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Looking Up From Down Under
An in-depth look at the only UFO festival in Australia. The fourth installment in a series about UFO Tourism
Reported by Bernie O’Connor: firstname.lastname@example.org
The traditional gifts for a 10th anniversary is either Tin or Aluminum. So to stretch the point here, tinfoil, right? And come this August, the beautiful seaside town of Cardwell, Queensland, Australia will be hosting a literal ocean of tourists sporting tinfoil hats and green faces. Why? They'll all be enjoying themselves happily marching in an alien themed costume parade celebrating the UFO and Paranormal scene down under in OZ.
I was intrigued to learn that this is the only UFO themed event in Australia and the fact it has successfully made it to a decade milestone. A quick email to the Festival’s organizer, Thea Ormonde requesting an interview, lead to equally quick email response from her agreeing to one. So, on to the show …
B. Thank you Thea, for giving our readers your valuable time today. As the organizer, Thea, are you responsible for pulling the whole Festival together?
T. Sure Bernie, thank you for being interested in our Festival. Yes, I am the one responsible for arranging everything. Sourcing the speakers, getting the necessary permits, dealing with vendors and as usual with an event like this, there’s always one more thing to do. But I have a great team I rely on to help me out.
B. How big a team do you have for this challenging undertaking?
T. Our primary team consists of three key people that do all the background work. And when we are organized, we then call on an army of volunteers to help out for the set-up, running the many activities and the set-up and pack down of the festival. In total, that comes to about 20 plus, very dedicated people. We absolutely love our volunteers!
B. Congratulations on your 10th anniversary. How did the Festival start?
T. Well, 2014 marked 150 years of the settlement, and the town was keen to showcase what makes Cardwell so special. We had a town meeting and quickly discovered all that we wanted to showcase could not be jammed into just one weekend. So we developed a year long calendar of 10 festivals with different themes. One of which was the UFO Festival idea. There had been a spat of sightings of the Cardwell lights in the weeks leading up to the planning meeting and was heavily discussed during the session. It was during this meeting that I suggested we concentrate one festival, a UFO festival. The planning committee voted on it and it passed. I took the lead in running it and before we knew it, here we are celebrating our 10th year.
B. I did a quick Google search and it seems Queensland is a reputed UFO hotspot, and it also seems to host a wide variety of Paranormal activity. Can you please give our readers an idea of what that activity might entail?
T. There have been many, many UFO sightings and they are varied. From my own personal experience I have seen what we locals call the ‘Cardwell lights.’* These are two unexplained bright lights that appear in the night sky. They travel together at the speed that would be similar to that of a plane in the sky. They move across the sky parallel to each other and then quickly shoot up horizontally at lightning speed. Other people I know have reported seeing silver cigar shaped objects moving across the sky during daylight or strange flashing lights at night. The whole region, Cardwell, including Tully, which is known for its famous ”Saucer Nests”** of the sixties, is renowned for being hot spots for other unusual, reoccurring paranormal events. These include countless reports of mystery orbs, “hairy men”, Yowies, large black cats and rain forest pygmies.
B. It looks like you have a great line-up of C-File (Cardwell Files) speakers for this years Festival. Where are the presentations held?
T. The speakers present in a large hall so we can accommodate as many people as possible and in comfort. These are actually open forums, where people come together to share and compare their unusual encounters. The C-Files is sort of a confidential forum. No photos or recordings are allowed, so everyone feels safe and comfortable talking openly about their unusual experiences.
B. Do visitors have to pay to listen to these presentations?
T. We have always run the C-Files as a donation to enter, seeing as this is our 10th anniversary and we have an exceptional lineup of speakers this year, the C-Files will be ticketed at $20 per day to see all the speakers.
B. How is the bus tour different from the C-Files?
T. The tour takes people around to the various local areas where there has been unexplained sightings of various phenomenon such as, lights in the sky, orbs in the forest, Yowies sightings and numerous reported cryptids.
