As detailed in her in 1996 book Encounter, Ms Cahill’s case had all the hallmarks of the classic alien abduction story of the era — lost time, strange spaceships, bright lights, inhuman creatures and inexplicable marks on her body.
But her story had something other alien visitations didn’t — independent witnesses who could potentially back up her story.
Along with her then-husband Andrew, who was in the car with her on that fateful night on Melbourne’s south-eastern fringes, there were reportedly four other people in two separate cars who would be able to verify her otherworldly claims.
Because of its multiple witnesses, the incident was hailed as the “holy grail” of alien abduction stories by UFO researchers and enthusiasts.
It was the one with the potential to provide definitive proof, once and for all, that the truth was out there. Cult TV show The X-Files even referenced the case in an episode.
A detailed report into the claims was never released, the other witnesses never came forward publicly and Ms Cahill disappeared from public view.
So was her ‘encounter’ a missed opportunity, or just another UFO hoax?
‘Hooded figures with glowing eyes’
According to Ms Cahill, she and her then-husband Andrew were driving along the Belgrave-Hallam Road in Narre Warren on that fateful winter’s night in 1993.
They were en route to a friend’s house when Ms Cahill saw in a paddock a row of five or six large orange lights on a ‘distinct circular shape . . . like nothing I had ever seen before’, she wrote in her book.
When they arrived at their destination, her husband and friends, and eventually even Ms Cahill, laughed it off.
But about midnight, driving home on the same road, she and Andrew apparently saw what she believed to be the same lights ‘hanging above the road’.
“I could then see that the orange lights were really windows . . . I could make out figures standing behind the portals,” Ms Cahill wrote.
The object flew off ‘at incredible speed’, but soon after they saw it again in a paddock on the side of the road, Ms Cahill said.
After that, Ms Cahill’s memory blanked, ‘like a cut to scene in a film’, and their car had travelled several hundred metres down the road without them knowing.
In the days and weeks that followed, she claimed to find strange marks on her body, including a small triangular wound below her bellybutton, and began experiencing stomach pains and night ‘visitations’ from tall black-hooded figures with lightly glowing red eyes.
Through hypnosis, she said, she was able to unlock her ‘missing time’.
Her husband had pulled over and they’d got out of the car to get a better look at the brightly lit object in the paddock. Further back up the road, another car had parked, its occupants standing at the edge of the field.
A tall thin figure appeared in front of the object and Ms Cahill heard in her mind its thoughts: “Let’s kill them”.
More beings appeared, unleashing an energy force that knocked Ms Cahill to the ground as she screamed to her husband: “They’ve got no souls! They’re evil! They’re going to kill us!”
And that’s where her recollections end, but not the story.
The investigation begins
Sydney-based researcher Bill Chalker, of the UFO Investigation Centre, was one of the first people Ms Cahill contacted after that night.
Mr Chalker immediately thought it ‘a fairly important case’, but one that ‘required a lot of feet on the ground and a lot of intensive field investigations’.
Mr Chalker alerted a loosely connected Melbourne group of paranormal investigators called Phenomena Research Australia [PRA], led by then-director John Auchettl.
Mr Auchettl interviewed Ms Cahill many times and examined the scene of the alleged sighting near Eumemmering Creek.
He and the PRA placed an ad in local newspapers in an effort to find the occupants of the second car.
Remarkably, they got a response and Mr Auchettl said the stories from the second car were identical to Ms Cahill’s but went even further, detailing experiences inside the mystery craft where they were strapped to a table and examined by the beings.
According to the PRA, the women had the same triangular wounds near their navels, as well as other strange marks.
There was even talk of a third car driven by a local lawyer, PRA discovered, whose story also lined up.
The researchers began prepping an exhaustive 300-page report that promised to reveal the truth.
Burning bright in the night
Eventually the media got wind of the story and Ms Cahill appeared on TV current affairs show Today Tonight. Her story also ran in newspapers and magazines.
By 1996, she was a big name on the UFO circuit — a series of talks and conferences that thrived — and, with every appearance, Ms Cahill unveiled new tidbits from PRA’s forthcoming report.
Her book, published by Harper Collins, sold out and was quickly reprinted [it’s currently out of print and copies sell for $150 online]. But by 1998, Ms Cahill had disappeared from the scene and none of the other witnesses — including her ex-husband Andrew — had come out publicly to back her story.
As for PRA’s report, it was also nowhere to be seen.
‘An extraordinary lost opportunity’
Mr Chalker still believes Ms Cahill’s story but regrets handballing the case to PRA in 1993.
“There was a lot of bad blood that’s passed between them and me as a consequence of their role in this case,” Mr Chalker told the ABC.
“This was an extraordinary lost opportunity. I’ve seen a lot of information that suggests [the investigation] was carried out . . . but unfortunately they didn’t [want] to share the material.”
He said he ‘wasn’t that impressed with the explanations that were put forward’ by PRA for withholding the report.
Mr Chalker wrote in his blog in 2016 he was ‘determined never to pass a case onto them again’.
“It was frustrating that such a promising case was caught up in a situation where the group involved chose not to make their data available,” he wrote.
Mr Chalker said UFO enthusiasts had a right to feel disappointed by PRA keeping their research secret.
“I can understand the reaction from various members of the UFO research community,” he said.
Back to earth
As for Kelly Cahill, she dropped off the radar around 1998. Mr Chalker said that in the early 2000s she called him and sent him all her files — ‘three large archival boxes’ — and left the country.
She is now back in the Latrobe Valley in Gippsland, the same region she was living in when her ‘encounter’ happened in 1993. The ABC approached Ms Cahill for an interview but she did not respond.
“She really wanted to take a low profile and put all this behind her,” Mr Chalker said.
“She spent a lot of time trying to raise the profile of this episode and wanted to have the other [witnesses] come out as well.
“When it ultimately became pretty clear that she was going to be the only one that was going to go public on this, that’s when she felt less confident about being the constant contact point on this case, particularly when [PRA] didn’t back her up in terms of having the availability of all the case material that went with it.”
While it’s unclear how Ms Cahill feels about it all today, for a lot of UFO enthusiasts her case is either the one that got away or, worse, another one that never really was.