Rounding a corner of a woodland path on Dechmont Law, a forester going about his job in November 1979 entered a clearing and came upon a large dome-shaped metallic object.
So begins the tale of one of the most significant UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) incidents in Europe. Known as “The Livingston Incident” in paranormal research circles, on police files it remains an unsolved case of “an attack by person or persons unknown.”
Robert Taylor, employee of the Livingston Development Corporation, was on a routine inspection of the Dechmont Law hillside one November morning, accompanied by his Irish red setter, to check fences to ensure that sheep and cattle didn't stray into the wood. No-one witnessed what happened until he turned up at his home in Deans on foot later that morning in a state of shock and barely able to speak. He had reversed his truck into a ditch, his trousers were ripped and his dog was very agitated. He stammered to his incredulous wife, “I have been attacked by a spaceship.”
Robert’s story, which he maintained throughout his life, was that as he came upon this large dome-shaped object in the clearing, two round objects dropped from it to the ground and started rolling towards him, making sucking and popping noises. His dog was barking madly and there was an overwhelming burning smell. As they got near to him projections came out of them towards his hips, grabbed him and pulled him forcibly towards the larger object. At this point he lost consciousness. When he came to, the object has gone leaving nothing but imprints in the ground and Robert in a state of shock. He managed to stumble back to his truck but reversed it into a ditch, such was his disorientation. He staggered home to Deans on foot.
Robert’s assertion that he had been attacked by a spaceship and his description of the event led to the involvement of Strange Phenomena Investigations (SPI), a research society headed by Malcolm Robinson. I spoke to Malcolm who was on site the following day to photograph the imprints on the ground and to interview the police and LDC personnel involved. The police forensic analysis of the ripped trousers concluded that they had not been torn by any forest debris (i.e. not by branches or sharp plants of any sort) nor by barbed wire. There was no explanation for the marks in the ground, and after thorough investigation by the police and forensic experts, the case remains unsolved. Robert’s boss and colleagues described him as a steady sane person not given to telling stories and with no interest in the paranormal.
I asked Malcolm how he went about investigating such cases. “You have to rule out the obvious explanations. I always ask people if they are on any medication. They may be after notoriety. There are lots of possible explanations so you have to be very careful.” He became fascinated by the paranormal when he set out as a young man to disprove the existence of ghosts. After some personal experiences and listening to the experiences of many other people he gradually began to change his mind. He set up Strange Phenomena Investigations in November 1979, and says that the vast majority of reports of strange happenings can be explained. But he believes that there are enough unexplainable incidents to convince him that, he says, “there is evidence to suggest that humans have been visited by beings from elsewhere - not necessarily extraterrestrial but from a different dimension.”
Malcolm has been involved in investigating another UFO incident in this area – the A70 Incident.
The stretch of the A70 from Kirknewton to Lanark, the “Lang Whang,” is a quiet route between the heather-covered hills and has a bleak and remote aspect. It is the location of another unexplained incident, this time in 1992. Two men from Edinburgh, Garry Woods and Colin Wright, were driving along the A70 headed for Tarbrax one evening. As they turned one of the sharp corners just past Harperrig Reservoir, they were faced with what they described as a two-tiered black disc hovering motionless above the road. Shocked, they decided nevertheless to just drive under it and keep going. As they passed under the object it emitted a curtain of mist which, as it reached the car, enveloped them in total blackness. Moments later they regained sight and the car was shuddering. Somewhat shaken they continued their drive to Tarbrax. But, on arriving at their friend's house they discovered that it was an hour later than they had thought; the journey which normally took thirty to forty minutes had taken an hour and a half, and they couldn't account for the missing time. Neither Garry nor Colin had any interest whatsoever in the paranormal and, totally nonplussed, they didn't report the incident to anyone besides friends.
But they became increasingly troubled by nightmares and, in Garry’s case, severe headaches. Both men found scars on their bodies that weren't there before. They eventually contacted Malcolm at SPI, who encouraged them to undergo hypnotic regression therapy to try to discover what had happened that evening during the lost hour. Although sceptical they were desperate for their own sanity and agreed to the hypnotherapy. They have no recollection of what happened, but in a series of hypnotherapy sessions they described their experiences. They were apparently taken into the craft and underwent various experiments at the hands of small grey creatures, some of them painful.
The “A70 Incident” is still a subject of fascination and since as far as anyone involved can tell Garry and Colin did not fabricate the whole story, their experience remains unexplained.
How would you react if one of your good friends or colleagues announced they had been attacked by aliens? “I have no problem with sceptics,” says Malcolm. “I think you have to have had a personal experience of the paranormal, or be very close to someone who has, before you will start to accept it as an explanation for events that are otherwise inexplicable.”
A walk up to the site of the Livingston Incident is a pleasant walk through Dechmont and North Woods. Park at the carpark adjacent to Deans Community High School. Strange Phenomena Investigations petitioned West Lothian Council for signage for the world-famous site, which was installed last year (2018), making it easy to follow the trail to the exact location.
Article published in Konect November 2012. Updated November 2019
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer. With thanks to Malcolm Robinson of Strange Phenomena Investigations. Strange Phenomena Investigations celebrates their 40th anniversary next month, it was founded in November 1979. See http://www.fsr.org.uk/spi/