on the evening of 9 november 1979, i was telephoned at home by a journalist from a major scottish daily newspaper. he informed me that a forestry worker at livingston (a new town some twenty km west of edinburgh) had been attacked by small furry creatures which had emerged from a transparent spacecraft. the craft was alleged to have left tracks in the ground! to say that i was sceptical would be an understatement; i could hardly believe it, and was sure that someone had made a mistake. it was then dark and the witness had gone to england. however i resolved to give it my full attention as soon as i could.
the following morning, two scottish daily newspapers brought fuller details, confirming most of what i had been told. the reports revealed that the local police were investigating. consequently i made myself known to them and was invited to visit their local headquarters in bathgate. this i did that morning, discussing the incident with the superintendent in charge and glimpsing the routine police report (i obtained a copy later). clearly they were baffled.
i was then taken to the scene of the incident, a forest clearing. there i was shown some anomalous marks or tracks (by that time fenced off) which, i was told, had been found where the 'spacecraft' had landed. the police were photographing and measuring the marks while i was there... i took some photographs...
only on 27 november 1979 was i able to speak to the person involved in the incident, foreman forester robert david taylor.
the forester's tale
taylor, 61 at the time of the incident, had worked as a forester all his life on the land in scotland. for sixteen years he had worked in the forestry department of livingston development corporation, the new town authority. on the morning of friday 9 november 1979, he was inspecting a forest plantation in the north of the town near, but not within sight of, the m8 motorway. he was alone except for his dog, a red setter. at about 10.15 he rounded a corner in the forest track and was confronted by the most amazing sight. a large domed object appeared to be hovering stationary just above the ground! it did not seem to be rotating and no sound was audible. the colour was uniformly dark grey, with an appearance similar to that of emery paper (many small bright highlights set against a darker background). the surface of the object periodically changed, in different places, to become smooth and shiny. he thought it was attempting to camouflage itself. it seemed to be about six metres in diameter and stood about four metres high. it appeared to be mounted on an equatorial flange or rim, like the brim of a hat. protruding from the upper edge of the flange were what appeared to be regularly spaced stems surmounted by propellers. these appendages did not move and the propellers did not rotate. just above the flange on the surface of the dome were darker, regularly-spaced, circular patches. no other features were visible.
after only a few seconds, two smaller spiked spheres rushed towards him. they were of the same appearance as the dome, but only 0.5 to 1.0 metre in diameter. they seemed to roll forwards on a horizontal axis with only the ends of the spikes touching the ground. the number of spikes is uncertain, but taylor recalls that they made a sucking or plopping sound when they touched the ground. he did not see where they came from, but they stopped one either side of him and each attached a spike to his trousers! immediately he felt himself being pulled forward, towards the dome. he claimed that his feet (in rubber boots) were dragging on the ground. as the spheres reached him, he was overwhelmed by a very strong, acrid choking smell. struggling for breath, and trying to resist the pull of the spheres, he lost consciousness.
when he recovered, none of the objects could be seen. only his dog was with him; it was racing about and barking. when he tried to speak to the dog, he found that he had lost his voice. he also found that he could not stand. so he crawled on his hands and knees for about 90 metres back along the way he had come. after that, he managed to stand and walk unsteadily to where he had left his pick-up truck. there he tried to contact his headquarters via the two-way radio, but he still could not speak. he attempted to turn the truck around, but got it stuck in soft ground and had to abandon it. he then walked home, a distance of about 1870 metres via a short cut across fields and woods, arriving home about 11.15. his voice returned on the way. he was very thirsty and suffering from a frontal headache which lasted for several hours. his thirst lasted for two days. he could still taste the smell and he had a pain in his chin and felt sick.
when she saw that he was covered in mud and heard that he had been attacked, his wife wanted to call the police. he restrained her and explained the nature of the incident. however he allowed her to call his supervisor and head of the forestry department, malcolm drummond. while she did this he took a bath.
drummond called a doctor and made straight for taylor's house, interviewing him in his bath! taylor explained that there must be marks on the ground where the spacecraft (he was sure that's what it was) had sat. drummond set off to look but could not find the clearing. meanwhile the doctor had arrived.
dr gordon adams found a graze on taylor's left leg, and a slight graze under his chin. he could find no sign of head injury or brain compression. taylor's temperature, blood pressure, heart and lungs were normal. however he ordered an ambulance to take him to a nearby hospital for a head x-ray and an interview with a psychiatrist.
taylor then set off with drummond to show him where the incident had occurred and to look for evidence. it was then that the ground markings were discovered and the police were called.
while taylor and his wife later went by ambulance to hospital, they were kept waiting so long that they left without him being examined. he felt well, and they wanted to go away for the weekend to visit relatives.
meanwhile the press learned of the incident, and it became uk news the following sunday. i have never seen so much press coverage of a ufo report. it received wide publicity and interest throughout britain and the world, and it has featured on television and in many books. in the autumn of 1991, livingston development corporation commemorated the event by placing a plaque set in a huge boulder on the site. unfortunately the plaque was stolen three months later and at the time of writing (1994) it has not been replaced.
