“All the kids were hanging on the fence, here, quite a few kids, here,” says the lean, mustachioed man in his 50s who’s been introduced to us as Victor Zakruzny. It’s ten minutes into the documentary “Westall ’66,” and Zakruzny is showing investigator Shane Ryan the spot–once “a grassy paddock” but now a street, Ryan explains–where Zakruzny saw two UFOs on the ground on that fateful April 6, 1966.
“It’s a high fence and I got up to the top there, and all you could see was two disks, one there and one a bit further away, probably three meters apart. I could hear somebody in the background saying, ‘Stay away, don’t jump the fence.'”
Dear reader: are you tired by now of my obsession with the mass UFO sighting at the Melbourne (Australia) suburban high school called Westall, just over half a century ago? I hope not, partly because I will need to put up one more post on the subject–I’ve finally had the opportunity to hear the tape made by the American physicist James McDonald, of his 1967 interview with Westall teacher Andrew Greenwood, and I need to correct some misinterpretations I made in earlier posts–but for a more essential reason as well. I’m convinced Westall is one of the most important cases in the UFO annals.
Not, of course, for what it might say about visiting spaceships. If you’ve followed my blog, you know that’s not what I think UFOs are. Rather, for the “royal road” it opens into the dark and ill-explored corridors of the human soul from which the UFO has its origin.
If, as I believe, new dimensions of our psychology stand ready to be revealed, much credit will go to investigators like Shane Ryan, Bill Chalker, and Keith Basterfield who’ve brought the long-neglected facts to light. Still more credit will go to the courageous women and men from Westall High who’ve come forward with their stories, knowing that what they experienced long ago will be dismissed by some, scorned by others, and by still others (like me) reinterpreted in ways they may not like.
But back to Victor Zakruzny …
At this point in his narrative his voice sinks to a rapid mumble, which I hear as, “Bugger, I’m going over the fence”–presumably in response to the voice’s prohibition. Next thing we know, he’s on the other side.
“The craft probably would have been about there,” he tells Ryan, pointing out the locations as they walk the site, “and there was another one set back a bit on an angle, probably just about there. There was a few kids walking around there, and I was the only one on this side.
“I got up to it to want to touch it and it was–well, you could feel the heat about a meter away coming from it. It was pretty warm or hot and within a minute or so it just–both of them just lifted up at the same time about this height, and that was breathtaking, watching that, and then it just gradually lifted, lifted up, and then went off towards the pines.”
By “the pines,” he means the Grange, the wooded area just south of Westall High School where other witnesses remember the UFO–one UFO, for nearly all of them–having touched down.
Although “Westall ’66” doesn’t give the date of this or Ryan’s other interviews with the witnesses, they seem to have taken place in 2008. On July 5 of that year, Zakruzny was interviewed by UFOlogist Bill Chalker. (Who calls him “Victor Zakry,” the name Zakruzny adopted as an adult; I’m grateful to Shane Ryan for clarifying this point for me.) In a post on his “Oz Files” blog, dated August 10, 2014, Chalker summarizes what Zakruzny/Zakry told him about his experience.
Naturally, Chalker’s paraphrase is more rationalized, less dreamlike and surreal, than the first-person account we hear in “Westall ’66.” “Victor indicated he was able to walk up close to one of the objects, while 3 other students stood around in close proximity to the other object. A teacher and at least a dozen other students crowded along the high fence to get a view. Victor contemplated touching the object but thought better of it. The two objects suddenly rose up from the grass and took off, one to the west, the other flew up and orbited a small plane before flying down to the south west Grange reserve area, with students in pursuit. The UFOs were described as about 1.5 metres in height and approximately 5.4 metres in width. They left behind two circles of burnt grass.“
The “teacher” in this version presumably corresponds to the disembodied voice (“Stay away, don’t jump the fence”) in the story Zakruzny told Ryan. That a teacher could actually have been present at the scene is hardly possible. A little over a year after the event (June 28, 1967), pressed by the visiting American McDonald for the names of other teachers who’d seen the UFO–in the sky!–Andrew Greenwood was able with some hesitation to come up with two. Neither of them saw anything like this. If any Westall teacher had seen something so dramatic as two landed disks just the other side of a fence, with a Westall boy wandering around next to them, there’s no way Greenwood would have been unaware of it. No way he would have failed to mention it to McDonald.
