; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, May 15, 2023

The Peak of the Great UFO Flap of 1973 - PART 1

The Peak of the Great UFO Flap of 1973, Part I of III

By Raymond A. Keller, Ph.D., a.k.a. “Cosmic Ray,” the author of the international awards-winning Venus Rising Series, published by Headline Books and available on Amazon.com, while supplies last.

Venus Rising: A Concise History of the Second Planet

Final Countdown: Rockets to Venus

The Vast Venus Conspiracy

Lady Columba Venus Revelations

Flying Saucers and the Venus Legacy

August through October 1973 turned out to be one of the biggest flaps of UFO sightings and related UFO activity in the history of the United States.  There were about 5,000 Americans reporting approximately 500 UFOs that buzzed the country during these three tremendous months.  Here I provide a rundown on some of the more interesting, but more importantly, credible cases:

“Large White-Glowing Objects”

Location:  Griffin, Georgia

Date:  Mid-August 1973

Officer Sam Taylor, a police radio dispatcher in Griffin, Georgia, reported for duty one evening in Mid-August 1973.  The police station is located up on a high hill overlooking the town.  Being on top of the hill, and gazing out the window over his transceiver, Taylor had an awesome view of everything that was truly happening in the valleys below.  What he witnessed that night was a “large white-glowing object” moving at a speed of about 45 miles per hour over the town of Griffin, at the base of the hill.  Taylor described the shape of the object as being “oblong” and its size approximately that of a standard police car.  As he watched the UFO pass across his field of vision, a second object, seemingly identical in appearance to the first one, came into view.  The second UFO was estimated by Taylor to be traveling at a speed of 60 miles per hour.  

No one doubted Officer Taylor’s testimony.  In the town of Griffin, the seat of Spalding County, Taylor was known to never drink alcohol on those days that he was on duty.  And so far as the town residents knew, Taylor never expressed any comments about the UFO phenomenon, nor to have even shown any interest in the subject.  Besides, four other Griffin police officers on duty in separate areas of Spalding County that night made both radio and written reports of sighting the same objects at the same time that Taylor made his report. 

Multicolored, Erratically-dancing Lights

Location:  Albany, Georgia

Date:  30-31 August 1973

It was shortly before midnight when police in the north of Terrell County, to the northwest of Albany, Georgia, the Terrell County seat, radioed in reports of UFOs, which they described as “multicolored lights, some stationary, some moving slowly, and some dancing erratically in the sky.”

At 1:00 a.m., on 31 August, a female reporter for United Press International (UPI) in Albany, Georgia, watched the aforementioned lights for almost two uninterrupted hours.  In the article which she wrote concerning her observation, she described the UFOs as similar to “neon signs gone mad.”  She added that “The objects flashed in the sky, changed colors, and made movements.  There were three lights. They moved independently of each other.  One appeared to be larger than the other two.”

When reporters from other news organizations checked with the UPI desk in Atlanta, Georgia, to verify their own reporter’s UFO filing and credibility, a UPI representative responded, “We just report the news.  We don’t make it up.”  

By 2:00 a.m., police switchboards were lit up with calls coming in from all points in Terrell County, with similar UFO reports of strange lights.  As news of the sightings continued to spread via police and citizen-band radios, community officials, law enforcement personnel and reporters began to amass at the sites where these UFO reports were originating.  And in many cases, those gathering at these locations were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the UFOs themselves.

Triangular Lights

Location:  Manchester, Georgia

Date:  9 September 1973

Daniel Keever, a cameraman for WAGA-TV of Atlanta, Georgia, was in nearby Manchester that night covering his station’s news team as they interviewed local witnesses to a rash of UFO sightings when all of a sudden, a series of triangular lights hovered overhead in plain view of everyone for the space of two hours.  Keever used up about 150 feet of 16-mm film in capturing photographic evidence of the lights for the entire period they remained in the area. The town’s residents acknowledged that the hovering light was probably the same UFO they had spotted before.

Landing of “Bright-golden” Egg-shaped Object

Location:  Orchard Hill, Georgia

Date:  10 September 1973

In the small community of Orchard Hill, on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, Rezz Clanton, a retired cotton-mill worker, reported seeing a “bright-golden, egg-shaped object” slowly float to Earth and come to rest in a field just 25 yards from his home.  “The object,” said Clanton, “was enveloped in smoke and spinning.  Then the object burst into flame. After a few moments, the object took off into the sky.”

