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Thursday, December 28, 2006   


Montana a UFO hotspot dating back to 1950s

The story goes something like this:

The date was March 16, 1967. Missile maintenance crews from Malmstrom Air Force Base were camped out at a missile site about 30 miles north of Lewistown.

Suddenly an alarm horn sounded.

A Minuteman missile had gone off alert and become inoperable. Upset and believing that the maintenance personnel had failed to tell him they were doing work that would create this "off-alert" warning, a first lieutenant called the missile site.

He didn't get the response he was expecting.

An on-site security guard told him that no maintenance had been done on the missile that morning. A UFO hovering over the site was a more likely culprit, he said.

Soon other missiles started going off-line as well. Within seconds, the other nine missiles were down.

About 20 miles southeast at the Oscar flight, a topside airman reported to his below-ground crew commander that strange, nonaircraft lights were zigzagging around the sky.

The commander didn't take the report seriously and told the airman to call back if anything more significant happened.

After a few minutes, the airman called again, clearly frightened and shouting: "Sir, there's one hovering outside the front gate!"

"One what?"

"A UFO. It's just sitting there. We're all looking at it. What do you want us to do?"

Moments later, several other Oscar missiles were down as well.

  • This report and others like it have made northcentral Montana a UFO hot spot dating back to the 1950s.

    "It's been a pretty active area, and there are a lot of world-documented sightings going way back," said Jeff Goodrich, state director of the Montana chapter of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).

    A video recording of two bright, silvery objects zipping around the sky on Aug. 15, 1950, brought national attention to the Electric City.

    Nick Mariana, general manager of the Great Falls Electrics baseball team, noticed the objects and quickly scrambled to record the incident on the 16-mm camera he kept in his glove box. The "Montana Movie," as it came to be known, is considered one of the best UFO films of all time.

    More recently, a series of mysterious cow mutilations has locals baffled and questioning whether space aliens have perhaps paid us another visit.

    UFOs are for real

    It's a fact: UFOs are out there. Astronomers, scientists, government officials and ufologists all agree on that. The dispute is whether little green or gray or purple men are piloting these aircraft, if that's even what the objects are.

    Ray Kelly, owner of Kelly Signs, always has been a believer and even has a few sightings to boot.

    "I've always felt this universe is just too vast for us to be the only people or living creatures," he said.

    Kelly's first sighting came in the 1990s. As he pulled into his alley after work one night, a bright star caught his attention. Then, suddenly, it shot straight up.

    Some years later, Kelly took direction from the popular 1990s television series "Sightings" and propped his Zenith camcorder on a tripod in his backyard and focused it on the sun's corona, or surrounding halo of light. If you block out the main part of the sun you'll catch bustling UFO activity in the outer rim, the theory suggests.

    "These objects are kind of invisible to the naked eye until they fly into the corona," Kelly said.

    Sure enough, Kelly captured glowing objects of all shapes and sizes moving at different speeds and directions in and out of the corona. He also recorded what he believes to be two UFOs traveling across the sky. One moves on a straight west-to-east plane. The other flies the same direction but instantly changes directions at two different intervals.

    UFO mania

    The UFO era began in June 1947 when a Boise businessman and pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported nine mysterious objects flying around Mount Rainier in Washington. He described them as flying close together, saying their movement reminded him of a rock or saucer skipping across the top of water. He is credited for coining the term "flying saucers."

    Following Arnold's sighting and the alleged crash at Roswell, N.M., where ufologists believe an extraterrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants were recovered in July 1947, flying saucer mania began. The interest and curiosity in UFOs paired with the looming threat of nuclear attack by the Soviet Union had people nationwide and across Montana looking toward the heavens.

    While the government opened an official investigation of UFOs, more reports trickled in from all over Big Sky Country. A couple weeks after Mariana's sighting, two Great Falls men reportedly saw a silvery mass over the eastern horizon near Geyser. They said the large, oblong object had a long tail and flew extremely high. It vanished over the western horizon in about eight seconds. The following week two Air Force veterans reported six amber-colored objects flying over Great Falls, passing each other at alternate intervals.

    In November 1957, a Great Falls woman reported seeing an oblong, illuminated object that was twice as large as the moon and had a flashing light on one end. Later that month a Sidney resident reported a white ball of fire with towering red columns rising up and green lights projecting from the base moving slowly across the sky.

    Several UFO reports have come from MAFB and its missile sites.

    The investigation that followed the 1967 missile incidents turned up no reasonable cause for the missile shutdowns, though a number of airmen as well as the deputy launch controller from that day have come forward to credit UFOs. However, the Air Force reportedly maintains that no UFO incident ever has affected national security.

