High Strangeness: Black Coffee and UFOs

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Black Coffee and UFOs

This Saturday morning is off to a perfect start! I woke up early and decided to write up my newest MUFON case report as I drink my morning coffee and enjoy a huge slab of my wife's homemade chocolate babka... All UFO work should be this cushy!

Maybe it's just the babka talking, but I'm pretty excited about this new case. I swear, just when it seems I'm starting to lose faith in the whole UFO racket, a case comes along that gets me all worked up again, and restores my faith UFOnity!

Not that I was excited to begin with. This witness wrote out his entire report on the MUFON site in ALL CAPS, then when I emailed him to set up an interview he wrote back "PLEASE CALL ME." Ugh. Can we just tone it down a bit? Understand this, UFO witnesses: THIS DOES NOT MAKE ME LOOK FORWARD TO CALLING YOU...

Well, when I worked up my courage and finally called the guy my worries immediately vanished. He was soft-spoken, calm, articulate, and had a great story to tell. His sighting took place way back in 1999, so of course I wanted to know why it had taken so long for him to report it... I'll let my just-finished case report do the talking:



LATITUDE LONGITUDE – 46°9′17″N 89°23′7″W



WEATHER INFORMATION – Cool, partly cloudy day.


WITNESS INTERVIEW AND STATEMENTS – Incident occurred in 1999, although witness was only guessing at to the approximate date—early September was the best estimate. Male witness, age 43 at the time, was outside getting ready to go out fishing on Lac Vieux Desert, just outside Land O’ Lakes, WI, on the border with Upper Michigan. The lake is 5-6 miles across and surrounded by national forests, the Nicolet on one side and the Ottawa on the other. It’s a very remote, isolated area, and although there are many cabins on the lake, by the end of summer most cabins were closed for the season. Witness reported that only 3 or 4 “hardcore” fishermen stayed at the lake into September, and he did not see anyone else out on the water the whole day.

He first caught sight of circular contrails – like “perfect smoke rings” – off to the east in the partly cloudy sky, and as he tried to figure out what they were he heard a faint sound of an airplane and spotted a military AWACS plane, about 7-10 miles away. The plane, with its telltale humpbacked radar dome, was easy to identify, although the witness had never before seen one in this remote area and has never seen one since. It was clearly a military plane, but there are no bases close by, and through his binoculars he could see that the plane had no markings. His best guess was that the plane might have come from one of the U.S. Navy’s ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) submarine command bases, as Land O’ Lakes lies in a direct line between the two ELF Transmitters in Clam Lake, WI and Republic, MI in the Upper Peninsula. Neither installation, however, has an airstrip, and the local civilian airport, 4 miles from the lake, is not big enough to accommodate an AWACS (There was a NORAD air base in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, but that had been decommissioned in 1979).

The AWACS plane was flying in a tight circle, and as he watched, the witness realized that there was something in the air ahead of the plane. Whatever it was, it was visibly cutting through the light clouds and leaving a wake, but the witness could see no actual object. The AWACS seemed to be following an invisible aircraft.
What was this AWACS plane chasing through the skies above a peaceful fishing lake in northern Wisconsin?

The invisible object must have been huge, because it cut a swath through the clouds that was 4 times the width of the AWACS’ wingspan. It was 7 or 8 plane lengths ahead of the AWACS, so it did not appear to the witness to be attached or connected to the plane at all. Witness could hear no sound from a second craft, however, and through the binoculars could see no shape, reflection or outline at all. As far as he could tell, the AWACS was patiently observing the invisible object, possibly as part of some testing – the witness’ immediate assumption was that the military was testing some new invisibility technology, although he kept asking himself, “What are they doing here?”

The invisible object and the AWACS plane continued on flying in circles until they disappeared beyond the tree line to the north of the lake.

CONCLUSIONS – The witness seemed extremely credible. He had owned his cabin on the lake for some time, and was familiar with the topography. He is a law enforcement officer and was working at the time as an undercover agent for the XXX in Green Bay, WI. He did not report the sighting in 1999 for fear that it would affect his ability to function in his job, but had seen so many TV shows about UFOs recently that he decided to finally report what he had seen.

