The Trans-en-Provence Case
is one of the rare
cases where a UFO
is said to have left physical
evidence, in the form of burnt residue from a field. The event took place
on January 8, 1981, outside the town of Trans-en-Provence in the French département of Var.
The case began on January 8, 1981 at 5pm. Renato Nicolaï, a
fifty-five year-old farmer
, heard a strange
whistling sound while performing agricultural work on his property.
He then saw a saucer-shaped object about eight feet in diameter
land about away at a lower
According to the witness, "The device had the shape of two saucers,
one inverted on top of the other. It must have measured about 1.5
meters in height. It was the color of lead. This device had a ridge
all the way around its circumference. Under the machine I saw two
kinds of pieces as it was lifting off. They could be reactors or
feet. There were also two other circles which looked like
trapdoors. The two reactors, or feet, extended about 20 cm below
the body of the machine."
Nicolaï claimed the object took off almost immediately, rising
above the treeline and departing to the north east. It left burn
marks on the ground where it had sat.
The local Gendarmerie
were notified of
the event the following day by Mr. Nicolaï directly on the advices
of his neighbor's wife, Mrs Morin.. The Gendarmerie proceeded to
interview Mr. Nicolaï, take photos
scene, and collect soil
samples from the field. The case was later sent
- or GEPAN (Groupe d'Étude des
Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non-identifiés
) as it was known at
that time - for review.
Analysis of evidence
GEPAN analysis noted that the ground had been compressed by a
of about 4 or 5
, and heated to between 300 and 600 degrees
. Trace amounts of phosphate
in the sample material, and analysis of resident alfalfa
near the landing site showed chlorophyll
levels between 30 and 50 percent
lower than expected.
Impressions and explanations
Mr. Nicolaï had initially believed the object to be an experimental
military device. The close proximity of the site the Canjuers military
base makes such a theory generally plausible.
's investigation focused on
conventional explanations, such as atmospheric or terrain causes of
a terrestrial nature. But despite a joint investigation by GEPAN
and the Gendarmerie which lasted for two years no plausible
explanation was found.
French skeptics insist that the GEPAN investigation was
flawed, especially the study of the physical trace.
The police report said that the trace, which appeared on an active
road, looked like one made by the tire of a car. This explanation
was dismissed by GEPAN because of the sole witness saying
otherwise. The physical trace shown on the picture is not a perfect
circle, in fact there are two more-or-less semicircles crossing
over each other. Also, a circular shape does not coincide with the
description of the UFO made by Mr. Nikolaï. In a recent interview
for French television, Mr. Nikolaï confirmed that they were
vehicles passing by on the road at the time of the sighting.
The GEPAN came very late on the field, after the French Gendarmerie
, other ufologists and curious
people, so the physical trace could simply have been altered in it
chemical composition by the people walking on it.
- BreitBart.com: France opens secret UFO files
covering 50 years
- National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena: UFO
- UFO Evidence: Renato Nicolai; Trans en Provence,
- UFO Skeptic.org: UFO Case 4: The Trans-en-Provence
- Rossoni, D., Maillot, E., & Déguillaume, E. (2007). Les
ovnis du CNES – 30 ans d’études officielles. www.book-e-book.com.
(extracts from the book). Critical skeptical
investigations of GEPAN's work.
- Figuet, M. (Ed.) (1995). L’affaire de Trans-en-Provence.