Ariel School UFO - glinting reflections through vegetation how to visualise?

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Question: I think there are two plausible explanations for the "silver light" that a few of the Ariel children saw. One is sunlight reflected off a building. The other is a white Volkswagon T3 Microbus which was parked somewhere along one of the tracks to the north of the school.
  1. What is the best way to visualise this?
There doesn't appear to be any publicly available satellite images from that year (1994), the 1985 image has no ground details.
You can get some sense of the landscape and vegetation by looking at archival footage from the television interviews with the BBC, and Gunter Hofer's photos [source:
Source: https://twitter.com/grhofer/status/1392495819895549955?s=20&t=WDH9WbzL5O8EGssvq1zVVQ
]

GunterHofer.jpg

The earliest I could find is this 2005 Google Earth image. I've overlaid the sun position details for 10am that day. [source: https://www.suncalc.org/#/-17.862,31.291,18/1994.09.16/10:00/5/1] and the two radius rings are 100m and 220m from what is thought to be the children's nearest observation point.

2.Could the building (boxed) produce a "glinting" "silver light" given the sun's position?
3.Could a vehicle on the track?


cJ0W2h04.jpg-medium.jpeg
 

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Here is the reason one of the suggestions above that the "silver light" was sunlight reflected off a building.

And we got closer and closer and we saw this silver thing just shining, and we thought it was just a house with glass reflecting in the sun and shining, but then we thought, no it can’t be that because there’s no houses up there on the rocks.


source: Jill Darke (ZBC) [4:43]
Source: https://youtu.be/xBSpMSnLgqs


But there are buildings around the school, at least in the 2005 satellite image, and they appear to have reflective surfaces, metal roofs, or white gable ends.
 
Some of the archive TV footage overlaid on the map of the scene to give a sense of which way people were looking.Ariel_rough_visual_location.jpg
 
Here's a rough estimate of the lighting that day, created using Shadowmap.org. I say rough because the sun direction is an estimate made using data from suncalc.org. The school buildings are rendered with exaggerated heights. The sun vector (yellow line) is positioned approximately where the children were and the camera swings through their available point of view.
What it shows that you don't see so easily in google maps is the topography of the area. It looks like the playground looks down over a valley.

 
So continuing to bumble through the visualisation here...a crash course in 3D for me....

Observations.
  • The sport field area to next to the main playground is quite a bit lower than the main playground. GE has the elevation change to the track at 3-4m and gets greater the further down the valley you go. You can see steps down in the drone shot (below)
  • So from their position by the logs at the edge of the playground (white figure in the image below) the children would be looking somewhat down on any vehicle in the distance. (if they could even see it at all through the grass and trees).
  • I found a VW camper model which i've placed in the scene at the correct scale.
  • It's about ~110m line of sight across it the sports field - in the direction the children are shown pointing in the BBC report (also below) to the long grass.
  • Maybe someone more skill full in 3D/ Blender can do a ray-tracing to see if the sun would be glinting off the vehicle roofs at that point. (I think so).
Ariel_LOS_vehicles.jpg

Ariel_pointing1_web.jpg
The is the area boxed in pink in the following picture.
Screenshot-2022-07-27-at-08.54.30.jpg
Steps down to the sports field area in red.
Ariel_steps.jpg
Drone footage source:
Source: https://youtu.be/TPeGJQWjjqg
 
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In the Monday interview, Guy says the UFO "just went all of a sudden. [Which way?] Down - more down into the valley."
 
These two photos are taken from the playground at Ariel school looking in the direction that the children reported their sighting, down and across the sports field. These are from at least 2016, however they appear to demonstrate that a reflective surface in the trees beyond the playground can look like a disc. The object was described as a like something "glinting" in the trees. From Google Earth the white reflection is at least 100m away from the observer.
23032328_906135796204367_8956925930698131428_n.jpg
Source: the now headteacher's Facebook page.
Source: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1490909001225389/permalink/1876780352638250/


Also if you look at use the Sun Path tool and enter the date and coordinates for Ariel school (Lat:-17.864252069 Long:31.291337791, 10am on 16 Sept 1994) the sun appears to be in the correct position to create reflections back to that observer position. (not dissimilar to the photos above).

Screenshot 2023-05-18 at 19.28.22.png
https://andrewmarsh.com/software/sunpath3d-web/

From Google Earth you can see that there is a convergence of tracks directly in line with the observation so I'd argue a vehicle could have been there. (see #5)

Below is a 2011 satellite map, chosen because it most closely reflects the terrain from the sighting in 1994. The BBC archive footage shows tall grass beyond the sports field.

Screenshot 2023-05-18 at 15.07.04.png

I think this supports the hypothesis that the UFO was a vehicle reflecting sunlight seen through the long grass/trees.
 
In the 2023 Netflix show Encounters one dissenting voice is provided by former student, Dallyn Vico. He introduces a new explanation for the glinting light described by other witnesses - a reflection off a rock.
This isn't an unprecedented explanation for a UFO. There's the Cracoe UFO photographed by two off-duty police officers in the UK in 1983.
The full report can be read here:
The terrain is somewhat similar, in that the Ariel children were looking across a valley toward a hillside that had large boulders.
"On the morning of March 16th 1961 an off duty police officer saw, from the window of his police house In the north Yorkshire village of Cracoe* bright lights on a rock face, some distance away to the south east. After he and another officer had observed the lights for a time they decided that they consisted of three Intense white lights with some form of 'finned* structure behind the lights. Six photographs were taken during the observation* which lasted about one hour. The lights were not seen to 'arrive' and they did not move off at the end of the sighting but altered in light Intensity before fading out. The lights were described by one of the witnesses as ‘brilliant' and 'varying in intensity'."
Excerpt from: https://archive.org/details/JTAP_Vol_4_No_4_Mar_1987…
and
https://archive.org/details/UFO_Brigantia_issue_23
It's also featured in David Clarke and Andy Roberts' book Phantoms of the Sky (starting around p.73) which can be read in full here: https://files.afu.se/Downloads/Books/Other/Clarke, David and Roberts, Andy - Phantoms of the Sky.pdf

Screenshot 2023-10-13 at 10.01.59.png
Screen grab from Ariel Phenomenon (2023) showing one of the witnesses standing amongst large rocks looking from the opposite side of the valley toward the school.
Boulders_Ariel_School.jpg
 
Yet another ridiculous attempt to embarrass the witnesses (several!). Painful.
UFO enthusiasts (I hope that description gets past the censors) frequently accuse skeptics like Mick West and other Metabunkers of only picking the low-hanging fruit, and ignoring really difficult cases. The Ariel School case is often mentioned as one of the latter. But that case depends entirely on the evidence of 'witnesses' who were children at the time (with one possible exception). So how are we to examine the evidence without discussing the reliability of the witnesses? I'm sure that no-one here is deliberately attempting to embarrass them, but sometimes it may be unavoidable (like the case where one child seems to have changed his account dramatically between two interviews).

