Eileen Moreland went out to milk the cows one morning in the South Island town of Blenheim in 1959.

She returned home about 80 minutes later with an extraordinary story.

“You may think I am mad,” she told police, “but I saw a flying saucer about 5.40 am this morning.’’

She claimed a large craft descended from the sky and hovered above her. Her statement was full of astonishing detail. She saw two men inside the craft wearing silver space suits. One of them was missing his left hand.

Local Air Force officials took her claim seriously. They assigned an investigator who interviewed Moreland and found her to be credible. And they found others in Blenheim who had seen similar lights.

Her story felt like a modern New Zealand myth.

Like all myths, it expressed the peculiar anxieties of its time. Her story chimed with Cold War paranoia, atomic fears and worries over the accelerating technology of 1950s New Zealand. Understanding her story could reveal something about a strange moment in New Zealand history. It also exposed how the military would lie to keep her story secret in the decades that followed. 

What had Moreland seen? What had happened to her since? Was she still alive? Could she cast new light on her story?

After decades of secrecy, this is her story.

Blenheim was booming.

The farming town had doubled from about 6000 people in 1945 to 12,000 in 1961.

The Moreland family was part of that population boom. Moreland, her husband Frederick, and their five children had moved to the town by 1943.

They purchased a nine-acre farm on the corner of Old Renwick Rd and Colemans Rd in the western suburb of Springlands in the mid 1950s. They lived in a modest white wooden house with a red tin roof and a brick chimney. 

Fruit trees were largely cleared to create two paddocks for some Ayshire dairy cows and a few sheep. Moreland used to show the cows at local events.

On the morning of July 13, 1959, Moreland was 42 and had been married for 19 years. Her children ranged in age from pre-school to late teens.

She was tall and wiry, with short, brown curly hair and pronounced eyebrows.

She set out to milk the cows at 5.30am.

It was normal for her to be up so early. She was a hard-working woman. As well as running dairy cows, she also held down a few other jobs. Locals would turn to her for advice if their cows were unwell.

She was a nurse aide at the local Lister Hospital. Her husband worked as a patrolman at Woodbourne air base about six kilometres from their home. Moreland had also worked there occasionally.

The air base was one of the largest businesses in Blenheim by the end of the 1950s and was an integral part of the small community. Surplus planes were sold cheaply to locals by the Air Force after World War Two. They were repurposed as children’s playhouses or their parts were used for washing lines.

Moreland’s hobby was reading.

“When she wasn't working she was a great reader,” said Donald Parker, when interviewed before his death in 2017. Parker married Moreland’s eldest daughter in 1967.

“She would read until two o'clock in the morning.’’

This chilly morning was routine. Moreland reached the cowshed, turned on the lights and radio, grabbed her torch and set off across the paddock.

Over the next few decades, she would tell journalists, researchers and Air Force officials about what happened in the next 80 minutes.

Here is what she claimed.


Half way across the paddock she saw a strange green glow through the low clouds.

The green glow broke through the cloud cover and became two lights, ‘like eyes or big lamps’.  Everything was bathed in an eerie light that overwhelmed her torch.

“It was a horrid sort of colour,’’ she later told a journalist.

“My first thought was ‘I shouldn’t be here’ and I made a dive for the trees.”

From her hiding place among a shelter belt of pine trees, she looked up.

It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

A circular craft about nine metres wide and with a curved glass cockpit silently descended towards her.

Two shafts of green light beamed down from its underside. Two rows of small, orange jets shot outwards like spokes from the rim of the disc.

The craft suddenly stopped descending and began to hover about four and a half metres from the ground.

The jets disappeared and then reappeared pointing sideways in two rows. The top row span clockwise very fast, while the bottom row moved in the opposite direction, trailing orange flames.

The air on this cold July morning became warm and she noticed a low hum. She was “scared stiff”, but curious and enchanted by the lights.

It was an image she could still recall in detail decades later.

“It was just imprinted indelibly on my mind. I just took it in. I saw everything in those few minutes.’’

Inside the curved glass cockpit, she could see two figures wearing shiny silver suits and helmets. The suits were tight like a wet suit and looked like they were made of aluminium foil.

The men were seated one in front of the other. Both had their backs to her. A flickering light shone up from below them, reflecting off their suits. Then one of the silver suited men emerged from the craft and walked towards her. She could see his face through a small visor in the helmet.

