Robert Taylor photographed at the scene of his encounter.
Physical interactions between UFOs and people are rare (and indeed, sceptics would argue, impossible). But Bob Taylor, a forester working for the Livingstone Development Corporation, was apparently the subject of just such an interaction. More than 30 years on, it remains one of the most enigmatic of alleged UFO encounters .
In 1979, Bob Taylor was aged 61. In recent years he had suffered a few health troubles: at the time of the incident he was taking medication for angina and high blood pressure, and had had a hernia operation two years previously, but was in generally robust health - indeed, he would live to be 88. For sixteen years he had been a forestry worker for the LDC and November 9th found him making a routine check of woodland with his red setter on Dechmont Law hill just outside Livingstone.
Taylor turned a corner and was stunned to see a large metallic object sitting in a clearing.
"I just came around this corner and was amazed to see this vehicle sitting there. I was just rooted to the sport. It was like a huge spinning top, 20ft or so wide and the same in height with a huge flange right around about it. There was a rod sticking out of this flange with what I took to be blades on top, and portholes behind those blades going right around the dome."
As if that vision wasn't disturbing enough, he reported that two balls with long, spiked supports dropped from the bottom of the craft with a 'plopping' sound and raced torwards him from the object - accompanied by a strong, sickening smell that he would later describe as being akin to burning brake linings. The balls resembled nothing so much as WWII sea mines. They reached Taylor and attached themselves to his trousers and yanked them upwards. Whether through panic, shock or some kind of influence from the objects, he blacked out.
When he regained consciousness, his trousers had been ripped and he felt drained of energy. Eventually struggling home after abandoning his car along the way, he discovered that his thighs had been scratched through his trousers. A doctor was called to his house - and examined him as he lay in the bath - where no obvious physical side-effects were found other than the scratch on his thighs and another slight scratch under his chin.
The police were summoned and began to investigate the case as an assault. Under Scottish law, the clothing of anyone thought to have been assaulted is entered into evidence and Taylor's trousers were sent to the crime laboratory for analysis. The conclusions of the laboratory were that the tears in his trousers were consistent with a sharp upward pull, but could find nothing to indicate who or what had caused them.
Meanwhile, officers visited the clearing where Taylor claimed the encounter had taken place. There they found a number of apparently inexplicable markings in the grass and soil. In the centre of the clearing were a set of two ladder-like markings which resembled the kind of tracks that might be made by caterpillar tracks. There was no indication of how a bulldozer or similarly tracked vehicle could have been driven into the clearing without leaving further marks to indicate its entrance and exit from the site. Vehicles at the Livingston Development Corporation's yard were examined, but none of them had dimensions that matched the tracks.
In addition, police photographed a ring of holes in the clearing, some 15ft across. The holes - numbering around 40 in total - were around 4 inches deep and 3.5 inches in diameter. A search of local air traffic reports and enquiries with the military did not turn up any correlation with flights or helicopter movements over the area.
In the meantime, Taylor's future son-in-law David Hammond had spoken to him and produced a sketch depicting what he'd seen, which would become iconic in UFO lore and which Taylor agreed to be broadly representative except for the 'legs' which support the craft in the drawing. Later, Hammond would conclude that he had 'led' Taylor to the suggestion that the object had legs, despite his certainty that it was actually hovering or floating.
It has been suggested that Taylor's encounter was a mirage of Venus (a longstanding - and incredibly hand-wavy - explanation often offered by sceptics) or that he either suffered an epileptic seizure or ingested belladonna berries that grow in the area and can induce hallucinations.
Robert Taylor died, aged 88 in 2007. He neither profited nor deviated from his story.
Pictures of The Robert Taylor 'Livingston Incident'
Sketch of the UFO made shortly after Taylor's encounter by his future son-in-law, who later came to feel that he had influenced Taylor's description by adding legs to the object - contrary to what Taylor had initially told him.
Official police sketch of the 'landing marks' found at the scene of Taylor's encounter.
Robert Taylor's First Hand Account
Interviewed in 1981 for Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (here with German subtitles) Bob Taylor recalls the events of that day