At 1:25 a.m. on Christmas 1964, resident Mildred Head awoke with a start. Her ceiling, she later told local journalist Arthur Shuttlewood, had “[come] alive with strange sounds lashing at [the] roof.” It sounded like twigs brushing against the tiles, and got louder and louder until it reverberated like giant hailstones. Head got out of bed to look out of the window but found nothing there. She did, however, hear another noise, a humming sound that grew louder before fading to “a faint whisper.”

It was just the start of what would become a decades-long mystery and string of UFO sightings known around the world as the Warminster "Thing." A few hours later, the soldiers at the nearby Knook Camp army base were awoken by what sounded like “a huge chimney stack from the main block ... ripped from the rooftop, then scattered ... across the whole camp.” At 6:30 a.m., Roger Rump and his wife were stirred by a similar noise. They described it as sounding like “the 5000 tiles on our roof being ripped off and then put back on again with an enormous clatter.” At around the same time, Marjorie Bye was walking to church when she was thrown to the ground by the force of “savage soundwaves.” In total, more than 30 individuals reported hearing mysterious noises that Christmas morning—and there was more to come.

Strange things continued to happen in Warminster, a town just over 15 miles from Stonehenge, in the new year. In February 1965, an entire flock of pigeons suddenly died. The following month, three families heard loud noises coming from above their houses, their roofs and windows shaking with the force. And in June, the Warminster residents began to see unidentified objects flying through the sky.

Descriptions of the UFOs vary from person to person, with one describing what they saw as “cigar-shaped and covered with winking bright lights,” and another like “twin red-hot pokers hanging downwards, one on top of the other, with a black space in between.”

The unusual events began to receive national attention, and people flocked to Warminster hoping to get a glimpse of the “Thing.” Over the August Bank holiday of 1965, an estimated 8000 people descended on the small town. The following month, when resident Gordon Faulkner claimed to have captured a photo of the UFO, The Daily Mirror published the picture, garnering even more publicity for Warminster. By that time, the news had even made its way stateside, with newspapers as far as California reporting on the eerie events in the sleepy market town.

Sightings and unexplained noises continued intermittently over the coming years, ranging from “a ball of crimson light” in the sky to a “terrible droning sound” that made the witness’s floor and bed shake. Interest in the mysterious phenomenon remained strong. In 1966, the BBC filmed Pie in the Sky, a documentary about the events. Shuttlewood penned several books on the subject, while a local UFO enthusiast named Ken Rogers began publishing The Warminster UFO newsletter.

But by the early 1970s, sightings of the Warminster “Thing” began to decline, and with them the number of curious visitors that had once swarmed the town. Even Shuttlewood, who had become a figurehead of the phenomenon, had retired from sky-watching due to ill health. With few sightings, no new books, and no one to guide would-be UFO spotters, interest in the Warminster “Thing” soon disappeared.

Today, the town is still regarded by some as the “UFO capital” of the UK, with reported UFO sightings as recent as 2017. Though more than 50 years have passed since these strange events began, there is still no theory to explain the origin of the Warminster “Thing.”