Flashing lights, crop circles, and a hovering orb have given this Ontario town its name.
On a seemingly unremarkable stretch of Highway 11 between Fauquier and Kapuskasing, Ontario, a UFO squats a stone’s throw from the town of Moonbeam’s Visitor Centre. The spacecraft is reminiscent of Gazoo’s ship in The Flintstones—except made of fibreglass and bigger. Much bigger.
Standing at approximately nine-feet tall, the Moonbeam UFO monument is striking enough to summon thousands of travelers a year from the roadside, inviting them to take a few snaps and stretch their legs while they explore this intergalactic novelty and learn more about the fascinating town of Moonbeam.
Built and erected in 1991, the Moonbeam UFO is a brilliant example of a life-edict I swear by: when given something strange, you should revel in its strangeness. This is precisely the sort of precept the people of Moonbeam seem to have adopted when they decided to embrace the fascinating and unbelievable history of their singular town.
A town with a name like Moonbeam.
I first heard about Moonbeam in high school. I was studying—and falling in love with—Tomson Highway’s iconic play Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing. But I had no idea where Kapuskasing was, exactly. I looked it up on a map—an actual folded and impossible to refold once unfolded, paper map—and found it nestled up north in the Canadian Shield, just west of René Brunelle Provincial Park. To my delight, about 20 kilometres south-east, was a town called Moonbeam.
Obviously, I’d thought, there’s got to be a story there. And there is, but I wouldn’t learn about it for a couple of decades when a quick internet search would shed equal measures of light and shadowy mystery on this little town.
So the obvious question: why name a town Moonbeam?
The most common story goes like this: early settlers were walking through the woods at night and encountered pillars of light spilling down from the sky into the rivers and creeks, and that’s where they decided to make their camp, eventually establishing the town.
Today Moonbeam is home to around 1,200 people—95 percent of whom are francophones—and, according to Dènik Dorval, who works at the Moonbeam Visitor Centre, Moonbeam is growing faster than any other community in Northern Ontario. Thank the 34 kilometres of gorgeous nature trails, ready access to Rémi Lake, the friendly, outdoorsy neighbours, and maybe, just maybe, a little extraterrestrial activity.
But those lights that poured out of the belly of the sky? Most people logically attribute this phenomenon to the Northern Lights. In the century since Moonbeam was established, however, there have been many UFO sightings. Flashing lights, crop circles, and even an orb that hovers in the sky, bouncing lightly up and down, defying the laws of gravity, before vanishing out of sight faster than you can catch your breath.
Over the years, dozens of locals—especially locals who live by the creeks and rivers—have reported these otherworldly sightings.
According to residents, the spaceships land and take off from the same place, often along Moonbeam Creek, leaving brownish-black stains and crumbling debris, as if that ground were exposed to intense heat. Geiger counter readings, which measure all forms of radiation, are said to go off the charts in these areas.
Skeptics have dismissed the sightings, saying that the UFOs are actually glowing electromagnetic plasmas—corona effects caused by nearby power line glitches.
The problem with this theory, some say, is that sightings of these bizarre objects predate powerlines.
I asked Dorval what he thought.
“Most of us think of the UFO and alien mascot as part of our unique community. It’s an extension of the wonder that’s part of our town. The incredible natural surroundings: the lakes, rivers, and trails. And of course the name, Moonbeam. There are certainly stories here of UFO sightings, but our town’s use of the UFO does not have to be taken literally. It still has meaning.”
So, is Moonbeam really a beacon to extraterrestrial life?
I don’t know for sure. The fact remains that a smiling green alien, which you can spot on the Moonbeam Visitor Centre porch, is the town mascot. As I said, the town has leaned into its strange, stellar reputation.
One can’t help but notice how mysteries seem to abound in our galaxy. On October 19, 2017, while reviewing images from a super telescope on top of a ten-thousand-foot volcano on Maui, Canadian astronomer Robert Weryk spotted an interstellar visitor that has thus far eluded a satisfactory explanation. Named Oumuamua, which translates roughly to “scout” in Hawaiian, the object was about the size of a city block and moved at four times the speed of an asteroid—200,000 miles per hour. Perhaps most interestingly, Oumuamua was not following an elliptical path around the sun, as a comet would. It defied the laws of gravity by speeding along in a relatively straight line.
What I am saying is there’s a lot we don’t seem to be able to easily explain about the mysteries of the cosmos. To quote American astronomer, astrophysicist, and astrobiologist Carl Sagan, “the universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”
Hollay Ghadery is a writer and mother of four young children, living in small-town Ontario. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in various literary journals, including the Malahat Review, Room, Grain, and The Fiddlehead. Her recent non-fiction book, Fuse, came out with Guernica Editions’ MiroLand imprint in spring 2021. Follow Hollay on Instagram: @hollayghadery or Facebook @hollayghaderywriter.
Feature photo cred: WikiCommons
Photo #2 cred: WikiCommons