Playground of the Gods
Late 1960 UFO sightings from the East Kootenays

Canadian UFO Report, Vol. 2 No. 3 (Whole No. 11) 1971. John Magor, ed.



One of the most spectacular natural features of North America is a gigantic gash, 50 miles wide in places, running from the northern wilds of British Columbia down into Montana. It is the Rocky Mountain Trench, source of the great Columbia River that escapes northward from the valley before turning right around to find its Pacific outlet far to the south in Oregon.

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Hemmed on each side by mountain ranges, the Trench was the basin of an inland sea half a billion years ago and today its rock walls are encrusted with the relics of marine life strikingly out of context with this towering countryside so distant from the sea.

A landscape of magnificent contrast from its fertile bed to its snow-brushed peaks, the Trench looks like a playground of gods. And perhaps it truly is, for here there is a seemingly endless record of visits from the sky.

* * *

Perhaps the best introduction to the UFO story of the Trench lies in the lifelong experiences of Mrs. Dino De Hart who grew up in the valley and has an intimate acquaintance with the tales of the Indians who were there uncounted years before David Thompson, first white man to explore the Columbia.

As a little girl of nine, which in her words was "a long time ago," she had her first hint that this was a land of strange happenings. She was with her mother, an Indian woman of strong religious leaning, in a buggy drawn by a pair of horses plodding carefully through the night along a narrow dirt road. On the other side of the river was their house invisible in the darkness.

Suddenly the whole valley was swathed in a soft white light. They could see their house as clearly as in daytime, as well as the river, their neighbors' houses and the hills beyond. Excitedly the girl tugged her mother's arm, begging her to look. But her mother's hands were clasped in prayer and her eyes were closed. Surely, to her, this was a visitation.

In later years, Mrs. De Hart told us, she heard many Indian stories (she and her husband live close to an Indian reserve) of strange lights and sights in the valley. One that particularly impressed her was the tale of a great "wagon" appearing from the sky. It had large "wheels" and moved so smoothly it seemed to be floating on water. Mrs. De Hart herself saw another eerie occurrence when a hill about half a mile from her place suddenly lit up one night as if bathed in a floodlight. The illumination was so strong she and all the others there could see in detail the small sharp peak of the hill. In those same years her sister and brother-in-law had the bewildering experience one night of seeing their house glowing in a weird light as they climbed uphill toward it. In each case the lights went out as abruptly and inexplicably as they had appeared.

Mrs. De Hart's family was again brought in personal touch with these mystifying incidents when her son, with several companions, saw a light dash up a mountainside with the speed of an express train. In fact, for size and brightness it might well have been a locomotive headlight but there was no vehicle on earth that could have scaled those heights in such a manner.

Mrs. De Hart has heard of other incidents from her friends but the one that remains most vividly in her mind is one she witnessed herself. It happened in the beginning of June, 1954.

"I was in the kitchen working on a new recipe and not having much luck with it," she said. "So I decided to give up and go to bed as it was about one o'clock in the morning.

"I had just turned the lights out when the whole room was lit up by a pink light coming through the window. There's nothing near our place that would make such a light and I couldn't imagine what it would be, so I opened the window wide and looked out.

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"Right outside there was this strange thing going by in the air. It looked metallic, like highly polished aluminum, and it was shaped like a big hat. Around the part where the band would be, just above the brim, there were three oval-shaped windows, or whatever they really were, and that is where the light was coming from They were as bright as car headlights, and each light had two colors. Around the outside was a greenish color and inside this, filling most of the light, was the pink color that was coming through the window. The colors reminded me of the inside of an abalone shell." (Somewhat stronger in hue than mother-of-pearl).

While Mrs. De Hart was able to note general details of the craft, including shadowy lines on the surface that gave her the impression they were seams between metal plates, it was the light of the windows that held her attention. In her "few seconds" of sighting before the southbound craft moved out of view on her left -- suggesting a speed of 50 m.p.h. or so -- she noticed it travelled with an undulating motion and the lights changed with the same rhythm. As the object floated up the lights brightened, and as it came down they dimmed.

The witness remembers being able to stare at the light without being bothered by the glare. (Later with her husband's help, after explaining where she saw it, she figured it was about 100 feet up and 400 feet away). And she remembers one other thing which blends enchantingly into this story of almost Oriental magic.

"I sometimes think my ears must have been playing tricks," she said, "yet I feel sure it really did happen. Each time the thing climbed to the top of its wavy flight, I thought I heard a faint sound coming from it. It sounded like Chinese chimes."

