Aug 31, 2021 I Brent Swancer

Some Bizarre and Controversial UFO Photos from the 1970s and 80s

It might seem hard to believe in this day and age, but there was a time when photographs of UFOs held some amazement and awe, a time before photoshop and video manipulation made fakes and hoaxes commonplace and ruined the veracity of photographic evidence in general. I have recently done some articles on UFO photos and footage from the 1950s, as well as from the 1960s, going back in time to a sort of golden era of UFO photography. Here we will look at a selection of some compelling such cases from the 1970s and the 1980s, still before the dawn of mass manipulation of photographs.

In 1970, an unnamed couple were out boating at Tagish Lake, in Yukon Territory, Canada, when they had a strange experience they would never forget. They were out on the lake with another couple in a separate boat, with the two men involved identified in the original report by just their first names, Jim and George, and at 10 a.m. Jim and his wife reportedly saw seven eerie glowing yellow spheres floating over the lake and on the mountainside, each one described as being around 4 feet in diameter. Three of the orbs were apparently hovering about further back on the mountain, while the other four moved slowly over the water before joining the others, after which they moved off out of sight. Luckily, Jim was able to snap a photograph of the strange objects, but it would turn out that his friend George and his wife had not been paying attention and had not seen the objects.

Jim went about making slides of the photograph and gave one to George, who was amazed by what he saw and sent a duplicate to the Weather Office, who then submitted it the Department of National Defence in Ottawa, and after that this particular slide seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. For a full year nothing more was heard on the matter, and when George contacted the Department of Defence to ask about what they had found in their analysis, they ominously told him it was classified and would say nothing more about it. Another slide was analyzed by the ufobc in great depth, and they were unable to explain it away as just a trick of light or reflections off the mountain rocks. As to what the photos actually show and what happened to the slide given to the Department of Defence, it remains unknown. You can read a detailed analysis of the photos here.

The Tagish Lake photo

From 1971 there is a curious photograph taken by a witness named Rudi Nagora, of Munich, Germany, who on May 23, 1971 was vacationing with his wife near St. Lorenzen, Austria, when he had a rather bizarre experience. At about 12:30 p.m., they stopped their car and Nagora got out to walk around a bit, and that’s when he allegedly heard a strange whizzing sound from above. When he looked up to the sky, he saw a metallic silver disc reflecting the sunlight as it flew along in an erratic zig-zag pattern. It was weird enough that he quickly grabbed his camera and snapped a full roll of 12 exposures of the object before it suddenly shot up into a bank of clouds above it and disappeared. What would go on to be known as the Nagora photographs would go on to be widely touted as some of the best photos of a UFO ever taken, and have never been fully explained.

One of the Nagora photos

Some of the most controversial UFO photos ever taken come from the 1970s, originating with a man named Eduard “Billie” Albert Meier. A purported alien contactee from the age of 5 years old, he claims that he had been regularly visited by humanoid aliens from the Pleiadian star cluster, taught about all manner of wisdom and wonders and assigned as their representative on Earth. Being a mediator for them seems to have had its perks, because according to him they regularly allowed him to photograph their spaceships, to the tune of a total of over a thousand crystal clear photographs of them. When they were first released they were impressive for their clarity and the sheer number of them, but of course they were picked apart by skeptics and quickly deemed to be a hoax. Meier himself has always defended them as genuine, and although today they are mostly regarded as fake even within the UFO community, at the time they were a big deal and caused a lot of waves, being perhaps the most instantly recognizable and most famous UFO photographs of not only the 1970s, but any era. You can read more about Billy Meier and his photos in much more detail in my article on it here.

One of Meir's many, many photos

Going into the 80s we have another famous and very clear photograph taken by a Mrs. Hannah McRoberts, of Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada. In October of 1981, she was on vacation with her family on the rugged east coast of Vancouver Island, and their weeklong stay would turn out to be far from just a normal family trip. For the first few days, things went normally, they went hiking and took various photos of the surrounding scenery, but then on October 8 they looked out towards one of the mountains and noticed that there was something very odd about it, in that it seemed to have a crown of anomalous looking clouds at its peak, which reminded them of a “volcano issuing steam.” At the time they took a photograph of the strange sight and then didn’t think much of it, thinking it to just be an odd cloud formation. However, things would get very weird when the photos were developed.

