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Mysteries

Through their eyes – the Ariel school phenomenon

Ellen Mahoney
JAR Magazine

(Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article that was originally published in the 2013 December/January issue of Open Minds magazine. Reprinted with permission. Drawings reprinted with permission from John E. Mack Archives LLC).

Ariel phenomenon

One of the most extraordinary mass UFO sightings in recent history occurred among children at an elementary school playground in the small farming village of Ruwa, a suburb of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, Africa.

On September 16, 1994, during mid-morning recess at the Ariel primary school in Ruwa, about sixty-two children put down their jump ropes and Rugby balls and reported seeing spacecraft and two “strange beings” in the rugged, grassy area adjacent to their schoolyard.

News of the sighting spread fast, and in the days and months following the event, researchers and reporters from around the world traveled to the school to talk with the young children who had made the incredible claims.

According to investigators, the English-speaking schoolchildren, who ranged in age from six to twelve years, had immediate and differing reactions to the encounter. Some of the students said they ran about the playground in an excited, confused state while others stood spellbound watching the event unfold. Some said they were curious and wanted to check out what was happening, while a few others were frightened and started to cry.

Nevertheless, the children’s reports were vivid, clear, and consistent. Many of the children reported seeing beings that wore shiny tight-fitting black suits, had very thin arms and legs, and were about four feet tall. The spacecraft was described as large and silver with lights and a red stripe around the edge. Although some children drew pictures of the beings without hair, many children said the beings had long straight black hair with facial features consisting of large oval black eyes, small nostrils, and a slit for a mouth.

Many of the children reported that one of the beings remained on top of the spacecraft, as if on watch, while the other being moved directly toward them. And, perhaps most remarkable, a number of the children claimed to have telepathic communication with the beings who gave them prophetic messages about the environmental destruction of Earth.

Ariel School Drawing

Ariel School Drawing

Morning Recess

There were no adults on the playground during the 10:15 a.m. recess that morning. Teachers were inside the school attending a staff meeting while older students, chosen to be prefects, were responsible for supervising the younger children on the playground. The nearest adult was a mother volunteering in the school “tuck” shop, which sold a variety of snacks and sweets. During the encounter, which lasted about fifteen minutes, an older boy made a beeline to the mother in the snack shop and shouted for her to come look because a UFO had just landed and a “little man” was running around in a one-piece suit.

At some point during the encounter, students raced back into the school to tell their teachers what had just happened. One teacher, whose testimony was video recorded by researchers, said, “They came running up here in such a panic, and even if we had staged it, they could not have run all together like that.”

Some of the teachers were skeptical hearing the news, and another teacher was recorded as saying, “I believe that they’d seen something, but I wasn’t prepared to accept that it was anything supernatural or anything like that.” But the students remained adamant about what they saw.

A Highly Unusual Week

Although the Ruwa encounter happened on a Friday, the days preceding the event had been highly unusual according to the late UFO investigator Cynthia Hind, who was based in Harare at the time. Hind described her investigation of the Ariel school sighting in her 1996 book, UFOs over Africa.

In the book Hind wrote that a few days before the encounter, hundreds of Zimbabweans had reported seeing bright flashing lights in the sky in what was thought to be a spectacular meteor shower. Additionally, odd explosions were heard near the country’s Lake Kariba area, a mother and son veered while driving to miss a strange object in the road, and two pilots from Harare claimed they saw what looked like a fireball with a tail.

First Investigators on the Scene

Late journalist Tim Leach, a former BBC cameraman in Harare and head of the Foreign Correspondents’ Association in Zimbabwe, was one of the first to be tipped off about the Ruwa encounter. Leach phoned Hind about the event and asked if she’d be willing to visit the school with him. Hind agreed to do so and then promptly made a few key phone calls. One call was to the parent helping out in the snack shop at the Ariel school. The mother told Hind that at first she disbelieved the boy who implored her to come see the UFO near the playground and thought he was just “pulling her leg.” But, at home later that day, the mother was able to connect Hind with a few of the children who had witnessed the encounter, including her own daughter. Hind listened to the children talk about disc-like objects, otherworldly beings, bright lights, and high pitched flute-like noises. One boy reported seeing three objects flying overhead with flashing red lights; the objects would appear and disappear seemingly at will. A girl reported seeing a disc-like object about to land in the bush near the playground. Another child said she thought there was one main object in the sky along with three or four smaller objects.

