Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Portage County: The Close Encounters Chase

I have been recently looking at the Portage County, Ohio, UFO chase, which I think of as the Close Encounters chase. You know, the police cars chasing a UFO across the countryside, through a toll booth and beyond. It was featured at the beginning of the 1977 movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which is not to say that the real event perfectly matched the movie version (such as the toll booth, which didn’t happen and which I mention now so that I don’t hear about this later).

Anyway, I noticed something about this case, other than the ridiculous Air Force explanation and Hector Quintanilla’s attempt to browbeat the police officer witnesses into this way of thinking. Quintanilla, after demanding respect because he was an Air Force officer, tried to convince Dale Spaur and Wilbur Neff, the sheriff’s deputies, that they had seen a satellite and Venus. Given the testimony of these men, not to mention the other police officers involved at various stages, it was a ridiculous explanation. In statements taken within days of the events, they talked about the object being low enough that it lit up the surrounding fields as it passed over them.

But that’s not my point today. It was the aftermath of the sighting that is interesting. Within six months, Spaur had left law enforcement and became a painter. H. Wayne Huston, who had joined the chase later and described for the Air Force what he had seen, resigned from the police force and moved to Seattle to drive a bus. Neff seemed to suffer from PTSD, and his wife said that he had been “through the ringer.” He had changed after the sighting. Neff, by the way, was an auxiliary deputy rather than a full-time officer.

This sort of thing isn’t found just in his case. Herbert Schirmer, who reported to have seen a landed UFO near Ashland, Nebraska (and who, under hypnotic regression reported an abduction), left police work not long after the event. Jeffrey Greenhaw, who photographed an alien (which many believe was a man in a fire retardant suit) said that his employers had attempted to get him to deny the report and was then harassed when he insisted that he had photographed something alien.

And such treatment extends beyond law enforcement. Captain Kenju Terauchi, of JAL Flight No. 1628, lost his flying job after the sighting was reported. Richard Haines and others managed to get him reinstated, but the point is he did nothing other than report he had watched strange objects from the cockpit of his aircraft.

Charles Halt, of Rendlesham Forest fame, also noted that he feared the UFO sighting would damage his career. He was quite leery of getting more deeply involved than he was for that reason. His perception might have been in error, meaning the UFO sighting didn’t seem hurt his career, but that was what he believed.

I could go on, with others who have seen their careers negatively affected by brushes with UFOs. Yes, I know the argument that if they’re seeing something that isn’t real, maybe we shouldn’t trust them in jobs that could jeopardize innocents. But I could argue they are seeing something real, it might be the interpretation that is in error, and sometimes that interpretation is made by others.

At any rate, the point here was simply to point out that there are many instances in which those who have reported strange things in the skies have seen their lives radically altered. They have been forced out of jobs, had their careers derailed, or been forced to change their stories (and yes, there are examples of this scattered throughout the UFO literature). I’m merely suggesting that this might create a situation in which those who do see something strange opt not to tell anyone about it. This is a sort of suppression of information (and again, yes, I chose that word carefully) that we don’t see in many other arenas (and yes, I can think of examples outside of the UFO field where that happens). I just thought that I’d mention it.


Lance said...

Robert Sheaffer reexamined this famous case in his book, UFO Sightings, The Evidence. Sheaffer gives good evidence that the case is much less than the sum of its parts. He details how Quintanella browbeat Spar and made nonsensical statements. He also mentions the idea of the one case ruining Spar's life might be overstating things.

It's probably one of the most in-depth accounts of this case.


David Rudiak said...

Atmospheric phenomena such as sprites have only fairly recently been studied by science. Pilots had been seeing them for many years, but few reported them because of the UFO stigma.

This is the problem with knee-jerk debunkery and ridicule of ANY anomalies--it holds back scientific discovery. As J. Allen Hynek famously remarked, ridicule is not part of the scientific method.

cda said...

Yes, Robert Sheaffer examined the Portage County case very closely in the book cited by Lance. And I am quite satisfied his explanation is correct. See chapter 19 'A flying saucer named Floyd'. It did involve Venus but not a satellite.

And it was certainly not knee-jerk debunkery on Sheaffer's part.

Larry said...


David can speak for himself, but I think Quintanella is the one whose behavior qualified as kneejerk debunkery.

David Rudiak said...


One of the really stupid things (among many) about the Venus "explanation" in the Ravenna case is that it was in the East at the time, yet we have statements from multiple police eyewitnesses of the object being in completely different directions. E.g., first from Spaur and Neff of first seeing the object approach them from the WEST (then passing OVER them), at one point they were chasing the object on a highway headed SOUTH, the object crossed over the highway to their right, or WESTWARD, and my favorite, from other police following this on the police radio that they saw the object approaching from the WEST being chased by Spaur and Neff EASTWARD on a strictly WEST/EAST highway headed towards the Pennsylvania state line.

I went into more detail on this a dozen years ago in a UFOUpdates debate with another debunker (proposing Venus combined with "astigmatism"):


Venus can do many amazing things when used to debunk UFO cases. I haven't read Shaeffer on this, but if he claimed it could all be explained as "Venus", he is as bad as Quintanella.

Lance said...


Sheaffer's explanation is worth a read. He does show clearly how things like direction were demonstrably screwed up by Spaur.

He postulates that the initial sighting may have been a meteor but that thereafter the light in the sky seems to be locked into position--the same position as Venus. Particularly compelling is how the light was said to start and stop with the police car, just as the moon seems to follow you.


Steve Sawyer said...

For a little insight into some of the reported details of what actually seems to have occurred, starting in Portage County, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portage_County_UFO_chase


"While examining the abandoned car, Spaur noticed a bright light seeming to approach from behind a nearby hill. Alerting Neff, they both watched as the light came closer. They reported that the light came from a large, oval shaped object that hovered at between 50 and 100 feet in altitude. The object then turned sharply and shone an extremely bright light at the officers.

"Neff and Spaur said they ran back to their police cruiser. While the object hovered nearby, Spaur radioed the sheriff's office and told them about the UFO. He was ordered to stay where he was until others could arrive with a camera. (Officers were mistakenly sent to the wrong location, and no photos were ever taken of the UFO.)[citation needed]

"The oval was about 35 to 45 feet in diameter, said Spaur and Neff, and seemed to be about 18 to 24 feet thick. The bottom was rounded, and they could not see much of the object's top due to their position below the object. A bright conical spotlight shone from the bottom of the object. According to Spaur and Neff, whenever the object moved, its edge would tip in the direction of its motion.

"Spaur and Neff said that the object then rose in altitude to about 300 feet, and began to emit a loud humming sound, as its light grew ever brighter. It began slowly drifting through the air, its spotlight shining brightly on the ground as it moved, and Spaur and Neff followed in the police cruiser."

If the above account is correct, then I can only see and agree with CDA and Lance that, obviously, Spaur and Neff must have seen and chased, oh... let's see... uhm... the moon, Venus, and a stray meteorite, right?

I mean, based on their description of events (and the numerous other ones by other police officers at the cited Wiki link above, which is most interesting), I can only concur and conclude Venus was the culprit. So, case closed.

Or... maybe not? Begin the intense calypso of debunking gyrations. Dance!

Here, I'll start: maybe Spaur and Neff were under the hideous influence of a combination of a massive dose of LSD and ayahuasca? That's _possible_ isn't it? What other possibilities could there be? 8^}

Lance said...

I won't resort to the sarcasm, etc. And try to just keep things polite.

At the beginning of his account Sheaffer recounts Hynek's experience of riding with cops looking for UFO's. Hynek himself got somewhat caught up in the excitement and almost imagined he saw something in the sky. But Hynek had to spend quite a bit of time pointing out to cops that things like Venus and stars were not UFO's.

UFO proponents do themselves no service by not even understanding how witnesses do get details amazingly wrong. Pretending that it doesn't happen does not make the problem go away.

And accepting a completely credulous account of a sighting is not the best way to understand that sighting.

If that's what you want to do.


David Rudiak said...

Lance wrote:
UFO proponents do themselves no service by not even understanding how witnesses do get details amazingly wrong. Pretending that it doesn't happen does not make the problem go away.

And likewise UFO debunkers do themselves no service by not understanding how witnesses can also get details amazingly right, right enough that it is usually quite easy to figure out out what they have seen with a little investigation.

Debunkers also do themselves no service by cherry-picking what witnesses say (or other independent evidence), dismissing everything else that might disagree with their preconceived notions of what the alleged "explanation" is. This is the usual trying to pound a very large square peg into a small round hole approach. Just whittle away 90% of the actual evidence until it finally fits.

This is what is happening with the Neff/Spaur and OTHER police testimony when the debunkers try to spin the actual testimony into "Venus". Venus cannot appear to be a large, cone-shaped object, described as bright as the sun, bright enough that it hurt to look at or made eyes water, looked like an acetylene torch, hovering, flying closely overhead, clearly approaching from the wrong direction as Venus, etc.

Perhaps SMALL PORTIONS of the overall sighting MIGHT be explained seeing Venus at times while chasing a far larger, far brighter object, but that does not explain the entirety of the incident, not by a long shot.

As I wrote back on UFO Updates when I was debating this with debunker Bob Young (who was also claiming absurdly that "Venus" was distorted into a saucer shape by "astigmatism", apparently all witnesses suffering from it):


Over in East Palestine, Ohio, EAST of the chase, Patrolman H. Wayne Huston was listening to the police radio. Huston spoke to Spaur and said he would join in the chase when they got there. Huston reported seeing BOTH chase car and the object approaching from the WEST. It would be impossible for Huston to get his directions confused, because the chase at that point was on an east/west running highway, with Spaur and Neff headed east towards Pennsylvania. For Huston to see them and the object approaching his position, he had to be looking WEST. Venus, of course, was in the east.

Huston also added little details like, "As it flew by, I was standing by my cruiser. I watched it go right overhead. It was shaped like an ice-cream cone…. It was so bright, I would say it was brighter than the sun when it came up. The point part of the cone was underneath; the top was sort of a dome."

Now I'd like Schaeffer to try to explain Huston's testimony as "Venus".

You can always make a theory fit by grossly oversimplifying the situation and pretending conflicting evidence does not exist. But a good theory should fit most of the evidence, not a tiny portion of it.

albertguitar.com said...

If the excerpt offered by Steve is even remotely close to what the officers said, then Lances statement: "...witnesses do get details amazingly wrong...." is disingenuous at best.

Eliminating 'UFO' as an explanation, what's left?

1. The story is a total fabrication.
2. The story is a massive hallucination by two individuals.

I won't say it's impossible, but it's certainly highly improbable, given the fallout certain to result.

To even suggest Venus, a meteor, or a satellite is absurd, and deserving of sarcasm.

I gotta go...

Lance said...

This is a complicated sighting. By picking one element, we would only be talking to ourselves. So I won't bother to respond except to say that there are problems with the account as expressed by David above.

Again, the Sheaffer account doesn't do what David suggest that it does (without having read it, naturally).

Some of the changing testimony (for instance the police in their initial interviews ALL said that they didn't see the object's departure. This somehow changed into a dramatic departure of the thing shooting into the sky!) makes it clear that we are not dealing with scientific data that can be soberly relied upon (as David does with the brightness, above).


cda said...


I suggest you read Sheaffer's account in "THE UFO VERDICT" chapter 19, where he deals with Huston's testimony (and others with it), showing how inconsistent it is.

I am not going into all the details because it would take too long. It is, as Lance says, a complicated sighting.

Forget about Quantanilla. Sheaffer deals with his inadequacies too, in that chapter.

And if you don't think sober, intelligent, straight-thinking cops can get things wrong look at the Condon Report p.368. That case occurred literally the same day or one day later/earlier than another, equally famous case in the UK, in Devon.

And yes, Venus was the culprit in both. Jupiter helped as well.

Don said...

Kevin: "Within six months, Spaur had left law enforcement and became a painter."

According to a by-lined feature story in the regional press in October of that year, Spaur's wife had him arrested for assault and that is when he left law enforcement. She then divorced him on those grounds. Spaur blamed either the sighting or related ridicule, or both for his problems.



Terry the Censor said...

KR: "there are many instances in which those who have reported strange things in the skies have seen their lives radically altered."

Kevin, that incredibly vague assertion is a little too much like mystery mongering. The statement would still be true even if we swapped out "have reported strange things in the skies" and replaced it with:

* had a change of profession
* ended a romantic relationship
* tried a new medication
* lost their faith in God
* became bored with life

More importantly, many people who have reported strange things in the skies have not seen their lives radically altered.

David Rudiak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Rudiak said...

Blogger David Rudiak said...

As usual, neither CDA or Lance actually detail what officer Huston's supposed "inadequacies" (CDA) were supposed to be, ala the Shaeffer version.

Here is another account by Huston:


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. [Note: at this point Huston would have been about 9 miles a little south of East of Spauer & Neff, who were approaching from the WEST.] 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.

Now here, Huston doesn't mention actually seeing the object and Spear/Neff approaching from the west, as in my previous quoted statement, but he sure does mention AGAIN the UFO passing OVER him and looking like a large ice cream cone.

I still don't see "Venus" in this testimony, even if it isn't totally consistent with the other statement. So what? Venus can't fly OVER your head and look like a large ice cream cone.

David Rudiak said...

I don't think Kevin was saying UFO's were somehow unique in SOMETIMES traumatizing witnesses. What is unusual about UFO cases, with implications about effects on witnesses, is UFOs have become a taboo subject, and ridicule of witnesses is the norm, one reason why most people refuse to report them or go public. The attacks on witnesses from the debunkers can be quite savage.

It goes without saying that any highly emotional event can leave people changed for better or worse (or not at all). In this case, Kevin was mentioning some UFO witnesses (policemen) being negatively traumatized by a highly emotional event and then further traumatized by the public ridicule that followed. This can certainly lead to something like PTSD (just as war, bankrupcy, loss of spouse, psychological abuse, etc., can cause PTSD), which can lead to loss of job and breakup of marriages, etc.

We could add policeman Lonnie Zamora to the list, traumatized to some extent by what he witnessed, further traumatized by all the public scrutiny and ridicule that followed. As I recall, he quit the Socorro police force less than 2 years later from stress and mostly retired from public life.

John Harney said...

Could someone explain how one could chase an airborne object with a car? It doesn't make sense.

John harney

KRandle said...

Terry -

David has it right. I was merely pointing out that many times a UFO sighting ends with some sort of life change... just as winning the lottery would alter a life. I just noticed that in this case, three of the police officers had some real trouble. And that in other cases, similar things happened, which was why I supplied other examples. I guess you could say it was a simple observation more than anything else.

cda said...


