UFO Case: Elsie Oakensen, nr Daventry, Northamptonshire.
On the 22nd November 1978, 50 year old school teacher Elsie Oakensen left her office around 5:15pm and prepared for the usual journey home. This roughly 15 minute journey took her out of Daventry on the A45 and on to the busy A5, before heading on to some country roads to reach her home village of Church Stowe. As with any other day, there was no reason to suspect that the journey home was going to be anything other than routine.
Approximately two miles before her home village of Church Stowe, while driving along the A5, Elsie noticed a large, dull grey, smooth and silent dumbbell-shaped object hanging around 100-150ft over the busy road. There were two bright lights on the object, a red light in the left sphere and a green light in the right sphere. Elsie’s immediate impression was that this was some strange plane about to crash, although it quickly became apparent that the object was stationary in the sky. It was an odd, bizarre sight and though Elsie felt compelled to stop the car she resisted, fearing that she might cause a commotion on the busy road. Instead, she carried on with her journey, travelling directly underneath the object and moving on towards the turn-off to Church Stowe.
However, with her mind still dwelling on the strange craft, she found a safe vantage point after she left the A5 and looked back towards the object. She was relieved to see the craft still hanging in the sky, in exactly the same position, although the green light she had noticed earlier was now flashing. Continuing on her journey, Elsie reached the outskirts of her home village but it was at this point the car began to lose power. (Almost comically, her immediate thoughts turned to the quality of the work of the garage where her car had been serviced earlier on that day.) Managing to briefly coax her car back to life, Elsie carried on.
Not long after the car cut out completely and she was plunged into an unnatural darkness. Although it was a late afternoon night in November, it was as though all of the gloomy natural light had been replaced by blackness. It was so dark, Elsie was unable to distinguish any outlines of the familiar buildings on the outskirts of the village. She tried in vain to restart her car as before but this time turning over the ignition achieved nothing.
A few moments later, a large pool of brilliant white light snapped on and illuminated a patch of road near to the car. This illumination was only momentary however as seconds later it completely vanished. But the mysterious light was soon followed by another at the front of the car, then another at the back and finally at the sides. The light or lights then began switching on and off, almost as though following some kind of sequence. Elsie recalled the effect of the lights as being similar to searchlights and considered that the pools of light might have been looking for something/someone. However, these were no ordinary searchlights because there was no accompanying beam.
Next thing Elsie Oakensen consciously recalled was that she was approximately thirty yards further down the road, driving through Church Stowe and on towards her home…
When she pulled into the drive she noted that the kitchen light was on, indicating that her husband John (a policeman) was at home and preparing the evening meal. When Elsie got inside she remarked to John that he wasn’t going to believe the story she had to tell him, before running upstairs and looking out of a bedroom window to see if she could catch a final glimpse of whatever it was that had been out there.
Instantly Elsie knew something odd had occurred, a feeling further reinforced when she glanced at her watch and realised that her routine 15 minute journey home had actually taken over 30 minutes.
During the following day at work (which for Elsie was the Daventry Teacher Training Centre) she happened to remark to a number of her colleagues about the strange events. One of the younger people there indicated that she may have seen a UFO and that she needed to report it to someone. Elsie was totally unfamiliar with the term (in fact, she was unfamiliar with the whole field of UFOlogy, an important ingredient in this case) but she was soon to have her baptism by fire. Her credibility as an eyewitness saw the news of her experience spread quickly and on Friday 24th, the Oakensen case featured in the Northamptonshire Chronicle and Echo.
Investigators from BUFORA were soon on the case and, noting the element of missing time, proposed a session of hypnotic regression. Seeking answers, Elsie agreed and approximately nine months after the event the hypnosis session was delivered:
“My car engine has stalled, I feel hot. A band has tightened around my head as it did at lunchtime. I am getting hotter and beginning to sweat. The pressure hurts. It hurts my head.