He was wearing a wide belt with a black disc at the centre. He had a harness on his chest that held a small dial and a series of tubes coming out of the helmet. His left hand was missing and was encased in a dark sheath.

Then he shouted at her in a foreign language she did not recognise. He retreated back to the craft and got back on board.

After a few moments, the jets starting shooting out from the craft again. It tilted at an angle and then shot up into the sky at great speed. As it retreated behind the clouds it made a soft, high-pitched whine.

Then she was alone. Standing in a waft of hot peppery air. She was relieved that the attracting power of the green lights had gone, but didn’t know what to do next. Eventually, she finished milking the cows.

“While I was milking I kept wondering and felt a bit shaken and puzzled, and did not quite know what to do about it.’’

She returned to the house and woke her husband Frederick to tell him what she had seen. She feared he would laugh at her, but he took her seriously and asked if she had called the police.

She rang the police at 7am.

Woodbourne commanding officer Arthur Gainsford visited the farm and interviewed Moreland later that day.

Her husband Frederick had told Gainsford about his wife’s claims that morning.

Gainsford found Moreland calm and rational. Local police told him she was ‘’a rational and stable person from their personal knowledge of her when she was of assistance to them on another matter.’’

He also found a second witness. A local farmer called Roy Holdaway, who lived about seven kilometres from Moreland’s house, saw a bright light in the sky about 30 minutes before Moreland’s sighting.

The claim attracted publicity. Moreland gave an extensive interview to the Nelson Evening Mail about her sighting. On July 22, the paper ran a story under the headline: “Went to Milk Cows, this is what Blenheim woman said she saw.’’

But Moreland did not tell the journalist about the one-handed man emerging from the craft. For now, she kept that detail to herself.

Moreland was not alone in claiming to see lights in the sky in 1950s New Zealand. Newspapers were filled with people adamant they had seen unusual craft.

Each witness saw different shaped objects in the sky. One was shaped like “a rolled up newspaper’’. There was a lizard, a stingray, a horseshoe, a silver cigar, or a “flying barrel”. Many claimed to see balls of light travelling through the night sky. Some were green, others were orange or red.

Some described their sightings with a new term recently imported from the United States.

They called them flying saucers.

The New Zealand Air Force was curious about the sightings and wanted to find out what was happening in their airspace.

In 1952, Air Force sergeant Harold Fulton established the Civilian Saucer Investigation to “prove or disprove the existence of flying saucers’’. He claimed to have 350 members in 1956, including one former MP, and had logged 700 sightings by 1957.

In 1953, the Air Force’s director of intelligence paid five shillings to subscribe to Fulton’s quarterly UFO newsletter.

‘’The reports of your society are read with interest,’’ he wrote.

In 1956, Civil Aviation Minister Thomas Shand believed the subject of flying saucers “always appears to present a new aspect full of interest and mystery’’.

The Air Force took Moreland’s claim seriously enough to appoint Flight Lieutenant Charles Milford Jennings to investigate.

He was a good choice. The 34-year-old had been in the Air Force for 16 years and was a decorated officer. He was awarded a British Empire Medal in 1953 for working 72 hours straight repairing planes during World War Two. He went to England to personally receive his honour from the Queen.

Jennings began as an instrument fitter for the Air Force and was now in charge of instruments and electrics on all aircraft at Woodbourne. He was a North Island boy, born in Raetihi near Ohakune, who had moved from Auckland to Woodbourne with his wife and three children in May that year. He had spent five months in Woodbourne the year before.

Jennings looked like a classic Air Force officer with his dashing looks, slicked back hair and light brown eyes.

He was curious about the rash of sightings, but wanted to apply scientific rigour to the subject.

His son, Leigh Jennings, remembers his father as practical, but open-minded.

“He was a technical person and to do that you have to use logic to work things through,’’ he says.

“But, at the same time, he was particularly open-minded, especially for his generation. He did a bit of yoga here and there. He cooked from time to time. This was at a time when men didn’t really go into the kitchen.’’

He was also a hobbyist writer and painted abstract oil paintings that still hang on his children’s walls.

His oldest son, Wayne Jennings, remembers how his father approached problems.

“Agnostic was his basic stance on life. Give me the evidence and I will tell you what I think.

‘’He had a real scientist’s mind. He used to say that there is nothing more exciting in life than being on the cutting edge of knowledge.

“Something like a UFO wasn’t going to completely and utterly bamboozle him.’’

