March 24, 1974: Night of the UFOs-The Close Encounters That Shook Sweden.

Sketch of the alleged encounter published in Dagens Nyheter 1974.

It’s easy to believe that the most spectacular — and maybe convincing — UFO incidents belong to the United States and other more prominent countries in the field of high strangeness, and where UFO culture has been in the media’s eye since its origins. UFO culture first came to the public’s attention on a massive scale with Kenneth Arnold’s June 24 sighting over Mount Rainier, Washington State in 1947, and the controversial Roswell incident the same year. Later, the Rendlesham Forest Incident in 1980 and the 1994 Ariel School UFO landing in Ruwa, Zimbabwe caused headlines all over the world. But let me take you up to the northern part of our beautiful planet, to Sweden — the land once known of it’s of sin, ABBA and smörgåsbord — for a truly extraordinary incident. It wasn’t the first such incident in Sweden: during the 30s so-called Ghost Pilots were seen hundreds of times over the country, and in the 40’s the famous Ghost Rockets flew over the northern part of Sweden, some of them crashing (or landing) in small, far off lakes. There’s something up there. for sure: something the citizens of a small Swedish town will forever have etched in their memories.

News article in Norrtelje Tidning 1974.

On March 23 of 1974, in the community of Vallentuna, north of Stockholm, something utterly strange happened — so strange that it’s still talked about 47 years later. Hillevi Andersson, who had celebrated her 36th birthday a few days earlier, was at home with her three children, Cecilia, Elisabeth and Robert. When some friends cancelled their appointment, at 7:30 PM she picked up the phone to call her parents Svea and Hildor in the area of Orkesta, just a 13 minute car drive away, to see how they were doing. For reasons unknown she couldn’t get through, which made her worried — so worried that she took the kids, loaded them into the car and started driving to her parent’s desolate, isolated country home.

While driving up Lindholmen Road to Orkesta she noticed something in the sky, a strong circular shaped light that seemed to be following them. It first showed up near the Vasa School and was visible until they reached the Orkesta sports field, where it suddenly shrunk to the size of an orange and quickly disappeared up into the sky. They didn’t think too much about it. Maybe it was a bright star, a planet or even a helicopter in the distance. But the odd light was still in Hillevi’s mind as she drove her car up her parent’s yard at Malmen 5, a traditional Swedish two story red house with white trims. Her father Hildor met them on the porch and told Hillevi that the telephone was out of order, and the television was suffering from technical interference. The latter annoyed him. It was almost 8:00 PM and with only two TV-channels in Sweden it wasn’t uncommon to sit down after dinner to watch the evening news.

Hillevi told him about the light that was following them, and almost instantly they saw something at the other side of the road, where the old quarry lies. A strong, bright light hovering above the trees — and beside it, a smaller ball of light moving in a zig-zag pattern. Soon they saw that the lights belonged to some kind of craft; oval-shaped with three beams coming up from the ground into the ship. The whole family froze in terror and the kids started to scream. Hillevi’s daughter threw herself on the ground and refused to get up. Suddenly the craft shrank to the size of an orange, lifting vertically with incredible speed and disappeared out of sight. When everyone calmed down they decided to go to Hillevi’s brother, Hilding in Skrattbacken, 5 minutes away by car. During the short drive the alleged UFO was not seen from their point of view. On arrival, Hilding’s wife met them outside and immediately asked them about the light following their car, something Hillevi hadn’t noticed.

At this moment both the families were scared and Hillevi decided to leave, out of both fear and curiosity. After all that had happened, she really wanted to see the strange object again. Hilding took his own car to escort them and soon saw a hat-shaped object fly by above and in front of his vehicle and behind Hillevi’s. Not long after, the larger oval shaped object was observed at a distance of 400 meters in front of them, hovering in the air approximately 10 meters above the ground. Hillevi noticed that the smaller orange-colored ball floated nearby. The two objects started following Hillevi and her children. But somehow, in all this terror, curiosity began to grow even stronger and she parked the car to see what was going on. The light was now above them and filled the car with strong light. Hillevi stopped her daughter from leaving the car; Hillevi’s daughter later claimed that something told her to go outside. After a while the bright large object went away, but before it vanished it stopped at a barn, hovered for a while, and then ventured further out of sight. In total, during the whole evening, Hillevi estimates that she and her family saw the phenomenon for 40 minutes. The day after, Hillevi called the police to report the incident but they were clearly very uninterested. Instead she called the Swedish National Defence Research Institute (Försvarets forskningsanstalt, FOA) who politely took down her statement. Their UFO administrator Tage Eriksson, a job he had since 1965, was a hardcore skeptic and suggested it was some kind of balloons — a standard answer he often gave to such incidents, but his mind was about to be changed. A while later a representative from the police contacted Hillevi and apologized for how she was treated, because she wasn’t alone in her strange, otherworldly UFO experience.

During March 23 and 24, the police collected 76 reports from 31 witnesses in total, all from different parts of the Vallentuna area — each of them describing the same strange, eerie light (sometimes describing it as oval- or egg-shaped). A former blacksmith, 90 year old Karl Johansson was convinced the sun had risen early when he saw the craft, as the light was so strong. In the end there were 43 days of sightings in the area during the spring of 1974.

