Flying Saucers vs. Children: The Vittangi Incident and Other Mass Sightings in Sweden.
I don’t remember the exact moment, but it was during a conversation with Clas Svahn when I first heard it being mentioned — the Vittangi incident. I had heard about the town before, located way up north in Sweden and just 180 kilometers from the Finnish border. The town itself is small; nowadays, approximately one thousand souls live there. However, in the case I will be writing about, set in 1973, only six hundred or so lived there, on the border of the impressive, mighty Torne River.
We were discussing mass sightings, cases where UFOs and such have been seen by a larger group of people. In Sweden, we have a few of these occurrences. For example, Vallentuna 1974 and Hällefors 1981, but both of them dealt mostly with individuals seeing things, not groups. Not like well-known international incidents, like the Ariel school in Zimbabwe, 1996, or in Melbourne 1966. We all know about the Ariel school sighting, which is a classic in the annals of high strangeness — and probably the most debated case of this kind in the history of ufology. Randall Nickerson’s pretty excellent documentary, Ariel Phenomenon, just put more wood on the fire, and caused endless social media threads about the credibility of both the witnesses, around 60 students, and the apparent bias towards a supernatural explanation in the documentary itself. If you ask me, I don’t mind — this was the story Nickerson wanted to tell, and he did it well, and personally, I have no reason to doubt the children. Something happened there. The Melbourne case, more known as the Westall High School observation, on April 6, 1966, had around 300 witnesses in total, both students and adults, and is still, to this day, unsolved. I won’t go into these cases, there’s a lot written about them, and my focus is as always Sweden. And that brings us back to Vittangi, the small northern town where in 1973 a bunch of children saw something that blew their minds.
It all began on October 15, and the children — Anders Henriksson, Mikael Johansson, Annika Nordström, Jeanette Waaranperä, Bengt Waaranperä, and Anna-Maria Henriksson and a few more, were out ice skating on the Torne river in the early evening, somewhere between 5 pm and 6 pm. The weather was cloudy, and darkness had just started to fall over the little town — and the ice skate rink out on the ice. It was all fun and games, until something odd — a bright light that didn’t belong there — made its acquaintance with the children. On the other side of the river, above one of the islands, they could all see something up in the sky, above the mountain behind the island. At first, it stood still, but then it began to slowly move in their direction — and then seeming behind the island. Mikael Johansson, 10, was a goalie this evening and wasn’t aware of the phenomena until one of the other players screamed to him to look behind him. Mikael could see a bright object with a dark center, shifting between white and orange color and with two brighter lights connected to it — like car lights — and it seemed to move directly towards them.
They could all hear a buzzing sound — like a bee — and that’s all they needed. Everyone dropped their clubs and began running towards the shore, except 11-year-old Bengt Waaranperä, who got so scared he stumbled down on the ground, crying, and crawled on his knees and hands to safety. “I froze stiff and couldn’t move! Everyone else ran screaming past me, and I saw how the light came closer”, he told a journalist at the Allers magazine a few months later. He managed to get home, still crying and in panic, which first made his mother think he had broken his leg, but she soon understood that something very strange had happened.
Following this horrifying event, the kids were told by adults to draw what they saw. Here are five of their drawings, showing a clear difference in their perception of the UFO, often with absurd and funny results. While it difficult to say from these what was flying up there, it for sure was something that bewildered the children — and made them use their imagination.
There were several adult witnesses in Vittangi, who all had seen the light, but not close enough to notice any details. But everyone seems to agree the UFO landed on, or at least got very close to the island — located around 100 meters from the shore. One of the children, Mikael Kemi, heard how the ice cracked when the unknown flying object got near the island. Another witness, Anders Henriksson, described the object as looking strange and it moved clumsily. He, like the others, got so scared he ran home and didn’t leave the house for the rest of the evening. Around one week later, Bengt’s father, Allan, visited the island and found one single burn mark on the ground, approximately 30x30 centimeters wide. If that was connected to the incident is hard to say, it was never investigated further. In an interview about his son’s experience, Allan shared an interesting, and quite similar incident he had experienced in 1953. He and his three brothers were cutting wood on the shore of the Vittangi river, not far away when they saw a bright light moving above the treetops until it disappeared. “The children saw something for sure, even if we don’t know what it was”, he added.