    Public affairs officials at Malmstrom say the base doesn't have any records related to UFOs.

    The hodgepodge of reports over the years indicate that UFOs come in all shapes, sizes and colors and travel at various speeds. Some are described as balls of light that explode in the sky. Others resemble flying cars.

    Of course, there also are curious reports of what "visitors" leave behind.

    Alien forensics?

    The first Montana report of a mutilated cow came from the Sand Coulee area in August 1974. In the few years that followed, sheriff's deputies investigated more than 65 mutilation reports from Cascade, Judith Basin, Chouteau, Teton and Pondera counties.

    The most recent reported mutilation occurred on Oct. 9 of this year on a ranch in Valier. There are similarities to the mutilations of three decades ago.

    What's left behind has raised doubt that the killings were caused by humans or predators.

    Often the tongue, an eye and all or part of the ear are removed along with a portion of the udder, the genitals and the anus. Facial skin is scraped off with great precision, and the exposed bones are squeaky-clean. Many of the animals are drained of blood. There is no mess, no footprints and no one hears a sound.

    What's even more bizarre, hungry predators steer clear of the carcasses for weeks.

    The early cases from around the nation prompted a federally funded investigation that resulted in a 300-page report concluding the cows were killed by natural predators. Even still, ideas swarm about the mysteries, some pointing fingers at satanic cults, government or military conspiracies and, of course, space aliens.

    Local UFO group

    Various groups have formed over the years to investigate UFO sightings, of which a majority are re-classified as IFOs, or identified flying objects.

    "The vast majority of them are misidentified known objects, some probably classified aircraft," said Goodrich, who's retired from the military and works for a civilian contractor at MAFB. "I think a small number of them would very well be alien spacecraft."

    Goodrich has been involved with MUFON, a national organization dedicated to finding scientific explanations for UFOs, for 25 years. As state director he assigns field investigators to Montana sightings. But with a dwindling statewide membership (currently eight members), Goodrich said it's impossible to investigate every report.

    "The ones that are more worthy of investigation are daylight sightings of metallic objects," he said. "They are much fewer in number."

    Goodrich said that when folks see a UFO they either should fill out the sighting report form online at http://www.mufon.org/ or call the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) telephone hotline, 206-722-3000, in Davenport, Wash.

    Goodrich said local law enforcement officers and public relations officers at Malmstrom usually direct UFO-related calls to MUFON or NUFORC. The NUFORC hotline is staffed 24/7, so it may be the better route, he said.

    And while Great Falls has a reputation for some of the more credible UFO reports, Goodrich said folks aren't going to get much attention without a photograph or other physical evidence.

    "Anecdotal evidence doesn't really go very far as far as reaching a firm scientific conclusion," he said.


    Arthur Alt, the author of the Tribune's daily Skywatch column who has a doctorate in science education and nine other degrees, doesn't believe aliens from outer space are visiting planet Earth, abducting its inhabitants and flying away with cow teat souvenirs.

    "Everybody on this planet sees UFOs unidentified flying objects," said Alt, a science professor at the University of Great Falls. "That does not translate into little green men flying spaceships. There is not one single solid thread of evidence that they exist."

    Alt doesn't think the people who report UFOs are gullible or are telling tall tales. Rather they just have a hard time identifying what they see. Some of the explanations he offered for the misidentified objects in the sky include weather balloons, planets, meteors, iridescent goose wings, and lenticular clouds, which actually resemble flying saucers.

    He added that hallucinations and optical illusions also play tricks on the brain.

    "Our brain works in a linear fashion," he said, adding he teaches his UGF students to think in a nonlinear fashion and manages to change most of their minds regarding flying saucers by the end of the semester.

    Though Alt doesn't believe space aliens are visiting the Earth, he believes they exist.

    "I'm absolutely convinced there is intelligent life in the universe outside the Earth," he said.

    However, Alt theorizes that the amount of energy, time and food it would take to visit the Earth would not be worth it to any species. He said the nearest star system is about 4 1/2 light years away, which would mean a 10-years roundtrip for a vehicle traveling at the speed of light.

    And for what purpose? Ten years is a lot of time just to satisfy curiosity, he said.

    Alt added there's no good reason why aliens would collect samples of unintelligent animals like cows, noting the missing cow pieces wouldn't provide much information about reproducing the animal. He believes people, perhaps cult members, are responsible.

    Just another Montana Movie

    Kelly doesn't have a theory on the cattle mutilations, but he does believe his video shows something of an extraterrestrial nature.

    Relaxing in his lawn chair while barbecuing one afternoon, Kelly captured footage of an illuminated object moving across the sky. His video shows a UFO passing behind limbs of a tree and then eventually getting lost in the garble.

