Reports of ‘Angel hair’ have been made throughout recorded history. Falls have been recorded in such diverse places as Naniwa (now Osaka) Japan on 1 October 679AD; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA in 1881; France in 1952 and 1954, and from Australia on various dates.
However, what have come to be regarded as the ‘classic’ cases were reported in France at two locations named Oloron and Gaillac. The legendary French researcher, Aime Michel in his 1956 book ‘The Truth About Flying Saucers’ provided excellent accounts of these falls which may be summarised as follows.
At 12.50pm on a cloudless day, the 17 October 1952, witnesses in Oloron, reported observing a long, narrow, white coloured cylinder. In front of this cylinder were an estimated 30 featureless balls. These balls moved in pairs and travelled in a zigzag fashion. Material fell from these balls and dropped to the ground where, for several hours it covered trees and house roofs.
Ten days later, at 5pm, at Gaillac, about a hundred people saw a long plumed cylinder travelling slowly among about 20 ‘saucers’. After 20 minutes the whole spectacle passed over the horizon. However, before it did, masses of white threads fell to earth. The material became gelatinous, sublimed and disappeared.
What of the Australian experience?
With the assistance of members of the Australian UFO Research Network I compiled a catalogue of 19 Australian cases dating from the years 1914 to 2000. Most of the case details came from my own research I had conducted in the past. In addition, information on a number of cases kindly came from AUFORN members, particularly, Charmaine Ballam, Bill Chalker and Brian Richards. Other details and comments came from researchers John Burford, Colin Paule, and Barry Taylor. What was seen’
(1) Kingsthorpe Queensland (Date unknown) What appeared to be a large amount of smallish pieces of tissue paper was seen high in the cloudless sky. However, several pieces came floating down. The witness examined them and found they were like lather off soap. They quickly melted in her hand.
(2) Winter 1914 Mid-afternoon Ca 60mins. Mount Lyndhurst Station Far North of South Australia (30.12S 138.34E) In mid-afternoon, on a steady light breeze from the south-west, an unusual substance floated by at a constant altitude. Some pieces, 15 to 22cm long, fell to earth and dissolved in minutes, leaving no trace.
(3) October 1953 Victoria After a fall, a sample was recovered and made available for laboratory analysis. The examination revealed that the substance consisted of a nylon-like amorphous mass with traces of magnesium, calcium, boron and silicon. Between 1953 and 1966, the original material, which was kept in an air-tight container shrank from 7.5cm to a mere 1cm without residue.
(4) 9 October 1953 1550 hrs Caulfield Melbourne Victoria (37.49S 144.53E) A grey-white, cobweb-like filament was seen and retrieved. It became wrinkled and rapidly disintegrated until no trace of it was left. Another piece was recovered, but also disappeared within an hour.
(5) 12 May 1954 1600hrs Shepparton Victoria (36.23S 145.24E) Silk-like threads were observed floating down from the sky. The witness gathered some of these filaments and although they became wrinkled, they did not disintegrate. They were white in colour, silky in formation, though harder in texture. It was odourless, warm on touch like cotton, and different from cobwebs which, after a time, are sticky and grey. Analysis was conducted on a sample. The substance did not dissolve in water. A test in a strong caustic soda solution caused the matter to disappear momentarily. It burned rapidly, leaving no smell or ash unlike wool, cotton, silk or cobwebs.
(6) October 1955 Port Augusta South Australia (32.30S 137.46E) White filaments were reported falling at the time of a UFO sighting.
(7) 10 July 1956 Melbourne Victoria (37.49S 144.53E) Countless numbers of thread fell on suburbs adjacent to the coast, but vanished within hours. Analysis was conducted on some threads, and they were said not to be wool, were not feathers, were not cotton, nor did they appear to be any known synthetic fibre. (8) 5 August 1961 0820hrs 55mins Mt Hale Station Western Australia (26.03S 117.15E) A total of 12 objects, appearing to be in pairs, travelled through the sky. A white substance fell from the objects to the ground. It was white in colour and appeared to be a fine mesh. It crumbled very easily.