The experience has clearly stuck with him even after 15 years, and he recalls the entire incident in precise detail. He recounted the events clearly and calmly, and never changed any details when we went over them again. He wished he had been able to report the events when they occurred, but had been afraid of how his co-workers would react. He could not afford to have his credibility questioned, and so he kept quiet, but never forgot.
With a Ballester-Guasp credibility rating of almost 15, this one is right up there with the best. Having investigated over two dozen cases now, I can say that this witness was unusually solid. His testimony to me had a precise, unexcited Sergeant Joe Friday "Just the facts, ma'am" tone to it (and if you don't know what I'm referring to there, you need to watch a lot more MeTV), and his memory seems as tight as a drum; I bet he remembers every detail of every case he's ever worked.

It's a pity the trail is so cold, however; after 15 years it would be difficult to determine whether the military had any AWACS in the area, and for what purpose. I will continue to poke at it, though, mainly because I'm interested in the ELF angle... ELF sends low frequency radio signals through the earth -- not through the sky, but through the earth! -- to communicate with nuclear submarines around the globe, and it's been a weird and contentious part of Wisconsin history since I was a young whippersnapper. When it was built, people in northern Wisconsin were terrified that strange rays emitted from the huge ELF transmitter array, which covers many square miles, would be harmful to people and wildlife, possibly killing them or turning them into horrible mutants. Neither of those things have actually happened, to my knowledge, but I don't believe that any of the protesters at the time ever considered the invisible aircraft angle. This needs to be looked into.

But first: more babka!


White Stork said...

The real significance of this case/incident, if true, is twofold:

1.) Very large UFOs, or otherwise, may have the ability to appear invisible, both visually and to radar, at will. That suggests extremely advanced technology or an aspect of its inherent morphology/nature.

2.) If an "unmarked" AWACS jet was involved, that suggests an aircraft that may be intended for use for covert purposes. Special UFO purposes? I wonder if the man viewing the jet through his binoculars actually saw no markings whatsoever, including a tail number, since unless the jet was fairly low, even using binocs, he may not have been able to clearly discern regular USAF markings/symbols/tail number. So, what was the estimated elevation, and how would any such estimation be made with accuracy by the witness. Also, what overall color was the AWACS? All white or gray? I'd ask him.

2.a.) Most intriguingly, since all known AWACS are USAF / US government property, any such surveillance of any UFO, visible or not, would also suggest an ongoing military/intelligence community covert UFO surveillance and analysis program / project being extant. Of course, the government would deny that, as they always have for 67 years now.

Most interesting, to say the least. The witness needs extensive vetting for this to be taken seriously, and even then, if it's a single witness case, how does anyone know if it's true or not? Problematic.

Joel Crook said...

I suggest two possibilities and one you are not going to like.

The "AWACS" in question was acting as a "forward air remote controller" for a drone... the explanation of the appearance of the "stealth" nature of the "invisible" craft is simply the drone was painted white and it matched the cloud cover / sky color.

The problem with this explanation is AWACS are Air Force aircraft. The Navy does not fly them. So far as I can discover there are no military airports in that region to support an "AWACS" aircraft. Nor does there appear to be any Aerospace / Military "research" installations. Of course at the time of the sighting there may have been bases which are now closed.

The other option is that the "AWACS" was not an AWACS at all but a visual image that was implanted in the witnesses head. High strangeness indeed!

Mark UFO'Connell said...

Interesting thoughts... I hadn't considered the drone possibility, but it's an intriguing angle.

As to the AWACS, the witness said that it was olive drab and had no markings, no numbers at all on the fuselage, tail or wings. I will write back to him and ask if he recalls what power the binocs were, though, as that seems relevant. I'll also ask him what color the underbelly of the AWACS was, as I'm sure it must have been gray, white or sky blue.

Joel, my dad served in the Navy through the '50s, 60s and '70s, and I've seen many of the prop driven Hawkeye AWACS in his home movies. He just now confirmed that he often saw Navy AWACS, but always prop-driven and always based on aircraft carriers. I'll ask the witness about this as well!

