This is my step-by-step analysis of the tape recording made by Lt Col Charles Halt during the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident, based on the three-page transcript I have made of the tape. Here I deal with each page of the transcript in turn and offer explanations for the events being described.
- For most of the first page of my transcript we hear Halt and his men taking geiger counter readings around the three indentations on the forest floor. Halt doesn’t sound very impressed with the indentations when he is first shown them: ‘Is that all the bigger they are?’ he asks. Halt reports ‘minor readings’ on the geiger counter around the first of the marks (which they call ‘pod spots’). The second one is dismissed as ‘dead’. Despite claims by some UFO proponents that the readings peaked in the indentations, it is clear from the tape that they did not.
- They go to the centre of the triangle and report slightly higher readings. Nevels gives the reading as ‘half a millirem’. This must mean 0.05 on their scale, as all the other readings are in the region of three to four clicks (0.03–0.04), i.e. barely registering. For more on the radiation readings, and a photograph of the dial of the instrument they were using, see my page here. Halt’s memo gives the peak reading as 0.1, but we don’t hear that called out on the tape.
- They then go back towards what Halt calls the ‘number one indentation’ and find similar readings to those in the centre.
- Next they return to the centre and the needle jumps up towards seven tenths (0.07). This jump did not happen the first time they were at the centre, so it is clear that this is not a steady level. This is one of the few parts of the tape on which clicks can be heard. They are not very numerous, confirming that the levels were low.
- They then make a sweep around the whole area but it seems that they are not finding anything of note. Halt says: ‘I’m going to shut the recorder off until we find something’. Nevels claims to be ‘picking up’ but Halt notes ‘it’s still not going above three or four units’, i.e. the same ‘minor readings’ they started with. Later in the tape (page 3 of the transcript) we hear them getting the same readings as they move out across the field and past the farmer’s house into the next field beyond. In other words, these levels are simply background.
- Halt’s attention is drawn to some abrasions on the trees. Here he reveals some knowledge of the countryside when he says: ‘I’ve never seen a pine tree that’s been damaged react that fast’. Quite right. We know that these abrasions were in fact pre-existing axe marks in the bark made by the local foresters to signify that these trees were ready for felling. The trees were indeed cut down not long after the event for commercial sale as timber.
- They take soil samples from the depressions, and samples from the trees. Col Halt has told me that analysis of the soil samples showed traces of calcium carbonate. This evidently came from the plaster that Jim Penniston used to take casts of the depressions the morning after the initial sighting. Halt still has one of the casts. If Halt’s recollection of these results is correct, it confirms that he was at the same site that Penniston visited, and that the other supposed sites which Penniston has since identified are fictional.
- Page two of my transcript starts with them taking samples from the trees, including sap. We’ve never heard any more about these samples, but since the marks on the trees were nothing to do with the supposed UFO it hardly matters. There is also mention of taking pictures.
- In the first line of the transcript, Halt refers to a ‘stake’. The airmen had placed a stake next to each of the three supposed landing marks they found the morning after the initial sighting. These can be seen on the photograph of a local PC being shown the site. Hence this is clearly that same site.
- They then start looking at the trees and the landing spots with the starscope. Halt told me that Englund handed it to him and he handed it back after using it. There’s talk about picking up a heat source but Halt says ‘It’s hardly heat at this stage of the game’. Right again. The starlight scope was an image intensifier, or night-vision scope, not an infrared device. They were using a first-generation type known as the AN/PVS-2. Given that the marks on the trees were axe cuts made by foresters they have no significance for the case.
- While this is going on, there is a sound like a vehicle arriving, presumably the jeep containing Burroughs and two others mentioned in a radio transmission earlier. We now know that one of these others was Chris Armold, who had been to the site with Burroughs on the first night (see Point 9 on this page). Armold has said: ‘I was also out there the night of the recording, I took photographs (they were crap, just an occasional spot of light in a black background). I would say that the lighthouse is a very obvious source of the lights.’
- Halt looks up to see an opening in the trees above. He also reports ‘strange sounds out of the farmer’s barnyard animals’. These sounds might actually be due to animals in the forest such as muntjac deer. No doubt they would have been disturbed by all the human activity.
- Englund points out a light between the trees. Presumably this is the same light that Englund had seen earlier, before he called Halt out with the words ‘it’s back’. Why has it taken so long for them to point it out to him?
- Englund says: ‘Right on this position here. Straight ahead, in between the trees – there it is again. Watch – straight ahead, off my flashlight there, sir. There it is.’ As has been pointed out many times, the interval between ‘there it is again’ and ‘there it is’ is 5 seconds, the flash rate of the Orford Ness lighthouse. Chuck DeCaro of CNN was the first to play this tape over footage of the lighthouse flashing and it matched exactly – see his report on YouTube (scroll to 12:20 for the bit about the lighthouse). Since then others have done the same and found the same match.
- For comparison, it seems that the witnesses on the first night were standing in much the same place and seeing the same thing. First-night witness John Burroughs says in his statement: ‘We got up to a fense (sic) that separated the trees from the open field and you could see the lights down by a farmer’s house... Once we reached the farmer’s house we could see a beacon going around so we went towards it. We followed it for about 2 miles before we could [see] it was comming (sic) from a light house.’ Ed Cabansag, another first-night witness, said: ‘We would see a glowing near the beacon light, but as we got closer we found it to be a lit up farm house... We ran and walked a good 2 miles past our vehicle, until we got to a vantage point where we could determine that what we were chasing was only a beacon light off in the distance.’
Click for my analysis of the remainder of the Halt tape »
Content last revised: 2021 January
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