Two personal accounts of UFO related events in the Gisborne/East Coast areas of the North Island during a time of intense activity.

The Gisborne ‘UFO Flap’, 1977-80

Two Personal Accounts From the Gisborne UFO Flap, late 70s to early 80s

The Tokomaru Bay Illuminated Valley


The late 70s and early 80s heralded a time of intense UFO activity around the city of Gisborne and in the East Coast region north of Gisborne, North Is, NZ, and in particular, in the Waimata Valley and surrounding rural areas. This quickly became known as the ‘Gisborne UFO Flap’, although similar UFO ‘flaps’ were occurring worldwide at that time, and the renowned NZ ‘Kaikoura Lights’ sightings occurred in December 1978.

The Gisborne UFO flap was characterized by sightings of humanoid figures in silver suits (seen by ordinary farming folk); unusual shaped, matt or shiny metallic craft; huge areas of blazing white or orange light covering whole valleys or hillsides; strange aerial buzzing, cracking or exploding sounds (sometimes emanating from visible craft); and reports of abduction experiences. The local ‘Gisborne Herald’ newspaper was able to print a veritable feast of newsworthy accounts over a period of months and a number of amateur investigation groups sprang to life. The major time of the flap occurred during 1978 and 79, and after that, reports began to drop off into the early 80s. The Gisborne flap never attained the worldwide notoriety of the Kaikoura lights, which had stunning film footage and ATC radar confirmation in its favour. However the sheer numbers (over 200 officially reported) of credible, everyday people in the Gisborne and East Coast areas who saw other-worldly objects and events in the sky, far outweighs any other UFO flap that has occurred in New Zealand. It also ushered in the beginning of ‘classic’ alien abduction experiences in NZ – the kind characterized by contact with ‘the greys’ (although we do have reports of earlier contact experiences).

East Coast Highway 35, North of Gisborne, March 1978

Taking the long way home

In 1978, my husband and I were living in a remote township on the East Coast and had been to the city of Gisborne for the day shopping. We had dinner in Gisborne, visited friends, and left at around 10.30pm on our 2 ½ -3 hour journey home. High up in the hills between Tologa Bay and Tokomaru Bay, there was an isolated part of the highway where the farmhouses were few and far between. From this vantage point, you could look out over a series of hills and valleys. We reached this point of the highway at around 11.30 at night, just over an hour out of Gisborne.

As we reached the high point of that stretch of road and proceeded over the brow of the hill, we were absolutely shocked to suddenly see a massive area of bright, white light emanate up into the air from the paddocks on the floor of a valley less than a kilometer away from us. It was as if someone had flicked a switch as we came over the hill – darkness, then sudden bright white light. The car stalled. At first we were stunned; what on earth could be making a glow like that? The valley floor itself was obscured from our vision by a couple of small hillocks or rises. On either side of these, we could see the sides of the valley lit up so clearly, that you could virtually see every tree on the hillsides, and lit so brightly, that they looked a silvery-white colour within this light. We had never, ever seen anything like it. It was brighter than the brightest daylight – but in fact it was a totally different kind of light altogether. The light was so intense, and seemed to permeate everything so completely, that there appeared to be no shadows and yet great detail was still distinguishable. It was as if the light was shining from every direction at once and yet at the same time it was clearly originating from something. Momentarily numb with disbelief, we stared at this strange, dense light – frightening in its intensity, and awesome in its magnitude.

Having gathered our wits somewhat, we began to panic like hell and yell at each other about what it could be, but the high strangeness of the situation quickly took over with surprise and confusion rapidly turning to shock and disbelief. We had no logical explanation for this spectacle and were so over-awed that we lowered our voices and began to speak in whispers. I was scared by the fact that we were in a very vulnerable position in the middle of nowhere with no phone to use if we needed help. I started panicking in case the car wouldn’t start again, and I said to my husband that we were definitely not going any further along the road towards that light until whatever it was went away, or until we knew what it was. I was even prepared to drive back to Gisborne. We looked back along the road hoping that some late-night traffic would be coming along, but none did. We were both very afraid and didn’t know what to do. My husband tried to reassure me (and himself) by saying that the light was probably caused by possum shooters with a spotlight! I think his rational mind was frantically searching for a familiar explanation or ‘box’ to slot the experience into so that he could deal with the sight before him. Well having lived in the country most of my life, I’d never seen a hunter’s spotlight that powerful, that it could light a whole valley brighter than daylight in every direction, and shine a couple of hundred feet up into the air as well!