Abductee Gösta Häger (photo: Håkan Blomqvist)

The night before all of this, school janitor Gösta Häger was going home after a social gathering in Markim. Along his path, close to the ground, he noticed a strange light. It grew increasingly stronger, moving closer to him. Out of curiosity he walked towards it and was thrown to the ground by a powerful force. A while he found himself outside his home in Lindholmen, with a bleeding wound in the head, bruises to his face and no memory of what had happened to him. He woke up his wife, frantically ringing the doorbell. The day after he called the National Defence, who recommended him to contact Hardy Bornholm, who later became more involved in the case as an official investigator and collector of information. On April 1 and May 24 the same year, he met chief physician Ture Arvidsson at the Danderyd hospital and went through two hypnotic regressions. Gösta described how he was taken aboard some kind of craft and was examined by “four semi-transparent men’’ — in the second session describing them as Native Americans. They might have also worn hoodies, as they had no noses or ears. The beings gave him a mission, but he was vague about the details other than this mission might happen in the year 2000. According to Gösta they also put some kind of instrument against his forehead, which caused a burning pain. Outside of the incident in Vallentuna, Gösta also claimed that since childhood, after an accident in which he fell from a tree and lost an eye, to have a higher sensibility for precognition and other extra-sensory perceptions. Gösta was described as a down-to-earth man that didn’t place much importance in his experiences.

Gösta Häger with bruses and wound (photo by Håkan Blomqvist)

From his experience in 1974 he received a wound in the forehead and something that was considered burn marks at the time, but seemed more closely related to bruises. He never claimed his experience was related to aliens. He just didn’t know what had happened to him. Hillevi was offered a hypnosis session, but refused because she didn’t suffer any kind of memory loss. Other witnesses could corroborate Gösta’s experience: a woman cyclist had seen the light at the same place on the same time, two men unaware of each other claimed to have seen a metallic object at the field where Gösta had his encounter and a couple had seen what they first thought was a new water tower, with lights coming out from its top windows — but understood later there was no water tower there.

Other witnesses experienced bodily pain (including Hillevi — who explained her pain as if she were about to break into two pieces, at the waist), vomiting, migraine and a higher level of white blood cells — one side effect of radioactivity, but also stress. When Hillevi returned to the quarry together with her husband and a representative from the National Home Defence, Hardy Bornholm, they found three smaller wedge-shaped marks in the ground and several trees had lost their tops. A while later The National Defence Research Institute arrived at the scene, specifically at the ancient Vasakullen in the small community of Lindholmen, to take samples of burned grass and soil. According to witnesses they were wearing protective clothing.

Operation S (photo by Håkan Blomqvist)

The commander in chief at the time, Stig Synnergren, ordered the Home Defence to place people on two positions in the area in the weeks that followed, to be able to study a possible return of the phenomenon from different angles. It was officially declared a military exercise, “Operation S”. According to documents from the Swedish National Defence Research Institute, it was concluded that there was an alleged physical object over Vallentuna that night, but no-one could come up with a logical explanation.

What’s lesser known is that the first sighting over the area had already happened months earlier. It was on New Years Eve, in Torsholma, less than 10 kilometers from the later incidents. It was between 1 and 2 AM in the morning and a company of 4–5 people were walking home from a New Year celebration at a neighbor’s house. In front of them, a big cigar-shaped object with a strong luminous light and a row of windows came floating above the ground and stopped by the edge of a forest. They studied the object for — depending on which witness you ask — between 7 seconds and two minutes, then it dissolved and disappeared in front of their eyes. It was -10°C, no wind and neither of the witnesses had a logical explanation for what they had seen.

Some of the sightings could have been stars, planets, satellites and even airplanes coming in and out from Arlanda airport, 30 kilometers away, but the landing of the oval shaped craft is not in the realm of those theories. On the downside, the investigation at the time was conducted towards a flying saucer/alien bias. This might have affected the memories of experiences of those involved: for example, during the hypnosis sessions leading questions may have been asked.

On the other hand, the witnesses have stood by their stories ever since, with little to no details changing over the years. It should be noted that the esoteric connection is strong, both in regards to where Gösta Häger was allegedly abducted — on an ancient hill, near two runestones, and his overall experiences before, under and after the incident. But what makes the story even more interesting is that Hillevi had a near death experience as a child, exactly at the same spot where UFO hovered near her parents’ house The quarry was used as a place for swimming during the summer. The four year old Hillevi fell into the water and lost consciousness. She basically drowned. After being saved by her father she remembered how she was surrounded by beautiful lights and a general sense of peace. Is it too much of a coincidence that this, much later, was also the place of her ’close encounter’? For Hillevi this had a connection of some sorts, and it means something to her. No matter what, The Vallentuna UFO panic (called “Vallentunavågen” in Swedish), will continue to be a magnificent mystery.

Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, occultist and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.

Photos of Gösta Häger used with kind permission by Håkan Blomqvist.
Thanks to Clas Svahn and Håkan Blomqvist for additional information and clearing up the facts, Paul A. J. Lewis for grammar check and valuable comments and dr Patrick Jonsson, for his kindness and knowledge regarding both the case and the esoteric viewpoint on ufology. This text is dedicated to Grzegorz; for his sharp eyes, honest opinions and infinite wisdom.

Sources:
Conversation with Hillevi Andersson conducted by the author 30/11 2020.
“Händelserna i Vallentuna 1974” (Clas Svahn, UFO-Sweden)
DN om Vallentunavågen — NewsVoice har detaljerna” (Torbjörn Sassersson, NewsVoice, 21/3 2014)
“Vallentunafallet — en gåta som väntar på lösning” (Håkan Blomqvist, UFO-Aktuellt, issue 1, 2011)
“Hundratals rapporter om föremål över Vallentuna” (Håkan Blomqvist, UFO-Aktuellt, issue 2, 2011
Ufo-gåtan i Vallentuna ännu ej löst — Hillevi minns dagen 1974” (Uffe Lindeborg, Mitt i Vallentuna, 23/3 2017)
“Alien Dawn: An Investigation into the Contact Experience” (Colin Wilson, Virgin Publishing Ltd, p. 201–203, 1998)

Author, thinker, television freelancer, mystery aficionado and cat lover.

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