Shag Harbour—not exactly Roswell

Sixty-two years ago this month something happened in Roswell, New Mexico (postal abbreviations didn’t exist then). I didn’t make it to the UFO festival over the Fourth of July weekend this year, though a lot of folks did. I doubt I will make the trip next year. In fact, I have never been to Roswell, though I live just over 500 miles from there, only about a nine-hour drive. I even had a close friend, now deceased, who was born and raised in Roswell. Although he was only two years old in 1947, he claimed his parents were convinced until they died that the government was involved in a cover-up. Somehow I have just not made it down to Roswell.

So why did I fly all the way from Denver to Halifax, NS, and then drive several hours to visit the UFO museum at Shag Harbour, site of the second best-known UFO sighting in North America—although second by a long, long way? To see the lighthouses, of course.

A couple of years ago my wife and I took a trip to the Maritime Provinces and toured Cape Breton Island, the eastern side of Nova Scotia. We liked it so much we decided to return and see what the west side had to offer. My wife loves lighthouses, and I was willing to drive, but only if we could take in something else really exciting—the Shag Harbour museum—and play a little golf.

The scenery is terrific; the seacoast towns are picturesque; there is excellent summer theater in places you would never suspect; nearly all the bars and pubs have live music with great jazz and fiddle playing—it was a spectacular four-day drive. But you really want to know about the UFO museum, don’t you?

First, here is a little background for those of you not familiar with the Shag Harbour “incident.” I paid $1.50 Canadian for a bookmark that reveals these startling “facts”:
“On October 4th, 1967 local residents Laurie Wickens, Norman Smith and David Kendrick sighted an object in the sky which later crashed into Shag Harbour ‘sound.’ Laurie contacted the R.C.M.P. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) who quickly joined a group at the moss plant (today known as Ocean’s Alive Seafood). The group watched as the object hit the sound. Canadian Coast Gaurds (sic) and local fishermen searched for wreckage to only find a yellow foam. This story has gone down in history as a UFO mystery. It has been used in several TV documentaries.”

I popped another Canadian Loonie (dollar coin) for a mimeographed sheet that sheds even more light: “Local search efforts were taken over by seven navy divers from the HMCS Granby. These divers searched the area until October 8, 1967. The next day the search was called off cue to a lack of results.

“Of the dozen or so witnesses of the Shag Harbour Incident, all gave testimonies that were neither contradictory or (sic) exaggerated. The authorities on the case were the ones to suggest the possibility of a UFO crash, perhaps being a vehicle of extraterrestrial origin.

“Several other sightings over eastern Canada and off the coast of Nova Scotia on the evening of October 4, 1967, were reported. Approximately two hours before the Shag Harbour sighting, four UFO’s were seen by men on a dragger fishing off Sambro, Nova Scotia.”

The Shag Harbour incident was recently the subject of the short book in Whitley Strieber’s Hidden Agenda series, Dark Object by Don Ledger and Chris Styles (one of the original witnesses). The book won’t tell you much more than the information on the mimeographed sheet, but it does tell it in a lot more words.

If you take Canada Highway 103, you can make it from Halifax to Shag Harbour in around three hours, but following the lighthouse route, Highway 331, and stopping in a few villages along the way, expect a day and a half. I recommend staying the first night in Shelburne, where a combination or really old buildings and a few “new-old” buildings that were erected for the movie set of Demi Moore’s version of The Scarlet Letter, make for a quaint and fun seaside spot.

The next morning we headed west, and, after a couple of hours of winding roads, 331 combined with Highway 3, which clings to the far western coast—expect the larger Highway 3 to be just as bumpy as the smaller route. Just as we rounded a bend, I spotted the sign—as illusive as the UFO itself—and we turned up the dirt driveway and found a place to park in the small but empty lot.

The two-room museum was run by an elderly lady and a teenage girl. The lady manned the computer and the girl was our guide. I asked if they had been busy and the lady volunteered, “It’s been slow, but business is perking up now that it’s tourist season. We’ve had four today.”

The first room has shelves of souvenirs. I now own a $20 t-shirt and a post card, in addition to the above mentioned memorabilia. In the back room the walls are plastered with copies of newspaper articles, a bottle that just might contain a baby alien, a stack of copies of Dark Object for sale and not much else. Our teenage guide was delightful, as she related all of the excitement that happened decades before she was born. “Not much has happened around here since then,” she said.

Our visit lasted about 15 minutes. As we drove around the next bend, we spotted another smaller sign that pointed to an empty rocky beach and an expanse of water, where the actual “crash” took place. We barely noticed the sign as we passed it; we didn’t stop.

If you continue down the road, you will come to Yarmouth, where the ferry from Maine arrives. Another 20 minutes on a winding road takes you to a pretty spectacular lighthouse—it’s worth the drive.  I don’t know if Roswell is on our any future summer vacation agenda.  I’m afraid it’s not very likely; there aren’t many lighthouses between Denver and New Mexico.


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