(9) 6 June 1962 1120hrs Caroda New South Wales (30.01S 150.22E) Six silent objects were seen at intervals in a cloudless sky. A trail of shiny, web-like filaments, fell which gradually disintegrated as they drifted through the air. Witnesses said the threads were up to 1.5m in length.
(10) 11 May 1968 Brinkley South Australia (35.15S 139.13E) A farmer noted strands of material, of about 20m length, falling on his farm. He commented that it was similar to asbestos rope, as wide as a pencil.
(11) 11 May 1968 Cheltenham Adelaide South Australia (34.56S 138.36E) Web-like ‘fine woven cotton’ was seen on a lawn and draped over wires and a fence.
(12) 29 August 1969 Mid afternoon Grafton New South Wales (29.41S 152.56E) UFO researcher Bill Chalker reported a fall of white filaments descending from the sky. On handling it he noted that the material diminished in size, dissipated into nothing, leaving no trace.
(13) 14 March 1971 1600hrs Christies Beach Adelaide South Australia (34.56S 138.36E) Five silver objects were seen. Four of these were in a ‘box’ formation, i.e. forming the corners of a square, and a fifth leading. Filaments were reported falling.
(14) 15 March 1971 1510hrs 40mins Maslins Beach South Australia (34.56S 138.36E) A number of silvery white balls were seen in the sky. White ‘fairy floss’ was noted on the ground. When picked up and handled, this tended to ‘melt’ or ‘disappear.’ It was extremely light and tenuous, and sometimes seemed to be made up of white strands, extremely thin.
(15) 28 November 1972 1400hrs Glenelg Adelaide South Australia (34.56S 138.36E) A man saw lengths of glistening material wrapped round a signpost and upon looking up saw more was falling from the sky. A small piece of the thickest section was collected but unfortunately the thin strands dissolved in his fingers.
(16) 19 May 1973 Gawler South Australia (34.36S 138.45E) Strange nylon-like patterns were observed in the sky, which vapourised on touching when they descended. Looked like a ‘shower of nylon.’
(17) 10 August 1998 (Sometime between midday and 1 pm) 90-120mins Quirindi near Tamworth New South Wales (31.30S 150.41E) A Mrs Eunice Stansfield, 61 and a female friend, Noelene Mozetic, reported seeing a silver ball travelling quickly across the sky from east to west. Several other objects were then seen in the sky, reportedly up to 20 altogether. They were a bright metallic grey in colour. Some moved quickly while others were stationary at times. There was no noise at all. One of the larger objects was seen to be two spheres connected by a cylinder shape.
The objects manoeuvred across the whole sky in complex patterns. When the spheres were manoeuvring, a light whitish material could be seen streaming from them. This material formed into long, white strands which fell slowly downwards onto telephone wires and trees. There was no surface wind. Air temperature was cool.
The material fell in surrounding areas. The female friend collected a piece of it, a 30cm long strand from a bush. ‘…it was extremely light, whitish and strong, like cotton, requiring a good tug to break. It quickly ‘dissolved’ away to nothing when handled.’ A second piece was collected in a clean yoghurt container.
A Telstra technician, Gary from Gunnedah reported he was at Piallaway, 40km north of Quirindi at 2pm and saw masses of cobweb-like material falling around. The material evaporated upon handling.
The yoghurt container was passed to Moira McGhee and then to Bill Chalker for analysis of the contents.
The sample as received by Bill Chalker was approximately the size of a match head. The sample was placed in a freezer-no phase differences were noted. ‘The sealed container contents were then sampled through the intact gladwrap via an eppendorf syringe to sample any possible gas phase. None confirmed per comparison to ambient conditions & atmosphere.’
A comparison of the Quirindi sample and known spider’s web, using video microscopic imaging led to the conclusion that the Quirindi material was identical to the control sample of spider’s web ‘…including inclusions of coloured webbing, which often occurs.’