Trace Evidence

While nobody else in Orchard Hill, at least according to Clanton’s knowledge, had seen the UFO, there was plenty in Orchard Hill and the nearby town of Griffin, who did witness the burning field.  The University of Georgia operates an agricultural station in Griffin and its resident soil scientist, Dr. O. E. Anderson, was dispatched to the site of the fire in Clanton’s field.  Upon his arrival there, the ground was still smoking along the rim of a one-foot-in-diameter crater.  Anderson took samples from both the crater and surrounding land 30 feet away from the crater’s perimeter.  At the time he reached the crater, Anderson also took a temperature measurement of the ground inside its rim.  It registered at 300 degrees centigrade, which converts to 540 degrees Fahrenheit.  The object had already departed and the land was still cooling down, so Clanton’s UFO must have been one hot object!

One back in the lab, Anderson carried on further tests of the soil samples.  He analyzed the samples both organically and inorganically.  The soil from the crater contained 2,000 times the amount of copper than from the control sample, i.e., the sample taken from 30 feet away.  The crater sample also contained 200 times the amount of normal chromium and twice the normal amounts of iron, manganese, and aluminum than the control sample.  The soil was normally radioactive, however, and contained the normal amount of strontium.  

Anderson was suspicious of some kind of hoax and tested the ground samples for the presence of petroleum products, inasmuch as these could soak into the soil and be ignited.  He also checked for the presence of magnesium, insofar as a flare could have been ignited on the spot of the crater.  Nevertheless, his tests provided no indications of either petroleum products or anything beyond a normal content of magnesium.

Breaking Bad at the University Level 

Fearful of losing his lucrative job at the university, Anderson hemmed and hawed when it came to answering any questions about the possible origins of the object that had landed on Clanton’s farm, gouged out a crater, and burned the ground.  

Reporter:  Would you care to comment on the nature of the object?

Anderson:  No, I would not.  I like my job here at the University of Georgia.  I will offer no speculations that might cause the school embarrassment.

Reporter:  Do you think the object might have been space debris?

Anderson:  I don’t know.  Check with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  

Reporter:  Might the object have been a meteorite?

Anderson:  I don’t know, really, what meteorites are made of.

Clearly, Clanton did not think much of Anderson’s weak commentary, especially since he allowed him onto his property to discover the truth about the UFO that landed there.  Anyway, Rezz Clanton, a devout Christian, was absolutely sure of the UFO’s origin:  “I think it was brimstone.  It’s the Lord Jesus Christ’s warning to us in these last days!”

John J. Gilligan, governor of Ohio from 1971-1975, became an advocate for UFO research following a UFO sighting by himself and his wife up in Flint, Michigan, on 15 October 1973.

“Amber-colored Beam of Light”

Location:  Flint, Michigan

Date:  15 October 1973

This is a particularly interesting report insofar as it concerns then Ohio state Governor John J. Gilligan (1921-2013) and his wife.  They were returning from a political meeting in Flint, Michigan when just outside that city’s limits Gilligan’s wife spotted an “amber-colored beam of light hanging in the sky.”  Pointing it out to her husband, who was driving the car, the governor tried to keep up with the object.  

The Gilligans followed the UFO for approximately 30 to 35 minutes before it finally faded out for good over the southeastern sky above Ann Arbor.  The object did fade in and out for a few times previously when it would pass through a thin layer of clouds.  Upon their return to Columbus, Ohio, Governor Gilligan informed reporters that, “It could not have been the Moon, which was clearly visible to the northeast.”  

Usually, the press was dismissive of most UFO reports at the time.  But in the case of Governor Gilligan and his wife, they restrained their skepticism and criticality.  Reporters on the Columbus, Ohio, state beat recognized that Governor Gilligan, a former college professor, was usually “publicity shy,” so making up a story about a UFO sighting would most likely be the last thing that he would ever try to pull off.  It should also be noted that the Governor had no prior record of having perpetuated a hoax of any kind, not even a practical joke.  The general truthfulness and the soundness of this liberal Democratic governor’s mind have never been questioned by his associates, nor by his conservative Republican political opponents sitting across the aisle in the state’s capitol building.

