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"It went PSSSSSHHEW, straight up; and I mean when it went up, friend, it didn't play no games; it went straight up."
Police Officer Dale Spaur
As they checked the car, Spaur noticed something rising out of the woods behind them:
"I 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.... 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..."
The object was about fifty feet in diameter, with a bright, well-defined light beam shining down from the bottom.
"When Barney Neff saw the object he 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..."
"I 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 there..."
Spear 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.
As 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 position.
Police 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.
As they approached Unity, Ohio, East Palestine patrol-man Wayne Huston drove to the edge of Route 14 and waited to see if he could observe the subject of the last quarter hour of excited radio traffic. In the northwest he saw a light approaching that quickly took on detail and flew almost straight overhead about 900 feet up, going over 80 miles an hour. Huston later described it as a flattened ice cream cone, a dark dome-like top and a cone shaped light from a bright bottom. The light looked like a focused beam in smoke or fog would look, and it was tilted to the rear of the object's direction of travel.
Spaur said the lines of the object were very distinct, "Someone had control over it" he said. It wasn't just floating around. It can maneuver."
The deputy said the chase slowed down near Rochester Pa., when the cars "got tangled up in a mess of bridges. But when I came out from under the bridge it came down and waited for us, just as though it knew these two cars were following it."
"I know nobody's going to believe it, but it's true" he said
At one point, said Spaur, they made a wrong turn at some bridges. When they got back on the right road the object was there -leading them. "IT DROPPED to an altitude of 500 feet and stopped and waited for us when we got tangled up. When we got on the road again, it started moving again,” Spaur said.
He parked at the Atlantic station and got out. The object had hovered not too far away. It had an outline like a football cut in half along its length, and the flat bottom was all lit up—Panzanella thought he had seen individual lights around the bottom rear when it passed nearby—and an antenna-like projection at the rear. A penny held at arm's length would not have covered it
According 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 heard 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”
"The object was the shape of half a football, was very bright and about 25 to 35 feet in diameter.... The object continued to go upward until it got as small as a ballpoint pen. Relative to the moon, the object was quite distant and to the left of the moon. We all four watched the object shoot straight up and disappear."
Though Neff, Spaur, Huston and Panzanella asserted that they'd heard radio confirmation that the UFO was tracked by radar at the GPA, officials at the airport would deny that such an event had ever occurred, and that such a statement had been made via radio
On April 27 and 28 I visited several state police, sheriffs' offices, and city police radio stations in eastern Ohio, to see if their operators had anything to offer. I got an intriguing report at the Salem, Ohio, police station, from officers Ray Esterly, Lonnie Johnson, Lt. Richard Whinnery, and radio operator Jack Cramer, all of whom had heard the radio traffic on the 17th. Esterly and Johnson, on a hill in Salem, had seen three jet planes apparently chasing a bright object, in the direction in which the deputies were traveling. At the same time, Cramer and Whinnery, in the police station, heard what they believed to be the voice of a pilot, over the radio. "I'm going down for a closer look. . . . It's about 45 feet across, and it's trailing something "
"Press reports first quoted unidentified Air Force Reserve pilots at Youngstown, who reportedly said they had attempted to chase the object but its 100-mile-per hour speed was too slow for their jet trainers. Later these reports were withdrawn when AF officials at Youngstown said no planes were scrambled."
APRO Bulletin, May 1966
Hundreds Of Ohio People See UFO
Hundreds of persons in both states reported seeing the 'brilliant and shiny' object early Sunday morning.
By now, police officers in three counties had overhead the radio discussion of the UFO chase. Patrolman H. Wayne Huston (of East Palestine, Ohio) realized that Spaur and Neff were traveling in his direction. Via radio, he told Spaur and Neff that he would join the pursuit. The police officers asserted that the object was usually one-half to three-quarters of a mile ahead of them.
Huston would later describe the object as initially appearing from a distance to be somewhat conical in shape -- resembling a flattened ice cream cone due to the beam of light shining from its underside (the "ice cream cone" description was echoed in Close Encounters).
