On October 4, 1967 - "the night of the UFOs" - the pilot and co-pilot of an Air Canada flight spotted, about 20 degrees above the horizon, a large, bright, rectangular, orange object, trailed by a string of smaller lights that moved like a kite's tail. The night sky was clear with excellent visibility.
As they watched, they saw an explosion near the large object, followed by another. The smaller lights started to dart about like fireflies. The crew tracked the lights for several minutes as they drifted east.
Twelve-year-old Chris Styles was one of dozens who saw mysterious lights in the skies over Nova Scotia, the Canadian province. In May 2000, Styles spoke about the remarkable event from his vantage point in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He had peeled out the front door of his house and raced down to the shoreline for a better view of the goings-on. What he saw stayed with him for more than 30 years:
"I remember standing there, utterly terrified."
Styles said he had the sense that he didn't belong there, that he wasn't supposed to be that close. A huge orange sphere was following the shoreline and heading right toward him. It felt like a dog was following him, about to pounce, the UFO eyewitness later recalled.
The next morning, Styles' grandfather phoned long-distance from the town of Shag Harbour, 150 miles along the coast. The elder Styles had not only seen the strange lights in the sky, he claimed that one of them had crashed into the waters offshore.
About two hours after the Air Canada sighting, around 11:30 p.m., a 17-year-old fisherman named Laurie Wickens was driving four friends home from a dance toward Shag Harbour and on to Wood Harbour. Wickens was the first to spot lights flashing in the sky off to their right:
"One would be on, then another one, then another one, then the four would be on, then they'd all go off, and that sequence would start over."
Concluding that the lights came from a conventional airplane, based on their height and speed - albeit one they had never seen before - the group continued driving. The odd flashing lights followed the car for quite some time.
Wickens saw the illuminated object tip downward at a 45-degree angle and sensed that it was in trouble. The road went behind a hillside, blocking the group's view of the UFO. When the car reached the top of the hill, the friends could see the glowing object in the water, now emitting a pale yellow light.
They had heard a whistling sound, a whoosh, and a bang. Something had smashed into the water 200-300 yards offshore. Thinking a plane had crashed, Wickens made for the nearest payphone booth and called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). He was the first witness to do so. A police detachment sped to the scene, near an Irish Moss plant overlooking Shag Harbour.
A crowd of locals, having seen the lights and heard the crash, was already gathering in the plant's parking lot. They saw a pale yellow light that seemed to be as much as eight feet above the water's surface. It moved under its own power in the direction of the tide, which was ebbing (going out) - but faster.
The pale yellow light trailed a wide path of glowing yellow foam that was over 2" thick. Wickens said that he, three RCMP officers, and dozens of other onlookers watched the foam fade to nothingness. The foam vanished differently from anything in Wickers' experience:
"It didn't look like it sank, it didn't look like it went out [with the tide] - I don't know, it disappeared."
Still believing they had seen an airplane crash into the sound, the RCMP officers called on local fishermen to go out in their boats to rescue survivors. The first to get underway, with his crew, was Lawrence Smith. Once clear of the harbor barriers, he opened the throttle and sped to the watery crash site. Smith described what they saw when they arrived:
"No light, no people in the water where we thought there would be from a plane crash. And all we found was foam."
The would-be rescuer said the foam, which stretched out more than half a mile on top of the water, roiled by bubbling from beneath, and smelled somewhat like sulfur, was "very disturbing." Several other fishermen who saw the weird, thick foam agreed that it was not normal tidal foam.
A coast guard cutter sent by the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) in Halifax joined the rescue effort. Both the RCMP and RCC filed official reports describing the mysterious "dark object" as a UFO.
The RCMP report states that a 60-foot-long object "descended rapidly to the surface and made a 'bright splash' as it struck the water."
When divers explored the crash waters a few days later, official channels of communication stopped sharing their findings with the general public.
Shag Harbour remains one of the most credible - and most mysterious - of all UFO cases.
To commemorate "Canada's Roswell," the Royal Canadian Mint released a one-ounce, silver, glow-in-the-dark collector's coin in 2019.
Wickens helps organize the annual Shag Harbour UFO Festival that features a tour of the crash site and eyewitness accounts.