White Stork said...

One of Two:

Reviewing the witness report, and Joel's comment above, three primary things stand out:

1.) If the AWACS was a uniform "olive drab" in color, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I reviewed, using Google image search, well over 150 photos of standard USAF AWACS jets, and prop-driven Navy E-3 Orions, of all kinds, and not a single one was a dark or olive drab color.

And, for good reason: it would stick out like a dark, sore thumb in the sky, and that would be a real mistake, as AWACS jets operate primarily as airborne early warning, sensing, and control aircraft, and in forward theaters, coordinating jet fighter training, attacks, and also conducting sometimes relatively covert near-foreign border surveillance for ELINT purposes, among others.

Light grey, off-white, and reflective, subtly camouflaged or light-blue undersides are the basic standard, with very few exceptions, to minimize visual signature in a variety of airborne conditions.

That's the main reason virtually all Boeing 767-300 AWACS jets are painted an off-white, light grey, or a blend of the two, with the lighter color on the bottom: these kind of stealthy paint schemes reduce visual identification from both ground and air to a much greater degree than anything like "olive drab."

So, that strikes a false chord in my evaluation of the witness report.

And even with relatively good, high-powered binocs, an AWACS aircraft's markings would be relatively unobtrusive or not visible from 5 to 8 miles high and away. But an "olive drab" AWACS does not make any sense to me, considering its purpose, and potential visibility in a war-time or surveillance / control and early warning aerial environment.

I wonder about another thing: what about the time of day, season, and relative darkness: depending on sun angle, etc., any such AWACS might appear darker than normal, or seemingly an "olive drab" under the right, somewhat obscuring light/cloud and time-of-day conditions. Those factors should also be checked. Also, after 15 years from the time of the incident, there's also the question of somewhat fallible memory, or partial confabulation in a variable such as color and the apparent lack of markings.

Some things seem a little "funny" here. No matter how sincere, intelligent, or grounded a witness may seem, or his background, there's always some question in reports of such a highly anomalous (almost unique) incident, as to witness accuracy and integrity, as I'm sure you realize.

2.) Even at a normal operating altitude of between 25,000 to 40,000 feet, or between 5 and 8 miles above ground, and if, as the witness reports, it was also "about 7-10 miles away" to the east of his ground position, and with binocs, how accurately could the witness calculate the "invisible object must have been huge, because it cut a swath through the clouds that was 4 times the width of the AWACS’ wingspan. It was 7 or 8 plane lengths ahead of the AWACS"? That seems a rather "precise" estimate considering the distance involved.

3.) Joel's speculation that the "'AWACS' in question might have been "acting as a 'forward air remote controller' for a drone... the explanation of the appearance of the 'stealth' nature of the 'invisible' craft is simply the drone was painted white and it matched the cloud cover / sky color" doesn't work. First, in 1999, no such drone was in existence. Not even today, of anything anywhere near the size of the "4 times width of the AWACS wingspan."

White Stork said...

Two of Two:

The largest USAF drone operating today is the USAF Global Hawk, operating domestically out of Beale AFB in Northern California, with a wing-span a bit wider than a U-2 or apprioximately that of a 727/737.

All other drones, like the RQ-170 and upcoming RQ-180, and like the earlier Predators, tend to be much smaller in size/wing-span, and again for similar reasons of visual stealth -- smaller is less visible at normal operating altitudes or from hostile fighters or ground to air missiles that might be sent up or operating in the air nearby. Another non-issue is the relative lack of nearby USAF bases or other military airfields -- AWACS and drones can fly thousands of miles from their originating bases.

It would be ridiculously stupid to produce a drone any larger than an AWACS jet, let alone 4-times that size (much bigger than Hughes "Spruce Goose"??) due to the visual footprint it would have from both ground and air, and completely unnecessary, to boot, due to the fact that the required compact sensors and cameras on-board don't need anything larger than the current Global Hawk-size jet aircraft, which is replacing the current "Dragon Lady" version of the U-2.