Just before Panzanella caught up to Neff and Spaur, he spoke on the radio to Patrolman Henry Kwaianowski of Economy Borough. Kwaianowski insisted that, for two or three minutes, he had observed a metallic, football shaped object at the same altitude as two passenger jets.
Two Salem, Ohio police officers, (Lonny Johnson and Ray Esterly) had overheard the radio traffic, and suspected that, given its direction of travel, the UFO might pass over Salem.
After looking in the directions reported by the other officers on the police radios, Johnson and Esterly say they spotted the object shortly after 5:30 a.m. They said the object was at between one and three miles away from them, and at about 10,000 feet, at the same altitude as a passenger jet. They claim that they saw two smaller jets approaching the UFO from about 10 miles away. They radioed their observations as they occurred, then when the UFO and the three jets disappeared from view, Johnson and Esterly returned to their headquarters.
Several civilians claimed to have seen the same or a similar object on the day of the UFO chase. Most of these claims were reported in local newspapers. Some of them were interviewed by NICAP members, but none of the witnesses were known to have been interviewed by U.S. Air Force investigators.
In Benton Harbor in extreme southwestern Michigan, in the early morning hours of April 17, three garbage men making their daily rounds reported seeing an unusual object hovering over a hotel and emitting a light so bright that they insisted they "couldn't look straight at it." (Clark, 457) They notified police, who arrived in time to see the object shortly before it flew away.
Sometime between 5.00 and 5.30 a.m., two couples together in a car driving near New Castle, Pennsylvania reported seeing a bright light moving in the sky. Initially thinking that it was a reflection from an airplane, they stopped the car to get a better look. The object stopped when their car stopped. They quickly became convinced that it was no normal aircraft, due to its shape, which one witness described as resembling an "ice cream cone" (though another witness thought it looked more like a "hamburger" (Clark, 457). The object began to move again, and the witnesses followed it in their car for a few minutes before the object accelerated out of view. This account received very sketchy reportage, with the witnesses unsure of the precise time they saw the object. Clark noted that some interpreted this encounter as a second UFO in the same area, though he also notes that, without a firmly-established timeline, this interpretation is speculative.
Thelma James of Newton Falls, Ohio claimed to have seen an unusual aerial object. She had woken at about 3:50 a.m., and unable to sleep, looked out her bedroom window. She saw a bright light slowly ascending in the sky. Clark notes that this was almost certainly the planet Venus, which, from James's perspective, would have risen above the horizon at 3:35 a.m. However, at about 5:15 a.m., Jones noted that a second light, much brighter than the first, had also appeared in the sky, but closer to the horizon, and to the southeast of Venus. This second light seemed to be crescent shaped, and was a very bright yellow color. It continued moving through the sky and was lost to Jones's view at about 5:30 a.m. James's observations match some of the observations made by the police officers in the UFO chase. Clark writes, "...it is unfortunate that none of the investigators interviewed this witness, who saw both Venus and the UFO--in defiance of those who would soon insist that the two were one."
SPAUR-NEFF, UFO DETAIL
1. Projection, tilted from rear (trailing edge) 18' long, tapered to to tip
2. Dome-shaped top; partly metallic, partly self-illuminated
3. Glowing front (leading edge)
4. Cone-shaped light underneath
5. Glowing tip of trailing edge
6. Metallic surface
7. Sharp "drop-off" (Neff disagrees; remembers more rounded here)
8. Rounded "undercarriage"
9. Line separating metallic from self-illuminated portions
SPAUR-NEFF, SIGHTING TERMINUS
1. Bright spot to right of moon, a little above axis of symmetry of crescent
2. Crescent moon (bump in concave portion indicates "nose" of "Man in Moon")
3. TV antenna on nearby house, through whose elements Spaur and Neff saw the
UFO hovering before 1st upward elevation
4. Position of UFO after 1st elevation, above moon (now moving away, or disappearing)
(NOTE: Panzanella agreed with relative positions of levels of hovering; Spaur agreed with Panzanella's on-the-spot location of object relative to nearby houses; Spaur examined a photograph made from the spot he claimed to have been standing.)
