Ariel School, Ruwa, Zimbabwe

September 1994
Ariel School student witnesses to the UFO sighting.
Ariel School student witnesses to the UFO sighting.

62 students at the Ariel School, ages six to twelve, reported an encounter with a UFO. Some students claim seeing a humanoid life form exit one of the crafts.

The Ariel School was an expensive private school located in a remote area, Ruwa, outside the capital of Zimbabwe. Most of the students were from well-to-do families that lived in the capital, Harare. Two days prior to the Ariel School encounter, there were reports of odd aerial phenomena across southern Africa, including sightings in South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Hundreds of people reported witnessing fireballs streaking across the night sky. Some believed that these objects were the rocket from a recently launched satellite re-entering the atmosphere or common meteorites, but others believed these objects to be airborne craft.

Ariel School Ruwa, Zimbabwe school children UFO witnessed interviewed just after the sightings.
On the morning of September 16, 1994, students gathered outside of the school for a mid-morning break while the teachers remained inside for a meeting. Up to 62 students reported witnessing one or more silver disc-shaped objects landing on a field near the school. Moments later, some of these students alleged a black haired being(s) emerged from the craft(s) and approached the children. Many of the younger students ran away in fear at the sight. As recounted by the children, the being telepathically communicated with them and warned them against environmental pollution and irresponsible technological advancement. The being(s) then allegedly re-entered their crafts and ascended back into the sky. The entire encounter is said to have occurred within a fifteen-minute window. The children reported the incident to the teachers, who did not take them seriously; many students recounted the episode to concerned parents later that day. Numerous parents arrived at the school the following day to better understand what had happened, with baffled school officials unable to provide satisfactory answers. Ariel School alumni and witness from the 1994 sighting Emily Trim, said the experience had a deep impact on her life.

In the following days and weeks, when the children were independently asked to draw pictures and describe what they had seen, many of these images and accounts bore a striking resemblance to one another. Famed Head of Psychology at Harvard University John E. Mack, well-known for his work with people claiming extraterrestrial encounters, was coincidentally in South Africa during the Ariel School sightings. Mack flew to Zimbabwe days after the sightings, interviewed over a dozen students, and found their reports to be credible. Famously, Mack publicly stated that he believed the children's testimony.

Sketches from Ariel School UFO sighting in Ruwa, Zimbabwe.
Sketches from Ariel School UFO sighting in Ruwa, Zimbabwe.

South African Investigator Cynthia Hind was the first field investigator to interview the witnesses. Hind hired Gunter Hofer to film the interviews and assist with the investigation. Ultimately, Hind and Hofer also expressed their belief in the children's account.

Although 62 children claim to have seen the flying objects and aliens, dozens of students that were also present asserted nothing unusual had happened that day. Studies have been conducted that suggest the students had succumbed to the phenomenon of mass hysteria.

Nearly thirty years on, the affair is still surrounded by controversy. Many of the students have since left Zimbabwe and have been difficult to track down by modern researchers. Others have been unwilling to speak about the matter, and officials at the school prefer to keep the event firmly in the past; however, some witnesses interviewed in the mid-2010's maintained the veracity of their claims. According to "Sarah", an eyewitness interviewed in 2014: "What happened at Ariel was certainly weird, so many kids coming back from break with such similar stories ... it certainly messed [sic] me up. I mean, try telling people that you live in permanent fear of these things returning one day. Try telling them that you can actually sense when they're back in our atmosphere. They'll think you're a kook."

A full-length documentary film about the Ariel School sightings called "Ariel Phenomenon" was produced in 2022 by Randall Nickerson. Nickerson and team tracked down many of the 1994 school children witnesses and asked them to recount their story.

References

Official Explanation

"Mass Hysteria" was the official explanation, but key investigators and psychologists also believed the children were telling the truth.

Counter Argument

That an unidentified flying object was actually present on that day, and the children saw what they claimed to have seen.

Evidence

Children's eyewitness testimony and drawings. Burnt grass and insects dead near supposed UFO landing spot.

Incident Map

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