I know I’m supposed to be sticking to my radio career, but having just mentioned John Laws I’m drawn to a wonderful story. I was driving somewhere in NSW in the 70’s when John was at the height of his career. His programme was being edited and sent to various country stations around Australia. One morning I happened to be listening to one of these outlets when a call came into John from a lady who said, "Mr Laws... Mr Laws... There’s a man living in my roof."
Now, I have this picture of John doing his show, sitting on auto-pilot, leaning back in the chair and saying "Yes" and "Oh really" at the appropriate places while reading his morning paper and letting the caller rave on. Every now and then you could almost see him lean forward, put down the paper and nod to his producer, "We’ve got a live one here, Stan." Then he’d go for it.
I could almost see him leaning forward and nodding to his producer as the lady started to tell him that there was a man living in her roof. Laws got right into it.
"What do you mean, living in your roof?"
"Well, I go into the kitchen for my dinner and I hear him moving about up there."
"Do you mean he’s living in the loft-above the ceiling-and you don’t know who he is?"
"He shouldn’t be there... No one’s ever lived in the roof before."
"Well, how did he get in there... I mean, how long’s he been in the roof?"
"I think he moved in when my son left home... It’s about 3 months ago... And he just stays there... I can hear him... He’s very quiet, but he moves around when he doesn’t think I’m listening".
"Well..." Laws now assumes the role of her counsellor, "He shouldn’t be there and you’ve got to get him out."
"I know... But he won’t go."
"Now listen, this is what I want you to do... And I want you to be very firm for me... I want you to make sure he hears you clearly... Can you be firm for me?"
"Yes, I’ll try."
"You leave the phone off the hook and go into the kitchen and yell out at the top of your voice... GET OUT OF MY HOUSE NOW! GET OUT! Will you do that?"
"Will he go then?"
"Yes, he’ll leave immediately. You’ll never have to worry about him again. Just put the phone down and tell him to get out. Then come back to the phone and one of my staff will talk to you, alright?"
"Thank you, Mr Laws."
The phone is heard being put on the table and there are footsteps moving away into the kitchen. Suddenly this woman’s voice screams out, "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE NOW! GET OUT!" There is a pause and she yells out again, "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" She is still yelling when the Producer cuts to an ad' break and on to the 11 o’clock news.
The following day I’m listening to the same station which continues with the John Laws’ show. Laws is sitting back comfortably in his chair when a woman caller gets on the show and says, "Mr Laws, my daughter-in-law is a witch."
You can almost see Laws lean forward, nodding to his producer, "We’ve got another one, mate."
"Well ma'am," he takes on the role of the friendly family mediator, "there are often tensions between mothers and their son’s wife... It’s quite common."
"No, you don’t understand... She’s a witch."
"Of course, and as I was trying to explain, these things usually work themselves out over a period of time and..."
"You’re not listening to me, Mr Laws. I’m trying to tell you that SHE IS A WITCH!"
"Do you mean, witch as in wearing a pointy hat and riding broomsticks? Are we talking here about a witch witch?"
"Yes, she’s got my son completely under her spell... He’s changed completely... He doesn’t talk to me anymore... Never comes home... He’s a completely different person."
"But, surely that doesn’t mean she’s a...?"
"I’ve been in the kitchen, God know what she’s mixing in there, what she’s been feeding him."
"I can’t talk to him... She’s got a spell on him... I’ve got to break the spell."
"But Madam, surely...?"
"You can just see it, the way she looks at me... Oh I know, you little vixen, what you’re up to..."
"She’s got him now, but I’ll break the spell..."
"Madam!" (Laws' voice is getting a little louder)
"I know what she’s up to... I know she’s..."
"Madam!" (Getting louder)
"If she thinks she can come here with all her chants and potions and take my son..."
"MADAM!" (Extremely loud)
This final scream from Laws finally stops the tirade. The woman stops. There is this incredibly long silence as Laws pauses for effect. And then very quietly he says, "You don’t happen to have a man living up in your ceiling, do you?"
Producer fades to promo, commercials, 11 o’clock news.
Lovely line, perfect timing, your reporter nearly drives off a country road, laughing hysterically. Sorry about that, just another diversion.
Back to 3BO and another strange story.
It was a holiday Monday, I remember that, and I was on duty in the studio while Turps, Graham Turpie, was the duty journalist (I think Dave Horsefall was the Editor in those days), we suddenly started to get all of these phone calls about strange objects in the sky over Bendigo.
It was the late-50’s, maybe 1960, but in those days you didn’t run stories about such things on a conservative radio station in a very conservative city in a very conservative country. But when the number of calls get over 80 you have to do something. So Turps ran a story about the number of calls we were getting about these strange objects.
The calls kept coming in, all reporting these sightings. Eventually Graham had no option other than to go to one of these locations and actually see what they were talking about. I said to him that he’d probably need another impartial witness, suggesting he collect my wife on his way so there’d be two people reporting on the event. So Graham and Elizabeth went to one area where we were getting a lot of reports, not sure just where that was.
Graham could see the objects clearly but Elizabeth, who had excellent eyesight, was the best of all. She could see a large, cigar-shaped object, high in the sky-not moving-surrounded by smaller disc shapes which appeared to be flying around the main object, perhaps even flying in and then flying out again.
It was astonishing. We could, I guess, rule out up to 100 callers, suggesting they were suffering some sort of mass hallucination, but it was pretty hard to rule out Graham and my wife. So we continued to run the story.
I eventually got through to the duty officer at the nearest Victorian Air Force base, asking if he’d received any such reports. He had some difficulty not laughing at me. He repeatedly tried to fob me off, suggesting all we were seeing was a weather balloon. But I asked him how a weather balloon could stay in the same position in the sky for 8 hours without moving.
He didn’t like this and then made it clear that if I thought he was ordering a plane to go into the area to check on these things, then I had better forget it. That pretty much ended the conversation.
The objects remained in the sky for the early part of the afternoon, but then the reports stopped coming in. By the time I signed off, they were gone. This was a most baffling mystery which sent me off on another hunt for ten years or so, reading all of the literature I could get, especially after another extraordinary incident which happened a few years later when I moved to Hobart.
Remember, I never sighted these things myself, but the people who witnessed them were beyond questioning. There is no doubt they saw something very unusual that day in Bendigo.
I hope you don’t mind me taking along these byways with the Yowie story and now these UFO’s but I am reporting them exactly as they happened. Where possible I’ll name names so that you’ll know they’re absolutely authentic.
When these ramblings resume I’ll move from Victoria across Bass Strait to Tasmania and over 5 years with 7HO, Hobart.