Army Medical Chopper Encounters Cigar-shaped UFO

Location:  Airspace above Mansfield, Ohio

Date:  18 October 1973

At 11:10 p.m., Army Captain Lawrence Coyne and the three crew members of his medical helicopter were on a routine training mission, hovering in the skies in the vicinity of Mansfield, Ohio, situated about midway between the Ohio cities of Cleveland and Columbus.  They were heading toward Cleveland, with their destination being Cleveland Hopkins Airport.  Coyne set the helicopter on a course of 030 at an altitude of 2,500 feet.  Their speed was 90 knots.  The night was unusually clear for mid-October with visibility exceeding 15 miles.  And it was precisely at 11:10 p.m. that Crew Chief Sergeant Robert Yanacsek reported seeing a UFO in the form of a red light almost dead ahead on the eastern horizon.  Yanacsek’s first impression was that it was an obstruction light.  This is the kind of light required by federal law on high buildings, radio and television transmission towers, and other hazards to low-flying aircraft.  

It's the “Cigar-shaped Object vs. the US Army Helicopter!” 

US Army medical chopper and crew were almost rammed by UFO in Ohio skies on 18 October 1973.  Army Captain Lawrence Coyne files UFO report after landing.

UFO Charges the Chopper

No sooner than Yanacsek reported the UFO, it turned around and picked up its speed to 600 knots, which corresponds to 690 miles per hour, heading on a collision course with the helicopter.  At this point, Captain Coyne lunged for the controls, taking them over from the co-pilot.  Coyne feared a midair collision with the UFO and quickly attempted to move the medical chopper out of the strange object’s onrushing flight path.  He did this by cutting the chopper’s power completely while putting it into a steep 20-degree dive.   Thereby, the chopper was plummeting toward the ground; but the UFO was not deterred.  It also dove, maintaining its collision course.  Alarmingly, when the chopper’s altitude had fallen to 1,700 feet, the UFO’s position had stabilized to within a few feet in front and above the helicopter’s cockpit. 

With the UFO now so close, Coyne and his crew were able to get a really good look at it.   In their report filed later with the Army, the crew stated that the object had a “dull gray, metallic surface.”  In addition, they noted that “It (the UFO) was generally cigar-shaped and about 60 feet long.  There was a dome in the center and a few feet back from its leading edge was a red light.  On the trailing edge, green light reflected off the craft’s surface.  The entire craft swung 180 degrees to the left until the green light came to a stop directly over the Plexiglas canopy of the helicopter.  The light swiveled like a spotlight until its full intensity shone in on all of us.  The light was so bright that the entire cabin area was bathed in green; and the instrument lights, which are red, were made to appear green.”  

The report, which was filed by Captain Coyne, reflected the consensus of his helicopter crew. The report continued: “The object hovered over the helicopter for a while. Then it moved away, slowly accelerating, in a westerly direction.  When it cleared the area of Mansfield Air Force Base, just a few miles distance, the UFO changed its course to a more southwesterly direction, also switching from a level flight to an ascending altitude of 45 degrees, speeding away into the night sky and disappearing a few seconds later.”

Data from Ancillary Reports

From the separate ancillary reports filed by the individual crew members with the Army, it seems like the UFO was just checking out the helicopter and its crew.  During the time that this was taking place, all radio contact with the tower was lost onboard the chopper.  The chopper was in a diving attitude and with its power fully shut down.  Fortunately, at 1,700 feet the chopper was caught in some kind of force field around the UFO, which slightly more than doubled its altitude, ascending to 3,500 feet.  This was according to the instrument panel, which indicated a rate of climb of approximately 1,000 feet per minute. Interestingly, each crew member declared that they felt no sensation of acceleration during this rapid 1,800-foot climb, while the chopper was under the UFO’s power, which lasted a little under two minutes.  At 3,500 feet, the captain regained power and control of the chopper.  

After landing, Captain Coyne granted interviews with local reporters who had been listening in on the aviation band and rushed over to the airfield to get the exclusive story.  At that time, Coyne declared that prior to this event, he did not believe in UFOs, per se, as real, physical objects.  The national interest aroused by the helicopter-UFO encounter brought Captain Coyne even more into the spotlight; and on 9 November 1973, he was interviewed by Dick Cavett on his American Broadcasting Company network television show.  Coyne explained to Cavett that, “Yes, it was a real physical object, but most likely some kind of experimental craft.”  He elaborated even further, revealing that, “I have been flying for 18 years and am generally knowledgeable about aircraft of all types.  As far as I know, nobody is experimenting with an aircraft that flies without wings, without noise and without causing turbulence and a sonic boom at speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour.”  I suppose that Coyne had to say that he thought it was some kind of “experimental craft” insofar as it might take the edge off in the press, with speculation of it originating from beyond Earth.  

