By Frank Joseph
For most of my life, I never saw a so-called unidentified flying object—I didn’t know if such a thing actually existed, nor did I much care. My father was amateur astronomer, whose handmade telescopes afforded our family summertime observations of the night sky during my boyhood, but no unworldly craft ever hove into view.
Throughout the rest of my life, I knew men and women who claimed to have seen strange phenomena in the heavens suggesting visitations from another planet. But I was not personally privy to the extraterrestrial encounters of any kind until my early 50s when I rented an old log house in a remote area of northwestern Wisconsin. The thickly forested area was sparsely populated, mostly spread over disconnected farmland, much of it destitute, in a valley running east to west for about 30 miles.
Alone in Rural Wisconsin
The small village of Ridgeland was some five miles to the north, although Menomonie was the nearest city, a 40-minute drive away. Neighbors were few and far between, but I preferred nature to society and felt relieved to have at last found refuge beyond the noisy distractions of modern life. I lived alone at the Wisconsin house, serenely content in its unspoiled isolation, for more than a year before anything unusual happened.
During all these months of season changes and unchanging solitude, nothing in the wooded environment suggested anything paranormal or threatening, so I was unprepared for an event that tood place shortly after 3:00 on the morning of April 18, 1999. The videotape I had been watching clicked off at its conclusion, leaving me in the dark living room to ponder my schedule of duties and events for the coming day. Thus self-absorbed, I hardly noticed a not-very-brilliant yellowish-green light that flashed briefly through the front window.
“Must be the police, checking on things,” I mused half-consciously, until realizing with a start that during my 15-month residency near Ridgeland, I never saw a single patrol car. I walked outside on the deck to investigate. The spring night was absolutely quiet, cool, and clear, not a cloud in a sky filled with stars. One star caught my attention in the west. It seemed larger, brighter, and less familiar than the rest. And it was moving slowly over a line of treetops about a quarter of a mile away. The yellowish-green light bobbed gently, as though suspended from a balloon, occasionally shining a faint ray, perhaps probing into the hilly forest not far across the gravel road.
I could not guess the object’s size, although I felt somehow it was not very large. The perfect stillness of the night was not dispelled by a single sound as I watched the strange radiance drift above the tress for about ten seconds. It came to a sudden halt in mid-air, then vanished by degrees, as though a cover had rotated over the light, concealing it. Irrational as it seems in retrospect, I could not help feeling at the time that whoever controlled the object was somehow aware that I was observing it and deliberately hid itself from view. Soon after its disappearance, the baying of farm dogs could be heard in the distance.
Was it an Alien Spacecraft?
Had I seen a UFO, in the extraterrestrial sense? I wasn’t sure. It was unlikely to have been an airplane, because there are no airports in the vicinity of Ridgeland. Moreover, the bounding ball of light did not behave like an aircraft, nor did it produce any engine noise; sound travels far over the nighttime hills of northwestern Wisconsin.
Inconclusive as the sighting may have been, I gave it little though until the following June 25. As before, I stood on the deck admiring the night sky, this time hung with cosmic curtains of northern lights shimmering in ghostly fields of red, green, blue, and silver. While observing them, I became gradually aware of two nut-like shadows growing larger against the backdrop of the celestial spectacle. In seconds, the pair took on more defined shapes, and I could see quite plainly that they were solid forms resembling gigantic almonds, but their shared exteriors were matte black. They streaked over my bran faster than any jet plane I ever saw at perhaps just a thousand feet in altitude, the one in the lead differing from its companion only be the addition of a spar or antenna protruding horizontally from the forward section of its upper half.
Although their swift passage lasted but a few seconds, I had a clear view of the objects, which appeared enormous. Both were at least 200 feet long. Not a sound accompanied their high-speed flight—an impossibility, because wind noise is generated even by motorless gliders during their descent through the air. In a moment, the two objects vanished over the southern horizon, leaving me inexplicably more shaken than thrilled. They could have represented some human classified military technology, but my instincts said otherwise.
At least, I had seen what appeared to have been authentic UFOs, and I more seriously reconsidered my previous sighting in April. But my chances of seeing another one, I imagined, were more than unlikely.
Before that summer was over, however, I was casually driving home and about to turn on to the road to my home when what I took for the moon began to appear more angular than I had ever noticed it before. I stopped the car to watch it turn red, then slowly resolve and disappear—not behind any clouds, because there were none. I then realized with a shock that this evening’s atypical “moon” was vanishing into the south. Again a sensation of “knowing” overcame me—a feeling that whoever or whatever was in charge of the moonlike object was aware of my observation and concealed itself from me.
