; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The 1966 Ohio - Pennsylvania UFO Police Chase

One of the most dramatic encounters by police officers with an apparently structured, low-level UFO occurred in the early morning of April 17, 1966. Officers of the Portage County, Ohio, Sheriff's Department first saw the object rise up from near ground level, bathing them in light, near Ravenna, Ohio, about 5:00 A.M. Ordered by the sergeant to pursue the object, they chased it for eighty-five miles across the border into Pennsylvania, as it seemed to play a cat-and-mouse game with them. Along the route, police officers from other jurisdictions saw the object and joined in the chase.

Deputy Sheriff Dale Spaur and Mounted Deputy Wilbur 'Barney’ Neff had left their scout car to investigate an apparently abandoned automobile on Route 224. Spaur described the sighting in these words:

“I always look behind me so no one can come up behind me. And when I looked in this wooded area behind us, I saw this thing. At this time it was coming up . . . to about tree top level. I'd say about one hundred feet. it started moving toward us.... As it came over the trees, I looked at Barney and he was still watching the car . . and he didn't say nothing and the thing kept getting brighter and the area started to get light. .. . I told him to look over his shoulder, and he did.

"He just stood there with his mouth open for a minute, as bright as it was, and he looked down. And I started looking down and I looked at my hands and my clothes weren't burning or anything, when it stopped right over on top of us. The only thing, the only sound in the whole area was a hum . . . like a transformer being loaded or an overloaded transformer when it changes. . . .

"I was petrified, and, uh, so I moved my right foot, and everything seemed to work all right. And evidently he made the same decision I did, to get something between me and it, or us and it, or whatever you would say. So we both went for the car, we got in the car and we sat there...."

As they watched, the UFO moved toward the east, and then stopped again. Spaur picked up the microphone and reported to the dispatcher. At this time, the object was about 250 feet away, brilliantly lighting up the area ("It was very bright; it'd make your eyes water," Spaur said.) Sergeant Schoenfelt, off duty at the station, told them to follow it and keep it under observation while they tried to get a photo unit to the scene.

Spear and Neff turned south on Route 183, then back east on Route 224, which placed the object to their right, and out the left window. “At this time,” said Spaur. "it came straight south, just one motion, buddy, just a smooth glide . . ."and began moving east with them pacing it, just to their right at an estimated altitude of 300-500 feet, illuminating the ground beneath it. Once more the UFO darted to the north, now left of the car, and they sped up to over 100 mph to keep pace with it.

As the sky became brighter with predawn light, Spaur and Neff saw the UFO in silhouette, with a vertical projection at its rear. The object began to take on a metallic appearance as the chase continued. Spaur kept up a running conversation with other police cars that were trying to catch up with them. Once when they made a wrong turn at an intersection, the object stopped, then turned and came back to their position.

Police Officer Wayne Huston of East Palestine, Ohio, situated near the Pennsylvania border, had been monitoring the radio broadcasts and was parked at an intersection he knew the Portage County officers would he passing soon. Shortly afterward he saw the UFO pass by with the sheriff's cruiser in hot pursuit. He swung out and joined the chase. At Conway, Pennsylvania, Spaur spotted another parked police car and stopped to enlist his aid, since their Cruiser was almost out of gas. The Pennsylvania officer called his dispatcher.

According to Spaur, as the four officers stood and watched the UFO, which had stopped and was hovering, there was traffic on the radio about jets being scrambled to chase the UFO, and ". . . we could see these planes coming in.... When they started talking about fighter planes, it was just as if that thing head every word that was said; it went PSSSSSHHEW, straight up; and I mean when it went up, friend, it didn't play no games; it went straight up” (Transcript of taped interview with Dale Spaur).

The Air Force "identified" the UFO as a satellite, seen part of the time, and confused with the planet Venus. Under pressure from Ohio officials, Major Hector Quintanilla, chief of PROJECT BLUE BOOK, had an acrimonious confrontation with witnesses and refused to change the identification, although it was pointed out to him that they had seen the UFO in addition to Venus and the moon at the conclusion of the observation. Major Quintanilla also denied that any jets had been scrambled.

William B. Weitzel conducted an exhaustive investigation on behalf of the NATIONAL INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE ON AERIAL PHENOMENA (NICAP), obtaining taped interviews, signed statements, sketches, and all pertinent data which was assembled into a massive report that was made available to congressional investigators. When the UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO UFO PROJECT was initiated in 1966, a copy of Weitzel’s report was hand-delivered to the director, Dr. Edward U. CONDON, for his consideration. The CONDON REPORT, published two years later, does not mention the case. Richard Hall - NICAP


Spauer/Neff, Portage County UFO Chase

Francis Ridge:
If this incident seems familiar to you, just maybe you saw the motion picture, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". Investigated by NICAP's William Weitzel, this report, also known as the Spauer/Neff Case, was the basis for the UFO "chase" in this film. This case involves police witnesses, confrontation, light beam, brilliant illumination, light engulfment, sound, cat and mouse chase, with rapid upward departure. Special thanks go out to Mark Rodeghier of CUFOS for providing the documentation and to Loy Pressley for converting them into text so I could make the web pages.

