“I got down on the floorboard because I thought it was going to come down and get us,” said Connie Holman, twenty-three, of Edina, Missouri, who said the object flew directly toward the car she was riding in. “I started screaming to go back to town. I was really scared.”
The object was seen over a four to five-hour period on the evening of November 18, 1980 with most of the sightings concentrated in a broad area between Ridgeway and Edina, Missouri, a distance of about one hundred miles.
“It was at least as big as a football field,” said Don Leslie, forty-two, a welder in Milan, Missouri. He, his wife and another couple watched as the craft hovered a few hundred feet above their heads.
Roger Bennett, of Huntsville, Missouri, said he and another man watched as the object spewed out half a dozen or so smaller objects over Fairview, Kansas. “It was so big it would make a B-52 bomber look like a Piper Cub,” Bennett said.
People described the object as triangular in shape and having two very bright lights. But Rick Hull, then twenty and a university student, photographed the object’s lights as it flew low over him in Trenton, Missouri, and to him it was more diamond-shaped with a dome on top.
The object was picked up on radar at times but couldn’t be identified. Franklin West, a technician at a Federal Aviation Authority remote radar site in Sublette, seven miles north of Kirksville, saw the object on the station’s radar scopes off an on throughout the evening.
“It was around the Kirksville area for two to three hours,” West said. “It went through the area four or five times. I tracked it once for a few minutes and I estimated its speed in the neighborhood of forty-five miles an hour at the time I tracked it.
“It was brought to my attention by local people who called me, so I took a look at it to see what was going on. I went outside to look at it twice. It was probably six miles or so away from me and all I could see was lights.
“I’m not saying it was a flying saucer. I am saying it was an unidentified flying object because I couldn’t identify it.”
The Sublette radarscopes are monitored by air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Center in Olathe, Kansas, near Kansas City, and West’s job was to maintain the station’s equipment and keep it running.
Normally West doesn’t watch the scopes but with thirty years of experience he was familiar with what is tracked on the scopes. He said there was no way he could tell the size or altitude of the object from the blips he saw on the scope.
Glen Goodman, chief of the FAA’s Flight Service Station at Columbia, Missouri, said his station received three phone calls that night concerning the UFO.
0328 Greenwich (9:28 p.m.) a man called to report a UFO on the southeast edge
of Kirksville and he said it stayed in the area for about fifteen minutes,
going from west to east and then back again,” Goodman said. “No sound. He
said it flew very low and slow and had large lights. He seemed concerned but
“Then at 0345 (9:45 p.m.), Frank West, radar technician at Kirksville, called to report that any calls we may have had about UFO activity was verified by him. He said it had no transponder beacon… but occasionally he sees it on radar.”
The third call was from a disc jockey in Trenton, Missouri, saying the radio station was being besieged with calls and trying to find out what the object as. Goodman said he never did find out what it was.
In Kirksville, newspaper reporter Hank Janssen said: “Literally hundreds of people saw the object. I know people who were out and about and the thing was flying so slowly and blatantly low and apparently there for anybody to see. I know numerous people just happened to look up and there it was.
“People everywhere from fifty miles west of Trenton all the way through Sullivan County to here and to Edina, thirty miles east of Kirksville, said they saw something. The most common thing people told me was that it was either a triangular or diamond-shaped or a long, thin cigar shape with two big bright headlights like the headlights of a car.
“One gentleman told me he watched it for fifteen or twenty minutes as it came from the west flying super-low, go over his area into the east maybe a quarter of a mile or half a mile, definitely still visible, and then come back, re-trace its track and loop around a little bit to the north, hover a little bit and finally keep on going to the west.”
Similar reports came from Dave Counsell, disc jockey and newsman for radio station KTTN in Trenton.
“We had two lines open to the public and both phones were constantly ringing from about nine twenty to eleven p.m., when we went off the air,” Counsell said.