    "I got pretty excited about it," Kelly said. "I showed my wife right away."

    He reported the incident to MUFON and the "Coast to Coast" radio program, but it didn't amount to anything. He didn't pursue the effort further because he was satisfied enough.

    "I finally saw one," he said. "I'm happy."

    Kelly believes humans are being observed by other life forms from other planets or even dimensions.

    "A lot of these could be government secret propulsion programs, too," he said.

    And he doesn't believe UFOs pose any threat to himself, his family or mankind in general.

    "I'm not afraid ... as long as I'm not a cow," he said.

    Reach Tribune Staff Writer Stacy Haslem at 791-1490, 800-438-6600 or at shaslem@greatfal.gannett.com.

    StoryChat Post a CommentPost a Comment   View all CommentsView All Comments

    Comments by: Captblackeagle Posted: Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:56 pm
    Do I believe that Unidentified Flying Objects are real. Sure..I have seen many UFO's. But then again they are called that because they are not identified...as opposed to the ones I can indentify like...planes.

    Are they from other worlds with living creatures inside? Probably not, cant be sure.

    As for this story...having worked in the missile complex..I have seen many strange things, and dealt with even stranger people. Missile Security people are known for pulling jokes on missile officers.

    However, to protect myself I will plead the 5th on any such activity on my own part.

    Post a CommentPost a Comment   View all CommentsView All Comments

    Originally published December 28, 2006

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    Ray Kelly has captured images of unidentified flying objects on video. See the video at www.greatfallstribune.com/ufo.

    See Ray Kelly's video


    Reader sightings

    Folks have been reporting UFO sightings from all around the Big Sky State since the early 1950s.

    Here's a look at some of the more recent sightings, which were submitted by Tribune readers:

  • What I saw wasn't much, but it stuck with me in a big way. I didn't even share it with my father until 1995, and we have both been following sightings and cattle phenomena for years.

    My parents' home is on Clark Avenue in Great Falls and their kitchen window used to have a wonderful view of the Anaconda Smokestack. I wish I had written down a date but at the time I was more concerned with burying what I saw deep in my mind.

    I was up early one fall Sunday morning during the early '80s. At the time, I was in my early teens. Serving as an altar boy for the early mass at Saints Peter and Paul quite regularly, I often found myself making a quick breakfast Cream of Wheat that morning. It was cooking on the stove as I stood in front of the window and admired the stack.

    What I saw didn't last more than three or four seconds. The objects appeared about the size of a slightly elongated pencil lead. One of them came in from the east and the other from the west. They passed each other almost due north of the stack, and traveled on until it appeared they circled back toward one another. They passed one another again, and once again it appeared they circled back toward each other. This last time, however, they didn't pass each other. They stopped right next to each other, as I could see a small space between them, and with speed that I can only call incredible, they shot straight north toward Canada.

    Being around aircraft all of my life I know what they can do, and what I saw was no conventional aircraft.

    Erik Schabel, Riverbank, Calif.

    This summer, July or August, my boyfriend C.J. Aimsback and I took six of my little cousins swimming. We went to my uncle Joe Bear and auntie Sarah's house, one mile north, past Twins Lake, and asked (Sarah) if she wanted to come down to the river.

    After swimming for hours, Sarah said to come up and eat. It must have been 5:30 or 6 p.m. when we went inside to eat, and then we sat around visiting. By this time, night had fallen. As we were getting ready to leave, I told C.J. to go start the truck and he yelled, "Lisa, come here." We all ran outside and saw big lights red, blue and white ... or was it green? in the sky above my uncle Sassy's house, and then it moved right next to Joe Bear's house. They just sat there for about five minutes turning and turning in circles, then took off really fast. There were three of them. We watched them play in the sky for a few more minutes, then watched them go into Badger Canyon.

    The cops on the scanner when we got home said they were planes. But, what do they know? They weren't as close as we were.

    Lisa Mae Little Dog, Browning

    I went grocery shopping with my mother-in-law and father-in-law in Cut Bank. We left Cut Bank around 7:30 p.m. and saw this blinking red light that looked like a Mercy Flight at the height a helicopter would be. Because of its speed we started to think it was moving too fast for a plane or helicopter. In seconds it went all the way across the sky, out by Old Agency.

    Twice in one year... yeah, I do think little green men are taking over our big blue sky.

    Lisa Mae Little Dog, Browning

    It was a warm summer night in 1976. My husband and I had just left the local movie theater in Cut Bank. It was still light out at 9 p.m. as we drove up Railroad Street to the Point Drive-In for an ice cream cone.