Into the light?

While we were sitting there looking and whispering – a relatively short space of time – I began to notice that my arms and legs were starting to feel numb and tingly – like when you get ‘pins and needles’. My body suddenly felt very tired and ‘heavy’. The whole atmosphere began to change and feel very strange – quiet, distant, vague and otherworldly. Within seconds, I became aware of a deep buzzing sound, and at the same time I felt slightly dizzy and faint. As the buzzing rapidly increased, I began to try to tell my husband, wondering if he felt the same, but I found myself unable to move my limbs and I cannot remember ever finishing what I was trying to say.

My next recollection was of us both sitting very still in the car. There was no light to be seen – everything was in darkness. I felt drained. We both just sat staring out the front window of the car – I don’t know how long for. Eventually I must have collected my thoughts somewhat, because I can clearly recall taking out my handkerchief and wiping the inside of the windscreen (why I don’t know), but my husband seemed to be still and listless. I recall saying to him, “The light’s gone.” He didn’t move or reply so I said, “Shall we go now?” He mumbled, “Okay”. He started the car up, and we set off on the remainder of the journey. We must have had no energy or inclination to talk, because I remember traveling in silence.

Reality sets in

The next day we both felt extraordinarily tired, and attributed it to the fact that we had had a late night. I also experienced painfully sensitive hearing for several days and everyday noises caused considerable pain and reverberation in my eardrums. Any unexpected sounds frightened me causing my heart to race, my armpits to prickle in a cold sweat and my mouth to go quite dry (symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress), and I suffered several nosebleeds over a period of days. I felt startled all the time like a frightened rabbit but apart from feeling tired, my husband did not seem to suffer these effects. Early the next morning, I recalled the bright light in the valley and tried to talk to my husband about what he thought it could have been. He was apprehensive and did not want to discuss it at all, putting the incident in the ‘too-hard-basket’.

This attitude actually left me feeling very alone in my need for an explanation. For a long time after the incident, I replayed the drive from Gisborne and the strange event over and over in my mind. I could recall the spot where we were panicking one minute with the light in front of us, and then the light had gone and we were calmly driving away. There was clearly ‘something’ missing, the only indication being the somewhat incongruous and disjointed flow of events. To make matters worse, I had experienced something very similar on a rural road near Hastings in 1975.

The more I thought about all this, the more apprehensive I became. I stopped going out fishing at night for quite some time. Car lights shining on the windows of our house at night would send me running for cover, peering fearfully through a chink in the curtains to see what it was, even though my rational mind was telling me that it was only local farmers on their way to the pub after a hard days work!

There are a number of factors about this experience that stand out as being incongruous:

  1. We had several boxes of groceries in the car with us. I can recall our brief conversation in the car, and wiping the inside of the windscreen, yet I cannot remember ever putting the groceries away!
  2. I have never been able to remember many details of the journey home from that spot, or our arrival at home, other than our brief conversation in the car and the fact that we drove away calmly and in silence.
  3. I had no memory of the ‘light’ actually either going out, or leaving the area if it was in fact a landed UFO (craft).
  4. I have no memory of any other traffic – unusual for a main rural highway.
  5. The conversation that I recall – “The light’s gone”, “Shall we go now?”, “Okay,” seems very brief and understated for 2 people who have just witnessed such an unusual and frightening spectacle, and following this, we traveled the rest of the way home in silence! There was no discussion, no peering down the valley as we passed, no scanning of the sky. This was in stark contrast to the pandemonium that broke loose in the car when we first saw the light and the car stalled on the side of the road. Even the frightened whispering to follow, was in stark contrast to a calm and peaceful journey home.
  6. I could recall hearing the strange, deep buzzing sound, and from this time on, I became very jittery if I heard a sound that even vaguely resembled it.
  7. I could also recall having felt dizzy and faint, with tingling, immovable limbs just prior to losing memory/consciousness – not a normal occurrence on your way home from shopping!