I perhaps did not make myself clear. It was Quintanilla who had 'inadequacies' not Huston. I should have said 'shortcomings'.

Sheaffer made it clear that Quantinilla's official investigation was far from adequate.

[I swear that every time I spell Q's name I get it wrong somewhere!]

David Rudiak said...

I was looking up newspaper stories from the time about the Ravenna police chase. Apparently, the number of witnesses to the object numbered in the "hundreds" not just a few policemen. What was so very special about "Venus" on this one night, at 5-6:30 in the morning that suddenly "hundreds" of people thought it was something out of the ordinary? Venus didn't even start rising until about 5:00. Nobody had seen Venus before?

One was the Sheriff, who also said he took a picture of the object. Obviously he too had never seen Venus, thus thinking it suddenly worthy of a picture. The AF it further said, didn't want him to show the picture until they had a chance to look at it. Venus must have had national security implications. (Apparently the photo didn't show anything distinct.)

In a follow-up article 6 months later, it discussed the impact on the policemen, especially Spaur. It was very clear that Spaur and Neff had been traumatized from the sighting itself. Neff's wife said she hoped to never see her husband again like he was when he came home after the chase. Neff refused to talk about. Spaur was the main focus, now separated from his wife. (He didn't hit her but grabbed and bruised her months later.) There was no indication that there was anything seriously wrong with the marriage until this all happened. Spaur's wife said he was never the same.

Spaur and Huston said all the attention and ridicule that followed really got to them. Afterward, daily routine was "washed away in a sea of reporters, television camermen, Air Force investigators, government officials," and "strange letters" from all over the world.

Spaur commented, "My entire life came crashing down around my shoulders. Everything changed. I still don't really know what happened. But suddenly, it was as though everybody owned me... and I no longer had anything for myself. My wife, my home, my children, they all seemed to fade away." Spaur also complained about chronic nightmares about the incident. He had lost 40 pounds.

His wife Daneise commented, "Something happened to Dale, but I don't know what it was. He came home that day and I never saw him more frightened before. He acted strange, listless. He just sat around. He was very pale. Then later, he got real nervous. He'd just disappear for days and days. I wouldn't see him. Our marriage fell apart. All sorts of people came to the house: investigators, reporters. They kept him up all night. They kept after him, hounding him. They hounded him right into the ground. And he changed." Then came the incident when he came home late, there were people there, and he grabbed his wife and shook her hard, leaving bruises. "He doesn't know how or why..."

This is the description of a man with obvious PTSD, first from the event, worsened by what followed.

Officer H. Wayne Huston, the one who joined the chase in East Palestine, Ohio, after Venus, shaped like a big ice cream cone, flew directly over his head, commented, "Sure I quit because of that thing. People laughed at me. And there was pressure... You couldn't put your finer on it, but the pressure was there. The city officials did't like police officers chasing flying saucers."

Another interesting item from this story: the Sheriff's department code-named the flying saucer "Floyd" (Spaur's middle name), in case it came back and civilians were monitoring the police bands. Spaur said it did come back 2 months later while he was on patrol. This time he sat in his car and did nothing for 15 minutes. When he finally did look outside, it was gone.

Kidding aside about the miraculous ability of "Venus" to traumatize people like this, it was a sad and revealing story about what happened to some of the police officers involved. And ridicule resulting from the subject deliberately being made fringe and taboo, has a lot to do with it.

albertguitar.com said...

It's one thing to see strange objects in the sky, but quite another to explain them as ET in origin. Once a witness crosses that line, he's painted as a nutter, for sure.

It doesn't help matters when the skepti-bunkers come out in force, along with the press, the Government, and the military. The skepti-bunkers have their minds made up, the press are idiots, and the gov't/military don't want to deal with it.

Cops are taught to report what they see; it's SOP. In a potentially life threatening situation, judgements must be made, but what do you do when the situation isn't in the book?

I gotta go...

Don said...

"It's one thing to see strange objects in the sky, but quite another to explain them as ET in origin."

In these cases under discussion, did the sighter report an ET craft? I recall in the Zamora case, he did not report an ET craft or call it anything, but a newspaper headline had it that a police officer had reported a flying saucer.

The press and some UFO reporting organizations, for different reasons, are often responsible for any grief a sighter might experience, if that grief is caused by the implication they reported seeing space ships or space aliens.



Lance said...

Hi David,

I'll try to summarize (from memory--so I may get this wrong) one of Sheaffer's problems with Huston's story. I think you hit upon it in regards to his sighting of something coming over him while the Spar car was still miles away.

I believe that the idea is that the two could not be looking at the same thing.

The scoffing at how Venus can be misperceived is not in line with clear and overwhelming evidence. I mentioned above how Hynek was startled (during the Exeter sightings, I believe) by how often police officers were fooled by celestial objects, ascribing behavior, sizes, distances, motion etc. etc. that simply were not real. Venus on this night was 5 magnitudes (ninety times brighter than the brightest star--I am just repeating this and not an expert on such things or really anything!)

Indeed even mentioning altitudes and size of lights in the night sky (as in the Wikipedia account) is highly suspect and something that (it seems to me) anyone with any knowledge of the UFO business would avoid. The wikipedia account reads like breathless child wrote it without even the slightest circumspection.

The ice cream shape is not something mentioned by Spar. Indeed, the basic shape appears to simply be starlike.

Quite telling (from my perspective) is that when the car edged forward, the UFO seemed to as well. Just like the moon following you in the car when you were a child.

Additionally no one ever saw the hugely bright Venus AND the UFO in the sky at the same time even though they were in the same place.

Also additionally, the officers' stories changed over time. I mentioned the suddenly appearing departure account that was specifically denied in the earliest accounts. In another instance Spar first said that he thought the sound he heard from the UFO could have been wires overhead. In later accounts all doubt was gone.

Hopefully that's enough info to at least indicate that everything about this account is not as clearcut as UFO proponents would like.



P.S. I very much like Don's comment just above.

Anthony Mugan said...

I haven't studied this specific case so will not comment on it at this time. Kevin's general point is perfectly fair, as are I think both the criticisms that witnesses can often mis-interpret what they are seeing and that attempted explanations of cases often disgracefully cherry pick elements of data that support a particular case.

How people handle the realisation that there is more to all this than mis perceptions, if they ever do get to that point, seems to vary considerably but many do seem to find this destabilising. The generally sceptical nature of society is helpful in helping keep people focused on functioning within day to day society, but many individuals seem to struggle with the impact of these kinds of events.

In terms of cherry picking data we do need to approach each case from a point of view that seeks to falsify the sighting as anything unusual. It was disappointing to read in an otherwise generally robust recent book a case study from 1955 of an RV case involving two USAF planes, for example. Three of four pilots and co pilots gave graphic descriptions of the UFO. One copilot noted they observed Venus. Brad Sparks was able to show the radar report was not tightly correlated with the visuals whilst unpicking the hard data from the colourful descriptions allowed Sparks to show the visuals correlated well with Venus. As the sighting was protracted and the planes were flying east towards a rising Venus the apparent gain of height of the UFO became less puzzling. This is just one example of credible witnesses mistaking an ordinary thing, to modify a famous phrase.

That said there are far too many examples of appalling cherry picking of data to treat sceptical explanations as secure without checking the primary data. The attempts to explain Ellsworth 1953 and Tehran 1976 are just a couple of examples

Don said...

Lance: "I very much like Don's comment just above."

But why would any report of having seen something perplexing in the sky result in schoolyard taunting and ridicule? I'm not yet referring to the ETH. Who was it who first made the id UFO=space aliens?



starman said...

If the police couldn't see the UFO's top because of their position BELOW the object, how could it be Venus? Even at maximum elongation, Venus is never very high.

starman said...

If this was in April 1966, Venus was in the East (morning sky) alright, but at that time of year, the ecliptic is rather low for an inferior planet seen in the morning. Venus (and Mercury) can be far better observed in the morning sky during the second half of the year, roughly summer to fall, whereas they are poorly placed (too low) in the spring. Ergo, it's very hard to believe the UFO then observed high in the sky, from BELOW, was Venus.

David Rudiak said...

Part 1 of 3 response to Lance,
I'll try to summarize (from memory--so I may get this wrong) one of Sheaffer's problems with Huston's story. I think you hit upon it in regards to his sighting of something coming over him while the Spar car was still miles away. I believe that the idea is that the two could not be looking at the same thing.

This is a typical nitpick. In fact, just about everything Lance wrote is a nitpick or a highly inaccurate rendering of the actual testimony. (Even given allowances that Lance is repeating Schaeffer’s arguments from memory.)

Here is what is important. Multiple witnesses clearly described an EXTENDED, EXTREMELY BRIGHT object with a definite shape, not a point of light like Venus, at times undeniably in completely different directions from Venus and doing things that Venus cannot possible do or be, such as flying over their heads, being painfully bright to look at, lighting up the ground, shooting straight up, and suddenly attracting the attention of hundreds of people, according to the newspapers. Here, e.g., are the drawings of officers Spaur and Huston, both showing the “ice cream cone” extended shape (what Lance later claims Spaur never described, only a point of light):


Another drawing of an extended, bright object by officer Frank Panzanella in Conway, PA, at the end of the chase:


His written report:


“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.”

If you read through the report, and then locate his positions on a map, it is possible that when he FIRST spotted something, probably to the East at 5:20 a.m., it could have been Venus just clearing the mountaintops. But at around 6:00 – 6:15 a.m., he is now describing an extended object, clearly not a point of light, traveling due south (“towards Harmony Township”), then stopping, and shooting straight upward. This is NOT a description of “Venus”.

The scoffing at how Venus can be misperceived is not in line with clear and overwhelming evidence. I mentioned above how Hynek was startled (during the Exeter sightings, I believe) by how often police officers were fooled by celestial objects, ascribing behavior, sizes, distances, motion etc. etc. that simply were not real.

The scoffing is not at how Venus can SOMETIMES be mistaken for a UFO. It is possible that SOMETIMES some of the officers saw Venus, but clearly NOT at other times when they were describing something totally different. The scoffing is at how debunkers like you claim Venus can be so grossly misperceived as an extended, blindingly bright object that can fly over your head and light up the ground.

Venus on this night was 5 magnitudes (ninety times brighter than the brightest star--I am just repeating this and not an expert on such things or really anything!)

Not that it really matters, but both Vega and Arcturus were in the sky, about 4 magnitudes difference, or a factor of about 40, not 90.

The is also the usual “breathless” exaggeration of debunkery, trying to make Venus sound astoundingly bright. In reality, all it is saying is that Venus is perceived by eye as a very bright star, i.e., pointlike. It also fails to mention that witnesses like Spaur also compared it to the brightness of the sun, which I believe is 22 or 23 magnitudes brighter than Venus or roughly a 50 million-fold different. I am unaware of anyone ever comparing Venus to the brightness of the sun, or even the full moon for that matter, or saying Venus was blindingly bright, was painful to look at, made their eyes water, etc.

David Rudiak said...

(part 2 of 2)
Indeed even mentioning altitudes and size of lights in the night sky (as in the Wikipedia account) is highly suspect and something that (it seems to me) anyone with any knowledge of the UFO business would avoid.

More nitpicks. Nobody is capable of confusing a point of light off at the horizon with a brilliant, extended object flying over their heads.

The wikipedia account reads like breathless child wrote it without even the slightest circumspection.

Judging by your own breathless debunking rhetoric full of gross exaggeration, it sounds just like you.

The ice cream shape is not something mentioned by Spar. Indeed, the basic shape appears to simply be starlike.

ABSOLUTELY FALSE. See above links showing drawings of extended objects, including that of Spaur, something very similar to Huston, who described it as looking like an ice cream cone. Another witnesses describing an extended shape was Police Chief Gerald Buchert who took a picture of it:


[it was] "’round when I looked straight up at it, but when it moved to the left... it looked like a saucer, like two table saucers put together.’ The photograph showed an object with a very dark bottom and a very light top. Each half seemed to resemble a saucer seen from the side. The lighter top "saucer" was upside down.”

Again, notice overhead, not at the horizon like Venus, just rising at 5:00 a.m., or right at the horizon. Spaur, Neff, and then Huston (half an hour later), also all described the object flying over their heads.

Quite telling (from my perspective) is that when the car edged forward, the UFO seemed to as well. Just like the moon following you in the car when you were a child.

Quite telling (from my perspective) is the failure to mention all the testimony of a brilliantly bright, extended object doing things that Venus cannot do, like fly over your head, fly south, head straight upward at rapid speed, etc.

This isn’t to say that while chasing, Spaur and Neff didn’t SOMETIMES, maybe spot Venus and assumed it was that huge, brilliant object flying over their heads at the beginning that paralyzed them with fright, or the extended object people like Spaur, Neff, Huston, Buchert, Panzanella. I also suspect Panzanella in Conway, PA may first have spotted a rising Venus, but later described something completely different, a very bright, extended, saucer shape. But in the debunker revisionist version, all anyone EVER saw was a point of light.

Additionally no one ever saw the hugely bright Venus AND the UFO in the sky at the same time even though they were in the same place.

Again, TOTALLY FALSE. Here is another drawing by Spaur & Neff, of what they observed from Conway, PA, at the end of his chase (they were out of gas).


Notice rising crescent moon, and Venus off to the right, with UFO (drawn as extended object) rising above both of them to the left. The drawing wasn’t totally accurate (Venus would have been higher than the moon by about 7 degrees), but this is again a nitpick. Venus is clearly distinguished as being in a totally different position than the rising UFO. (Notice Lance cleverly begging the question, asserting “they were in the same place”.)

As I recall, Spaur and Neff were furious when the AF’s Quintenilla claimed they had seen Venus, which was just another way of calling them incompetents and idiots.

David Rudiak said...

(Part 3 of 3)
Also additionally, the officers' stories changed over time. I mentioned the suddenly appearing departure account that was specifically denied in the earliest accounts.

Well, I know officer Panzanella in his written report (link above) only a day later was writing about the object flying south (down the Ohio River), stopping, “then went straight up real fast.” This is also what Spaur & Neff’s statement to NICAP stated: 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 letter is undated, but the two drawings they submitted to NICAP are dated April 23, or only 6 days later. Perhaps Lance can provide us with examples of where this was allegedly “specifically denied in the earliest accounts.”

In another instance Spar first said that he thought the sound he heard from the UFO could have been wires overhead. In later accounts all doubt was gone.

Don’t know if that is even true. Even if it was, it is yet another “breathless” debunking nitpick, or so what? Doesn’t matter a whit whether the buzzing was caused by the powerlines or UFO. It was a large, brilliant object that approached them, passed over their heads, and lit up the ground like it was daylight. THAT is the important part.