But Jennings was sceptical about people who believed the rash of sightings were proof of alien life. He dismissed the Civilian Saucer Investigation group as unscientific.

“Its publications fall far short of scientific investigation … [because of] far too much emotive language and potted thinking,’’ he wrote in his investigation file.

He would prove his objective approach two years later when he investigated another sighting. In June 1961, a pilot at Woodbourne claimed to see a “bright opalescent green disc’’ in the sky and felt a pain in his eyes afterwards.

Jennings solved the puzzle. The pilot had an eye infection.


But the Moreland case was tougher. Gainsford later wrote that Jennings took the case seriously.

“Jennings has spent considerable private time on this matter. He is prepared to turn out at any hour of the day or night to personally investigate further incidents.’’

His son, Wayne Jennings, said his father spent a lot of time on the case.

“He must have spent quite a long time interviewing [Moreland] because my mother was very suspicious of their relationship.’’

His investigation was coloured by the anxieties of 1950s New Zealand. Cold War paranoia, nuclear fears and worries over new technology all played a role in his inquiries.

In 1954, the director of Wellington’s Carter Observatory, Ivan Thomsen, neatly summarised the way these fears affected thinking about flying saucers.

‘’In a world frightened by atomic bombs, amazed by phenomenal aircraft performances, becoming used to thoughts of space travel and living in part in an atmosphere of comic strip nonsense, the alleged ‘flying saucer’ phenomena have developed a form of mass hysteria.’’

A headline in the Auckland Star in 1954 was more succinct.

“Has Russia got atomic saucers?”

Jennings first interviewed Moreland ten days after the sighting. He took along an audio oscillator machine, which could generate different musical tones, in order to find out the exact tone of the aircraft’s engine.

His summary of the interview is packed with details about the size and shape of the craft. The report notes the craft tilted at an angle of 15 degrees before it shot away and that it hummed at a frequency of 250 Hertz.

Moreland did not mention the one-handed man in her interview and Jennings sensed she was holding something back.

“Can I get more out of her?” he wrote in his notes.

But he believed her account.

“Mrs Moreland did not convey to me any impression of being excitable by nature. She was helpful and, I believe, quite honestly convinced that she did in fact see a craft,’’ he wrote to Gainsford.

‘’Her statement stands up in all respects.’’

The craft Moreland described would have been familiar to people in the 1950s. Flying saucers were a vivid part of the popular imagination from countless sightings and science fiction movies.

Jennings even looked for possible new technologies similar to what Moreland had described. He kept a newspaper clipping in his file about two “flying saucers’’ being developed in the US and Britain. But the “flying saucers’’ were in fact early prototypes of the hovercraft and only capable of very noisily hovering a few metres off the ground.

But the idea that Moreland had seen some kind of experimental military aircraft was not outrageous. Anything seemed possible in the 1950s.

The skies above New Zealand were filled for the first time with exotic new technology, capable of unprecedented speed and performance.

In 1955, numerous people reported seeing strange “flying pencils’’ over the West Coast of the South Island. It turned out they were the Air Force’s new Vampire jets, screaming across the South Island sky.

Moreland referred to Vampire jets in her interview with Jennings. The jets, first introduced in New Zealand in 1951, sometimes used Woodbourne air base.

She said the craft shot away at a speed “that would make a Vampire look like it was standing still.’’

In a further sign of his commitment to the case, one day Jennings took a geiger counter to Moreland’s paddock at 3am and waited there until dawn to see if he could detect anything.

He was clearly troubled by the prospect that Moreland may have been exposed to radiation from the craft. Especially since Moreland had developed physical symptoms after the sighting.

The backs of her hands were painful. Blisters popped up like pimples on her hands, lower lip and back. If she scratched them, watery residue came out. Then more would come up.

She had a painful swelling under her left eye and a small patch, like a brown mole, appeared on her forehead. She did not want to consult a civilian doctor, and would only see Woodbourne’s medical officer if the matter was “kept highly confidential’’.

“The symptoms shown could of course be self-induced due to nervous strain,’’ Gainsford wrote.

The blisters and the mole faded after six months.

The consequences of radiation exposure were well known to people living through the Cold War and the nuclear face off between the US and Russia.

Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach was a best-seller in New Zealand and had vividly popularised the deadly consequences of a nuclear conflict.

Kiwi soldiers had officially observed British and US nuclear tests from 1956 to 1958 in Australia, the Pacific and Nevada.