In UFOs Over Africa, Hind described her reactions to hearing the children’s words: “All this took a bit of absorbing, and when I had finished speaking to the children, I made several [more] phone calls. One of them was to Colin Mackie, headmaster of Ariel school, and I suggested to him that he arrange to have the children draw pictures of what they had seen before they had time to discuss it among themselves.”

On the following Tuesday (September 20), Hind and Leach visited the school to investigate the encounter and take a look at the nearly forty drawings the children had created since Friday. The students’ artwork included many age-appropriate but detailed images of the spacecraft and the beings. After looking at the artwork Hind wrote, “The drawings were impressive; they were similar enough for me to acknowledge that the children were obviously seeing the same object and yet diverse enough to realize that there had been no collaboration among them.”

Hind and Leach then interviewed a small group of children on camera who spoke candidly about the encounter. One girl said she thought the being was “an alien from a different planet.” Hind wrote that Leach asked the children if the spacecraft they’d seen might have been a Zimbabwe Air Force helicopter or a Harrier Jump Jet. The children were adamant that the craft they saw was unfamiliar to them. Hind added that headmaster Colin Mackie said he believed the children had seen something that could not be explained.

Continuing her investigation, Hind walked over to the grassy area of the playground where the schoolchildren said the spacecraft had appeared. A technician accompanied Hind to the site and tested the area for radiation with a Geiger counter; however, there was no evidence of excessive radiation.

Dr. John E. Mack Travels to Ruwa

After hearing about the Ruwa encounter from Hind and Leach, the late Dr. John E. Mack, wanted to know more. Admired by many, Mack was a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and the author of the acclaimed 1999 book, Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters.

In early December, Mack traveled to the Ariel school with colleague Dominique Callimanopulos who had a background in anthropology. Callimanopulos had been studying the trans-historical social and cultural changes of indigenous peoples around the world, and her work was a natural fit at the Center for Psychology and Social Change, which Mack founded in 1983 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

After visiting the Ariel school, Callimanopulos described the facility as well run and having a few small buildings with a lot of grassland and playground area. “It was not luxurious or terribly high-end, but had a nice comfortable and appropriate feeling,” she said. “The children all wore uniforms, spoke very articulately, and were well mannered and disciplined.”

Early that day, Mack and Callimanopulos met with teachers and headmaster Colin Mackie in a circle meeting. “Everyone was very polite and a bit careful about what they were saying because these were early days of reporting on this incident. As educators and people responsible for these children, they didn’t want to speak out of turn or say anything that might have alarmed the parents,” Callimanopulos said. “I do believe the teachers and staff very much believed that the children had seen something – they just weren’t sure what it was. And none of the teachers reported witnessing anything at the time.”

Mack and Callimanopulos spent two days interviewing and videotaping nearly fifteen students, one on one, and they asked the children to draw pictures of what they saw during the encounter. Although nervous at first, the children were able to express deep-felt emotions with Mack, who was an experienced child psychiatrist and recognized for having a kind and trusting demeanor.

“John was an amazing interviewer and there was a depth to his interviews I’ve seen few people replicate,” Callimanopulos said. “He never rested with the first answer and would always allow time and space for another way of asking the question. This allowed the kids to get beyond an initial reaction and answer; in some ways, they were able to relive their experience of their sighting.”

Callimanopulos added that Mack empathized with the children. “If he was talking to a young child and they were feeling nervous or maybe their chin was quivering as they were answering, he would say something like, ‘So that was kind of scary, huh?'” she added. “This would allow the children to go into the fear and produce a whole different narrative than an interviewer who might ask, ‘So what did you see?'”

The children had individual reactions. One boy said the encounter “gave him the creeps,” while Callimanopulos said another boy went searching for a being in the bushes and was staring at it.

Mack’s conversation with one girl during the recording discussed the noises she heard during the encounter:

John Mack (JM): “What scared you?”

Girl #1: “The noise.”

JM: “What noise?”

Girl #1: “The noise that we heard in the air.”

JM: “You heard a noise?”

Girl #1: “Yes.”

JM: “What was it like? A roar, a buzz, or a hum? What kind of noise?”

Girl #1: “It was like someone was playing flute.”

