Fifty years ago, in November 1957, the Russians had
scared us silly by launching Sputnik I and, just months later, the
dog-carrying Sputnik II.
A nation that had never thought much about space suddenly began
to panic, and folks with overactive imaginations began to talk about
the dangers of a Russian attack from Out There, but also about
Superior Intellects from Outer Space.
In fact, the month of
November 1957 was the single most active period so far recorded for
UFO sightings ever. In that one month the Air Force acknowledged 414
reports of sightings and admitted that there were probably many more
that were not reported. Some of the sightings came from fairly
Two reports scared the bewhillikers out of us on Nov. 6. The
first came from a missile engineer named James Stokes, who reported
seeing a "brilliant colored, egg-shaped object" that he said stalled
cars in New Mexico.
According to the Associated Press, other reliable witnesses
reported the same, including "startled citizens, peace officers, and
servicemen." They said that 10 cars were stalled on U.S. 54 between
White Sands Proving Grounds and Alamagordo, N.M.
The account said this object resembled a "big ball of fire" that
had been seen flitting around west Texas a few days earlier. But,
even scarier, that same day a Coast Guard cutter reported tracking a
UFO that hung over the Gulf of Mexico for more than 10 minutes. The
radio report from the Cutter Sabago described something brilliant in
the sky moving at "a tremendous rate of speed." It was 300 miles out
into the Gulf, due south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
We got more details the next day, when the Coast Guard ship
returned to its base in Mobile.
The navigator of the ship said he estimated the UFO's speed at
between 1,000 and 3,500 miles per hour - pretty fast for anything in
The commander said that there might have been more than one of
whatever it was, because the "target" appeared on the radar screen
speeding in one direction, then reappeared, speeding in the opposite
direction, then appeared to hover near the ship.
The radar operator said that whatever it was appeared on his
screen to be about the size of a 10,000 ton ship. (By comparison,
Sputnik II, the biggest man-made object launched from Mother Earth,
weighed about 1,000 pounds.)
A crew member described the object as brilliant white, with a
glow so intense that he could not see its shape.
Nobody heard any sound as it passed nearby. Officials have
officially debunked the idea that this was a UFO, but nobody's said
what it really was.
It might be worth mentioning, though, that on that very same day,
a handful of people in Sarasota, Fla., reported a strange, round,
orange-colored object that hovered over land for a few seconds
before speeding away.
Contact Jim Bradshaw at 289-6315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.