UFO Sighting in Lewis Center, Ohio on 1973-10-11 21:01:00 - Loud boom
The great ufo wave of 1973 (copyrighted by author) on october 11, 1973, a thunderous boom was heard over a multi-state area in the midwest. with the exception of the krakatoa volcanic eruption of 1883, the 1973 boom may be the most widespread sound on record. the sound was accompanied by a sudden increase in ufo sightings, and police switchboards were inundated with calls. strange alien abductions and similar unexplainable events occurred concurrently with this sound. a week later, the columbus dispatch reported that on october 17, central ohio law enforcement agencies received 150 ufo reports. [i] so far as is known, this is the largest number ufo reports ever received in a 24-hour period. this was part of what is often called the “ufo wave of 1973.” an extensive study was made of the sound and its associated effects using newspaper accounts, earthquake information, freedom of information act (foia) material, and many additional sources. several people, including, dr. mike hansen, a state of ohio geologist and an adjunct professor at osu, helped me analyze and investigate the sound. dr. hansen gave information about where seismic stations are located, whom to contact, and helped obtain and interpret the seismograph records. a number of additional scientists and researchers were interviewed. eventually the event was reported, “investigation of a sound heard over a wide area,” in the ohio journal science, 1987: 11. [ii] the boom was felt in 10 states including ohio, pennsylvania, virginia, maryland, and west virginia. [iii] newspapers reported that it was first heard at around 8:30 p.M. most reports described a shock that lasted a few seconds, and some mentioned three separate tremors. the sound, which shook houses and furniture, was described in different ways in various places: as a thunderous boom, an explosion, a shock wave, and a tremor. the pattern of the blast was also studied the boom first became evident over indiana and western ohio and traveled east to the coast. the sound covered a circular-shaped area, extending from kentucky northward possibly to canada, and from illinois to maryland. the earliest reports were from the wapakoneta, ohio, area, where the sound was heard at around 8:30 p.M. it was reported at 8:41 at lockbourne near columbus (columbus is 60 miles east of wapakoneta), and at 8:45 in delaware, ohio, just north of columbus. a seismograph at the pennsylvania state university’s seismic observatory recorded a five-second burst of very high frequency at 8:53 p.M., simultaneously with a window-breaking, dish-rattling boom that was heard in central pennsylvania. this is the only time that can be assumed as accurate. because the sound’s place of origin is unknown (whether it was from above, or generated in the indiana or illinois area), it is difficult to determine the actual speed of the boom’s sound. however, the boom seems to have traveled east at roughly twice the speed of sound. in addition, several other booms were heard and felt that night particularly in the area around auglaize county and wapakoneta, ohio. [iv] auglaize county authorities received some calls about a loud noise at 8:30 and others at 8:40. in auglaize’s southern neighbor shelby county, the sheriff’s office took six calls at 8:43. to the north of auglaize, the allen county sheriff’s office received calls at 1:20, 3:20, and 3:30 a.M. the following morning. airplane investigations made immediately after the sound were unable to determine its source. [v] air force officials in pennsylvania and officers at the naval observatory in washington had, at first, investigated airplanes, but said they had sighted nothing that could have caused a sonic boom or a similar sound. spokespersons at the goddard space flight center in beltsville, maryland, and at the national aeronautics and space administration (nasa) in washington, d.C., agreed they found nothing that could have caused the noise. because one might immediately think the blast was caused by a sonic boom, the first investigations included searching for evidence of an aircraft sonic boom. excellent comparative data was available to refute this idea. ten days after the event, the norwalk reflector [vi] carried an account of another nighttime sonic boom heard in norwalk, ohio, and caused by what is still the air force’s fastest airplane, the sr-71, in flight on october 21, 1973 over a portion of the area of the october 11 sound. this article showed that a sonic boom had a reach of only about 50 miles—a much smaller area than that of the october 11 blast. norwalk area residents had not been warned in advance about the flight, yet they had no trouble seeing and identifying the airplane, even though it was dark. the source of the sound was explained and the airplane causing the boom was sighted immediately. even if a squadron of jets stretching over several states and flying at supersonic speeds caused the first boom, people should have seen some of these. in addition, the description of the burst recorded at pennsylvania state university gives the impression that it was caused by one source, not a fleet of jets. earthquake authorities at the national earthquake information center in boulder, colorado, said the center’s instruments would not have recorded a small earthquake in the eastern united states, and they had no knowledge of a large quake anywhere. [vii] because the pennsylvania state university’s seismic observatory recorded the five-second burst, dr. shelton alexander, professor of geophysics and director of the seismic observatory, made extensive instrument checks. he