Monday, September 09, 2019

Contact and the Williamsburg UFO Sighting


While watching that new UFO program known as Contact, I noticed that one of the things the field investigators did, when they arrived in Waynesboro, Virginia, was access the local archives. They wanted to learn the history of the Waynesboro area, so they searched a bunch of old newspaper clippings. I’ve done that myself, in locations where the newspapers have morgues that have sorted their past articles by type or subject. That means I could ask the librarian for the files about UFOs and not have to search through newspapers using microfilm.  A quick way to learn some of the local UFO lore.

Sarah Cruddas and Nick Karnaze, the field investigators in Contact, sorted through the old sightings, commenting that there had been a number of them from November 1964 to January 1965 and that there had been an official investigation. First, let me point out that not every UFO sighting, even those reported in the newspapers, made its way into the Blue Book system. If it was not officially reported, then it was rare for an investigation to be made.

I found no sightings in Blue Book reported in Virginia in November 1964. There were only two in December. The first was from Falls Church on December 14. The Air Force labeled it as the moon. The second, from Harrisonburg, was listed as radar anomalies. Interestingly, the file contained five photographs that were so faint as to be invisible. It almost looked as if they had microfilmed the back of the photos rather than the front.
Project Blue Book sighting card.

In January, 1965, there were eight sightings reported and two that were just listed as “news clippings,” which meant there was no investigation of them. Most of the sightings were of the same sort of thing as had been reported earlier. That is, mundane, terrestrial based objects and phenomena that were misidentified by the observers. And, the sightings were scattered all over Virginia, so there really wasn’t much of a cluster.

However, the sighting in Williamsburg in January, 1965, stands out. It is listed as “unidentified.” The object was seen at close range for enough time that the witness did get a good look at it. But more importantly, the UFO, whatever it was, stalled his car’s engine.

According to the Project Blue Book file, the witness (who didn’t want to be identified in the press and whose name was redacted throughout), T. F. Mains, said that his car was stalled by a mushroom-shaped object as he approached it. According to the file:

At 0830, 23 January 1965, observer first noted object after his car stalled and he looked to his left. The object was first observed hovering with its bottom four feet off the ground and on an azimuth of southwest from the observer… The object which was observed for 25 seconds began moving horizontally to the west prior to disappearing. The flight path was limited to a steady hover except for the rapid vanishing maneuver.
Observer stated that the object was shaped like a mushroom or light bulb, being 75 to 80 feet in height; 25 feet diameter at the top, and ten feet diameter at the bottom. Color was metallic gray with red-orange glow on the close side and blue glow on the far side. As object was hovering there was a sound similar to a vacuum cleaner.
After the object disappeared, first observer got out of his car and went and asked the witness that was behind him if his car had stalled. Second witness said his car had also stalled and he had also seen the object.
The observer was prompted to report his sighting after hearing of many other UFO sightings in the Virginia. First observer told investigating officer (Lt. Dockum [Air Force officer investigating the UFO sighting]) that he thinks the object was a solid object and thought it was an Air Vehicle that the Air Force has.
The document then commented on the observations. It was noted that the weather bureau reported on a low altitude temperature inversion that could have resulted in the “unusual phenomenon.” There were no weather balloons in the area according to the documentation. And it said that Lt. Dockum, the Air Force officer assigned to investigate, searched the sighting area but found nothing.

Another possible explanation, offered by the weather bureau and Dockum, was that the sun’s reflection on that inversion layer and low hanging clouds might have caused a mirage. But it was also noted, “There is nothing to account for the car stalling as observer so stated.”

The final paragraph is the important one. It said, “Since no conclusive evidence can establish the identity of the object, the case is carried as an unidentified by the Air Force.” Then oddly, it noted, “Although the possibility exists that the sighting was a descending weather balloon, this is not conclusive evidence to substantiate the identity of such.”

Does it really need to be repeated? The weather balloon explanation fails at the point that two cars were stalled by close approach to the UFO. Because there are two witnesses in two separate vehicles, most of the mundane explanations are eliminated.

There are several reports, memos and newspaper accounts that mentioned two Richmond businessmen who had seen the UFO. This verifies that there was another man involved, but nothing in the file nor in the newspapers identify the man, other that he was older. Mains apparently didn’t ask for his name and could only remember that he drove a Chevrolet. He only had asked about the object and if his car engine had been stalled.

I would never have found this case had they not mentioned, in passing, on Contact, that there had been official investigation. It is just another in those inexplicable sightings that have no terrestrial explanation. It is a multiple witness case (well, sort of since we don’t have a clue as to the identity of the second witness), with a close approach of the UFO that interacted with the environment. This was just another opportunity to do some real investigation that was passed to a lower-ranking officer who had no training for the task. It is another missed opportunity.

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