“We had calls from Gilman City, Ridgeway, Chula, Laredo, Galt, Jamesport, Tindall and Farmersville, all towns in a corridor of communities from about forty miles northwest of Trenton down through the southwestern half of Grundy County.
“We had people call the next day who said they tried to call us the night before, couldn’t get through and just gave up.”
POLICE GET PHONE CALLS
Gene Pattie Jr., program and sports director for the Trenton station, saw the object along with his wife Sherri and fifteen to twenty others standing outside the Trenton High School gymnasium between basketball games.
“There had to be hundreds of people in the Trenton area alone who saw this thing,” Pattie said. “What we saw was kite or diamond-shaped and appeared to be a thousand to fifteen hundred feet above us, not far off and no sound, going from west to east. I don’t know of anything that flies that low and makes no noise.”
Alvin Johnson, dispatcher for the Kirksville Police Department, said he received at least twenty five calls that evening from concerned citizens.
“I started receiving calls along about seven thirty or so from people asking if I’d had any calls about something in the sky,” Johnson said. “These calls went on to about ten-fifteen.
“Most people described the same type of object, a triangular-shaped thing with several lights on the front, very bright. The object was quite big. I had another report of a cigar-shaped object and lights all over it.
“Some people said the thing was standing still, some said it was moving real slow and a couple said they were watching it and all of a sudden it disappeared.
“Later in the evening the man at the radar station called me and said there was something on the screen, that he didn’t know what it was, that it was flying erratically and the lights on it were not like plane lights. He said that since he didn’t know what it was and couldn’t explain it, it could be classified as a UFO.”
Rick Hull, then a third-year accounting student at Northeast Missouri State University in Kirksville, who lived with his parents in Trenton, sixty miles to the west, took eight photographs of the object but only one of them turned out.
Hull had seen the object while in downtown Trenton around eight fifteen in the evening as it went from west to the southeast and disappeared. He located a good friend, Jerry Holloway, told him about the object and the two of them drove to Holloway’s house on the east side of Trenton.
Just before they arrived at Holloway’s house, Holloway spotted the object in the sky to the east of Trenton. At Holloway’s house they stood and watched it with Holloway’s wife, Beverly.
“I’m taking a photography class at the university and carry a 35mm camera in my car back and forth to school, and Jerry said why don’t you get some pictures of it,” Hull said. “By the time I got the camera out, the object was moving toward us and I shot one picture with the flash.
“All of a sudden the two big lights went out and the thing tipped up on its side and for the first time we could see greenish lights around the front of a dome on top. I shot a picture of that and that was the only shot that turned out.
“The object then went down over Trenton to the west and about this time a jet came over from the east at maybe twenty thousand feet, and you could easily hear the jet and see the contrail in the sky. What we saw as it tipped up appeared to be windows to a cockpit or whatever you wanted to call it. They were rectangular shaped but were only around the front half of the dome.”
Holloway, then a maintenance worker for the Trenton Coca Cola bottling plant, said the dome was clearly visible. “The lights shaded one side of the dome and you could see the outline against the other side of the object,” he said.
A neighbor, Stephen Palmer, twenty one, an auto mechanic, had been watching with them but had gone inside Holloway’s house to phone the radio station. He said he saw the object three times that night and on the second sighting saw something a little different.
“When it went over the second time the red light that was in the middle of the bottom seemed to be hanging down a lot lower than the first time,” Palmer said. “I saw this through binoculars, and if the object appeared to be about four inches long in the sky this red light was hanging down about an inch. It wasn’t that way the other times.”
Buddy Hannaford, who had been a music teacher at Trenton junior and senior high schools for fourteen years at the time, said he saw what looked like cabin lights on the object.
“It appeared to have white lights on the front like cockpit lights, something to that effect,” he said. “They were like cabin lights or like lights coming out of the window of an airplane.”
He said his wife Karla had first spotted it when she was walking their dog. “I watched it through binoculars,” Buddy Hannaford said, “and to me it was some sort of a delta or pyramid or triangular-shaped object that had two bright lights on it and a red beacon light on the bottom.
