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The 1954 French flap:

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October 15, 1954, Grumbach, Haut-Rhin:

Reference for this case: 15-Oct-54-Grumbach.
Please cite this reference in any correspondence with me regarding this case.


On October 22, 1954, the regional newspaper L'Alsace reported that on Friday, October 15, 1954, at about 8 p.m. at the Grumbach near Thann, Antoine Etterlen, electrician at Scheurer-Lauth's was going to town when he saw at a few hundred meters of his father's house, a white and brownish pink band of light, climbing from the mound of the Grumbach up to the wooded slopes between the Albert rock and the Grumbach pass.

He continued his way, and then saw on his left, about twenty feet above the Grumbach meadow bathed in a greenish light, an horizontal thing, sparkling, also pink white and brown, shaped like a dovetail.

This thing rose slowly into the air, turned upside down to take the form of a large disk with a dovetail, then rose very quickly in the sky and disappeared over the city.

When the luminous disc had taken speed, Mr. Etterlen, who remained still on the spot, perceived a sound identical to a waterfall sound; at the same time, he felt a warm wind from the valley.

The entire phenomenon lasted only a few minutes.

Decades later, when Mr. Etterlen was 71 years old and a grandfather, he was interviewed by journalist and ufologist Christian Valentin.

He led Christian Valentin and his team to the place, where there is a forest that did not exist at the time of the event. At the time there was a pasture that stretched to the top of the valley.

Mr. Etterlen said that he was then a young electrician, working in the factory on the other side of the river. He recalls that at the time there was much talk of flying saucers, but nobody believed it. He said the event remained entrenched in his memory, and that he still hears the faint hissing sound; which had intensified with the departure of the craft to the top of the valley.


[Ref. lae1:] NEWSPAPER "L'ALSACE":

A strange phenomenon was observed Friday October 15, 1954 in Grumbach close to Thann, by Antoine Etterlen, electrician at Scheurer-Lauth. Around 20 hours, while going downtown, he sees, at a hundred meters of the paternal house, a luminous band of pink, white and brownish color, rising from the balloon [rounded mount typical of the Vosges mountain] of Grumbach until the forested slopes between the Albert rock and the Grumbach pass.

Resuming his walk, he then saw on its left, a score of meters above the meadow of Grumbach which was bathed in a greenish light, a horizontal thing, shiny, also of pink, white and brownish color, in the shape of a dovetail.

The thing rose slowly in the air, reversed itself as it appeared as a large disc provided with a dovetail, then went up very quickly in the sky to disappear above the city.

It is at the time when the luminous disc took speed that Mr. Etterlen, who had remained frozen on the spot, perceived a noise identical to that which is caused by a waterfall; at the same time, he felt a hot wind coming from the small valley. The whole had lasted only a few minutes.


Christian Valentin reports the contents of the article in "L'Alsace" for October 22, 1954.

He met Antoine Etterlen, who is now a 71 years old grandfather. He has led Christian Valentin and his team on the location, where there is now a forest which did not exist at the time of the event, there was a pasture which extended up to the top of the small valley.

Mr. Etterlen specified that he was then a very young electrician, working at the factory on other side of the river. He remembers that at this time, it was much spoken about flying saucers, but that nobody believed they were real. He indicates that the event remained vivid in his memory, and that he still hears the thin whistling sound, more precisely the light whistling sound which was accentuated with the departure of the machine to the top of the valley.

He had approached the gleam which he saw in the small valley, without then expecting to see "this sort of multicolored spinning top." He was frightened and hid behind a hillock. He told of what he saw to his comrades but they thought that he was making a tall tale, and he did not say anything anymore, while remaining in apprehension and looking at around him when he was going outside in the evening.

He does not give interpretation of what he saw, but estimates that that it is perhaps not unreasonable to think that it came from another planet.


Former journalist Christian Valentin published in 2012 a very interesting book telling the story of UFO sightings, flying saucers sightings, in Alsace, from the beginning to 1980.

In this book, he tells again what he had reported in [cvn1] above.



The "least worst non-extraterrestrial explanation" that I can think of is that of a succession of noctilucent clouds because the description has more to do with that than with a description of some "structured craft".

So I checked the time of sunset on that day and from that place.

There is no "Grumbach" city or village in the Upper Rhine; the Press report says it would be a locality near Thann; where there is now a street of the Grumbach, indeed. So I took the coordinates of Thann, 47° 48' 38 North, 7° 06' 10 East. The Grumbach meadow is above Vieux-Thann at 580 meters of altitude.

The sunset was at 05:45 p.m. The sunset is in the west side of the Vosges, the witness was on the east side of the Vosges. The obstacle of the mountain could only participate in appropriate visibility of noctilucent clouds.

The time might seem "too early", but it actually is very fit: noctilucent clouds are ice crystals clouds, very high, about 75 to 85 km high - they are the highest clouds observed - and they are visible only when the sun is well below the horizon, illuminating them from below.

See my page on this phenomenon.

That said, this is just my "least worst trivial explanation." If I stick to the available reports, I have a hard time convincing myself this must be the correct one, I have the impression, perhaps false, of an observation of something much "closer" than clouds, the word an "approach", the start said to be very fast, rising above the city, the noise at the same time, all this gives the impression of something incompatible with any clouds. So I am not going to conclude... Quantitative data is missing, such as durations, angular speeds, angular sizes etc.


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

Grumbach, Haut-Rhin, Antoine Etterlen, electrician, night, valley, meadow, band, luminous, pink, disc, tail, white, brown, gleam, green, pink, shiny, landing, large, fast, rapid, sound, noise, heat, air, blow, breath, duration


[----] indicates sources that are not yet available to me.

Document history:

Version: Created/Changed by: Date: Change Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross April 17, 2005 First published.
1.0 Patrick Gross April 24, 2009 Conversion from HTML to XHTML Strict. First formal version.
1.1 Patrick Gross October 15, 2014 Addition [cvn2]. Explanations changed, were "Not looked for yet" previously.

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This page was last updated on October 15, 2014.