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UFO sighting at Duncan hospital in 1970 was a prank, claims local senior

Royal Canadian Mint produces collectible coin based on incident
The UFO sighting at Cowichan District Hospital on New Year’s Day, 1970, was a prank, according to local resident. (Royal Canadian Mint photo)

The UFO sighting in Duncan in 1970 that a new collectible silver coin being produced by the Royal Canadian Mint is based on may have earthly origins after all.

Dan Hughes, who has lived in the Cowichan Valley since 1969, said the incident was the result of a New Year’s prank by a local couple that has developed into a full-fledged UFO hoax over the years.

Hughes, who knew the couple, said he has seen the story of the UFO sighting outside the Cowichan District Hospital early on New Year’s Day, 1970, in numerous publications and books since then, but when he saw that the Royal Canadian Mint had made a coin about the sighting, the sixth in the mint’s Canada’s Unexplained Phenomena series, he thought it was time to tell the truth.


He said Les and Renee Palmer, who have both since died, lived in a house that bordered the hospital’s property on Gibbins Road at the time.

Hughes said that, as part of New Year’s activities, the couple made a cross from two pieces of very light wood and taped them together.

They then attached a string to the four ends of the wood pieces and placed small candles near the ends before covering the whole structure with a light-weight plastic dry-cleaner bag that was tied at the top where the coat hanger is usually positioned.

“A hair dryer was help up underneath until the bag filled with hot air and then, with the candles lit, the contraption was released and it went up in the air and towards the hospital,” Hughes said.

The scenario that the Royal Canadian Mint describes on its website said that before dawn on New Year’s Day, 1970, a nurse at the Cowichan District Hospital opened the curtain in a patient’s room and described seeing a large saucer-shaped craft with a glass-like dome top.


Inside the object, which was estimated to be 15 metres in diameter and illuminated from the bottom, the nurse said two male-like figures clad in dark cloth appeared to be standing in front of a large panel.

Absorbed by the sight, the nurse studied both the craft and its occupants, and soon noticed one of the figures slowly turning to face in her direction.

The other figure then reached down to grab hold of a lever, and the tilted craft began to spin in a counter-clockwise direction.

The nurse called over a colleague to witness the hovering object just as it silently and swiftly moved away, though its lights were still visible to two more witnesses who joined them at the window.

Hughes said the dry cleaners’ bag that was used had some patterns on it that could be mistaken for people, or aliens, if seen from a distance.

He said he was at a party in Cowichan Bay a few years after the UFO sighting at the hospital with the Palmers and they recreated the “UFO” before letting it drift across the bay.

“It went higher and higher until it disappeared from view,” Hughes said.

“From what I hear, there were reports of a UFO in that area that night.”

Hughes said that, over the years, he didn’t tell anyone what he knew about the UFO sighting at the hospital, but reading about the Royal Canadian Mint creating a coin to commemorate the incident struck a chord with him and he decided to speak out.

“It was just a harmless New Year’s prank that has snowballed into this,” he said with a chuckle.

So what do you think? Otherworldly visitors, or prank?

The one-ounce, 99.99 per cent pure silver $20 coin depicting the sighting is being sold by the mint for approximately $140.

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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