I also note that one of the 'witnesses' recently claimed that the whole thing started out as a prank. Predictably, on social media the UFO enthusiasts commenced a pile-on of hate, accusing the witness of being a crackhead, a money-grubber, mentally unbalanced, etc. Apparently their respect for witnesses is a one-way street.
 
Unsure if this is helpful (maybe it adds some context) but there was some discussion of the Ariel School sighting in this thread,
Replicating human perception of faces seen at a distance using a camera.

IIRC half of the children playing outside saw nothing unusual at all; the accounts of those who claimed to see something unusual vary enormously- even allowing for their ages, it doesn't seem that the children were reporting the same thing.
(I think a pre-arranged hoax- maybe "tall tail" is a more appropriate phrase- can be ruled out).
At least one child claimed an alien looked like Michael Jackson; this observation, and some of the others that don't fit into a consistent narrative, often seem to be overlooked by people retelling the story of the Ariel School events (just as Barney Hill's actual description of his supposed abductors is so often omitted by people who believe Betty and Barney Hill were seized by aliens).

The possibility that none of the children saw anything unusual, outside of their imaginations, might need to be considered.

I've attached PDFs of UFO AFRINEWS 11 February 1995 and 12 July 1995, where Cynthia Hind (the magazine's editor, and an early interviewer of the children) writes on the subject.
(Her methodology- and that of John Mack, with whom she later collaborated- has been criticized IIRC).
 

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In another thread, some time back, HERE, user "alien" asked whether it was possible that the events could have occurred as described by the children.

User "John J." reminds us in this thread
IIRC half of the children playing outside saw nothing unusual at all; the accounts of those who claimed to see something unusual vary enormously- even allowing for their ages, it doesn't seem that the children were reporting the same thing.
(I think a pre-arranged hoax- maybe "tall tail" is a more appropriate phrase- can be ruled out).
At least one child claimed an alien looked like Michael Jackson; this observation, and some of the others that don't fit into a consistent narrative, often seem to be overlooked by people retelling the story of the Ariel School events (just as Barney Hill's actual description of his supposed abductors is so often omitted by people who believe Betty and Barney Hill were seized by aliens).

If the accounts of the witnesses are inconsistent, then the answer to "alien's" question would be "No." Could not have occurred as described if the descriptions do not match up. It would remain possible that SOMETHING was observed by some of the children, but since stories don't match well, interested parties are left having to either arbitrarily decide the ones they like best are the accurate ones, or that the event is so poorly described that little or nothing can be learned from attempts to analyze it.

The larger the number of witness stories you let into your data set, the LESS clear a picture you get of what happened. If you want a clear picture, you have to exclude witnesses whose stories don't match with the one you've settled on -- but the only basis for excluding them is "their stories don't match the stories these other witnesses tell.

That is a difficult situation from which someone would insist that this incident is significant based on believing testimony of the witnesses...
 
In another thread, some time back, HERE, user "alien" asked whether it was possible that the events could have occurred as described by the children.

User "John J." reminds us in this thread


If the accounts of the witnesses are inconsistent, then the answer to "alien's" question would be "No." Could not have occurred as described if the descriptions do not match up. It would remain possible that SOMETHING was observed by some of the children, but since stories don't match well, interested parties are left having to either arbitrarily decide the ones they like best are the accurate ones, or that the event is so poorly described that little or nothing can be learned from attempts to analyze it.

The larger the number of witness stories you let into your data set, the LESS clear a picture you get of what happened. If you want a clear picture, you have to exclude witnesses whose stories don't match with the one you've settled on -- but the only basis for excluding them is "their stories don't match the stories these other witnesses tell.

That is a difficult situation from which someone would insist that this incident is significant based on believing testimony of the witnesses...
Investigators are trained to be suspicious if a multple witnesses/suspects don't have variations in their testimony. Lack of variation portends a collaborative skewing of events in an attempt to affect a particular conclusion.

I never had an opportunity/need to question a child while conducting an investigation. We were taught, however, testimony of children can be difficult to interpret due to their lack of maturity, life experience, and vocabulary. Children are also more prone to peer pressure and expectations of those they consider to be authority figures.
 
Can you be more specific?
Every trick is being used to cast doubt on the testimonies of these children. They have now grown up and stick to their position on what they have seen. Is it really so difficult to understand that they sometimes just tell the truth? In other words: it can't be true, so it won't be true.
 
Investigators are trained to be suspicious if a multple witnesses/suspects don't have variations in their testimony. Lack of variation portends a collaborative skewing of events in an attempt to affect a particular conclusion.
True, but variations also lower the value of the testimony at some point. A lack of variation would point to collaboration, excessive variation means that we aren't getting any usable information. In my view, we are closer to the latter -- the variation may indicate that they saw something (but we'll never know what it was nor whether it was something mundane or extraordinary unless new evidence turns up which at this late date is unlikely), or it may indicate that a bit of schoolyard fun with nothing particular behind it got "Chinese whispered" into a UFO report.


Every trick is being used to cast doubt on the testimonies of these children.
It is being claimed that they are humans, and like all humans their eye-witness testimony is questionable. It is not being claimed that they are bad people, or scheming people, or untruthful people -- just that they are people. The problems with eyewitness testimony are well enough established that I don't think we really need to re-litigate them here.

They have now grown up and stick to their position on what they have seen.
With some changes over time, yes. Such changes would seem consistent with either a real event being remembered, an imagined event being remembered or a hoax being remembered, in any case you expect some changes in memory over time. I don't particularly suspect an intentional hoax, my money is on kids with healthy imaginations and a little nudge from suggestions by UFO "investigators." But with only witness testimony and no supporting evidence, we'll never know since eyewitness testimony is so unreliable.

Is it really so difficult to understand that they sometimes just tell the truth? In other words: it can't be true, so it won't be true.
They may well be telling the truth as they remember it. I suspect, but cannot prove, that they are.

I'd agree with the idea that something that CANNOT be true will not be true. That seems a pretty safe conclusion.

Visits from UFO aliens approach closely to the "cannot be true" category, due to distances involved and the laws of physics. While remaining (in my view) just barely possible, it would be very, very extraordinary. As such, it will require some pretty compelling hard evidence to prove that it happened. Eyewitness testimony unsupported by any other evidence is never going to cut it.
 