Recently restored film of a US nuclear test witnessed by Kiwis at Eniwetok Atoll in 1958.

Jennings wrote a report on the sighting claim which was sent to squadron leader James McClymont. He replied within the day.

“Due to the absence of corroborative evidence, the report does not appear to warrant further action,’’ he wrote.

It seemed like the case was dead.

But about a week later, the Marlborough Express ran two stories about locals seeing a green light in the sky at about 6.50pm on August 7.

Jennings tracked down three of the witnesses and interviewed them. A woman told him she was looking for her newspaper on the front lawn in the dark.

“Gradually I began to be able to see details around me more clearly, I noticed my paper, picked it up, and thought: ‘That’s funny, where’s the light coming from?’ she told Jennings.

“So I looked up and saw a green ball of light.’’

She said it was a “bright, richly emerald green’’.

“I had the thing in view for several seconds and got the impression that it was tumbling over or spinning, but much faster than it was going along.’’

An Air Force officer also saw a “vivid green sphere’’ that “lit up the ground so that I could see all the road.’’

“The object was rotating … it looked rather like a catherine wheel firecracker when lit.’’

“I cannot really describe the green colour, because it was unlike any other green I have seen. It was vivid indeed though.’’

It must have sounded familiar to Jennings.

Then there was another break in the case. Moreland finally told Jennings about the man in the silver suit with one hand.

A clipping from this Life magazine cover was in the Jennings investigation file.

The silver suit Moreland described was a familiar symbol of the space age. In January 1958, about 18 months before Moreland’s sighting, US test pilot Scott Crossfield appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine wearing a shiny silver pressure suit, helmet and black gloves. The suit was almost exactly the same as the one she described. Jennings kept a clipping of that LIFE magazine cover in his file.

Moreland also told Jennings how the man shouted at her in a foreign language. Jennings thought it may have been Russian.

The new details were taken seriously. The security classification on the sighting was raised from confidential to secret, meaning they felt it could ‘raise international tensions’’.

All communication about the sighting was hand-written to avoid typists reading the details. Moreland was told to “keep her information to herself’’. Only three people knew about the man in the suit - Moreland, Jennings and Gainsford.

The merest hint of Russian involvement was enough to prompt an urgent response. The Cold War fight against Russia was very real in 1950s New Zealand. Kiwi soldiers fought in the American war against Communist insurgents in Malaya from 1956 to 1960, with fifteen losing their lives.

The chill of the Cold War was also felt in Blenheim. Long range Canberra bombers, purchased to make sure New Zealand was ready to fight a possible war against Communist China, were serviced at Woodbourne. The CIA’s secret airline had also operated from Woodbourne in 1951.

Britain's long-range nuclear bomber, the Avro Vulcan, landed at Woodbourne air base in 1956 for the locals to have a look.

The Vulcan towered over Blenheim locals who flocked to see this Cold War emblem of power.

The Marlborough Express ran a story just 10 days after Russia launched its Sputnik satellite in October 1957. It was about a "Russian satellite" that had been left on their doorstep. It turned out the item, which bore a crudely painted hammer and sickle along with the words "Return to Moscow", was just a ventilator from a Blenheim building.

Moreland’s new claim, along with annotated drawings, was sent to Air Force headquarters on August 20. Gainsford vouched for Jennings’ objectivity, writing that he “had no previous interest in matters of this nature and commenced his task with an open mind’’.

Wing commander GS Martin’s response was withering and brought the investigation to a close.

“The only possible conclusion to be drawn from the evidence is that Mrs Moreland was hallucinating, or that her story is an imaginative exaggeration of a normal subjective experience, and that there was in fact no such visitation by an object as described in the report.’’

Martin said the other sightings in August “have no apparent relationship to the Moreland report, but fit neatly with a description of Venus shining through a diffuse layer of high cloud or ice crystals, and seen through a layer of lower broken cloud, the latter being under the influence of a northwesterly airstream.’’

Records show that Venus would have appeared very bright and low in the sky on the night the witnesses saw the green light. Astronomer Marcel Minnaert writes that Venus can “turn from dull red to green as it meets the horizon’’ and can appear to move as it is diffracted through the atmosphere.

“The planet Venus, seen against the purple twilight sky, can also appear emerald green.’’

Moreland’s claims created a swirl of gossip in the small town of Blenheim.

On July 28, the Marlborough Express ran an article dispelling “rumours that have spread rapidly to the effect that the flying object left behind it a patch of scorched ground and that the area has been cordoned off by the Police and Air Force.’’

