On a clear. moonless summer night last year, a young married couple with a small child, were headed home to their house trailer atop Hayden Mountain ln Blount County.
Mr. & Mrs. Terry White had just turned off the main highway when the wife noticed a brlght object in the sky.
After she polnted it out to Terry, they both became fascinated and stopped the car to watch.
The object hovered just on the far side of a lilly pond near their home.
Only when a bluish/grey light In the center of the oblect suddenly turned on were the couple able to distinguish the geometric shape of the object. Then, they were even more mystifed.
Terry later estimated the object to be about 65' long and hovering at about 150' in altitude.
It had something coming out of the bottom of the object. It looked Ilke pads. They were half the width of the object.
No sound broke the night air, but they watched as the object moved like a bullet in a northerly direction, then stopped again.
At that point, the witnesses continued into their driveway, went inside their trailer and telephoned the police. They went back outside to watch.
They saw the object circle three times and stop. Then, they saw another object at a higher altitude come out of the hills to the northeast and stop directly above the first. They later estimated the higher object was at about 400'.
A red light began pulsating on top of the lower object and the couple watched as it ascended straight up toward the higher object. It stayed there for three or four seconds and then accelerated rapidly to the south and disappeared.
Shortly afterward, the other object disappeared.
Is this fact, fiction or a synopsis for a screenplay for a movie spinoff from the then recently released Close Encounters of the Third Kind?
Actually, this account Is taken directly from the files of the Tuscaloosa area's unofficial UFO expert, Professor Ed Planz of the University of Alabama faculty.
For the few who are not familiar with what UFOs are, it means Unidentified Flying Objects and it is a subject that has been creating controversy for many years. Alabama sightings have contributed their share to the controversy.
Planz defines a UFO as:
Any aerial disturbance or object which cannot be categorized Into man's realm of intelligence. Planz has been actively investigating the UFO phenomenon for the last few years and has taught some courses on the subject at the Capstone.
For the past 20 to 25 years I have been interested in such things. I have always been interested in anything that is challenging to the mind, but couldn't be explained.
If UFOs haven't been explained, It certainly isn't for a lack of reports. Planz's files on UFOs and related material fill a full file cabinet drawer in his office and he is continually adding to them.
What are UFOs? We know they exist, due to the many cases that substantiate it. We don't know that they are extraterrestrial, though, Planz said.
Planz himself has never seen a UFO, but he is associated with three groups that are seeking to find out exactly what they are.
One Is Project Starlight International, located in Austin, TX. There, an array of instruments capable of measuring certain characteristics of UFOs, are located near a large circle of light with which they hope to attract UFOs. They have such things as magnetometers, infrared cameras, lasers and a spectrometer, Planz said.
Another is the Center For UFO Studies ln Evanslon. IL. There, a computer ls filled all the information reported to try to determine what was seen.
The center is headed by the well known astronomer, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who was technical advisor for the Close Encounters Of the Third Klnd film. Hynek ls recognized as perhaps the leading spokesman for the scientific ivestigation of the UFO phenomenon.
Planz had Hynek down to Tuscaloosa as a guest lecturer during one of his UFO mini courses at the university.
The third organization which Planz works is The Mutual UFO Net work, MUFON, with headquarters in Seguin, TX. He Is state director for that group, which serves as a clearinghouse for UFO sightings.
We have continued to go through the decades investigating reports and interrogating witnesses. What we need Is hard data and this can only be done by a community or government spending some funds to come up with hard evidence, Planz said.
We need to see if an accumulation of data indicates any trend or gives any indication what this phenomenon might be. Encounters of the second kind are so prevalent that you can't deny something is occurring, he observed.
The Encounter definitions as applied to UFOs are as follows:
Encounters of the First Kind are sightings of UFOs.
Encounters of the Second Kind are those cases where some kind of physical evidence is left.
Encounters of the Third Kind are cases alleging actual contact with inhabitants of the UFO.
Encounters of the third kind are extremely rare, but not so with the first kind. A look into Planz's files shows more of the reported UFO sightings in this section of Alabama.