Join Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions! Subscribe Today!

The Mystery of the “Black Helicopters”: UFOs and Cattle Mutilations

Sightings of what have become known as “Black Helicopters” and “Phantom Helicopters” have been reported for decades. There’s no doubt, however, that the 1970s was the period when things really took off. In the latter part of 1973, a series of distinctly unusual events began to quietly unfold above the green fields and rolling hills of northern England that subsequently triggered a strange, and still-ongoing operation coordinated by an elite division of the British Police Force. Remarkably, that operation was (and, to an extent, still is) designed to carefully monitor the activities of certain key players within the public UFO research arena in Britain. And it all began with something known as the phantom helicopter. Of the varied elements that make up what is popularly known as the “UFO Phenomenon,”” there can be few so strange as the phantom helicopter and its close relative, the even-more-sinister black helicopter. For at least four decades, numerous people throughout the world have reported seeing helicopters, very often completely black in color and with no identifying markings, in areas that have been subjected to intense UFO activity. This has led a number of commentators to speculate that the helicopters are operated by covert groups from within the military-industrial complex and that they are involved in a surreptitious UFO monitoring program.

One of the most confounding features of numerous reports is the ability of the helicopters to operate in almost complete silence. To many, the idea of a “silent helicopter” is manifestly absurd. However, more than a decade ago the much-respected publication Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that: “…the U.S. military has been working for years on at least two helicopter projects. The more recent is development of a light, very quiet helicopter with a mast-mounted light.” (Aviation Week and Space Technology. Vol. 142, No. 6, 1995.) The magazine continued: “The program’s existence was under scored on Apr. 9, 1991, during an…interview with a former Lockheed official. When asked if he had heard of something called a ‘quiet helicopter,’ the official responded, ‘Absolutely…a very quiet helicopter. But I can’t talk [about it]; that’s getting into very sensitive [areas].” It is undoubtedly the case that the majority of phantom helicopter encounters originate in the United States, and it is worth examining the background to – and history of – this mystery before addressing the British angle.

One of the earliest episodes on record dates from 11 October 1966 and concerns a helicopter-UFO event at the Wanaque Reservoir, New Jersey. The encounter began with the sighting of a disc-shaped UFO by a number of policemen as it passed over the reservoir. Emitting a dazzling white light, the object then headed towards an area of forest where it was eventually lost from view. As soon as the UFO had vanished, however, at least ten aircraft, as well as six or seven helicopters suddenly appeared on the scene. The point of origin of the vehicles was never determined. On the night of 26 September 1974, a father and son, Walter and Dan Richley, saw a strange object hovering high above their farm at Lynchburg, Ohio. As there was a powerful searchlight mounted on the family’s pick-up truck, Walter and Dan decided – “as an experiment” – to try to get a better view of this object that was taking so much interest in their farm.

As the beam of light touched the UFO, the Richleys found themselves bathed in an equally bright beam of red light that emanated from the UFO. Frightened out of their wits, both father and son ran for the safety of their home. As they did so, the UFO began to retreat over the horizon until it finally disappeared from view. At 11.00 p.m. on the following night, Dan was sitting up in bed, reading, when he was suddenly jolted by a loud noise coming from outdoors. On running to the widow he was amazed to see a large helicopter descending. “I then got dad out of bed,” said Dan. Mr. Richley quickly assessed the meaning of the helicopter’s presence: “I think I put my light beam on something that was a military secret. That ‘copter came here to warn me.” The UFO researcher Leonard Stringfield, who conducted a personal investigation of the case, asked Walter Richley if he had received an apology or re-numeration for the damage caused by the helicopter as it blew debris around his yard. ““No, and I’m not about to press it; I’d rather forget it,” replied Richley.

Since at least 1967, the United States has been beset by a disturbing phenomenon: cattle mutilations. Exactly who, or indeed what, is responsible for the widespread killing of cattle under very bizarre circumstances is far from clear. On many occasions, farmers, police officers, and veterinarians throughout North America have come across cases where cattle have been subjected to unusual surgical procedures, such as having organs expertly removed and being completely drained of blood – and also in the exact locations where both UFO and phantom helicopter activity is prevalent, too. This has inevitably led to suspicions that extraterrestrials are engaged in a covert, and possibly sinister, program that may relate to the attempted introduction of a lethal virus of truly cosmic origins into the human food chain. The destruction of the human species in a War of the Worlds-style scenario may not be the only way to systematically wipe us out, adherents of such theories suggest.

A report from the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, dated 2 February 1979, lends credence to the possibility that the phantom helicopters are implicated in the cattle mutilation mystery to some degree; but suggests that the mutilators may have a far more down to earth point of origin, and may be utilizing the UFO mystery as a convenient cover for clandestine bacteriological and biological warfare activities: “For the past seven or eight years mysterious cattle mutilations have been occurring throughout the United State of New Mexico. Officer Gabe Valdez, New Mexico State Police, has been handling investigations of these mutilations within New Mexico. Information furnished to this office by Officer Valdez indicates that the animals are being shot with some type of paralyzing drug and the blood is being drawn from the animal after an injection of an anti-coagulant. It appears that in some instances the cattle’s legs have been broken and helicopters without any identifying numbers have reportedly been seen in the vicinity of the mutilations. Officer Valdez theorizes that clamps are being placed on the cow’s legs and they are being lifted by helicopter to some remote area where the mutilations are taking place and then the animal is returned to its original pasture. Officer Valdez is very adamant in his opinion that these mutilations are the work of the US Government and that it is some clandestine operation either by the CIA or the Department of Energy and in all probability is connected with some type of research into biological warfare.”

Cattle mutilations continue – albeit not on the scale that occurred in the 1970s. Black helicopters are also still seen. In other words, the mystery hasn’t gone away.


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
You can follow Nick on and