On March 31, astonished British policemen were sent to investigate a glowing flying saucer that had settled down in a field in Surrey.
As the policemen approached the craft with their truncheons held out before them, a door opened in the bottom of the ship and a small figure wearing a silver space suit walked out. The policemen immediately took off in the opposite direction.
The alien turned out to be a midget, and the flying saucer was a hot air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records. Branson had taken off in the balloon the day before, planning to land in London’s Hyde Park on April 1. However, a wind change had blown him down a day early in the Surrey field. The police reported that they received a flood of phone calls from scared motorists using roadside emergency phones as the balloon passed over the highway.
One lady reportedly called a radio station to describe the UFO that she was looking at, not realizing that she was standing in front of her window stark naked. One of the policemen who had to approach the craft later admitted that, “I have never been so scared in 20 years of being a policeman.”
Designed to be an elaborate April Fool’s Day stunt, Richard Branson and Don Cameron brought London to a stand still with the specially shaped UFO hot air balloon. Built by Cameron Balloons Limited in Bristol, using the code name “Project Wedgewood”, only a handful of people new about the project. The balloon took off in complete darkness with various strobe lights flashing and flew over the M25 – it landed safely, just as the sun was rising.