True, but variations also lower the value of the testimony at some point. A lack of variation would point to collaboration, excessive variation means that we aren't getting any usable information. In my view, we are closer to the latter -- the variation may indicate that they saw something (but we'll never know what it was nor whether it was something mundane or extraordinary unless new evidence turns up which at this late date is unlikely), or it may indicate that a bit of schoolyard fun with nothing particular behind it got "Chinese whispered" into a UFO report.
Information gained from witnesses is only not "usable" when it is proven false or impossible. Further, witness reports are seldom "all or nothing." For example, in the course of interviewing a mishap witness, he told us he had seen both crew members eject from the mishap a/c. The fact that a/c was a single seater made that impossible. (Probably mistook the jettisoning canopy or the seat's drogue stabilization chute as a second crewmen.) The bulk of his testimony was pretty much spot on, however, and verified by post mishap analysis of the mishap aircraft and flight data recorder.

I didn't interview the Ariel witnesses, so I won't speculate as to whether "any" of their statements were/are "usable." I will say most of what I've heard from the witnesses have been short, edited sound bites as children, and/or longer form interviews as adults decades after the fact. Of the latter, those I've seen seem to have been conducted with apparent confirmation bias toward the event being an alien encounter and quickly evolved into a defense of their original testimony. Not the way I'd conduct such an interview.

I will once again footstomp the shortcomings of children as witnesses due to limited life experience and vocabulary. Their inability to understand and articulate what they saw doesn't mean they were wrong, lying, or part of some "schoolyard fun." I'm very doubtful they encountered alien beings or their craft, but I have no doubt they saw/experienced something. I'm also not surprised by the variations in their individual relating of the experience.
 
Their inability to understand and articulate what they saw doesn't mean they were wrong, lying, or part of some "schoolyard fun."
Good point. "Inability to clearly process and articulate a novel experience" will be added to my list of possible contributing factors to events like this, particularly where kids are involved.

Again, I don't really suspect they are lying. I do suspect, strongly, that what they describe is not an objectively accurate description of what actually happened. It's at best, though, a subjective account filtered through memory, which is fallible, cultural UFO folklore memes, potential difficulties in processes and articulating something outside a child's experience, possible cross-pollination as they talked to each other or to researchers with an axe to grind and such.

I do not think it likely at all that a group of school kids that large came up with an intentional hoax and anybody came clean after all these years. But even that, unlikely as I think it is, is more likely than aliens -- barring strong evidence that aliens are indeed visiting us and behaving as described, we at least know that hoaxers exist which is not the case for alien UFOnauts..

m also not surprised by the variations in their individual relating of the experience.
Nor am I, I just feel that this normal phenomenon makes eyewitness testimony less useful barring other evidence.
 
Every trick is being used to cast doubt on the testimonies of these children. They have now grown up and stick to their position on what they have seen. Is it really so difficult to understand that they sometimes just tell the truth? In other words: it can't be true, so it won't be true.

Just pointing out that the children did not "stick to" what they saw. Their stories individually changed over the days, months, and years following the incident. Additionally, some of them incorporated the "group consensus story" into their own personal experience and now relate a story that contradicts their original testimony.

See these transcriptions that I made (this page and the ones following) to see how their stories evolved.
 
Just pointing out that the children did not "stick to" what they saw. Their stories individually changed over the days, months, and years following the incident. Additionally, some of them incorporated the "group consensus story" into their own personal experience and now relate a story that contradicts their original testimony.

See these transcriptions that I made (this page and the ones following) to see how their stories evolved.
And "every trick" seems to include nefarious mechanisms such as "comparison", "verification", and "clarification". It is more fitting to point out that every trick has been used to discredit those who want to skeptically analyse the reports by misrepresenting what's actually been done. The thing that weakens the children's testimonies is the children's testimonies. A modern day comparison would be Rudi Giuliani's recent libel damages defence. It's composed of such shoddy material, adding more only makes it weaker.
 
Every trick is being used to cast doubt on the testimonies of these children. They have now grown up and stick to their position on what they have seen. Is it really so difficult to understand that they sometimes just tell the truth? In other words: it can't be true, so it won't be true.

What about the testimony of the majority of children who saw nothing unusual? The incident supposedly occurred over at least 10 minutes.
Did they lack some quality possessed by the claimed witnesses?
(And why did every claimed witness wait until the event- and, it would seem, breaktime- was over before contacting an adult?)

It was the midmorning break on September 16, 1994. 250 schoolchildren were all outside playing at the Ariel School... The adult faculty were all inside having a staff meeting and none of them witnessed what happened. 62 of the children saw it (aged 6 to 12); nearly 200 did not.
Content from External Source
Brian Dunning, Skeptoid blog 29/12/20, The 1994 Ruwa Zimbabwe Alien Encounter
https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4760

The number of children who reported seeing something may have been as high as 62; the number who claimed to see an alien or aliens is lower, posing the question, why didn't all the witnesses see them?
Why did Cynthia Hind and John Mack concentrate their attention on some (IIRC) about 15 witnesses, apparently chosen on the basis of their accounts and drawings? An alien craft landing would be an event of extreme importance; even evidence from less eloquent children / less gifted artists, or those who didn't see aliens, might contain significant information.

As far as I can tell, a small number of claimed witnesses, now adults, "stick to their position".
Of those that do, I think their claims are interesting but not necessarily convincing as reports of objective reality:

When the kids returned to class they were completely freaked and couldn’t stop nattering about little men who looked a bit like Michael Jackson.
Content from External Source
"Sarah" (not real name), claimed witness, interviewed for "Remembering Zimbabwe’s great alien invasion", Sean Christie,
Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 4 September 2014
https://mg.co.za/article/2014-09-04-remembering-zimbabwes-great-alien-invasion/. (One child said the alien was wearing a headband, see below).

All of a sudden they were in front of us. I’d describe them as being about an arm’s reach.
Content from External Source
Emily T, claimed witness, speaking as an adult, quoted in blog Three-Dollar Kit, which has an excellent account of events;
https://threedollarkit.weebly.com/ariel-drawings.html.
(Three-Dollar Kit is well worth a good read, and is authored by Metabunker @Charlie Wiser).
Strangely, although adult Emily says she saw the aliens just feet away, she didn't draw any when the children were asked to draw what they had seen in 1994.

If we very generously give Emily T. an arm's reach of about 1m/ 3 feet 3", then even allowing for a bit of misremembering or poor distance estimation- let's say a factor of 10- the alien is still only 10 metres (32 feet 6 inches) away; roughly the length of a bus, well beyond an arm's reach but easily close enough to see in detail on a sunny 10:00 a.m. across modestly scrubby ground.

Close enough to tell if someone is bald or has long hair, for instance.

