Welcome to this month’s Time Travel Nexus Investigates! At TTNI, we’re playing detective, hunting the TTTs (Time-Travelling Tourists), and attempting to solve some much-talked-about cases of alleged real-life time travel.

Was the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident actually an incursion by time travellers?

Origin of the Claim

The Rendlesham Forest incident is the most famous alleged encounter with aliens in the UK and ranks among the best-known UFO events worldwide. It’s often compared to the Roswell UFO incident in the US and sometimes referred to as ‘Britain’s Roswell’.

The claim that aliens touched down in Rendlesham Forest in late December 1980 comes from the servicemen from RAF Woodbridge who investigated it. Rendlesham Forest is a large pine forest in Suffolk, England, and at the time, RAF Woodbridge was being used by the United States Air Force (USAF). In the early hours of December 26th 1980, a security patrol saw unusual lights in the sky and three patrolmen were sent to investigate. What they saw was documented in the ‘Halt memo,’ written by the deputy base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, to the Minister of Defence under the title Unexplained Lights. Halt said:

“The individuals reported seeing a strange glowing object in the forest. The object was described as being metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two to three meters across the base and approximately two meters high. It illuminated the entire forest with a white light. The object itself had a pulsing red light on top and a bank of blue lights underneath. The object was hovering or on legs. As the patrolmen approached the object it maneuvered through the trees and disappeared. At this time the animals on a nearby farm went into a frenzy.”

Halt explained that the next day, servicemen returned to the site and found three depressions in the ground in a triangular pattern where the object had been sighted.

Halt himself returned to the site with several servicemen on 28th December and recorded his investigation on what has since become known as the “Halt Tape.” During this investigation, Halt took radiation readings, saw a flashing light between the trees, then saw three star-like objects in the sky. The depressions in the ground and an area in the centre of the triangle were giving off high levels of radiation.

Halt has since gone on record saying that he believes that he and his men witnessed an extraterrestrial event.

But this isn’t the claim I’m investigating. I’m investigating the claim made by one of the USAF servicemen who went to the site — Sergeant James Penniston. The claim that the aliens who visited us weren’t aliens at all. They were time travellers from our future. They were us.

Sergeant Penniston initially claimed to have seen and touched “a craft of unknown origin”. His claims about time travellers came much later and were the result of a regressive hypnotherapy session on 10th September 1994. A partial transcript of the session is reproduced on the official Rendlesham Forest incident website. The session was also videotaped.

Nature of the Claim

In a 2003 Sci-Fi Channel documentary, UFO Invasion at Rendlesham, Jim Penniston revealed a notebook in which he alleged to have made a real-time account of his experiences. He says in the notebook that a “craft of unknown origin” with hieroglyphics on its side landed in the forest. He examined it for 45 minutes, touched its “warm surface,” sketched it and recorded the symbols as well as a sequence of binary digits that were apparently telepathically transmitted to him.

In the years since the encounter, Penniston has repeatedly claimed that the “craft of unknown origin” was not, in fact, extraterrestrial. So where was it from?

The question isn’t where, but when. When Jim Penniston underwent regressive hypnosis in 1994, he became convinced that what he saw was a craft from tens of thousands of years in Earth’s future. He told the hypnotherapist that he believed it contained our distant descendants, travelling back in time to retrieve genetic material that would save the human race in the future.

The key parts from the session are as follows:

Jim Penniston: They are asking me if I see binary code? I see the binary code… They are time travellers… They are us.

Hypnotherapist: How far in the future?

Jim Penniston: A long time. Very long time.

Hypnotherapist: What do they need?

Jim Penniston: Not sure, but it has to do with chromosomes. Or something like that.

Hypnotherapist: How do they get that?

Jim Penniston: They take it.

Hypnotherapist: From where?

Jim Penniston: From the other people’s bodies. They were interrupted. They are having problems. The odds are against them.

Hypnotherapist: Are they using us something like breeding stock?

Jim Penniston: No. Like Band-Aids.

Hypnotherapist: Does the government believe what you are saying about them coming from the future?

Jim Penniston: Oh yes… This time they [the time travellers] were having problems, but they got their machine off. They have to be in space to travel. They need speed to travel.

Hypnotherapist: To travel through time?

Jim Penniston: To go backwards. They can’t go forward.

Hypnotherapist: They can’t go into their future?

Jim Penniston: They go to their past. It’s impossible to go to the future. It takes too much energy.

Hypnotherapist: How far into the past can they go?

Jim Penniston: These ships can go forty or fifty thousand years. They can’t go back much further. They might not get back.

Hypnotherapist: Why do they come back so far?

Jim Penniston: So it doesn’t affect the time line. The farther it is, the better, the least effect it has on changing the future… They can’t control it. It’s too cumbersome.

The Evidence

We have Jim Penniston’s notebook and we have the 1994 videotaped hypnosis session, clips of which were also shown during the 2003 UFO Invasion at Rendlesham documentary.

Penniston’s account of the Rendlesham Forest incident is at odds with everybody else’s. This means we need to scrutinise both his notebook and the hypnosis session with a close, careful eye.

The Notebook

Penniston first showed the notebook publicly in the 2003 documentary. Nobody has independently analysed it, so all we have to go on is what we saw on TV. No one knows if it was actually written at the time of the incident. We only have Penniston’s word.

An immediate problem with its authenticity is that Penniston recorded the wrong time and date for the event. Penniston has since asserted that his figures were correct despite independent evidence that they are not. I’d say you’re unlikely to get such details wrong if you’re writing about something in real time.

Furthermore, in an interview several years earlier for Omni magazine, Penniston recounted a lengthy description of the craft that he claimed to have written in his notebook. When we finally saw his notebook on screen, this particular passage was nowhere in sight. On the contrary, there were no lengthy passages — only brief, disjointed notes.

