Classic Mysteries—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, October 2017
Rundown on the Great 1973 UFO Wave
by: Rick Hilberg
The photograph was taken by Chester A. Tatum, publisher of the local newspaper in the southern Georgia town of Camilla. It was a night shot taken with a Polaroid camera of an object that he said had a ribbed design and “some sort of center down the middle.” The photo itself shows what appears to be an illuminated oval with a small rectangular dark area in the center.
On the night of September 3, a visibly frightened motorist rushed into a police station in Athens, GA to report that a “bright flashing object” had swooped down towards his car. Police said that the unidentified man reported that the object, with “one bright light and four flashing lights,” came to within 15 feet of the ground before swerving off into the sky. The officers gave the opinion that the motorist had really seen something.
Early on September 8 two Army MPs had a frightening experience while on patrol at the deactivated Hunter Air Force Base outside of Savannah, GA. Randy Shade and Burt Burns were on patrol when they first spotted the mysterious intruder. According to Burns, it was first spotted as “a cluster of lights in the sky about 2,000 feet up. The lights tracked across the sky flashing red and orange, blue and white.”
After disappearing behind some trees in the distance for some minutes, the visitor returned some time around 2:45 a.m. After hovering over one end of the now-deserted military base runway, it began moving toward the car containing the two startled MPs. They then saw that the object was saucer-shaped and apparently metallic. As the saucer neared the car Shade raced away with the UFO in hot pursuit at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. The 75 foot diameter craft seemed to follow the car only several feet above the roof.
Shade kept up the high speed flight from the UFO for nearly a mile only to finally cut the wheels of the car, and slide onto the grass on the side of the pavement. Said Shade, “The UFO then went back up to tree-top level and skimmed off into the distance.” The two MPs reported that the lighted disk made no sound during the encounter.
Georgia was again the scene of an unusual aerial report, when on September 10 Ress Clanton of Griffin saw a “golden ball” fall from the sky. Clanton said that the object was not in free fall, but seemed to be under control as it descended. The roughly egg-sized thing apparently destroyed itself when it hit the ground leaving a hole a foot long and four to five inches deep. Researchers from a nearby agricultural experiment station took soil samples, and reported that the ground at the impact site was 300 degrees.
On the evening of September 24, Shelby County Sheriff's Deputy P.L. Pilalas and his partner J.O. Davis spotted a UFO on U.S. 70 just east of Memphis. They reported that the craft was hovering at from 500 to 1000 feet altitude, and that it had two bright spotlights that were shining beams downward, and two red lights glowing at the extremities of the craft. '
According to the two, the object was making a whirring noise and disappeared after twice flashing its spotlights.
On September 29, Memphis again was the scene for further UFO reports. On that Saturday evening an object, alternately shining brightly and faintly, was visible over the Memphis area for about four hours. “I know it sounds fantastic, but it's true,” said Policeman Flanning Glover of suburban Collierville. “If I was by myself I'd say I was nuts, but there were plenty of witnesses.” At least four other Shelby County law officers saw the object. Glover said that the moving light appeared orange at times, and then changed back to white.
“I wouldn't say it had more than one light,” he said. “The light I saw was kind of orange and then it would get bright and seemed to turn white. Then it would go out and come back on a different color. We put a spotlight on it and it just went out, then it reappeared in a different place.”
In Obion County, fronting the Kentucky border, Sheriff Nathan Cunningham said he saw three different UFOs the next night, and heard one as it flew over his house. Cunningham reported that he talked to 20 people who had similar UFO sightings.
In the same area as the Cunningham report, George and Vicki Rogers said a bright red light swooped close enough to the earth to light up an acre and a half of land that same evening, nearly causing a seven-car accident near Reelfoot Lake on Highway 78. “We were just coming home and I just glanced over to my left in a field, and there was a six or seven foot bright red light. It was so bright I couldn't see what caused it,” said Rogers.
On September 30, Mrs. Barbara Marquardt was driving on Bagley Road in Olmsted Twp., OH and saw a green ball-like object hovering in the sky at about 3:30 a.m. “It was about three normal houses in height above the ground,” she said. “Suddenly, it fell to the ground, not straight down, but in a curve.” Police said another woman in the area called, and reported that she heard some sort of small explosion near the scene at about the same time.
A physics professor investigating a reported encounter with a UFO by a truck driver near Cape Girardeau, Missouri on the third, said it caused the driver's eyeglasses to be damaged by heat from an unknown source. Eddie Doyle Webb was blinded for several hours after the incident. He recovered his vision, but saw an eye specialist in St. Louis.
Webb said he was driving his rig about dawn that morning when he saw a bright light or aluminum object in the air behind him, “coming up real fast.” Webb then awakened his wife who was in the cab with him, but she said that she couldn't see anything. “Then, I stuck my head out of the window and a large ball of fire struck me in the face,” Webb said. “My glasses fell off and I couldn't see. But I got the truck stopped.” One of the lenses of his glasses fell out of the plastic frame which was warped. Sgt. Ed Wright of the Highway Patrol took Webb's glasses to Dr. Harley Rutledge, head of the Southwest Missouri State physics department, for an analysis.
