History Professor Edward Jones-Imhotep explains the paranoia around UFOs in 1950s Canada for the CBC in How Cold War anxiety and citizen science fuelled Canada’s massive UFO report files.
Jones-Imhotep says the fear of aliens or UFOs around the 50s in Canada was real and due, in part, to UFO stories and the immediate threat of attack from the Soviet Union.
"If you take a globe of the world in 1950 and you look down on the North Pole, you realize very quickly that the shortest line between the Soviet Union and the United States (passes over Canada)," he says.
During that period of time, there were many reports about unusual phenomena, likely caused by fear of the unknown in addition to a fear of aliens.
According to Jones-Imhotep, "it's the idea that perhaps they're aliens, perhaps (they) are extraterrestrials, but more threatening than that is just the idea that there are things that you don't know about — the things that you can't identify."
He adds that feelings towards a hostile foreign power such as the Soviet Union were easily transferred onto something like aliens, including a lot of the language used in fear of the Soviets being translated into fear of aliens and UFOs.
"They have hostile motives. They can't be trusted. They're up to these secret projects," he says.
For a better sense of the mindset of 1950s Canadians, you can visit a database run by the Library and Archives of Canada to find the 15,000 pages of documents describing UFO sightings from during the 50s up to the 1990s.