Some children drew apparently bald or maybe short-haired figures, some drew (and commented on) figures with conspicuously long black hair. I think school-age children capable of drawing these features can tell the difference.
None reported, or drew, both types. Well; not until many years later...
Lisel 1997.JPG3 dollr kit Lisil 2022.JPG


(Original footnote text, from Three-Dollar Kit, ibid.) Note that Lisel's drawing some 20-plus years after the event now includes a long-haired figure, like some of the other original accounts, but not like Lisel's original account.

It appears that the recollection of two of the small number of "remaining" adult witnesses (Emily T., Lisel) has changed significantly over time (a very real, common phenomenon).

Contemporary Ariel School drawings of long-haired aliens:
3 dollar kit unnatributed.JPG3 dollar kit oriana.JPG3 dollar kit girl 2.JPG3 dollar kit Tara.JPG

(Pictures cropped to focus on "alien"). From blog Three-Dollar Kit, ibid.

Also from Ariel School (includes Lisel's original drawing):
UFO Afrinews July 1995 1.JPG UFO Afrinews July 1995 2.JPG Lisel 1997.JPG
-First two pics from Cynthia Hind's UFO Afrinews, July 1995, PDF in earlier post.

Daniel M. saw a figure with hair "...like a hippy's hair, long and black", Emily B. saw "longish black hair", Luke N. and Guy G. reported "their" aliens had long black hair. (UFO Afrinews July 1995).

Incidentally, Guy G. was described by Cynthia Hind (the original local researcher) as the most articulate witness; she adds that his parents didn't believe him; Hind describes this as a "tragedy" and
...a frightening indictment of our society...
Content from External Source
(UFO Afrinews, Feb 1995, pg. 21, PDF in earlier post).
A school letting a self-appointed researcher interview children, who goes on to make pejorative remarks about their parents in a circulated newsletter, might also be some sort of indictment.

In fairness to the late Cynthia Hind, she included some quotes in UFO Afrinews (July 1995) from some of the 62 which didn't support the detailed, exotic recollections of others:

Lisa P. "...A man dressed in black came out. He had big eyes. I thought it was an alien and then I thought it was the gardener."
-Hind doesn't state that Lisa P. changed her mind back! Despite the kerfuffle around her- which might have persuaded her initially that she, along with the others, was looking at an alien- she thought she saw the gardener.

Fiona: [Hind writes] "...she could see this strange object, very bright, over in the bush and something dark on the object. But she could not identify it as a "little man"; [implying she was asked if she had seen a little man- a leading question; John J.] she [Fiona] says "It could have been a branch or something like that."

Oriana: "I saw this black stick, a very thin, long thing on top of the silver thing."

Branches and blackened sticks might not be uncommon in untended Zimbabwean scrubland. Maybe some fly-tipping happens too (Ariel school is just outside the eastern suburbs of Harare).

In Hind's article "Recent UFO Sightings in Africa" for The Proceedings of the 8th BUFORA International UFO Congress (1995, PDF attached) we learn the first adult to be told of the events was Alyson Kirkman who was running the school tuck shop.
"Luke Nel, one of the older boys (aged 12) rushed into the Tuck shop to tell me that he had seen a small man in a silver suit, with a band around his head, running around the playground."
(My emphasis). And the alien's not in black (or Polka dots).
[The Proceedings... was acquired from a link in Charlie Wiser's Three-Dollar Kit blog, used with thanks.]

Even allowing for their young age, and whatever similarities Cynthia Hind believes she found across the accounts, it is clear that the children- perhaps different groups of children (circles of friends? Neighbours?)- drew, and described, very different aliens.
Some I've not mentioned are the 5 or 6 drawings of wholly black human-like figures without features (and without long hair).

Three of the children, after questioning by John Mack, revealed they had received a telepathic message about protecting the environment. Speaking as an adult, Emily T. (whose alien was "...about an arm's reach" away) stated,
Telegraphic images started going across my face.
Content from External Source
(Three-Dollar Kit, ibid.)
(1) Although Cynthia Hind and John Mack appeared to believe that the children might be reporting an objectively true event, they don't seem to have subsequently devoted much time or effort spreading the extraterrestrials advice, surely- if true- one of the most important messages in the history of humanity. This advice would seem to be the purpose of the alien's visit- they didn't take anything, leave anything, communicate anything else or (in their long-haired guise) visit anywhere else AFAIK.

(2) I'm not aware that any of the three child "receivers" went out of their way to excel in sciences / technologies that might help protect the environment. Nor have they conveyed any original information that helps protect the environment.
Maybe, after traversing the light-years, the aliens wasted their journey and chose to communicate with targets who couldn't process the message.
(3) The messages were generic statements about protecting the environment (perhaps with similar content to the children's recent lessons on the topic), devoid of any specific warnings or novel advice. Maybe Hind and Mack chose not to draw too much attention to the messages for fear of raising (reasonable) doubts about the whole "message" narrative:

In Mack's interviews one fifth-grader tells how he was warned "about something that's going to happen," and that "pollution mustn't be".[1] An eleven-year-old girl told Mack "I think they want people to know that we're actually making harm on this world and we mustn’t get too technologed [sic]."[1] One child said that he was told that the world would end because they are not taking care of the planet.[7]
Content from External Source
Wikipedia, Ariel School UFO Incident, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_School_UFO_incident, accessed 06/01/24.


We should remember the context: Ariel School was a relatively expensive fee-paying school. It's fair to assume all families would have radios, and most, if not all, TVs and VCRs. English is the lingua franca amongst most influential/ affluent African Zimbabweans, and is otherwise widely understood; it is the first language of most European-ancestry Zimbabweans.
I've read (a post by @Giddierone? Apologies if I'm wrong) that science fiction films and TV programs (including for children) were broadcast by the local TV channels at that time.
And an interesting coincidence (remembering that the incident happened on Friday 16th September 1994):

(1) Cynthia Hind wrote in The Proceedings of the 8th BUFORA International UFO Congress (ibid., PDF below),
Some of the Standard Four's (10-year olds) had a discussion earlier that week in one of their general
discussion classes about UFOs
.
Content from External Source
-She didn't say "...the day before" (Thursday 15th September) so we're talking Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

(2) At about 21:00 on the night of Wednesday 14th September, a stage of a Soviet Zenit-2 rocket, the launcher for Cosmos 2290, re-entered the atmosphere creating a bright fireball, disintegrating into a number of fireballs, seen over much of Zimbabwe. Many people at first thought it was a comet or meteor, and it generated many UFO reports.
This was nationwide news in Zimbabwe, and the state-owned radio broadcaster ZBC asked listeners to 'phone in with their accounts.