Rutledge, who had been working for some months to identify the elusive UFOs, said he put the glasses under a microscope and “it appeared they were heated internally. The plastic apparently got hot and the mold came to the surface. The heat warped the plastic, causing the lens to fall out.”
Rutledge said he planned more tests on the glasses. He stated that there appears to be “some residue which we hope to put through some chemical tests.”
Later on the evening of the third, a National Park Ranger saw a UFO the size of a two-bedroom house over the Tupelo, Missouri area. The object was in sight about 15 minutes and was flashing red, green and yellow lights. The Ranger, Thomas E. Westmoreland, said the object he saw had lights different from those used on aircraft.
“I know it sounds strange, and I can assure you I'm sober,” he said. “It was approximately 1,000 feet in altitude and roughly the size of a two-bedroom house or a little smaller. It had red, green, and yellow flashing lights – not the standard beacon type you have on aircraft. They were circular and they were rotating continously.” Westmoreland in later interviews said he thought the object was some U.S. test device.
At the same time in the city of Cornith not far from the Ranger's encounter, Arlin Mohundro, sales manager for a local radio station, said he saw an object that hovered about 100 feet off the ground behind the radio station. “It's lights are red and green and white,” he said. “When it gets close it had kind of a black color. The lights are flashing and it looks like it might be the size of an automobile, but it's oval in shape.”
On the evening of October 9, at least 15 sightings of UFOs, all “covered with red, green and blue lights” were reported in southwestern Ohio flying at about tree top level. The UFOs, sighted in the Dayton-Cincinnati area, were reported to have not been picked up on radar by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The first sighting was reported shortly after 8 p.m., by a policeman in New Lebanon Twp. “He didn't want to say he saw it, but he said it,” according to Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Sullivan.
“The officer said it was oblong and covered with lights. It appeared stationary in the sky about tree top level for several minutes until he tried to shine his spotlight on it,” Sullivan said. It then zoomed toward him and then shot straight up in the air after he turned out his light, and disappeared.
Sullivan said the reported sightings lasted from a split second in time to as much as 12 minutes. “They would be behind the trees and come up and fly away...as if you startled them or something.”
On the same night police in Eaton, Indiana said they tracked a strange flying object that flashed red, white and blue lights for several hours. Military radar at nearby Baer Field picked up the UFO, but could not identify it.
Sheriff's Deputies in Pine, Louisiana were following UFOs with their cruisers on the evening of the 10th. Deputy Michael Moore said that one of the five orange-reddish objects almost “attacked” a police car.
“One of the deputies was scared pretty bad,” Moore said. “He turned on his red lights, and they came down at his patrol car. He turned them off and they just vanished like a cloud...Our deputies spotted five of them, and a bunch of witnesses saw them too.”
In another sighting reported near Slidell, across Lake Pontchatrain from New Orleans, Lloyd Mercier said he saw an object while he was driving home that was “approximately 15 or 20 feet in diameter, and it had a streak about a foot wide straight through the middle. I'd say it was approximately 125 to 200 feet in the air, and gradually it disappeared. It took five or six minutes. All I could see was a red glow. It looked like it came straight out of the waters of Lake Pontchatrain.”
On the evening of the 11th, two shipyard workers from Gautier, Mississippi were fishing from an old pier on the Pascagoula River when a “fish-shaped” object, emitting a bluish haze, approached from the sky. Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker have maintained throughout intense questioning that they were taken aboard the craft by three creatures with wrinkled skin, crab-claw hands and pointed ears. The two men said the creatures gave them some sort of exam by an eye-like scanning device.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Dr. James Harder flew in to give the men an interview during hypnosis. Said Hynek afterward, “There is no question in my mind that these men have had a very terrifying experience. Under no circumstances should they be ridiculed. Let's protect these men.”
On the 16th an Ohio woman claimed that three UFOs forced her car off the road. Said Mrs. Shirley Johnson of Chillicothe, “The kids and I were driving home from my mother's home when three huge lights – two white and one greenish – zoomed down. Two white lights were on either side of my car while the green one was in front.”
She said the lights suddenly swooped back up into the sky and left without emitting any sound.
While police officers of the town of Greenfield, Ohio were sighting UFOs at the same time Mrs. Johnson and her children were, one Greenfield officer said he chased one for several miles in his cruiser. Patrolman Mike Conlin said it was an object about 100 feet in diameter, and glowed with a bright white light. “It had a red area on top of it as if it was overheated. There was a dull humming sound that increased in frequency as the object increased its speed.”
The next day Ohio Governor Gilligan admitted that he and his wife had spotted a UFO on the 15th, while on the way home from a trip to Michigan. He said the object was in sight for about 35 minutes along Route 23 out of Ann Arbor. The Governor described the object as a vertical beam of light, amber in color.
Source: Around and about the Saucer World, 1998, 2016. Used with permission of Rick Hilberg.