Hopefully that's enough info to at least indicate that everything about this account is not as clearcut as UFO proponents would like.

What is clearcut is how debunkers cherrypick and manipulate the evidence to raise doubt, even resorting to flagrant lying, like an extended object was never described, failing to mention several descriptions of the object being overhead or flying over their heads (not near the horizon), or not mentioning the extreme brilliance reported, including lighting up the ground as they chased it. If they included the IMPORTANT stuff, their whole ridiculous Venus schtick would fall apart as the drooling idiot theory it truly is.

While I was writing this retort to Lance, I just came across another clear example of two CSICOP debunkers deliberately misrepresenting a prominent case. Check out the latest issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, which has an article by knee-jerk debunkers Joe Nickell and James McGaha, both of whom obviously also attended Klass Klown Kollege.

Here we “learn” that Kenneth Arnold “really” saw a mirage. N&G claim Arnold’s description of the objects flashing brilliantly, like sunlight reflecting off metal, is perfectly consistent with what mirages supposedly do. I’m sure atmospheric physicists would be most interested with this amazing assertion. N&G also seem to deliberately omit Arnold’s statements of the objects flying at high speed over a wide HORIZONTAL arc, starting north of Mt. Rainier, passing in front of Rainier, where he could see them outlined against the ice fields, then continuing southward well beyond Rainier where they faded out in the distance near Mt. Adams. Mirages do NOT fly sideways; they are vertical reflections about a horizontal plane.

So outlandishly unscientific claims coupled with deliberate omission of critical evidence in order to forcefit yet another huge square peg into a round debunking hole, or business as usual in “Scientific Skepticism” Debunkerville. Drooling idiot theory lives on!

Anthony Mugan said...

Having looked through the original documentation (how did I miss this one... Perhaps too much focus of physical evidence on my part) my only comment is well said David Rudiak... An excellent demolition of the psuedo-sceptical argument.

Jim Robinson said...

David Rudiak's comments concerning the mirage explanation of Arnold's sighting are absolutely correct. Furthermore, as a result of the range of possible values of atmospheric pressure on Earth no mirage can ever be seen over 0.5 degrees ( the moon's diameter) from the horizon by any observer either on the ground or in the air.

Lance said...

Well, I see we won't get anywhere here with a discussion. Especially when accusations of lying and other dastardly deeds are bandied about in response to a polite attempt to outline Sheaffer's account.

It may surprise some here, but simply calling all disconfirming evidence "nitpicking" is not the most robust or convincing manner of debate,

Sheaffer makes it clear that Spar's story did change.

I need to double check about the shape of the object as Spar related it. A drawing days after under the auspices of the saucer buffs at NICAP shouldn't trump the initial testimony. I am dead sure about the departure event and I'll try to get some details. The officers specifically said that they didn't see the thing depart. Then later they claim they did AND it matches someone else's testimony! How miraculous!

If I wasn't inclined towards nitpicking, I might believe it!


David Rudiak said...

Here are some more details that I missed the first go-around with Lance. Lance wrote: “Also additionally, the officers' stories changed over time. I mentioned the suddenly appearing departure account that was specifically denied in the earliest accounts.”

Actually, in at least one newspaper account the NEXT DAY in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:


“AT CONWAY, PA., Spaur said the object began hovering and was ‘going for altitude, straight up.”

I already quoted from the Spaur and Neff letter to NICAP, probably less than a week later, where they repeated the straight up, rapid rise account. And then there was officer Panzanella, who in his written statement, also the day after the incident, likewise wrote about the rapid rise at Conway. Obviously in the “earliest accounts”, the “suddenly appearing departure” was NOT “specifically denied” Where did Lance get that?

Lance then added, “In another instance Spar first said that he thought the sound he heard from the UFO could have been wires overhead. In later accounts all doubt was gone.”

Same Plain-Dealer article from the NEXT DAY:

"’Somebody had control over it. It wasn't just an object floating around. It can maneuver. The only sound was a steady, faint humming like an electrical transformer when we first spotted it,’ he said. The sound was inaudible as the deputies chased the object, they added.”

Similarly, the NEXT DAY, in an AP story I found in the Charleston W.V. Daily Mail and Lima OH News: “Spaur said the only sound coming from the object was a steady, faint humming, like an electric transformer.”

So, obviously, right from the begining, Spaur thought the humming was due to the object, in fact, no mention of power lines possibly being the cause. Now MAYBE somebody later suggested the power lines as a possibility and he agreed. Or MAYBE some debunker twisted his comparison to an “electric transformer” as indicating he “first said” the humming came from the power lines. But from what I’ve seen so far, Spaur “first said” the humming came from the object.

Two very interesting letters at the NICAP site are from investigator William Weitzl to Prof. William Powers at the Dearborn Observatory, and Hynek’s assistant.

Weitzl, for one wrote about officer Huston in E. Palestine Ohio listening in on the police radio and waiting for the object and Spaur and Neff to reach his position so he could join the chase. Here, according Weitzl, Huston very definitely indicated he watched BOTH the object and S&N approaching, which would have been from the WEST, directly opposite the direction of Venus (item 4):


He saw the object coming from the northwest, over Rte. 14, and fly overhead. He estimated its altitude was 1000 feet. It appeared to have a "partly melted ice-cream cone" shape; dome-shaped top and bright cone-shaped bottom. Not certain, he said, whether the bottom was solid or not. P-13 (Spaur and Neff) were in hot pursuit immediately behind.

Soon after, Powers wrote a letter of apology (same link) to both Spaur and Neff, saying he first proposed the Venus “explanation” to Blue Book head Quintanilla based on sketchy details, but after getting more complete information, it was clear to both Hynek and himself that the AF’s Venus & satellite explanation was totally untenable and that a conventional explanation was “highly doubtful.”

But if you want to debunk anything, just leave out all those pesky conflicting details and misrepresent the rest.

David Rudiak said...

Lance wrote:
I need to double check about the shape of the object as Spar related it. A drawing days after under the auspices of the saucer buffs at NICAP shouldn't trump the initial testimony.

Initial testimony:

Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 18:

Spaur described the object as about 40 feet wide and 18 feet high. He said he clocked it at speeds up to 103 mph as they chased it from Randolph Township to Conway, Pa. A BRILLIANT beam of light from the object lit the area. Spaur said, "It was so bright, even with the sun coming out, it stood out. Its lines were very distinct," he said as he used the bell of a flashlight to describe the object. "We were close, closer than I ever want to be again," he told the Plain Dealer. "I know nobody's going to believe it but its true." Spaur said all his former doubts about UFOs were removed.

Associated Press, April 18:

“We were close, closer than I ever want to be again.” From the ground, Spaur said it looked like the head of a flashlight, about 40 feet wide and 18 feet high ...Spaur said the lines of the object were very distinct. “Somebody had control over it. It wasn’t just floating around. It can maneuver.”

William Weitzl report:

At this time it rapidly grew in size and came from over the trees, relatively small, to a point directly over their cruiser, quite large and bright. "Like high noon," quoted the Radio Operator in Ravenna who listened to their initial description and resulting chase. Spaur said the thing was round, about 45 feet across, and about 100 feet above them. Another radio operator reports that Spaur said it illuminated the ground so brightly that they would not have needed headlights... While they watched and radioed the description, it began to move down the road to the east and accelerate forward. The radio operator in Ravenna told them to chase it. They did so. Its appearance now was rounded on top, with a cone-shaped light underneath. It continued to illuminate the ground over which it passed, tilting forward when it moved forward; the light followed it to the rear on the ground, whence Spaur's analogy with a flashlight which, when aimed down, throws a beam to the rear when tilted forward. Spaur did not see a beam in the air, only the illuminated ground. This does not seem to me to be unusual, granting the proximity and brightness of the object.

Lance: I am dead sure about the departure event and I'll try to get some details. The officers specifically said that they didn't see the thing depart. Then later they claim they did AND it matches someone else's testimony! How miraculous!

Wow, “dead sure.” There are quotes from Spaur, Neff, and Panzanella right from the beginning (which I have already presented) of the object going rapidly straight up when they were observing from Conway, PA., which I would call “departing”. After the rapid rise in altitude, it stopped and seemed to hover. Panzanella described it what happened as, “The object continued to go upward until it got as small as a ballpoint pen.” In the Weitzl report, Spaur and Neff decided to return home while Panzanella was going to watch the object disappear, but, according to Panzanella, “Then we received a message to make a phone call. We preceded to the Rochester Police Department and made the phone call.” (It was from an A.F. colonel wanting Spaur to answer some questions.) Spaur told the newspapers that when they came back outside, the object was gone.

So technically they didn’t see the object fully “depart”, i.e., actually see it vanish, but they did clearly report the object beginning to depart. I guess it all comes down to how the debunkers want to split semantic hairs and define “depart.”

Perhaps Lance will actually provide something CONCRETE instead of frantically waving his hands and claiming they changed their testimony to match someone elses.

Lance said...


I think only a few folks are reading all this. I am being polite. There isn't any need for all the histrionics.

I think that you are right about the shape that Spar claimed. I haven't double checked that just yet but I must have misremembered that detail.

But the departure stuff is a mess:

From Sheaffer's account:

"[Spar] requested that the airport be contacted to see if a jet interceptor could be was available to take a closed look at the object. When the response came back that two planes were going to be sent up (they never were) the UFO reportedly accelerated straight up--as if it had heard what had been said--and quickly disappeared. "When they started talking about fighter planes, just as though that thing heard every word that was said, it went (psshew) straight up. And I mean it didn't play no games, it went straight up,' Spar reported."

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer (quoting Spar):

"Spaur said the object began hovering and was "going for altitude, straight up." After watching for about 20 minutes, he and the others went inside the police station to telephone U.S. Air Force officials he said, and when they came back outside the object was gone. "

No mention of the jet plane story. No mention of shooting up.

In a taped interview, Spar now describes the object going up and then an airliner passes right underneath and then going up some more.

He also claimed that he saw fighter jets headed for it (even though none are known to have been scrambled).

Back to Sheaffer's Account:

"Spar said that they watched the object at Conway for about 20 minutes. It was still visible when he and the others went inside to make a telephone call. When they came back outside, they were unable to find it."

"Huston said that when the police officers left"the object was still hovering."

"Panzella said that the four of them stood watching the object until it was 'barely visible' after it had risen higher in the sky."

It sounds for all the world like Venus disappearing into the morning sky.

Ah well, I am happy to discuss it but this is a very complicated case with MANY versions of the story.


Don said...

Is it SOP for policemen in patrol cars to chase objects in the sky? Exceptions might be a parachute or a craft about to crash. Otherwise, beyond reporting it to either civil or military authorities, why would they give chase?

So, unless it was procedure to do so, why do it? They had their duties to perform and this doesn't seem to me to be one of them, chasing objects seen in the sky.



albertguitar.com said...

It's a policemans duty to be curious. Anything happening in public is within his interest. You might not care about a guy standing against a light post at 3 AM in the deserted industrial section of town, but a cop will pull over and have a chat.

A cop will follow a parachute or a plane about to crash. In unusual situations, it's always better to have the law on the scene. In fact, it might be considered dereliction of duty if he didn't respond.

AKAIK, nowhere was it reported that the officers neglected other duties.

I gotta go...

albertguitar.com said...

Did any of these officers file an official police report?

I gotta go...

William Strathman said...


Just to say that I appreciate the Rudiak histronics, which provides a service for those among the less well-read on these incidents, like myself.

If the final object seen rising higher and higher was Venus, it evidently would have been near the crescent moon as it likewise rose higher and higher in the dawn sky. Seems to me the cops would have seen the correlation, but that's a supposition.

David Rudiak said...

This is probably nothing more than a coincidence, but I thought I'd mention it anyway since I've never seen it discussed before.

The Kecksburg PA UFO case was in the same area only 5 months (Dec. 9, 1965) before the Ravenna chase. A fireball was seen by thousands over multiple states and an explosion of the fireball occurred near Detroit.

When I studied the case, I plotted a line from the last known position of the fireball near Detroit to Kecksburg. It turns out the Ravenna chase fell exactly on that plotted trajectory and for about half the distance.

Just an interesting factoid, which again is probably a coincidence but still a little food for thought.

David Rudiak said...

Above Top Secret website has a number of interesting additional items on the Portage County case, including the following video which does a pretty good overview of what happened.



Pay attention about 3:40 into the video, where they describe how Blue Book’s Quintanilla started out deliberately trying to debunk the case (based on what Hynek said happened). Quintanilla was forced to "investigate" because of all the publicity. He called Spaur and started the conversation asking him to tell him about the "mirage" he had seen. He also apparently tried to get Spaur to say that the whole thing lasted only a few minutes. The call lasted only 2-1/2 minutes, Quintanilla ending the call when Spaur wouldn't go along. Another call was even shorter. As it was, it said Blue Book never bothered to do proper, extensive interviews of the two primary witnesses. Can anyone imagine the same being true if this was something like a murder investigation? What sort of "investigation" did B.B. conduct, anyway?

[Hynek assistant Prof. William Powers in his letter to Spaur and Neff two weeks later apologized for the shoddiness of B.B.’s investigation, trying to lay the blame on new “inexperienced investigators” and Quintanalla being forced to conduct interviews by telephone only. However, according to Hynek, Q. obviously did not try very hard to get the facts from Spaur in his two very brief phone conversations and was trying to force a mundane conclusion from the start.]

Then followed B.B.'s "explanation" that they had only seen a satellite at first and then Venus. Spaur was the only one involved named in the B.B. report and bore the brunt of the massive ridicule that followed.

The video does a pretty good job of describing the damage to honest witnesses by such ridicule and how it discourages many others to report what they have experienced, another form of damage—to inquiry.

Another good item on the ATS website is the very detailed newspaper article (unidentified, other than "The Times" and probably dating to the next day), which says, " Spaur and Panzanella [in Conway, PA] both said they heard [apparently over police radio in another source] that the Air Force had sent jets up after the object."

[But does not say they actually said they saw jets, though two other police officers in Ohio said they did--see Weitzl report. Both S&P may have assumed the object did its rapid rise in response to approaching jets after just hearing about them over the police radio.]

Newspaper article continues: "There were reports that jet trainers from Youngstown went up but the object traveling about 100 miles per hour, was moving too slowly for them to stay with it.” [Sources of item unspecified, but apparently not from the primary witnesses.]

The Air Force later denied any jets were sent up, but was that true? It was their job to investigate under the circumstances. It would have been negligent for them not to have done so after so many police jurisdictions reported seeing the UFO. Again, the article states: “Deputy Robert Wilson, the radio operator at Ravenna, said the object was reported by at least six or seven other police departments in Ohio.”

