Copies of Halt’s tape recording were first released to UFO researchers in 1984 by Col Sam Morgan, who was successor to Col Ted Conrad as base commander at Bentwaters and Halt’s superior. However, the tape did not enter general circulation until 1985, after I had first published my explanation of the case in The Guardian.
Col Morgan had found the tape in a desk when he took over as base commander in mid 1981. Although he had been on the base at the time of the incident as Assistant Chief of Maintenance for the A-10 aircraft, Morgan had not heard of the events before.
He spoke to Halt and the UK base commander Don Moreland and decided, as he told American researcher Phil Klass in 1984, that it was ‘just a bunch of guys screwing around in the woods’.
That, I think, is a fitting epitaph for the Rendlesham Forest UFO case.
When and how was the tape made?
This is a transcript of the cassette tape recording made by Lt Col Charles Halt on the night of the second sighting of the Rendlesham Forest UFO, i.e. the early hours of 1980 December 28. (The first sighting had been by security guards in the early hours of December 26, in which Halt was not involved.) Halt made the recording on a hand-held Lanier micro-cassette recorder which he carried for note-taking. There are many gaps and jumps in the recording as he switched the machine on and off.
As Halt explained in an episode of The UFO Hunters first broadcast in 2008: ‘The tapes are 20 minutes in duration, so there’s no way I could have kept the tape running the whole time. I must have stopped that tape a hundred times. I was going click-click-click-click the whole time we were out there because I didn’t want to run out of tape.’
Although the tape itself lasts just over 18 minutes it covers activities spanning a period of hours. Those familiar with the case will recognize certain differences between the descriptions on the tape and Col Halt’s more recent recollections from memory, which have inevitably become less accurate with time.
Setting the scene
On the night of Saturday 1980 December 27 Lt Col Halt was at an officers’ dinner at RAF Woodbridge when Lt Bruce Englund came in and said:‘The UFO is back’. A group of men had reportedly seen unexplained lights in the forest, although we have no first-hand accounts from these witnesses, unlike with the witnesses on the first night. Halt returned to his quarters at RAF Bentwaters to change and joined the group out in the forest some time after midnight on December 28. The investigation initially focused on the supposed landing marks that had been found on the morning of December 26. Not until two-thirds of the way through the tape is an unidentified flashing light sighted (bottom of page 2 of this transcript).
Who is heard on the tape?
Throughout the events recorded on the tape, it is Bruce Englund who is guiding Halt around the site and he is also the person who first points out the flashing light. Englund himself has never gone on record about the events of that night. As well as Halt and Englund, the main character heard on the tape is Sergeant Monroe Nevels, who was operating the geiger counter. Nevels was a Chemical Defense Instructor in Disaster Preparedness, not a nuclear specialist, and his unfamiliarity with the equipment he is using becomes apparent on the tape. One other airman referred to by name is ‘Bob’ (Sergeant Bobby Ball).
ColHalt has helped clarify certain exchanges and identify the voices for me, so this is the nearest we are likely to get to an ‘authorized’ version, and I am grateful to him for his assistance. However,I should add that Col Halt does not subscribe to my overall interpretation of the case.
Listen to the tape
You can hear the tape for yourself here (3.1 MB download, M4a format). The recording is from a copy of the original tape that Col Halt made by simply placing a microphone in front of a loudspeaker; as a result, various background noises can be heard in the room, including Halt’s own voice. This copy was kindly supplied to me by Col Sam Morgan, who succeeded Col Ted Conrad as Halt’s superior officer about six months after the event (thanks to Peter Brookesmith for the contact).
In this transcript I have added notes in a few places to clarify what is being said or to draw attention to points of interest. For my complete analysis of the events on the tape, see here.
The transcript (part 1 of 3)
HALT: 150 feet or more from the initial, or I should say suspected, impact point. Having a little difficulty; can’t get the Light-all to work. Seems to be some kind of mechanical problem. Gonna send back and get another Light-all. Meantime we’re gonna take some readings with the geiger counter and chase around the area a little bit waiting for another Light-all to come back in.
[Ian’s note: For more on the geiger counter and a discussion of the significance of the radiation readings, see my page here.]
GARBLED SECURITY COMMUNICATION AND BACKGROUND VOICES (includes: ‘Six... Sergeant Bustinza Security Control... that’s mark one of the pod... pod number…’)
HALT: OK, we’re now approaching the area within about 25, 30 feet. What kind of readings are we getting? Anything?
NEVELS: Just minor clicks.
HALT: Minor clicks.
[BACKGROUND VOICE IN THE ROOOM, APPARENTLY HALT’S]
HALT: Where are the impressions? Is that all the bigger they are?
