Sixty years ago this week, the 509 Bomb Group in Roswell, N.M.,
issued a news release saying that a "flying disk" had crashed on a
Later that same day, July 8, 1947, there was a retraction. Oops.
Did we say flying disk? We meant weather balloon.
Since then, there have been
reports of mysterious metals and autopsies on aliens. In 1995, an
Air Force report said it was part of a secret program, Project
Mogul, using high-altitude balloons to monitor Soviet weapons
programs. And the aliens were probably just crash dummies.
Whatever, the crash did for Roswell what some say a zoo could do
for Tallahassee. It put the town on the map. Roswell just celebrated
the anniversary of the "incident." There's a McDonald's that looks
like a UFO. Arby's posted a sign saying: "Aliens welcome." The
city's Web site features comic book covers and an animated green
creature. And Roswell is accepting bids on a multimillion-dollar UFO
It gets very silly. But to many people, there is "something out
My parents used to sit by a reservoir in Connecticut to watch the
sunset. One evening, a light caught their eye.
"It was very bright and moved," recalled my mother, who doesn't
use the term UFO when describing it. "It wasn't a plane. It was just
a strange thing in the sky that we couldn't place."
In-laws on my wife's side of the family once saw lights follow
them for miles on a desert highway.
In 1966, a UFO followed the plane of Florida Gov. Haydon Burns
for about 40 miles over North Florida. Among the witnesses was
The Miami Herald's Bill Mansfield, who later became editorial
page editor of the Democrat.
There's the Jimmy Carter UFO Incident, when the
yet-to-be-president and several others saw a UFO in Leary, Ga., in
Heck, even the Bible (in the first chapter of Ezekiel) gets into
the act. After a glowing light zips out of the North, the writer
says, "As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction:
their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl; and the four had
the same form, their construction being something like a wheel
within a wheel. When they moved, they moved in any of the four
directions without veering as they moved. Their rims were tall and
awesome, for the rims of all four were full of eyes all round."
Here in the Big Bend, with a much lower profile than a president
or even the Bible, Kelly Freeman operates his one-man Florida UFO
Network. If you see something unusual, you can call his hot line
(875-3569), and he'll send you a report form to fill out.
He has received recent reports from Jacksonville, Naples and
Altamonte Springs. He also got a call from what sounded like a
scared youngster from the outskirts of Tallahassee, who had seen a
white oval, but the boy didn't leave a name or number.
"Things are picking up right now," he said. "I'm not sure what's
On YouTube, a video posted in March purports to show a bright
light sitting in the Tallahassee sky for at least 10 minutes (search
on YouTube for Tallahassee and UFO).
Freeman said he hadn't seen that video and dismissed it with, "I
don't really do lights in the sky. It's got to be something more
significant than that."
Freeman, 54, has been researching UFOs since the 1970s.
"Most who are doing it have had their own experience," he said.
The one he recalled was in 1995 in Midway. He was driving to work
about 6:30 a.m., a route he had taken for years, when he saw 13
amber lights in the shape of a disc, hovering. He saw it to his
left, but when he turned the car around, it was gone. "It freaked me
out," he said.
Talking about UFOs can be a bit delicate. "I'm working on a
column about UFOs" was often followed by a short "Ha!" from
Last year, a Wakulla High student won $250 in the Tallahassee
Skeptic UFO Contest sponsored by the Tallahassee Chapter of the
Center for Inquiry. His winning entry was a "photo" of a UFO buzzing
the Turlington Building.
It can be a bit like talking about religion, a subject best
avoided in polite company.
You have those who have seen and believe. And you have those who
mock what they view as absurd, unprovable and, basically, a waste of
That doesn't faze Freeman.
"I don't care what people think," he said. "They're a fact of
life. They're out there."