It has a more detailed description of what Police Chief Buchert 8 miles north of Ravenna had witnessed in Mantua. He had "monitored a report [at about 4:45 a.m.] to Portage County from the Summit County Sheriff's Office in Akron about a strange light that had been spotted. Buchert was on Main Street in Mantua when he first spotted the object OVERHEAD [Venus hadn't even risen yet]. He said it looked like two saucers with their rims placed together and the bottoms facing out. He said it was very brilliant and a bright white or silver with no coloring of any type. He reported it to the Portage sheriff's office and said Spaur reported it shortly after that.” [or at about 5:00 a.m.]

David Rudiak said...

(part 2 of 2)

Another report from officer Huston in East Palestine, Ohio, about first spotting the object approaching at a distance as the others chased it: "Huston told the TIMES he was in radio contact with Spaur and he first spotted the object over Route 14 when Spaur was still about five miles away." [or to the WNW, directly opposite just-rising Venus low on the horizon to the east]

More early detailed Spaur descriptions: "Spaur, 35, a former Air force gunner, told the TIMES Sunday [or April 17, the SAME DAY as the sighting] ...the object came over the trees along the highway and directly over their patrol car, about 150 feet above them. He said the bottom of the object was very brightly lighted and the light from the bottom gave the appearance of a cone shape. It lighted up the area around the car like daylight and they could not look directly at the bright light light when it was shining on them, he said. ...It was about 35 feet to 40 feet across and about 18 to 24 feet high, he said."

"...The only noise Spaur heard that might have come from the object was when it was first spotted. He said he heard a faint, steady humming noise similar to an electrical transformer."

Again, from the very earliest, Spaur reported the object was brilliant (including too bright to look at directly and lit up the area like daylight), flew right over their heads at very low altitude, had a cone-shaped light underneath it, and it gave off a humming noise. Yet Lance claims Spaur only added such details later to make them conform to others and after allegedly being influenced by NICAP. Oh really?

Finally, the start of the chase: "Spaur said he became frightened and he and Neff ran for the car. They reported the sighting to police headquarters in Ravenna and was told to keep the object under surveillance as long as possible. Thus the chase began. ...His main thought throughout the chase was to remain as calm as possible and do everything he could to verify the sighting and get a description of it. He said this included keeping it in sight as the sun rose as to have seen it in both darkness and daylight."

In the Weitzl report to Prof. Williams, Weitzl similarly states that Spaur said his intention in chasing it was to try to identify it.

The motive of officer Huston in E. Palestine later joining the chase is less clear, maybe his intention originally was backup, then maybe it became intense curiosity after seeing the object for himself and having it fly over his head. Huston in the AP follow-up article 6 months later said city officials did not appreciate their officers chasing flying saucers, and the pressure and ridicule he received led to his resignation, another casualty of the kneejerk debunking wars.

David Rudiak said...

For those wanting to dig deeper into the Ravenna case, there is a treasure trove of recorded interviews with officer Dale Spaar and others over on the Wendy Connors historical archive of UFO recordings, this one being “Cops and Saucers”:


I’m still working my way through these, but #20 is a recorded interview with Spaur on WKSU radio, with Spaar giving a very detailed recounting of the entire chase. Just a few quick points here:

1) Spaur and partner Neff heard on the police radio from the Sheriff’s office in neighboring Summit County to the WEST (Akron being main city) about 4:45-4:50 about a large, bright UFO being spotted there and heading EAST.

2) When Spaur/Neff were checking out an abandoned car at about 5:05 on N/S running Highway 44 in a wooded area, Spaur looked left to the WEST and first spotted the UFO heading in their direction, very bright and getting closer. Venus, of course, was in the east, just rising, probably still invisible from their vantage point because of the trees blocking the view.

3) The UFO parked itself right over their heads and was enormous and too bright to keep looking at. After standing there for a minute frozen, both men then ran to their police cruiser. The object then moved off to the NORTH initially.

4) When they first turned onto W/E running Highway 224 and started heading EAST, the object was initially BEHIND them, then passed them to the SOUTH illuminating the countryside underneath.

5) Spaur describes numerous changes of direction of the object (such as passing over the highway from one side to the other), and going up and down, even though the highway was not changing direction.

That is just a little bit of what Spaur describes in this recording. Clearly this is NOT any sort of description of a satellite or the planet Venus. I was impressed by how articulate and obviously intelligent Spaur was and his very detailed recounting of what happened.

Also has police chief Gerald Bucher in Mantua describing what he saw and photographed, including hearing the same reports early on of the UFO in neighboring Summit County headed their way.

#23 has NICAP’s William Weitzel interviewing Spaur and Neff, May 11, 1966, just after Blue Book head Quintanella finally deigned to meet with the two of them in a courtesy call three weeks after a cursory investigation declared they had seen a communication satellite at first, then Venus, publicly humiliating the two of them. Spaur is obviously the most articulate of the two. They indicate Quintanella told them there were definitely no aircraft or balloons in the area, then told them they either misidentified an aircraft or had a “hallucination” of an aerial phenomenon. Both Spaur and Neff were under the definite impression that nothing they could say about what they had really seen was going to change Quintanella’s mind, the findings predetermined, and that the meeting wasn’t fact-finding, but only to get the politicians off his back.

Another treasure-trove of information is Weitzel’s detailed writeup:


Among other things, Weitzl relates how Spaur described the enormous size of the thing over their heads at the beginning, asking him to spread his fingers apart at arm’s length. Instead Spaur used both arms and made a 45 deg. angle. Weitzl also relates the frustration over trying to get Quintanella and BB to do an honest investigation, bringing political pressure on them, but Q. relentlessly sticking to the official satellite and Venus misidentifications because flying saucers could not possibly exist, hence it HAD to be a satellite and Venus since they couldn’t find anything else in the sky at the time. It was also clear that B.B. tried to turn this into a single witness case, naming only Spaur, then denigrating his testimony.

Anthony Mugan said...

You need to re-read the original documents. The UFO decreased in angular size according to them, from 'half a football' to the size of a ball point pen. It wasn't fading as Venus would.
More generally again this approach of ignoring the totality of the data is not intellectually robust.

David Rudiak said...

The Ravenna case is one of the great close-encounter UFO classics with at least a dozen or more police officers as primary witnesses, some like Spaur & Neff in particular getting very close and getting a very good and prolonged look at it. Huston wasn't far behind in the importance of his testimony. Most witnesses were at a distance, but still corroborating that something very big, brilliant and oddly shaped was flying around.

It also took place right at the time the Condon Commission was supposedly taking a "scientific" look at the problem. William Weitzl said he turned over his extensive, thick case file to Condon. Yet not a word of this extraordinary case appeared in the final report. It was completely ignored. Psychological denial by Condon or something more sinister like deliberate censorship?

The same question would apply to Quintanalla and Blue Book. The satellite/Venus "explanation" is simply preposterous in not remotely explaining the facts of the case. They didn't even bother to interview the primary witnesses in depth. Spaur indicated in his recorded William Weitzl interview that Quintanalla only made two brief phone calls to him, in the first one starting out asking him to describe his "mirage", and the second, even briefer call trying to get Spaur to agree that the whole thing lasted only a few minutes.

Q. and B.B. also quite clearly tried to make it into a single witness case, singling out Spaur (probably because he was much more articulate than his partner), then employing drooling idiot theory. This probably made it much harder on Spaur to deal with psychologically, being made the butt of the A.F.'s little PR joke.

Another factoid I've uncovered looking into this case is that the A.F. explanation that Spaur & Neff had seen a communications satellite at the beginning was completely bogus from the gitgo since there were no satellites even passing over at the time. Of course, "satellites", invisible or not, don't park themselves directly over your head maybe only 100 feet up and blot out much of the sky with their size while blinding you with their brilliance, lighting up the countryside like daytime.

It reminds me quite a bit of present-day debunkers trying to reduce Roswell to a non-existent Mogul balloon flight and a single witness case, namely Jesse Marcel, then savagely attacking him. Discredit Marcel; discredit Roswell. Discredit Spaur; discredit Ravenna. Propaganda techniques do not seem to change.

Lance said...


I assume you still haven't read Sheaffer's account?


I notice you mention one portion of testimony (and you could be right about that point) and ignore the several examples I gave above of Spar radically changing his testimony.

I'll try to be intellectually robust following your example.


David Rudiak said...


No, I have not read Shaeffer. Have you read my links to Weitzl's writeups, you know, the guy who was actually there and interviewed everybody in depth (conducted a real investigation) instead of nitpicking their testimony from his armchair decades later?

Did you listen to the recordings I linked to? How about someone like Spaur saying it came out of the WEST, directly opposite Venus, and then sat directly above their heads ("as big as a house") blocking out much of the sky, was brilliant to the point of painful and lighting up the countryside like daylight. It was there over their heads for at least a minute. Then it headed NORTH initially, then it was BEHIND them (or WEST) initially when they turned east, then passed them to the SOUTH lighting up the ground underneath?

Venus? Quintanalla's communications satellite? (Which as it turns out, there were no satellites at the time.) Q's "mirage" and multiple-person "hallucination"? Q's misidentification of an aircraft (after admitting no aircraft in the area at the time)? Or Schaeffer's "meteor" fireball? Really? All of these "explanations" are utterly preposterous and don't remotely match what Spaur/Neff described.

Does it really matter if Spaur was "inconsistent" in his various estimates of how far above his head it was: 50 feet, 100 feet, 150 feet? Or that it was maybe 30 or 45 or 50 feet in size? It was damn close, and huge, and brilliant, and directly over their heads, and it sat there for a long time. Nitpicking insignificant details while pretending the big ones don't exist is not critical or "scientific" thinking--it is knee-jerk debunkery.

And now it's just Spaur? As usual, trying to make it a one witness case and ignoring the many corroborating ones. His partner, Neff, was right there at the extreme close encounter and there throughout the 1-1/2 chase. (He just wasn't very talkative.) Spaur/Neff had multiple other policemen corroborating the bright flying object in the sky, such as Huston who joined them in the chase 1/2 hour later, corroborating that the thing came out of the WEST, FLEW OVER HIS HEAD, and gave the same basic description of an extended, very bright object with something like an ice cream cone shape.

And over in Pennsylvania, officer Panzanella corroborated Spaur and Neff on the object shooting up very rapidly and being distinct from the moon and Venus. Panzanella also described an extended, very bright object, more like half a football at the time.

Over in Mantua, Ohio, the police chief (Bucher) there also saw it and tried to take photos, even before Venus had risen. Again, it was an extended, very bright object which he compared to two saucers stuck together. According to Weitzl, he was looking roughly over in the direction of Spaur/Neff, which would have been SOUTH, not east in the direction of Venus.

Like Spaur/Neff, he heard over the police radio neighboring Summit County sheriff's dept. to the WEST saying a women there had reported a large, bright UFO moving near the ground and headed EAST. Again, this is BEFORE Venus had even risen in the East. Then Spaur saw it approaching from the WEST before parking itself directly above their heads.

There will always be minor inconsistencies in how various witnesses recount what they observed, or when they retell it in multiple interviews. It is always possible to nitpick such things. But it is intellectually dishonest to ignore the really IMPORTANT points that indicate something else entirely. Or trying to make it a one witness case, then attack the witness.

But as we all know, that is exactly how debunkery typically operates. Cherrypicking and nitpicking the evidence is the norm. There is no attempt to be fair with the witnesses or the collective evidence.

Lance said...

Hi David,

Yes, I have. And many of the issues you raise are addressed in the Sheaffer piece. Sheaffer agrees about the satellite and the way that Spar was treated,

He shows evidence for how the supposed corroborating sightings don't match up to the Spar account.

The "I see the moon and the moon sees me" way that the sighting worked in Spar's case should have been a red flag all along. The later embellishments (UFO Shooting up out of sight/fighter jets coming into scare the saucer) are examples of how Spars story was very malleable. In his discussion with Q, it is clear that Spar has been coached about things like Venus, etc, it seems that these kind of things might give you pause but you appear to simply hand wave them away.

You are right that it isn't just Spar's case and I don't think Sheaffer (or I) present it that way...you are confusing media accounts and blaming skeptics for them.


David Rudiak said...


Instead of being "intellectually robust", as you just said to Anthony, I instead see you continuing to duck the absolutely inexplicable part where an incredibly brilliant, large object parked itself right over Spaur and Neff's head. Whether it was 50 or 150 feet doesn't really matter. It was CLOSE, REAL CLOSE. And it seemed BIG, REALLY BIG, big as a house, enough to squash them and their police cruiser if it chose to. (One reason why they didn't shoot at it as the dispatcher told them to do.) It terrified the two men, who said they were frozen in their tracks, perhaps for a minute before running for their car.

Perhaps you can point to where Spaur's or Neff's testimony about THIS part was "malleable". (Or where was officer Huston's testimony "malleable" about the object being brilliant, similarly flying OVER HIS HEAD, and describing its shape exactly like Spaur and Neff described it?)

You say it was terrible, just terrible how Spaur was treated, yet here you are AGAIN treating Spaur like he was a total fool or gullible or easily manipulated or disingenuous. Thus your use of words and phrases like "embellishments", "malleable", Spaur being "coached" (on Venus, no less, by Quintanella, no less), and "The 'I see the moon and the moon sees me' way that the sighting worked in Spar's case should have been a red flag all along." [Whatever that gibberish of yours is supposed to mean, except obviously meant to be demeaning.]

"You are right that it isn't just Spar's case and I don't think Sheaffer (or I) present it that way..."

Yet that is EXACTLY how you continue to present it--no mention at all of all the other witnesses, and then the ridicule of Spaur while disingenuous wringing your hands about how "terrible" Spaur was treated. (And it's spelled "SpaUr"; after all this time you are still spelling it "Spar".)

"you are confusing media accounts and blaming skeptics for them."

No, singling out Spaur for ridicule was Quintanella and Blue Book (who couldn't even be bothered to take detailed statements from the main witnesses in their "investigation"), not the media, who DID report other corroborating statements of other witnesses, particular other police like Neff, Huston, Panzanella, Buchert, and Spaur's boss, Ravenna Sheriff Ross Dustman.

After the official Air Force explanation came out April 23 (nonexistent satellite and "Venus"), Dustman was quoted by UPI as supporting Spaur and Neff: "I go along with my men. It was not a satellite and not Venus. I've seen Venus many times, but I have never seen Venus 50 feet above a road and moving from side to side like this was...I've never seen Venus controlled by someone like this was."

We could debate all the other niggling details, but I still don't see where you or Schaeffer come close to dealing with with the IMPORTANT details, which you continue to carefully avoid with your newfound "intellectual robustness" and crocodile tears over how badly Spaur was treated.

