When I began work on UFO Mysteries, the objective was simple: expand and revise a portion of my earlier book, Strange Encounters, and augment that material with a number of new chapters. Unfortunately, what seemed a fairly straightforward task quickly became anything but; I found myself faced with a growing manuscript top-heavy with footnotes, many of which were nearly as involved and ambitious as the text from which they derived. Consequently, I was forced to begin rewriting.
Months of work and additional research shaped the book into something significantly different than a revision. The result was a UFO chronology: a history not only of the phenomenon but of the people involved—the witnesses, the investigators, and in some cases even the news reporters—from 1947 to the turn of the century … the dawn of a new millennium.
That's UFO Mysteries on the surface. A closer look reveals something more, something I had not planned, at least not consciously. What I discovered, upon completing a second draft of the manuscript, was that UFO Mysteries is not only a history that occasionally reads first person, but it is also a partial autobiography. The discovery surprised me. How, I wondered, did this come about?
A careful reconsideration of the manuscript revealed that, in many cases, I had included significant personal background while attempting to explain some particular point of view or some experience with the UFO phenomenon. This biographical material is sprinkled in large and small segments throughout the book, beginning with my childhood and carrying forward into adulthood.
As a journalist and a former newspaperman, I normally tend to minimize or, if possible, avoid injecting my own history or sentiments into a written account. This practice is a long-standing industry ideal designed to help ensure journalistic integrity. Nonetheless, there are times when personal revelation greatly enhances both the actual writing and the message. In retrospect I feel confident that this was the case with UFO Mysteries.
The UFO Flap of 1965 (An Excerpt from UFO Mysteries)
In December a high school pal, Elmer Benjamin Weaver, asked me to assist in releasing a dozen or more Midwestern cottontails into the fields north of Fredericksburg. The rabbits had been trucked in from Kansas by his father's rod and gun club, and the idea was to release them back into the wild in the hope that they would survive and breed-creating additional wild game for Pennsylvania hunters.
On a cold winter evening Ben and I found ourselves lugging a pair of large rabbit cages along a road that led north out of town. The rabbits were nervous and kept shuffling around. We were forced to stop often to adjust our grip on the cages.
Darkness had arrived and a light snow was falling. As we walked, several domestic cats began following us. Each time we stopped to rest, Ben would shout at the cats to chase them away. They stayed close, however, and it seemed obvious that at least some of the rabbits were destined to become tender tidbits. We finally reached a point a mile north of town where we stepped off the road into an open field. Ben opened the cage doors, and as the cottontails fled we did our best to run interference against the pursuing cats. When the rabbits were out of sight, we picked up the cages and returned to the road.
The snowfall had intensified and visibility was limited. Retracing our path, we discussed the fate of the cottontails—wondering how many, if any, would survive. In the sky directly ahead, two bright red lights appeared. They moved side by side at a low altitude, coming our way—clearly visible through the veil of snow. I glanced at Ben, he at me. Neither of us spoke. The only sound was the faint swish of falling snow.
As the lights drew near, I had the distinct feeling that these were not separate objects but were opposite points of some shape in-between. What's more, I was fairly certain this was not a conventional aircraft. Ben and I had grown up around airplanes—a small grass-covered airfield was situated at the west end of town. The planes that flew out of that field had red, green, and amber position lights, were noisy, and were not aloft in near-zero visibility. The approaching lights, whatever they were, were eerie and different. They passed overhead without a sound, traveling more slowly than any aircraft I had ever heard of except those lighter-than-air—a balloon or a blimp—and I was certain these lights were neither. They flew north into the curtain of snow, headed toward the mountains, and we watched them fade.
Safely back home, I told my parents about the eerie red lights. They listened politely, and concluded that Ben and I had witnessed an aircraft gliding with the engine on idle. I didn't accept that then, and I still don't today. Whatever the red lights were they were strange and unknown—a UFO for want of a better term—and they inspired a combination of awe and fear that has stayed with me through all the years since.