A brilliant white light is shining in my eyes, a pure white light, very bright. Circles of very bright light radiate from it as it comes closer until I can only see the top of the circles. My body gets hotter. The pain in my head is intense.
I feel as if I am sitting. I can’t feel my legs. My arms are shaking. I am very frightened. The radiating circles of light seem to change to a small brilliant circle, obviously going away from me.
It’s still light, but hazy and through this haze materialise two shapes. The first is a long, thin shape that appears to the left and then disappears. The second is more rectangular and appears to the right – disappears – then both appear together. They shine through the haze, a silver glow outlines both grey-coloured shapes which are smooth and rounded, rather ghostlike. The bright light now shines as a small circle in the distance. I get hotter, my arms shake more, my head hurts dreadfully. I am terrified.”(Hypnosis transcript taken from “Without Consent” by Carl Nagaitis and Phillip Mantle)
At this point, with Elsie’s mounting distress and discomfort apparent, the hypnosis session was brought to a close.
Readers familiar with abduction archetypes will no doubt be ticking the boxes, many of the common hallmarks are present in this case: the classic “car engine” stall, the strongly disorientating lights, the missing time, the lack of other witnesses for something that appears to be quite out of the ordinary... Certainly, something extraordinary happened to Elsie Oakensen late afternoon on the 22nd but we will never know exactly what. But at least the frustration was shared by the central witness, now passed, who remained perplexed by and yet strangely inspired by, the events of that day for the rest of her life.
Volume 7 of Haunted Skies which covers the Oakensen case, available on Amazon.
As with many incidents of these kind, the blurring between what is real and external and what is real yet internal may be tricky to establish. Clearly, the initial sighting of the large dumbbell-shaped craft over the A5 was seemingly not witnessed by any other motorists. This is in sharp contrast to incidents such as the Hudson Valley Lights in the early 80s, where drivers often parked their cars at the side of the highway to watch the brightly-lit slow moving object for a while. Given the rush hour timing, you would expect some other eyewitness corroboration. Here was a large object, hovering very low over a busy stretch of road – not an easy miss, especially so considering there was no choice but to drive directly underneath it.
An interesting point about the Oakensen case is that, at certain times during the day, Elsie experienced some strong headaches and nausea. One of these incidents occurred around lunchtime, while Elsie and her colleagues were in a restaurant waiting on their order. Elsie experienced an almost faint-inducing band of tight pain around her head. This sudden headache reappeared during the later event (according to her hypnosis transcript) and, mysteriously, at around 7:00pm in the evening too. Coincidence? Elsie did not suffer from migraines and there was nothing to her knowledge that could have induced that type of pain at the time. Could it be that the drama that unfolded for the 50 year old school teacher actually started long before she left for home?
In “Gift of the Gods”, UFO researcher John Spencer writes that Elsie herself speculated on this very notion:
“Elsie has an interpretation of these events, which she herself is sensible enough to recognise as speculative only. Elsie believes that she was somehow selected by the UFO at lunchtime, that she was scanned by it during the encounter and then released later in the evening, when the sensation briefly returned.”
Another curious piece of information from the Oakensen account concerns the broken side light on the car. Elsie noticed this when she left the office and yet, when she finally returned home, the side light was working. Was this a recollection error on the part of the witness or was it simply an intermittent mechanical failure? Maybe the light had been physically tampered with by persons unknown? Or maybe the light was a small ingredient hinting at a more exotic, altered state explanation for the encounter?
The piercing, bright pools of light, recalled both consciously and unconsciously, appear to suggest some form of disorientating hypnotic control over the subject - but for what possible purpose? Was it simply to disable and confuse? Or was there some other motivation, perhaps some psychological messaging - although Elsie didn’t indicate anything in her testimony to suggest that any communication occurred. However, she later felt that some messaging had been relayed. In her own book “One Step Beyond” she wrote:
"...I feel that consideration could be given to the possibility that it may have been my first experience of clairvoyance. I wonder? But perhaps not, because there were physical effects also...”