Yeah, to the skeptics out there — I’m aware of the problems with this incident. We’ve all been children, and we’ve all experienced something that at first seemed scary and unreal, and in the company of dear friends, it grew larger and more spectacular. I remember myself how my friends and I found a skeleton, or pieces of bones, in the forest near where we lived — and we were convinced we’d found a human skeleton! That wasn’t the case we learned, after our parents had taken a look — all with serious faces, it was some kind of animal. But it was there, the experience itself was real. Just like in Vittangi 1973. It took days for the children to calm down, and the ice-skating rink stood empty for a while. The light never came back, but it’s said that the inhabitants of Vittangi kept their eyes open for weeks after, with no luck.
These incidents are very rare in Sweden, at least those that are reported. However, I’ve heard about an alleged mass sighting in Sundsvall, either in ’76 or ’77, where three objects were hovering above the city’s main square in broad daylight and visible to everyone present. I’ve talked with one of the witnesses about this, but there is, so far, no record of this specific incident either in the media or reported to any UFO organization.
Another fairly interesting observation (please note that I don’t have much information regarding it) happened on November 9, 1976, in Köping. Carina Sundman and Anita Eriksson of class 5A at the Nibble school were out on the schoolyard when they saw a white object with a pulsating red light traveling west over the sky. The girls ran inside and told the rest of the class what they had seen, and everyone joined them to study the spectacle. For three minutes, all 21 of them watched an object that moved slowly, with no visible wings, an angular shape, and a cut-off rear. One interesting detail is that it moved up and down, “like a cork floating on water”. Was it a balloon the children saw?
Before I leave you to do something better than reading this, I’d like to share with you a case I investigated myself. And like the ones above, we once again have a group of children witnessing something seemingly out of this world, not far from where I live. Here’s a directly translated (which explains the matter-of-fact, straightforward text) version of my report, redacting some sensitive information (like names and other details that might help identify the witnesses).
“On a warm summer day sometime between 2004 and 2006, Erik found himself with his friends at Galaxskolan’s schoolyard in Märsta, playing “shooting” games, probably cops and robbers or war. There were about seven children in total, and Erik was around 7–8 years old. According to the witness, this happened either after school or during summer vacation when the place was calm.
One of the witnesses, either Erik himself or one of his friends, looked up for some reason and saw a large object, matte black/metallic, floating about 150–200 meters away, above Oriongatan 78. To get a better view, they ran up a small hill, located in the schoolyard, where they thought they could see the object more clearly. From there, they ran diagonally across the gravel area towards Orions preschool, where they hid behind a tree and continued to observe the object, slightly to the left of the school, and then ran up towards Jupitergatan. The object hung low above the treetops, and Erik clarified that the bottom part of the object was covered by the treetops.
Erik described the object as being as big as a “roof,” a large roof like one of a supermarket. In a follow-up conversation, he likened its size to the roof of the supermarket ICA Kvantum in Märsta, between 50–70 meters in diameter. According to measurements on Google Earth, this is about 65x41 meters. In hindsight, Erik described the object as static, but it may have moved slightly back and forth, first towards them, and then away when they got closer. It seemed as if the object was as curious about them as they were about it. He didn’t hear any sound and stated that it was not a helicopter or drone. After this, Erik couldn’t recall anything more, except that they ran home towards Siriusgatan and played video games. He mentioned this to his mother, who dismissed it as a joke.
The witness also described feeling as if they were hypnotized. Erik brought up the documentary “Ariel Phenomenon” and wanted to draw a parallel to that event. He has been in contact with two of the other witnesses who partially confirm that something happened. Witness 1 wrote, “We saw an unidentified flying object, yes. What exactly that object was is another question,” but doesn’t remember anything more. Witness 2 remembers something vague but doesn’t recall any further details.”
I don’t have any answers, my friends. Are these the vivid imagination of children, a form of playfulness that we, the adults, have long forgotten — or is the sensitivity and openness of a child’s mind the key to experiencing — and maybe understanding — the phenomenon?
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of Northern Lights: High Strangeness in Sweden, out now from Beyond the Fray Publishing. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.
Original witness reports/GICOFF, 1973
“Ett flygande tefat över Vittangi? Lekande barn chockades” (Mats Ulvskog, Norrländska Socialdemokraten, October 17, 1973)
“Inga spår av tefatet” (Norrländska Socialdemokraten, October 19, 1973)
“Lekande barn chockades: Vi såg ett flygande tefat!” (GICOFF-information, issue 1, 1974)
“Skolbarnen i Vittangi tvekar inte: Vi såg ett flygande tefat!” (Annu Edvardsen, Allers, issue 2, 1974)
“Gungande objekt sågs av skolklass” (UFO-Information, issue 1, 1977)