William Strathman said...


Ya'know Lance, I for one am not interested in buying Robert Sheaffer's books (i.e. thus contributing to "The Debunker's Domain") in precisely the same way that I am not interested in contributing to Dr. S. Greer's projects. If Sheaffer has such vital information, then surely you can post some substantial "fair use" excerpts that can be reviewed. Otherwise, up to this point, David Rudiak has knocked you out post after post. The interview that DR mentions -- #20 recorded interview with Spaur on WKSU radio -- is very persuasive against what you propose. When people ignore the big issues and focus on those that are virtually irrelevant, it appears to reveal a cognitive dissonance which itself is due almost certainly to a refusal to accept facts that clash with a cherished worldview. I also have to say that I am not an ETH proponent.

Anthony Mugan said...

Hello Lance
Can't say it sounds that interesting given the problems highlighted in this discussion... Anything more solid?

KRandle said...

All -

Here is something that I noticed in reviewing the Project Blue Book file on this case. According to the Air Force, no fighters were scrambled from the Air Guard unit located at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport. These would have been F-102s, and were controlled by the Air Guard. They had the mission for intercepts of unidentified aircraft (and I used that term to prevent a prolonged debate about trivia). According to the Air Force, there were only C-119s based there so obviously no jet fighters were scrambled.

However, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the aircraft came from Youngstown. "Pilots were up in jet trainers almost immeditately from the Youngstown base..."

I don't know if this question has been resolved, but the problem is that the Air Force was telling the truth about no fighters from Greater Pittsburgh, but I see nothing to suggest that the aircraft weren't from another base... and I note that the Air force said, specifically, there were no F-102s scrambled, but if they were already up and flying for a training mission, then the statement is the truth, but not the whole truth. And it could also mean a different type of jet was diverted to search for the UFO.

I don't know if Robert Sheaffer dealt with this question in his book because I don't have a copy of it. I just point this out to see if someone has a resolution for this question.

Lance said...

I need to relisten to Spar's interview. My memory is that he describes (in this rendition, anyway) specifically as jet fighters and specifically coming from the Pittsburgh airport, which he could see from his vantage point.

I will double check that but I suspect that it won't matter. Anything he says that is disconfirming is unimportant in these parts.


Bob Koford said...

Hi Kevin.

I remember that, out of Hamilton AFB anyway, F-102s, and T-33s were utilized. Guess its not crucial info, but I was just wondering if thats what was meant by "trainers", or if there wad an actual trainimg mission.

Have a great afternoon.


David Rudiak said...

Part 1 of 2:
Besides Spaur, Neff, Panzanella, & Huston in Conway, PA, saying they heard over police radio that jets had been sent up (and perhaps also saw them off in the distance, or at least the trails), Ravenna sheriff dispatcher Robert Wilson also said he heard on police radio that jets had gone up. More on Wilson actually calling to ask for jets (at Spaur’s request) further below.

In William Weitzel's May 5 letter to Prof. William Powell, he described what Spaur et. al. saw/heard this way:

The object did not seem to be moving, but suddenly it elevated rapidly to a point just opposite the Moon (still left). When a voice on Panzanella's cruiser receiver announced that jets were (to be) involved ("They're sending two up"), the object again elevated rapidly and dwindled in size.

In his first report Weitzel wrote the nearby Rochester, PA, police dispatcher, John Bieghey, denied being the one to say two jets were being sent up. However in his final report, Weitzel wrote that Panzanella called Bieghy on his police radio and asked him to call Pittsburgh airport (about 12 miles due south) to see if they had it on radar and also to contact the pilot of a large commercial jet they saw pass under the object (later determined to be UA Flt. 454 headed to Buffalo, NY), to see if he also saw it. Weitzel then went on that Panzanella:

... gave a description of the object and asked if any interceptor planes could be sent up. Bieghey did this, and called Panzanella back. "They've got it on radar, and are sending two up!" By coincidence, just as the planes were mentioned, the object accelerated upwards and shot straight out of sight. The officers looked around and could see nothing else in the sky, except the moon and Venus, and the contrails from two jets to the northeast. The arcs were growing from north to south, toward the rising sun. The Ohio officers left, while Panzanella stood by his cruiser, still looking for the object. As they drove off, he got a call from Bieghey, requesting that the deputies call ... the USAF Reserve at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport, to report the object...

On the way, his radio picked up a weak transmission from a patrolman in Economy Borough, Henry Kwiatanowski: "Hey, Frank, I just saw two jets. . . “ Kwiatanowski was standing on a high point of ground 3 miles SE of the Atlantic station [where the 4 others were observing]. He had been in touch previously with Panzanella, asking where to look for the object. Just after it left the Conway area, Kwiatanowski saw two jets NE of him heading south, followed by a bright, football-shaped object. He watched until the trio got almost in front of the sun.

In Salem, OH [about 22 SSE of where Spaur/Neff first saw object], earlier in the chase, Weitzel wrote that 2 other police saw jets:

Johnson and Ray Esterly, left the Salem Police Station and went... to a hill nearby... Although they expected the object to arrive from the NW, they suddenly saw, to the east, 3 jets chasing ... a large, bright object. One jet was behind it, seemingly at the same altitude, about a mile. The other two were arcing in from the left (north), coming toward the first jet. The object appeared about 5 times as large as the jet behind it. All 3 jets had contrails; the object did not. The four were traveling roughly SE. The officers were facing in the general direction of Columbiana [9 mi due East]. They radioed in their sighting, continued to watch a short time, and returned to the station within 10 min. At this time, radio traffic indicated that Spaur and Neff had reached a point east of Columbiana... at about 5:30 AM EST, radio operator Jack E. Cramer and police Lt. Richard M. Whinnery heard a voice on the radio...: "I'm going down to take a look at it. . . . I'm right above it, and it's about 45 feet across; something trailing behind it. . . . like a ball of fire". This voice was louder than normal received traffic, did not identify itself, and come on only this one time.

David Rudiak said...

Part 2/2:
In his final report, Weitzel wrote this up as follows:

I got an intriguing report at the Salem, Ohio, police station, from officers Ray Esterly, Lonnie Johnson, Lt. Richard Whinnery, and radio operator Jack Cramer, all of whom had heard the radio traffic on the 17th. Esterly and Johnson, on a hill in Salem, had seen 3 jet planes apparently chasing a bright object, in the direction in which the deputies were traveling. At the same time, Cramer and Whinnery, in the police sta-
tion, heard what they believed to be the voice of a pilot, over the radio. "I'm going down for a closer look. . . . It's about 45 feet across, and it's trailing something "

The other things Weitzel wrote about that might be relevant to earlier jets was, first, in his final report, where he wrote that Spaur :

... raced on down Route 14 toward Columbiana, dodging occasional traffic at a mile a minute. Suddenly it occurred to him that an airplane pilot would get a good view of the object. "Bob," he radioed Wilson, " [the Ravenna radio dispatcher] can you get an airport to send up a plane?" Wilson called the Youngstown Air Force Base [OH, 17 mi NE of Salem] and made the request.

Weitzel goes on (first report): "Monday, April 18, an afternoon NBC news broadcast said a jet trainer with the 459th Troop Carrier Wing, Youngstown AFB, flew near the UFO and heard a humming noise."

Weitzel found further mention of jets in the following notation in the Columbiana, OH, radio log: “P-13 [Spaur/Neff's cruiser] contacted a Pittsburgh PD unit [sic] and they scrambled some jets, that flew under the object." Weitzel said he wasn't able to trace the source of this report.

Another request for jets was made by E. Palestine OH policeman Wayne Huston, who had joined the chase there. Weitzel (second report): Huston, following close behind Spaur and Neff, called his base. "We're off Ohio Route 14, onto Pennsylvania 51. Call the Pennsylvania State Police for some support. Find out if someone can get after this thing in an airplane. And if it's being picked up- on radar anywhere." A call was placed to the Chippewa Barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police, on Route 51 near the state line. Trooper Antonio Taglienti sorted out the requests and called the Greater Pittsburgh Airport. He was told that nothing unusual was on their radar, and that the only available planes were jet interceptors, which would be too slow.(??)

The best I can figure out is that requests for jets were made THREE times, first early on in the chase by Spaur while they were headed towards Columbiana on Rte 14; the jets came from Youngstown and were the jets seen by Esterly & Johnson in Salem chasing after the object (but not reported by Spaur/Neff).

The second time was by Neff near the OH/PENN state line, and nothing was sent up. The third time was at the end of the chase in Conway, PA, where Panzanella asked that jets be sent up from that area. And there were five police witnesses to seeing jets from there, mentioned at the beginning. Where these jets came from is unclear.

The Air Force completely denied any radar contact or jets being scrambled, but we also know they flagrantly lied about a lot of things in the Ravenna case, making their denial questionable in my mind. We also know of other cases, such as the very recent Stephensville, TX, sightings, where the Air Force denied any radar of unknowns or any jets of their own in the area. Then when MUFON got his hands on FAA radar recordings, it was quite clear there were large numbers of military jets flying around and at least one large unknown. Then the AF backtracked and said, yes there were indeed jets flying around, but they were National Guard on night training missions, and the earlier erroneous denial was due to “miscommunication.” Well maybe, but official denial alone obviously does not equate to fact in this subject matter.

Anthony Mugan said...

Just for completeness I did wonder about the possibility of an unusual atmospheric plasma in this case. The main contenders being tectonic strain lights and the new idea that plasmas might be formed by large meteors.
In summary no seismic activity above M4 in the region in decades of 1966. April 17th is just into the Lyrids but no fireballs reported that day in the area ( closest was 25th April in the NE USA).
These ideas are problematic as I can't see a definitive test for such plasmas on a case by case basis, rather than statistical work such as that of Persinger and Derr or that quoted by the a Condign report, but there is no indication of a correlation here to anything on those lines

David Rudiak said...


I understand you are just trying to consider all the possibilities, but here's me with my skeptical hat on.

Presumed plasmas like ball lightning are small, ephemeral (seconds to maybe a minute in duration), don't move much, and associated with electrical storm activity. I just don't see how something like this could possibly account for the huge thing over their head, the high speed, and controlled aspects the officers reported, the very unusual shape, the very extended period of observation (~1-1/2 hours), or the fact that it was totally clear with no storm activity.

The cone-shaped light underneath the object did seem to have some aspects of a plasma (such as the glow and bending of it with speed), but this would have been an artificially-generated plasma, not a natural one. As daylight came and they could begin to see through the glow surrounding the thing, Spaur throught the top, dome-shaped part appeared to metallic.

As for Michael Persinger and his Tectonic Strain Theory and "God helmet" producing alleged alien abduction hallucinations--true pseudoscientific bunkety-bunk. E.g., as a number of critics have pointed out, such as Chris Rukowski to name one, Persinger's statistical correlations of UFO's with earthquake faults is imaginary, with Persinger claiming correlations hundreds of miles from actual fault lines and years from actual seismic events. If you have to "strain" that much to get some sort of correlation, there is nothing there. You could probably do the same thing and "correlate" with Christmas tree lot sales.

Also, even if some weak correlation was there, correlation does not equal causation. E.g., cities and transportation arteries are often located in or along seismic zones (California being a good example), but because more people are living there and traveling in these areas, they are more apt to report seeing something.

The fluctuations in the geomagnetic field that Persinger claims can affect the human mind and produce UFO-related events (like abductions) are 7 to 8 orders of magnitude weaker than what it really takes with magnetic neuro-stimulation to get any sort of response. (I speak from several years experience in the field, in which I wrote two published, peer-reviewed papers.)

One Persinger paper I looked up claimed epileptic-sensitive lab rats of his dropped dead one night and he attributed this to unusual sensitivity to a very minute geomagnetic fluctuation, never bothering to check for much more likely causes like maybe a rat infectious disease or something in the water or food.

Persinger was never trained in the hard physical sciences and it shows in his lack of critical thinking. Unfortunately, his nonsense theories get treated seriously as some serious explanation for UFOs, particularly by the skeptical camp.

I believe the Condign Report leaned heavily on Persinger and his TST theory, resulting in the CR theory that UFOs are mostly unknown atmospheric plasmas.

I asked Nick Pope once who was "Condign"? He was apparently just one guy (never identified), not some team of expert scientists/engineers in various fields, who Pope described as having one foot in the intelligence world and the other in the technical world. He doesn't sound much different than Philip Klass, who similarly proposed unknown atmospheric plasmas as being the solution for UFOs. True atmospheric physics expert Dr. James McDonald and even the Condon Commission totally discredited that one almost 50 years ago, but here it is back again, based on no new science that I'm aware of.

Natural plasmas may account for a tiny percentage of TRUFO reports, but can certainly not account for the vast majority of them.

David Rudiak said...

To give an example of flagrant lying by Blue Book and Quintanella in the Ravenna case, see BB file:


They were checking to see where the Echo I and Echo II communication satellites were at the time, to try to "explain" first part of the sighting, where Spaur reported the thing coming out of the west and hanging over their heads, blinding them with its light and blocking out the sky. (For those of us old enough to remember, Echoes were actually large aluminum-coated mylar balloons, thus tended to be relatively bright as satellites go, but not THIS big or bright.)

Notice the response BB got from Goddard Space Flight Center, which was tracking them:

"Definitely not ECHO I or ECHO II--they were over the southern hemisphere at the time of the sighting."

Never mind. The official BB explanation was that they saw an (invisible) Echo communication satellite. Maybe the BB "logic" was two negatives made a positive.

cda said...

I have just reread Sheaffer's account (chap 19) in THE UFO VERDICT. It appears that the car chase lasted about one hour, covered 86 miles and at speeds up to 103 mph.

Sheaffer heavily critizes Quantinella and Blue Book for their very weak investigation. (At one time Q had Venus rising over one hour earlier than it actually did on that day!).

Nonetheless Sheaffer does conclude that the main UFO, i.e. the one pursued by Spaur & Neff, WAS Venus, but that there were likely other objects involved, such as a bright meteor at one point. A high-altitude research balloon was also likely in the locality.

Apparently the whole episode was triggered by a woman who reported an object "higher than a streetlight but lower than an airplane". This was just before the police got involved.

Sheaffer also tells of how the region was in a state of "near hysteria" (Hynek's description) after the Michigan 'swamp-gas' sightings in March. This contributed to the excitement of the various witnesses.

Sheaffer deals with the other witnesses as well and how theirs fit in with those of the two prime witnesses (Spaur and Neff).

People will have to read his account and decide for themselves, but I for one find it convincing and certainly good enough to explain the sighting(s).