“The thing that got our attention was the absence of sound. But as it passed over it had like a real low jet rumble but not exactly like any jet I’ve ever heard. This was about seven forty five and it passed right over our house.
“I thought about refueling planes but I didn’t see anything else near it. I thought it could also be an experimental plane but it could have been a UFO too. It was visible to us for about fifteen minutes.”
One of the latest sightings that evening was reported by Roger Bennett, forty, who said he and Randy Hayes watched it from about ten forty five to eleven fifteen while they were working at an oil tank farm near Fairview, Kansas, about one hundred ten miles southwest of Trenton.
“This thing was going from east to west at a very high height and we watched it with my binoculars,” Bennett said. “I’d never seen what you’d call a UFO before and this thing was shaped something like an airplane but not like anything I’ve ever seen.
“The size was something tremendous. If it was an airplane, it would have had to have been a Boeing 747 coming in at about two thousand feet to be that big.
“When it got almost directly overhead you could hear a rumbling more or less that wasn’t very loud. It was like a big fat cigar cut off in the middle with the pointed end going first.
“Just before it disappeared above clouds in the west, it ejected about six objects that looked like satellites. They came streaking out behind, pretty well in a burst, kind of fan shaped. Some went straight out, some went north and some went south. I watched two of them in my binoculars but it was hard to keep up with them.”
Randy Hayes, a truck driver for an oil company, who was with Bennett, said: “It looked like it was depositing or dropping satellites or some sort of glowing objects that were round in shape. They had a kind of bluish glow and at one point on them there was a red flickering on the side.
“This thing was obviously pretty big and it was blocking out some stars. I was in the Navy in Vietnam and I’ve seen a lot of airplanes but I’ve never seen any airplane so big it could block out the stars.”
Faith Trower, society editor for the Trenton Republican-Times, saw the object twice during the evening with her husband Allen and son Scott from their home in Galt, east of Trenton.
“My neighbor Erma Berry called me and said to go outside and look straight up. It wasn’t quite dark yet and it had three lights on it. It was going west and about twenty minutes later it came back, this time going east, and we watched it again.
“This time it was a little to the south of us and we could see the three lights on top again but as it started to go farther east one of the three lights on top broke off, separated from the big craft and went on up into the air. When the one separated, we heard a slight rumbling sound.”
Her neighbor, Emma Berry, said: “When it was going back east I could see the smaller one close by, going back with it. It seemed like it was out to the north or left hand side of the big one.”
At least a dozen police officers saw the object. One of them was Missouri Highway Patrolman Bob Lober, then forty three. He lived in Trenton and had been an officer for thirteen years.
“It was about eight o’clock about three miles west and a little north of Edinburg (west of Trenton) and I was on Highway 146 westbound when I first observed it,” Lober said. “It was moving toward the west and what first caught my eye was what appeared to be two bright lights.
“I watched as it moved for three or four minutes and I pulled over on the shoulder of the road and watched it for a little more. Probably a minute after, it stopped and when I realized it wasn’t moving any more I decided I would drive down that way.
“It took me probably five minutes to get to it. There is a real sharp curve in the road and as I rounded the curve it stopped and it was directly above me, maybe fifteen hundred to eighteen hundred feet.
“I got out and listened for a minute and couldn’t hear anything. So I shut the engine off on the car and it couldn’t have been thirty seconds after that that all of a sudden it started moving back toward the east. And as it moved away I could hear what sounded like jet engines, not very loud.
“After maybe thirty five to forty seconds, it was far enough away that I could hardly see the lights anymore, so I went about my business.
“In my mind I thought it was a helicopter, but I don’t know of any helicopter that will fly backwards or is silent like that.”
In Kirksville, Adair County Deputy Sheriff Charles Cooper watched the object that night with a fellow deputy, Timothy Koenck. Cooper, then twenty four, had been an officer for four years and was a student pilot.
