Ariel School, Ruwa, Zimbabwe
Why is this important?
This sighting is important because it was observed by a large group and attracted the interest of renowned Harvard Psychiatrist, John Mack, who concluded the children experienced something unusual that day.
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.
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.
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.