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home : opinion : columnist June 19, 2021

6/7/2021 12:13:00 AM
What's the Deal with UFOs, Anyway?

Tammy Wilson
Guest Columnist

Like most kids of the Sixties, I grew up musing about Unidentified Flying Objects. I read sci-fi books, watched the night sky for Sputnik and marveled at meteors. What if a spaceship landed with strange beings like the ones on The Outer Limits or The Day the Earth Stood Still?

Project Blue Book--the government program, not the TV show—collected information about sightings across the nation. Over the course of 20 years, thousands of incidents were reported and analyzed, but in the end, the Air Force claimed unequivocally that nothing reported to them was extraterrestrial or a threat to our national security. Furthermore, there was no evidence of technology beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge.

But reports of UFOs haven’t stopped. In fact, they’ve become freakier. Some of the bogies have chased US spacecraft. Others have played cat-and-mouse with military aircraft and war ships. One recent incident involved an object matching the speed and bearing of a US destroyer According to the ship’s log, the episode went on for 90 minutes.

One of the most bizarre UFO videos was shot by Navy personnel off the coast of San Diego. Maybe you saw it on the news. The black-and-white video clip was shot in 2019 from the USS Omaha showing a sphere flying parallel to the horizon before disappearing into the ocean.

Meanwhile, American submariners have encountered mysterious objects traveling hundreds of knots per hour under water.

That’s a new one on me.

As always, most anyone reporting a UFO has faced laughter—even if the person making the report is a seasoned commercial pilot, a sworn law enforcement officer or a respected Sunday School teacher. Onlookers scoff. Such sightings are explained away as hallucinations, weather balloons, trick photography, the work of pranksters or natural phenomena such as swamp gas. Or something from China or the Soviet Union. That possibility should alarm us, though many shrug it off.

My family had a close encounter one evening in 1962. A mysterious light was hovering above our back yard. The culprit: a plastic bag attached to a metal frame with a lit candle inside. Some neighbor’s idea of a joke. Luckily it didn’t catch our house on fire.

As a pilot, my Dad witnessed unusual phenomena. One was St. Elmo’s fire-- the rare electrical discharge that can be seen as blue light on the exterior of aircraft. It happens under certain atmospheric conditions.

In the days of tall ships, St. Elmo’s fire was seen on yardarms and spars, a forewarning of a lightning strike. Some sailors regarded the odd light as a good omen.

While St. Elmo’s fire is not a UFO, Dad saw at least one. It was a cigar-shaped object that hovered above the horizon one fall evening. Colored beams of light could be seen in beams pointed toward the earth When he took off from the remote airport where he had just landed, the object quickly shot out of sight at a speed he could never explain. It was as if the object was observing him and knew when to hurry off.

Most laughed. It was a weather balloon, some said, or swamp gas. The same people who had never flown a plane, much less knew about weather balloons or swamp gas, when there were no swamps to create it.

A couple of years ago, a friend saw a doughnut-shaped object in the night sky. His neighbors called him to look out the window. Several people saw it, and were baffled by its erratic flight path and speed. Photo images from that night closely resemble “flying doughnuts” that have been recorded as far away as China and Ireland and as near as Robeson County.

Closer to home, the late George Fawcett of Lincolnton owned a sandwich shop on Main Street for many years. The walls were decorated with pictures of UFOs, which seemed odd unless you knew that Fawcett was a long-time UFO investigator.

 He spent most of his life wondering about the mysterious craft, collecting data and enduring countless jokes. North Carolina chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, a nationwide organization of volunteers to investigate UFO reports. He was MUFON’s North Carolina director for 11 years.

Fawcett was written up in the Los Angeles Times reporting that of the 1,000 sightings he had investigated, all but 22 percent could be explained by natural phenomena, manmade objects or hoaxes. Still, that left 220 as unexplained.

The article, published in 1985, didn’t count the additional incidents Fawcett investigated up until his death in 2013. Along the way he wrote books about UFOs and taught UFO courses through Gaston College.

It’s a pity that George and many other witnesses won’t be around for the next chapter in UFO history: a federal reveal due this month. Written into the $2.3 trillion COVID relief package of 2020, the law mandates the director of national intelligence and secretary of defense to provide lawmakers report to Congress on everything they know about UFOs. I hope the report won’t be as redacted as many such documents in the past. I’m not holding my breath.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe has already revealed there are “a lot more sightings” than the public knows about.

Luis Elizonda, former Pentagon intelligence officer who has had access to UFO data kept by the agency, has stated that UFOs do indeed have “transmedium ability.” They can feely travel in space, water and air.

Which brings me back to that weird round object photographed by sailors on the Omaha

It would be stunning to know that humans possess such advanced technology. If they do, let’s hope they’re on our side.

Tammy Wilson is a writer who lives near Newton. Contact her at

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