Types and Kinds: The Vallee Classification System


What is a UFO, what is a close encounter? The term tickles the imagination. We wonder what they are and then realize that they are unknown by their very definition. What do we mean when we refer to a CE4 - a close encounter of the fourth kind?

A UFO - Unidentified Flying Object - is an object in (or from) the sky which at the time of the sighting could not be identified. A UFO event can range in strangeness from the simple sighting of a distant object to the ultimate experience of contact with the extraordinary. Each event offers us one point within a vast spectrum of mystery.

Such a tremendous variety of sightings and encounters presents a staggering task to the researcher. Where do we begin? How can we ask questions about them? How are we to describe them? What are we even to call these events?

One of the first stages in the scientific investigation of any phenomenon is to somehow characterize and classify it[i]. The UFO mystery is no exception. What are the patterns of the phenomenon? What do the many UFO sightings have in common and how are they different? What models or theories can we develop to help us understand this phenomenon?

In the 1970s, Dr. J. Allen Hynek[ii] developed a system of classification of UFO sightings based upon key characteristics of the event. In this system, sightings and encounters were classified as:

                    Nocturnal Lights (NL)

                    Daylight Disks (DD)

                    Radar/Visual (RV)

                    Close Encounters of the First Kind (CE1): sighting of an object in relative proximity to the witness

                    Close Encounters of the second kind (CE2): Physical evidence left behind by a UFO event.

                    Close Encounters of the third kind (CE3): the sighting of, or interaction with, entities associated with a UFO.


Subsequently, J. Allen Hynek's system was extended by Dr. Jacques Vallee[iii] to classify UFO and paranormal events in general. Just as in the Hynek system, the Vallee system organizes events according to the type or essential nature and the kind, or degree of meaningfulness, of the event. However, Vallee generalized the categories to include overall consideration of the event type and the degree of strangeness of the event.

The Type denotes the essential character of the experience for the witness; ranging from the simplest of distant sightings to the strangest anomalies and close encounters.

Types of events as described by Jacques Vallee are:

                 The Distant Encounter - Flyby (FB) or Maneuver(MA):

This is the sighting of a UFO in the distance. The object may simply fly past the witness, or it may undergo some maneuver that suggests artificial control. Sightings of this type are more likely have non-extraordinary explanations such as a misidentified aircraft, an astronomical body (e.g. Venus, Sirius, etc.) or some other prosaic phenomenon. Thus, in most cases, the UFO becomes an IFO (Identified Flying Object). By far the majority of all UFO sightings are such distant, often-explainable events.

                  The Close Encounter (CE) -

A sighting of a UFO or related phenomenon in close proximity, in which detail is visible: Sightings occurring at closer range or under circumstances of higher strangeness are less likely to have conventional explanations. It is a rule of thumb that the closer the range at which a UFO is seen, the less likely it is to be explainable in prosaic terms.

                 The Anomaly (AN):

An anomaly is a (probably) non-UFOlogical event that defies a conventional explanation. Examples of such events may be the sightings of ghosts or monsters, the occurrence of religious miracles, out of body experiences, etc. Cases in this book and in the UFO/CE4 literature show that close encounter experiencers frequently tend to experience such anomaly events. Is there a connection between anomalies and close encounters? Might the understanding of anomalies be a key to understanding the human-Visitor interaction?


As mentioned above, for any sighting or experience there will be associated, some degree of strangeness or meaningfulness. How close was the object? How much interaction was there between the witness and the phenomenon? What was the effect on the witness? The degree and character of this relationship is represented in the "kind" of event.


Kinds of Events as described by Jacques Vallee are:

                    First Kind -

An object or phenomenon is seen apart from the witness where no overt interaction occurs: The witness remains separate from the phenomenon (though as we see in chapter 1, there may be a subtle relationship between the two).

                    Second Kind -

Physical evidence is left behind by the phenomenon: Although I mention it here for the sake of completeness, I leave the fascinating study of physical UFO evidence to other works.[iv]

                    Third Kind -

Entities are observed by the witness: The witness remains separate from the phenomenon but observes some type of entity. Although the witness is an observer, we again note that interaction with the phenomenon may be increased.

                    Fourth Kind -

There is interaction and/or participation by experiencer: There occurs a transformation of the experiencer's reality into the reality of the phenomenon (most typically, a UFO contact or abduction).


The simplest and by for the most common type of sighting is that of the distant encounter of the first kind, an event in which a witness makes a simple observation of something in the sky. For example, a distant object flying past, which may be unidentified at that moment, would be referred to as a flyby of the first kind, or FB1. If the UFO appears to maneuver, suggesting intelligent control, but remains distant from the observer, then the sighting becomes a Maneuver of the First Kind or MA1.

When an object approaches to the point in which detail is visible, then the event becomes a close encounter, a CE1 or Close Encounter of the First Kind. Where an entity is visible, in connection with a UFO, then the event becomes a close encounter of the third kind, or CE3. If it is apparent that an entity is visible, but no UFO is observed - such as during a ghost or monster sighting - then an anomaly has occurred - an AN3, or anomaly of the third kind. In each case, the level of "strangeness" increases as the "kind" of the event increases. The relationship between the witness/experiencer and the object becomes closer and a deeper flow of meaning occurs. We find that the bidirectional interaction of the relationship also increases and the effect on the witness becomes progressively more profound.

The ultimate case is that in which the witness becomes a (usually unwilling) participant - this event is now an event of the fourth kind. At this stage the sighting has now become fully experiential, an abduction, contact or other change in reality. The witness' reality is transformed into that of the phenomenon. If this event involves a UFO, then the event becomes a close encounter of the fourth kind, or CE4. The witness has become an experiencer - willing or otherwise. He/she has become a voyager across The Cosmic Bridge.





[i] W.I.B. Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation, Vintage Books, 1957


[ii] J. Allen Hynek, The UFO Experience, Marlow & Co, New York, 1972, 1998


[iii] Jacques Vallee, Confrontations , Ballantine Books, 1990


[iv] Two of the best treatments of UFO physical evidence are:

   The UFO Evidence by Richard Hall, 1964, National Investigations Committee for Aerial Phenomena

   The UFO Enigma by Peter Sturrock, Aspect, 1999






Bio: Craig R. Lang is a field investigator with Mutual UFO Network, and is a certified clinical hypnotherapist with the National Guild of Hypnotists. He lives in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and conducts UFO and close encounter research in the Twin Cities metro area of Minneapolis and Saint Paul and in surrounding areas within Minnesota and Wisconsin. He can be reached by e-mail at craig@craigrlang.com. The Minnesota MUFON website can be reached at www.mnmufon.org.