On the evening of June 26, 1959, an Anglican missionary named Rev. William Booth Gill was walking out of his house in Boainai, Papua New Guinea when he noticed a bright sparkling object in the sky. For the next four hours, Rev. Gill took notes and watched the light with more than 30 other witnesses. When it disappeared after 45 minutes, it came back with three smaller objects an hour later. This “mothership” flashed a blue light from the center of its deck, and the object was so close that Rev. Gill and the other observers could see four figures on top of it. By 11 PM, the ships had vanished, and a heavy rain began to fall from the sky.
The next night, Rev. Gill and some other missionaries saw the mothership near the same location of the first sighting, along with two other smaller UFOs. The four figures on top were again visible, and when Rev. Gill waved to one of the them, the figure waved back. Ananias Rarata, a native schoolteacher, began to wave too, and all four of the figures waved back for the next couple of minutes until they decided to go below deck. After a half hour, Rev. Gill left to go to dinner, and the other observers left to go to church. Nobody saw the UFOs for the rest of the evening, although there was an inexplicable explosion sound heard around 10:40 PM.
Rev. Gill’s sightings caused a lot of excitement in Australia. The Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society thought Rev. Gill’s detailed reports were final proof that UFOs existed. The members of Australia’s federal parliament all received copies of Rev. Gill’s report, and the government launched an investigation to determine what exactly Rev. Gill had seen.
The official conclusion was that Rev. Gill was a “reliable observer”, but that the incidents were probably nothing more than “natural phenomenon coloured by past events and subconscious influences of UFO enthusiasts.” Doubters thought that the objects were Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, and the “human shapes” were explained as “various cloud densities”.
Others thought Rev. Gill had made the story up entirely. Dr. Donald H. Menzel, a Harvard astronomer and notable UFO debunker, accused Gill of manipulating the testimony the “uneducated” natives had given. He also thought Rev. Gill wasn’t wearing his glasses at the time, and claimed that the position of Venus was left unmentioned in Gill’s reports. J. Allen Hynek, another astronomer and the head of the Center for UFO Studies, rebuked Menzel, and noted that Rev. Gill was wearing his glasses at the time and had, in fact, identified Venus in his reports.
Before his sightings, Rev. Gill initially considered himself a skeptic. There had been sightings of strange lights across Papua New Guinea since the past year, some of which had been reported by missionaries. In a letter written the day before his first sighting (but never seen sent), Rev. Gill told his friend Rev. David Durie that he believed UFOs were “more likely some form of electric phenomena- or something brought about by the atom bomb explosions etc.”
After a lifetime of teaching and traveling, Rev. Gill passed away at the age of 79 on June 13, 2007.