* * *

In case the impression is formed that strange lights in the Trench are simply some sort of Indian legend, let's consider next an extraordinary scene observed just two years ago by a young married school-teacher.

Although as far as we know she was the sole witness, one only has to listen to her deeply considered articulate account of the incident to appreciate she went through an experience just as vivid and unexplainable as she described it. At the time of the incident the witness, who prefers her name be withheld, was driving on the valley highway south of the town of Invermere on her way to a friend's house for a game of bridge. It was an evening in November, 1969. She remembers the time well because it was the start of the bridge season, and she is fond of the game. This point is important as it means she felt particularly keen and free of tiredness in anticipating the evening ahead.

Her route was along a stretch of highway with which she was completely familiar. It took her through an undeveloped section of land which, in the darkness, might have been difficult to identify had she not known the road so well. Ahead on the left she could see the lights of the local bowling-alley.

"On my right was a section where there are never any lights at all," she said. "It's a large depression formed by a dried-up creek bed and an old abandoned road. I had never seen a light there before, but that night there was one."

And it was a light with a difference.

"It was a green luminescence -- a pool of controlled light. It was the sort of glow you see over a lighted swimming pool at night. If it had been a camper's light or something like that, I'm sure I would have recognized it. This light was strange."

It was so strange, in fact, the witness felt that somehow the light was not limited to the area she was observing. She had the impression that momentarily her car was lit up, as if a piece had broken off to trace her for a second or two.

The witness found this a difficult point to explain and we do not pretend to have grasped it. But, without putting words in her mouth, we suggest a bush or forest fire might offer comparison. Often these are spread by an unseen agency when a section ignites that is far beyond the reach of any spark. Obviously no fire was involved in this particular case but evidently the effect of the light, like heat from a fire, spread invisibly from its central source.

The light was strange in another way -- it turned her car radio off.

"Anyway, that's how it seemed," she said. "It stopped playing about the same time I first saw the light and it started again just after I had passed."

Still another odd point was that the light made the witness herself feel strange, and this was due to something more than just seeing a light where no light should be.

"The whole thing happened exactly as I have said. I wasn't dreaming. I was surprised to see a light there but I know it was real. Yet somehow I felt emotionally involved and I wondered if maybe it all had something to do with me personally."

This part of her experience made what will probably be a lasting impact on the witness. Speaking about it to us two years later, she was obviously still deeply involved with it.

Like others involved in UFO experiences with emotional association, this witness had hesitated to discuss it with anyone but those closest to her.

"At first I thought someone might be trying to play tricks," she said of our first inquiry by phone. "But when I found out this wasn't so, I spoke to my husband about it and we both felt I should tell you exactly what happened."

We have no way of knowing how this incident fits into the total UFO puzzle. But we are sure that in putting what was a very personal experience on record, this witness has made a contribution that will help us that much farther toward a solution.

* * *

If a light did in fact track the school-teachers's car for a moment, her experience was fairly peaceful compared to that of some others who have been exposed to incidents on the Trench highway.

In October, 1969, (note this was just a month before the previous case) two sisters of Edgewater, B.C., Mrs. Lorraine Goodwin and Mrs. Janice Schneider, had the terrifying experience of having a UFO repeatedly dive at them while they were driving with their five children in the car.

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"Mrs. Janice Schneider (left), Mrs. Lorraine Goodwin & sons."

The object, a brilliant light alternating between red and green, took up the attack soon after they had left Cranbrook, close to the international border, in the late afternoon to proceed north toward home. Zooming in from one side, the light almost landed on the car and stayed there momentarily before darting off to the side again. This performance was repeated several times over a distance of about 15 miles. The group became so alarmed that they nearly went in the ditch.

* * *

Alone in her car one night early the previous winter, (1969) Joanne Hammond, then 16, of Radium, on her way to visit friends had an encounter with a UFO so frightening that she has never since driven by herself at night.

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"It came flying right toward the windshield until it was just two or three feet away, then it shot up and disappeared for a second," she recalled. "The next thing I know it came shooting at me from the driver's side before it again went over the car, just missing the window."

Completely shaken, Joanne started to speed up only to have the object take up pursuit.

"It had a golden light coming from it," she said, "and I knew it was following me because the light was shining in the rearview mirror. It lit up the whole inside of the car." I was doing about 70 miles an hour by this time and still it came after me."

