In the early '60s I was a Flying Saucer Fanatic. This is not as weird as it might seem today; for one, in the early '60s most people were interested in flying saucers/UFOs-- we were in the midst of the Third Wave of Ufology-- and I jumped on the bandwagon with all the enthusiasm a geeky 9-yr.-old could muster. I mean, Flying Saucers! Weird Things in the Sky! Maybe from SPACE! Possibly full of ALIENS! HOT DAMN (or words to that effect)! People were seeing UFOs all over the country, all over the world; the newspapers and magazines (that's what we had before the Intarwebs and Twitter and Facebook and HEY, YOU KIDS! GET AWAY FROM MY WOOLLY MAMMOTH!) were filled with reports of sightings, which was quite the boon to the publishing industry who rushed all sorts of books of greater and lesser quality into print.
This book was fun. Wish I still had my copy.
Even my hometown of Waynesboro, VA had a rash of sightings, my favorite, 45 yrs. later, being The Man Who Saw the Flying Nipple on, appropriately enough, December 21, 1964.
A gunsmith had a close encounter with a beehive-shaped UFO in rural Fisherville, Virginia. At five o’clock in the afternoon Mr. Burns was driving east on highway Route 250 east of Staunton when a 125-foot wide, beehive-shaped UFO slowly crossed the roadway ahead of him, causing his car to stall. As the metallic looking UFO descended it narrowly missed hitting some power lines. There was a bluish glow from the bottom. As it left, it rose to about 200 feet in altitude, tilted slightly, then disappeared quickly into the northeast. The car could then be restarted. Geiger counter tests showed abnormally high radioactivity in the area. (Sources: Donald B. Hanlon, Flying Saucer Review, March-April 1966, p. 14; Gordon I. R. Lore and Harold H. Dennault, Jr., Mysteries of the Skies: UFOs in Perspective, p. 171; Mark Rodeghier, UFO Reports Involving Vehicle Interference, case 136; Richard Hall, The UFO Evidence (Volume II): A Thirty Year Report, p. 3).
At approximately 5:00 p.m. on the evening of December 21, as he drove east along Route 250 between Staunton and Waynesboro, Virginia, Horace Burns, a gunsmith in Harrisonburg, saw an immense cone-shaped object cross low over the highway ahead of him.
It was moving in a north to south direction at a slow speed estimated to be about 15 mph. The point of the cone was tipped slightly forward in the object's line of flight.
It crossed the highway approximately 200 feet ahead of Burns and settled in a meadow to the right of the road, landing gently, "like a bubble." At the moment the object crossed the highway, Burns' car motor failed. The object settled in the field as he brought the car to a stop on the shoulder of the highway.
Burns got out of the car to get a better look. "It was 125 feet in diameter, at least, and 80 to 90 feet high," he later reported. Its circular, sloping sides rose toward the top in six large, concentric convolutions that decreased in diameter and were surmounted by a dome.
The object was so large, Burns said, that when it crossed the road ahead of him it had more than filled the entire width of his windshield. In the gathering darkness, Burns could not make out with certainty the exact nature of the object's surface material but it gave the appearance of a dull, metallic finish.
He saw no features such as windows, ports, doors, or seams on the object; however, extending around its base at a height of about six feet was a band of bluish-white light, sharply-edged and about 12 to 18 inches wide. The light was steady and did not flicker or dim. No landing gear was evident and the object seemed to rest lightly on the ground on a somewhat convexly curved undersurface.
Burns watched the object for from 60 to 90 seconds at a distance no greater than 150 yards when it suddenly rose straight up to a height of several hundred feet and, emitting a soft "whoosh" like rushing air, took off in a northeasterly direction at an exceedingly high rate of speed, again with its top tilted slightly forward in the line of motion. It disappeared from view in a matter of seconds.
Following its disappearance, Burns drove home and told his wife about his sighting, swearing he wouldn't tell another soul because "they'd think I'm crazy."