Like so many UFO events, this incident may forever languish in the hanging folder with the label “Unknown”. Elsie herself, in common with many contactees and abductees did eventually come to terms with her experience and rationalised it as a significant personal spiritual event. But as with many other experiencers, we can never be entirely sure whether this is simply a way of reconciling the strangeness of it all and bringing about some level of conscious closure or, whether this is an intended, deliberate effect, something mysteriously conveyed during the event itself. Deliberate or not, as time passed, Elsie herself became interested in her own psychic ability and considered her experience to have ultimately awakened and enhanced some latent psychic healing ability. In such cases, this is a frequently cited behaviour and belief.
Regardless of the speculation on all the possibilities, perhaps the most important factor in the Oakensen case is the credibility of the witness. Elsie Oakensen, a 50 year old teacher, had never heard of UFOs prior to her experience and certainly had no idea of the associated and often hugely negative circus that comes with the territory. (Had she some idea of the tar baby status it is likely that she would have been far more circumspect about who she told and why.) In addition her husband John, a policeman of some years, was not given to making things up - especially when any interest or exposure to such matters carried (and of course still carries) such a tremendous stigma. In a very real sense the Oakensen case is most notable, not for the striking event details itself, but as a revealing reflection of what happens when two normal professional people are suddenly cast adrift among the flotsam and jetsam of the mainstream UFO circus.
The stigma was all too real, yet they faced up to it and weathered the difficult storms. John endured some considerable ridicule from his colleagues at work (some of whom later personally apologised to him when he eventually retired). Elsie on the other hand, given her odd media comment here and there, even had people turn up on her doorstep. One slightly humourous account has her answering the door with her washing up gloves on, to be confronted by someone just shaking his head and laughing. In the face of such curious behaviour, Elsie maintained her dignity throughout but was continually irritated that people would frequently react in such way. After all, she was simply telling people what had happened and what she had experienced and was as bewildered as the next person in trying to explain it all. Ironically, such genuine behaviour backed up her previous assertion that she knew nothing about UFOlogy...
This is also the reason why any accusations of hoaxing don't fit well here. If Elsie fabricated this then it really backfired as neither Elsie or John could have been happy about some of the reaction - and I include the UFO research community in that too. Also, the books that Elsie eventually wrote about the event were small-scale publications and hardly the products of multi-million pound book deals. In fact the books were part of the strategy to come to terms with the event and to put the record straight of just what exactly happened once and for all.
So what did Elsie Oakensen witness? Did she wrongly misinterpret something much more prosaic, like a blimp maybe? Unlikely. Elsie maintains that the silent object she passed under was stationary and hovering no more than 150ft over the busy A5. Had it been something recognisable hovering over the A5 in the middle of rush hour there would surely have been a greater commotion and certainly more sound and movement. Perhaps the incident did occur but was some kind of hallucination? Again, unlikely. Elsie remained in full control of her car at all times other than the alleged missing time period and, while she had experienced headaches, there was nothing to suggest some freak illness that would result in some massive reality changing vision. Given that the event happened while she was driving and in control of the car, we can rule out some kind of hypnogogic hallucination. However, it is apparent that some level of sensory manipulation was occurring, although the true extent of this is impossible to determine. For instance, Elsie saw a mysterious dumbell-shaped object but did any of the other motorists see anything at all? Or just empty sky?
Whatever the true nature of the event, the late Elsie Oakensen is remembered as one of the most unlikeliest and honest UFO eyewitnesses in the history of the phenomenon. Whatever the answer, her routine journey home from work on that fateful day changed her life completely.
Inspired by and based upon her experiences, Elsie Oakensen eventually wrote a couple of books: "One Step Beyond" (1996) and "Into The Unknown" (1999).
Elsie Oakensen appearing on "For The Love Of... Alien Abduction" hosted by Jon Ronson.