I thought about this incident frequently for years and, along with other incidents, it had a huge impact on my life. Searching for a possible, rational explanation became important to me.

More lights

UFOCUS NZ has other reports from people living in the Gisborne/East Coast at the time, who experienced similar sightings of whole areas of land lit up by intense bright light, such as the two described below:
January 1978, two Waimata Valley families watched a bright object that gave out a beam of light that lit up an entire valley during a UFO sighting that lasted over an hour from 9.30 pm. The UFO repeated the manoeuvre several times. The witnesses had never seen light like it in their lives.
April 1978, a teacher described how she had got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Looking out her living room windows, she saw what she thought was the most beautiful moonlight she had ever seen, shining down along the entire line of hills behind the house; very bright, white light, illuminating and defining every tree and rocky outcrop clearly. There was some ‘movement’ or swirling of the light, which she thought was caused by wisps of cloud passing. She woke her husband to see this amazing moonlit sight, but he told her there was no moon that night. She returned to the living room, noticing that all was now very dark and there was no moon. She could think of no explanation for what she had witnessed.

The ‘Sheep Truck’ Incident  East Coast, North Island, New Zealand, August 1978.

By Suzanne Hansen Director UFOCUS NZ Research Network
Copyright © Suzanne Hansen 2007

In 1978, we were living on the East Coast north of Gisborne. Our house was situated on a road a couple of hundred meters back from the sea. Between our house and the small settlement there were several large paddocks, with hills beyond. On this occasion, following a normal evening at home, we went to bed and fell asleep.

At some time during the night, I suddenly awoke. When I say ‘suddenly’, I mean instantly and completely awake and alert. There was no slow drowsy awakening or half awake / half asleep state. All was quiet. For a moment I stared into the darkness (there was no moon) and wondered what had woken me up. I turned the lamp on briefly to see what the time was – it was 1.25 am. I noticed a sudden slight vibration of the objects on my dressing table next to the bed and the lid of my china jewelry box began to tinkle and annoy me. I reached out and straightened it. These familiar signs immediately explained to me why I had woken up (or so I thought at that moment). Earthquakes ranging from small shudders to prolonged and pronounced quakes were a reasonably common occurrence in the East Coast area, and I expected that one was about to occur.

Within seconds, I noticed that objects right throughout the house were rattling, and I was surprised that my husband was still sleeping through it. I waited, half expecting to hear the rumbling noise that sometimes preceded a big, rolling quake, and sure enough, there was a faint humming sound coming from an easterly direction beyond the township. The vibrating noises in the house increased in intensity, but I couldn’t understand why objects were not actually falling off the shelves. It was creepy and I tried to wake my husband, but without success. He continued sleeping like a log despite the fact that I shook him and spoke to him as well. This alone was very unusual and unsettled me.

I think that the next few seconds will be imprinted on my mind forever. With a rising sense of panic and confusion, I realized that this was not the usual rumbling noise accompanying some earthquakes. The humming sound had increased, or been over-ridden by an electronic-type, fast frequency, penetrating buzz. The vibrations seemed to be running through everything – the bed, the walls, the sheets and blankets, my arms, legs, my entire body. It was as if every atom was dancing and humming in every object. This was not an earthquake. Listening intently, I realized that the buzzing noise was actually airborne and approaching our house over the paddocks. I was very frightened and terrible thoughts of an aircraft crashing into our house flashed through my mind as I searched for an explanation.

The impulse to leap out of bed and look out the window vanished with the shocking realization that I could no longer move. Try as I may, I could not move any part of my body except my eyes and my head. Nor could I utter a sound. I wanted desperately to call out to my husband, but was incapable of doing so. The ‘buzzing’ noise had increased so much in intensity that it was unbearable and I thought my head would burst.