found nothing to suggest an earthquake. the national geophysical data center showed no indications of an earthquake. on the national level, two washington post articles [viii] noted that, according to frank forrester of the u.S. geological survey, no earthquake stations in the boom area recorded earth tremors large enough to result in the blast. g. a. bollinger, ph.D., a seismic expert at the department of geological sciences of virginia polytechnic institute and state university, also found no evidence of an earthquake associated with the reports. earthquakes, mining blasts, meteors, and other events have unique seismograph signatures. for example, because earthquakes begin with relatively weak primary waves compared to mining blasts, the seismograph recording did not suggest an earthquake. the only seismograph records obtained were from the carroll, ohio, station near cleveland; these didn’t show any detectable evidence of the boom. in spite of help from dr. hansen, other seismograph recordings for this time period were not found. the recording made at pennsylvania state university was reported to be lost. however, the event can be studied through the newspaper accounts. meteor as mentioned above, the pennsylvania recording was at first thought to have been caused by a meteor. my investigation found no meteor shower on october 11; no newspapers carried reports of meteors or fireballs; and i found no other observational evidence. if a meteorite had passed through the upper atmosphere and continued, it might have created a high-altitude dust cloud that could have been reported as a ufo, but, in that case, the sighting reports would have been of something high and cloud-like, seen over a distance. instead, the reports were mostly of low-level objects. [ix] if the explosion had been from bolides or a fireball that exploded and left remnants to rain down, descriptions might have been similar to those of the 1965 kecksburg pennsylvania crash. although studies continue on the seismic signature of a meteor, no evidence existed that the boom had the signature of a meteorite. military and government activity two days after the boom, a portsmouth, ohio, newspaper [x] reported that officials at wright patterson air force base said that a national investigation was underway to determine the source of the shock wave. a spokesman said that base officials were working with the air force in washington to pinpoint the origin of the flight and the kind of mission that caused the boom. the st. marys, ohio, evening leader [xi] reported that wright patterson air force base officials repeatedly said that their organization would not investigate the sightings and they also denied reports that two ufos had been observed over the base itself. additional newspaper accounts suggested that wpafb officials investigated the origin of the sound, but my foia search turned up nothing about this investigation. likewise, the visual accounts of objects did not fit the pattern of a military activity, such as of when a test cloud is dispersed high in the sky over a wide area. the reported objects were flying at low altitudes and were confined to relatively small areas. no evidence existed to show that the boom resulted from a military airlift or any similar occurrence. loaded military cargo planes are normally used and these travel at subsonic speeds. (a number of unusual events occurred at this time–the yom kippur war, watergate, and oil shortages. however, there is no reason to think that public anxiety resulted in the flap, because the same tensions existed before and afterwards.) i contacted many public and private research and observation agencies for further information on meteorites, earthquakes, airplanes, and anything else that might have caused the boom. the reply to my freedom-of-information request to wpafb and the national archives was that no information was available. my further investigation, in which the air force, seismograph stations, and many other agencies either were contacted directly or through foia, turned up nothing. after checking with the pennsylvania state university’s seismic observatory, the national earthquake information center in boulder, colorado, and the national geophysical data center by direct conversation and through foia, no evidence was found that the boom was caused by an earthquake, a meteorite, or by any kind of aircraft. at about the same time as the sound was heard, police in many areas were suddenly inundated with ufo reports. this increase in sightings took place not only across the area of the boom in the united states, but around the world. [xii] many dramatic and well-known ufo incidents also occurred in this time period, as described by story in the encyclopedia of ufos. for example a reported alien abduction, the pascagoula (mississippi) abduction, [xiii] took place on october 11, 1973, at roughly 9:00 p.M., a time concurrent with the sound boom. on october 17, the “roach abduction” [xiv] took place in utah. this was a landmark case because it was the first time anyone had reported aliens coming into a private home for abduction, and it was also one of the first group abduction reports. [xv] other well-known cases included the coyne helicopter-ufo encounter, which took place near mansfield, ohio. [xvi] at almost the exact time of the sound, switchboards were suddenly swamped with ufo reports, as described in contemporary newspaper accounts and by leonard stringfield in situation red. there’s no evidence this initial wave of sightings was media-generated. these sightings weren’t reported until a day or two after october 11, and accounts appeared even later in