    As we neared our destination we could see something huge, long and cigar-shaped hovering over Tank Hill. In those days our craft just did not hover. There were colored lights on the bottom of this craft that sort of glowed off and on. It seemed like there were windows also, but I could not exactly tell what I was seeing.

    We stepped right in the middle of the street and got out of our car to get a better look. I noticed the people in the car behind us did the same. All of a sudden, the strange craft zoomed toward the airport at a tremendous speed and hovered there.

    We jumped back in our car and headed through town toward the airport to see what the ominous-looking UFO was doing. It had moved so fast that our eyes could barely make out that it went toward the airport. Before we could get there it suddenly zoomed up into the atmosphere and out of sight.

    At that time, there were minutemen missiles being put into the ground 50 miles away near Conrad. We had heard stories of strange aircraft and cattle mutilations in the area.

    I don't know what I saw. It could have been an experimental aircraft from government sources or a real UFO. For 1976, it was truly an amazing sight to see.

    Nadine Akkerman, Havre

  • Reported on NUFORC

    The Washington-based National UFO Reporting Center is dedicated to the collection and dissemination of objective UFO data. The NUFORC Web site, http://www.nuforc.org/, has an extensive database that files sightings according to state, event date, shape of UFO and date posted.

    The site includes about 235 sightings from Montana, each listed with an event date, city, UFO shape and a brief summary. In most cases, the dates are approximated. NUFORC adds comments at the bottom of some listings, noting incidents that may have been a twinkle star or other celestial body.

    Here's a sampling of reports from Big Sky Country:

    I was stuck outside of the house waiting for my girlfriend and her family to come back home. We live in a residential area near the airport, and Malmstrom Air Force Base is about 10 or so miles away.

    Around 9:30 p.m., I saw two shapes outlined under the clouds pitch black, boomerang shape, no lights, not a sound. At an arm's distance they would be about the size of my hand. One was slightly smaller, or further away. I have no idea how high the clouds were that night, but I felt they were close.

    I didn't think much of the sighting at first. There were lots of large birds flying south and I had seen them in the daytime flying in similar formation. But I kept my eye in the sky.

    About five minutes later, a few more went nearly overhead no sound, same shape. But these were not birds or crazy hang-gliders. They seemed to be going too slow to stay in the sky.

    After that I saw something that made me scream ... and cuss just a bit. A triangle shape, with two rows of lights on all sides came just over a neighbor's house, about 200 feet down the road. Silent. Then it stopped completely and stood up as to show off. It sat for maybe three or four seconds and faded into the stars.

    Great Falls, 10/5/05

    First incident: At 21:55 I was outside and noticed a light in the sky moving. It looked just like a star. There were no flashing strobe lights on it, just a solid light. I watched the object move toward my location. I then went and got my wife to come out and look at it. My wife and I observed this object go directly above our location. Once it started passing by I noticed another object that looked identical. The new object was going towards the other object. It looked like they were about to collide because the new object appeared to pass right in front of the other. The objects continued their course for another minute, and then both disappeared. There was no sound throughout the incident.

    Second incident: I went back outside to look at the sky again, this time with my son who is 10 years old. At 22:25 my son and I noticed an object that looked just like the one I saw 30 minutes earlier just a solid light that looked like the other stars in the sky. It made no noise. As my son and I watched this object go overhead again I noticed another object again that looked identical. This time both objects were parallel to each other. As we watched these objects, we noticed that one of the lights got extremely bright for less than five seconds, then went back to its normal setting. The objects were observed for another minute then again disappeared.

    Great Falls, 9/10/05

    This is actually a case of two separate incidents exactly one week apart. A family friend is a landowner in central Montana near Harlowton. As such, he invited my family up to his place (great fishing and hunting) any time our hearts desired. Over the years my brothers and I became intimately familiar with every canyon and creek on the ranch. We also began to realize that a lot more seemed to be going on there than at first met the eye and everything culminated in the events I will describe.

    On this particular evening, my brother and I had just exited a thick patch of trees after a long day of deer hunting. It was nearly dark, the first stars were out and we had about a mile walk back to our truck. Being aware of anomalies in the area, we were always on the lookout for ANYTHING out of the ordinary.

    Upon looking to the eastern sky, we both saw three "stars" that seemed brighter than the rest. These lights were stationary and seemed to be regular stars out in space. We then continued on our hike to the truck and went home nothing unusual. This is where it starts getting strange.