HUSTON, UFO DETAIL
1. Cone-shaped light underneath
2. Bright, self-illuminated solid appearing top
3. Dome shape
4. Cone tilted toward rear, of direction of motion, more so than shown here.
(NOTE: Huston testified to having seen, once, a project; only got one view of it.)
"It's about fifty feet across, and I can just make out a dome or something on the top, but that's very dark. The bottom is real bright; it's putting out a beam of light that makes a big spot underneath. It's like it's sitting on the beam. It was overhead a minute ago, and it was as bright as day here: Our headlights didn't make nearly as much light as it did. And this is no helicopter or anything like that; it's perfectly still and it just makes a humming noise."
The light it gave off lit up the ground over the road and over fields as we pursued it. At first it was about 150 feet up; then it rose to around 1000 feet. During the chase it changed altitude and direction, maneuvered smoothly, had a sort of dome-shaped top, and at times showed a projection on the top part, near the trailing edge. Not all of it was self-illuminated; part of the top trailing portion looked metallic; not shiny, but satiny. At times we measured its speed over the ground at about 103 miles per hour.
One of his responses really drove home the enormous size of the object, and the seriousness of Spaur's reaction. "Suppose you held your arm out straight," I asked, "and pretended you were holding the object between your thumb and forefinger. In other words, how big was the image of the object, at arm's length?" "Hell," Spaur said, mustering a weary chuckle, "I'd have to hold both arms up!
William 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.
William Weitzel letter to Professor William Powers, Dearborn Observatory
William B. Weitzel's letter to Professor William Powers - Page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
Wayne Huston's written report
William Aker's written report
Patrolman Frank Panzanella's typed report
Deputy Sheriff Dale F. Spaur and Posse Member W. L. Neff written statement
"It's a monster":
"P-13, Dale, do you have your 44 Magnum with you?" "I do," Spaur replied. "Take a shot at it!" Wilson suggested. Spaur thought this over briefly. From what he had seen so far, he was impressed, and didn't want to risk irritating the object. It was as big as a house, and looked quite solid. It could easily come back and settle on the car, squashing it like an egg. "I don't think I want to do that," he radioed back, and repeated his description of the object. "Listen, Bob," he added, "this thing's a monster! It's like looking down the middle of hell!"
At the intersection of Routes 14 and 146, the object made a 100° turn to the left, going in the direction of Route 14. Spaur made an abrupt turn to follow it, and the cruiser slipped in some gravel. Spaur's racing experience paid off. He got the car back on the road, and headed east after the object. "Dale," Neff said, "we nearly turned over!" "Yeah," said Spaur, "can't you just see the obituary? 'Racked up while pursuing a flying saucer.' Barney, when are we gonna get some help on this?" Neff didn't answer. He had his head pressed up against the windshield, looking almost straight up at the object, which had elevated and slowed down "for them."
Commercial Airliner and Radar Confirmation
Again the object moved, this time straight up, and hovered again. A large commercial airliner, United Airlines flight 454 on route to Buffalo, N. Y., flew under the object. "Someone on that plane is bound to see it," Neff said. Panzanella walked to his cruiser, still watching, and called the Rochester base radio station, which serves several surrounding communities, including Conway. He asked the radio operator, John Bieghey, to call the airport, to see if anything was on the radar screen there, and to contact the pilot of the plane. He gave a description of the object and asked if any interceptor planes could be sent up. Bieghey did this, and called Panzanella back. "They've got it on radar, and are sending two up!" By coincidence, just as the planes were mentioned, the object accelerated upwards and shot straight out of sight.