B. Of the fees the Festival charges, where does the money go?
T. The small amount of money we recover goes back into the bank account to help put on next year’s festival.
B. I looked at the Photo Gallery on your site and it looks like you have a large turnout and a lot of fun. How many people, on average, do you estimate, attends the Festival?
T. Over the course of the weekend, we anticipate 3500 – 4000 guests in Cardwell. Considering we only have 900 permanent residents in the town, it really comes alive during the Festival.
B. Where do you put everyone?
T. Well, as for local hotel accommodations, they get booked up rather quickly. We then rely on our neighboring towns to help with the over flow. We also offer camping on the local sport’s field.
B. Is the Festival centered in one place in Cardwell?
T. The festival is spread throughout the town with various activities, such as costume contests, games, free music, vendors, pop-up attractions, even a car-boot sale. It’s truly a community event dedicated to fun and excitement.
B. I have to ask, why is there only one UFO Festival in Australia?
T. Not sure, but Cardwell is proud to host the Festival. When we set up it up all those years ago, we were surprised to find out that we were the only one. The festival has grown dramatically every year, to the point where we are seriously having to look at relocating to a larger town. We have re-branded for this year from Cardwell UFO Festival to the Australian UFO Festival. So in essence, we can take it anywhere.
B. Has it been difficult to build the Festival up?
T. Yes it has. There is a small but very vocal group in town that think the festival is an embarrassment to the town and shouldn't be happening. We have also struggled with funding as the town is very small and the local businesses, while they support the festival and are appreciative of the extra income the festival brings to them over the weekend, they are only small businesses and are unable to offer too much in financial support to help with the overhead. Also the way the town is set up, “party night’ which is our main money maker, is an open air space, so it cannot be gated allowing for a cover charge. Also logistically, to get speakers, or entertainers that would draw a larger crowd has proven to be a challenge as we are three hours from an airport and the extra travel costs really bite into the budget. Thus we rely heavily on local government funding.
B. Does the community now, embrace the Festival?
T. Oh, Yes, the town embraces the festival, businesses dress up their shop fronts, residents light up their houses and decorate their yards. And the children and adults dress up in alien costumes. The weekend is a great fun family friendly weekend. We have people travel from all over Australia to attend the festival.
B. How long does your interest in UFOs go back and have you ever seen a UFO??
T. My interest goes back as far as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with what is ‘out there.’ But no dramatic personal sightings, only the ‘Cardwell lights’* as I mentioned earlier.
But then, there’s always hope.
B. I see you have a UFO reporting feature on your Festival’s website. How do you handle these reports?
T. We first assess them and see if there is any further information that might be needed, for example, if there was no colour of lights mentioned or time reported we will get in contact to see if they have further information as the more information the better. Sometimes people are so eager to report their sightings they forget to mention little bits and pieces. Once we have all the information, we forward onto Sheryl Gottshall, of UFO Research Queensland in Brisbane. Sheryl then vets them and if they are warranted, does the follow-up investigations.
B. So Thea, would Sheryl be the person to talk to get a good idea on the UFO situation here in Australia?
T. Yes, she would be perfect! And Sheryl has had quite a few unusual encounters of her own.
B. Thank you so much for your generous time today Thea. Here’s to much success with your 10th anniversary Festival that’s just around the corner.
T. Thanks Bernie, Cardwell is busily getting ready to welcome all our friends and to make sure they all have a good time.
Keep up to date with all the happenings at the only UFO Festival in Australia! Here you can book your tours, get speaker updates and info on all the great events planned for this year. (Hint: The Chrome browser works best for this site.)
Looking to apply to be a guest speaker for next year’s Festival?
(There may be still time to make this year’s roster.) Click here to reach Thea Ormonde:
UFOs: The Image Hypothesis Close Encounters of an Australian Kind
UFOs: A Report On Australian Encounters
Both books are written by Australian Ufologist Keith Basterfield
Get the full story about the famous “saucer nest” case here.
Peter Khoury is one of this year’s key presenters at the C-Files. To learn the full story of his many close encounter experiences see: Hair of the Alien – DNA and Other Forensic Evidence of Alien Abduction by Bill Chalker.