One purpose of the flight to Columbus was an annual physical exam required of all flight personnel by the Federal Aviation Administration.  Coyne and his men all passed this exam hours before encountering the UFO.  No one onboard had been drinking or consuming drugs and none of the crew had any history of mental illness.  Also, no history was found in any of the crew, including Captain Coyne, of ever using any kind of hallucinogenic drug(s).

Lame Excuse of the U.S. Air Force to Explain Away 15-18 October 1973 UFO Sightings 


The most common explanations given by the U.S. Air Force to explain away UFO sightings are “weather balloons” or “temperature inversions,” or sometimes, “weather balloons seen under unusual atmospheric conditions.”  Chart source:  https://sott.net/

Dr. Robert Weedfall, an assistant professor of agricultural engineering at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, and the state climatologist for West Virginia, as well as a former meteorologist at the Nevada Test Site of the Atomic Energy Commission, was referred to the editors of Argosy magazine by Air Force Project Bluebook personnel when they were informed that the popular men’s magazine was going to run an article on the UFO flap of 1973 in their April 1974 issue, “There Are UFOs!”, by William Slattery (New York, New York:  Popular Publications, Volume 379, Number 4). This article was going to be objective in nature, reflecting the high degree of credibility found in UFO witnesses.  The Air Force wanted Weedfall to present their take on the UFO phenomenon, that while the witnesses may be credible, there are still natural phenomena that are not easily understood or properly interpreted, phenomena that can even stump the so-called “experts” in their particular professions.  As a result of the Air Force request, Argosy included Weedfall’s opinions for the sake of a more balanced presentation in the pages of their well-read magazine.  Dr. Weedfall led in with, “There may be a very simple and scientific explanation for the majority of UFO sightings.” 

Synopsis of Dr. Weedfall’s Analysis of the October 1973 Sightings in the United States 

Dr. Robert Weedfall pointed out that in October 1973, when the UFO flap took place, there was a dry spell across the United States in the middle of that month.  This was important because a high-pressure front predominated and there was an abundance of air pollutants trapped inside temperature inversion layers.  The scientist opined that such, “Dry high-pressure zones offer classic inversion conditions.  Studies have shown that atmospheric inversions distort and reflect light.”

The renowned West Virginia meteorologist firmly believed that there existed a high correlation between inversions and the sightings of certain types of UFOs.  Apparently, it is a known fact that the base of the inversion layer can act as a simple mirror for reflecting lights.  Weedfall gave the example of one student at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, who “one night reported blinking red lights in the sky to the north of his dormitory last October.  The state police investigated and found he (the student) had seen the reflection of warning lights on a power plant three miles to the north.”

In a brief synopsis of Weedfall’s report, we understand that inversion layers conform with the curvature of the Earth.  Therefore, such curved layers act like the lens of an eyeglass, reflecting light in a saucer or lenticular shape.  Also, there is yet another weather formation that can produce such a saucer-shaped reflection, and that is the lenticular cloud, always sought out by glider pilots insofar as it provides an indication of the presence of a wind wave.  The ice crystals, collectively caught up in any lenticular formation, may look exactly like a flying saucer.  With changing winds, or heat patterns, the elevation of the inversion will shift, thus creating the effect of a flying saucer zooming off at a high speed.  

To illustrate this unique weather effect, Weedfall explains that, “Air Force pilots have occasionally investigated flying saucer sightings above frontal inversions, that is, above 10,000 feet.  Such saucer formations could result from light reflections off the most pronounced temperature inversion of them all, the ‘tropopause,’ that point in the atmosphere where temperature stops decreasing with altitude and it begins to get warmer.  By definition, this is the beginning of the stratosphere.

“These high-level saucers,” the West Virginia mountaineer weather scientist concluded, “have been reported to suddenly move away at extremely high speeds when approached.  Sounds to me like a light image suddenly breaking up.”


(Editor’s comment:  Be sure and catch Part II of this series of the Great UFO Flap of 1973, where “Cosmic Ray” relates the story of two men who were captured by extraterrestrials and dragged into their landed flying saucer for a comprehensive medical examination. - Lon) 



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