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The Bizarre 1994 Ariel School UFO Sighting in Zimbabwe

Friday, 16th of September, 1994, began as just another ordinary day for the pupils of the Ariel School in Ruwa, Zimbabwe. For many, it was a day that didn’t stay ordinary for long.

By the end of their morning break time, sixty-two pupils would claim they’d witnessed the landing of a UFO, an unidentified flying object.

Some of the pupils would go on to say they’d also seen and been approached by alien beings that exited the craft after it had landed.

Sketch made by one of the pupils that witnessed the alleged encounter.

As news of the Ariel School UFO sighting spread, it attracted media, scientists and ufologists from all around the world.

In the days and months following the unusual incident, there was very little variation in their stories whenever the pupils were interviewed or filmed recounting what they’d witnessed.

What Did The Children At The Ariel School Say They Saw?

On the day of the sighting, the majority of the children had been in the school playground when they noticed something bright and shiny in the sky. They watched it descend and land on the grass among some trees in a field nearby.

A few of the children who spotted the UFO said they had seen the glinting silver object in the sky from a classroom window, and so ran outside to see what it was.

In a group, the curious children made their way to the edge of the field where the object had landed. From there, they were able to distinguish a large, silver-colored, disc-shaped craft.

Some, but not all, of the children, when describing the craft, said it had several smaller craft with flashing lights circling around it.

The children then described seeing several figures emerge from the disc-shaped object. Those figures were small in stature, almost child-sized, and dressed in tight-fitting, shiny black suits.

At this point in time, some of the children became afraid and returned to the school. Those who stayed watching longer described the alien beings as having large, black, oval eyes, non-existent noses and minuscule mouths.

As they continued to observe, the children saw one of the figures climb onto the roof of the craft and walk across it. It then climbed down and walked towards them.

When it approached, it proceeded to communicate with them telepathically about pollution and how humans were destroying the planet.

The alien being then returned to its spaceship, and shortly after, the craft hovered a few feet above the ground before disappearing without making a sound.  

Other Ruwa UFO Sightings

The children of the Ariel School were not the only ones to witness UFOs in Ruwa during September 1994. Prior to the close encounter of the third kind the children experienced, there had been several reports of sightings by adults living in the local area.

Those sightings consisted of flashing lights speeding across the sky on an unidentifiable craft and strange beings appearing on the side of the road.

In the same period, there were also numerous reports of fireballs and unidentified flying objects in the skies above other parts of Zimbabwe, Zambia and even South Africa.

As well as being viewed by members of the public on the ground, there were many unexplained UFO sightings registered by commercial airline pilots.

The happenings were so unusual that forty-eight hours before the Ariel School incident occurred, news of the sightings was broadcast by Zimbabwe’s national radio broadcasting company, ZBC.  

The Tineke De Nooij Interview

During a lengthy video interview conducted at the school by Tineke de Nooij, a Dutch journalist, one of the children spoke of seeing something strange in the sky the day before the incident.

In the video, the young girl recounts how she and her friend talked about whether or not a long, shiny, cigarette-shaped object they saw in the sky was a UFO. She went on to say her brother witnessed the object, too and that they were all scared.

After what the children called a spaceship in the video interview had vanished, one of the female pupils said she’d been to look at the spot in the trees where it had landed. She described a burnt patch of ground strewn with dead insects.

While none of the other children spoke of seeing the same area of blackened ground, the girl said that some reporters who went to the school to investigate the incident had been to take a look. Its existence or non-existence wasn’t documented.

In the video interview, another young girl mentions being frightened the night before the UFO sighting by a TV program she’d been viewing with her mother.

The program had related the story of a woman who had been abducted by aliens and had then given birth to alien babies.

UFO Sightings Or Mass Hysteria?

A spate of UFO sightings wasn’t the only strange phenomena taking place in African countries at the time of the Ariel School UFO incident. There was another equally strange and unexplained phenomena occurring: mass hysteria.

Mass hysteria among groups of schoolchildren in Africa had been happening with alarming frequency since the 1960s.

Sketch of the craft and alien according to one of the children.

Over the decades, there had been classroom episodes in various different African countries of mass itching, mass convulsions, mass panic attacks and mass hallucinations. 

Mass hysteria was one aspect of the Ariel School UFO sighting that Harvard psychiatrist and UFO investigator John E. Mack investigated when he visited the school. After interviewing the children, he found no concrete evidence to show that was what had occurred.

Instead, after comparing notes he’d made during the interviews and studying the drawings made by the children, he believed they were telling the truth about what they’d seen. 

Decades Later

After a few months, as other news took precedence, the Ariel School UFO sighting faded into obscurity and was more or less forgotten. But it wasn’t forgotten by the pupils who had witnessed it or by the people who had interviewed them.

John E. Mack maintained an archive of documents about the time he spent at the school until his death in 2004 at the age of 74.

A few years later, members of Mack’s family approached the producer and cinematographer, Randall Nickerson, requesting him to make a documentary using the information accumulated from Mack’s investigation.

Nickerson agreed to make the documentary and flew to Zimbabwe in 2008 to begin his own investigation into the event. In Zimbabwe, Nickerson traced Mack’s steps to the Ariel School UFO sighting location and interviewed as many of the now-adult pupils as he could. 

In 2022, fourteen years after beginning the project that was initially meant to be a short documentary, Nickerson finally released a full-length film, Ariel Phenomenon. 2022 and Nickerson’s film isn’t the only media that has recently catapulted the Ariel School UFO sighting back into the limelight.  

In September of 2023, the Ariel School UFO sighting was one of the subjects in the four-part mini-series Encounters, produced for Netflix. The documentary has caused almost as much of a stir as reports of the 1994 UFO landing did.

During the documentary, one of the ex-alumni of the school, who had been one of the original sixty-two witnesses, denies the UFO landing ever happened and that it was a fake story initiated by himself that had spiralled out of control. The other sixty-one deny his claim.

Whether or not a UFO really landed at the Ariel School is still a matter of debate. Some people believe one did, while others don’t.

To this day, the only ones who really know what happened that September morning in 1994 are the sixty-two children who were there.


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