On a recording with another girl, Mack asked, “If someone were to say, well, you know, you just have a lively imagination and you made this up, what would you say?” The girl responded, “I haven’t been influenced by any of my friends – I have seen what I’ve seen.”

Will Bueche’, archivist for the John E. Mack Institute, screened hours of videotape from Mack’s interviews with the children. He agrees that Mack was a careful and gifted psychiatrist who gave subjects personal space so they felt trusted and safe. “John would adopt the language the children used,” Bueche’ said. “For example, if one of the young girls described what she called a ‘strange being,’ John would immediately adopt that term and ask her about the ‘strange being.’ He wouldn’t use the word ‘alien,’ to set up any preconception in the mind of the subject.”

Consistency in the Reports

Callimanopulos believes the children saw what they described based on the consistency of their reports. “They all saw pretty much the same thing,” she said. “They saw a craft approach the playground and hover over the playground. And they saw two beings.” Callimanopulos says she still remembers one little girl who said the beings traversed the ground, almost as if they were floating.

Children also reported having telepathic communication with the beings through their large eyes and receiving messages about pollution on Earth and the overuse of technology. According to Callimanopulos, “Many of the children we spoke with had communication with the beings and described staring into the beings’ eyes.” She continued, “They had apocalyptic visions of the Earth. I remember one girl said she felt that all the trees would come down. There was another girl who probably said the most profound, deep things, and she reported feeling scared and also feeling sorry for the beings to the point of feeling love for them.”

Another Ariel School Drawing

Contemplating the Mysterious

For quite a while, there was significant media coverage about the Ariel school encounter that eventually gained worldwide attention, including a 1995 episode on the television show, Sightings. In time, however, headmaster Mackie quelled outside attention related to the incident.

But, for many of the children on the playground that morning, the Ariel school encounter was the start of an unforgettable, life-changing journey. Not only were the young students stunned to see something so unfamiliar, but they were suddenly cast in the challenging position of having to describe a highly unusual event to teachers, parents, friends, investigators, and reporters-and wanting to be believed.

Barbara Lamb, a California-based licensed marriage-and-family therapist and regression therapist, is familiar with the Ariel school incident and had known John Mack and Cynthia Hind. “John Mack told me that the children behaved and talked as if they were totally sincere,” Lamb said. “In the footage I viewed, it certainly appears and sounds as if they were telling the truth.” Lamb says that even though the children were standing at different locations on the playground, their stories were similar in content. In addition, Lamb has regressed hundreds of extraterrestrial experiencers in her practice who were told that Earth is in trouble and humans need to take better care of the planet. She said this was the basic message conveyed to some of the Ariel schoolchildren.

Lamb believes that what the children witnessed and reported at the Ariel school in 1994 is part of a very large movement going on amongst humanity that involves the expansion of human consciousness. “I think the children, as a voice of innocence and authenticity, offer a perfect contribution to the awareness that many people are growing into, anyway,” Lamb said. “More people are coming forth and speaking about encounters that they’ve had with otherworldly beings.”

Lamb also added that many people are waking up and becoming more aware of the spiritual as well as the physical nature of reality. “More people today are also thinking about the universe and the cosmos, and the possibility of intelligent life in these other aspects of space,” Lamb said. “More and more people, as well as many noted physicists, are thinking about the possibility of different dimensions of reality and parallel universes.”

But how are we to understand the unknown without feeling frightened or out of place? “The more we hear reports from other people about their UFO sightings and encounters with extraterrestrial beings, the more we are able to accept that these encounters exist.” Lamb continued, “We’ll probably always have skeptics who do not want to stretch their thinking about reality. John Mack used to talk about how people would have a certain paradigm about reality but become resistant when something new would come along like a crop circle, sighting, or an encounter with an extraterrestrial being. Accepting these aspects as real can be difficult for some people; they have to give up their old beliefs about reality and their worldview has to stretch and grow.”

Dr. Leo Sprinkle, a licensed psychologist from Wyoming, has worked for more than fifty years exploring the paranormal. Although Sprinkle says he doesn’t have firsthand knowledge about the Ariel school encounter, he has read reports about the incident. “The Ariel school encounter is an important example of teachers and parents talking with children about a paranormal experience,” he said. “It’s important to listen to and accept what children say about their paranormal experiences such as ESP, past lives, and ET encounters.”

