Tuesday, June 06, 2006
The Riverfront Times, Aug. 1, 1990:
by C. D. Stelzer
The wall behind my desk is papered with
topographical maps. Scientific nursery primers like
the Golden Book of Geology are strewn about a room
already littered by an arcane dissertation entitled
"Uranium in Precambrian Granitic Rocks of the St.
My own cryptic notes are less decipherable, if they
can be located amid this morass. When outdoors, my
brow knits and one eye remains cocked heavenward. I
haven't shaved in days, and in the last month have
discussed possible extraterrestrial activity with
the "Spirit of Elvis."
I have entered the Twilight Zone of journalism: UFO
One slight solace is those who have gone before,
those who have journeyed to the Outer Limits of
credulity and returned, if not unscathed, at least
still walking on their hind legs.
Herein lie pieces of their work, a random and
totally unscientific survey of local UFO stories
from 1951 through 1985.
The UFO files are pregnant with newsprint snippets
of yellowing weirdness -- Mo-Mo, Buck Nelson's trip
to Mars, quests for a dead space alien thought to
be buried in 1897 near Aurora, Texas.
The oldest news clipping on "flying saucers" in the
St. Louis Globe Democrat files is dated Aug. 16,
It reports that a Baden housewife, Mrs. Elmer
Duswelle, her husband and son all viewed the
"unidentified object" also called a "whatsit," a
term that then vied for popularity with "flying
The first mention of "UFO" in the Globe came in
1960. The acronym can likely be attributed to a
headline writer's concern with a different form of
space. A check of reported sightings reveals
monetary descriptions coming in "nickel," "dime,"
and "half dollar" denominations.
In the 1970s one observer characterized a UFO as
"four times the size of a frisbee." Another UFO at
that time was said to be like a "strobe light," the
latter image conjured by a physicist not a hippie.
In a gymnastic parallel, one account described an
object as "somersaulting"; in another athletic
analogy, a UFO sported "basketball-sized windows."
Inner recesses of kitchen cabinets brought forth
metaphorical allusions to an "egg," and
"upside-down bowl," and a "coffee cup."
Other attempts to define the unexplainable include:
"10-quart bucket," "washtub," "cigar," "bullet,"
"boomerang" and "acetylene torch."
Descriptions span the spectrum from the prosaic
"starlike" to the proverbial "wheel," an image
first turned in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel.
Mrs. Horace Ash of Alton called her 1956 encounter
"a thing of awe-inspiring beauty, rounded in
front, tapering toward the back, in perfect
symmetry with a fringe of bright lights." Ash's
prophetic vision would soon levitate to the drawing
boards of Detroit's automotive industry, with one
important exception: Her poetry in motion didn't
seem affected by gravity.
While lecturing to a capacity crowd at McDonnell
Planetarium in 1970, the late astronomer J. Allen
Hynek, a former Air Force consultant, compared the
dilemma faced by credible UFO witnesses to that of
"an aborigine describing a television."
An earlier St. Louis lecturer, British philosopher
Gerald Heard, told a 1952 audience at Washington
University that the objects could be secret weapons
constructed by Russia.
Stranger than Cold War theories are those of Major
Wayne S. Aho, who in 1973 lectured at Lindenwood
College. The retired Army officer postulated that
the Earth had been populated by descendants of the
Another retired officer, Marine Major Donald Kehoe,
warned in a St. Louis lecture of a CIA cover-up.
The Globe-Democrat reported that Kehoe, speaking in
1966 before the American Institute of Aeronautics
and Astronautics, at the old Musial and Biggie's
restaurant, "claimed the Air Force, in its effort
to debunk the sightings, is acting on orders of the
Central Intelligence Agency. He said the Air Force
and the CIA are aided by a variety of 'kooks.'
Kehoe's allegations came years before the
congressional investigations and Freedom of
Information Act requests exposed other bizarre CIA
activities, including wiring people up with LSD and
consulting psychics for espionage purposes.
The strangest tale in the UFO catalog is that of
Marshall Herff Applewhite Jr., origins unknown.
In 1975, Applewhite and partner Bonnie Lou
Truesdale Nettles, known as the "The Two,"
convinced more than 100 people to abandon all
worldly possessions, leave families and prepare to
depart aboard their tentatively scheduled UFO.
authorities found no intent to defraud. A police
record check, however, did reveal that Applewhite
had been booked the year before on auto theft
charges in St. Louis County. When arrested,
Applewhite listed his occupation as freelance
Southeast Missourian, June 6:
Dr. Harley Rutledge, 80, former chairman of the physics department at Southeast Missouri State University and UFO expert, died Monday at the Missouri Veterans Home.
Rutledge first joined the physics department at the university in 1963. He was department chairman there from 1964 to 1982. He retired from teaching in 1992.
Rutledge first gained national notoriety through an organization he launched in 1973 called "Project Identification." The project was a response to a flurry of UFO sightings near Piedmont, Mo. Over the next six years, Rutledge and crews of students, scientists and amateur enthusiasts spent 150 nights scanning the skies in Franklin County with cameras, audio recorders, telescopes and tools measuring electromagnetic field disturbances. The efforts were funded in part by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
In 1980 he published a book also called "Project Identification," which took a scientific approach to cataloguing the UFO activity. He tracked the velocity, distance and size of the objects he caught on video and said he was careful not to let his own hypotheses get in the way of the data. ...