    One week later almost to the minute, my brother and I emerged from the same patch of trees after hunting all day. As we again surveyed our surroundings, we noticed the three stars from the week previous in the exact same place. Only this time they were a different color (orange) and seemed to be moving slightly in conjunction with each other. Really interested now, we watched as the formation of lights gradually picked up speed coming in roughly our direction (west). We then realized that we were in a bad situation and started for the truck at a fast walk. Keeping an eye on the object, we observed it change to a more northerly direction and fly into a low cloud formation. By this point we could tell that this was no ordinary aircraft (as a student pilot with 10 years in aviation, I'm familiar with nearly all known a/c).

    The object was close enough for us to see a structured triangular fuselage, dark in color. It made absolutely no sound. Upon the object entering the cloud, there was a flash of light similar to lightning but fluorescent green in color. This was immediately followed by the object emerging from the cloud in roughly a 10-degree bank. As the object made it's way clear of the cloud, we observed the "cloud" literally change shape until it appeared like a tornado but horizontal to the earth, not vertical, with the "foot" of the funnel pointing toward the object. At this point we broke into a sprint for the truck. As we ran, the object literally DRAGGED this "tornado" to the west. We could see that the whole eastern horizon was black now. Just as we reached the truck we were hit by huge gusts of wind and debris from the east and visibility was around two feet. Concerned now, we piled into the truck to find that this reliable vehicle was completely dead (it was just like in the movies!). With the nearest help miles away, we readied our rifles (made us feel better) and waited. Total elapsed time so far was approximately six minutes.

    The dust storm and confusion lasted about 10 minutes, and then the wind stopped and the dust settled. As visibility improved and things became quiet again, we could see objects lots of them. Besides the original triangle a/c, which was now making a 40-50nm circular flight pattern, we could see discs trailing the triangle, all moving independently. We were now using our 10x50 Zeiss binoculars and could see that the discs were definitely metallic in nature. The most impressive object however was a gigantic cylinder that descended from nowhere then hovered in an approximate 500-foot angle around a 1000 yards distance over a field.

    Peter, I swear to you on my father's grave that along each side of this thing were "windows" in which it seemed like there was movement! It was around two football fields in length, approximately 700-1,000 feet in diameter, and bright silver in color. The front end glowed blue, intensifying the farther one got from the center, and the rear end glowed red in the same manner. What drew your eye though was the yellow and orange strobe exactly centered on the bottom. We watched this object in pure horror for about an hour until it ascended straight up and out of sight. It did not disappear in a split second but rose rapidly taking less than a minute to completely vanish.

    Well, back to the other objects, which were by now in the company of several F-15's. It was very easy to differentiate between the jets and the other objects. The F-15's flew around for about a half hour, then headed northwest in a tight formation and the triangle followed close behind, all disappearing over some hills. We never saw them again. The discs continued to maneuver throughout the area. We had pretty much resigned ourselves to our fate by this point and now felt the worst was over. It all became rather entertaining by midnight. We spent a cold night in the truck, falling asleep eventually watching these discs and their erratic flight.

    Harlowton, 11/24/93

    I was up late reading, had just let my dog inside, when she wanted to go out very badly. I opened the door, and she indicated that I follow her. Once outside, I heard the horses in our pasture, and the cattle across the road just going nuts with fear, and all of the outside neighborhood dogs barking. My dog was looking straight up, snarling, and had her fangs bared. I looked up and saw a single green light. I watched it for just a few seconds, then I looked down and said to my dog, "I certainly hope you are seeing what I am seeing." When I looked back up, the light was gone, the horses and dogs in the area were quiet.

    At that time, this was a very rural area. The next day, I questioned a couple of neighbors, and none of them had heard anything. I was unable to determine how close this light was, there were no reference points and there was absolutely no sound but for the animals.

    Lolo, 3/15/78

    After a basketball game at the Butte Civic Center, eyewitnesses reported seeing an object described as "flying car" in the air. After awhile it appeared to explode as if it was a fireworks display and disappeared.

    Butte, 1/15/69

    On the outskirts of Malmstrom Air Force Base, my parents, two sisters and two guests of my parents, my girlfriend and myself were on a cookout when seven saucer-shaped crafts flying in formation cruised across the sky. My father was a 22-year weather observer and guessed their altitude at 12,000 to 15,000 feet and their speed around 2,000 to 6,000 miles an hour. No alert from SAC at Malmstrom? They were traveling from southwest to northeast.

    Great Falls, 6/12/60

    From June 1956 to August 1959, we were stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base. I don't recall which year it was, but in the summer during a baseball game, three balls of light came down and bounced around on the field and then suddenly took off. It was witnessed by hundreds of fans and it was big news at the time. They said it was ball lightning but it didn't go over with the locals who were use to Northern Lights, etc.

    Great Falls, 6/15/57

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