I believe Hynek still had it in the 'unknown' category in his own book THE UFO EXPERIENCE.

Steve Sawyer said...

Here's a link to a .pdf copy of the relevant chapter ("A Saucer Named Floyd") of Sheaffer's book on the Portage County UFO close encounter and chase that I found online:


David Rudiak said...

(part 1 of 4) Very long post. Sorry!

Looked at Steve Sawyer's link to Robert Sheaffer (RS) on Ravenna. Reading RS only confirms what I had already guessed: he debunks the case through nitpicking the insignificant details and massive omissions or gross distortions of the hugely importants ones, including grossly misrepresenting the initial, highly inexplicable part where an incredibly brilliant object hovered directly over Spaur/Neff's (S/N) head ~100 feet up, was ~45 feet across (or “as big as a house” in Spaur’s words) and sat there for about a minute while they were frozen with fear, before they both dashed for their car.

SURELY, you say, RS describes the absolutely most important part of the object hanging directly over their heads for an extended period of time? No, not a word about it! Here is instead is how he spins it:

Spaur looked behind him-to the west-and reportedly saw a bright object in the sky coming as if from the wooded area on the side of the road. Spaur called out to Neff, who also observed the object. It appeared to be coming toward them. It reportedly passed overhead.... [Somehow neglecting to mention Spaur stating after first passing a little bit to their SOUTH, then passed over them headed NORTH, then stopped a little north, and came back DIRECTLY OVER BOTH CARS, STOPPING, and HOVERING directly above them!]

Upon first sighting the object, Spaur was "mildly surprised.- according to Weitzel. He mused that this must be the UFO that he had heard so much about. But when the object appeared to come toward them, the two officers became frightened and scrambled back into the car. They reported that the object, large and glowing, had stopped in the east, directly ahead of them.

Like I said, RS can only make his pathetic case by grossly misrepresenting the testimony (AKA lying). S/N did NOT immediately “scramble back into their car” as it “came toward them”. Nor did they ever say that initially it “stopped in the east, directly ahead of them.”

No they said IT CAME DIRECTLY OVERHEAD AND STOPPED DIRECTLY ABOVE THEM, then sat there while they were petrified with fright. Only after a minute did they finally “scramble back into their car,” not immediately, as RS insinuates. He correctly notes they would have been facing East once they got back to their car, but fails to note Spaur calling Sheriff dispatch and reporting it had moved to about 100 feet in front of them to the East, thus still very high in the sky (approx. 45 deg), while the just-rising Venus would have been maybe 1 deg. above the Eastern horizon and just a point of light. The object, however, was still very large, bright, with a definite shape, which both described as dome shaped on top and with a cone of light underneath. (Same basic description as officer Huston in E. Palestine, whose corroborating testimony RS nitpicks away while failing to mention the important parts, like the SAME brilliant, ice-cream-cone shape, and FLYING OVER HIS HEAD.)

RS instead makes a big deal out of the insignificant, obviously trying to make Spaur seem like an unreliable witness. E.g., in 2 inerviews, Spaur got the direction of travel wrong on Hwy 224 (saying East instead of West) after leaving a car accident scene East of their sighting and minutes befoe. That RS considers hugely important to mention, but not a word about a huge glowing object hanging motionless over their heads.

RS also makes idiotic arguments, like why didn’t they also report Venus along with the object in the same direction? Well maybe because what they actually saw vastly dwarfed Venus in size, brilliance and general weirdness, was high in the sky (including hanging directly over their heads), and obviously very nearby, still lighting up the ground around them and throughout the chase. (which RS also curiously fails to mention) It’s like police reporting a house on fire 100 feet away and then being criticized for not reporting a distant street lamp in the same direction. (Maybe because it would be totally irrelevant to the main event?)

David Rudiak said...

(Part 2/4) Thus, RS deliberately omits the most important details of the start of the sighting. So how does he “explain” the ground lighting up initially, which he admits happened? It was a meteor reported by a single witness a hundred miles away and 25 minutes later!

There is good reason to doubt that the object moving from west to east was as low and as close as the deputies reported, for it was sighted by another witness more than a hundred miles away. The declassified Project Blue Book records contain a report filed by a woman in Vandalia, Ohio, to the southwest of Ravenna, describing a starlike object that "swiftly" crossed the sky, traveling from west to northeast. A possible discrepancy exists in the time of the report, which is given as 5:30 A.M., some 25 minutes later than the time of the deputies' sighting. But because of the great similarity of the two reports, and their proximity in location and time, it seems likely that both describe the same event. Apparently a brilliant meteor streaked across the predawn sky, visible over a wide region.

Notice RS’s propaganda. He brushes off the 25 minute difference (“a possible discrepancy” becomes “proximity in location and time”), also claims there is “great similarity of the two reports” and “it seems likely that both describe the same event”, when there is NO SIMILARITY WHATSOEVER.

In fact, it is MUCH, MUCH WORSE than that! RS is flagrantly lying, AGAIN. There is no B.B. report of a “meteor” sighted in Vandalia on April 17! Look at the actual B.B. report (http://www.fold3.com/image/1/7093952/), and the Vandalia sighting is reported only as “April” with NO SPECIFIC DATE. The witness reported a big, bright light, no mention of a trail like an actual meteor, and claimed to have it in sight for 2 to 3 minutes! Whatever this was, it was no meteor streaking across the sky as RS claims. In fact, B.B. actually concluded it might have been a plane coming in for a landing at the local airport, but there was “insufficient information.”

But to RS, this non-meteor on a nonspecific date became “apparently a brilliant meteor” streaking across the sky “visible over a wide region” with only “a possible discrepancy” in time and “likely” “the same event”. Oh really? Surely such a brilliant meteor visible over a wide area would also have been made note of in historical meteor fireball summaries, seen by at least a few others, not just one witness? None that I can find on the Net, though a REAL, very widely seen meteor fireball from April 25 is very easy to find.

Even ignoring the nonspecific date, the difference in time, and the non-meteor characteristics, S/N did not describe anything like this. No, it was HUGE, did not move “swiftly” over their heads, in fact, moved SLOWLY over their heads, then sat directly above their heads for about a minute blinding them and blocking out a big section of the sky (large angular size). But in DebunkerLunyLand, this is very easy to explain: witnesses can’t distinguish a huge object at 100 feet blocking out the sky from a point-like one 100 miles away that may not have been even in the sky that morning. But going on with RS’s propaganda spin:

It did not pass just over their heads, as Spaur and believed, but was many miles up. Experience has shown that it is impossible for anyone to be accurate in judging the distance from such an object. Witnesses will often report "close encounters" with objects that later turn out to have been many miles away. Klass cites several incidents of this tvpe.

Now how many of you think you couldn’t distinguish something huge, brilliant and STATIONARY above your heads (“as big as house”), obviously extremely close, from a “starlike object” racing swiftly across the sky? RS is obviously invoking debunking drooling idiot theory again, when witnesses can’t make even the simplest of judgments and suffer from a debunking favorite, the massive misperception.

David Rudiak said...

(Part 3/4) RS had already lost me when he claimed that the UFO report that preceded the close-encounter from the Akron area was again a sighting of “Venus”:

At 4:50 a report came in over the police radio that a woman in Summitt County, to the west, had reported seeing a strange bright object, "higher than a streetlight but lower than an airplane," reportedly headed east, toward Portage County. ... From the description of the abject and from its supposed direction of "travel," it seems quite likely that the UFO the woman reported seeing was simply the planet Venus.

Later RS claims Venus rose at 4:00 (while critizing Quinanilla of Blue Book for stating 3:45). Well that’s strange, because all the planetarium programs and rise charts I’ve consulted place the rising of Venus at about 5:00 a.m. in Akron, not 4:00! (The crescent Moon rose about 35 min. later.) So obviously the earlier report from the Akron area could NOT possibly have been caused by Venus, since it was STILL INVISIBLE. Like many debunkers, RS seems to suffer from a bad case of “Venus envy” in addition to making up his “facts”.

Getting critical times right (or properly reporting critical witness testimony) does not seem to be RS’s strong point, while hypocritically criticizing and nitpicking witnesses and investigators for the same supposedly faulty reporting.

RS then uses his phony rise time for Venus to likewise debunk a corroborating witness report. Gerald Buchert, chief of police of Mantua, OH, was patrolling about 18 miles N and a little W of Spaur/Neff on N/S running Hwy 44, said he heard the same 4:50 police dispatch as S/N about the UFO to the west headed east in their direction. Then he spotted it high “overhead” (on his written B.B. report, he indicated about 70 deg. up) and was quoted saying it was very bright, initially round, but when it tilted appeared double saucer-shaped. His B.B. phone interview has him saying it moved SOUTHEAST down Hwy 44, so very roughly on an intercept course with S/N who reported their sighting a few minutes later (5:07) RS, naturally, claims this was another “Venus” sighting, with Venus now high in the sky. Maybe that was true LATER, after Buchert woke up his wife at home and tried to take pictures, but Venus at ~5:00 a.m. would have been right on the Eastern horizon and rather hard to perceive as high “overhead” and moving SE, not to mention brilliant and an extended saucer-shape. Obviously another “massive misperception.”

As for the hugely corroboratory Huston sighting at East Palestine, where Huston says he saw the UFO and chasing S/N approach from the NORTHWEST, RS admits that couldn’t be Venus to the East. But then he nitpicks that Huston wasn’t quoted saying he had the object in sight for an extended period after saying he first spotted it about 5 minutes away to the NW on Hwy 14. As RS spins it (paraphrasing what Huston allegedly told Weitzel): “But he told Weitzel that the UFO appeared to pass overhead in a matter of seconds, leaving him little opportunity to observe the object.”

RS then claims Huston’s testimony is “contradictory” and totally dismisses it. RS is AGAIN being completely disingenuous with the testimony. Nowhere have I found Weitzel quoting Huston saying he had only “seconds” to observe it, or that was the only time he observed it.

That was the only time he observed it briefly UP CLOSE (800 to 1000’ up) as it FLEW OVER HIS HEAD. As a result, Huston was able to make a detailed description that EXACTLY MATCHED the reported shape of S/N (ice cream cone, with the cone being a bright beam of light), which included repeated statements and a drawing of the object to that effect. Does RS bother to mention that part? Take a wild guess! He again totally fails to mention the hugely IMPORTANT, shape-corroborating testimony, and also ignores the hugely IMPORTANT, repeated statements of Huston of the object FLYING OVER HIS HEAD down Hwy 14 with S/N not far behind, then joining the chase when they sped past him.

David Rudiak said...

(Part 4/4) I could go on forever with RS’s many gross misrepresentations of the facts along with just making them up. E.g., he claims at the end of the chase in Conway, PA, the four officers there saw both Venus and a “research balloon”. Where did the “balloon” come from, you may well ask? RS invented it, claiming it matched the reports of the policemen. This was after rightfully criticizing Quintanilla and B.B (as I did) for lying about an Echo satellite explaining the initial part of the sighting, when their own investigation showed the two Echo’s were not visible. But the same B.B. documents have them searching for a possible balloon launch, including research balloons, that might explain things, and ALSO coming up completely empty-handed. Does RS report that? What do you think? No, they also saw a research balloon because he says so, even though nobody could find any sort of balloon in the area at the time.

I guess criticizing Quintanella /B.B. about Echo and other things was RS’s posturing that he was being “even-handed” when he was being anything but, including flagrantly lying about much of the data.

RS also devotes a great deal of space demeaning Spaur, including Spaur being a dreaded “UFO repeater” because he sighted another one 2 months later. This somehow made his FIRST report less credible. Don’t ask how, it just does in Debunker Time Travel Theory. RS then comments all the UFO “experts” like Hynek and McDonald and Weitzl fell for the questionable testimony of a “repeater”. What idiots!

Sheaffer then goes into Spaur’s mental deterioration afterward, including his marital problems, Here we learn such vital pieces of information that when his wife filed for divorce that October, it turned out they didn’t have a common-law marriage. For emphasis, Sheaffer then writes (NOTE, complete with exclamation point) : “Apparently Dale and Daniese had never actually been married!

Perhaps someone can explain to me how this is in any way relevant? Maybe this was RS slimily insinuating that Spaur was like some stereotypical southern redneck cop who shacked up with his cousin, lacked respect for the law and conventional morality, therefore again untrustworthy.

Not content with that, Sheaffer says Spaur disappeared until 1975 when he turned up at a UFO group meeting in Cleveland and said he had returned to race-car driving. So what? Well, apparently even that shows bad character in DebunkerLand.

Weitzel had earlier noted Spaur's racing experience, which reportedly "paid off" during the chase. Spaur's enthusiasm for automobile racing might go a long way toward explaining the zest with which he pursued a supposed UFO at speeds of more th an a hundred miles an hour.

In reality, Spaur reported the reason they chased the damn thing was because he was ORDERED TO by radio from HQ, to keep it in sight until other patrol cars with cameras might intercept it and take pictures. He was also trying to identify it. To keep up with it, he would have to speed up if it did. Race driver “zest” had nothing to do with it, just duty, and a very close encounter with something that was anything but Venus (or RS’s imaginary meteor fireball). Spaur later stated he would never have risked his life or his partner’s in a high speed chase after “Venus”. Weitzel noted at one point they nearly spun out and turned over, and THAT was what the racing background “paying off” comment was about, not that it made Spaur somehow “zestful” for a UFO chase. Spaur instead indicated he never read anything about UFOs and was very skeptical until this happened.

Of course, RS deliberately left out the IMPORTANT parts of the testimony as to why Spaur, Neff, and Huston thought this was a real weird object worth chasing after, clearly NOT Venus, and lied about a lot. But never mind. It was Spaur, Weitzel, Hynek, McDonald and all the other UFO zealots who were unreliable, lying and stupid. Nothing new here. Same old debunker character assassination and outright lying to make a case.

David Rudiak said...

Kevin asked me to tone down the rhetoric on Sheaffer, not calling him a liar on certain things. Let's just say he tends to make a lot of very serious mistakes with his presentation of facts and omits many crucial ones needed for a reader to get a full, correct picture of what was really reported.

A paradigm example was how he claimed Blue Book reported a bright meteor sighting 100 miles away on the same date and about the same time, then tries to claim this was the same thing Spaur/Neff saw. But when you look up the actual report, no specific date and no meteor conclusion by B.B. (no conclusion at all, maybe a plane, but "insufficient information"), with the details as reported (2 to 3 minute duration) actually ruling out a meteor.

And there is the curious omission of the most important part of Spaur/Neff's testimony of the brilliant, huge object being stationary just above their heads for an extended period of time, maybe a minute, which again would hardly be consistent with a meteor fireball shooting rapidly over their heads.

