List of UFO-related hoaxes

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Many hoaxes related to the study of unidentified flying objects have been perpetrated.

Airship hoaxes[edit]

  • For April Fool's Day 1897, two practical jokers in Omaha, Nebraska set aloft a helium balloon with a burning wicker basket suspended beneath it.[1]
  • On April 17, 1897, The Dallas Morning News reported that the previous evening three boys hoaxed a mystery airship sighting by soaking a cotton ball in kerosene and tying it to the leg of a turkey vulture. When the bird was released, witnesses to its light shouted "Look, it's the airship!" The hoax was discovered when the bird landed on the roof of the local high school and the burning cotton ball set fire to the school. Although the hoax was discovered, the boys still considered this a success.[2]
  • An account by Alexander Hamilton of Leroy, Kansas supposedly occurred about April 19, 1897, and was published in the Yates Center Farmer’s Advocate of April 23. Hamilton, his son, and a tenant witnessed an airship hovering over his cattle pen. Upon closer examination, the witnesses realized that a red “cable” from the airship had lassoed a heifer, but had also become entangled in the pen’s fence. After trying unsuccessfully to free the heifer, Hamilton cut loose a portion of the fence, then "stood in amazement to see the ship, cow and all rise slowly and sail off." [3]
  • Wallace Tillinghast gained notoriety during the 1909 airship sighting wave by claiming he had built an airship and flown it over a hundred times across the Northeastern United States.

Crashed UFO hoaxes[edit]

Alien autopsy[edit]

Beginning in 1993, Ray Santilli was either the victim or perpetrator of a hoax involving film footage that purported to show an autopsy being conducted in 1947 upon an alien related to the Roswell UFO incident.[4] Santilli auctioned off the rights to be first to broadcast the film, which were won by the American Fox Broadcasting Company and presented in the 1995 show Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction and later in other programs.[4] The footage had a deep impact through the media and all of the world televisions broadcast pictures representing what appears to be a corpse lying on a bed. It was revealed to be a hoax.[5] The Project Mogul was the official explanation of the case

The French sociologist Pierre Lagrange explained his point of view about the case:[6]

Santilli initially stated he bought the film of Jack Barnett,[7] an American who claimed (though turned out not to be) the commander of the US army. Santilli gave cuttings of the film to experts. However, he didn't give them the photos they took. This is because the photos were in a much clearer quality than the footage, so people could easily see the latex dummies.[8]

1967 flying saucer hoax in England[edit]

In September 1967, six 'flying saucers' were placed between the Thames Estuary and the Bristol Channel in southern England.[9] The pranksters were apprentices from the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. The hoax was part of the college's Rag Week and intended to raise money for charity.

British Roswell[edit]

A small piece of metal with hieroglyphs was discovered in 1957 in Sipho Moor near Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Its diameter was a mere 16 inches. Dubbed the "miniature UFO" and "British Roswell", experts stated it was most likely a hoax.[10]

Sighting hoaxes[edit]

Photographic hoaxes[edit]

Photograph of "an alien" taken at Ilkley Moor (1987)[edit]

A photograph taken on Ilkley Moor in West Yorkshire on December 1st, 1987, was alleged to be of an alien. The English newspaper the Daily Star claimed to expose it as a hoax in its edition of July 2nd, 1989: saying that the alien in the picture was in fact an insurance broker, unsuspecting he was being photographed, while he visited his clientele in the outskirts and cut through the hills. Belgian investigators analysing the case stated "mais comment imaginer que des enquêteurs expérimentés aient pu se laisser prendre à un aussi banal canular ou méprise" (But how can we imagine that experienced investigators could have been misled by such a casual hoax?).[11] They were right to be cautious. The theory was imaginative but incorrect and computer enhancements of the picture proved it was not a human riding a bike carrying a brief case as suggested. However, the case is much more complex and involved an alleged alien abduction as sequel plus physical evidence including a compass that had reversed polarity. It was subjected to very extensive investigation by scientists and psychologists at various north west universities without clear resolution. The most updated account is from Peter Hough & Jenny Randles, Fortean Times 230, 2007. Opinion of UFO researchers today is split but some believe it is most probably a hoax that got out of hand—possibly involving a large model carried onto the moor. The witness has consistently denied this and he sought to make no money out of the use of the photograph to rule out any financial incentive.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Denzler (2001), pages 5-6.
  2. ^ Reece, Gregory L. (August 21, 2007). UFO Religion: Inside Flying Saucer Cults and Culture. I. B. Tauris. p. 13. ISBN 1-84511-451-5.
  3. ^ Jacobs, David Michael; The UFO Controversy In America; Indiana University Press, 1975, p. 15
  4. ^ a b Picknett, Lynn (2012-03-01). The Mammoth Book of UFOs. Constable & Robinson Ltd. pp. 131–. ISBN 9781780337012. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  5. ^ Science et Vie n°959,Août 1997,Roman Ikonicoff, Roswell Cinquante ans de délire
  6. ^ Science et Vie n°935,août 1995,Pierre Lagrange,Extraterrestres La grande arnaque
  7. ^ Vankin, Jonathan; Whalen, John (2004-01-01). The 80 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time: History's Biggest Mysteries, Coverups, and Cabals. Citadel Press. pp. 123–. ISBN 9780806525310. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  8. ^ Science et Vie n°935, août 1995, Pierre Lagrange, Extraterrestres La grande arnaque
  9. ^ "The great saucer invasion: The day six 'spaceships' landed in England". BBC. 3 September 2017. Archived from the original on 3 September 2017. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  10. ^ Knapton, Sarah (14 February 2018). "Lost wreckage of 'British Roswell' flying saucer discovered in Science Museum". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 14 February 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  11. ^ Patrick Vidal, L'humanoïde d'Ilkley Moor, un agent d'assurance ?, Sobeps, flash n° 1, février 1990, p. 8.