William Weitzel is a philosophy instructor at the University of Pittsburgh in Bradford, Pa., and chairman of the local NICAP investigative sub-committee. In the latter capacity he has covered, examined and reported on the most significant sightings in his area. He considers the Ravenna sighting to be one of the most provocative, interesting and frustrating experiences on record and has dedicated a major portion of the past year to documenting all of its devious aspects and trying to obtain a solid explanation for what occurred and what was seen. This is his report:
Into the Middle Of Hell (PDF File)
When the UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO UFO PROJECT was initiated in 1966, a copy of Weitzel’s 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.
NICAP Case Report by Richard Hall
"I personally hand-carried and delivered to Dr. Condon a thick investigation report on the April 17, 1966, Portage County, Ohio, case prepared by William Weitzel. Police in several different jurisdictions had chased a low-level structured object that was emitting a beam of light down to the road. They chased it into Pennsylvania at high speed, and watched as it accelerated upward and disappeared into the star field background.
It was an impressive case that had caused a stir in Congress, and Weitzel's report was a model of thorough investigation and documentation. When the Condon Committee report was released two years later, I was astonished to find that there was no mention of the case at all. I never learned whether Condon had shared the report with the project staff. It had never occurred to me that he would simply ignore it."
The Quest For The Truth About UFOs: A Personal Perspective On The Role Of NICAP
The investigation by Major Quintanilla actually consisted in a two minutes and a half phone call to the sole Dale Spaur, starting with this question: "tell me about this mirage you saw." Then a second one minute and a half phone was passed again only to Dale Spaur. According to a written and signed testimony by Spaur, Quintanilla wanted him to sign a text specifying that the sighting lasted only a few minutes. When Spaur protested that it was at least a 60 miles car chase covering two states, Quintanilla put an end to the conversation.
The official Air Force evaluation has concluded that the case is explained "by an astronomical phenomenon." When asked for details, they explained that the officers had seen a satellite at first, and then had chased the planet Venus for forty-odd miles.
Project Blue Book (the official UFO investigative arm of the U.S. Air Force) determined that the witnesses had chased a communications satellite, then the planet Venus. This conclusion was rejected by the officers involved as ridiculously inadequate, and was furthermore subject to some wider criticism, contributing to the opinions of some observers that Blue Book was a failure as an investigative project.
Letter to Spauer & Neff from Wm. T. Powers.
Dear Mr. Spaur and Mr. Neff.
I am the man who called from the Dearborn Observatory the night after the sighting and got Mr. Spaur's statement. I am an assistant to Dr. J. A. Hynek, director of the observatory and scientific consultant to the Air Force UFO investigating office.
Apparently I found out considerably more about this event than the Air Force investigator did, because I cannot agree with the evaluation publicly released a few days after his sighting. What you reported to me could not possibly lead to such a conclusion: a satellite satisfies none of the characteristics of your reported object. As a matter of fact, Dr. Hynek agrees with this. He was not consulted before this news release was put forth.
I thought at first that during the latter part of your experience, after you had lost the object and then re-acquired it, that you and Mr. Houston might have spotted Venus, and thought it was the same object at a higher altitude: I spoke to Major Quintanilla on the telephone at the time I gave him the results of my telephone interview, and told him of this idea. Now I have additional information, chiefly from Mr. William Weitzel, which appears to make that hypothesis incorrect. I now understand that you and other witnesses did notice Venus and the Moon, and saw the object in motion relative to them, as well as being able to see a shape. At no time, however, did I suppose that the earlier part of the sighting involved anything other than an airborne object.
As far as Dr. Hynek and I are concerned, this incident will require considerable additional investigation, before any conclusion at all can be reached - assuming, of course, that some kind of explanation can be found, which seems highly doubtful.
Page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4
Quintanilla related this conclusion via telephone to Portage County Sheriff Ross Dustman (Neff and Spaur's superior officer). Dustman said he "laughed out loud" after Quintanilla had finished his statement. Dustman was later quoted in a UPI story, stating that he rejected the Air Force assessment: "I go along with my men. It was not a satellite and it was not Venus. I've seen Venus many times, but I never saw Venus 50 feet above a road and moving from side to side..."