And since virtually all drones, foreign and domestic, are operated remotely from ground stations hundreds if not several thousands of miles away, an AWACs "remote controlling" a huge "stealth drone" only "7 or 8 plane lengths ahead of the AWACS" also would not make sense, especially in 1999.

Even if such a very large drone were painted white, if the witness could clearly make out the AWACS, he would also be able to even more clearly see the "huge white drone" if it were roughly 4-times the wing-span of the AWACS jet itself, as a white color would contrast at times, flying in "tight" large circles, with the intermittent white clouds contrasting with the intermittent "partially cloudy" blue sky, (unless there was a uniform whitish overcast present, which does not seem to be the case).

More details as to the nature and elevation of the cloud cover relative to the AWACS height need to requested of the witness, it would seem, but if the "invisible" craft were cutting a roiling "swath" through the "cloudy sky," and a visible contrail was present from the AWACS, I don't see how a white-colored 4x AWACS-size "drone" would not also be even more clearly visible itself.

Whatever it was, it was allegedly "visibly cutting through the light clouds and leaving a wake, but the witness could see no actual object. The AWACS seemed to be following an invisible aircraft," so a huge drone seems to be out of contention as a likely or even improbable source for the witness sighting.

All things considered, it makes me question the witness account. And that's the problem I referred to before: how to objectively quantify such a single-witness, anecdotal report?

As an aside, if I were to speculate, and try to account for the details of the witness report, if true, then I would wonder about the possibility of the "AWACS" transmitting some kind of EMR or microwave spread-beam energy to dissipate the clouds in front of it for some unknown reason. But that's franly pretty unlikely, unless such projected radiation mitigated forward radar detection.

Something like that is used on the B-2, according to various reports, only the bomber's surface is electrostatically charged, as is the jet exhaust, for radar detection reduction from both ground and airborne forward hostile radar systems, so a hestitant maybe.

By the way, my father was a career USAF NCO MSgt., and a long-time EC-121 flight engineer, and the EC-121 was an earlier Lockheed Constellation AEW&C early warning, radome-equipped surveillance aircraft, so I'm kind of familiar with the technology involved here that we're discussing.

Again, though, I question some of the details of the witness report. Caveat emptor.

Saucerspud said...

Interesting stuff. I have to agree with the other commenter that an olive drab AWAC sounds a bit sketchy.

I also want to point out that there's an Air National Guard base by Duluth and another north of the Wisconsin Dells. I've spent a lot of summers in the Hayward area and often see F-16s buzzing around. I know that's further west of where the report was, but just wanted to add that those are two airbases large enough to accommodate and AWAC.

Mark UFO'Connell said...


Here's more info from the witness... As is usual, he seems to be remembering more the more he thinks about it.

My apologies for the all caps; it's just how this guy writes!


Then he sent me this:


This makes it even stranger... Pretty hard to sneak around in a Hercules!!

Rococo Beamship said...

I love it! People obsessing over a plane recalled as being olive drab. I did a google search, and couldn't find one either, so they must not have ever existed!

Seems like the claim of seeing an AWACS plane with no markings chasing a fucking invisible craft would be the thing that would hang up the doubters.

Mark UFO'Connell said...

That's why the aliens always win. They've learned how to distract us...

White Stork said...

Oh, no need for Charlie Sheen-type "Winning!" aliens to distract us.

We humans do such a good job at being distracted and distracting others that ET's needn't apply.

The witness statement noted above, about a C-130, which is prop-driven, and the "AWACS' aircraft also being "similar," in some way, to "A EA3 NATO PLANE" seems a tad contradictory, in terms of those aircraft's dissimilar sizes and mainly shapes. And the NATO AWACS jet is a Boeing E3A, which does have an odd paint scheme, only it's not "olive drab."

There are also C-130 AWACS aircraft also, but like the others, has a rotating radome on elevated struts above the middle of the fuselage.

