UFO sightings observed by many witnesses are typically the best, most noteworthy cases, as the multiple witnesses’ testimony provides corroborating evidence. Although most sightings are not mass sightings, there are several high-quality cases involving many credible witnesses, and some of these mass sightings paint the best picture showing the mysterious reality of UFOs. One such sighting occurred in 1976 in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of Africa.
In the mid-1990s, philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller financed a report that provided an overview of major UFO events and the evidence surrounding the UFO phenomenon. This report was intended to educate government officials about UFOs, and as such, it was sent to the White House and members of the U.S. Congress. The report, titled “Unidentified Flying Objects Briefing Document: The Best Available Evidence,” was drafted by Don Berliner, an aviation journalist and long-time ufologist. UFO journalist Antonio Huneeus and Marie Galbraith, the wife of investment banker Evan Galbraith (who was the U.S. ambassador to France during the Reagan administration, the Republican candidate for New York governor in 1994, and the chairman of William Buckley’s political magazine, National Review) also participated in the creation of this document. One of the incredible cases presented in the document is the mass UFO sighting that took place in the Canary Islands.
According to newspaper headlines, thousands of residents of the Canary Islands observed an unidentified luminous phenomenon on the night of June 22, 1976. The event was reported by witnesses on at least three different islands. The Spanish Air Force thoroughly investigated the incident. Although the files associated with this investigation were declassified in 1994, they had already been leaked back in 1976. For whatever reason, the classified air force reports were given to journalist Juan José Benítez in October 1976 by an air force general. Benítez included these in his book, UFOs: Official Documents of the Spanish Government.
Records indicate that the commanding general of the Spanish Air Force’s Canary Islands Air Zone assigned an investigative adjutant to the case on June 25, 1976. Depositions were taken of at least fourteen witnesses. The air force divided these witnesses into four categories, ranking them from most credible to least credible. People found to be mentally challenged, illiterate, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol were put into the very unreliable category, while people like astronomers, pilots, and aeronautical engineers were placed in the most credible category. The sighting reports, like the witnesses, were grouped into four levels to evaluate the quality and quantity of evidence for each.
The witness depositions and a review of the evidence allowed the investigative adjutant to piece together what transpired on June 22, 1976. Based on his report, the first UFO sighting of the night occurred at 9:27 p.m. The unidentified object was observed by the entire crew of the Spanish Navy vessel, the Atrevida, which at the time, was located near the coast of Fuerteventura. According to the Atrevida’s captain, he and his crew observed “an intense yellowish-blue light” moving from the island’s shore towards the ship. They initially assumed the object was an aircraft with active landing lights, but the UFO stopped and hovered in the sky. The captain further described that the light “went out and a luminous beam from it began to rotate. It remained like this for approximately two minutes. Then an intense great halo of yellowish and bluish light developed, and remained in the same position for 40 minutes, even though the original phenomenon was no longer visible.”
The captain explained that, minutes after this “halo” of light appeared, he observed the following:
[T]he light split into two parts, the smaller part being beneath, in the center of the luminous halo, where a blue cloud appeared and the part from which the bluish nucleus had come, vanished. The upper part began to climb in a spiral, rapid and irregular, and finally vanished. None of these movements affected the initial circular halo in any way, which remained just the same the whole time, its glow lighting up parts of the land and the ocean, from which we could deduce that the phenomenon was not very far away from us, but was close.
The ship’s first officer echoed the captain’s statements. And the officers also confirmed that the ship’s surface radar detected nothing at the time of the sighting.
The depositions of the naval officers were considered to be some of the most-credible testimony regarding the UFO sighting. The deposition of a physician, however, was among the more strange accounts collected during the investigation. Dr. Francisco Padrón León was in a taxi on his way to see a patient in the town of Las Rosas on Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands. He explained that, when he had almost arrived at his destination, the taxi’s lights hit a luminous sphere hovering motionless just off the ground. He described that the sphere was electric blue in color and constructed of a “transparent and crystalline-like material.” He estimated that the UFO had a radius of approximately one hundred feet. Inside the sphere, Dr. Padrón saw a platform that looked like it was made of metal, and what appeared to be three control consoles. He also claimed to have seen two tall humanoid figures inside the sphere, whom he estimated were between eight and a half feet and ten feet tall. They wore brilliant red outfits and some type of head gear.
When the taxi arrived at the patient’s home, Dr. Padrón continued watching the sphere. He described it as follows:
I [then] observed that some kind of bluish smoke was coming out from a semi-transparent central tube in the sphere, covering the periphery of the sphere’s interior without leaking outside at any moment. Then the sphere began to grow and grow until it became huge like a 20-story house, but the platform and the crew remained the same size; it rose slowly and majestically and it seems I heard a very tenuous whistling.
The doctor raced into the patient’s house to inform the residents about the mysterious sphere. Everyone came outside to see the object that had ascended high in the sky. The UFO quickly accelerated, shooting away at an incredible speed. The doctor described that it “dissolved into a bluish spindle-shape with red underneath.” Similar to the description provided by the navy officers, Dr. Padrón said “a brilliant white halo was formed close to the object, which bit by bit was forming another very brilliant blue halo.”
Although bizarre, the doctor’s testimony was corroborated by the taxi driver, as well as by witnesses at the patient’s house. But the investigative adjutant reportedly still debated whether he should accept the doctor’s deposition. It was his belief that the witnesses of the humanoid figures in the sphere, “facing the presence of an unusual phenomenon in the sky, narrated what their ‘minds’ made them see, mutually influencing each other.” He goes on to say in the records that he “doesn’t have the slightest doubt about their seriousness and sincerity. They told what they unquestionably ‘believed’ to have seen.”
Notably, there are other reports from the 1970s of sphere-like objects containing occupants. In 1970, a boy in East Aurora, New York reportedly witnessed a silent yellowish sphere moving slowly through the sky. According to his report, he clearly saw two occupants at the craft’s control panel. In 1973, a witness in Manchester, New Hampshire reported seeing an orange and gold globe that was “not totally opaque but had a peculiar translucent quality about it.” She claims that she saw a humanoid figure standing at the controls of this UFO. In 1978, a witness in San Antonio, Texas reported seeing a strange, “globular,” amber-colored object with a transparent section through which the witness claims to have seen two “creatures.”
In addition to the witness depositions, the Spanish Air Force’s file related to this case contains more than one hundred pages of questionnaires, illustrations, and other documents. The file also includes a color photograph of the UFO that was taken by a tourist. According to the lab where this photo was developed, “no trickery or modification of any kind was added.”
Following the investigation, and after reviewing all the available information, the investigative adjutant concluded that there was no aerial traffic or military exercises at the time of the incident that could account for the phenomenon, and that what witnesses observed on June 22, 1976 was, indeed, an “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon.”
Similar phenomena were witnessed in the Canary Islands around the same time period. One of these other sightings occurred in November 1976 and was witnessed by the commanding general of the Spanish Air Force’s Canary Islands Air Zone while he was aboard a transport aircraft. Interestingly, a large halo also accompanied this sighting. Personnel at an air base on the island of Gran Canaria and the crew of a Spanish navy ship also witnessed this phenomenon.
The investigative adjutant assigned to the November 1976 sighting in the Canary Islands concluded that, after looking at all of the similar cases around the islands from that time period, “we should have to think seriously of the necessity of considering the possibility of accepting the hypothesis that a craft of unknown origin, propelled by an equally unknown energy, is moving freely over the skies in the Canaries.”
This article originally appeared in Open Minds Magazine Issue 26 June/July 2014.