[intro-text size=”25px”]It’s 4 A.M. on Saturday night. My field agent, Jorge Trout, and I are staked out on a strip of beach to which we were tipped off that a series of unusual lights had been seen the previous night. Armed with a pair of flashlights, binoculars, a camera, and liter of Wild Turkey, we’ve been hunkered down for the past three hours with little to show for our efforts aside from a rapidly diminishing bottle of whiskey.[/intro-text]
Such is the catch as catch can luck of UFO spotters. As Trout’s frustrations mount he takes to water, a drunken lunatic raving at the whitecaps. I hold my post, keeping an eye to the night sky thinking back to the half century of unexplained phenomena that brought me to this desolate cove in the first place.
According to a report filed with MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, on August 29th 2014, two campers (whose names were withheld at their requests) at Salt Fork state park in southern Ohio went night fishing as they did every Saturday night. At one-thirty in the morning they noticed a pale green light dotting over the tree line, passively drifting left to right and back again. The younger man drew his girlfriend’s father’s attention to the lights then… it was morning, five-nineteen A.M.
More than three hours had inexplicably passed within a blink of an eye for both men. Somehow it was daybreak and the bonfire that had been roaring beside him was now no more than cold ashes. The young man was still pointing to the sky struggling to regain his equilibrium when he regained awareness hours later. The older male experienced the exact phenomena for the same duration of time. Neither had been drinking or consumed drugs of any kind, nor could they account how nearly three hours had passed without the passage of a single heartbeat. It was what is considered in certain circles a case of “missing time.”
The next morning, Thomas Wertman was on the case. Co-director of the Cleveland Ufology Project and charter member of MUFON, he is part of the organization’s Star Team, which is dispatched to any reported cases of possible alien encounters or abductions within Ohio. One of the more tried assumptions of UFO enthusiasts is that they are all kooks and paranoid recluses vying for attention. After attending one of the monthly MUFON seminars at the Westlake library, I learned more about the organization and was impressed at the thorough and procedural methods women and men like Wertman conduct their investigations. He, like the others in MUFON and those who attended the seminar, may be enthusiastic and at times eccentric, but are interested in only one thing, the truth.
Wertman began by pulling up flight paths and found that there were no planes or helicopters within the campers’ line of vision throughout the entire night. He cross-examined them separately to see if their stories aligned. He did not seek to prove his beliefs in alien existence through their report, nor did he approach them with an air of skepticism. Forensic tests were performed on the men’s clothing, and although results were inconclusive, no reasonable explanation has been offered as to where the two victims three hours went. This case might be one of the more enigmatic and recent events within Ohio, but it is far from the first or last.
Ohio is ranked second only to the region around Area 51 in Nevada for possible UFO sightings. I delved into the US government’s newly released Project Bluebook files regarding UFO and alien phenomena for any ties to our hometown and was surprised, if not a little unsettled, at our recurrent entries.
On December 20 of 1960, Ann Corrick of Washington Viewpoint interviewed Lt Colonel Lawrence Tacker, the head of the Air Force Office of Information, and asked why there seemed to be such a preponderance of sighting within the Cleveland area. Tacker agreed, “Cleveland and Akron do have a rather active UFO groups out there…” Less than a year later former WWII B29 fighter pilot, Ernie Stadvec, was flying over Akron and witnessed a bright green orb hovering along the side of his plane. The light then dove at him with alarming speed before pulling a sharp 180-degree turn and disappearing. He was with five passengers, all of whom corroborated his story. Major Robert Fried of nearby Wright Patterson Air force was tasked to investigate. His conclusion was an atmospheric refraction off of the star, Cappella. Stadvec would not be denied. He filed an official refusal of assessment with the FBI and insisted the men from Wright Patterson’s motivations were focused only ridicule and misdirection. He challenged the authorities to explain how light refraction could navigate a precise course around his plane. Adding fuel to the fire, his sighting was independently confirmed by air traffic control operators working at Hopkins airport.
I delved deeper into Bluebook and found a recurrent theme of unexplained green lights haunting Northeastern Ohio. A year prior to Stadvec’s sighting, a female writer in Richmond, who wished to remain anonymous, had a report filed with the FBI claiming to have seen a similar green light hovering just above her house before exhibiting the same maneuvers Stadvec would report the following year. Going back even a decade further, according to declassified Project Grudge documents, multiple reports forced a government investigation on April 22, 1949, into a strange sighting. George Andrus, Chief of the Ohio Weather Bureau spotted an unexplained red light hovering over the airfield. All possible man made, atmospheric, and astronomical possibilities were ruled out. His account was corroborated by George Beers, Senior Air Traffic Controller at Cleveland Municipal Airport, and Dan Guertin, a fellow control tower operator who alleged to have seen the same strange lights days earlier. The FBI conducted an official investigation but to this day the lights seen in 1949 are unexplained. The Air Force did not rule out the possibility of Russians testing out experimental rockets, which is as illogical as it is inconsistent considering the vigilance our government otherwise held in regards to Russian aggression at the time.
This is not to say hometown sightings are a thing of the past. On December 14th 1994 Trumbull County officers were called to investigate a series of strange green and golden lights many residents were calling dispatch to report. The call would prove the most baffling UFO phenomena in the area in recorded history. Officer Toby Meloro soon spotted the light and followed it with his squad car, barely able to keep up as the light led him to a dirt road outside of a dense patch of woods. Suddenly, the engine to Meloro’s squad car died, as did all of the electronic equipment aboard. Stepping out of the car, Meloro looked up to see the same light hovering directly above him. Moments later he was blinded with a brilliant all-encompassing light that turned the woods into daylight according to his recorded account. As soon as it began it was over, the light was gone and with it his car’s malfunctions ceased. He continued the pursuit; however he was not the only one to see it. Fourteen other officers are on record as witnessing the still unexplained phenomena, including Officer James Baker of neighboring Brookfield Township, who reported sighting three UFOs operating tight aeronautical formations from his vantage point atop a water tower. Captain John Keytack, of nearby Warrensville Air Reserve Station, at the time could not attest to what many residents and over a dozen officers had gone on record as seeing, but confirmed there were no aircrafts, experimental or otherwise, that were in flight that night over the area in question.
For at least half a century, Ohio has experienced strange encounters with lights that appear to have sentient maneuverability and/or advanced technology. Despite numerous confirmations among people of reputation including air traffic controllers, WWII pilots and police officers, the FBI, and to a larger extent the United States Air Force, seem unable or unwilling to provide conclusive evidence about the origins or intent of these luminal phenomena. Let us not forget, it was Jerry Ehman at the OSU Big Ear Radio Observatory in 1977 that first intercepted what is now known as the infamous “Wow! Signal,” a yet to be duplicated and an incredibly powerful sound emission that was transmitted from the depths of space. There are many enthusiasts that hold this as proof of an attempted extraterrestrial communication.
Standing on the shores of Lake Erie I was left wondering, what did it all mean? Was there a correlation that tied all of these disparate sightings and experiences together? Is Ohio merely under some celestial flight paths or is there a specific interest to which alien intelligence is drawn here? Trout proved to be little help while he wrestled with the undertow, but his midnight howls did incur a series of different lights to our location. They were red and blue and mounted to the top of passing patrol car. As we scurried back into the darkness, we fell over each other laughing. What better way to cap the night than with a close encounter of an altogether different kind?