There’s also the problem of Colonel Ted Conrad, Halt’s boss, who interviewed Penniston a day or so after the incident. Conrad recalled in 2010, when interviewed by researcher Dave Clarke, that Penniston reported something completely different from what he said later. According to Conrad, Penniston reported that he and fellow serviceman John Burroughs moved through the trees towards an unknown light that disappeared soon afterwards behind a low rise in the direction of a farmhouse. Penniston made no mention of any encounter or notebook and told Conrad “he didn’t get close enough for a detailed look.”

Seems clear to me that someone’s bending the truth. UFO and conspiracy theory enthusiasts, I’m sure, scream “cover-up!” and argue that Conrad is lying for some ulterior purpose. However, the other notebook-related inconsistencies suggest to me that Penniston might be the one telling porkies, and that perhaps his notebook wasn’t created till many years after the event to whet the appetite of UFO nuts.

The Hypnotherapy Session

Memories retrieved under hypnosis are often unreliable and tainted by suggestion, among other factors. The fact that Penniston’s memories sound exactly like the plot of a movie could indicate said factors. Less than a year before Penniston’s hypnosis, a TV movie called Official Denial aired on the Sci Fi Channel and featured an alien craft landing in a forest. Inside the craft were creatures who’d come to Earth to retrieve genetic material to save their dying race. The twist ending was that the aliens weren’t aliens at all. They were evolved humans from the future. There’s even a point where a character says, “They’re not aliens. They’re us. From the future. Our future.”

Can it really be a coincidence that Penniston said almost those exact words during his hypnotherapy session? Yes actually, according to a number of people, including — would you believe it — the writer of Official Denial, Bryce Zabel. Zabel is also the co-creator of 90s science-fiction TV series Dark Skies and has revealed in interviews that he does believe in a number of UFO conspiracy theories. He says he asked Penniston if he’d ever seen Official Denial and Penniston said no, so Zabel concludes that his movie can’t be the cause of Penniston’s memories.

This highlights a problem with most hardened conspiracy theorists. They believe what people tell them, no matter how ridiculous. Penniston has clearly been untruthful about loads of things related to the Rendlesham Forest incident, changing his story left, right and centre. He is not a reliable witness and, frankly, everything he says about the incident ought to be taken with a grain of salt. A tiny, microscopic grain of salt.

The Clincher

Jim Penniston Doesn’t Understand How Time Travel Works

The most telling sign that Jim Penniston is telling big fat porkies about these time travellers is that time travel doesn’t, and cannot, work like this.

Let me explain. Penniston says that the time travellers have come backwards in time 40 or 50,000 years in order to have the least effect on the timeline. “The farther it is, the better,” Penniston relays.

Bollocks. The further you go back in time, the greater the potential impact. If, for example, you change the course of one person’s life 50,000 years in your past, that will impact millions of that person’s descendants and everybody associated with them. The further back you go, the more people’s lives you could end up altering. One tiny change far enough in the past has the capacity to radically reshape the timeline. It’s called the butterfly effect.

Clearly these time travellers have never heard of the butterfly effect and are quite happy to risk their own future based on some seriously faulty time travel logic.

Or, more likely, Jim Penniston hasn’t heard of it.


As fun as it is to imagine that time travellers touched down in Rendlesham Forest in 1980 to retrieve our DNA and save the future, Jim Penniston’s claims are total cobblers. They’re uncorroborated by any real, reliable or verifiable evidence. They’re not even supported by basic logic.


Next month: the time-travelling hipster

C.R. Berry
C.R. Berry is a Grindstone Literary shortlisted novelist and author of the time travel conspiracy thriller series, "Million Eyes", which he describes as "Doctor Who" meets "The Da Vinci Code". The first book in the "Million Eyes" trilogy was released in early 2020 by Elsewhen Press and is available from bit.ly/Million-Eyes. An accompanying short story collection, "Million Eyes: Extra Time", was released in late 2019 and is available for free download from bit.ly/Million-Eyes-Extra-Time. On his website he writes articles about conspiracy theories and urban legends, and his top "Star Trek" episodes are the ones where time gets screwy and Captain Janeway's grumbling about "godforsaken paradoxes".
C.R. Berry


  1. I found this article fully entertaining and enjoyable. I think it is a good written piece regardless of
    the veracity of Mr. Penniston’s shifting statements on the The Rendlesham Forest incident.

    While I may agree that the inconsistencies in his diary writings appear problematic, i would like to make
    a bit of contention out of a separate issue. In regards to going back further in time. While if you interacted
    in known and significant ways farther back in time, with people, then yes you could profoundly impact
    global society as a whole even, and effects may increase in fold over time. If however you tried to limit
    your interaction, then indeed, the farther away from the technological discovery of time travel, the better,
    IMHO. This is because, if from the middle ages through today, even with suspicion, or theories, if there
    were just an interaction of an “unknown” with us, with no way to determine it’s true nature (some even
    perhaps suggesting demonic forces due to strongly held religious convictions) then the impact overall to
    society, essentially a less advanced society, would potentially be null / mute. Again, if said beings strictly limited themselves to covert observations / biological material collection, and without the full picture,
    very little alteration would occur, as such alteration is based on human decision making and behavior,
    which at least tries generally to operate within a fact based mindset. Without definitive proof / answers =
    no major life altering decisions effecting the timeline may occur, as all it would amount to would be
    speculation, nothing more. Most people don’t change jobs and move across the country out of a whim of
    finding a new job. The same could be thought of with major changes in personal / political spheres without
    solid evidence. In other words, their obfuscation would be their strength. Thoughts appreciated.

    Best Regards,