Sprinkle also believes the Ariel sighting is one way to contemplate and expand our concept of everyday reality. “I think more and more children are coming into the planet with psychic awareness and many feel they are here not only for their own spiritual growth, but also to assist humanity and its evolution.”

The “Ariel Phenomenon” Documentary

When Mack and Callimanopulos returned from Ruwa they hoped to eventually make a short film with the footage they’d shot of their original interviews with the children at the Ariel school. Years went by, and after Mack’s sudden death in 2004, Callimanopulos eventually contacted filmmaker and nature photographer Randall Nickerson of String Theory Films in 2006 to see if he’d be interested in working on the production. Nickerson viewed hours and hours of the interviews and was hooked. “After looking at the footage I was just struck by the consistency of the children’s descriptions and feelings,” he said. “I just felt they weren’t lying.”

It wasn’t long before Nickerson realized there was a bigger story to tell. In 2008 he traveled to Zimbabwe to track down and interview many of the Ariel schoolchildren (now young adults) as well as other key witnesses. His visit to the country was stressful, however, due to political unrest and the fact that western journalists weren’t allowed in the country at the time. “It was really dangerous to be there and I was concerned for my life,” he said. After completing his work in Zimbabwe, Nickerson traveled to South Africa and spent nearly ten months there working on research and filming.

During his research, Nickerson became even more curious about the Ariel school incident and felt driven to find out just what happened. He eventually traveled to England, Canada, across the United States, and back to Africa again in 2010 to find more individuals to help tell the story. “These stories are worldwide and in all cultures,” Nickerson said.

Tentatively titled, “Ariel Phenomenon,” the film is now a feature length production in the works to be released for mainstream audiences. “My goal is to present the facts gathered over a four year period and let people make up their own minds about this event.” (www.arielphenomenon.com/Editor’s note: Additional funds are needed to complete the movie. Find out more at http://www.arielphenomenon.com/fundraising-2).

After interviewing a number of the young adults from the Ariel school in recent years, Nickerson said many of them remember the incident vividly and are doing exceptionally well today. He said many still have a lot of wonder and curiosity about the encounter, and he feels the incident has kept a number of them open minded about the possibility of extraterrestrial life. “One boy told me, ‘If there’s one moment I’d like to relive, it would be that one particular moment that day.'”

Nickerson also said some of the original investigators at the Ariel school were really struck by the encounter. “One person I interviewed told me, ‘It haunts me to this day that what the kids said about how we are destroying the environment is coming to pass.'”

Many people, including Callimanopolus, look forward to completion of Nickerson’s film and hearing what the original children from the Ruwa encounter have to share today. “We realize what an important landmark case this was and we’re eager to complete the film so that the latest information about the case can be shared with as many people as possible,” Callimanopolus said. “The children were able to describe clearly what they were seeing. Testimony that comes from that place, where you’re just describing something you’ve never seen before, can be very clear and powerful.”

It’s been over two decades since the Ariel school encounter in 1994. How will people remember the event? What difference will it make in the big picture for Earth? Although Callimanopulos believes there are no definitive answers about what happened during the Ariel school sighting, she said the children were incredibly believable and had no motive for making it up. “It encourages us to think about the fundamental mystery of life and reality,” she said.

“There’s no question that something very unusual happened at that school,” Nickerson added. “One teacher who had been skeptical says he believes the children now, nearly twenty years later, because their testimony has been so consistent over time.”

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Mysteries

Murder Mysterious: What Happened at the Hinterkaife Farm?

This story, which took place on April 4, 1922, on the Hinterkaifike farm, located between Ingolstadt and Schrobenhausen in Bavaria, still excites the minds of lawyers and journalists. Then they found the bodies of the owner of the farm and his wife, their daughter and her two children, a maid who had recently come to them to work …

Everyone in the village knew about the Gruber. They were a wealthy family, but with a bad reputation. The father of the family, Andreas Gruber, was a cruel and rude man, so the workers on the farm did not stay long. Although everyone wanted money, few were willing to endure Andreas’ harsh temper. Cecilia Gruber, his wife, used to be the owner of Hinterkaifeke – she inherited the farm from her husband. From him, she left two children, Martin and Cecilia. Soon the couple had a daughter, Victoria. She was not the only child, but the only one survived to adulthood – the rest of the children died in the absence of proper care. 

