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The 1954 French flap:

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

October 14-15-16, 1954, near Digne-les-Bains, Alpes-de-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 ajbs1ve 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. ajbs1ve Volonne, Castle-Arnoux, then at 6 p.m., ajbs1ve 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. aml1:] 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 ajbs1ut 06:20 P.M. when the sun set and the first stars became visible.

He reports that the object was observed during ajbs1ut 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 jbs1ok.]


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 ajbs1ut 06:00 P.M., a luminous object was reported from several points of the department. We observed it at ajbs1ut 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 ajbs1ut 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 ajbs1ut 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 ajbs1ve 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 jbs1ne, 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 ajbs1ut 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 ajbs1ve 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. uda1] "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. csu1:] 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 jbs1lide

[Ref. ubk1:] "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



Sunday story: Flying saucer alert!

Every Sunday, the Dauphiné delves into its archives and makes you relive an event from the past. This weekend, back in 1954, when the South East saw aliens everywhere...

By Sylvaine ROMANAZ - August 11, 2019 at 06:05 - updated on Apr 18, 2020 at 11:07 - Reading time: 4 min

In public gardens, on café terraces, on sidewalks, thousands of motionless people staring up at the sky. On this October 14, 1954, alert in Grenoble: a flying saucer crosses the sky. No doubt for the most informed, the Martians are coming!

In the afternoon, the switchboard of the Dauphiné Libéré is overwhelmed by calls. And at 6 p.m., at the exit of the factories and offices, the crowd increases again in the streets. "But I'm telling you it's a weather balloon!" a passerby shouts. Wasted effort. Not one convinced witness.

Better still, the collective hallucination of the Grenoblois spreads. From Chambéry to Gap, from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to Faucigny, same stories. "A large vertical cigar" for some, flaming red or green and gray, orange or shiny, an unidentified object travels the South-East.

In Fontaine de Vaucluse, the case is growing. This white disc which hovers above the city, here is something strange nevertheless... The witnesses who observe it with binoculars go there for their details: the disc is surmounted by a spherical cap, and looks like a silver bowler hat. And to describe in the Dauphiné Libéré, a "lower circular border which intermittently carries powerful lights, varying from white to purplish through red". The object begins to intrigue so much that around 2 p.m., two jet planes take off from Caritat air base. But the "saucer" goes too fast, and disappears in the sky ..

So, Martians or not Martians? The answer comes very down to earth... from the prefecture of the Isère. They receive a message from a Mr. Polvani, director of the Institute of Physics in Milan: "We are asking for assistance in identifying and recovering a stratospheric balloon loaded with scientific material, passed in France." The device is intended for studying cosmic rays. End of the craze? Not at all.

Because the scientists are offering a bonus of 20,000 francs to anyone who will help recover the balloon by calling "Odéon 99-17". What push everyone to scan the sky again and again. Moreover in Grenoble, on the airfield, specialists try to locate it and estimate its height when the object passes over their heads.

It is hard to miss, the ball is 28 meters in diameter and weighs 110 kilos. Being able to climb up to 33,000 m, it is however very difficult to chase...

The Grenoblois hardly look up that it is at Bourg-Saint-Maurice or Modane , then further in the Ubaye, that the gendarmes are alerted by citizens more or less frightened, more or less curious. And when everyone begins to agree with to the scientific explanation, blam, a second craft is seen simultaneously. This time the witnesses rather report a "ball of fire". But still no Martians. The Saint-Michel observatory near Digne is formal, that's a meteor. And for the first one, same certainty, it is a balloon.

Yet two appearances at the same time is too suspicious for many minds. So the tongues are loosened. And one cross-checks all the testimonies from the four corners of the country.

In the Dombes it is an insurance salesman who remembers having seen "a very short machine which descended slowly." In Moulins, it is a teacher and his class who saw in a field "a metallic-looking craft" with around it "three shapes which seemed to be the passengers of this apparatus." What do aliens look like? "An almost normal human trunk with two arms ending in a hook. A single leg ending in a spherical base". And the head? "Conical with three eyes in a triangle". As for the clothes, one of the children was very precise: they wore the same leather jacket as Louison Bobet! No need to ask us for the photo, this invasion has never been immortalized. Martians are not photogenic enough or too shy...

More timid in any case than the witnesses who throughout the 50's and 60's seem happy to be filmed or to be questioned by journalists to describe what they saw...

So many stories that snowballed to the point that the debate eventually reached the Assembly. Ignoring the scientific balloon (which continued its route in the Rhone valley, in particular above Crest then the Ardèche), the deputy of Ariège Mr. Dejean addressed a question to the President of the Council to know wether "a service was created in charge of gathering the existing documentation and studying the nature and origin of the said devices." Service that exists today.

The Geipan is very officially responsible for looking into unidentified aerospace phenomena. If during your Sunday walk the aliens say hi to you, you can contact them. Be careful though. In October 1954, workers at a construction site near Naples said loud and clear: seeing a saucer could be dangerous. The Pekingese dog who was with them at the time of the apparition looked at the saucer, barked... and fell dead.



Negative cases, high-altitude balloon and meteor.

"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, Digne-les-Bains, Provence, Alps, multiple, orange, luminous, round, oval, yellow, red, slow, photograph, photo, picture


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

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 [csu1].
1.2 Patrick Gross February 2, 2017 Addition [ubk1].
1.3 Patrick Gross March 17, 2021 Addition [lde2].

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This page was last updated on March 17, 2021.