Something is up there in the sky over the Baltic. Something inexplicable. Phenomena of lights and movements – paralysing and fascinating – before suddenly vanishing.
On a beautiful spring day in 2017, Bill R. Hansen (a former businessman and hotel owner) along with two of his buddies (a policeman and a seasoned fisherman) are out on the sea trolling for salmon and sea trout. They are fishing the waters between Gudhjem and Christiansø Island, when one of his companions, whose has a line aft of the boat, asks Bill whether he has tied a kite behind the boat. Bill turns to see a large, shimmering dragonfly-like object approaching the boat from behind. His two friends see it, too. The object appears to be 35–40 metres in diameter and stops roughly 150 metres from the boat. “It came to a hovering standstill in the air. I felt that it was monitoring us,” Bill recalls. He explains that he wasn’t afraid, but kept his cool and called Lyngby Radio on VHF. The object stood still for about 20 or 30 seconds before suddenly disappearing, as if flying in reverse, at a speed of around 200 kilometres an hour. Lyngby Radio can see the fishermen’s position on their AIS (Automatic Identification System), and they transfer Bill’s call to Denmark’s Defence Command and radar station in Kastrup. None of its radars captures any unusual activity at this position, however. My policeman friend drew a picture of the object on a napkin on board, and later I got help to get a phantom drawing and animation made,” Bill says.
Every year, a number of inexplicable phenomena are observed in the air space over Bornholm. Many are reported to and registered in Denmark’s UFO database at Scandinavian UFO Information (SUFOI). SUFOI’s principal task is public information and, since 1959, Ole Henningsen, Denmark’s leading UFO expert and a former investment consultant, has been part of Denmark’s collaboration project to explain and understand the observations. “There appears to be quite a lot of periodic activity around Bornholm, but the vast majority of observations can be logically explained and are caused by phenomena we’re already familiar with,” Ole Henningsen explains. There are a few sightings that stand out as unusual, however, even for a seasoned UFO detective, such as the sighting reported by Bill and his buddies. Even though a number of experts investigated the observation – including Ole, the Danish Military, a drone manufacturer and Denmark’s TV2 – no one can identify what Bill and his friends observed over the Baltic that day in spring.
Bill still vividly remembers his experience: “I didn’t sleep for two days. I was confused. I just wanted to know what it was.” And if you ask Bill today what he thinks he saw back then, he replies: “I’ve put it all behind me. And whatever I think it was will remain my personal opinion, and I have nothing more to say about it.”
Like many other civilian reports, the observation of Bill and his friends is recorded in SUFOI’s database, which so far contains more than 15,000 reported UFO sightings. But the Danish Military has also gathered observations over the years. In 2009, the Danish Air Force published its so-called ‘X Files’. These were handed over to SUFOI and Ole Henningsen, and comprised 329 pages of reports of UFOs in the period from 1978 to 2002. The reports have never actually been classified but were gathering dust at Denmark’s Air Tactical Command in Karup. The only classified information is the observers’ identity. If you ask Ole Henningsen whether the Air Force files contain information that could surprise UFO enthusiasts, his answer is ‘No’. And yet. “There are, in fact, some reports in the files that arouse interest,” he explains.
Ole Henningsen is currently busy at the National Archives, where he is meticulously studying selected segments of the Danish Military’s UFO reports from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to which he has gained access. And later this year he will be publishing his first book in a series about Denmark’s X Files, in which Bornholm’s UFO sightings also play a part. He recounts two interesting observations from the 1950s: During NATO’s Operation Mainbrace exercise north of Bornholm in September 1952, Lieutenant Commander Schmidt-Jensen and several crew members of Denmark’s patrol boat P521 Willemoes spotted a luminous triangular object flying across the night sky at an estimated 1,500 kilometres an hour. And in 1956, NATO’s radar station on Bornholm monitored a number of UFOs in the form of unidentified echoes on the radar screen over the Baltic. The UFOs showed up in groups of three to five and were observed around Bornholm for three whole weeks. “The problem is, however, that the observations were generally made quite a long time ago, which in itself complicates further investigation at this time. Not only that; very few details were usually written down about such otherwise exciting reports from credible sources. This makes further investigation of them virtually impossible,” Ole Henningsen explains.
According to Ole, many of the recent observations can be explained as parachute flares for military exercises, etc., such as in 2010, when an air traffic controller on Bornholm tracked an array of unusual lights south-east of the Poulsker area for more than an hour. “Most of the observations and UFO photos made in Denmark can be explained as natural phenomena or weather conditions, or turn out to be identifiable objects such as parachute flares, hot-air balloons, drones, satellites or aircraft. Obviously, this does not make the experiences less intense for the people who are actually unnoticed witnesses of seemingly inexplicable phenomena,” Ole explains.
“Generally speaking, much of this involves psychological factors, too. Once an observation has been made public, it’s not unusual for others to start seeing similar things, too.” This involves something called perception psychology, i.e. the way our brain perceives and processes our sensory impressions. “I usually explain it by saying that we see what our brain wants us to see,” Ole says, continuing. “We also know that the perception of estimated distance can be quite difficult. I once saw a burning satellite that I thought was 1.5 kilometres away. It later proved to be 150 kilometres away.”
Ole also states that people who see UFOs do not share any specific traits.
“Quite the contrary. They come from all levels of society. All we know is that there were specific times when more observations seem to have been made than others, at least in the past. Such as right after the evening news on television, at exactly 8.45 p.m. We also know that people who are out walking the dog are frequently responsible for the sightings.” Ole laughs heartily before continuing: “But this is probably precisely because so many people took their dog for a walk right after the evening news, which is why they were looking up at the sky.”
Civilian sightings of UFOs can be reported on SUFOI’s website, www.sufoi.dk, and SUFOI’s databases document how new UFO sightings over and around Bornholm are reported every year. A big share – but not all – of the observations have a natural explanation. There is not always a logical explanation for what people see.
There is good reason to go outdoors and observe the night-time sky over Bornholm. Bornholm’s geographical location, with its low level of artificial light pollution from urban areas, makes it possible to observe the heavenly bodies and astronomical phenomena under ideal conditions. Try it yourself. Not only is this an unusually beautiful experience on a starry night, but it can also turn out to be a memorable experience. Because it’s one thing to believe in what other people have seen. But it’s quite another matter to see an unidentified flying object with your own eyes.