"After hearing the Air Force release, well, it's, I don't know how much investigation they made but evidently it wasn't a very lengthy one or it didn't involve me. First of all I don't think we have a satellite that can go this low. . . I'm definitely sure that I wasn't chasing Venus or observing Venus and running wildly over the countryside; I'm not quite that bad off. I don't think for a minute in my own mind since I think about what happened that morning that I would have gambled my life, my partner's life or any innocent person on the highway. . . . Also the same object that I observed and that Wayne Huston observed that another officer in Conway, Pennsylvania, could observe the same thing still traveling from the west to the east and to the left of the moon—and which as I understand it, Venus was to the right of the moon, I don't know anything about astronomy but I'm positive of what I was chasing, and I also don't agree it was Venus. I was a nonbeliever before this and never had any thought in my mind that the Air Force couldn't explain every one of these things. I believe in what I saw and nothing is going to change my mind."
Police Officer Dale Spaur
Air Force Errs On UFO’s, Probers Back Portage Deputies
WASHINGTON — The official Air Force explanation of Portage County’s latest unidentified flying object was challenged today by a private investigating group.
The object that led two sheriff’s deputies on an 86-mile chase across Portage and into Pennsylvania wasn’t Venus and it wasn’t a satellite, said the National Investigating Committee for Aerial Phenomena (NICAP).
“Our investigation has uncovered a lot of information which refutes the Air Force explanation,” said Richard Hall, an aide to NICAP Director Donald Keyhoe..
The main flaw which Weitzel found in the Air Force explanation was that the object which the law enforcement officers saw did not hold still, the way a planet like Venus should.
Wayne Huston of the East Palestine Police heard it described on his police radio and waited at an intersection for the object and its pursuers to pass by, Weitzel said. And he saw it “in detail, flying overhead,” he added.
There were other things which various law enforcement officers saw the object do that a planet cannot do, Weitzel said.
It illuminated the ground in an isolated area around their car. It made a buzzing-humming noise which rose in pitch when it stopped hovering and started moving.
It made a spot of light move along, the ground as it flew.
Besides, said Weitzel, the deputies could see details of the object. It had a dome-shaped top, a cone-shaped bottom portion, and a brilliant, rounded undercarriage..
"Their conclusion that the object sighted was the planet Venus is so ridiculous that the United States Air Force has suffered a great loss of prestige in this community."
Portage County Court Judge E. Cook
Book reopened on UFO chase
Weitzel thought that Quintanilla's explanation was preposterous and illogical. When he learned that Ohio Congressman William Stanton had expressed an interest in the UFO chase; Weitzel wrote him a detailed letter, outlining what he saw as the inconsistencies and shortcomings of Quintanilla's hypothesis. Portage County Judge Robert E. Cook (an acquaintance of Spaur and Neff) also wrote Stanton, defending the police officers' judgment, and characterizing the Air Force investigation as "grossly unfair" to Spaur and Neff. Stanton would eventually write to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara to complain about Blue Book's handling of the case.
Stanton passed copies of Weitzel's and Judge Cook's letters to the Air Force Commanding General, asking for further investigation of the UFO chase. Two weeks passed with no reply, and a frustrated Stanton then went to The Pentagon himself to speak with Air Force Lt. Col. John Spaulding (who was Chief of the Community Relations Division). Spaulding agreed that Blue Book should have sent an investigator to the scene, and promised that an investigator would arrive there shortly.
It required Congressional pressures to have Quintanilla make his way to Ravenna to meet and interview Spaur and Neff. This time, Weitzel was there because Spaur asked him to tape his interview with Quintanilla. A partial transcription of the tape reproduced in Dr. J. Allen Hynek's first book "The UFO Experience," is very telling of the ways and manner of Quintanilla when he interrogated UFO witnesses.
