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The 1954 French flap:

The index page for the 1954 French flap section of this site is here.

October 14-15-16, 1954, Haute-Provence:

Reference number for this case: 16-oct-54-Haute-Provence. Thank you for including this reference number in any correspondence with me regarding this case.



The observatory of Haute-Provence observed a luminous object

DIGNE (C.P.). -- Yesterday, around 6 p.m., two sidereal phenomena were observed above Digne, but, at least for one of them, it was by no means a saucer or flying cigar, but only a meteor.

The latter, of an apparent diameter of approximately 25 cm, appeared around 05:50 p.m. above Volonne, Castle-Arnoux, then at 6 p.m., above Digne, in direction West-East. At this time its aspect was of white colour, then at 06:28 p.m., it disappeared, having then red reflections, behind the "Rock of 9 hour" towards the North-West. The observatory of Haute-Provence observed this meteor on its passage.

At approximately the same hour, i.e. around 07:40 p.m., a luminous point was also seen in the North of Digne, a a very high altitude, moving towards the West.

It appeared during nearly three quarters of hour in the shape of an oval ring of a very sharp silver glare, with orange reflections, then disappeared around 06:30 p.m. This phenomenon was also taken in observation by the telescopes of St-Michel-d'Observatoire. The results of these observations were not yet known at the end of the evening.

[Ref. am1:] AIME MICHEL:

Aimé Michel reports the case of the balloon which begun on October 14 and continued on the 15th and the 16th of october from the Alps to Provence.

On October 14, Aime Michel's brother, Joseph Michel, in Saint-Vincent Les Forts in the Low-Alps informed him that on October 14 at 05:30 P.M., he and others located a large luminous object which seems at high altitude, with an apparent size of a half full moon, appearing as a large phosphorescent ball to the naked eye, and as a disc luminous on the circumference and darker in the center when viewed through binoculars. It changed slowly to an oval form and a color going from yellow to orange, then red. It is lost from sight at about 06:20 P.M. when the sun set and the first stars became visible.

He reports that the object was observed during about an hour, during which it moved slowly towards the west, crossing an angular distance of thirty degrees approximately.

Aimé Michel shares his thoughts of the moment:

"This report from my brother, former telepointor of the Navy, was invaluable for me. "Here, I thought, a very beautiful balloon which comes to us from Italy in clear skies. It will probably cross all southernmost France at a very high altitude and will be visible everywhere. We will see the psychosis in action. God knows into what this inoffensive apparatus will be transformed."

Michel tells us the continuations. The balloon is indeed seen on the 15 and the 16 in almost all the Southern half from France, in Lyon, Murat, Puy, Saint Céré, Toulouse, Tulle, Digne, Briançon, Grenoble...

Michel states: "The Observatory of Haute-Provence photographed it."

He analyzes the event by noting that certainly, of many witnesses called it a "flying saucer," but that the surprise was that "all the witnesses without exceptions, even those which thought they had seen a flying saucer," had given a rigorously accurate and correct description of what they observed.

There was no aberrant description, no imaginative additions. A drawing made by a witness who declared himself convinced of the existence of flying saucers could be compared with the photography of the observatory, and it matched it perfectly.

He specifies:

"Descriptions were so similar and so precise that before any investigation, and before the photograph of the observatory was known, the true nature of the phenomenon did not leave of doubt for anybody in the informed circles."

After a few days, the prefecture of Hautes-Alpes which wanted to know the origin of the balloon was informed by the University of Padova in Italy that the balloon was theirs, and was used for a study of cosmic rays.

The photographer of the observatory of High-Provence was criticized by his superiors with the reason that he "surrendered to saucer craze."

Michel concludes:

"... a balloon crosses France and is contemplated by all these "mentally deficient" people [*]. And what do the mentally deficient people describe? A balloon..."

[(*) People witnessing flying saucers, according to a "skeptic" in 1954, were "mentally deficient" people - See Aime Michel's book.]


A discussion took place in connection with an observation supposedly of a UFO of type said similar to this one, but of 1953, which was described by the science-fiction author Jimmy Guieu supposedly based on an investigation by Charles Garreau. The similar objects was claimed an impressive case. Very quickly, one of the participants of the discussion said that it was obviously a balloon, and said he has a copy of an information which established that, but for a case of 1954. I asked for this information, which proves to be an article which is precisely the one Aimé Michel refers to.

