Reality Check: ‘Old Man Logan’ #46 and the Shag Harbor UFO crash



Ed Brisson’s Easter egg for UFO buffs

On top of Wolverine coming to terms with his slow death from adamantium poisoning, yesterday’s Old Man Logan #46 references a classic “real” UFO case that’s barely known outside of Canada. Coincidentally enough, I just got back from a conference where I’d been asked to talk about the incident that occurred 51 years ago near the small fishing village of Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Image credit: Marvel Comics

What is known about the event is that on October 4, 1967, dozens of witnesses in and around the village — including fishermen and even members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) — reported seeing lights moving in the night sky, descending towards the ocean. No one actually saw the presumed object hit the water, but when witnesses reached the beach, they saw a light bobbing along the surface, seemingly on a large dark “something.”

The RCMP roused some fishermen from sleep and effectively commandeered their boats to head for the “crash site,” thinking that an aircraft had come down. But when the ships arrived at the location where the light had been (it had vanished by the time they got there), all they found was a long patch of yellowish foam, about six inches thick.

Inquiries with the Royal Canadian Air Force revealed no airplanes were missing. Official memos and documents from 1967 show that the case was taken seriously by military and government reps, to the point where Navy divers were directed to look for whatever might have sunk to the bottom.

And that’s where the stories really take flight. Up until that point, the “Shag Harbour UFO Crash” is completely factual, with testimony from police, civilian witnesses, and military personnel. But because the official version is that the Navy divers didn’t find anything, conspiracy buffs have really gone to town with tales of the U.S. Navy sending its own divers and submarines to retrieve what must have been an alien saucer on the ocean floor. (Research has found that U.S. Navy ships really were in the area, likely laying sonar for detecting potential Russian subs, but that only gets in the way of a good story.)

The Shag Harbour UFO has appeared in comics before, believe it or not, in Gold Key’s UFO Flying Saucers No. 2, published in 1970, when the story was relatively new. Back then, it was told fairly straightforward, as “The UFOs Invade Our Seas,” with the text being low key but great liberties were taken with the images.

Image credit: Golden Key Comics

In Old Man Logan, in 2018, Shag Harbour is where a craft crashes and its alien occupant is decidedly malevolent.  So somewhere along the way, writer Ed Brisson had heard about the Shag Harbour UFO case and decided to weave it into the Wolverine saga. But that’s where the similarity ends. No aliens were ever part of the many witnesses’ testimonies, and nothing ran amuck in Canada during the following years. [Sardonic political commentary deleted]

What really happened in Shag Harbour in 1967? Experienced fishermen (some of whom are still alive and remember the incident well) insist the appearance of the object on the water and the concurrent foam was unlike anything they had seen before or since. Investigations have shown that at least some of the lights seen in the sky might have been meteors or flares sent up by unknown persons, but by and large, the case remains unexplained. That is to say, we don’t know what it was, but that doesn’t mean it was alien craft, either.

Image credit: Marvel Comics

Nevertheless, the story still has legs, and along the ocean at Shag Harbour there’s a UFO Museum, a commemorative sign, and a small park where you can gaze in the general direction of Bermuda and wonder what the heck the fuss was all about back then. There’s been a “UFO Festival” there the past few years, with speakers giving presentations to fans, UFO schwag on sale in the dealers’ room, approved cosplay and other events, in complete analogy to sci-fi cons. While I was there, the Canadian Coast Guard even sailed a ship out onto the bay where the UFO was said to have been seen, to help attendees put it all in perspective.

It was all a lot of fun. I had never been to an actual lobster boil before.

Did it “really” happen? Fans didn’t seem to care.

Image credit: Chris Rutkowski