ENGLUND: Well, there’s one more well-defined over here.
HALT: I can read it now. The meter’s definitely giving a little pulse.
ENGLUND: ... about the centre ...
HALT: I was gonna say let’s go to the centre of the area next and see what kind of a reading we get out there. You’re reading the clicks, I can’t hear the clicks. That about the centre, Bruce?
HALT: OK, let’s go to the centre.
NEVELS: Yes, I’m getting more...
HALT: That’s the best deflection of the needle I’ve seen yet. OK, can you give me an estimation. We’re on the point five scale...we’re getting...have trouble reading...
ENGLUND: At approximately 01.25 hours...
NEVELS: We’re getting right at a half of a millirem.
[BURST OF PIANO MUSIC – this is actually Col Halt’s daughter playing and is an accidental over-recording]
HALT: ...best point. I don’t seen it go any higher.
VOICE (BALL?): It’s still flying around.
HALT: OK, we’ll go out toward the...
NEVELS: Now it’s picking up.
HALT: This is out toward the number one indentation where we first got the strongest reading. Yeah, it’s similar to what we got in the centre.
NEVELS: ...right in the pod, it’s right near the centre.
ENGLUND: This looks like an area here possibly that could be a blast...it’s in the centre of the triangle...
HALT: It’s hard to tell... Here take this, my fingers [are] about to freeze.
ENGLUND: ...up towards seven...Just jumped up towards seven tenths.
HALT: Seven tenths? Right there in the centre?
ENGLUND: Uh huh.
[Ian’s note: this is the second time they have checked the centre; no ‘jump’ in the readings was mentioned the first time.]
HALT: We found a small blast – what looks like a blasted or scruffed-up area here. We’re getting very positive readings. Let’s see, is that near the centre?
ENGLUND: Yes, it is. This is what we would assume would be the dead centre.
NEVELS: Picking up more as you go along – the whole area here now...
A FEW CLICKS ARE AUDIBLE.
HALT: Up to seven tenths? Or seven units, let’s call it, on the point five scale. OK, why don’t we do this: why don’t we make a sweep – here, I’ve got my gloves on now – let’s make a sweep out around the whole area about ten foot out, make a perimeter run around it, starting right back here at the corner, back at the same first corner where we came in, let’s go right back here. I’m gonna have to depend on you counting the clicks.
HALT: OK, let’s...
NEVELS: I’ll tell you as it gets louder...
HALT: ...then I can put the light on it and sweep around it.
HALT: Put it on the ground every once in a while.
ENGLUND: This looks like an abrasion on the tree...
HALT: OK, we’ll catch that on the way back, let’s go around. Move back. Hit it, then [there?].
ENGLUND: We’re getting interest right over here. It looks like an abrasion pointing into the centre of the...
HALT: It is.
ENGLUND: ...landing area.
HALT: It may be old, though – there’s some sap marks or something on it. Let’s go on back around. All right?
NEVELS: ...give some extension on it...
HALT: Hey, this is an awkward thing to use isn’t it?
NEVELS (indistinct): ...carry...about my ears, but this one broke...
HALT: Are we getting anything further? I’m going to shut the recorder off until we find something.
[Ian’s note:Another remark to suggest that Halt is still not greatly impressed by what they have found so far. Note that there has as yet been no mention of the UFO whichHalt was originally called out to investigate.]
NEVELS: Picking up good.
HALT: Picking up? What are we up to? We’re up to two, three units deflection, you’re getting in close to one pod.
NEVELS: Picking up some here...picking up.
HALT: OK, it’s still not going above three or four units.
NEVELS: Picking up more, though – more frequent. Closer together.
HALT: Yes, you’re staying steady up around two to three to four units now.
ENGLUND: Colonel Halt?
ENGLUND: Each one of these trees that face into the blast, what we assume is the landing site, all have an abrasion facing in the same direction, towards the centre, the same...
HALT: That’s interesting. Let’s go the rest of the way around the circle here. Turn it back down here.
NEVELS: Picking up some...
VOICE (ENGLUND?): ...collection[?]
HALT: Let me see that....that’s got a funny...that’s... You’re right about the abrasion. I’ve never seen a tree that’s er...
VOICE (indistinct): ...small sap marks...
HALT: ... never seen a pine tree that’s been damaged react that fast.
NEVELS: ...you got a bottle to put that in.
HALT: You got a sample bottle?
VOICES: (indistinct, includes the word ‘soil’)
SOUNDS AS THOUGH THEY ARE TAKING SAMPLES
HALT: Here, sit yourself down...
VOICE (BALL?): You’ll notice they’re all at the same height.