After a mile or two the object gave up the chase when they came to a point where a few people were walking beside the road. When she later met her friends they immediately saw something was wrong and soon learned what had happened.

But despite her fright, Joanne formed a clear impression of the object's appearance.

"When it first came toward me, it looked round in front with a hump on top. But when it shot up over the car it looked more triangular. It had two wings that tapered off and right behind in the middle was a narrow tail about six inches long. The wings spread right across the windshield so I guess the whole thing was three or four feet wide altogether. It was very solid-looking, like metal, with the light coming out from the center of it."

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During our interview Joanne made a sketch of what she saw. Her drawing looked exactly like that of a miniature delta-wing aircraft. Then several weeks later we were struck by this item from the "News" of Canberra, Australia, July 30, 1971. Headed FOUR DELTA UFO SEEN OVER LAKE, it said: "Two Canberra women who claimed to have seen four unidentified flying objects over Lake George described them as dull silver-white delta-shaped objects. "

There are two significant points here. One is that the delta-shaped craft seem to be showing up as an integral part of our visitors' equipment.

The other is that Joanne's description was just as detailed as the Australian women's, though she was in a much more frightening position. The morale seems to be that UFO testimony should not be ignored just because the witness was excited and alone.

* * *

Among the friends who saw Joanne after the incident was Kern Clement of Windermere, foreman of a large Christmas-tree cutting operation. He still remembers how pale and upset she looked but had no way of guessing that just a few nights later he would have a UFO shock himself.

The incident occurred on a comparatively new mountain section of the Trans-Canada Highway called Roger's Pass. Though not part of the Trench, it is a split-second from it as the UFO flies. Note in the Letters section a silvery disc was sighted the following winter on a snowfield in the same area.

Accompanied by a young woman from Windermere, Trudy Rexford, Clement was homeward bound in his truck when he noticed an unusual cloudy form against the sky ahead.

"It was like a cloud with a spotlight shining into it," he explained. "It looked very strange up there, not just because of the light but because it was a bright starry night and there wasn't another cloud in the sky."

Curious, he stopped the truck and the pair climbed out to have a better look. It was an invitation to action.

"As soon as we got out, that thing, whatever it was, started to come down right towards us," Clement said. "I told my friend to get in the truck and we both jumped back in."

However, when the object showed no sign of coming closer, they left the truck again to watch the performance.

"It was close enough to throw a little light on the highway," Clement said. "The light as circular and very white. I'd say it was about 10 feet in diameter. After a few seconds it took off again. It was gone in a flash."

He wryly added one more comment which probably would hold true for almost anyone else in the same spot.

"I have heard of other people seeing UFOs and always thought I would like to see one myself, close up. But when that happened, I was the first one back in that truck."

* * *

In approximately the same period Jim Statham, who is in charge of large Christmas-tree operations at Radium Hot Springs, noticed a strange flying object cross the valley from east to west. He was in his garden at the time, about 8 p.m., and had a clear view of the whole incident.

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Jim Statham

"It was moving fast, he said. "In the time I saw it, about one minute, it came over the mountains from the east and disappeared well toward the mountains to the west.

A rough estimate would place the distance at about 20 miles. But the object was no jet, or meteor.

"At the bottom it was darkish and looked round, and on top was this very bright light. It looked like a big star at first but as it came closer I could see it had a definite shape. It made no noise. My son Tommy was with me and he saw it, too."

* * *

Although there are continual signs of UFO activity over the Trench, it would be misleading to suggest anyone can go there anytime and see something. Take the case of Bud Amy.

Amy is a well-known figure in the area. While he operates a popular amusement park for youngsters a few miles south of Radium, he is perhaps better recognized for his handicraft work. His ornamental carvings receive a wide market under the name of Amy Artcraft Products.

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Bud Avery - photo by Yvonne Allan" ..(mistake? text refers to Bud Amy, not Avery.)

Being a man of imagination, Amy was quickly interested when UFOs began to draw public attention several years ago and made use of his time outdoors to keep watch. But though the time and place were fine, the results were not.

"I kept watching for 10 years without seeing a thing," he said. "Often I would get my sleeping-bag and sleep outside on the lawn, but still no luck."

All that changed on an August night in 1969 -- and it changed so dramatically it was almost as if he and his family were singled out for a personal visit.

"I was down by the highway, about 50 yards from the house, when it happened," he told us.