And there is the curious omission of other crucial testimony totally inconsistent with them chasing Venus (such as the object continuing to light up the countryside underneath it as they chased it), or officer Huston's testimony of seeing the exact same, brilliant, extended ice-cream cone shape as it FLEW OVER HIS HEAD. (Sheaffer does mention the flying overhead part, said many times by Huston, but pretends like it doesn't matter.)

There was also the highly inaccurate Venus rise time (an hour early), maybe just a sloppy mistake, but used to debunk at least two other early corroborating sightings (including one where Venus would clearly still have been below the horizon), and the invention of a "research balloon" supposedly seen at the end of the chase by the police witnesses, somehow neglecting to mention that B.B. searches couldn't find any balloons at all in the area. This was after Sheaffer rightfully criticized B.B. for concluding Spaur/Neff had seen an Echo satellite (instead of his "meteor") at the beginning of the sighting when the SAME documents saying Echo satellites not visible also state unable to find any research or other balloons.

Draw your own conclusions about Sheaffer's efforts at accuracy.

KRandle said...

David -

My point was that Robert Sheaffer is as passionate about his point of view as you are of yours (if you don't get tangled in the pronouns here). I noticed that Robert brought in EM Effects, pointing out that there are cases of the close approach of UFOs are reported to have stall care engines. He seems to imply here that since nothing like that was reported, we might reject the report.

I found his chapter to be somewhat condescending and sarcastic. I found no reason for that and it put me off...

But, on the other side, I have found the same thing in the writings of believers (which is not to say you are guilty of that).

So, I appreciate your efforts here.

cda said...

Re the matter of times. I have checked all the sunrise, moonrise and Venus rise times for the day in question and for the latitude/longitude of Akron, Ohio.

Venus rose at just after 0400 EST. The moon rose at 0445 EST and sunrise was at about 0550 EST.

But I assume Ohio was on Daylight Saving Time on April 17, therefore all the above times are 1 hour later EDST.

It looks to me as if all Sheaffer's times are EST. Presumably he got them all from astronomical records, or maybe USAF files. But at least they are consistent with the narrative. E.g. Spaur and Neff attended a traffic accident at 0450 and sunrise was "just under an hour away" in Sheaffer's narrative. Elsewhere we read that Venus's altitude at 0545 was 19 deg, which is indeed the case if we assume EST.

Venus was at azimuth of about 110 deg, altitude 10 deg at 0500 EST (0600 EDST).

DR's analysis of the times assumes using EDST, but if we take the various events and times as quoted in Sheaffer's book at least they are consistent. We would need to check the times quoted in the press for the police car journey (if any are quoted), but I don't suppose anyone is that interested now.

Certainly RS should have specified whether he was talking about standard time or daylight saving time.

Lance said...


Yes, thank the lord that David always refrains from the sarcasm that so puts you off.

This is an excellent insight to the way that you evaluate these things.


KRandle said...

Lance -

You have gained no insight. I was attempting to be polite in an open forum. You have no idea what I said to David in our private communication, which I would have preferred remained private. Stop leaping to sarcastic conclusions.

Besides, Robert's chapter was a tad bit sarcastic, and if you couldn't see that, then I gain insight into way you evaluate these things.

David Rudiak said...

Reevaluating, looks like CDA (and Sheaffer) are/were right on this one (Venus rise time) and I was wrong, the victim of the old Standard/Daylight time problem.

While Daylight Savings Time in 1966 didn't begin until April 24, one week after Ravenna, one website I was using for rise time started DST on the first Sunday in April, or April 3. (In the FAQ fine print) Thus the rise time on April 17 for this website was really DST or one hour later.

I still stand by my other criticisms of Sheaffer, such as the misuse of a B.B. sighting from Vandalia, OH, which was given no specific April date and was not a meteor fireball. And he certainly did misrepresent much of the sighting reports and other data by leaving out absolutely critical information at odds with his meteor/Venus/research balloon hypothesis.

Sheaffer was certainly not one to be casting stones at researchers like Weitzel for misrepresenting data. At least Weitzel didn't "research" the case from his armchair but in the field, going to the sites, speaking at length with the witnesses, and checking documentary data like police logs and the photos. (Weitzel was actually first to check them out and note the image on them was a photo defect, not of the object itself.)

And Sheaffer's many denigrating remarks about key witness Spaur, which had absolutely nothing to do with the case, were totally uncalled for.

David Rudiak said...

Kevin wrote:
I noticed that Robert brought in EM Effects, pointing out that there are cases of the close approach of UFOs are reported to have stall care engines. He seems to imply here that since nothing like that was reported, we might reject the report.

Yes, Kevin, I noticed that too. And if the converse had happened, they did report EM interference, then I'm quite sure Sheaffer would have used that to likewise reject the report or question the credibility of the witnesses, because flying saucers still can't exist, therefore no such EM effects from one could have happened.

It's a classic circular reasoning debunking no-win situation, like if the UFO photos are fuzzy they are faked, but if they are very good, they are also faked because they are now "too good" and not fuzzy like other UFO photos.

Lance said...

Just an overview of the above.

Someone scanned a full chapter of a man's copyrighted work. A link was posted above (and remains so).

Someone else accused that author of being a liar, etc. etc. (while actually being hilariously wrong himself).

Working under the double standard that applies here, I know that I can't use the same kind of rhetorical methods.

But thanks for the clear example.


KRandle said...

Lance -

Please... now you worry about copyright. I can't tell you the times my copyrights have been violated. Even the museum in Roswell displays a picture I took with neither credit nor attribution.

As for the daylight savings time vs standard time, I know that in 1966, it wasn't universal here in the US. That didn't happen until the 1970s under Nixon. I have no asnwer for who was on it and who wasn't, but it might be interesting for someone to check that out.

David Rudiak said...

Lance wrote:
Just an overview of the above.

Just an overview of the above.

Someone else accused that author of being a liar, etc. etc. (while actually being hilariously wrong himself).

The someone didn't call that author a liar about the rise time of Venus, just mistaken. The someone immediately corrected himself when shown to be wrong about this.

The someone DID call the author a liar about other things, the "etc., etc." part that Lance is obviously trying to sweep under the rug (because the someone is NOT "hilariously wrong" about the "etc., etc." part). Does Lance have the integrity to admit that Sheaffer was not exactly honest about this stuff?

The "etc., etc." includes the author's use of a nonexistent B.B. meteor fireball report, which he "hilariously" used to try to debunk the first part of the case. "Etc., etc." also included the author deliberately misrepresenting key witness testimony.

Working under the double standard that applies here, I know that I can't use the same kind of rhetorical methods.

But thanks for the clear example.

And thanks for the clear example of how you operate Lance. I eagerly await your refutation of the other unmentionable "etc., etc." points. Perhaps you can show where they are also "hilariously wrong".

You can start with the author's obvious "gross misrepresentation" of another B.B. report to try to make it sound like he had definitively "explained" what Spaar/Neff reported at the beginning. The other report had the wrong time, no specific date, and obviously was NOT a meteor report. B.B. certainly did not treat it as one, maybe an airplane, but "insufficient information." But except for those mostly unmentioned details, they were an "exact match" to Spaur/Neff's object, says Sheaffer.

And perhaps you can explain why the author deliberately misrepresented the witness testimony by leaving out the key parts. You know, like Spaur/Neff saying it all started with that brilliant, huge, ice-cream cone-shaped thing that sat over their heads for an extended period of time, critical testimony which the author curiously failed to mention, instead trying to make it sound like they described his faked meteor fireball rapidly flying over their heads.

Or Sheaffer somehow failing to mention the corroborating testimony of Huston of seeing the SAME brilliant ice-cream-cone-shaped thing when it FLEW OVER HIS HEAD.

You've been dodging the key "etc., etc." points all along, always referring us to Sheaffer, now continue to dodge them after it the someone pointed out Sheaffer was also dodging them using the propaganda ruse of just failing to tell the reader about such testimony, or cherry-picking the evidence.

And maybe you can explain to us where Sheaffer got his "research balloon" at the end of the sighting, again somehow failing to note that B.B. did check for any sort of balloons that might be the area and came up empty.

The devil is in the "etc., etc." part.

Lance said...


Just trying to follow the logic: your copyrights were violated therefore you now condone all copyright violations?


Like all conspiracy mumbo jumbo, your walls of text take quite a bit of work to straighten out--more work that I'm willing to put into this. Can you pick one single element that you feel Sheaffer misrepresented and I am willing to try to tackle that?


David Rudiak said...

Quite by coincidence, the Universal Time Act was passed four days before Ravenna, trying to standardize the dates when all states and communities started observing Daylight or Standard time. Daylight Savings Time thereafter was to start the last Sunday in April. In 1966, DST started April 24, or one week after Ravenna.

States were still given the option of opting out of DST (which Arizona and Hawaii continue to do), but it had to be the whole state, or if divided by a time zone, all communities within that time zone. Individual communities could no longer opt out, as in the past. The UTA was passed largely at the insistence of the airlines, just as time zones were originally established in the 19th century to try to standardize railroad schedules.

I also ran into the Standard/Daylight confusion in the 1964 Socorro/Zamora case, which also happened right about the Standard/Daylight transition date. In that case, DST started two days later.

I don't consider any of this an excuse for my messing up the rise time of Venus for the Ravenna case and accusing Sheaffer of being wrong and sloppy about his research on this one point. I did NOT say he lied about this, but did accuse him lying about other things.

In this case I wasn't careful enough rushing to get my Sheaffer critique out. However, I don't see where I was wrong about any of my other criticisms of Sheaffer. (That's what Lance won't talk about, referring to those as the "etc., etc." part of my criticisms.)

Lance said...


I said I was willing to discuss but I prefer to do it on a single point that you think is important.

And I do see your admission that you were wrong as a step in the right direction (there have been several cases in the past where you never bothered).

But calling someone a liar over what could easily be seen as a difference in interpretation is not the best way to discuss things in my opinion. I tried in this thread to keep things polite from my side (CDA is ALWAYS polite) just to demonstrate that the vitriol doesn't always start on the skeptical side as the regulars here might imagine.

So my question is do we want to discuss this stuff and do we want to do it politely?

I am willing. I respect your knowledge of the topic. Is there any interest in trying to stop the heavy-handed bickering?


David Rudiak said...

Lance, I quickly acknowledged my mistake. I don't see you being so quick to respond to my other points, about Sheaffer not being exactly honest in how he relates other key evidence. Instead, off on your usual diversions to avoid answering questions. (Yes, we are quite familiar with YOUR methods as well.) So now you won't respond because I'm not playing nice. Lance, you are about the last person on Earth who should complain about others not playing nice. Stop making excuses and answer questions for once.

Just to keep it super-simple and address only one thing among many Sheaffer had a "difference of interpretation on", here AGAIN is a link to the B.B. report Sheaffer references from Vandalia, OH, which Sheaffer claims was a widely seen meteor fireball and explains the first part of the Spaur/Neff sighting:


Please read the actual report, not Sheaffer's rendition of it, which I quote from AGAIN:

There is good reason to doubt that the object moving from west to east was as low and as close as the deputies reported, for it was sighted by another witness more than a hundred miles away. The declassified Project Blue Book records contain a report filed by a woman in Vandalia, Ohio, to the southwest of Ravenna, describing a starlike object that "swiftly" crossed the sky, traveling from west to northeast. A possible discrepancy exists in the time of the report, which is given as 5:30 A.M., some 25 minutes later than the time of the deputies' sighting. But because of the great similarity of the two reports, and their proximity in location and time, it seems likely that both describe the same event. Apparently a brilliant meteor streaked across the predawn sky, visible over a wide region.

Is there any doubt Sheaffer is claiming this was exactly the same object ON THE SAME DATE that Spaur/Neff said they encountered at the start of their sighting? Is there any doubt he is claiming it was a "brilliant meteor", including lighting up the ground like daylight as S/N reported, that it was "visible over a wide region", that there was a "proximity in location and TIME", if you ignore the "possible discrepancy" (as opposed to an ACTUAL one) of the report being 25 min. later?

But what does the actual BB report say? For starters, there is NO SPECIFIC DATE FOR THE SIGHTING, only that it occurred in April before the report was filed April 22! It appears not only was there a "slight discrepancy" in the time of day, there was enormous uncertainty as to the actual day this sighting actually occurred!

In case maybe the date was pinned down later, I also went to the B.B. summary sheet of all cases from April 1966: http://www.fold3.com/image/7093897/

Note, again, right at the top, only the nonspecific “April” date, whereas almost all other cases have specific dates. How is this a mere “difference of interpretation”? Sheaffer was definitely claiming an exact date for this. Where did he get it?

Maybe you can also point out where the report concludes “meteor,” as Sheaffer insinuates it does. Instead it says “insufficient data” while conjecturing: “Object was visible for 2-3 minutes... With the location the object was observed and DURATION, & big bright light, appears to be A/C coming in for a landing at Vandalia.”

I would hazard a guess, that even B.B. was smart enough to realize that a 2-3 minute duration was scientifically inconsistent with a “meteor”. What’s Sheaffer rationale for concluding otherwise, other than needing a shill explanation for the Ravenna case? If no Ravenna and the witness had instead reported a bright saucer-shaped object for 2-3 minutes, no doubt you and Sheaffer would have been quite happy to accept BB’s landing aircraft theory.

This is pure fabrication by Sheaffer, yet it was his whole case that that Spaur/Neff saw a meteor (that and deliberately omitting all their testimony that was totally inconsistent with a meteor).

Lance said...


I do try to be quick about admitting to my own errors (which I do make more frequently than I would like).

I never said that I didn't use your type of sarcasm and rhetoric. I was just asking if you wanted to set that aside for a while and see how things work out.

You make a good point and I am looking into this. The summary statement has the witness name redacted. Sheaffer refers to the witness as a woman (which is nowhere indicated on the main record but perhaps could be discerned from the name on the summary page). Is there an unredacted version of that page anywhere? I'm just trying to see if we are seeing all of the BB record.

If you are right, I don't think Sheaffer can say that this sighting is anything other than a possible match. And without getting the date matched, I don't think I would have even said that.

Let me see if I can get any further info.


Lance said...


I found this page:


Which does confirm that the witness was a woman.
There are several redacted portions including one potion that could possibly show the date (possibly, I said). Is there any way to get to the unredacted versions?

There is also the letter to the witness (I think) which confirms that this sighting was prior to the 22nd.

I'm still looking into this.


David Rudiak said...


Personal information like names, addresses, and phone numbers are commonly redacted; dates are not. There is no reason to. There is no evidence of an exact date in any of the Vandalia documents (only 4 pages, one an April summary I also linked to, again no exact date, unlike almost all the other April reports). You can do general searches such as "Vandalia" "April" and you won't find anything else.

