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An illustration of a flying saucer

An illustration of a flying saucer

UFO encounter near Stanford in the Vale

29 September 2023

In June 1978, the Mann family from Brockworth in Gloucestershire claimed to have encountered a UFO while driving late one night near the Oxfordshire village of Stanford in the Vale.

Aliens over Oxfordshire

John and Gloria Mann, their two young children Natasha and Tanya, and John's sister Frances were driving home to Gloucestershire on the evening of Saturday 19 June 1978. It was around 10:15pm when they passed through Stanford in the Vale and headed northwest on the A417 in the direction of Faringdon.

The Mann family

The image of the Mann family that accompanied the Sunday Mirror article about their UFO encounter.

They were only a few minutes out of the village when they saw a very bright light in the sky ahead of them that seemed to be travelling in the same direction as their car. Stopping the car and getting out to get a better look, John saw the light resolving into a large circular object which hovered above the car before drifting over trees to their right and descending towards a nearby field.

John described what he saw. It was

a massive saucer-shaped object, its undercarriage lit by a rim of brilliant coloured lights.

This was accompanied by a noise described as a combination of 'a swishing sound and the scoring noise of train wheels against a track'.

Gloria claims that her husband appeared to be in a trance while staring at this strange sight, and, noticing that the UFO appeared to be about to land, shouted to her husband that they needed to get away as quickly as possible. This snapped John out of his trance, and he leapt back into the car, and the family sped off, somewhat shaken by what they had witnessed.

They passed through Faringdon at what should have been around 10:30pm, and later recalled thinking that the town seemed very quiet for a Saturday night. However, on arriving home they discovered to their surprise that the hour was passed midnight. Either they had all completely mistaken what time they left, or they had lost an entire hour somewhere between Stanford in the Vale and home!

Newspaper illustration of the Mann family

An illustration that accompanied the September 1980 Sunday Mirror article about the incident.

John contacted RAF Brize Norton to report what he had seen, but was told that there were no known military or civilian aircraft flying in the vicinity of Stanford that night that might provide a mundane explanation for what the Mann family witnessed.

The alien ordeal continues

Exhausted by their ordeal, the family retired to bed, but John and Gloria reported that just as they were drifting off to sleep, they once again heard the strange sound that had accompanied their UFO encounter. The sound was coming from directly above their house, but when John ran to the window the sound suddenly ceased and he could see only stars overhead.

The following evening, John and Gloria Mann returned to the spot where they believed their UFO encounter had taken place, but in the gathering dusk they could see no signs on the ground that might suggest a craft of any kind had landed. They returned the following Sunday in broad daylight but again returned home having seen nothing that could confirm or deny what they believed they saw.

In the days following their encounter, the Mann family were troubled by strange rashes and bruises on their bodies. At the same time, five-year-old Natasha began to have disturbing nightmares in which she saw what she described as 'strange people with funny eyes' who took her parents away. John claimed that he also experienced very vivid dreams in which he was taken on board an alien spacecraft and examined.

The Mann family call in the 'professionals'

After a few weeks, the rashes and nightmares passed but it seems like John and Gloria were unable to put their strange experience behind them. They contacted a UFO group, who put them in touch with a therapist who offered to try a hypnotic regression technique to try and get to the bottom of what had happened.

The story that this therapist managed to piece together as a result of these hypnotic regression sessions seemed to confirm the family's worst fears about what could have happened to them during the hour that was seemingly 'missing' from their memories on that fateful night in June.

If what John and Gloria said under hypnotic regression is to be believed, the family were beamed up to a space ship via a beam of bright light. Here they met humanoid aliens dressed in spacesuits with tight-fitting hoods. The aliens explained that they were members of the Janos people, a race of aliens who were searching for a new planet to inhabit after their own planet was rendered uninhabitable. The family were examined before being given memory-erasing drinks and sent on their way.

Oxfordshire UFOs: Fact or fiction?

With these outlandish revelations, the story of the Mann family's UFO encounter appears to have ended and we're left pondering whether any of the events related could be true. I've read accounts of this story in the books Curious Oxfordshire by Roger Long and The Veiled Vale by Mike White, but the main source for both appears to be a single double-page article that appeared in the Sunday Mirror on 14 September 1980, a full two years after the events described occured.

The Sunday Mirror article, entitled 'Close encounters of an English kind', gives a fanciful and somewhat fictionalised account that doesn't ring true in a lot of ways and leaves a lot of questions unanswered, not least why the family waited two years before approaching the press. The story that the Mann's told was very similar to a large number of alleged UFO encounters that had been reported around the world in previous years. Details like lights in the sky that followed cars in rural areas, people experiencing 'missing' periods of time, having nightmares that recalled what had happened during those missing hours, and even unexplained rashes and physical marks were all common tropes in descriptions of UFO encounters.

The Mann's story bears a close resemblance to a famous 1961 UFO encounter reported by Barney and Betty Hill from New Hampshire in the United States. The details of the case are very similar, right down to the use of hypnotic regression to recover details of the couple's encounter.

Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind had appeared in UK cinemas earlier in 1978 and had broken box office on its release, renewing the public's interest in aliens and UFOs. It would be easy to dismiss the Sunday Mirror article as mere fiction, churned out by a journalist to capitalise on the buzz surrounding the Spielberg movie and fill a few column inches on a slow news day.

True or not, the story's Oxfordshire setting does give it a certain appeal to the likes of myself. It is nice to see my home county getting in on the UFO hysteria that was sweeping the country at the time!


  1. 'Close Encounters of an English Kind' (Sunday Mirror, 14 September 1980)
  2. 'Curious Oxfordshire' by Roger Long (Sutton Publishing, 2008, ISBN: 0780750949576)
  3. 'The Veiled Vale' by Mike White (Two Rivers Press, 2016, ISBN: 9781909747173)