So, on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, some of the pupils have an in-class discussion about UFOs.
On Wednesday evening, a bright fireball is seen across Zimbabwe and becomes national news.
On Thursday, the children are in school, perhaps discussing the fireball on the news, and some talking about their classroom discussion about UFOs. We know the UFO discussion and the fireball are coincidences. They might not have.
On Friday, the children are not supervised during their mid-morning break (they are normally supervised).
Some claim to see a UFO (or UFOs), a smaller number claim to see an alien (or aliens). Most see nothing.
The period of UFO/ UFOnaut activity falls entirely within the short unsupervised break.
No child reports receiving a message of any sort- not to their teachers, not to their parents. Not until questioned by John Mack over 2 months later.

In the context of this thread, it might be relevant to consider the statements by Fiona and Oriana (above).
They report a "bright" or "silver" thing with a stick or branch attached or nearby.
Another quote of Oriana:
under the silver glittery thing I saw this black - looks like a stick but was very thin... All I saw was a long thing on a silver thing."
Content from External Source
She continued,
And I saw like a black thing sitting on top of it. I don’t know if it was a branch or the thing - the part of the alien where it was sitting on.
Content from External Source
(My emphasis, both quotes from Three-Dollar Kit, ibid.)
But Oriana's picture is a bit more than a possible branch on a silver thing:
Capture.JPG

The two boys, [Guy Gibbons, Fungai Mavengare] and subsequently some of the other children, mentioned a very bright, shining light which emanated from the top of that particular bush area. It was almost like the sun reflecting off glass. Fungai said at first he thought it was the sun shining onto the windows of a house. but then he realised there were no houses up on the rise...
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Cynthia Hind recounts visiting the site an unspecified time (perhaps a few days) later, accompanied by witnesses Guy, Fungai, the headmaster and a few others in The Proceedings of the 8th BUFORA International UFO Congress, ibid.
It's interesting that "...two of the more articulate children" first thought they were looking at a bright reflection, but then "realised" they were looking at a very detailed UFO (with green, black and silver stripes according to Guy G. and Farai M. [is this the same child as Fungai Mavengare?] but not apparently noticed by the other 60 children; UFO Afrinews July 1995).

...On Wikipedia, Ariel School UFO Incident (accessed 06/10/24) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_School_UFO_incident
In 2023 in a Netflix documentary called "Encounters", a former student named Dyllan claimed that he was behind this incident. He claimed that he purposefully told his classmates and other students that a "shiny rock" in the distance was a UFO. According to his own statement in the documentary, he never thought this would work, and was surprised about the mass hysteria.
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We don't know (at least without seeing the documentary- and maybe not then) if Dyllan's admission is credible.
However, we have to consider the possibility of an individual child or small group of children, in the context of that week in 1994 (the class UFO discussion, followed by the re-entry lightshow), drawing attention to something mundane (a shiny reflection or similar), improvising a dramatic explanation and "triggering" behaviours in other children- some not wanting to be left out, others, particularly the youngest, frightened- possibly because they couldn't see anything.

In The Proceedings... Hind seems to confirm that the youngest, most upset children were African Zimbabweans (implied in UFO Afrinews). According to Guy G. (again) they were upset because they feared being eaten. Hind explains that some African mothers warn their children that if they are naughty the Tokolosh (more commonly spelt Tokoloshe, Tikoloshe), a folkloric creature, will eat them. Tokoloshes are small; if you raise your bed on a few bricks, they can't clamber up to harm you.
The Tokoloshe is traditionally portrayed as hairy all over (but not long-haired) and often has a simian appearance, but there is much variation. Inauthentic portrayals in "Western" media look more like malevolent goblins.

On the Astonishing Legends website (link here) there's an apparently sincere comment from user West, c. Feb 2023:
...not a legend, unfortunately. I've encountered one, luckily weakened by a witchdoctor who tried to remove it from the farmhouse that I visited... I "saw" a smallish, baboon shaped entity.
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South African website Mzansi Online News has the August 8, 2017 story TOKOLOSHES TAKING OUR FOOD, FAMILY COMPLAINS by Nancy M, link here (I don't recommend the site!) and has this artist's impression- it's practically a cryptid:
tokoloshe.JPG
However, none of the 62 children, as far as I know, drew or described something like a Tokoloshe- which might mean the children most upset by the older kids talking about "little men" didn't actually see anything themselves, but feared that the older children were seeing Tokoloshes near the school.

In "View Point: Episodes of mass hysteria in African schools: A study of literature", Demobly Kokota, Malawi Medical Journal; 23(3) September 2011 the author lists the Ariel School incident among cases of sociogenic illness. (PDF below).
However, he qualifies this, saying
Virtually every single one of the 62 children iterated the exact same story with same details... ...when the children were found to not have much prior knowledge to UFOS or popular UFO perceptions, many other people believed that what the children witnessed could have been real.
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But the children clearly didn't tell the same story, details varied enormously, and they were not all "UFO naïve".

Had the majority of older children at Ariel School reported Tokoloshes, other beings from indigenous folklore or malevolent forces from the Christian canon (as seen in some other cases of school sociogenic illness in Africa) I suspect that we would be less interested. But the majority of older children at Ariel in 1994 had a different cultural background, different popular culture references, and maybe different concerns.

Many sociogenic phenomena appear to occur at times of stress and have an identifiable triggering cause (perhaps an unusual odour, later identified and found to be harmless, or a groundless rumour of bad news) and an identifiable initial subject or small clique. (I'm not confident that the Ariel School incident could be called a sociogenic illness as there were no somatic symptoms, but I think a similar underlying mechanism might have been at play).

Perhaps the coincidence of the lesson about UFOs being followed within days (or 1 day) by the fireball over Zimbabwe disquieted some students (it must have got their imaginations working!)

In a brief window of time when no adults were present to reassure, or perhaps dampen down overly theatrical behaviour,
maybe an unusual (or simply previously not noticed*) reflection from some feature in the landscape, or a temporary but essentially mundane source of light, served as the stimulus (like e.g. an odour causing sociogenic illness) for the imaginations of some of the older pupils, quickly snowballing as others were involved, some reluctant to admit that they couldn't see the cause of excitement among older peers, eventually (but quickly) resulting in distressed smaller children, scared by the excited chatter of the bigger kids but unable to see anything out of the ordinary themselves (and- forgot to say earlier- Tokoloshes can be invisible!)

Break ends, after much excitement, but there's an issue: Being responsible for the little guys crying isn't a good look (maybe compounded that most of the older witnesses were white, the younger upset children black). No adults had been present; maybe it just seemed easier to one or two of the older kids, on the spur of the moment, to continue with the narrative that they had seen something unusual (and that's why the littler ones were upset) and their peer group went along with it, much as they had during breaktime.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*That might be a strange thing to say, but the Orfordness Lighthouse had been happily working for years before Col. Halt et al. attempted to chase its light through Rendlesham Forest.
 