However, a few days later, a local radio program announced the formation of a UFO investigations group at Eastern Mennonite College, under the direction of Dr. Ernest G. Gehman, a professor of German at the college. At his wife's urging, Burns got in touch with Gehman by way of the radio station to report his observation.
On December 31, Dr. Gehman traveled alone to the landing site and made a geiger counter test of the area. An extremely high reading was obtained, and was verified by the arrival of two DuPont research engineers who, having heard about the landing, had driven to the site the same day Dr. Gehman made his investigation.
In fact, Dr. Gehman had been able to locate the landing spot (later verified by Burns) by the readings on his Geiger counter.
Virginia History: More UFOs Sighted Locally and Statewide
Published: 12:04 PM 5/2/2010
By Charles Culbertson/contributor, firstname.lastname@example.org
The December 1964 sighting of an alleged unidentified flying object on U.S. 250 just east of Staunton sparked massive public interest, an investigation by the U.S. Air Force and a number of what might be called "copycat" sightings.
One of them involved several Staunton teenagers who claimed to have had a close encounter with a spaceman.
By late January 1965, the story of Grottoes resident Horace Burns' sighting of the mysterious craft (which he said landed in a field between Staunton and Fishersville) had gained national media attention and was beginning to generate a rash of other sightings throughout the state.
UFOs were allegedly seen at Marion, Fredericksburg and South Boston.
Locally, UFOs were reported seen in Greenville and the Jollivue area.
"Despite mounting reports of UFOs, the Leander McCormick observatory on Mt. Jefferson at Charlottesville hasn't spotted a thing," wrote the Jan. 25 Staunton Leader. "Larry Frederick, chairman of the astronomy department at the University of Virginia, explained that the objects could be meteors since the last six weeks have produced some 'showering' activity."
Frederick said another possibility was that people were seeing the high-intensity landing lights of jets which "follow the main north-south and east-west flyways that criss-cross the area."
The most creative sighting was reported by a Staunton teenager who said that while riding on U.S. 250 at Brands Flat with some friends, he saw what looked like a man walking toward the road from a field.
The teen thought nothing of it until the man sat down alongside the road and began to examine the cars passing by.
The youth said he then realized that the man might have come from one of the spaceships recently reported in the area. He said he and his friends got out of the car and ran toward the man, who escaped over a hill.
Two other little men appeared and also ran away, he said.
"They left us way behind," said the teen, who described the men as about three and a half feet tall and wearing one-piece, skin-tight garments that were silver in color.
The boys reported their sighting to Staunton police, who sent 10 reservists and a photographer to the scene to investigate. They turned up nothing.
After they left, the teenager who had first spotted the "spacemen" and the photographer stayed to continue the search.
They said they came upon a "glowing" aluminum barn. The photographer allegedly entered the barn and was hit by something. When he and the teenager started to run, the photographer turned to take a picture of the barn.
The teen said that as the camera's flash bulb went off, its light showed one of the little men standing by the structure. That alleged photo has never been published, at least not locally.
Local UFO hysteria reached its height Jan. 28 when a number of Staunton residents carrying guns spread out along U.S. 250 to search for aliens.
"Gun-toting Staunton area residents who pursue 'little green men' were sharply criticized today by Augusta County Sheriff John E. Kent," reported the Leader.
Kent said "it is dangerous as well as ridiculous" for grown men to take to the fields and woods to look for nocturnal creatures who stray away from their spaceships and disappear.
Staunton Police Chief R. Ruff Cline said he believed "the whole thing is a hoax."
After that, local interest in UFOs and spacemen seemed to diminish, with the Leader firing a final satirical shot with a front-page photo of a spaceman in a flying saucer — concocted by staff photographer Dennis Sutton.
Permanent link: http://www.ufocasebook.com/2010/virginiahistory.html
So there you have it-- strange things happen on the Winter Solstice!