“[Police] were treating the matter ‘with a certain amount of reserve’, although, owing to the number of previous reports having been sighted in various parts of the country, they could not discount the matter entirely,’’ the newspaper reported.

The ground may not have been scorched, but Moreland later told reporters that a row of peach trees in the paddock died. When the trees were cut up for firewood, the cores of the branches were “black ash - like soot’’. The top branches of a walnut tree in the paddock also died.

On August 26, Moreland received a poison pen letter. It simply stated:

"You have talked."

The fallout from the sightings affected Moreland’s children. Moreland’s son-in-law, Donald Parker, said that years later his wife did not want to speak about the experience.

“With my wife, you didn’t dare talk about it,’’ he said.

“She was embarrassed by it.

“I don’t know if they believed it or not.’’

There is a strange epilogue to the 1959 sighting.

In March 1960, Moreland made another claim. This time she said she saw distant lights in the sky.

Jennings was given the case again and interviewed Moreland before filing a report to Gainsford. Moreland demanded absolute privacy on the matter and was given assurances the Air Force would never release any files or speak publicly on the matter. Gainsford wrote in a memo:

“The previous incident was the cause of considerable publicity, much of which was of a derogatory nature, due in part to a press statement issued by Moreland.’’

Jennings’ report on the 1960 sighting has never been released.

The Air Force would spend the next 50 years keeping the 1959 Moreland sighting and the following investigation under wraps.

They lied to keep it secret.

Internal memos reveal the Air Force attitude to sightings noticeably hardened from the 1960s onwards. What in the 1950s felt like one of many new frontiers to be conquered now felt like an irritating waste of time and an intellectual dead end.

Responding to public questions about sightings was considered a “remarkable exercise in the wasting of time’’ and “tedious and unproductive’’ by the 1980s, memos show.

Pilots were discouraged from reporting sightings to their superiors by the late 1970s. When researcher Herbert Taylor requested the Moreland files in 1969, internal memos show a reluctance to tell him anything.

“This character has written before. I would be inclined to give him the gentle but firm brush,’’ reads one handwritten note on the letter.

“Why admit there was an investigation? I would be inclined to leave it,’’ reads another.

Taylor’s request was declined. In later years, squadron leader CD Cole just denied the report existed.

“We do not have files on UFO encounters,’’ he wrote in 1981.

“A search of our records cannot locate any reference … to the sighting by Mrs Moreland,’’ he wrote in another letter.

Senior Air Force officers and the Secretary of Defence would unfairly cast doubt on Moreland’s credibility and paint Jennings as a biased investigator.

Air Marshal Richard Bolt wrote to Radio New Zealand in 1979:

“The evidence suggests that Moreland was in an emotionally unstable condition at the time.’’

A letter from Secretary of Defence McClean to the Ombudsman in 1979 claimed Jennings “allowed his obvious interest to reflect and to strengthen Moreland’s convictions.”

In 1979, a journalist requested the Moreland report. The request was refused on the grounds that Moreland was given an assurance of confidentiality about the sighting. Internal minutes show they knew this response was not true. It only applied to the 1960 sighting.

“In regard to the original sighting in July 1959, she was not given a personal assurance of confidentiality, rather she was told by the RNZAF investigating officer 'to keep her information to herself',” the minute states.

A request for the report in 1983 was also refused. The decision was appealed to Chief Ombudsman George Laking.

The Secretary of Defence wrote to Laking in 1984 arguing the document should be withheld because otherwise the defence force would be overwhelmed with requests from “the eccentric hobbyist and the more extreme believers in visitations from outer space’’ and “those for whom UFOs … will explain all the mysteries of the universe.’’

‘’The ministry should not in my view willingly get drawn into the pursuit of chimera and should avoid providing fuel for fevered imaginations.’’

The Ombudsman was swayed by the argument and the report was not released.

The majority of the Moreland files, along with thousands of files on UFO sightings dating back to the 1940s, were eventually released to the public in 2010 after multiple Official Information Act requests. The year before, a spokesman for the Air Force told a North & South journalist that it held no files on UFOs.

Some files on the Moreland case will not be released until 2070.

Herbert Taylor wrote to the Air Force requesting the Moreland files in November 1969.

An internal Air Force memo suggests giving him the "gentle but firm brush"

Another memo asks: "Why admit there was an investigation?"

Taylor's request is turned down.