Victoria grew up with Cecilia the younger as a sister. She was a quiet girl who sang in the church choir. Andreas did not deny himself the pleasure of making fun of both girls, and when Victoria turned 16, he forced her to enter into a relationship with him. Nobody knew about this, because the family lived as hermits, and the locals preferred not to pry into other people’s affairs. 

Cecilia the younger got married and left. At the age of 27, Victoria also found herself a husband, Karl Gabriel. According to rumors, he married solely for the sake of a share of the land, but upon learning of the incestuous relationship between his wife and father-in-law, he dropped everything and went to the front. A month later, Victoria gave birth to a daughter, Cecilia. 

In the end, Victoria broke down and told about incest in confession. Gruber was sentenced to a year of hard labor, and she herself was imprisoned for a month. However, when Andreas returned, everything was resumed. Once their neighbor Lorenz Schlittenbauer wooed Victoria – his wife died then, he had sex with Victoria several times in the barn and must have decided that his farm still needs a mistress, besides, he is a respected non-poor man. But Andreas refused to marry his daughter, claiming that he “fondled her himself.” When it turned out that Victoria was pregnant, she persuaded Lorenz to recognize the child as her own, but she never got married, and Gruber was named his guardian. So Lorenz was forced to pay child support until the child came of age, not even being sure that he was from him.

The baby was named Joseph. Unfortunately, he was unwell, grew poorly and was often ill. For the villagers, this served as a signal that Joseph was born as a result of an unnatural relationship between Victoria and her father.

Footprints and ghosts

Shortly before the murder, Victoria was seized with anxiety. She repeated that she felt that the farm was being watched. She saw the silhouette of a man, but could not find out who it was. Andreas also noticed oddities: footprints in the snow around the house, rustling in the attic (and when he got up, no one was there), flashing torches … Once he found a Munich newspaper that no one in the family subscribed to. He also lost his keys.

On March 31, a couple of days before the murder, the maid Maria arrived at the farm. The previous one asked for a calculation when she began to suspect that a ghost was in charge of the house.

Murder

For several days, nothing was heard about the Gruber, but life was in full swing on the farm: smoke poured from the chimney, sounds were heard, someone walked … But after several people with whom Andreas had appointments, they could not getting inside, their neighbor Lorenz became worried and called the police. 

The bodies of all six were found in a house that was in perfect order. Little Joseph was killed in his cradle, Maria – in her bed, the rest were piled up in a heap by the barn and obviously not the first day dead. All residents of the farm were killed in one way – hitting the head with a hoe. At the same time, nothing of the valuable things and money, which was abundant on the farm, was not lost. Cynologists with dogs were able to take the trail of the criminal, but lost him at the edge of the forest.

The police interviewed about a hundred suspects, chief among whom was a neighbor of the Lorenz farm, whom Victoria had deceived and, perhaps, her ex-husband, who allegedly died at the front, could in fact be alive. In 2007, the students of the police academy, as a practice, re-investigated the case, found a new suspect, but out of respect for their relatives, they did not disclose their name.

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Mysteries

A dead star in our galaxy has sent a new radio signal

Magnetar SGR 1935 + 2154, which emitted the first known rapid radio burst from inside the Milky Way in April, flared again, giving astronomers another chance to unravel the cosmic mystery.

The little dead star that sent the signal earlier this year did it again.

On October 8, 2020, the CHIME / FRB collaboration discovered SGR 1935 + 2154 emitting three millisecond radio bursts in three seconds. Following the CHIME / FRB detection, the FAST radio telescope detected something else – pulsed radio emission corresponding to the rotation period of the magnetar.

It is very interesting to see SGR 1935 + 2154 again, and I am optimistic that if we study these bursts more closely, it will help us better understand the potential relationship between magnetars and fast radio bursts, “says astronomer Deborah Goode of the University of Britain Colombia in Canada and a member of CHIME / FRB.

Until April of this year, fast radio bursts (FRBs) were ever recorded only from outside the galaxy, usually from sources millions of light years away. The first was discovered in 2007, and since then astronomers have been trying to figure out what causes them.

As the name suggests, FRBs are bursts of extremely powerful radio waves found in the sky, some of which release more energy than hundreds of millions of suns. They only last a millisecond.

Since most sources of fast radio bursts seem to flare up once and no repetition is detected, they are highly unpredictable. In addition, the ones we detect usually come so far that our telescopes cannot distinguish individual stars. Both of these characteristics make it difficult to track the FRB to either the exact source galaxy or a known cause.