Dr. James E. McDonald:
Ravenna, Ohio (April 17, 1966) calls for reevaluation not only on the scientific grounds involved, but also to avoid unfairly subjecting to local public ridicule the several officers who have testified. (Compare Bertrand & Hunt in the Exeter case) The available evidence (especially Wm. Weitzel's extensive report for NICAP) seems to me to make the astronomical explanation, that now stands as the official Air Force evaluation, quite unreasonable. - NICAP



17 MAY 1966

SUBJECT: UFO Statements

TO: Project Blue Book TDEW/UFO
Wright-Patterson AFB Ohio 45433

1. The attached statements are submitted as requested 16 May 66.

2. Mr. William Aber does not wish his signature associated with his statement.

3. Patrolman Frank Panzanella will assist in any way he can. However, he stated emphatically, he does not wish involvement in any way with the News Media.

4. Mr. Wayne Huston, formerly Patrolman Wayne Huston does not wish his name identified with his statement. He has been harrassed by news media and private organizations also individuals. He has been misquoted by news media and is constantly bothered by telephone calls. Possibly the above mentioned may have been a deciding factor Mr.Huston resigned his position with the police force and accepted employment in another area.

4. All three individuals contacted were very cooperative. However, Patrolman Pansanella and Mr. Huston are strongly opposed to the news media and their misinterpretation of the incident.


3 Atch Information Officer

1. Statement, Mr. Huston
2. Statement, Mr. Aber
3. Statement, Panzanella


Lee's Auto Sales
Rambler Sales and Service
Columbiana 482-3471 381 N. MAIN ST. Youngstown 549-2466

It was Sunday A.M. April 17, 1966 when over the Police Radios I heard the Summit County and Portage County radio operators advising there Patrol Cars of a report of a flying object reported by a woman. Later the Portage Patrol Cars reported to his office that he had seen the object and was following it. He was following it east and towards Columbiana County. As he came through Columbiana Ohio I went to Route #14 and waited. At 5:30 A.M. the object went over me at what I thought was around 800'. The object appeared to look like a large Ice Cream cone with point down. The pointed part didn't look like a solid looked more like light beams. At that time I pulled out and caught up with the Portage County Car and followed behind him on into Pennor. The object was traveling at speeds 85 to 105 ground speed. At the entrance to Brady Run Park we lost sight of it. We went on into Bridgeport and then we saw it again. We followed it on into Conway, Penns where a Conway Police Officer had his office to call the Greater Pitt. Airport. At that time I returned back to East Palestine, Ohio.


Wayne Huston


May 17, 1966

To whom it may concern--

I was on duty as a Watch supervisor in the Greater Pittsburgh Tower during the period of 0000-0800 EDST on the day of April 17, 1966.

I received a report from some local police agencies that an unidentified flying object had been sighted in Ohio and had been followed into our area of which I had radar surveillance. I observed nothing on the radar presentation that coincided with the reported object nor did I observe any other radar return.
William L. Aker

P.S. Since this statement is being submitted to the military representative at my home on my regular scheduled day off duty and not through the channels of the Federal Aviation Agency, I would request that my name be withheld from public use.
William L. Aker


May 18, 1966

At 5:20 A.M. stopped at Conway Hotel and had a cup of coffee. I then left the hotel coming down Second Avenue to 11th Street and made a left turn on 11th Street preceded up the hill. Looked to my right and saw a shining object. I thought it was a reflection off of a plane. I got to Mickey's Lounge on the top of the hill and I looked back and it wasn't moving so I turned the police car around and came back down 11th Street and went to Adamowski Service Station on 10th Street and Route 65. I then got out of the police car and looked at the object again. I rubbed my eyes 3 or 4 times but didn't say anything to anyone for the time being. I saw 2 other patrol cars pull up and the officers got out of the car and asked me if I saw it. I replied SAW WHAT! They pointed to the object and I told them I had been watching it for the last 10 minutes. The object was the shape of a half of football, was very bright and about 25 to 35 feet in diameter. The object then moved out towards Harmony Township approximately a 1,000 feet high, then it stopped then went straight up real fast to about 3,500 feet. I then called the base station told the radio operator to notify the Pittsburgh airport. He asked me if I was sick. I told him if I was sick so were the other 3 patrolmen. The operator got the airport on the line and told them what happened, he told them to hold the line and in the meantime we kept watching the object and at that time a passenger plane passed to the left about 1,000 feet below the object. We relayed the message to the operator and he relayed it to the airport. The object continued to go upward until it got as small as a ballpoint pen. Then we received a message to make a phone call. We preceded to the Rochester Police Department and made the phone call. Officer Parr talked to someone and then we returned to Conway Police Department where I gave Officer Parr my name and gas for his police car to return home.