Whatever ‘it’ was, it was now directly over the house, and making a noise now resembling a metallic grinding sound. With it came the light – the brightest light imaginable glaring through the edges of the curtains, and shining through every fibre of the fabric. I managed to turn my head away from the window in the direction of the hall. Great shafts of light were shining in all directions from the uncovered windows in the laundry and kitchen. I was terrified at the thought that there was a UFO out there (the only explanation that seemed feasible in those seconds of time), but then, quite suddenly from that point, I have absolutely no memory of what happened next.

At some stage I recall lying in bed feeling a bit confused. I thought that I must have just woken up. Slowly it dawned on me that there was light outside and the chilling memory of that blinding light and the overpowering noise came flooding back and I was immediately thrown into terror again. I tried to turn over to wake my husband, who seemed to be in a deep sleep, and (re)discovered that I could not move! The unusual thought sprang into my mind that I ‘must not move or make any sound’. If I moved then ‘they’ would know (who were ‘they’?). ‘Their’ instruments would sense the movement (where did this knowledge originate from?). I could see light (nowhere near as bright as before, and there was now no noise) filtering through the curtains, so ‘they’ must still be there!

I do not know how long I lay there in absolute anguish, waiting and fearing that ‘something’ might happen, but not really knowing what. The thought never crossed my mind that ‘something’ may have already happened. Finally I regained movement in my limbs. However, it was still several minutes before I could summon enough courage to override the absolute fear of moving my whole body. At last I threw myself at my husband, shaking him and sobbing, until much to my relief, he finally woke up. What must have sounded like a very garbled explanation poured out of me. I was frightened by the light outside and I insisted he look out of all the windows and go out onto the porch to scan above the house as well. I was sure that there was a UFO (craft) either above our house, or landed in the paddock next door. My husband commented later, that had he not seen my face, he might have just laughed and thought it was all a joke. However, when he saw my absolute terror, he thought he had better sit up and take notice. I was shocked when he told me that it was after daybreak (6.30-7.00 am), and that the sun was coming up. I couldn’t believe it! Where had the hours of night gone since I looked at my clock at 1.25 am?

Following my first awakening at 1.25 am and the arrival of a blinding light and unbearable buzzing noise, there was a huge blank in my memory, preceding a second ‘awakening’ with the same paralysis and fear, what must have been some hours later. After these traumatic incidents I felt jittery and shaken. I suffered extraordinary fatigue for several days, with super sensitive hearing, and a severe nose bleed. My mouth dried up and my hands perspired every time I thought about the experience (Post Traumatic Stress?).

We discussed what might have caused the incidents. My husband felt it must have been an earthquake, but he could not account for the accompanying bright light and noise. I was afraid it was a UFO (‘craft’), but could not imagine why one would hover over our house! My husband just didn’t want to even entertain that idea. After talking to friends and locals throughout the day, and after listening to radio and TV and not hearing any reference to an earthquake anywhere around New Zealand, it became obvious that this was an incident for the ‘too hard box’. Possible logical explanations, ranging from thunder over the hills to bad dreams, just simply did not match up with the full details of what I had experienced.

In the end, my husband came up with the idea I had heard a sheep truck rumble its way along the airstrip road near our house in the early hours of the morning, and that was what had woken me. I pointed out that sheep trucks are not airborne; do not shine brilliant lights through windows on all sides of a house at once; do not make unbearably loud buzzing noises above houses; do not paralyze people etc. But he was adamant and wanted an explanation that he could ‘deal with’. There was little point in pursuing the discussion and I was left feeling alone, afraid and helpless.

This experience had a dramatic effect on my life. I felt sure that something had happened to me during a time span that I could not recall. After all, why would anyone just go back to sleep in the middle of a strange and frightening experience? Some years later I read about ‘missing time’ as applied by author/researcher Budd Hopkins to alien abduction or close encounter contact experiences, and ‘the Oz factor’, an apparent altered state of consciousness sometimes accompanied by bodily paralysis and other symptoms often experienced prior to an abduction or alien encounter, as described by author/researcher Jenny Randle. These were the first explanations I had come across that matched perfectly, what I had experienced.

