Between July 13 and 29, 1952, a series of UFO sightings were reported over Washington D.C. Witnesses would include an Air Force pilot, people on the ground and, in case you're the type to never trusts the testimony of fallible human beings, we have readings from two separate radar stations.
The Unsettling Evidence:
The first substantiated report came on July 19, when air traffic controller Edward Nugent, of Washington National Airport...
or "Ted" to his friends.
... noticed seven unidentifiable objects on his radar. The objects were not following established flight paths and, in typical UFO sighting fashion, were being too radical in their movements to be ordinary aircraft. Meanwhile, at Andrew's Air Force Base, air traffic controllers were also tracking several unidentifiable objects. According to the military's report on the incident, both towers were tracking an object that was hovering over a radio beacon, before it vanished from both radars at the exact same time.
Even more interesting is that almost the exact same thing happened on July 26, only a week later. The same airports, the same radar readings, the same unidentified objects all on the same fucking day of the week. Two fighter jets were sent this time, one of which saw nothing. The other, however, reported four orbs of light zipping around. The pilot even called in to ask if he should, you know, shoot them down or something, before they streaked out of sight.
"Should I kill this?"
That was enough to attract the attention of President Harry Truman. By now the Air Force had launched Project Blue Book, a massive investigation into pretty much every UFO sighting ever, with the goal of finding out once and for all what was going on. If that sounds like X-Files stuff, remember it's not that the government believed an Independence Day scenario was coming. It was more worried about some kind of radical new Russian spy aircraft.
The Official Explanation:
Project Blue Book was headed by Air Force Captain Edward Ruppelt, and the best guess he could come up with for the D.C. sightings was that the radar was giving false readings due to a temperature inversion (where a layer of warm, moist air covers a layer of cool, dry air, close to the ground, which can reflect radar signals). This didn't account for the eyewitness sightings, of course, or for the fact that temperature inversions are common but radars never pick them up.
"Problem solved." - Project Blue Book
So the government's official position wound up being that there was a meteor storm or some other phenomena at the exact same time, by pure coincidence, there was an unrelated radar error causing the false signals. Mystery solved! Though we should point out that among the people who didn't buy the explanation included Ruppelt and the personnel who were manning the freaking radar stations.
We find that it's a lot easier to cover things up when you ignore the eyewitnesses.
It didn't matter. By 1952, the government was sick of the UFO thing. The nation had UFO fever and every time something lit up in the sky, hundreds and hundreds of people would call and claim Mars was attacking. The entire point of Project Blue Book was to debunk as many of these as possible and get all those cranks to stop bothering them.
It worked like a charm! There were no more UFO sightings after 1952, right?
OK, so there were a few thousand after that. And one of them has to be the weirdest of all: the Valentich Disappearance.
History has seen its fair share of aircraft, and even boats, disappearing into the great abyss that is our mighty oceans. So it wouldn't be surprising to hear that on October 21, 1978, a Cessna 182 light aircraft piloted by Australian Frederick Valentich pulled a Houdini and disappeared right the fuck out of thin air.
That is, until you take into account his final radio transmissions, which are about the creepiest thing you'll ever read.
The Unsettling Evidence:
In his final words with Melbourne Air Traffic Control, which can be read in its creepy-ass entirety here, Valentich described being followed by a UFO:
Valentich: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?
Melbourne: No known traffic.
Valentich: I am... seems to be a large aircraft below five thousand.
Melbourne: What type of aircraft is it?
Valentich: I cannot affirm. It is four bright... it seems to me like landing lights.
Like Gorman, Valentich claimed the aircraft was intentionally buzzing him, zipping past, getting too close and going incredibly fast. At one point Valentich said the aircraft stopped in mid-air, and he orbited around it to get a good look:
Valentich: It's got a green light and sort of metallic like... it's all shiny on the outside... ... it just vanished...
Valentich: Ah... Melbourne that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again... (two seconds open microphone)... it is hovering and it's not an aircraft...
Those were Valentich's last words to Air Traffic Control, and maybe his last words to anyone. What followed were 17 seconds of a metallic scraping sound. Neither Valentich nor his plane were ever seen again. The investigation has been one, long, frustrating dead end. No wreckage of the plane has been found, but he was close enough to the ocean that he could have wound up crashing there. Of course, he was close enough to land for lots and lots of eyewitnesses to come forward to say they saw the EXACT same UFO Valentich reported ... which would be great if they weren't all coming forward after the story had hit the newspapers. They even had two experts examine the 17 seconds of metallic scraping at the end of the radio transmission. The conclusion was a shrug and, "Yep, that's pretty fuckin' weird, isn't it?"
"Weird as shit."
The Official Explanation:
One of the cruel realities of life is that it's pretty easy to blame whoever isn't around to defend themselves. So "Valentich was crazy/stupid/disoriented" immediately becomes the default explanation. For instance, some have suggested Valentich became disoriented and was actually flying upside down the entire time. The lights he saw being his own in the reflection of the ocean.
"Wow, an upside down world with forests and trees and everything! It's like Narnia!"
This would, of course, make him an even worse pilot than George "I tried to shoot down Jupiter" Gorman.
Some have suggested it was an elaborate suicide, the UFO thing a final hoax to keep people talking. Or maybe he just imagined the whole thing from the start. Who knows? He's not around for us to ask.
Our favorite theory is that the guy just got fed up with his life and flew off to go start a new one somewhere where nobody knew him. Who hasn't felt like doing that?
I'm never wearing pants again! Fuck you, society!
Or, maybe it was aliens.
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For more of the unexplainable, check out The 5 Creepiest Unsolved Crimes Nobody Can Explain and 6 Insane Discoveries That Science Can't Explain.
Make sure to stop by Linkstorm (Updated 08.06.10) to figure out what really happened to Ross.
And find out which famous prime minister may have hidden a UFO report over at AOL Weird News.