The sighting would haunt the man who investigated the claim - Flight Lieutenant Charles Milford Jennings.

He retired from the Air Force in 1974 at the age of 50. He had reached the rank of Wing Commander after 31 years of service.

He did not speak to his two sons about the sighting claim while he was still in the Air Force. He later deflected their questions by saying he was still bound by the Official Secrets Act, which he signed on retirement.

His son, Leigh Jennings, said he “talked about it very briefly.’’

“All he could really say was that he was sure that the witness fully believed their story,’’ he says.

“He was sure they were not bullshitting. That was his take on it.’’

His other son, Wayne Jennings, said his father pondered on the case in later life.

He was fascinated by the 1979 Kaikoura Lights case, where a film crew flying from Blenheim to Christchurch filmed lights that tracked their plane for hours.

He also sought out a 1968 book by New Zealand pilot Bruce Cathie called Harmonic 33. In the book, Cathie plots UFO sightings on a New Zealand map and concludes they conform to a “systematic grid pattern.’’

Cathie concludes that “interplanetary spaceships’’ have constructed a world grid system from which they can draw power and navigate the globe. He claimed his findings “provided a key that may unlock the secret of UFOs’’.

Jennings would have been interested to discover that Blenheim played a key role in Cathie’s “world grid”.

“Even before the advent of ordinary aircraft in New Zealand, this area had been visited by saucers. Many recent sightings suggested again that this area had something special about it,’’ Cathie wrote.

Wayne Jennings said his father had thought deeply about the sighting.

“I asked him if he believes in UFOs and he said he had an open mind. It was an unexplained phenomenon.

“At the end, he leaned towards the idea that this was an alien presence of some sort.’’

“He believed her.’’

In later life, Jennings took up writing. His children never got a chance to read his work. Shortly before his death in 1999, he destroyed all of it.


Moreland never spoke publicly about the one-handed man emerging from the craft and how the sighting had impacted on the rest of her life.

And she never would.

She died in a rest home in Oamaru in 2016. She was 99 years old.

Her family were also reluctant to talk. One of her daughters did not want to talk about the sighting. She wanted her mother remembered as a kind and hard working woman.

Only Moreland’s name at the time of the sighting has been used in this story to respect the family’s wishes. This story has been constructed using interviews Moreland gave to UFO investigators and journalists from the 1970s to the 1990s, interviews with family members and historic Air Force files.

In 1979, the Government asked Moreland about the possibility of releasing its files on her sighting claim.

“After 20 years, a new name, and a new place of abode, I was hoping to sink into oblivion, but somehow I have been found,’’ she wrote in reply.

‘‘If you have knowledge of the full events of that awful morning, you will realise, that to suggest that the UFO people are friendly is a laugh, as I know full well.’’

“I am 20 years older, have a full life, and enjoying life in general. I just couldn’t bear to be put through the mill again.’’

Her desire to be left alone stands in strange contrast to her decision just a few months earlier, in July 1978, to grant a television interview about her claims.

At about this time, Moreland’s story became part of global UFO folklore. In November 1975, US comic book UFOs: Flying Saucers ran a strange comic strip version of the incident.

A very glamorous Moreland encounters two men in spacesuits when setting out to milk the cows. She fears for her cow Bessie as the green light stalks her farm. When the spacecraft departs “Mrs Moreland is left with the memory of an experience she can never fully explain to anyone’’.

The family kept quiet about the sighting claims. Some of Moreland’s children kept the sighting secret from her grandchildren. They didn’t want them to think less of their grandmother.

Donald Parker visited Moreland in a rest home in 2015.

“I brought the sighting up when I saw her. I mentioned it and her daughter was behind her, out of sight of her mother, and she shook her head in a way that said: ‘Don’t talk about that.’

“I didn’t say any more about it.’’

In the years since the 1959 sighting, the Moreland family farm in Blenheim was slowly carved into smaller pieces and lost to development. The family had sold the farm and moved away by the early 1970s.

The paddock where Moreland claimed to have seen the craft has since been carved into small suburban plots. In 2017, houses had not yet been built on the exact spot where this strange story unfolded. That spot remained empty.

Just like the Moreland family farm, the past has been gradually lost. It gets harder to make out the details.

There was only one person who knew the truth.

The full story of the lights, and the shadows they cast, died with her.

Words & video: Charlie Gates
Design & animations: John Cowie
Illustrations: Alistair Hughes