Here is this article:


On October 14, 1954, at about 06:00 P.M., a luminous object was reported from several points of the department. We observed it at about 06:20 P.M. using a small telescope: it looked as two appreciably vertical bands whose aspect intrigued us a lot. Its glare decreased with the descent of the sun on the horizon to die out in about fifteen minutes. This too short lapse of time did not enable us to make a more complete observation. We supposed that it was a balloon probe enlightened by the Sun. The colour, besides, before its disappearance, recalled that of the clouds in the sun. Our assumption was confirmed the following day by an Italian newsbrief emanating from the air base of Milan which announced the release of balloons. Two days later, at about 12:00 we saw a new object in the same area of the sky. In spite of some difficulties of observation, because of the passage of clouds layers, we managed to photograph it with the guiding lens of the Equatorial Table (Couder opticals: diameter 200 millimeters, focal distance: 3m25), red filter and Plus X film.

[Picture caption] Fig. 178. - Balloon probe photographed from the Observatory of Haute-Provence, on October 16, 1954, by Mr. P. BERTHIER and Mr. R. MEVOLHON

We have, at 11:47 U.T, raised the position in local horizontal co-ordinates: h (height above the horizon: 20°52' and A 196°54' or 16°54' in the East of North. It is indeed a balloon, of cylindrical shape and photography confirms perfectly the aspect of the other balloon where weak lighting had prevented from seeing the envelope: the two elogated spots are due to the reflexion on the envelope of the balloon: the higher trace, in the shape of a bone, is due to the reflexion upfront; the lower trace, on the opposite face seen by transparency through the balloon; they moved one compared to the other, in addition, notably in a few hours, with the relative displacement of the balloon relative to the Sun. This balloon was observed in Gap at about 12:15 local time, located at 13° of the zenith towards the South, South-West. At the time of the photography, it was probably between Gap and the Mountain of Ceuse. Its distance to the Observatory was then of 75 km and its height above ground-level (altitude) of almost 26 km. Its width (diameter) was of 26m50 and its greater dimension (height) a little more than 36 meters. The balloon remained motionless a certain time, then it drifted towards the East and ceased being observable around 04:00 P.M..




DATE: 16 October 1954
LOCATION: Haute-Provence Observatory, Alpes de Haute-Provence (France)
FORMAT: Picture

PHOTOGRAPHER: P. Berthier and R. Mévolhon

EXPLANATION: Balloon, launched by the Padua University (Italy) for the study of cosmic rays

REFERENCES: P. Berthier and R. Mévolhon, Revue de la Société Astronomique de France, November 1954, page 416. Aimé Michel, Los misteriosos platillos volantes (Pomaire, Barcelona, 1962), pages 261-266; Mystérieux objets célestes (Planète, Paris, 1966), pages 218-224; and Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery (S.G. Phillips, New York, 1958), pages 178-180. Loren E. Gross, UFOs: A History. 1954: October Supplemental Notes, 2002, page 42. Giuseppe Stilo. Eric Maillot. See:


[Ref. ud1] "UFODNA" WEBSITE:

The website indicates that on 16 October 1954 at 12:45 in Forcalquier, France, "An unidentified object was sighted, but with appearance and behavior that most likely would have a conventional explanation. One object was observed."

The source is indicated as Vallee, Jacques, Computerized Catalog (N = 3073).

[Ref. cs1:] C.I.S.U:

Clear Skies Code Day Month Year HH MM SS Exact Location Municipality Province/State Country Geogr. Coord. AS/AF Eyewitness Clear Skies Class. Minimal distance D/N INT INS Level of Identification Causes Notes CISU General Catalogue
250 F 1954 14 10 1954 20 50 Géneland Saone-et-Loire France ? AF Movillon, G. 1 N 2 Bolide

[Ref. ub1:] "UFO-DATENBANK":

N° de cas Nouveau N° de cas Enquêteur Date d'observation CP Lieu d'observation Pays d'observation Heure d'observation Classification Commentaires Identification
19541016 16.10.1954 Forcalquier France


High-altitude balloon.

"L'observatoire de Haute-Provence" (OHP) is an astronomy observatory located at Saint-Michel-l'Observatoire, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

A quite similar observation case of a balloon in 2002, that is 48 years later, including photographs, witness accounts and graphic re-creation by witnesses is here to help anyone interested in understanding the recurring caracteristics of baloon observations, and the accuracy of witnesses descriptions:


(These keywords are only to help queries and are not implying anything.)

Balloon, South, Provence, Alps, multiple, orange, luminous, round, oval, yellow, red, slow, photograph, photo, picture


[---] indicates sources which I have not yet checked.

Document history:

Version: Created/Changed by: Date: Change Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross March 13, 2003 First published.
1.0 Patrick Gross December 28, 2009 Conversion from HTML to XHTML Strict. First formal version.
1.1 Patrick Gross February 27, 2010 Addition [cs1].
1.2 Patrick Gross February 2, 2017 Addition [ub1].

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This page was last updated on February 2, 2017.