Free E-book - Page 130
J. Allen Hynek - The UFO Experience - A Scientific Inquiry (1972)
A letter arrived soon from Colonel Gerald Jorgensen, Chief of the Community Relations Division, USAF. The colonel indicated that the April 17 case was being re-re-re-evaluated. Or was it re-re-re-re-re-evaluated? I had lost track. Things were looking up again, but I felt no optimism. Things had looked up before. At any rate, the tone of Colo-nel Jorgensen's letter was encouraging, and hinted at a full scale USAF review of the case. I waited impatiently until November 7, when the following letter came from Colonel Freeman:
"I have undertaken this response relative to the Ravenna case and your recent letters to Colonel Holni, Colonel De Goes, Colonel Jorgensen, Colonel Mims, Lt. Colonel Rippler, Major Ouintanilla and myself.
"The Ravenna case has been adjudged as presenting no evidence of a military threat to the United States and an explanation has been recorded as to the probable cause. Only in the event new tangible evidence is discovered will there be any reassessment of the case.
"We respect your right to disagree with Air Force findings in this case and understand your desire to convince us of the correctness of your assessment. We cannot agree, however, that continued review of portions of the case already well known to the principals can or will prove fruitful. Hence, correspondence toward that end is futile."
That, in essence, is where this controversial sighting and its baffling, embittering and even tragic, aspects rests today. For some it has been a lesson in self control; for others, in bureaucratic confusion. For me, a lesson in futility.
"The city officials didn't like police officers chasing flying saucers."
Police Officer H. Wayne Huston
Aftermath Of A Sighting
Haunted By A Saucer Named Floyd (pdf file)
He Chased A Flying Saucer Now His Life Is Shattered
MANTUA Police Chief Gerald Buchert saw the craft and photographed it. The pictures turned out badly, an odd fuzzy white thing suspended in blackness. Today, Chief Buchert laughs nervously when he speaks of that night.
“I’d rather not talk about it,” he says. “It’s something that should be forgotten . . left alone. I saw something, but I don’t know what it was.”
He laughs again and it is forced, high-pitched.
SPECIAL Portage Deputy W. L. Neff rode with Spaur during the chase. Now he won’t talk about it.
His wife Jackelyne explains, “I hope I never see him like he was after the chase. He was real white, almost in a state of shock It was awful.
“And people made fun of him afterwards. He never talks about it anymore,” she continued. “Once he told me, ‘If that thing landed in my back yard, I wouldn’t tell a soul.’ He’s been through a wringer.”
PATROLMAN Frank Panzanella saw the chase end in Conway, Pa., where he works. He saw the craft.
Now, like the others, he is silent. His friends say he had his telephone removed because of phone calls about that April morning.
H. WAYNE HUSTON has left his job as a police officer in East Palestine, 0h. He had worked there seven years. Several months after the saucer ‘passed above him in the night, The resigned from the force . . . going to Seattle, Wash., to drive a bus.
Huston has changed his name to Harold W. Huston. He, too, prefers not to speak of the strange object. But he will tell you: “Sure I quit because of that thing. People laughed at me. And there was pressure . . . You couldn’t put your finger on it, but the pressure was there. The city officials didn’t like police officers chasing flying saucers.”
It’s Chasing Him Now, Flying Saucer Blasts His Life
Spaur and Neff became the object of `yell meaning" ridicule. Spaur wondered how effective his. testimony in court as to seeing a certain license number on a speeding car would be. What if the defense lawyer said, "Aren't you the fellow who chased Venus into Pennsylvania?" His phone became tied up day and night. He got an unlisted number, but that helped only a short while. Eventually he had his phone removed, but letters still came to him at the station, from all over the country, even from abroad. Blue Book's statement to the press had made no mention of Neff, Huston, or Panzanella. Spaur felt very much alone.
The attention from the local media was only the beginning. Tiny Mantua and other parts of Portage County were soon overrun with reporters from all over. The UFO phenomenon was already decades old in 1966, but this sighting was one of the most dramatic -- and seemingly credible, coming from police officers -- ever reported.
"It was like we set off a bomb in this town." recalls Joan Buchert. "My husband lost 20 pounds in three days."
Harry remembers the endless phone calls and knocks on the door. "It was three days of living hell."