There are other BB Vandalia reports from other years, all with exact listed dates, some given with probable meteor ID.

But not the one Sheaffer cites: no date, no meteor ID, no widespread sighting, nothing at all like he claims it to be that in any way connects it with Ravenna.

Verifying that a woman filed the report like Sheaffer said is a totally trivial and unimportant detail. Again, the main thing is no date, no indication that this was actually a meteor, no indication that this was anything but a local report and was NOT widely seen, all of which Sheaffer claimed to try to link it to Ravenna.

Frankly, when I looked up this report cited by Sheaffer, I was totally shocked that he would so brazenly misrepresent it, then use it as the lynchpin of his Ravenna "meteor fireball" debunkery. It is easy to check out these day with BB documents on line. Sheaffer wrote his book in 1986, pre-Internet, which may explain, in part, why he got away with this for so long. But clearly the editors at Prometheus books were not interested in any fact-checking. (No surprises there.)

People can again draw their own conclusions about Sheaffer's veracity and credibility here. And there is all the other stunts he pulled, such as leaving out crucial testimony of key witnesses like Spaur, Neff, and Huston, all clearly pointing to something else than Sheaffer's fabricated meteor and Venus and his equally invented "research balloon" as the "explanations" for the Ravenna case.

As far as I'm concerned, Sheaffer's debunkery of Ravenna is itself totally debunked.

Lance said...

So I asked David to come up with one aspect of this case to discuss and he did.

David implored me to "stop making excuses and answer questions for once."

So I will.

Rudiak called Robert Sheaffer a liar, etc. (you can read the walls of text above), after I had suggested that perhaps we could lower the rhetoric.

Rudiak would have none of that. After making a mistake about the time (which naturally he first accused Sheaffer of getting wrong) He doubled down.

Here are some choice quotes Rudiak made about Robert:

"Sheaffer was not exactly honest about this stuff"

"This is pure fabrication by Sheaffer"

"a shill explanation for the Ravenna case"

"I was totally shocked that he would so brazenly misrepresent it"

"he got away with this for so long"

"gross misrepresentation"

I suspect David will begin back pedaling shortly about all this but, in short, he was egregiously and completely wrong about the one point I let him choose to discuss as an example of how Robert Sheaffer was such a big liar.

The truth is that the the date for the Vandalia case is the same as the Floyd case: April 17, 1966.

Ironically Kevin's latest post is all about how the Air Force "lied" about various UFO cases.

I realize that for the regulars here, there probably will be no lesson learned.

I hope that David will apologize quickly to Robert Sheaffer.


P.S. Here is the document that backs up the above. Thanks to Kevin for first bringing this up and to Robert Sheaffer for providing this scan.


Isaac Koi said...

Lance has asked me if I can shed any light on the date of the Vandalia sighting given by Robert Sheaffer. I may as well post my input directly here rather than have Lance relay it.

As the very small number of people reading this post will probably know, Dave Rudiak said above “…In fact, it is MUCH, MUCH WORSE than that! RS is flagrantly lying, AGAIN. There is no B.B. report of a “meteor” sighted in Vandalia on April 17! Look at the actual B.B. report (http://www.fold3.com/image/1/7093952/), and the Vandalia sighting is reported only as “April” with NO SPECIFIC DATE. The witness reported a big, bright light, no mention of a trail like an actual meteor, and claimed to have it in sight for 2 to 3 minutes! Whatever this was, it was no meteor streaking across the sky as RS claims. In fact, B.B. actually concluded it might have been a plane coming in for a landing at the local airport, but there was “insufficient information.”

And Dave Rudiak later stated: “Verifying that a woman filed the report like Sheaffer said is a totally trivial and unimportant detail. Again, the main thing is no date,”

The allegation that “RS is flagrantly lying” appears to be based on a misconception.

While there is a small case file at the link given by Dave Rudiak for a sighting in April 1966 (Project Blue Book file 10358), the few documents within that case file are clearly not the material referenced by RS. RS was in fact referring to documentation relating to a Vandalia sighting WITHIN THE PROJECT BLUE BOOK FILE FOR THE RAVENNA INCIDENT ITSELF(i.e. Project Blue Book file 10447).

This is clear, in particular, from the RS’s quote of the word “swiftly” (in inverted commas by Robert Sheaffer at the bottom of page 238 of his book). That word does not appear in the former file but DOES appear in a report form within the latter file. The relevant page in the latter file can be found online at the link below:

The report form starts at the link below (which clearly states a date of 17 April 1966 and gives the location as Vandalia, Ohio):

(The Project Blue Book files – particularly as rearranged on the Fold3 website – are not a model of good organisation. Frankly, the files are a mess. It is partly because of the state of these files that I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the last few years working on building up a searchable PDF version of the files – or rather several searchable versions of the files due to the various versions of the Project Blue Book files which are available and the various indexes to them. I find such PDF files very useful for efficient searching, particularly when used in conjunction with similar searchable PDF versions of the UFO files released by the FBI, CIA, NSA and other governments. As some of you know, I think such searchable PDF documents are a pretty basic tool that ufology could benefit from...

Lance said...

I should have also thanked Issac for his help in attempting to track down this issue.

Many Thanks,


David Rudiak said...

Lance, you have proven your point: the Vandalia sighting was indeed dated to April 17 when the witness finally turned in her sighting report. And my apologies to Robert Sheaffer for accusing him of making it the date, even lying about it.

As I said in the other thread to Kevin, there was no evidence of a specific April date in the Vandalia file I linked to or in the April summary sheet. It also said the witness hadn't returned the report form after more than 30 days, but if she had, maybe the date was there, as Kevin was suggesting it might be.

No apologies on my part however for accusing Sheaffer of badly misrepresenting the sighting as a widely seen, brilliant meteor fireball capable of lighting up the ground, ala Spaur/Neff's testimony, or misrepresenting Spaur/Neff's testimony, omitting them saying the object sat directly over their head, blinding them, for about a minute before they finally dashed for their car.

You'll note the witness form states that the object was about as bright as a star and was in view for 3 to 4 minutes, even longer than the 2-3 minutes of the original report. The witness checked "certain" about this estimate. Doesn't sound like the description of a short-lived meteor fireball lighting up the ground like daylight.

Note that someone wrote at the bottom of the first page "satellite", which it does indeed sound like, not that I know whether there was in fact a satellite passing overhead at 5:30 a.m. I think it has been established by Sheaffer that there was no satellite at the time of the Spaur/Neff initial sighting, i.e. ~5:07.

I also noted on the other thread that the NE trajectory does NOT match the one described by Spaur, i.e. from the West, slightly southerly, coming in just north of the E/W highway crossing over to the south, stopping just south, passing over them headed north until just north, coming back over them and then hovering just over their heads blocking out the sky for about a minute while they were frozen in fear. Sure doesn't sound like a meteor fireball report to me, WHEN you actually tell people what the witnesses actually reported.

And as I said on the other thread, even if it could be shown that the April 17 Vandalia date was correct, NOTHING about the sighting indicated the Vandalia witness reported a brilliant meteor or that it was a meteor: the duration doesn't match, the brightness doesn't match, the time of day doesn't match Spaur/Nef, the trajectory doesn't match, and there is no evidence of the object being widely seen, all of which Sheaffer claimed.

(I'm about to board a plane, so if I don't respond for a few days, it is not because I am trying to duck anything.)

Lance said...

David, I appreciate that you apologized to Robert but your next sentences show you back to the same ill-advised path of accusing him of lying.

Saying someone "badly misrepresented" something is virtually the same as calling him a liar.

And when you talk about misrepresentation, it seems to me that you can teach all quite a bit.

You write:

"You'll note the witness form states that the object was about as bright as a star and was in view for 3 to 4 minutes, even longer than the 2-3 minutes of the original report. The witness checked "certain" about this estimate."

But what did you leave out?

Just below this is the question, "How was time in sight determined?" The answer from the witness:


Very poor form to leave that out.

And while I am certain that several of the regulars here will be comforted by frequent recitation of the words, "Debunker" etc., this serves as another textbook example of how conspiracy-minded believers work.


David Rudiak said...


As usual you nitpick the insignificant. A meteor fireball typically lasts a few seconds, not a few minutes. You don't think the average person can't tell the difference between seconds and minutes? The SIGNIFICANT part is that the witness placed the duration at several minutes, even if only an estimate. That alone rules out meteor fireball.

Also Sheaffer claimed this supposed "meteor fireball" was extremely bright, bright enough to light up the ground like daylight, as per Spaur/Neff testimony. Where does it say anything like that in the report? She said it was about as bright as a star (even Venus doesn't light up the ground).

Sheaffer said without qualification that this was a meteor fireball, yet I don't see a meteor fireball report here. Somebody wrote "satellite" at the the bottom, which it does sound very much like. This could be checked by someone who has access to old satellite records. In fact, if there was a satellite passing over the area in the witness report time frame, that would pin down the sighting time.

But we know that earlier when Spaur/Neff had their sighting, there were no satellites.

Sheaffer absolutely equated the two sightings as being the same thing, when there is no similarity whatsoever. But the average reader probably wouldn't know that because Sheaffer didn't exactly report what Spaur/Neff said really happened, namely the object hanging over their heads for about a minute, instead of them immediately dashing for their car as Sheaffer imaginary meteor flew over their heads. Deliberately misleading IMHO. No meteor report as represented and inaccurate accounting of witness testimony.

Lance said...


Yes, I do think that people get time estimates wildly wrong. There is clear evidence of this (for instance, the time witnesses estimated for a Russian space junk reentry varied from a few seconds to 5 minutes!) and I get to see it all the time in my work. I make films and commercials and I hear folks refer to minutes when they actually mean seconds ALL THE TIME.

But hilariously in this case we can see the timing change wildy just between the two documents we have on the case! It seems quite silly to rely upon this witness for accuracy.

I am gonna let my part of this conversation end. I let you pick one aspect of the case that you were sure indicated that Sheaffer was a liar (which you stated without qualification, as is your standard MO). You picked it and you were spectacularly wrong.

I think that, in the unlikely event that anyone actually reads these comments, your way of doing business is clear:

"Anyone who questions a UFO report is a lying debunker. "

Around here that may be seen as normal thinking and accepted but amongst regular rational people, I think you might be surprised at how it is viewed.


David Rudiak said...


Wildly different? Original Blue Book report probably taken down by phone said 2-3 minutes. Witness report said 3-4 minutes. How is this "Wildly different".

How are the initial and final reports "wildly different" about brightness. Both refer to brightness as starlike or about the same as a star. Can you point to anything indicating that the witness remotely described something so bright it was capable of lighting up the ground like daylike, as a large meteor fireball would? (Think of the huge and highly unusual Russian Chelyabinsk meteor last year, which did this. If it had been even remotely like this, a lot more than a single witness would have reported this and it would have been in meteor records for sure. Not this report.

Why do I use "debunker" instead of "skeptic"? A "debunker" is a knee-jerk denier, not a true skeptic, who uses critical thinking and logic. A true critical thinker would not claim the reports were "wildly different". And I seriously doubt a true skeptic would claim people can't distinguish between seconds and hours, like you do.

The witness DID NOT report anything REMOTELY like a superbright meteor fireball. Only a debunker who can't handle simple reality would claim otherwise. So you are a debunker, meaning a denier, refusing to acknowledge the obvious, because it somehow doesn't fit into your world view.

Sheaffer's claim that a meteor fireball explains the first part of the Spaur/Neff sighting is pure rubbish, and citing this witness report as supporting evidence is beyond rubbish--NOT bright, and much too long to be a meteor fireball.

And, of course, Sheaffer left out all the many statements of Spaur/Neff about the very bright, very large object sitting stationary over their head for about a minute, which also clearly is NOT a description of a meteor fireball (why he left it out).

Now whether you want to call Sheaffer a debunker or a propagandist is your choice, but he was very clearly trying to mislead the readers. In place of Blue Book's non-existent satellite, he just substituted a non-existent meteor fireball for which there is truly ZERO evidence.

Roger H Werner said...

Last time I looked meteors don't hover nor do they rise in elevation. I've read every plausible and ludicrous explanation for this CE case I've encountered. (I'd love to read the Blue Book Case File). Direction issues don't detract from the fundamentals of the case. Hynek's assessment I just finished again; I believe his 'strong' recommendation to the air force remain concise and valid (unidentified) while alternate explanations just don't fit the human experience of the case. Any reasonable explanation of this case must consider all of the high strageness aspects and as far as I know that has't been done and that includes Sheaffer. It is much easier to explain cases like this when the actual statements of observers are 'reinterpreted' and that is what Sheaffer seems to have done. I'm not suggesting anything other than the fact that this case has yet to be reasonably explained as anything but 'unidentified.' Unless humanity discovers some new phenomena it is likely to remain unidentified...and yes, Venus may have been involved but I'm disinclined to take Sheaafer's assessment of this case. I'm inclined to draw my own conclusions assessing any raw data that I find. Forget Schaeffer, read as much unfiltered data as possible and make your own assessment. As an anthropologist I'm inclined to take the original observations largely at face value allowing for some distortion that always occurs in excited situations.

Roger H Werner said...

You've summed up what I was saying. Scientists are uniquely unqualified to evaluate eye witness testimony with Hunk being cone if the few truly objective hard scientists. Fir whatever reason, Hynek understood perhaps better than any other investigator that first and foremost most UFO reports largely represent a human experience and attempting to make sense of such apply pure science is unjustified. Obviously when non-subjective data present themselves they should be studied quantitatively as is possible. Subjective reporting should not be do studied.

Roger H Werner said...

Lance witnesses do get facts wrong but I object to reinterpretation of the obvious. I think Spaur's statement to thr air force are extremely relevant and I have to believe the police saw something that do baffled him that he lost his career, wife, and almost his sanity. Another officer nay have suffered PTSD. These things didn't occur without cause. Last year midwife and I drove down I-5 about midnight. I spent almost the entire time looking at a really odd light in the sky. I figured it was astronomical but it seemed huge. When I hot home I looked on the internet and sure enough it was Venus. I have to believe the four officers saw something thatv to them was inexplicable. That isn't hard for me to do but for an awful lot of hard scientists they need an explanation. Such people should investigate the human experience with care. I have degrees in both earth and social sciences at the professional level and maybe this enables me to move back and forth between different data types. We ignore or reinterpret the statements of himan obsetvers at the risk of further obfuscation. Judt an opinion.

Roger H Werner said...

There is a third possible explanation: what was observed represents a new phenomenon that requires further study