Some researchers and psychologists attempt to explain incidents of paralysis associated with alien abduction experiences as a phenomenon called ‘sleep paralysis’. This condition is characterized by temporary paralysis of the body shortly after waking up, or less often, before falling asleep. Sleep paralysis occurs when the brain awakes from an REM state into a normal awake state, but the bodily paralysis is still occurring. The person is unable to speak or move, and may experience auditory, tactile or visual hallucinations.

However, sleep paralysis fails to account for the many abduction cases involving the ‘Oz factor’ and associated paralysis, which occur in cars, out on the farm, in the daytime, etc. In the case of my experience, sleep paralysis does not apply. I was fully awake within a split second, but at that time, I was able to move – put on the lamp, attempt to wake my husband etc. I was not initially afraid, so the onset of paralysis was not caused by shock from a trauma. The paralysis began as the penetrating buzzing noise increased in intensity, and I believe that this was an EM frequency of some kind emitted by technology on a craft, that affects the subject physiologically and serves to render the intended subject incapable of resistance; unconscious or in an altered state of consciousness that does not allow recall of following events. It may involve technology specific to intended ‘targets’. Other people in close proximity to the intended subject are often ‘switched off’ by similar technology or effects. Abductees/experiencers often report that people accompanying them either do not wake, or are rendered immobile and unaware just prior to the abduction occurring. The sound or frequency may not be audible to others at a distance from the ‘target’.

In 1978, this kind of technology would have been unheard of other than in sci-fi movies. However in 2001/02, researchers developed technology that can project a beam of sound so narrow that only one person can hear it. Nicknamed ‘ventriloquist’ technology, inventors say it could add a new dimension to music and entertainment, with endless applications. The military is investigating using it to confuse opponents or even to incapacitate by inflicting pain (audibly). Such ‘specific target technology’ with music applications called ‘Audio Spotlight’ was developed by Joseph Pompei, a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab, while working at the audio company Bose, USA.

Over the years, my research has led me to interview a number of witnesses who also experienced sightings and/or abduction incidents in the Gisborne area at the time of the UFO ‘flap’. Two witnesses described an occasion when they were in the Waimata Valley (where a number of unusual UFO and humanoid sightings took place) at night. The end of this valley is only a few kilometres as the crow flies, from where I was living at the time. They described hearing a humming sound approaching. At first they thought it was a sheep truck making its way up the winding valley road, but they wondered why they were not hearing the familiar and distinct sound of the many gear changes that a sheep truck would normally make as it rounded the corners. They could see a glow of light approaching behind the low hillocks which they assumed to be the headlights (but all the while thinking that the light was unusually bright and widespread). To their shock, a metallic cylindrical-shaped craft surrounded by an intense glow, emerged slowly from behind a hill and continued down the valley until out of sight behind hill ridges. The light emitted around the craft lit up a considerable area. It passed them by low and in close proximity (several hundred metres), causing the hair on their bodies to stand on end (electro-magnetic field?). This sighting was corroborated by a member of a farming family, who I have also interviewed, who lived on the opposite side of the valley. He saw the craft from his bedroom window on the same night, same time.

Given this corroborative evidence of similar details, it is entirely possible that the same or similar craft in that area caused my frightening experience. It also stands to reason that my husband, although in a ‘switched off’ state, subconsciously remembered the sound of a craft approaching, and the accompanying buzzing sounds, and therefore his insistence that it was a ‘sheep truck’ is understandable.

I cannot offer any logical explanation for my experience other than that it was caused by an airborne craft of unknown origin and technology – a UFO.

1. Garner, John, ‘Point-‘n’-shoot Sound Makes Waves’, Feb 21, 2002.

Research Request:

UFOCUS NZ is continuing to research and gather information on the events of the ‘Gisborne UFO Flap’. We would like to hear from anyone living in the Gisborne, Waimata Valley, or East Coast areas at that time, who experienced UFO sightings, close encounter or abduction experiences, or anomalous experiences associated with possible UFO activity. Confidentiality assured. Email Sue at:
Or write to: UFOCUS NZ, PO Box 624, Tauranga, New Zealand.

Copyright © Suzanne Hansen 2007