When the picture of that cloud-wreathed mountain came back, they were astounded to see that the photograph had also captured an unidentified object to the right of and above the peak and the cloud. It was very clear in contrast to the blue sky, and appeared to be a disc-shaped solid object, not a camera artifact or trick of light, and it was very strange indeed. The photo would find its way to Richard F. Haines, Editor of the Journal of Scientific Exploration for analysis. Haines would deduce that indeed the object was not a result of “emulsion deformity or optical illusion of the camera's inner mechanisms,” and he would not be able to find any evidence of trickery or of a hoax. Haines would also interview the family in depth and deem them to be reliable and unlikely to be perpetrating a hoax. Haines would say:

Analyses of the original negative included micro-densitometry, computer enhancements, and other measurements intent upon showing a support thread, atmospheric disturbance, or other evidence of a hoax. These analyses suggest that the disc was a three dimensional object located at a distance of at least 30 feet from the camera; the object's surface albedo was diffuse and of lower luminance than a sunlit cloud. Extensive interviews with the photographer (who never saw the aerial object), her husband, and daughter and site survey tended to support the entire narrative account. If this event had been a deliberate hoax, it is more likely that some overt action to capitalize on it might have been taken soon after the disc had been discovered, and not almost a year later. Of course this is not a conclusive argument to support this contention. The author found the photographer and her husband to be middle-class, hard-working people. Their property was well kept. Nothing could be found which pointed to a deliberate hoax. Both displayed genuine puzzlement about the origin of the disc on the photograph. Mr. and Mrs. D.M. were not defensive nor did they ever attempt to cover up anything as far as could be determined. The identity of the disc object remains unidentified.

The Hannah McRoberts photo

Moving on to 1989 we have another very intriguing photograph supposedly taken by a photographer on the night of July 14, 1989 in Nashville, Tennessee. On this evening, the unnamed witness was driving along a remote rural road when he noticed a a bright illumination beyond the trees. Since this was the middle of nowhere and there was no town there, he stopped the car and got out to investigate this weird light, taking his camera along with him. As he drew closer, the light rose up over the trees around 4 miles away, showing itself to be a bright flying object with some sort of coronal discharge around it, as well as shooting beams or flames of some sort below it, before slowly moving towards him as he began taking pictures of the amazing sight until he was out of film, after which the object flew off and went behind a mountain. A report on the incident by the National UFO Center would say of it:

The photographer states, "I had a feeling that the craft was behind the mountain waiting for me and when it appeared it felt like I was in another world, the sounds were far, far away." He looked at the object but could not see any definition, the light was far too bright and too far away. When he looked through the lens the craft was sharp and vivid. The craft was visible for more than five minutes, but less than ten. It seemed like forever. He changed the lens package from the T-90 to the AE-1 camera and continued shooting using all his film. He felt he was not in control of what was happening. He remembers constantly pushing the buttons on the back of the T-90, each time he made a change it sharpened the image. There were other witnesses, but they have been reluctant to come forward. They also were taking pictures, but the field around the craft interfered with the film as the craft moved away. They did not have high magnification lens so there was not enough definition to make the craft identifiable. The photographer has had a recent heart attack and an auto accident and does not want his name revealed.

One of the Tennessee photos

The photos would eventually be submitted by the photographer to his friend Commander Graham Bethune, of the US Navy, who would examine them and hold to them for a time before handing them over to the National UFO Center for their own analysis. The National UFO Center would deduce that the object was solid, about 100 feet in diameter, and at a distance of approximately 5 miles from the camera. One analysis describes the object in the photos as follows:

Analysis of the film shows unusual colors not normally seen in any lighted object. The colors indicate a coronal discharge similar to the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights.) The photographs show a craft with approximately 32 red, white and blue perimeter lights. These lights are not used in normal aircraft configuration. At times they appear all red. At other times they are all white. Sometimes outer perimeter lights appear mixed in color indicating they may have the ability to change color. Inside the outer perimeter lights are panels of lights. These also appear to have the ability to change color. Although they are predominantly white they are sometimes seen as partially red or black. Assuming the craft is 100 feet in diameter these outer panels take up about 40 feet or 20 feet on each side. Below the center of craft there appears to be a crystal or lights with crystal like appearance. Generally, these lights appear blue. craft appears to rotate in the photos.


Graham gave me his word that these were authentic photographs of an actual flying craft to the best knowledge. He has known the photographer for 24 years and the man worked for him for ten years. He has always been known to tell the truth and was of high character. The lights themselves have an unusual depth of color. When you look at a colored light it is normally a white light covered by a lens of red, yellow, green, blue etc. The lights on the craft appear as if the light contain the actual color. There is a vividness of color that is difficult to describe that appears to be in these photos. The fog or plasma is penetrated by the powerful lights shining downward. The lights extend down for an estimated seventy-five feet to one hundred plus feet and seem to stop abruptly. Duplication of this capability is exceptionally difficult to accomplish with any normal lights. I have never seen lights that have these properties except on a UFO, nor have I seen comparable photography.

These have just been a selection of some of the more interesting supposed UFO photos coming out of the 1970s and 80s, still in an era when photo doctoring techniques like photoshop were not available and when pictures were taken more seriously than they are now. We are perhaps beyond the days when any photo of a UFO means anything at all due to the ease with which they can be faked, and indeed those we have looked at here could very well be faked too, but it was an a different era when photos seemed to carry more weight. While those days are over it is interesting to look back at some of these photos and think that there was a time when these types of photos were not so common and not so easily faked. Real or not, they are a glimpse back in time to another age of ufology that is very much gone.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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