Family spark UFO scare with lantern tribute

Hundreds of people report strange orange balls in the sky

A goodbye gesture to a much-loved grandad unwittingly sparked off a massive UFO scare for hundreds of people.

The mysterious 'Bletchley balls', huge glowing lights speeding across the sky, were the talk of the town for days.

"It was amazing. I've never seen anything like it before," said one awestruck reader.

But a letter to the Citizen finally dispelled the myth of an alien invasion when it revealed the UFOs were in fact Chinese lanterns.

They were launched by the Hepden family in memory of their father and grandfather, 74-year-old Fred Hepden.

"We released them on the night of his funeral because we thought it could be a way for all his grandchildren to say goodbye. We had no idea it would cause a UFO alert!" explained Fred's son Mark.

The wire-framed paper lanterns are 18 inches in diameter and two feet tall. They have a steel plate at the bottom, on which sits a small candle.

"My dad had 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild. Many of them were too young to go to the funeral so they wrote little messages or drew pictures and put them in the lanterns to reach their grandad in heaven," said Mark.

That night, Tuesday, May 5, five lanterns were launched from Fred's former home in Cardigan Close before the ceremony was abandoned because it was too windy.

The Hepden family plan to gather again on Saturday night – Fred's birthday – to launch the remainder.

"Hopefully, by warning Citizen readers in advance, we won't cause any more UFO alerts!" said Mark.

"The good thing is, my dad would have really seen the funny side of this. We're sure he's chuckling away up there about this story."

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