"Suddenly I saw this thing with three soft glowing lights underneath coming in from the west. It was about three-quarters of the way on this side of the valley when I saw it, and it kept on coming until it passed right over the house! It was so close I could have hit it with a slingshot!"

Obviously it was no kind of aircraft he had ever seen before. As it moved silently overhead he could see the lights, positioned in triangular form, were set into the bottom of an object of circular shape. While the center of the circle was in shadow, the lights reflected outward enough to show the sharp outline of a rim. He estimated its diameter to be about 50 feet.

Knowing how excited his wife and son would be, Amy called to them as he ran toward the house and they came out in time to marvel at the strange craft as it proceeded smoothly on toward the eastern ridge of mountains.

"It headed toward that peak over there," Amy said, pointing to the ridge about a mile away. "It climbed up a little as it got closer, and just about that time the front light went out, so there were only two lights when it got to the peak and went behind it. When it came out the other side, there was only one light, not much bigger than a star that it passed."

Remembering a friend in nearby Windermere who was skeptical of UFO stories, Amy went in to phone and tell him just where to look. When he returned outside, the light had stopped moving.

"It looked so much like the star next to it that Elizabeth and I began to wonder if we had been seeing things," he said. "We went back in the house and about 15 minutes later my son Arnold came in, too. He said the light was still there."

But Amy's friend in Windermere kept watching to settle this UFO business for once and all. When he started looking, the light was stationary. But after a few minutes, as he said later, it started to move. First it sped northward at a fast clip, then it crossed the valley and headed south, passing close to his house where he had a good look at it.

Thus another convert was won.

* * *

An astonishing sign that UFOs are interested in the precise contours of the Rocky Mountain Trench was provided in the spring of 1963. The witnesses were Mrs. Katherine Beamish and Mrs. Barbara Baker, at the time both of Edgewater, B.C., seven miles north of Radium Hot Springs. Mrs. Baker has since moved to Terrace, B.C.

When the incident occurred the two were driving toward Radium just before the morning work traffic had started.

"Suddenly we both noticed a brilliant light in the air which we thought must be just about over the hot springs pool," Mrs. Beamish said. "It was so intensely bright it was hard to look at it. But we shaded our eyes to look, we were so excited. It was far more brilliant than the sun."

As the two continued slowly ahead the light seemed to take on still more brilliance and at this point appeared to release another object from its far side.

"This one had a whitish opaque appearance, something like a cloud, but its outline was very sharp and it was completely round," Mrs. Beamish said. "It looked simply like a huge ball."

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While the brilliant parent body held its position, the second object started to move toward the mountain peaks a mile or so in the background. These peaks form the eastern ridge of the Trench and, to a person looking from a good vantage point at Radium, disappear to the south almost at the international border.

As soon as the ball-shaped body reached the summit it started an amazing performance as if the gods were having a gigantic game on their Olympian heights.

"It looked to us as if this enormous ball began bouncing from one peak to another -- bouncing, bouncing," Mrs. Beamish said, with a movement of her hand. "It seemed to be touching the very tips of the mountains and it went bouncing along so gracefully until it disappeared far to the south. If I had been alone I might have been skeptical and thought it was an illusion. But my friend was excited, too. We discussed it after and agreed we had both seen exactly the same thing. It was a very thrilling experience."

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Radium Hot Springs Pool

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Mountain behind Hot Springs Pool.

While it was difficult to judge time during such a stunning spectacle, Mrs. Beamish figured it lasted "not more than 10 minutes." She said the ball at no time moved out over the valley but stayed unerringly over the Rocky Mountain ridge curving slightly inward to the south. Meanwhile, at some unnoticed stage, the brilliant light over the pool faded out as if finished with its part in this playtime of the gods.

As our visit was ending, Mrs. Beamish remembered one more incident which may or may not have been connected with the main event. She rose and pointed to a section of the same ridge of mountains visible from her window.

"Just before we left that morning we saw something that looked like a parachute coming down right over there. We thought it was odd because there wasn't a plane in sight and we hadn't heard one."

In issue no. 2-2 we carried a photo of an object resembling a parachute, but not behaving like one, taken by high-school student Michael Ursulak in northern Alberta. Craft of this sort seem to be part of our visitors' armada and conceivably had a part in launching the giant bouncing ball.

There seem to be no rules to the game the "gods" play in the Trench. Sometimes the action is rough and sometimes it is just quietly magnificent. But it has been going on for a long time now, so of this we may be sure...

-- there will be more.