The object was in my sight from 5:20 A. M. to 6:15 A. M.

Patrolman Frank Panzanella
Conway Bars. Police



Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe
USMC (RET.) Director

By Deputy Sheriff Dale F. Spaur and Posse Member W. L. Neff

STATEMENT: On April 17, 1966, at about 5:00 AM, the undersigned, Dale F. Spaur and Barney (W. L) Neff, were patrolling the southeast portion of Portage County, Ohio. We had been hearing radio traffic about a UFO near Portage County. We found an abandoned car on the berm on Rt. 224 between Atwater and Randolph. We left our car to routinely investigate this vehicle. Spaur noticed a light over the trees on the hill next to the berm, and called Neff's attention to it. As we watched, the light came closer and a large, self-illuminated object was seen as its source. The object came directly overhead and hovered above us. Its light lit up the ground where we were standing, and our cruiser, P-13. It was too bright to look at without hurting the eyes. We got into our car and radioed that we had spotted the UFO. During that time, it began moving away from us. We followed it down 224 onto Rt. 14, to the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, and into Pennsylvania on Rt. 51; then through Rochester, Pa., and on Rt. 65, up to Conway, where we stopped. As we passed East Palestine, Ohio, Patrolman Wayne Huston, of the East Palestine Police, joined in our pursuit. In Conway, Pa., Officer Frank Panzanella met us where we stopped, and we stood with him watching the object as it hovered and then rose, twice, in a rapid climb. The object seemed 30-45 feet across, and 18-24 feet high. The light it gave off lit up the ground over the road and over fields as we pursued it. At first it was about 150 feet up; then it rose to around 1000 feet. During the chase it changed altitude and direction, maneuvered smoothly, had a sort of dome-shaped top, and at times showed a projection on the top part, near the trailing edge. Not all of it was self-illuminated; part of the top trailing portion looked metallic; not shiny, but satiny. At times we measured its speed over the ground at about 103 miles per hour. At one point, near Rochester, we lost it while getting through a bridge-underpass area, but when we emerged, it had come down lower and seemed to have waited for us; it went off fast ahead again then. We were, and are, sure we were not chasing an illusion, or seeing a reflection, star, planet, or similar still object. As far as our part in this sighting is concerned, at least, the article by Tom Schley in the Beaver County Times, April 18, 1966, about this, is accurate.


Dale Spauer
William Neff




1. Projection, tilted from rear (trailing edge) 18' long, tapered to to tip

2. Dome-shaped top; partly metallic, partly self-illuminated

3. Glowing front (leading edge)

4. Cone-shaped light underneath

5. Glowing tip of trailing edge

6. Metallic surface

7. Sharp "drop-off" (Neff disagrees; remembers more rounded here)

8. Rounded "undercarriage"

9. Line separating metallic from self-illuminated portions


1. Bright spot to right of moon, a little above axis of symmetry of crescent

2. Crescent moon (bump in concave portion indicates "nose" of "Man in Moon")

3. TV antenna on nearby house, through whose elements Spaur and Neff saw the
UFO hovering before 1st upward elevation

4. Position of UFO after 1st elevation, above moon (now moving away, or disappearing)

(NOTE: Panzanella agreed with relative positions of levels of hovering; Spaur agreed with Panzanella's on-the-spot location of object relative to nearby houses; Spaur examined a photograph made from the spot he claimed to have been standing.)


1. Cone-shaped light underneath

2. Bright, self-illuminated solid appearing top

3. Dome shape

4. Cone tilted toward rear, of direction of motion, more so than shown here.

(NOTE: Huston testified to having seen, once, a project; only got one view of it.)

FURTHER NOTES: On Spaur-Neff joint signed testimony: Until over a week after the sighting, Neff was "in hiding," refusing to be interviewed by anyone. I typed a summary statement for Spaur to take to him, along with Spaur's drawings. Neff finally agreed to be interviewed on on April 28. I mailed the statements and drawings to Spaur; there was some confusion as to who was to sign the extra space; Spaur did this, so Neff signed elsewhere on the sheets.

Read more at 1966 Portage County UFO Chase

Aliens and UFOs: Case Closed Proof Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
Ravenna, Ohio - Record-Courier - April 18, 1966
It Came from Ohio: True Tales of the Weird, Wild, and Unexplained
Witness statement - William L. Aker
Witness statement - Wayne Huston
Witness statement - Patrolman Frank Panzanella
U.F.O Case Study
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

The Portage County UFO Chase April 17 1966 or cut / paste http://youtu.be/mqxqEHENtgQ