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Lisa P. "...A man dressed in black came out. He had big eyes. I thought it was an alien and then I thought it was the gardener."
-Hind doesn't state that Lisa P. changed her mind back! Despite the kerfuffle around her- which might have persuaded her initially that she, along with the others, was looking at an alien- she thought she saw the gardener.

Hind changed some of the names in her reports (she also misquotes or badly paraphrases some witnesses whose testimony is on camera). Lisa P is Lisil (Lisel) Pillay. Lisel told BBC News on Tuesday (4 days after the event):

HIND: What did you think it was?
LISEL: Well I thought twice. I thought it was an alien, and then I thought maybe it was the gardener or someone.
HIND: Oh you first thought it was an alien, and then you thought it was the gardener?
LISEL: Yes.
HIND: Oh, well I’d like to look at the gardener. Thank you very much.
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Hind never reported that she looked at or spoke to the gardener.

Fiona: [Hind writes] "...she could see this strange object, very bright, over in the bush and something dark on the object. But she could not identify it as a "little man"; [implying she was asked if she had seen a little man- a leading question; John J.] she [Fiona] says "It could have been a branch or something like that."

I believe Fiona could be Oriana, given they both reported seeing a branch or stick. As you point out, Oriana drew a rather more imaginative picture.

In Hind's article "Recent UFO Sightings in Africa" for The Proceedings of the 8th BUFORA International UFO Congress (1995, PDF attached) we learn the first adult to be told of the events was Alyson Kirkman who was running the school tuck shop.
"Luke Nel, one of the older boys (aged 12) rushed into the Tuck shop to tell me that he had seen a small man in a silver suit, with a band around his head, running around the playground."

Interesting that the quote in the BUFORA Proceedings... (1995) mentions a silver suit. In her book UFOs Over Africa (1996), Hind reports Kirkman saying that Luke said it was merely a one-piece suit, and running around but not around the playground. This is Hind quoting Kirkman quoting Luke:

"There's a little man running around in a one-piece suit with a band around his head. Come quickly and see." (p. 222)
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As I said, Hind was very loose with her quotes and paraphrasing. Did she drop the "silver" suit between 1995 and 1996 because no other child reported that?

We should remember the context: Ariel School was a relatively expensive fee-paying school. It's fair to assume all families would have radios, and most, if not all, TVs and VCRs.

Speaking as an adult, witness Salma Siddick (who appears in the 2022 doco Ariel Phenomenon) harps on her rural upbringing and downplays any cultural influence on how she interpreted the experience - and then rather contradicts herself:

[l lived] a 25-minute drive from Ruwa where my where my school was located, so basically I lived in the bush. We had three TV channels, not because cable was not available but because it was expensive and my mother believed in the power of books and encouraged us to read and play outside rather than watch TV. We had a rotary phone... I say this to demonstrate that there was no outside influence to inform what I experienced, not unless you count ET and The Jetsons.
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Source: McMenamins UFO Fest 2018 [timestamped, my emphasis]

As you pointed out, Gideon Reid found evidence the kids had plenty of access to science fiction tropes.

The two boys, [Guy Gibbons, Fungai Mavengare] and subsequently some of the other children, mentioned a very bright, shining light which emanated from the top of that particular bush area. It was almost like the sun reflecting off glass. Fungai said at first he thought it was the sun shining onto the windows of a house. but then he realised there were no houses up on the rise...
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Google Maps shows there were houses up there in 2005 (the earliest clear satellite photo, 11 years after the event). The sighting was initially reported as 100m away, but Hind amended this to 200m in her book.

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...On Wikipedia, Ariel School UFO Incident (accessed 06/10/24) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_School_UFO_incident
In 2023 in a Netflix documentary called "Encounters", a former student named Dyllan claimed that he was behind this incident. He claimed that he purposefully told his classmates and other students that a "shiny rock" in the distance was a UFO. According to his own statement in the documentary, he never thought this would work, and was surprised about the mass hysteria.
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This name on Wikipedia is wrong - it's Dallyn Vico. I corresponded with him after the Netflix Encounters episode aired, because regardless of how inaccurate his testimony/memories are, I felt it was important that his voice be heard just as the other witnesses are heard (no matter how inaccurate their testimony and memories, which often go unquestioned). My personal conclusion, based on what he told me compared to what he told Encounters (albeit edited for the show, of course) is that his idea to spread rumors of a UFO was not premeditated to get out of class, even if he remembers it that way, but that he stoked the flames of it being a UFO for a laugh after the event was already in progress (he arrived late on the scene; and it's possible the kids missed some class in the ensuing weeks due to interviews). It's possible his memories have twisted the cause/effect factors here, or that he's inserted himself into the story in order to spread a skeptical viewpoint based on his pre-existing conclusion it wasn't aliens. [I wrote up the interview here.]
 
I've read (a post by @Giddierone? Apologies if I'm wrong) that science fiction films and TV programs (including for children) were broadcast by the local TV channels at that time.
You can read it here: https://gideonreid.co.uk/demystifyi...e-children-of-ariel-school-in-september-1994/

Also, Dunning makes the claim that the kids had HBO. In his recent The UFO Movie THEY Don't Want You to See (2023) beginning at [33:53] I've not found any evidence of this. Although it seems unnecessary given the space / UFO themed content available on terrestrial channels that week (detailed in the link above).

If they did have HBO (or Sky) then they could have seen Star Wars was on TV on the Thursday night...
Daily Express, Thursday, September 15, 1994
Daily_Express_1994_09_15_page_53.jpg

BUFORA Proceedings... (1995)
I think the quote most relevant to this particular Ariel school thread is about how Tim Leach had to reshoot his footage from his visit to the school because of some bright light coming from the rise. (see #7) It's completely overlooked by promotors of the story - as are all other details that don't fit the alien visitiion pattern.
 
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I think the quote [from The Proceedings of the 8th BUFORA International Congress] most relevant to this particular Ariel school thread is about how Tim Leach had to reshoot his footage from his visit to the school because of some bright light coming from the rise. (see #7) It's completely overlooked by promotors of the story - as are all other details that don't fit the alien visitation pattern.

That's really interesting; I must admit I hadn't understood it that way:

The two boys, and subsequently some of the other children, mentioned a very bright, shining light which emanated from the top of the rise in that particular bush area. It was almost like the sun reflecting off glass.
Fungai said at first he thought it was the sun shining onto the windows of a house. But then he realised there were no houses up on the rise; nor even near there.

