[ A revised version of this article was published in 2016 subsequent to the arrival of a new spacecraft structure. ] Arès is a quiet reso...

Ovniport d’Arès: the UFO landing pad awaiting alien life forms since 1976

[A revised version of this article was published in 2016 subsequent to the arrival of a new spacecraft structure.]

Arès is a quiet resort towards the northern tip of the triangle formed by the Bassin d’Arcachon which, for nearly 40 years, has maintained a designated waterfront landing pad for unidentified flying objects.

The story began on August 15th 1976 when the so-called “ovniport” (OVNI: objet volant non-identifié) was officially inaugurated as one of the highlights of that year’s oyster festival. The idea, which at the time got extensive coverage in the media (most notably the United States), had originally been dreamt up by a group of locals led by one Bob Cotten, a Mérignac airport employee who, as well as being a renowned expert in electronics, was a UFO enthusiast who claimed to be disgruntled by the lack of landing facilities for alien spacecraft.

A petition was drawn up and the group managed to garner the support of the town’s then-mayor, Christian Raymond, who in turn sought and gained approval for the proposal from the town council. 

For many years, the ovniport was little more than a paved area offering ample parking space for passing UFOs. Then, during the 2006 oyster festival, the town introduced the cylindrical column pictured above. Engraved in the marble plaque are pictures of planets and a flying saucer, a promise to offer “universal travellers” (“voyageurs de l’univers”) a warm welcome to our planet and a heartfelt reminder that the town’s citizens are still waiting patiently. For added dramatic effect, this is written in Gascon: “Que vos atendem totjorn”.

In September 2010, during a UFO and alien-themed event called “Allo Arès, Ici Ovni” (Hello Arès, UFO calling) held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of aviation in the region, the town unveiled a cast iron sculpture in the shape of a flying saucer, said to have been inspired by the writings of Jules Verne. The spaceship, which was designed by an artist from Baurech, a small town 25 kilometres to the south of Bordeaux, remains in position and is a popular draw for children who are only too pleased to clamber up into the craft and imagine they are careering through outer space.

There is actually a slightly more sinister backdrop to this bizarre enterprise. In 1974, the town became closely associated with Les Pèlerins d’Arès, a religious movement which was later classified as a sect. Its initiator was the physician Michel Potay whose books, “Les révélations d’Arès”, were allegedly the end-products of apparitions at his home in Arès. Followers set up assemblies in around 20 towns and cities in France, subscribing to Potay’s take on faith: a combination of orthodox and “original Christianity” with oriental and esoteric leanings.

This may go some way to explaining why, in 1976, the town’s mayor was so keen to back a plan - however light-hearted and eccentric - which would show Arès in a new, media-friendly and tourist-friendly light. Almost 40 years have passed and we are still talking about his and Robert Cotton’s ovniport endeavour (a world first that reportedly has so far only been reproduced in Brazil and Puerto Rico) and the alien-themed postcards continue to sell well. Now, all that is really missing is a genuine UFO to come and make use of the landing pad!


  1. Interesting post with info that I had no idea about. I can just see ET walking around there LOL. Diane

    1. Yep, it is an unusual one, isn't it! No sign of ET for now but we live in hope!

  2. Merci pour les informations. En cliquant dans ma signature, d'autres informations sur la secte des pèlerins d'Arès.