Strangers In The Night
Another critic was Dr. James E. McDonald of the University of Arizona, an atmospheric physicist and UFO investigator. After detailed research, he too rejected Quintanilla's explanation as implausible. During a meeting with Quintanilla, McDonald would record in his diary that he said he forwarded to the Air Force "information that proves the huge UFO which Deputies Spaur and Neff chased from Ohio to Pennsylvania couldn't have possibly been an Echo satellite and Venus! What do you plan to do about that?" According to McDonald, Quintanilla responded, "I'll change it to 'unidentified.'"
However, Blue Book never changed their conclusion, and recorded the Echo/Venus theory as the "official" explanation for the UFO chase.
McDonald: This case of April 17th, 1966 is a beautiful illustration of how the percentage of unidentified shall be reduced to a minimum.. I’ve interviewed three of the police officers, by the way, and spent a great deal of time looking into this case.
This one was explained in the 1st instance, in the 2nd instance and at present, by Project Blue Book as Echo Satellite and Venus, in the following (manner) sequence.
Air Force Explanation:
The officers saw a satellite go overhead, transferred their attention to Venus which was rising in the East, and followed Venus.
These men wore out their tires, got two other police officers involved in the chase; at times the object was only 200 ft. above them and they estimated it to be about 40-50 ft. in diameter. One of the officers, Wayne Huston, a police officer in East Palistine, heard the transmissions of the first car. They were coming down Route 14. He realized they weren’t far away. He went out and parked. Sure enough, down the highway came a high-speed car. It had two officers in it. Above it was an unidentified flying object. It was a luminous object that looked vaguely like an ice-cream cone upside down, and this officer sped up, caught up with them, and now there were two patrol cars going down (the highway) and they passed out of Ohio into Pennsylvania.
And this is (explained as) the Echo Satellite and Venus.
I wrote a memorandum to the Colonel in-charge down there and got an agreement at one stage of the game that they were changing their assessment. Then I found a month later that they had sent by your congressman, Stanton, assurances that a re-investigation on the part of the Air Force had confirmed the original explanation. That’s when I started speaking out.
I thought there might have been some hope in the summer of ’66 when I was up at Wright Paterson. My hope has not been rekindled since.The Portage County case finally was explained once and for-all as a confusion over the Echo Satellite and Venus. Unbelievable! You should hear the transcript of the interrogation by the Blue Book officer. It’s really ugly . . . the United States Air Force.”
September 24, 1968 Lecture, "UFOs: A Case Study in Public Mis-information" at Kent State University, Ohio
McDonald's 1968 Speech at Kent University, Ohio
So, what reason would the police officers have for lying in the above case? Are their identification skills really as poor as the "final?" explanations tried to make them out to be? In some instances, there were numerous witnesses that confirmed exactly what the officers reported.
The technology reported back then still has not been displayed in any military arena by any government we know, and the Air Force explanations for some of the better sightings left much to be desired.
"As a result of several trips to project Bluebook,I´ve had an opportunity to examine quite carefully and in detail the types of reports that are made by Bluebook personnel.In most cases,I have found that theres almost no correlation between so-called "evaluations and explanations" that are made by Bluebook and the facts of the case...
There are hundreds of good cases in the Air Force files that should have led to top-level scientific scrutiny of this problem,years ago,yet these cases have been swept under the rug in a most disturbing way by Project Bluebook investigators and their consultants."
Dr James McDonald -Senior physicist at the Institute for Atmospheric Physics and professor in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Arizona
"Much more disturbing are the indications from my limited review of BB cases that there may be as many as possibly 4,000 Unexplained UFO cases miscategorized as IFO's in the BB files. McDonald similarly stated in 1968 at his CASI lecture that from his review of BB cases he estimated that 30-40% of 12,000 cases were Unexplained, or about 3,600 to 4,800. These are mostly military cases and many involve radar".
Comprehensive Catalog of 1,600 Project BLUE BOOK UFO Unknowns