“His [Zakruzny’s] account was consistent with a number of interviews he had given to others and to me,” Chalker writes, and I believe him. “Victor also impressed me as a compelling witness giving consistent testimony,” Chalker writes, and I’ll agree.
What I won’t agree to is that there’s the smallest likelihood that the events remembered so vividly by Zakruzny actually took place in physical reality.
The number of his UFOs is the sticking point. True, Zakruzny wasn’t the only person at Westall to see more than one. Shane Ryan informs me that “about 15% of the 101 witnesses (that I have been in contact with) who saw a UFO at Westall that day, saw more than one, some say two, some say three.” A report submitted to the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society the day after the event by a 12-year-old Westall student named Joy Tighe–who appears in “Westall ’66” under her married name of Joy Clarke–speaks of “circular 2 UFOs flying in varying directions.” (And it is curious, as a reader of my blog named Mike has pointed out, that the cover of the issue of the “Clayton Calendar” that features the Westall UFO shows three UFOs, even though the accompanying article speaks of only one.)
But Zakruzny’s memory, of seeing at close range two disks resting on the ground and then rising into the air, is very hard to square with the other “close encounter” testimonies at the beginning of “Westall ’66.”
Marilyn Smith (nee Eastwood): “Everyone just took off to the oval in time to see it lifting off from the oval. It was probably, I don’t know, 50 feet or more in the air at that stage.” If a second, twin disk had accompanied Marilyn Smith’s UFO, is there any way she could have managed not to see it?
Terry Peck (nee Clarke): “We looked up and we just saw this saucer-type thing taking off [from the Grange] and it seemed to turn side-on and just disappear into thin air.” One UFO, where a second would have to have been visible if it were present.
You can harmonize Peck’s account with Smith’s by saying either that the UFO touched down twice–once in the school oval, then afterward in the Grange–or else that the two girls saw the same maneuver but one of them misremembered its location. But the only way to squeeze in Zakruzny’s account is to say that he witnessed an entirely different “lifting off,” of two disks rather than one, which nobody else happened to notice.
Pretty unlikely. Impossible in terms of Zakruzny’s own story, which has “quite a few kids” watching from the far side of the fence. Those other kids would have to have seen the two UFOs taking off, even if they didn’t jump the fence to get close to them while they were sitting on the ground.
And if you read Zakruzny’s testimony closely, you’ll notice an odd wavering on the number of UFOs present. “Within a minute or so it just”–“it,” singular. But then he corrects himself: “both of them just lifted up at the same time about this height.” And then goes back to the singular: “it just gradually lifted, lifted up, and then went off towards the pines.”
There’s something strange here. The key to the strangeness lies, not in what Zakruzny saw that April day in 1966, but in what he remembered.
Zakruzny made a drawing of what his UFOs looked like. Chalker posted the drawing to his blog; you can access it directly by clicking here. (It’s also displayed in “Westall ’66.) It’s very skillfully done. I’m not surprised that, as Chalker tells us, young Victor envisioned a career in art.
On the basis of this drawing, and of his site interview with Zakruzny, Chalker–who plainly has no small artistic talent himself–was able to create what he calls “a ‘forensic’ style drawing” of Zakruzny’s UFO encounter, also displayed on his blog post.
If ever a picture was worth a thousand words, it’s this one.
I’m persuaded that Chalker, through the elusive psychic processes to which UFOlogy gives faint but unmistakable clues, has managed to channel into graphic form the unconscious content of Zakruzny’s memories.
When I look at Chalker’s “forensic drawing,” especially together with Zakruzny’s original, I think I know exactly what those two “UFOs” were. Why there were two of them. Why Victor Zakruzny wanted to touch them but was afraid to. Why the sight of them lifting might take a young boy’s breath away, and why that sight was linked to a spot notorious (as Ryan tells us in “Westall ’66”) for “steamy liaisons.” Why Victor heard a thou-shalt-not voice–teacher? preacher? God?–ordering him to keep away, stay within the fence.
Trust me. You will.
by David Halperin
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