However, Chalker noted that the container with the original white material in it, was opened by the witness at a later stage to add some more of what she thought was the same material, but could have been ordinary spiders’ web.
(18) 9 June 1999 1000hrs (210-300) mins Esperance Western Australia (33.52S 121.54E) A large fall of white material fell from the sky over a period of time on a windless day. It covered trees, paddocks and power lines. Some threads were reported to have been 9-10m in length. Reports came in from the north, east and west from Gibson’s Soak, Condonup and Munglinup (33.43S 120.52E 80km West of Esperance), covering a 10,000 square kilometre area. The local paper ran a story and an Esperance resident Marilyn Burnet collected a sample. Brian Richards in Perth had some of that sample analysed spectrographically and with electron microscopy. Copper, aluminium, zinc, iron, sodium, manganese, silicon and a number of other minerals were found in it.
Another witness was located 85km East of Esperance, 15km in from the coastline. Long strands of white material settled on everything, with trees, fences and pastures covered. No unusual objects were seen in the sky. There was no associated noise. The length of the strands was estimated as 6 metres. No material was picked up. The material disappeared overnight. The sky was cloudless, with temperature estimated as 17-18C. No spiders were observed.
(19) 5 August 2000 1130hrs 90 minutes Old Noarlunga (35.09S 138.29E) & Aldinga South Australia (35.16S 138.29E) A man spotted a silver disk in the sky, and called out his wife to look at it. Over the next 90 minutes they saw an additional three whitish balls and three things looking like a helicopter in shape, making a total of six to nine objects in all travelling west to east. The sky was completely cloudless at the time, with the temperature being mild. From the sighting of the first object there was a fall of material. Sheila stated that it fell in large wads/strands. She used a stick to pick up some of the material which fell onto her house and TV antenna and gate post. The material was long, silver, cob-web like in colour and texture. Once touched with the stick it shrivelled up and evaporated. No sound was heard.
There were other reports of material falling on the beach at Aldinga (10km due south of Old Noarlunga.) at the same time. One person at Aldinga reported seeing a bright light at the time of the fall and that as the material touched the sand or water it evaporated.
A report was also received from Moana (4km south-west of Old Noarlunga). A man, living about 1 kilometre from the sea, noticed what he took to be a ‘light fog’ which had drifted in from the sea. He then saw a ‘bright light’ travelling through the fog. As it passed over his house, the angel hair started to fall. As soon as it touched his house roof, the lawn, and the front fence it just ‘dissolved.’ He did try to grab some of it, but as soon as he touched it, the substance dissolved. Duration was about 10 minutes.
What can be said from the Australian data?
I undertook a range of analyses of the data collected in the 19 local cases. One of the first things I noted was that although Australia stretches in latitude from approximately 10 south to 44 south, known cases of Angel hair cluster between 25 and 38 south. This clustering confirmed an observation made by an early researcher named Sharp, who in 1964 reported that all the cases of Angel hair in his global sample, occurred in the 27-47 degree north or south band.
In which seasons do falls occur’ Interestingly none at all were reported in the Summer. Autumn saw 6 cases, Winter months 7 and Spring time 4.
In looking at the start times of falls I saw that they all actually clustered between 8.20am and 4pm local time. The phenomenon was certainly a daylight one.
Just out of curiosity I listed the 10 cases where I had both the start time of fall and the season and found an intriguing bit of data. The start of all Winter falls occurred in the morning (Quirindi was given actually as 12 noon). The start of all Spring/Autumn falls occurred in the afternoon. I have never seen a mention of this oddity in any research yet published on Angel hair. What it might mean I have no idea!
In what settings do falls occur?
Out of the 17 cases where locality is accurately know, 13 instances were in a rural setting with just 4 in a suburban setting.