UFOS DOWN UNDER - AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW SHERYL GOTTSCHALL
Thea was kind enough to arrange this interview for me. Sheryl is the president of UFO Research Queensland and has had a life-long interest in UFOs and the paranormal. Sheryl has had many UFO sightings, close encounters and possible direct communication with other worldly beings. She is also the Australian representative for the International Coalition for Extraterrestrial Research (ICER) The first truly global UFO organization with 29 representatives from countries around the world. Its aim is to provide evidential information on extraterrestrial matters to the public, scientists, academics, media and government officials in pursuit of world disclosure on the UFO issue, taking this discussion to the highest levels of governance, including the United Nations.
B. Thank you Sheryl for agreeing to be speak with me and be an important part of this article. I’m sure the readers of the Observer are eager to learn about the UFO situation here in OZ.
S. Thank you Bernie, I’m happy to help.
B. Sheryl, your bio states that you have had many incidents with UFOs, including a close encounter. Would you like to share these experiences with our readers?
S. Typically witnesses who report close encounters report multiple UFO sightings during their life too, and I’m no different. One of the best UFO sightings I’ve had occurred in 1992 when a group of us were sky-watching at Wivenhoe Dam, about a 45 minute drive west of Brisbane. The reason that it was a great sighting was because there were eight witnesses who observed three orange, football-shaped lights within a very close range. Having so many witnesses was extremely helpful in being able to attest to actually seeing something and describing it similarly, and it not just being a hallucination or misinterpretation.
On another occasion I experienced a close encounter, sometime in 1990/91, in the early dark hours of the morning. I awakened for some unknown reason, to see three small beings (3 ½ feet tall) standing between my bed and the window in a one metre wide space. My husband, is an insomniac and incredibly light sleeper, and was asleep in the bed next to me at the time, but he remained completely unaware of the incident.
I couldn’t see the faces of the little “beings” as they were silhouetted by the street light on the footpath outside our house, but strangely I have a memory of their eyes being very large, black and tapering off towards the side of their head, which has been described by other experiencers as “wrap around” shaped eyes. The feeling I had at seeing them was of being terror-struck to my core. A similar feeling might be if one were to awaken to see a Bengal tiger staring down at you looking to eat you for their next meal, but you can’t get away. There was no sense of these beings as friendly. Instead their proximity exuded a dark malevolence that is very difficult to describe and it’s stayed with me to this day.
I then had the very strange and surprising response to pull the bed sheet up over my head and to spontaneously begin to say the Christian Lord’s Prayer. I was taught this prayer at Sunday School but had not been a church goer since childhood and had no idea that I could still recall it. I began reciting the prayer in my mind, I remember that I managed to say the beginning few lines of, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name”, and the very next instant it was morning! I had no memory of the event the night before until just after noon when something triggered my memory and it all came flooding back.
I still haven’t been able to reconcile the memory of not being able to see the small being’s faces, yet having the memory of seeing their eyes and shape at the same time. It doesn’t make sense, so maybe there was some missing time. Plus, to my knowledge, people don’t go to sleep when they feel terror-struck, in fact their heart pounds in their chest, which isn’t conducive to sleep, so there is something strange about the experience and maybe something else occurred that I can’t remember. I’ve never bothered with having hypnosis to recall that gap in my memory as I saw it having no real purpose. Plus I work as a professional hypnotherapist myself and understand that the unconscious mind easily fills in memory gaps with its own creations based on our beliefs, desires and our emotional equilibrium. Hypnosis doesn’t act as a truth serum as many people think, so hypnotic memories cannot be guaranteed to be accurate.
I haven’t experienced another close encounter since that time and frankly I have no desire to. However, a few years later I became very ill and during that illness, I had a near death experience,(NDE) which over the years I’ve discovered is not unusual for people who experience close encounters. During the NDE I was being sucked into a “swirling vortex” and I felt the same sense of malevolence being emitted from within the vortex as I sensed from the three small beings who stood beside my bed a few years previously. I knew if I allowed myself to be drawn into the gravitational force of the vortex that I wouldn’t be coming back to this reality, and that was not my plan. So I struggled to remain in this reality which I obviously succeeded in doing and lived to talk about it.