When Tim Leach eventually sent the video tape to the BBC for their news service, there were one or two problems.
One of these was that when the BBC received the film, they wanted to know what the bright light coming from the rise could be?
They asked Tim to re-film that portion, taking the video at the same time of day, to see if the light would re-appear. Tim went out and re-filmed that portion of the video and there was no light!
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Cynthia Hind, Recent UFO Sightings in Africa in The Proceedings..., link as above.

I interpreted it to mean, the two boys stated they had seen a bright light at the time of the sighting (i.e. they didn't see it during the time when they accompanied Cynthia Hind and Tim Leach).
Tim Leach filmed the area of the sighting. Someone at the BBC asked if he could re-film it at the same time of day as the children's claimed sighting, in the hope of capturing a light or reflection that might (partly) explain the light reported by the children (meaning there wasn't one at the time of Tim Leach's original filming). But there wasn't a light when Leach re-shot either. I'm guessing that had a bright light/ reflection been present during filming, Leach would've investigated it.
-But I'm not sure!


On reading Charlie's article "Dallyn Vico at Ariel: 'The truth matters to me' ", I noticed the young Dallyn told a Dutch TV crew, some 18 months after the event, circa March 1996 (so pre-disclosure, so to speak)

I think the aliens came because they are curious like us.
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(Link above).

In UFO Afrinews February 1995, PDF available here, in her article "UFO Flap in Zimbabwe" about the Wednesday 14 September 1994 "fireball" sightings Cynthia Hind wrote (pg. 17, last para)
I know that whatever UFOs are, they seem to have an insatiable curiosity about what we are doing...
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(This article is immediately before Hind's first write-up of the Ariel School incident in UFO Afrinews).

In her article for The Proceedings... (1995, link as above, pg. 36 col. 3 para. 4) Hind says
It is my theory that UFOS and their occupants, whoever and whatever they are, are extremely curious.
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It could be coincidence, but Hind's methods have been criticised for allowing cross-contamination of evidence between the claimed witnesses. Might the witnesses also have absorbed some of Hind's own ideas?

Continuing to read Hind's "UFO Flap in Zimbabwe" (UFO Afrinews Feb. 1995, ibid.)- NOT the Ariel School article- we find
The message from the aliens appears to be that we are destroying Earth and its environment and that this is laying us open to some considerable danger regarding the future of the Earth.
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Rather similar to the vague environmental messages "revealed" by three of the children after questioning by John Mack approx. two months after the incident, and nearly 2 months after they first met Cynthia Hind...
 
I interpreted it to mean, the two boys stated they had seen a bright light at the time of the sighting (i.e. they didn't see it during the time when they accompanied Cynthia Hind and Tim Leach).
Tim Leach filmed the area of the sighting. Someone at the BBC asked if he could re-film it at the same time of day as the children's claimed sighting, in the hope of capturing a light or reflection that might (partly) explain the light reported by the children (meaning there wasn't one at the time of Tim Leach's original filming). But there wasn't a light when Leach re-shot either. I'm guessing that had a bright light/ reflection been present during filming, Leach would've investigated it.

I can see it might be read that way, but in UFOs Over Africa, Hind wrote (p. 231):

1704715327888.png


On reading Charlie's article "Dallyn Vico at Ariel: 'The truth matters to me' ", I noticed the young Dallyn told a Dutch TV crew, some 18 months after the event, circa March 1996 (so pre-disclosure, so to speak)

I think the aliens came because they are curious like us.
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Dallyn was not interviewed (that I've found) at the time, so all we know of his thoughts at the time is what he claims in Encounters 2023. Apparently he was sticking to the charade 18mo later. I presume he was asked "Why do you think the aliens came?" (several kids are shown giving an answer) and of course many kids that age would jump at the chance to be on TV by providing any answer.
 

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Might the witnesses also have absorbed some of Hind's own ideas?
It seems possible if not likely. I wrote about this here.
https://gideonreid.co.uk/ufos-aliens-in-southern-africa-before-ariel-school/
To summerize: we just don't know what conversations Hind had with some of the children on the Saturday, whether she shared her knoweldge of other reports she's written about for her magazine UFOAfrinews, other cases from around the world esp. Broadhaven. We know from Hofer's youtube clips of her at the school that she mentions other school cases quite openly/proudly.
Again, there's just not enough data available to know what else was said between her and the children.
 
See these transcriptions that I made (this page and the ones following) to see how their stories evolved.
Thank you for linking to these.
It's pretty hard to take the the Ariel phenomenon seriously as a "UFO" event after reading these 8 chapters. At least for me.
(That said, I'd add that the "Analysis" page alone is probably sufficient for most folks to realize that no UFO visited Ariel.)
 
I can see it might be read that way, but in UFOs Over Africa, Hind wrote (p. 231):
1704731478446.png
In addition to all the great work you did cataloging what the kids actually said back then, this has always been a bit of a red flag to me. I'd heard about it, but thanks for sharing the source. While it's a bit vague, one can interpret it as while filming the area where the kids saw a shiny UFO, there was something shiny enough to show up on the film, that obviously wasn't a UFO. We can't have that. Of course, maybe he just pointed his camera at the sun.

As a side note, I was a communications major in college during the mid '80s, a production assistant and interned a bit at a local podunk cash strapped news station. NOBODY was using film, at least in the US. Hind says Leach sent his "video to London" but then says the "film" was obscured. I assume she is just using the words interchangeably as many people do, BUT if it's video, then Leach should have been able to watch it before sending it to London. It's not film that has to be developed before one can view it. He would have known there was some light obscured parts and just not have sent them. Maybe Leach was a stringer or freelancer and not that good. He just sent in some B-roll video, a very minimal amount, some of which was obscured or over-exposed and London told him to reshoot it. Or he was well aware of what he was sending and did it on purpose.

It's a bit confusing, one would think for a story like this they would have just used what they got, and as noted, Leach would not have sent them bad video. If I put on my skeptical version of a tinfoil hat, I might suggest that Leach actually filmed whatever shiny thing was on the property that the kids had seen, thus debunking that part of the story. He was asked to go back and shoot it again, but this time whatever had been shiny was gone. Hind interprets this as bad or obscured video. Just a thought.
 
I can see it might be read that way, but in UFOs Over Africa, Hind wrote (p. 231):

When Tim Leach sent his video to London, it was pointed out to him that a very bright light obscured some of the film which had been taken when we were all together and investigating the uninhabited property.
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Thank you for that- it demonstrates that @Giddierone's interpretation is the correct one, mine was mistaken.

And it would seem to be clear evidence that at times, lights or bright reflections could be seen in the area of the claimed Ariel School UFO "landing site".
 