But SGR 1935 + 2154 is only 30,000 light-years away. On April 28, 2020, it spat out a massive millisecond pulse that has since been dubbed FRB 200428 under the fast radio transmission naming convention.

Once the signal strength was adjusted for distance, FRB 200428 was not as powerful as the extragalactic fast radio bursts, but everything else was in line with the profile.

“If the same signal came from a nearby galaxy, such as one of the closest typical FRB galaxies, it would look like an FRB to us,” said astronomer Srinivas Kulkarni of the California Institute of Technology. “We’ve never seen anything like it before.”

We don’t know much about the three new bursts yet. Since scientists are still working on the data, it is possible that some of the early findings could change, Goode said. But now we can say that they are both similar and not similar to FRB 200428.

They are a little less powerful again, but they are all still incredibly strong, and they all lasted only milliseconds.

“Although less bright than those detected earlier this year, they are still very bright flares that we would see if they were extragalactic,” Goode added.

“One of the more interesting aspects of this discovery is that our three bursts appear to have occurred during the same rotation period. The magnetar is known to rotate every ~ 3.24 seconds, but our first and second bursts were separated by 0.954 seconds, and the second and third were separated by 1.949 seconds. This is a bit unusual, and I think we will look at it later. “

This could reveal something new and useful about the behavior of magnetars, because – let’s face it – they’re pretty weird.

Magnetars, of which only 24 have been confirmed to date, are neutron stars; it is the collapsed core of a dead star, not massive enough to turn into a black hole. Neutron stars are small and dense, about 20 kilometers in diameter, with a maximum mass of about two Suns. But magnetars add something else to this: a stunningly powerful magnetic field.

These stunning fields are about a quadrillion times more powerful than Earth’s magnetic field and a thousand times more powerful than a normal neutron star. And we still do not fully understand how they came to this.

But we know that magnetars have periods of activity. As gravity tries to hold the star together – an internal force – the magnetic field pulling outward is so powerful that it distorts the star’s shape. This results in a constant voltage that sometimes causes giant starquakes and giant magnetic flares. SGR 1935 + 2154 is undergoing such activity, which suggests a link between magnetar attacks and at least some FRBs.

Obviously, astronomers have found that the source of the first intragalactic FRBs is of great interest. When CHIME / FRB reported their discovery, other astronomers decided to look at the star, including a team led by Zhu Weiwei of the National Astronomical Observatory of China, which had access to FAST, the largest single-aperture radio telescope in the world.

And they discovered something interesting, which was also reported on the astronomer’s Telegram – pulsed radio emission. These radio pulses were nowhere near as strong as the bursts, but they are extremely rare: if confirmed, SGR 1935 + 2154 will only be the sixth pulsed radio frequency magnetar. And the pulse period turned out to be equal to 3.24781 seconds – almost exactly the rotation period of the star.

This is curious, because until now astronomers have not been able to find a connection between magnetars and radio pulsars. Pulsars are another type of neutron star; they have a more normal magnetic field, but they pulsate with radio waves as they spin, and astronomers have long tried to figure out how the two types of stars are related.

Earlier this year, Australian astronomers identified a magnetar that behaved like a radio pulsar – a possible “missing link” between the two and evidence that at least some magnetars could evolve into pulsars. SGR 1935 + 2154 might be another piece of the puzzle.

“Based on these results and the increasing burst activity, we hypothesize that the magnetar may be in the process of transforming into an active radio pulsar,” Weiwei’s team wrote.

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Mysteries

Starlite: a mysterious material whose recipe was taken to the grave

Enthusiasts continue to struggle with the riddle of the unique material, the creator of which died without revealing the secret recipe.

At the dawn of the 1990s, reports began to appear in the world media about the creation of a new plastic material that could withstand heating to incredible temperatures – up to those that develop during a fire or on the shell of a spacecraft when passing through the atmosphere. Such statements were very embarrassing for scientists also because the author of the find was a man without a diploma or any formal education at all – the British hairdresser Maurice Ward.

