Lying out in the wilds near the isolated township of Atikokan, northern Ontario, Canada, is a sprawling “M” shaped lake carved into the landscape by glaciers and known as Steep Rock Lake. Measuring 14 miles long and with a surface area of 7 square miles, it gets its name from the surrounding steep and jagged ridges that are rich in iron and have made the lake a longtime target for iron ore miners. It is a place where not much really happens at all, so it was with a bit of surprise to the people of the area that in 1950 this remote, out of the way place would become the stage for a strange account of UFOs and alien encounters.
On July 2, 1950, a local man named Gordon Edwards and his wife were allegedly out at Steep Rock Lake at a place called Sawbill Bay for a bit of fishing. It was at about dusk when they headed into a small cove and put their boat up on a secluded sandy beach to rest, chat, and have snacks and tea. As the sun gradually dipped down in the sky and the day grew dim, they decided to start getting ready to head home, and at that moment the air shook and the ground vibrated with what seemed to be a loud explosion somewhere nearby. The startled couple at first thought that it had to be a mining blast from the Steep Rock Iron Mines, but then realized that the mines were too far away to have caused such a strong shockwave. Gordon told his wife to wait at their spot, which was concealed by trees and bushes, and he then went to investigate the source of the mysterious boom.
When he went to go peek through a cleft in the rock, he was amazed by what he saw. There out on the lake was “a large shining object, resting on the water” about a quarter of a mile away. He could easily see that this was no boat or any other sort of watercraft that he was familiar with, and it was such an eerie and bizarre sight that he excitedly ran back to get his wife and show her. When the two got there to take a look, the mysterious object was still there, and Gordon would describe it and what happened next:
The shining thing was still resting on the water. It looked like two saucers, one upside down on the top of the other. Round the edge were holes like black ports, spaced about 4 feet apart. We could not see the underside, because the bottom of the thing was resting on the water, or close to it. On top were what looked like open hatches, and moving around over its surface were ten little figures. They looked queer, very queer. Rotating slowly from a central position, and about 8 feet up in the air, was a hoop-shaped object. As it rotated, to a point directly opposite to where my wife and I were peering through the rock-cleft. It stopped, and the little figures also stopped moving. Everything now seemed concentrated on the little opening through which we were peering. We were about to duck down, as we thought these midget figures might see us and take alarm, when, on the opposite side of the cove, a deer appeared, came to the edge of the water, and stood motionless.”
We again peered through the cleft in the rock. The little figures and the previously rotating circle were aligned on the deer. But now the circle moved to the left. We ducked down, counted twenty, and took another peep. The thing was gyrating and the figures moving; but the deer didn’t seem to trouble them. We ducked down, supposing that a ray had been projected towards the rock from the thing on the water. Maybe, the rock was a barrier and kept it off us. It looked as if the whole machine were worked from a central point below the circling ray.
The operator was a midget figure on a small raised stand. He wore what seemed to be a red skull cap, or perhaps it was red paint, the caps worn by others were blue. I should say the figures were from 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet tall, and all were the same size. We could not see their faces. In fact, the faces seemed just blank surfaces! It was odd that.
They noted that the tiny figures “moved like automata, rather than living beings,” and had chests covered with a “gleaming metallic substance.” As they walked about they seemed to not turn around, but rather merely change the direction of their feet, and one of the creatures seemed to be busy with nozzle of a vivid green hose. As the couple looked on at this otherworldly sight, the air began to hum and vibrate, and the witnesses had the impression that water was being drawn into the craft, or that something was being ejected from it. It was startling enough that, not knowing what the vibration meant, they ducked down low behind the boulder. However, their curiosity got the better of them and they took a peek again. Gordon would describe what happened next:
Next time we peered through the rock cleft, we found that all the figures had vanished, and the machine was about 8 feet up in the air. I noticed that the water of the lake, near where the thing had rested, was tinged with color combined of red-blue-gold. The disk I reckoned was about 15 feet thick at the center, and some 12 feet at the edges. It tilted at an angle near 45 degrees. …Now, there came a rush of wind …a flash of red-blue-gold and it was gone, heading northwards, and so fast that my eye could not follow it. It was now quite dark. We decided to call it a day, and got into our boat and went out into the bay where the saucer had rested on the water. I had aligned two trees to estimate its size, which, I think, was 48 feet. I went back there again, on another day, and as we came through the narrows, I heard a rush or wind, and again something flashed above and beyond the trees. What it was, I could not see. My wife was scared. She said she would never go there again.