Hind says Leach sent his "video to London" but then says the "film"
Hind was quite imprecise with her language. She even refers to the school as Arian School in one article IIRC. I think she means video.
Screengrab of Leach & camera from the 2014 trailer to Nickerson's flim. (although not sure where these pictures were taken or if that is the camera he'd typically have used).
Screenshot 2024-01-08 at 19.01.24.png

Screenshot 2024-01-08 at 18.57.14.png
 
Hind was quite imprecise with her language. She even refers to the school as Arian School in one article IIRC. I think she means video.
Screengrab of Leach & camera from the 2014 trailer to Nickerson's flim. (although not sure where these pictures were taken or if that is the camera he'd typically have used).
Screenshot 2024-01-08 at 19.01.24.png

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Thanks. It appears to be a Sony Betacam which would make sense:

Betacam SP (for "Superior Performance") became the industry standard for most TV stations and high-end production houses until the late 1990s.
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betacam#Betacam_SX

Here's a late '80s version:

1704752244174.png

I also found this Facebook obit about Leach with his camera and a Sony Broadcast shirt:

1704752523696.png

Source: https://www.facebook.com/arielphenomenon/posts/4807851152657933/


This is from an Ariel UFO page, so they play up Leach's reaction to it all. Nevertheless, it appears he was an accomplished and professional journalist that knew his way around video equipment. The idea that he sent bad video to London seems a bit odd. Everyone has off days I guess.
 
Nevertheless, it appears he was an accomplished and professional journalist that knew his way around video equipment. The idea that he sent bad video to London seems a bit odd.
Tim Leach is described as a journalist; maybe he was more of a reporter/ presenter than a professional cameraman per se.
 
It's a bit confusing, one would think for a story like this they would have just used what they got, and as noted, Leach would not have sent them bad video. If I put on my skeptical version of a tinfoil hat, I might suggest that Leach actually filmed whatever shiny thing was on the property that the kids had seen, thus debunking that part of the story. He was asked to go back and shoot it again, but this time whatever had been shiny was gone. Hind interprets this as bad or obscured video. Just a thought.

Even if he didn't check his video (or film) before sending it, how did he manage to shoot this B-roll and not notice the shiny thing while he was filming? He was a news cameraman by profession. And if he did see it, why did he not walk up there to see what was causing it?

It does seem like there was a miscommunication between Leach and Hind regarding the reason for reshooting, or she has exaggerated something or omitted important details. She was right there and didn't see the shiny thing herself? She hasn't even reported whether or not this shiny thing matched what the children said (some of them did report nothing more than something glinting in the trees).
 
The screenshot of Leach's note posted by @NorCal Dave above is rather a giveaway that he went to Ariel believing already that a UFO with aliens had been seen.

These are two faxes he sent to BBC in the UK - I took these screenshots from the 2022 film Ariel Phenomenon (best I could get as they were flashed onscreen).

The first appears to be from before he heard about the Ariel sighting - he's reporting on the UFO sighting across southern Africa 2 days earlier (the rocket re-entry) which seems to have colored his approach to the school sighting. "This is for real." - he fully believed it was a UFO, which I think we can safely say explicitly meant "aliens" in 1994:

1704766462950.png

NOTE: Ariel Phenomenon's Facebook page in 2022 describes the above as a letter from Leach to John Mack "requesting his assistance at Ariel School in 1994." That's not what it looks like to me. He's writing about the rocket "UFO" and there doesn't seem room in the cut-off part for him to be talking about Ariel or asking for Mack's assistance. I will ask them to clarify.

Screenshot of AP's post, my highlight:

1704763246800.png

This second was written on Monday after he visited the school, stating his intention to return Tuesday with Hind, and he included the children's pictures in the fax:

1704761441294.png
 
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Leach's voice message to PEER at Harvard (Dr. Mack's group):
“This concerns a UFO mothership plus or minus fourteen to sixteen other craft sighted. The latest sighting was over a school where it hovered, landed, a black man got out, possibly somebody’s gardener or local person from Africa. There’ve been other sightings. It’s been going on for three days now. Our phones have been jammed. The story will probably be with you tonight, but of course we’re having difficulty being taken seriously in spite of being the BBC. Please call me as soon as you can. Thank you.” -
Then his fax contains:
“I have since got copious tape recordings of sightings and now there seem to be abductions and CEOTFK.” [close encounters of the first kind]
“while a strange small craft hovered over the trees and then landed and let out a ‘Black man’ possibly an indigenous Zimbabwean.”
“Please advise how I get to contact the visitors—I gather there are two types —friendly and the reverse.”
Excerpts from The Believer, Blumenthal (2021)

Knickers -> Twist.
 
Leach's voice message to PEER at Harvard (Dr. Mack's group):

Then his fax contains:



Excerpts from The Believer, Blumenthal (2021)

Knickers -> Twist.

Wow, even Leach was talking about a gardener.

And it seems Ariel Phenomenon did misrepresent that sign-off "This is for real" as being a comment to Mack. It looks like a fax to the BBC office in London. Why would he be telling Mack "This announcement should to out NATIONWIDE"?
 
The screenshot of Leach's note posted by @NorCal Dave above is rather a giveaway that he went to Ariel believing already that a UFO with aliens had been seen

Indeed. I've read through your blog on this but guess I missed how Leach is the real instigator. I always think about Hind, but it was Leach that brought her into it. As for John Mack, he was one of the big 3 in the alien abduction scene along with David Jacobs and Bud Hopkins (Hopkins girlfriend in later life was UFO journalist Leslie Kean), so why call him? Maybe because he was professionally a child phycologist, but in UFO circles in the '90s he was known as an abduction guy. Perhaps @Giddierone has a clue from Blumenthal's (he who wrote the big NYT UFO article with the afore mentioned Kean) The Believer:

“I have since got copious tape recordings of sightings and now there seem to be abductions and CEOTFK.” [close encounters of the first kind]
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I'm unaware of any abduction claims surrounding the Ariel case, so either I'm ignorant of them or maybe Leach exaggerated a bit to get Mack involved?

Wow, even Leach was talking about a gardener.

Yeah, but a gardener or local getting out of a UFO. What the hell? Maybe that's where the abduction thing comes in? This whole story is a mess.
 
“I have since got copious tape recordings of sightings and now there seem to be abductions and CEOTFK.” [close encounters of the first kind]
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I'm unaware of any abduction claims surrounding the Ariel case, so either I'm ignorant of them or maybe Leach exaggerated a bit to get Mack involved?

I don't know of any abduction tales either, but maybe this was an early part of the story that got dropped - perhaps a witness Leach spoke to who saw the UFO (rocket) and not necessarily the Ariel sighting itself. Ariel Phenomenon (2022) has news clips of several locals reporting the UFO sighting 2 days before Ariel, and Cynthia Hind also documented them.
 
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