“I couldn’t identify what I’d seen,” Cooper said. “Some of the maneuvers the craft was doing are a bit contrary to what small fixed-wing aircraft can do. I saw it make a hundred and eighty-degree turn without turning around.
“It went in the opposite direction without turning around. It didn’t take enough time nor did it bank and make a turn. So whatever it was would be able to stop and spin around without having to do what normal aircraft would have to do to turn around.”
Connie Holman of Edina, who was so badly frightened by the object, said she did see it turn around. She and Michelle Gilbert and Debbie Reed had been bowling in Kirksville, thirty miles to the west, and were returning home on Highway 6 when they spotted the object a few miles east of Kirksville. They followed it all the way to Edina.
“We started following it west of Brashear and we followed it all the way to the Y intersection a mile from Edina,” Mrs. Holman said. “We were gaining on it all the time and we were going about fifty or fifty five. When we got to the Y, it stopped just on the other side of the Y and sat there for a while.
“Michelle pulled over and we were trying to get a closer look at it. We realized it was some kind of a UFO and Debbie and Michelle had always wanted to see one.
“We sat there watching it for maybe eight or ten minutes and then it just turned around. Michelle started flicking her headlights on and off at it and the thing started coming down toward us.
“It appeared to be about a block away from us when it was sitting there and it came within half a block of the car before it veered off and went toward Kirksville.
“Michelle and Debbie thought it was funny but I was scared to start with. I was actually ready to run to town, about a mile away, that’s how scared I was. I just thought the thing was going to come down and zap us.
“We didn’t know what it was and we didn’t know anyone else had seen it until we got back to Edina and saw Trooper Mike Leavene and others who had been watching it.”
Highway Patrolman Leavene, then thirty-two and a policeman for nine years, said: “I received a call (at home) from a lady who was concerned about this thing flying up in the sky and she said it’s been over a couple of times already and it’s coming back.
“I slipped my coat on and went outside and at a distance it looked like an airplane with its landing lights on, two bright lights, and a red light in the center.
“It came overhead and when it got overhead it had quite a few lights on it. It had the appearance of a triangular shape and it didn’t make any sound.
“I ran inside and told my wife I was taking off to see what this thing was. I got in my patrol car and followed it east a few miles until I lost sight of it. It wasn’t moving fast but I was trying to follow it down a road that has a lot of curves in it.
“I wasn’t going to call it in but I heard headquarters (in Macon, Missouri) talking about all the calls they were getting, so I called in and told them I had observed the object.
“I got another call about half an hour after I came home, so I went back into town and sure enough it was coming again, from the east going westerly, and then it turned toward the southwest and flew right over above me again.
“I don’t know what it was. I talked to a lot of people around here who saw it. A lot of them have police scanners so when they heard about this they went outside looking.
“I work a lot at night and I see a lot of air traffic flying over, and in the distance this thing looked like an airplane. But when it got overhead, I have never seen anything like it before. I’ve got military service behind me and I’m in the reserves still and I just don’t know what it was.”
Adair County Deputy Samuel J. Wilson, then twenty one, spotted the object twice while driving back to Kirksville from a meeting in Unionville to the northwest.
“I was heading south on Highway 149 and I saw some blinking lights in the sky,” Wilson said. “I had my police scanner on and they said they had some police UFO sightings in the area. I looked up and it wasn’t where I had seen it before.
“It was over west and had four lights on it, bright lights – yellow, red, orange and white all in a row. It hung there maybe ten minutes and then it disappeared. A few minutes later I saw it again over in the southern part of the county, almost straight south of me.
“It was there maybe five minutes and as I was watching it, all of a sudden it just disappeared again.”
The object apparently traveled east and west through the Trenton and Kirksville area a number of times.
Trenton Patrolman Don Altes watched it pass over Trenton Junior College and when he got back in his patrol car he heard a lot of radio traffic about the object.