B. Sheryl, all of what you are saying is incredible! Did these unusual events continue?
S. Yes, when I was ill, which lasted from 1995 to 2005, I had many other paranormal experiences. On one occasion my husband got up to go to the bathroom and he had the habit of lightly touching my foot as he walked past to make me aware that he was up and walking around. On this one night though, I felt his hand wrap right around my ankle which awakened me fully. I rolled over to see where he was and what was going on and saw him still asleep in the bed next to me. It was then that I realized it wasn’t HIS hand around my ankle that woke me up but something else!
At another time around 2005, my husband was in Adelaide visiting his mother. One sunny Saturday afternoon I was sitting at my computer writing him an email when I felt a presence, or other consciousness, enter my mind and take over my typing. It began to communicate with me via my own fingers typing out a message on the keyboard. My eyes were open but my sight had glazed over while my own consciousness had been pushed into a back room in my mind somewhere. The message that was now being typed to appear on my computer screen claimed to be of ET origin. Simply put the message said that “they” reached out to “touch” many in this way but not many respond, so they were trying to find alternative ways to communicate. The “messenger” in my mind claimed to come in peace but that there were those among them who didn’t, so they worried for our safety and vulnerability, and as a consequence felt a responsibility to remain vigilant of our situation. The messenger claimed they came “in great ships” to visit Earth because it was so beautiful and abundant and to gather its resources just as we do. I was told our two cultures are very much alike but theirs is further along in their development than ours.
By this time I was feeling skeptical and wondering if I’d become delusional, so I asked (mentally) for the “messenger” to tell me something that I would recognize as not being generated from my own mind. The answer I received was that it couldn’t be done since the communicator was using my mind and its own internal creation to communicate with me, and as a result it would never be able to prove to me who it was. The message continued with strange information and requests to meet, which I didn’t follow up on. I filed it away for many years only to find it again recently. I’ve never been able to resolve what actually occurred that day, only that it did.
I’ve also had a bi-location experience, out of body experiences and performed spontaneous asana positions that I had no previous knowledge of, never having practiced or even read about yoga until some years later.
B. Have these events occurred over the course of your life, or only just recently?
S. The most intense time my paranormal experiences occurred was during the ten years that I was ill. I think the illness somehow opened doorways to other realities that I have become aware of ever since. These days I feel like I’m always walking with one foot in our physical reality and the other in alternate dimensions that I move between more readily as time goes by.
B. When did you start investigating UFOs and paranormal events?
S. I stepped into the UFO field in 1988 and immediately began boots on the ground investigations with a mentor. It was during this time that I became aware that about half the witnesses we interviewed had also had a near death experience, but just like the witnesses at the time, I didn’t connect the two experiences together. These days the connections between paranormal and UFO experiences is finally being recognized by some UFO researchers, as we face the realization that the connection has always existed. However, I think UFO researchers have been so intent on gaining credibility about the subject over the years that they omitted the paranormal aspects in their reports, at least publicly, but to the long term detriment of our understanding.
B. Taking your years of experience as a UFO investigator in Australia, do you see any new trends developing? Is there one type of case increasing and are other types of cases decreasing?
C. Currently we receive far fewer UFO reports than we used to in years gone by. Reports started to trail off from around 2005 when the public began using social media. So these days people share their experiences on Facebook and Twitter, rather than reporting to UFO organizations such as ours. So it’s much more difficult to track trends. One thing stands out though, and that is that there are very few abduction cases being reported on social media or to UFO organizations in Australia now. This could be because the phenomenon has changed, the emotional climate has changed to support witnesses to report only positive experiences, or something else. It’s very difficult to know.
B. Here in the U.S., some investigators see a connection between Bigfoot/Sasquatches and UFOs. Do you think there is a connection in Australia between your Yowie and UFOs?
S. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a connection. I’ve read some reports where Yowies have been seen to seemingly stand guard outside UFOs or seen to actually enter landed craft. However I’ve never received reports of this myself, so I have no data to draw on to reach any consideration myself. It may be more useful to discuss this with Australian Yowie researchers.
B. What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you to report a UFO or book you for a speakers event or media interview?
S. I can be contacted via our UFO Research Queensland Facebook page or email me at email@example.com
B. Looking at your case files and personal experiences, do you subscribe to any particular origin theory as to what UFOs might be?
S. Thirty five years ago, when I first stepped into the UFO arena, I had a very naïve perspective of the UFO phenomenon. It was very nuts and bolts with aliens living on other planets, flying their spacecraft to land on Earth and sometimes interact with humans. Maybe some of that is still true in some cases, but now I have room in my mind for dimensional travelers, the craft themselves as being living creatures, and these beings whatever they are, as being able to exist both physically and non-physically….and much more. I’ve opened my mind enough to entertain other possibilities now but I still retain a healthy skepticism, enough so that my brains don’t fall out entirely. LOL!
Frankly I really don’t have a clue as to what or where these beings come from or what they’re doing here. I know they have the capability to shut down our missiles or send them off course, some beings (if that’s what they are), seem to be master mental manipulators of our human minds to prompt us to go outside to see craft, or holograms of them. I do think they are non-human intelligence's that can remove our natural fears of them, take samples of our body tissue, and manipulate time and space. So what is that? Who are they? I just don’t know, but I think there are some people on this planet who do and they don’t want the public to know.
B. Sheryl, I think that’s an excellent final point you made, and thank you so much for your valuable time.
S. Thank you Bernie. I hope your readers enjoy it.
Contact Queensland UFO via Facebook or email Sheryl at firstname.lastname@example.org
On YouTube @ UFO Research Queensland
UFO Headquarters Podcast: Sheryl Gottschall from UFO Research Queensland in Brisbane, Australia joins pod-casters Linda Zimmermann, Ghost Hunter & Mike Worden of the U.S.A. for a deep dive into the Australian UFO scene.
CALLING ALL CYBER SLEUTHS! HELP SOLVE:
“The Cold Case of the Missing Little Green Mascot.”
Three years ago, on August 24th 2020, Organizers of the Cardwell UFO Festival reported they were the victims of a a brazen theft of a sign that featured their Festival’s little green mascot, pictured here. The value of the sign was $6,000.00 and unfortunately, insurance did not cover this loss. Whether this was an intentional act of malicious vandalism or the result of a too-much Forster’s Lager induced prank gone wrong, is unknown. Recounting the incident today, Thea Ormonde, the Festival’s Organizer is still hoping the sign may yet turn up. “We are very worried about our mascot and we would like him back, safe at home where he belongs.”
Calling all sleuths, calling all sleuths, be on the look out for a little green cryptid...
Begin your sleuthing by scrubbing your Facebook, Twitter, Tik-Tok posts for any sign of this little lost being. A hint of him may be seen in the background of a photo partially buried behind something. Or he may be hanging on someone’s wall in a YouTube video or podcast. Also, please keep you eyes peeled when visiting a flea market or attending a boot sale. You never know where he may suddenly show up, even on Ebay. If you do come across any leads, please contact Thea via the Festival’s website.
The sign’s return would be a wonderful way to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of the Festival.
And the town of Cardwell would be eternally grateful.
OR, WOULD YOU PREFER TO DO SOME SOME NAME CALLING INSTEAD?
This mysterious and elusive little green cryptid needs a name. We are not sure what type of entity it is as it’s an “artist’s impression” of the many reported sightings of him that regularly visits Cardwell. It seems it has been appearing at the same time, in the same place, every year in August, for the past 10 years. Very strange. So put on your tinfoil thinking caps and submit your name(s) via this link. The winner gets a lifetime supply of heartfelt gratitude.
(Gee, I wrote this whole article about Australia and didn’t mention a Kangaroo once… OOPS! B.)