weekly and monthly media such as magazines. the following pattern emerged: the boom echoed across the eastern united states. at that time and later, numerous ufos sightings were reported. the reports increased dramatically over the next days. for example, on october 17 law enforcement officers in franklin county, ohio, received a record 150 ufo reports, and officials in wheeling, west virginia, received 100. thus, hard evidence existed that something happened here. that is the boom, which accompanied or preceded the other events. it also appeared that the boom represented a physical object entering the earth’s atmosphere at a high speed. however, the expected meteorite or craft wasn’t seen and no good evidence existed that the sound resulted from an earthquake during the time of these events, a landmark study (between 1973 and 1980) examined ufo activity in missouri. designed by dr. harley rutledge, it was called project identification. [xvii] not only was this an iconic scientific study of ufos, it also provided an important comparison of the 1973 activity with that of the following years. rutledge logged a maximum number of sightings in 1973; after that the number of sightings sharply declined. rutledge was a solid-state physicist and chairperson of the physics department at southeast missouri state university. his study is unique because he and his team observed ufos in real time, during the events, rather than after the fact. monitoring in real-time meant the scientists could determine a ufo’s velocity, course, position, distance, and size. the scientists discovered numerous reasons why studying ufo phenomena is difficult. normally fieldwork on the phenomena is impossible because ufos do not make regular and predictable appearances. in project identification, although scientists spotted numerous unidentified flying objects, they often were unable to photograph such subjects as class a ufos, which was a term they used for the best class, because the ufos would disappear, would appear when cameras could not be brought to bear on them, would not show up on film after being photographed, and displayed other methods of evading detection. although rutledge’s study began in april 1973, because of the scientific community’s anti-ufo bias (rutledge believed he was jeopardizing his career), information about his research was not disseminated before the boom and the ufo wave of 1973 became nationwide news. therefore, other scientists were unaware of the characteristics he observed in ufo phenomena—information that might have spurred similar investigations. the conclusion of my study was that the october 1973 event, which included the sound and the ufo sightings, is still unexplained. if something alien had entered earth’s atmosphere, briefly interacted, and then left, we would not know it and this points out a problem with the scientific study of ufos. scientific investigation of the phenomena is often presented as one of simply collecting more and better data; however, the research presented here draws attention to a much more fundamental problem. in this case there was actual physical evidence of an event and much observational data. however, people had no idea what to do with the data. even though rutledge had made a precise study, which addressed these problems, this information was not disseminated. these results show that new methods for studying ufo phenomena are needed. a related problem is that today’s scientific paradigms are based on the idea of controlled experimentation, with the basic assumption that humans are in control. in the case of ufos this might not be true. methods need to be developed to study something that may control us, and is more intelligent than us. notes [i] columbus dispatch, “photos taken of 4 ufos,” october 18, 1973: 1a. [ii] scott, irena, “investigation of a sound heard over a wide area,” ohio journal science 87(2), 1987: 11. [iii] the (st mary’s) evening leader, “big blast, ufo’s shake people over wide area,” october 12, 1973: /// [iv] mccoy, g. w., “just in passing,” wapakoneta daily news, october 12, 1973 ///; and wapakoneta daily news, “residents sight ufos,” october 12, 1973: 1. [v] columbus dispatch, “ufo reports precede boom,” october 12, 1973: 35 a. [vi] norwalk reflector, “sonic boom jars homes in norwalk,” october 22, 1973: 1. [vii] columbus dispatch, “ufo reports precede boom,” october 12, 1973: 35 a. [viii] washington post, “shock wave”, october 14, 1973:///; and washington post, “mystery-“quake in area felt,” october 12, 1973:///. [ix] stringfield, leonard h., situation red, the ufo siege!, garden city, n.Y., doubleday, 1977. [x] portsmouth times, “source of shock waves is probed,” october 13, 1973:/// [xi] the evening leader, “ufo sightings continue, landing in ohio reported,” october 15, 1973: 4. [xii] stringfield, leonard h., situation red, the ufo siege!, garden city, n.Y., doubleday, 1977. randle, kevin d., the ufo casebook, new york, warner books, 1989; and von keviczky, major (ret) colman, mmse, “the 1973 ufo invasion, parts i-iv” official ufo, collectors edition, fall 1976: 10-20. [xiii] story, ronald d., the encyclopedia of ufos, garden city, ny, doubleday, 1980. [xiv] story, ronald d., the encyclopedia of ufos, garden city, ny, doubleday, 1980. [xv] story, ronald d., the encyclopedia of ufos, garden city, ny, doubleday, 1980. [xvi] zeidman, jennie, helicopter-ufo encounter over ohio, j allen hynek center for ufo studies, 1979. [xvii] rutledge, harley d., project identification: the first scientific field study of ufo phenomena, englewood cliffs, n.J., prentice-hall, 1981.
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