Suffolk is a far cry from the usual hotspots that are said to have been favoured by our interstellar brethren down the years. Whereas Roswell, Area 51 and the like are remote desert locations, the leafy Suffolk coast seems all too cosy for an alien spacecraft to decide to land for anything more than a light picnic.
And yet over a few days in late 1980, it seemed to some that otherwordly visitors had chosen to visit this unassuming part of the world - but not for picnics or a stroll through a bosky dell: if aliens they were, they announced their arrival at two of the most important US airbases in Europe.
The story as it was initially reported was spectacular and involved numerous military witnesses, a close encounter in the woods, physical traces and radar contact.
The days and weeks prior to the Rendlesham Forest incident were characterised by several other unusual atmospheric events - perhaps most notably characterised by the spectacular re-entry of the Russian Cosmos rocket on Christmas day 1980. This debris burnt up in the skies somewhere over the Isle of Sheppey - and was witnessed by hundreds of people across Europe. Whilst most reported the trail of burning fragments in generally measured and (supposedly) accurate detail, some anomalous reports were collected by researchers. Jenny Randles, for instance, details a report from Portugal in which an object was seen that changed direction in the sky and passed low enough for witnesses to feel heat - and subsequently suffer from heat rashes that lasted for 3 to 4 days.
A Fireball Lands
The first phase of the incident involved a security patrol who reported seeing a ball of light descend into the forest near the East gate of RAF Woodbridge. Two witnesses watched the fireball seemingly land in the woods - corroborated by two other witnesses who were in the area, including one by another security guard at the base (Richard Bertelino)
The Lighthouse Theory
Among the explanations offered for the events of December 1980 is that they were optical illusions created by unusual atmospheric conditions that refracted lights from the lighthouse at Orford Ness.