“It started coming lower and lower, and that’s when I saw it. It was the shape of a saucer and had these little windows.”
That’s one witness account of a mysterious time in Manitoba history.
For an incredible two years (1975-76), Manitobans reported nightly viewings of a UFO they called Charlie Red Star. And nowhere were the sightings more predominant than in Carman, although communities including Roland, Portage, Morden, Halbstadt, Elm Creek and Altona also reported contact.
But author and UFO researcher Grant Cameron was there and he remembers the excitement surrounding the sightings.
That prompted him to write a book about the phenomenon called “Charlie Red Star - True Reports of One of North America’s Biggest UFO Sightings”.
The manuscript didn’t see the light of day until now, and for the first time people can read about the arrival of Charlie Red Star, witness testimonies, and ideas on what Charlie Red Star really was, and what brought it to Manitoba.
Cameron said so far he’s received feedback on the story from people in the UFO community.
“They’re very entertained with what people saw,” he said. “It’s a pretty positive reaction.”
Charlie Red Star made almost nightly appearances, most commonly appearing as a blood-red pulsing ball of light. It was spotted on the ground and in the air on multiple occasions.
Long journey for book
Cameron said it’s been a long journey to publish the book, which was considered to hot to handle by a Winnipeg publisher shortly after the incidents faded away.
“The publisher said, you may believe in this kind of stuff, count me among the unbelievers,” he said.
About three years ago, the manuscript was rediscovered at his sister’s place and the journey toward publishing began again. This time it was Dundurn that decided to put it into book form.
The book is filled with eye witness accounts, although names have been changed. The frequency and detail of the sightings is what makes this UFO stand out according to Cameron.
“It was the intensity of the sightings,” he said. “At the time that this was happening the National Enquirer was coming up from Florida and they were going to call (Carman) the UFO capital of the world, there was just that many sightings.”
Cameron said sightings were being reported over a wide area in 1975-76.
“It was going on in Minnesota, very heavy in Wisconsin, very heavy in Ontario,” he said. “Across the border we had all these intrusions by UFOs inside nuclear weapon storage facilities. It was really a very big story.”
So why is the story relatively unknown today?
“A lot of places like Roswell have turned these stories into huge industries,” he said. “The story here sort of faded away. Nobody really knows the Charlie Red Star story.”
At the time the story was covered locally, provincially and even internationally.
“When CKY TV in Winnipeg caught the thing on the ground with the editor of the Carman paper, then it went viral,” he said. “NBC picked it up. It was a major story.”
Prior to seeing Charlie Red Star himself, Cameron said he had no interest in UFOs. But one night in 1975 changed everything, setting him on a career path as a UFO researcher.
“It flew right in front of the car,” he said of his first viewing near Carman. “It wasn’t a light in the sky, it was an object. It was very close. It basically changed my life.”
Despite the hundreds of sightings, many witnesses weren’t inclined to share.
“Nobody really wanted to talk about it,” Cameron said. “In 1975 a lot of people didn’t want their name out there that they’d seen anything.”
That’s why names have been changed, although Cameron said people who know the stories may also know the people behind them.
“There were very credible witnesses to some of the real major events,” he said.
From 1975-76 there were 150 sightings. Since that time there have been no UFO sightings in the Carman area.
“It coincides with those nuclear missiles that were installed in North Dakota,” Cameron explained.
Just how common sightings were in the area, was made clear when he spoke to students.
“More than 50 per cent in Carman had reported seeing it,” he said of the students. “There were more kids in the Carman high school who had seen this UFO than had seen a Boeing 747.”
Cameron hopes the story will be nostalgic for those who lived through that time, and an education for those who didn’t know about it.
“I’m sure it will bring some fond memories back to some people in Carman,” he said.
Cameron will be at a book signing at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg during the evening of Sept. 13.