Mar 90
Belgian F-16 chase UFOs between Mons and Brussels
Belgian Air Force report on the events of 30-31 March is made public.
Apr-Dec 90
Few observations (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 236-250)
Dec 90 to Mar 91
Few observations, with the usual variations (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 255-259)
Jan to Mar 91
Soviet Union in trouble: 9 February, Lithuania votes for independence; 3 March, Latvia and Estonia vote for independence; 17 March, national referendum in Soviet Union on keeping the union together; 31 March, Georgia vote for independence.
Also rise of tensions in Yugoslavia, eventually breaking into an internal armed conflict.
New increase in observations. 27 observations in 1 evening. Usual variations. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 260-279).
Rest of Mar 91
A few more observations. (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 282-288).
Coup in Moscow, and beginning of the end for the Soviet Union in the following days.
27 observations, last spike of the Belgian wave

The synchronicity between the events surrounding the end of the Cold War, and two concurrent UFO wave, one in the heart of NATO in Belgium and one in the Soviet Union is absolutely striking. Furthermore, the first sighting of the then “new” triangular UFOs in Belgium occurred (28 Sept. 1989) the day after the UFO events of Voronezh (27 Sept. 1989). The first major spike of observations in Belgium (29 Nov. 1989) occurred four days before the end of East German communism (considered the most hardline of all) and the Bush-Gorbatchev summit declaring the Cold War over (4 Dec. 1989).

The second spike of observations (11 Dec. 1989) occurred 6 days before the only violent dismantlement of a communist government in Eastern Europe, namely in Romania (17 Dec. 1989). The third spike of observations (12 Mar 1991) occurred two weeks before the referendum to try (to no avail) to keep the Soviet Union together. On the other hand, the last spike of observations does not seem to be related to any particular event.

Symbolic relationship

The Belgian UFO wave has a number of interesting symbolic aspects. Symbolically, in almost all cases, the phenomenon was noted by the witnesses because of its “unplanely“ behavior, as if it wanted to be noted. Furthermore, on the first spike observation day, the first person to observe a UFO (during daytime) was a military officer. The first to observe at night time were police officers, again as if the phenomenon wanted to be noticed by the authorities. The UFO chase night was more akin to something “mischievous” trying to get the attention of the military authorities. Few witnesses were really scared, and no witness reported anything seriously threatening about the phenomenon. It was an ostensible but safe presence.

The variety of shapes and forms of the UFOs is more puzzling. Even if the triangular shape was relatively more common than the other ones, it was far from being the only one. It is as if the phenomenon did not know what shape it wanted to take. Yet, one fascinating possibility is that the actual dark triangular shape that was seen in the skies of Belgium could itself be symbolically representative of NATO. Anyone who visited the Brussels NATO headquarter cannot miss the large tri-dimensional dark metal sculpture of the NATO star, which is actually made of triangles.
Nevertheless, one aspect was present in a large majority of cases: it was 2 or more powerful white lights and weaker red lights, irrespective to whether the witnesses saw an object or not in the sky. Yet, it is to be noted that on the last spike of observations in July 1992, there were no weaker red lights observed. In the wider context of events, an interesting symbolic representation is that a white star was remaining powerful, namely NATO, and one red star was becoming weaker, the Soviet Bloc.

Internal validity

As one can note from the elements above, at various levels the Belgian UFO wave seems associated with the end of the Cold War, and centered on trying to get NATO’s people attention. Major spikes seemed to be inter-related to events to come, as if there was some sort of precognition. The first spike of observations was perceived as objects coming from Germany, just before the end of the hardline East German regime. The second spike of observations had one of the few cases of a somewhat aggressive UFO, observed once again by a military officer, a few days before the violent end of communism in Romania. The third spike of observations was the only one that had a concentration of sighting near or around a nuclear plant, at a time of where a dismantlement of the Soviet Union was raising the issue of what to do with the Soviet nuclear arsenal. The last spike of observations did not have any weak red light, and does not seem related to any particular major social events in the context of the end of communism, as it was almost a year after the coup in Moscow that brought the Soviet Union to an end. The last spike showed a weaker white light, maybe symbolic of NATO short of an enemy being in difficulty to justify its existence?

The end of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe occurred very quickly, and although it was something that many people were hoping for a long time (especially those on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain), it was also bringing a lot unknowns about whether the hardliners would react with force (like in Romania) or not, and for those who were benefitting from the system the future did not look bright. Tensions were high. Mass demonstrations and riots filled the air with a lot of anxieties. There was certainly a lot of collective emotional energy released at the time, and this was certainly a key condition for any social psi event to occur.

The analysis above shows the possibility of some kind of social psi effect occurring in the sky of Belgium between 1989 and 1991 cannot be discounted. The parasociological indicators show a multi-level coherence between the key elements of the UFO wave and major social events in the form of possible precognition (spikes of observations preceding critical social events). However, this does not constitute a proof, but rather a clue pointing in that direction. A second analysis of the Belgian UFO wave will be presented in the next post, using a parapsychological model to understand poltergeist events (RSPK - Recurrent Spontaneous Psycho-Kinesis). Walter von Lucadou’s Model of Pragmatic Information (MPI) will be used once again to look at how the events unfolded. If the UFO wave unfolded in ways similar to a RSPK, which is by definition a psi related phenomenon, then this would add further arguments on the possibility that the UFO wave might have been centered on a social psi effect.


[1] There was a night of intense sightings (175) in France on 5 November 1990, centered on Paris, Orleans, and Brive (central France). The observations are significantly different in the appearances from the Belgian, with the exceptions of both white and red lights that were commonly observed on the UFO. For more information, see (in French)


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.

Ouellet, Eric. (2011). “Social Psi and Parasociology”. Australian Journal of Parapsychology 11 (1): 73-88.