Project Magnet & The Great Canadian UFO
Ryan Fairley (January 2, 2006)

Interestingly enough, while it is true that many people from all over the world have spotted UFOs the term does not easily connect to Canada. In fact the word “Canada” and the word “UFO” are farther apart in most people’s minds then they are in the dictionary. But just like everything else Canada has had its share of weirdness and this includes UFO sightings and UFO searchers. Canadians, while being rather receptive to the idea that Extraterrestrials might be appearing at various locations for mysterious reasons, are a rather “hobbitish” group of people that firmly think: “if you keep away from trouble then trouble will keep away from you”. If only that were true; with such an attitude it might be imagined that most Canadians wont be concerned about Extraterrestrials until they start jumping ahead in line at the local Tim Horton’s. Realistically though, Canadians have become noted scientists, adventurers, warriors, artists, writers, and even UFO hunters.

The 1950s were a sort of golden age for UFOs. In the 1950s the idea of flying saucers and UFOs were new to people. Project Bluebook and the crash at Roswell had yet to become pop culture icons and the Majestic 12 was a strip show in Las Vegas. People rarely spoke about UFO except to discuss the most recent science fiction film they’d seen at the local theatre. At the same time though scientists, who were just starting to dream about things like ICBMs and putting a man on the moon took the idea seriously. Other people taking the idea were high-ranking men in government and the military. They began to make serious programs dedicated to finding out if “aliens” were real, what dangers they posed, and what to do if they arrived with hostile intent. One such project was something called Project Magnet, and one of the stations doing research for Project Magnet was located just outside of Ottawa, Canada.

Project Magnet was a genuine attempt to find a “flying saucer” by means of tracking their magnetic disturbances. A man named Wilbert Smith thought that these flying metallic objects must use the earth’s gravity to propel themselves through the atmosphere. Working in the field of Geo-Magnetism, Mr. Smith was led to note in a memo he sent on 1950: “we are on the track of a means whereby the potential energy of the earth's magnetic field may be abstracted and used.” Supposedly Mr. Smith made enquiries that led him to be told by Washington insiders that UFOs were real and that the government was interested (full memo: in working with anyone who could help, including Canadians.

Project Magnet was given to the Canadian Ministry of Transport and was classified as secret. It was described: “The project was quite small; it used facilities of DOT, with assistance from other government departments, including the Defence Research Board (DRB) and the National Research Council (NRC). The project was an outgrowth of work already being done by Smith and a group of colleagues within DOT on the collapse of the Earth’s magnetic field as a source of energy. It was the belief of many that "FLYING SAUCERS" were operating on magnetic principles and it was thought the DOT work might explain their operation.” (1) This means that Ottawa Canada was host to the world’s first UFO Spotting Station.

It seems that Project Magnet has some form of success in that it did detect something… although exactly what that something was no one is quite sure: “At 3:01 PM., August 8, 1954, the station registered a definite disturbance, quite different from disturbances registered by passing aircraft. Smith and his colleagues were alerted by a built-in alarm system. Regrettably, heavy fog prevailed and it was impossible to see anything overhead. The recorded evidence, however, indicated that something strange had flown within feet of the station.” (1)

Mr. Smith died in 1962 and never really got a good look at what would become the field of Ufology. Perhaps if he had lived a while longer he could have come forward and told the UFO-search community a little more about what he was told about UFOs, what he knew about UFO propulsion, and who had told him what the US did and did not know about Extraterrestrials while he was involved with Project Magnet. As most people know, sometime in the 1960s the nations of NATO (prodded on by Cold War paranoia) took a completely different view on UFOs… from then until now it was disinformation campaigns, weather balloons, and mass hysteria. Never again will we have the open and naïve governmental attitude towards UFOs as was visible in the 1950s.

BY: Ryan Fairley

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