Case 14

South Central

Winter 1967

Investigators: Low, Powers, Wadsworth, Crow

BACK to Chapter 2


Six UFO reports in the area of two South Central cities were investigated in the winter of 1967. Of the six, three were promptly identified, two as astronomical objects and one as a chemical-release rocket shot. The other three remain unidentified as follows:

  1. The city police chief and several officers reported sighting an extended object of spherical shape one morning, winter, 1967. It was of whitish or metallic color and showed no surface features as it drifted slowly near the outskirts of the city. The officers watched it for about 1.3 hours before it drifted out of sight.

  2. Several town policemen reported a red-and-green light moving irregularly in the western sky in the morning in winter, 1967. The planet Jupiter was low in the western sky also, but according to the witnesses the object displayed movement which would rule out identification as an astronomical object. They also stated that a bright "star" was visible near the object.

  3. Three teenage boys in the city reported to the police that they had just seen a large elongated UFO at the edge of town. Their description closely matched that of a recently publicized set of pictures that have since come under suspicion as a probable hoax. Credibility of these witnesses was considered marginal.

Background and investigation:

First Sighting

One morning in The winter of 1967 about .5 hours before dawn, the city police received a call from the town police reporting that an unidentified object was headed southeast toward the city. A Police lieutenant drove to a location approximately four miles north of the city, and within a few minutes saw what he described as a huge silvery object moving slowly in his direction. The object was low on the horizon at an estimated elevation of 1,000 ft.


Several minutes after the object first became visible, it turned in a southwesterly direction, heading toward a nearby town. At this point, additional officers were called as witnesses. They met at a point just west of the city, about four miles from the town. The object was visible to all until it drifted out of sight just before dawn.

There is no reason to doubt the credibility of the sighting; however, the question of what was seen remains unresolved. One bit of corroborating evidence was brought to light during the investigation. A periodic glow or reflection from the object was described by the Joplin lieutenant. He stated that the glow had a regular five-second period. One-half mile from the witnesses' first location was the local airport. The half-rotation period of the airport's two-way beacon is five seconds, and thus consistent with the periodic glow seen coming from the object. If the object was both low and nearby, it might have been illuminated by the beacon.

The possibility of conventional explanation as a balloon was ruled out when a weather check indicated that lower winds were from south to southwest.

Second Sighting.

At approximately 5:00 a.m., the following morning, a sergeant of the police department observed an unidentified object in the western sky. He described the object as a bright light one-fourth the diameter of the full moon, showing no distinct outline, and colored red on the left and greenish-blue on the right. The object first attracted attention because of its apparent motion, which was irregular, involving stopping and changing direction. After a period of observation during which time several other officers were present, the object suddenly dropped as though it were going to "crash", but stopped a short distance above the horizon. By comparing the remembered elevation of the object to a penci1 held vertically at arms length, it was estimated that the object when first observed, was 12 degrees above the horizon, and then dropped 9 or 10 degrees before stopping.

The sergeant was questioned about Jupiter, which was low in the west at the time. He said that a bright "star" was also visible, but that the motion of the object was too pronounced for it to have been a star or planet. He also emphasized that all of the witnesses observed the motion simultaneously, and that the object moved relative to


the fixed background of stars. The object was still visible when the witnesses left the scene.

On the basis of witness testimony, it seems unlikely that the object spotted was Jupiter; however, evidence was insufficient to establish this.

Third Sighting.

A sheriff and a police chief reported seeing a bright bluish cloud-like display for over an hour just before dawn on a winter morning, 1967. As daylight approached the object disappeared.

This "object" was later identified as an active chemical rocket launched from Eglin AFB, Florida, at 5:40 a.m. CST. It rose to an altitude of approximately 100 mi, where it released for scientific purposes a cloud of barium particles that glowed brilliantly bluish through chemical reaction with the surrounding atmosphere. It has been determined that this display would have been clearly visible from the area where the sighting took place.

Fourth Sighting.

Three teenage boys reported having seen a large UFO at the edge of town about 11:30 p.m., one evening, winter 1967. They described structural details, fins, and lights. After first seeing the object directly in front of their car, they followed it as it drifted over a wooded area into which there was a narrow access road. There they got out of their car, but became frightened when the object appeared to move in their direction, whereupon they returned to their car and left to report the incident. The boys' description and a sketch drawn by one of them closely matched recently publicized photographs, one of which had appeared in a local newspaper a few days before the sighting. Nevertheless, during interviews, the boys showed no evidence of falsification and seemed to have been genuinely frightened by the experience. No corroborating evidence was found to support this report.

Fifth Sighting

At 12:30 a.m. , one morning, winter 1967, a report came in to the city police station from the state patrol. The report stated


that a UFO was at that moment under observation, that it was being photographed, and that it had caused an observer's car to stall. Low immediately investigated this report and identified the object as Jupiter. The stalled car was still at the scene with apparently a low battery. The observer who had photographed the object said it had moved markedly before coming to rest at its present position. Thus, the possibility exists that initially he was watching something other than Jupiter; but there was no doubt of the identity of the object that he photographed.

Sixth Sighting

At approximately 1:30 a.m., one morning, winter 1967, the city police dispatcher reported an object low in the East. This was promptly identified as Arcturus, which was scintillating markedly.

The following are pertinent excerpts from the meteorological report for the area on the day of the first sighting as prepared by Loren W. Crow:

The semi-stationary weak cold front lay in a north-northeast south-southwest orientation approximately forty miles northwest of [the city]. Behind this front cloudiness was generally overcast at 10,000 feet or more above the ground. To the east of the front, the sky was generally clear with some patches of scattered clouds. Visibility was 15 miles or greater, and the flow of the air was from the south-southwest at the surface in the vicinity of [the city] ... (at higher elevations).

CLOUDS: It is of some interest to note that the clear condition being observed at [three local stations] at 5:00 a.m. changed to reports of at least two cloud layers by 7:00 a.m. at all three stations. Part of this would have been due to increasing amounts of light for the trained observers to be able to identify cloudiness which could not have been seen during the darker hours of the night ...

Although the type of clouds being reported at 10,000 feet over [the city] were not identified, the type of cloud in this height range was identified as alto-cumulus over [nearby cities]. It is the Author's opinion that this type of


cloud would have been altocumulus castellatus, which tends to have rounded edges. The initial formation of such clouds would constitute small individual cloud cells. Each may have shown for a matter of a few minutes then may have been replaced by another cloud cell nearby which may have been similar in shape. This could have indicated movement from the position of the first cloud parcel (which now would have disappeared) to the position of the newer cloud. At the same time, the individual clouds would be moving with the wind, which was from a westerly direction at those elevations.

It is fairly certain that cloudiness began to appear in this area sometime between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m. There may have been a few isolated cloud parcels visible with the limited moonlight available at 5:00 a.m....


Of the six sightings investigated, three objects were identified. In only one case of an unidentified object was the evidence strong for both its reality and its strangeness. That was the first, which involved a slowly drifting sphere, metallic in color. We have little basis for speculation about what the object was, since the sighting occurred in pre-dawn darkness and no surface details or structural features were seen. In the other two unknown cases the evidence is less substantial, one case having low credibility and other marginal strangeness.