So, "no cigar," either way. Another oddity is the witness noting "THE RADAR BASE CAME RIGHT OUT OF THE FUSELAGE NOT ANY SUPPORT BEAMS," which, if by "BASE" he means radome, is something found on much earlier AEW&C radar surveillance and ELINT aircraft, like the EC-121 my Dad flew. See the third link below for a wiki page on AEW&C that includes a photo of an EC-121M, and click on the photo to see the integrated radomes, both on top and bottom of fuselage, see what I mean.

The further witness statements seem rather contradictory, and somewhat confused, it would seem. Maybe you can send him some of these links to photos to see if any ring a bell with him. After all, he's already "...JUST LOOKED AT PICTURES ON THE INTERNET..." Or, maybe ask him to draw a sketch, scan it, and email it to you?



(Example of NATO E-3A AWACS jet)


(C-130 AWACS plane)


(Click on the photo of the Lockheed EC-121M at link above}

Ah... and I'm not forgetting "Rococo's" comment about "...chasing a fucking invisible craft would be the thing that would hang up the doubters" -- with only 8x Bushnell binocs, 5 to 10 miles away, I too have my doubts, Sir Beamship. Mark, this reported case may not be as good as it may have first seemed, due to the varying details, regardless of the witness background and sincerity. Hard to say.

Mark UFO'Connell said...

I think the insurmountable problem here is that we're relying on memories of something that happened 15 years ago. Still, I have to hand it to the witness for giving it his best shot. I agree that the binocs seem pretty low-powered, but if someone asked me the power of binoculars I owned 15 years ago I would come up blank. Also, I had no idea there were so many types of AWACS planes! The witness is sure the radar dome was a dorsal hump on the fuselage and not a saucer mounted on struts separate from the fuselage, and he is sure it was olive drab with no markings. And he seems pretty sure that it had two jet engines, which seems to count out the C130 and the EA3.

Both those planes are huge, though, and the witness said the invisible UFO was at 4 times as wide... That's something to think about.

Rococo Beamship said...

When a very solid witness "claims" to have had a weird experience, I am inclined to think something strange did in fact happen. I've seen some strange things, and it's a safe bet that if I ever posted those experiences on line, a lot of internet hobbyists would pick at them until they could comfortably conclude that I was lying, delusional, drunk or otherwise incompetent to judge or even describe reality. But of course such conclusions have absolutely no effect on the reality of the experience, whatever it may be. It just allows some people to sleep better at night.

Beyond all that silliness, I think this case may represent an aspect of UFO experiences that doesn't get talked about much in public. There is a substantial amount of evidence that some very strange "craft" are camouflaged in a way that makes them inconspicuous in our sky. My most vivid sighting was of something the size of an airliner, but flying very slowly, barely above treetops (illegally over a city), and without a sound. It appeared to have been rather haphazardly "disguised" as a very large plane. This was at night, and a casual glance would cause a person to think, "Wow, that plane is really low." That's exactly what I though at first, but I got a good look at it, and it just did not add up.

The obvious reason this doesn't get brought up much is that it's just so goofy. Some of the sightings that I think belong in this category are as comical as they are mysterious. Like something from a movie. Mars Attacks comes to mind. :)

Anyway, I admire the courage of the witness, and I applaud Mark for doing a professional job of following up on the report. Hard to say what the witness saw, but it obviously had a strong effect on him. I am not about to call him a liar just because his account does not jibe with my expectations.

Mark UFO'Connell said...

Thank you for the support, Rococo Beamship! Your description of your sighting reminded me of a friend's story I posted here long ago of an airplane that turned out to be a flying saucer...

Rococo Beamship said...

Interesting photo here of a 737 with some kind of radar contraption on top. That's a 2 jet airplane, not exactly chunky looking but when they are short they do look a bit like what was described. I ran across it just now, looking for something else.


Sorry for the lack of html. Copy 'n paste is high tech for me. The photo is from a blog that doesn't have much relevance here, to me, but here it is anyway.


If you do a google image search for "737 aew&c" you'll get lots of interesting photos.

Mark UFO'Connell said...

Hmmm, 737 Wedgetail... That sure seems to fit the bill!

Mark UFO'Connell said...

Hmmm, 737 Wedgetail... That sure seems to fit the bill!