She apparently begged her husband not to go back there either, and at first he promised he wouldn’t, but he was too intrigued by what they had seen to honor it. Two days later, Gordon went back to the scene, this time with a friend from the mine on the pretext of going out for a day of fishing. They took cameras with them, but saw nothing on this particular excursion. For the next few weeks, they went back to the cove often, patrolling about in an outboard motorboat and hoping to see the object that had scared Gordon and his wife so much, then one evening they found what they had been looking for. There, at the same spot it had originally appeared at, was the bright disk, once again enigmatically hovering low over the water. They turned their boat around and tried to take pictures, but the biting wind was too cold, the waves to choppy, and Gordon would claim that they were unable to operate the cameras or focus with their numb fingers and the swaying motion. Gordon says of what happened next:
Before we got close up to the saucer, I saw the little figures vanish into the hatches. They had seen us. The rotating mechanism vanished, and the hose reeled in like a Hash of green lightning-so fast did they work! There came a regular blast of air and the saucer whizzed off like greased lightning. But my eye was quick enough to see that a little figure, close to the water’s edge, was only half-way back to the hatch. He must have operated the end of the green hose, or suction pipe. …Our own engine stalled and then ran hot; so we got borne late, and our wives were terrified. We had to promise never to go saucer-spotting again.
The account was originally published in September of 1950 in The Steep Rock Echo, with the account released by a B.J. Eyton, apparently Gordon’s friend and a Chief Chemist at Steep Rock Iron Mines, but after the story hit, it made its way into other news outlets such as the Port Arthur News Chronical, as well as all sorts of UFO publications. It was notably featured in popular broadcast journalist and ufologist Frank Edward’s 1956 book Strangest of all and again in his 1966 book, Flying Saucers – Serious Business, as well as Harold T. Wilkins’ 1954 book Flying Saucers On The Attack and Jacques Vallee’s seminal 1969 work, Passport to Magonia, and the account also did the rounds in magazines such as Fate Magazine and in the October 1957 issue of Ray Palmer’s Amazing Stories, among others. The editor of the piece, Eyton, further fanned the fires when he also claimed that others in the region had seen the object as well, saying:
I have been unable either to verify or disprove this story, but about the time it was told and published in our magazine, men working in the mines here at Steep Rock, saw a flying saucer at night, and people in the nearby township of Atitokan told the local press that they had seen them in a region between Fort William and Port Arthur, a range of some 140 miles. In fact, one night the telegraphers of the Canadian National Railroads wired to each other to look out for a strange object in the skies, until it reached here. Then it turned back. Everybody is sure he saw a flying saucer that night.
The report was for many years taken at face value and treated as a solid true account from a reliable witness, published in some of the most revered and cherished classic books on UFOs there are, but in the 1970s it would come out that Gordon and Eyton had conspired to make the whole thing up as a hoax to amuse their secluded community and to see what the media and the field of ufology would do with it. Rather amusingly, it seems that Gordon even specifically targeted Frank Edwards and his popular UFO stories in his books, saying they he wanted to “ridicule newspaper accounts that described ‘little green men’- accounts popularized by Frank Edwards.” The story had then been published by his friend Eyton and taken on a life of its own. Even so, right up to the present the story has been often presented as an authentic, actual account, and some in the UFO field still defend it as such, with peiople even saying that the admission of a hoax was part of a cover-up, and that they had been coerced into saying that. What was going on here? Is there anything to this at all, or is it just another elaborate hoax in a field full of them? Whatever the case may be, it is all a very strange tale, indeed.