“About the time I was getting back in my car I heard Kirksville police telling its officers to watch for something in the sky. A lot of people were talking about this thing the next day in Trenton. A lot of people were watching it the same time I was.”
Don Leslie and his wife Mary, of Milan, Missouri, saw the object four times between seven thirty and eleven thirty that night. He said people were talking about it on the CB radio all evening long.
“The first time we were sitting in a car out in a big field with Joe and Penny Weaver,” Leslie said. “It was deer season and we were trying to decide where to go hunting the next morning, and we saw these two lights that looked like car lights.
“Penny said, ‘Here comes a car,’ and I said, ‘There ain’t no road over there.’ So we sat and watched it for a few minutes and pretty soon it started moving. The girls got panicky so we jumped in the car and took off.
‘We got to the top of the hill and stopped, and this thing came right over us, just barely moving. There was no sound whatsoever. It had twelve to fifteen lights, red, green, yellow, and they didn’t blink on and off, in kind of a triangle shape.
“I don’t know how high it was but it didn’t seem to be over four or five hundred feet high. It seemed to me to be fifty to sixty feet between each light. It was the size of a football field, I’d say.
“It was about this time that all the coyotes started yip-yip-yipping and going wild. They were hollering and it sounded like they were plumb around us. The hair started raising on the back of my neck and I said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’”
The other three times he and his wife saw the object it was passing overhead in the Milan area, going back east, then west and east again.
Lois Sayre, who lived on a farm south of Milan in the area where the Leslies and Weavers saw the craft, also saw the object about that time.
“I saw a big white light in a field on another farm we own and we thought it was hunters spotlighting deer. So my husband Amos and my son Larry went over there to check it out.
“They didn’t see anything but while they were gone my daughter-in-law and I saw this white light suddenly turn a very dark orange. It was almost round but the right side was sort of cut off, and it was bigger than the moon.”
Edison Cooley, a sixty eight-year-old farmer who lived west of La Plata, about twelve miles southwest of Kirksville, watched the object fly low over his home twice.
“My wife Rosalee came home around nine p.m. and said she’d seen this strange light sitting in the sky back to the west. I looked out and saw it sitting there, just two big headlights. Pretty soon it began moving toward us and went right over the north side of our house.
“We ran outdoors and looked up at it as it went over. It wasn’t flying fast, probably forty miles an hour. I could hear this humming noise.
“Years ago one of them big German dirigibles came through here and it sounded a little bit like that. It had seven lights underneath and the two big headlights in front and it was in the shape of a triangle. It was maybe three hundred to four hundred feet high.
“Later, about ten o’clock, I went to turn the light off and lock the door – my wife had already gone to bed – and when I looked out that thing was setting over there again where we’d first seen it.
“I got my wife up and this time I got my field glasses and went outside. This time it went past just on the south side of the house, about the same height. I put the glasses on it but couldn’t see what material it was made of.
“There was a motor to it. I could hear the sound. It was just gliding along but there was no strain or throbbing, no pull whatsoever to the motor.
“I never did believe in UFOs. I’d read about them and I never did believe in them. But they made a believer out of me. There’s sure something up there now that’s strange.”
Kirksville, airport operator David Overstreet was skeptical of the sightings.
Many weeks later a researcher for the Center for UFO Studies, in Evanston, Illinois, told me he doubted anyone had seen a UFO. He checked with military authorities and determined that aerial refueling operations had been going on in that general area of the Midwest at least part of the evening. A jet fighter peeling off from a tanker after being refueled could look like a satellite shooting out from a UFO.
The refueling operations could account for some of the UFO reports. But they wouldn’t explain the low-level sightings, the hovering, stopping, slow speeds, reversing direction without turning around, being tracked on the Sublette radarscopes, the erratic maneuvers, the multiple lights of different colors, and changing color from bright white to dark orange… among other things. (For more on sightings of triangular objects, click here.)