Starlite – this name was invented by the granddaughter of Maurice Ward – was repeatedly tested by NASA as a possible heat insulator, the military and large corporations looked closely at it. The author did not refuse to provide samples for research, but he kept the recipe in complete secret, not sharing it with anyone – until 2011, when Maurice died, taking this secret with him. Perhaps thanks to this twist, the plot did not disappear into oblivion along with Petrik filters and other “miracle inventions”, and the history of the mysterious Starlite continues to this day.

According to Ward himself (by the way, his personal blog and YouTube channel survived on the Internet), he was prompted to search for fire-resistant material by a television report, from which he learned that many victims of fires die from poisoning by the caustic smoke of burning plastic. Previously, the hairdresser dabbled in the search for his own shampoo recipes, but around 1986 he completely devoted himself to a new venture. Three years later, the composition was found – and, of course, it turned out to be incredibly simple and included the most common store ingredients.

It was not easy for the “genius upstart” to break through, and over the next few years he pounded the thresholds of laboratories and companies without any benefit. Fate smiled only in 1993, when a message about Starlite was published in the authoritative International Defense Review. It referred to “amazing results” from some of the independent experts who tested Starlite. According to some reports, the material did not burn at temperatures up to 10,000 ° C and was not supplied even by a high-power laser.

Moreover, in the same 1993, the incredible thermal insulation properties of Starlite were demonstrated to the public. On the Air Force show Tomorrow’s World, a chicken egg coated with a thin layer of this material was sprayed with the heat of a gas burner for several minutes, after which it was shown that it remained raw inside. It would seem that the deed is done: it remains to find out which of the industrial giants will be interested in the invention and from whom Ward will be able to get legitimate millions, if not billions of dollars for the miracle recipe. The prospects for its use in engineering and construction were discussed. In 1994, the material was tested at Boeing as an alternative to space shuttle thermal insulation ceramics.

It is worth saying that Maurice Ward has always shown a certain paranoia about the security of his invention. As far as is known, he refused any projects in which he could not maintain a controlling 51 percent. The inventor personally monitored all samples that were submitted for testing, making sure that no one had the opportunity to reconstruct the Starlite composition. Ward also did not file a patent so as not to reveal the secret formula and repeatedly announced attempts to steal. The story that took place in the late 1990s is characteristic. It is known that at this time the inventor found partners from Canada and organized a startup Starlite Safety Solutions, which presented the results of material tests to investors. However, according to those same partners, Maurice Ward turned out to be completely incapable of negotiating – “the more he was offered, the more he asked for”

On the one hand, Ward is understandable. If the author’s statements are accurate, the find could be worth billions, which no corporation likes to share. On the other hand, Starlite could well change the modern world and save many lives, and perhaps doing so was not entirely ethical. Again, if all statements about the properties of this material are true. And this is its main mystery.

Indeed, despite all the doubts of many observers, there is enough authoritative evidence in favor of Starlite every now and then. Thus, Joe Kissell, who wrote about him in 2009, received a letter from Pamela Pohling-Brown, who authored the same article in the International Defense Review. She in every possible way confirmed the reliability of the results presented then and even named the expert who conducted the testing. 

“I’m afraid the topic is somehow classified,” summed up Pauline-Brown. By the way, Ward’s former partners from Canada hinted at the same. It turns out that there is still something to hide?

Maurice Ward has repeatedly stated that, fearing theft, he never even wrote down the recipe on paper, and keeps it in his head – fortunately, it is quite simple. According to him, the secret has been entrusted to only a few closest family members – however, they have not shown much activity since the death of the inventor in 2011. In 2013, two of Ward’s daughters announced the sale of a “certain version” of Starlite to the American company Thermashield, but the third said that she had kept the “best” formula. And since then nothing has been heard about Thermashield, and the company’s website has not been revoked.

But there are plenty of hypotheses and speculations about the composition of Starlite. They find the main clues all in the same publication by Pamela Pauline-Brown, where the following was said.

 “It consists of a set of organic polymers and copolymers with organic and inorganic additives, including borates, small amounts of ceramics and other barrier ingredients, for a total of 21. Perhaps uniquely, this thermally and explosion-proof material contains up to 90 percent organic matter.”

Armed with this data, yet another “genius self-taught” reproduced the recipe. Canadian Troy Hurtubise, known for developing the bear-repelling suit – and for testing inventions on himself – said he found the same or a similar recipe and demonstrated it under the name Firepaste. However, in 2014 he died in a car accident – as if the material really surrounds the halo of special operations.

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