photo of police officers examining a burn

On April 21, 1967, at South Hill, Virginia, a warehouse manager driving home from work saw an object like a large water tank resting on the road. When he put his lights on it, the object abruptly ascended with a blast of white flame. The road burned for a few seconds, leaving an imprint for police to examine.

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Close Encounters

Close encounters of the first kind. J. Allen Hynek defines this as "a close-at-hand experience without tangible physical effects." A couple was driving north on Highway 45 north of Bristol, Wisconsin, at 11 P.M. on October 14, 1986. They saw flashing red and white lights that they took to mean that a car accident had occurred on the road just ahead of them. Approaching cautiously, they were stunned to find the real cause: an enormous triangular-shaped object hovering just above the concrete. The lights ran along the object's outer edge. "It was the size of a two-story house and spanned the width of the road," the husband told Don Schmitt of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), the organization Hynek founded in 1973.

Close encounters of the second kind. In this encounter "a measurable physical effect on either animate or inanimate matter is manifested." Late on the afternoon of January 8, 1981, at Trans-en-Provence, France, a whistling sound disturbed Renato Nicolai as he worked in his garden. When he saw a lead-colored "ship" moving toward him from two pine trees at the edge of his property, he fled to a small cabin on a nearby hill. From there Nicolai saw the object, shaped like "two saucers upside down, one against the other," descend to the ground. Shortly thereafter it rose up and shot off toward the northeast. On its bottom Nicolai observed "two kinds of round pieces which could have been landing gear or feet."

Not long afterward the gendarmerie appeared on the scene and wrote in their official report: "We observed the presence of two concentric circles, one 2.2 meters in diameter and the other 2.4 meters in diameter. The two circles form a sort of corona 10 centimeters thick on this corona, one within the other. There are two parts clearly visible, and they also show black striations." Groupe d'Étude des Phénomènes Aerospatiaux Non-Identifiés (GEPAN), France's official UFO-investigative agency, took soil and plant samples to the nation's leading botanical laboratory.

After a two-year study GEPAN determined that a "very significant event . . . happened on this spot." GEPAN head Jean-Jacques Velasco wrote, "The effects on plants in the area can be compared to that produced on the leaves of other plant species after exposing the seeds to gamma radiation." In its 66-page technical monograph on the case, GEPAN cautiously acknowledged that the incident amounted to proof that a UFO had landed: "For the first time we have found a combination of factors which conduce us to accept that something similar to what the eyewitness has described actually did take place."

Close encounters of the third kind. In this occurrence "the presence of animated creatures is reported" inside or in the vicinity of UFOs. As he drove to work at 5:50 A.M. on August 25, 1952, William Squyres, a musician at a Pittsburg, Kansas, radio station, encountered a large disc hovering 10 feet above the ground about 250 yards away. He quickly brought his car to a stop, jumped out, and began walking toward the UFO. It looked, he would tell Project Blue Book investigators, like two bowls placed end on end, 75 feet long and 40 feet wide, with a 15-foot-high midsection. Along the side was a row of windows.

Through these windows Squyres detected movement of some sort, but he could not detect its cause. In one window he could see the head and shoulders of a motionless humanlike figure who seemed to be leaning forward and watching him. The UFO departed before Squyres could get any closer to it. As-it ascended, according to the Project Blue Book report on the incident, "it made a sound like a large covey of quail starting to fly at the same time."

This incident is among the few UFO reports Project Blue Book acknowledged it could not explain.