of sighting: April 17, 1966
Location of sighting: Portage County, Ohio, USA
of the most dramatic encounters by police officers with
an apparently structured, low-level UFO. Officers chased
the object for eighty-five miles, as it seemed to play
a cat-and-mouse game with them. This case was the basis
for the UFO "chase" in the film 'Close Encounters
of the Third Kind.'
Richard Hall, NICAP website
to original source]
of the most dramatic encounters by police officers with
an apparently structured, low-level UFO occurred in the
early morning of April 17, 1966. Officers of the Portage
County, Ohio, Sheriff's Department first saw the object
rise up from near ground level, bathing them in light,
near Ravenna, Ohio, about 5:00 A.M. Ordered by the sergeant
to pursue the object, they chased it for eighty-five miles
across the border into Pennsylvania, as it seemed to play
a cat-and-mouse game with them. Along the route, police
officers from other jurisdictions saw the object and joined
in the chase.
Sheriff Dale Spaur and Mounted Deputy Wilbur 'Barney
Neff had left their scout car to investigate an apparently
abandoned automobile on Route 224. Spaur described the
sighting in these words:
always look behind me so no one can come up behind me.
And when I looked in this wooded area behind us, I saw
this thing. At this time it was coming up . . . to about
tree top level. I'd say about one hundred feet. it started
moving toward us.... As it came over the trees, I looked
at Barney and he was still watching the car . . and he
didn't say nothing and the thing kept getting brighter
and the area started to get light. .. . I told him to
look over his shoulder, and he did."
just stood there with his mouth open for a minute, as
bright as it was, and he looked down. And I started looking
down and I looked at my hands and my clothes weren't burning
or anything, when it stopped right over on top of us.
The only thing, the only sound in the whole area was a
hum . . . like a transformer being loaded or an overloaded
transformer when it changes. . . ."
was petrified, and, uh, so I moved my right foot, and
everything seemed to work all right. And evidently he
made the same decision I did, to get something between
me and it, or us and it, or whatever you would say. So
we both went for the car, we got in the car and we sat
they watched, the UFO moved toward the east, and then
stopped again. Spaur picked up the microphone and reported
to the dispatcher. At this time, the object was about
250 feet away, brilliantly lighting up the area ("It
was very bright; it'd make your eyes water,"
Spaur said.) Sergeant Schoenfelt, off duty at the station,
told them to follow it and keep it under observation while
they tried to get a photo unit to the scene.
and Neff turned south on Route 183, then back east on
Route 224, which placed the object to their right, and
out the left window. "At this time,"
said Spaur, "it came straight south, just one
motion, buddy, just a smooth glide . . ." and
began moving east with them pacing it, just to their right
at an estimated altitude of 300-500 feet, illuminating
the ground beneath it. Once more the UFO darted to the
north, now left of the car, and they sped up to over 100
mph to keep pace with it.
the sky became brighter with predawn light, Spaur and
Neff saw the UFO in silhouette, with a vertical projection
at its rear. The object began to take on a metallic appearance
as the chase continued. Spaur kept up a running conversation
with other police cars that were trying to catch up with
them. Once when they made a wrong turn at an intersection,
the object stopped, then turned and came back to their
Officer Wayne Huston of East Palestine, Ohio, situated
near the Pennsylvania border, had been monitoring the
radio broadcasts and was parked at an intersection he
knew the Portage County officers would he passing soon.
Shortly afterward he saw the UFO pass by with the sheriff's
cruiser in hot pursuit. He swung out and joined the chase.
At Conway, Pennsylvania, Spaur spotted another parked
police car and stopped to enlist his aid, since their
Cruiser was almost out of gas. The Pennsylvania officer
called his dispatcher.
to Spaur, as the four officers stood and watched the UFO,
which had stopped and was hovering, there was traffic
on the radio about jets being scrambled to chase the UFO,
and ". . . we could see these planes coming in....
When they started talking about fighter planes, it was
just as if that thing head every word that was said; it
went PSSSSSHHEW, straight up; and I mean when it went
up, friend, it didn't play no games; it went straight
up" (Transcript of taped interview with Dale
Air Force "identified" the UFO as a satellite,
seen part of the time, and confused with the planet Venus.
Under pressure from Ohio officials, Major Hector Quintanilla,
chief of PROJECT BLUE BOOK, had an acrimonious confrontation
with witnesses and refused to change the identification,
although it was pointed out to him that they had seen
the UFO in addition to Venus and the moon at the conclusion
of the observation. Major Quintanilla also denied that
any jets had been scrambled.
B. Weitzel conducted an exhaustive investigation on behalf
of the NATIONAL INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE ON AERIAL PHENOMENA
(NICAP), obtaining taped interviews, signed statements,
sketches, and all pertinent data which was assembled into
a massive report that was made available to congressional
investigators. When the UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO UFO PROJECT
was initiated in 1966, a copy of Weitzels report
was hand-delivered to the director, Dr. Edward U. CONDON,
for his consideration. The CONDON REPORT, published two
years later, does not mention the case.