the police investigation
the local police had never before experienced such a case and were mystified. it is to their credit that they never questioned the honesty of the report, at least not once they heard character references and saw the ground marks. apart from measuring and recording the marks, they took statements from taylor, his wife and the doctor.
in any case of alleged assault, scottish police are required to have the clothing involved sent for forensic examination. this examination showed that both taylor's trousers and his long johns had been torn on each hip (one tear corresponding to where he had a graze on his leg). these tears had been noticed by taylor's wife on his return. the tears were consistent with the material having been pulled up while the trousers were being worn.
the forensic scientists also found traces of a powder similar to maize starch on the trousers. they did not know that this was caused by the fact that the trousers had been transported to the laboratory in an old shopping bag.
no evidence was found of helicopter movements in the area that day, or the previous day. one policeman made a search of the area around the clearing to see if there were signs of a mobile crane that might have been used to lower something into the clearing. he found nothing.
the ground markings
these were of two types. there were two parallel ladder-like 'tracks', each about 2.5 m long and the same distance apart. each 'rung' of the ladder was about two or three cm wide and deep, and about 30 cm long, and the area of grass between each 'rung' was evenly flattened, but not as deeply as the 'rungs'. although the 'tracks' appeared to be impressions made by a heavy object, the indentations were only in the grass; the ground beneath the grass did not appear to have been indented or crushed at all. i was able to confirm this later when the grass had been flattened by snow and had withered. however, individual blades of grass were bent around the square 'rung' and they did not lose this form even after 24 hours.
there were also 40 holes surrounding the 'tracks'. these holes, about ten cm across, and even less deep, exposed fresh soil. all seemed to be at an angle of about 30' to the horizontal. the direction of the angle of inclination was consistent, that is to say the holes all faced in the same direction, towards the next hole in the circuit (there were two circuits). one circuit of holes ran clockwise and one ran anticlockwise, but they seemed to match up between the 'tracks'. in some of the holes it could be seen that blades of grass had been cut. there was no obvious impression of an implement in the holes. none of the grass was burned or scorched; fresh grass growing on the site in 1980 seemed quite normal and showed no sign of the incident. the grass and the ground beneath it were damp; in fact when i first saw the site it was covered in hoar frost.
taylor was known for his honesty and responsibility. he was not the sort of person to invent a tale or play a practical joke. in fact he was of phlegmatic disposition and has reacted to the experience as if it were a minor traffic accident. he does not appear to have been changed by the event. he had heard of flying saucers, but had no interest in the subject and his house contained hardly any books, let alone any on ufos. many told me that they would not have believed the report from anyone else. the subsequent conviction that aliens attempted to abduct him does not seem to have changed or disturbed him, although afterwards he always carried a camera in case they came back.
he drank very little alcohol, and none during working hours. he did smoke cigarettes. he described his health as good, although he was troubled by poor appetite, which he attributed to the condition of his liver (possible cirrhosis caused by heavy drinking in the past). in 1965 he suffered viral meningitis, from which he made a good recovery. in 1977 he was hospitalized with mild hepatitis. he had undergone two operations, a herniorrhaphy and an operation on his neck for cervical spondylosis. he had no history of head injury, and he did not normally suffer from headaches, dizziness or blackouts. he did suffer from angina and high blood pressure; he was taking medication for the latter. he weighed 73 kg and was 1.8 metres tall. his hearing was good and he needed spectacles only for reading.
my own investigation
... one line of enquiry was the strange smell taylor reported. an odd feature was the fact that, although he claimed that it persisted when he got home, his wife could not detect it. he likened it to that of burning brake linings. tests with samples of ozone (03), nitrogen dioxide (n02) and hydrogen sulphide (h25) showed that the last came closest to matching the strange smell (although none was identical).
a soil sample was tested, but was found to contain only the normal elements, the distribution of which differed only slightly from that of a control sample from the same site. the radioactivity of the samples was normal.
in order to check taylor's route home and to find how long he could have been unconscious, i traced and timed this route. there seemed to be nowhere on the route where taylor had to climb, so tearing his trousers. the time taken on this route indicated that taylor must have been unconscious for about twenty minutes.
taylor himself was unable to produce a sketch of what he saw. the first attempt was made by david hammond, then a student architect and the fiance of his youngest daughter. this sketch showed the 'ufo' standing on four slender legs, but taylor strenuously denied that he saw any legs. he agreed that the general form shown in the amended sketch (where the legs have not been completely removed) did represent what he saw...
a team from the ufo investigation network (ufoin) also visited taylor and inspected the site of the incident. they saw it as the landing of a spacecraft and concluded that the smaller objects were 'devices'. they were sure that the 'craft' had rested upon the ground and caused impressions in it. they reported that the taylor was 'mesmerized by the object's totally alien appearance', and that he had been 'assaulted' by the devices. they made numerous enquiries in an attempt to establish whether or not 'folklore, mystical, or ufo type events' had been associated with the area in the past (keatman and collins 1979 - 1980).