Reading Aime Michel’s version of the classic 1952 Oloron, France case I saw that it occurred in a cloudless sky. I wondered whether this was true of the Australian sample’ However, weather details had not been recorded in many of the case notes I had. I therefore obtained basic weather details from the South Australian branch of the Bureau of Meteorology. Interestingly, cloud cover was 2/8 or less in 11 out of the 15 cases. The sky was reported ‘cloudless’ in 9 out of the 15 cases.
Weatherwise, I also wondered if the material could have been wind blown, that is, would the direction that the fall came from be the same as the direction the wind was blowing from’ There are 7 cases where both data elements are known .Out of these, there are 5 cases where a wind was blowing In 4 out of these 5, the surface wind direction matched the fall direction.
Were UFOs reported in all cases?
From the 19 cases the answer was positive in only 8 cases. There were no reported UFOs in 11 events. What exactly was recalled’ Table 1 summarises this data.
Interestingly then, unlike most UFO observations, which are of single objects, many UFO/Angel hair events involve multiple objects as shown in the table.
At the start of this article I mentioned that the term ‘Angel hair’ refers to a web-like substance, which has been observed falling from the sky to the ground. In the UFO literature it is reported to have the unusual property of ‘disappearing’ within a short time of falling. What did I find from our Australian sample’ Table 2 lists some properties of the local falls. Falls of Angel hair can cover vast amounts of distance. The 1956 Melbourne fall was said to have involved millions of threads covering several seaside suburbs. The Quirindi fall also saw a fall 40 km away. In Esperance, falls were reported from both 80km west and 85km east of Esperance. The Old Noarlunga event saw observations from 10km south and 4km south-west.
There have been at least five reported analyses of material. Table 3 lists these.
What does it all mean?
There have always only been two main competing hypotheses to explain Angel hair. Firstly, some people believe that it is the residue of UFO propulsion methods. Others, claim that the answer lies in falls of spiders’ web. Many UFO researchers who have examined this topic have opted to accept the spiders’ web hypothesis. What are the pros and cons for this explanation, based upon the Australian data’
• Falls of Angel hair occur during Spring, Winter and Autumn which is the preferred time for falls of spiders’ web
• Angel hair falls are a day time phenomenon as are falls of spiders’ web
• Falls are predominantly in a rural setting which would be expected if they were web
• Falls are reported mainly on low cloud/cloudless, calm days, exactly when spiders’ web falls have been recorded
• Where wind direction data is available, most direction of falls corresponds to the direction from which the wind was blowing at the time
• The ‘UFOs’, where reported in association with Angel hair falls are described as structureless, silver/white and round in shape. This fits observations of clumps of spiders’ web floating through the sky
• The length of Angel hair threads corresponds to known lengths of spiders’ web
• Falls of Angel hair cover vast areas of ground at times. Observed falls of spiders’ web have also covered large areas.
• Spiders’ web does not sublimate and disappear when handled. However, it is not always clear from the literature over what period of time this process occurred.
• Only one of the five known analyses of Angel hair falls fits spiders’ web. However, interestingly three of the analyses are almost 50 years old, and it is one of the two most recent falls supports the web hypothesis.
Further research What further research could be conducted to assist determine the true nature of Angel hair’ The following are some suggestions:
• UFO researchers could publicise details of past falls and call for collection of material at future falls
• Persons picking up the substance could be encouraged to keep a sample in a sealed container and forward it for analysis
• UFO researchers could compile a global listing of cases, undertake a similar analysis to this Australian data and compare and contrast results
• UFO researchers could revisit such recent cases as Quirindi, Esperance and Old Noarlunga looking for additional witnesses and additional data. One particular area to re-examine is the nature of the reported dissipation and disappearance of falls
• UFO researchers could undertake a closer examination of the literature on spiders’ web to examine the characteristics of web
(Note: A fuller catalogue and a detailed analysis may be found on the net at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Note: For a fuller indepth investigation into the Quirindi, NSW Angel Hair Incident, refer to the Australian Ufologist Vol.2 Nos 3&4.)