Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

Texas town recovers from its UFO mania

Jan­u­ary sight­ings put wit­ness­es at cen­ter of media phe­nom­e­non

by Denise Gel­lene
Los Ange­les Times

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Con­sta­ble Lee Roy Gai­tan saw the bril­liant red orbs hov­er­ing in the sky and hollered for his fam­i­ly to come out.

It’s prob­a­bly an air­plane, said his wife, Wendy, who did­n’t budge from the couch. Only 8‑year-old Ryan went to the front yard.

That’s a UFO, the boy said.

Gai­tan, a stocky, 44-year-old law­man who has spent 16 years patrolling the Texas scrub­land, debat­ed whether to tell any­body about it.

“Peo­ple would say, ‘hey, this guy is nuts. He’s crazy,’ ” Gai­tan said of his sight­ing Jan. 8. In the morn­ing, there were no unusu­al police reports, but the next day, the Stephenville Empire-Tri­bune came out with a front-page sto­ry: “Pos­si­ble UFO Sight­ing — Four area res­i­dents wit­ness mys­te­ri­ous objects.”

Soon, scores more said they had seen the same thing. Stephenville, a ranch town 70 miles south­west of Fort Worth, became home to the biggest mass UFO sight­ing since the 1997 Lights Over Phoenix, in which thou­sands of peo­ple report­ed see­ing a boomerang-shaped object in the sky.

The wit­ness­es

Stephenville is the largest town in Erath Coun­ty (pop­u­la­tion 34,000), the heart of Texas dairy coun­try. On a cold Jan­u­ary night in near­by Selden, Steve Allen, 50, and a few friends stand­ing around a fire saw a set of bril­liant white lights that were quick­er and qui­eter than any­thing they had ever seen.

The lights stopped near Stephenville, recon­fig­ured to form an arch “shaped like the top of a foot­ball,” Allen said, and realigned them­selves into two ver­ti­cal lines of ran­dom­ly flash­ing lights. Then the object burst into a dirty white flame.

Ten min­utes lat­er, the group saw the lights com­ing from the oppo­site direc­tion. Trail­ing them close­ly, Allen was cer­tain, were two mil­i­tary jets fol­lowed by two mas­sive red orbs.

The next morn­ing, Allen con­tact­ed Empire-Tri­bune reporter Angelia Join­er. She knew noth­ing about UFOs, but Allen sound­ed like a sen­si­ble man.

Allen “seemed very intel­li­gent,” said Join­er, a 47-year-old for­mer school teacher who had been a reporter for 18 months. Allen’s friends con­firmed the account.

Still, it was a strange sto­ry, and Join­er’s boss­es were con­cerned. Man­ag­ing edi­tor Sara Van­den Berge said she was so anx­ious that she cried the next morn­ing when she saw “UFO” in the head­line.

Then the tele­vi­sion crews start­ed show­ing up. First came the local reporters, then peo­ple from “Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca,” NPR and CNN.

“Do you believe alien beings are out there?” CNN’s Lar­ry King asked, look­ing into the cam­era. “Do you believe they’ve come to Earth?”

Before long, local peo­ple start­ed wear­ing “Alien Cap­i­tal of the World” T‑shirts.

Gai­tan could­n’t stop talk­ing about an event he had ini­tial­ly been hes­i­tant to men­tion. He took media calls came from all over the world, log­ging more than 100 inter­views by mid-Feb­ru­ary.

Not a weath­er bal­loon

A log­i­cal expla­na­tion for the lights was the mil­i­tary; a por­tion of Erath Coun­ty falls under a fly zone used in train­ing exer­cis­es. When Join­er checked, how­ev­er, the 301st Fight­er Wing sta­tioned near Forth Worth said no air­craft were near Stephenville on Jan. 8, when the lights were first observed.

Two weeks after the sight­ing, a break came in the case. Cor­rect­ing its ear­li­er state­ment, the Air Force said 10 F‑16s were on a train­ing mis­sion over Erath Coun­ty when the lights were ini­tial­ly spot­ted.

The town splin­tered into believ­ers and skep­tics.

Join­er doubt­ed the weird pat­tern of lights report­ed by Allen and oth­ers could be explained by mil­i­tary air­craft. Allen was­n’t buy­ing it, either. “Our mil­i­tary wish­es it had what we saw,” he said.

Gai­tan rea­soned from the pres­ence of the F‑16s that he prob­a­bly had seen a mil­i­tary exper­i­ment the Air Force could­n’t ful­ly dis­close. “We’re in the mid­dle of a war right now,” he said.

Gai­tan nonethe­less found him­self repeat­ed­ly scan­ning the sky for anoth­er glimpse of the lights. One Feb­ru­ary morn­ing at dawn, while dri­ving the high­way west of Stephenville, Gai­tan spot­ted a mys­te­ri­ous ball of light shin­ing through a field of leaf­less trees. As win­ter turned to spring, the incon­clu­sive­ness of the cos­mic news began to fade into the dai­ly grind of ter­res­tri­al events. The town start­ed look­ing for­ward to grad­u­a­tion at the high school, and the first award of col­lege schol­ar­ships fund­ed by T‑shirt sales.

Some were changed

Join­er, frus­trat­ed with jug­gling her duties as edu­ca­tion writer, quit the paper and signed on as a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent for the Jer­ry Pip­pin radio show, which reg­u­lar­ly reports on unex­plained phe­nom­e­na.


No comments for “Texas town recovers from its UFO mania”

Post a comment