In October, I married, and my wife Laura joined me as a fellow witness to additional encounters. Once, while we were driving back to Ridgeland late one clear fall evening on Highway 25, a most unusual shooting star flew over the car. We glimpsed what appeared to be a large, pitted boulder spinning wildly before it burst into a long, blue flame only a few hundred yards above us, or so it seemed. We wondered how many others had seen such a meteor, certainly the most unusual we ever saw.
On the same road, driving across especially desolate areas, enigmatic searchlights occasionally rose from the ground into the clouded night sky. They did not belong to farm machinery, because we saw them during the dead of winter, when the few impoverished fields in the vicinity were abandoned for hundreds of square miles in every direction.
More unusual and frightening were the noises we sometimes heard long after sundown. Beginning in January 2000, the sound of large-scale drilling seemed to come floating on a southwest breeze late at night from an unimaginable location not too far away. On at least have a dozen separate occasions that winter, we could hear serious grinding going deep into the earth. The sound was as eerie as it was inexplicable, and we prayed whatever caused it would stay away from us until the dawn gave us renewed courage.
In the morning, we jumped into our car to find the source of the nighttime racket, even though I was already familiar with the economically depressed area for many miles around and knew that no one in that pare of the state operated large drill rigs of any kind, certainly not at 2:00 A.M. in the middle of winter. Riding over the desolate acreages of often deserted farmland, we never saw anything remotely capable of produces the terrible grinding sound we had heard after dark. Laura theorized that they were drilling into limestone aquifers that run through the Wisconsin valley to remove some of its exceptionally good water.
We shared none of our experiences with others, however, until March, when the 28-year-old son of our landlord paid us a visit, ostensibly to inquire about the possibility of remodeling the place. Before leaving, he looked at me with an uncertain expression and wondered aloud if we ever saw “anything strange around here.”
“Such as?” I asked disingenuously. Before he could think of a proper response, Laura announced to my annoyance, “Frank’s seen flaying saucers!”
“That’s it,” he agreed with a smile. “You’re not eh only one. That’s why I asked. Lots of people have been seeing UFOs in these parts for a long time. You can ask just about any family around Ridgeland or in between the other towns. Most of them have had their own encounters.”
“What about you?” I asked. “You grew up in this house.”
“Well, to give you an example, when I was 15, back during the late ‘80s, on a summer evening , I was standing with my dad and my brothers in the driveway after hanging up our gardening tools in the barn. Mom was looking at us through this window, trying to tell us to come for dinner, when she pointed excitedly at the barn. We turned around and saw a cigar-shaped thing hovering about 15 feet over the roof. It didn’t move or make a sound, like it was nailed in one place, but airborne. It was very dark brown, maybe only ten feet long, and looked something like a helicopter fuselage without propellers or the plastic bubble for a pilot.
“All four of us stared at it for a good half-minute, then it just shot away up into the sky and disappeared in a second or two. We all had other sightings, individually, mostly late at night, but that was the only time the whole family saw the same thing, and during daylight.”
They Were Not Alone
Fascinated and relived to learn that Laura and I were not the only witness to extraterrestrial-like activities in northwest Wisconsin, I followed the young man’s tip and began looking into other reports in the area. My research turned up something more than the usual sightings made around the world. It seems that Belleville and Elmwood recently vied with one another for the title of UFO Capital of the World. The 30 or so miles between these two small towns at opposite extremes of the valley including Ridgeland may indeed feature the highest number of such sightings on Earth.
A surge of similar reports began quite suddenly in 1975, when police officer Glen Kazmar reported a cluster of blue, red, and white lights hovering over Belleville. They were witnessed by fellow officers and a number of townspeople for the next several nights. Leading Elmwood citizens, including a school teacher, deputy police, and local sheriff claimed to have seen bizarre craft flying in the vicinity of their town, as well. Before the end of the decade, 35 such accounts had been filed with the city law enforcement authorities.
A typical report was made in October 1977 by Paul Fredrickson, a nursing home administrator, who like myself, mistook something else for the moon.
“I took one look at the speed it was approaching,” he recalled, “and knew it could not be the moon. It was round and bright and orange, but as it came close, it turned out to be crescent-shaped. The light was coming from the front end. As it hovered near us, we could see the underside very clearly. It was round, nearly saucer-shaped, dark gray, and about 50 feet in diameter. Before it came over us, it made no sound, but when it passed at about a thousand feet up from us, it made a whoosh as it passed over. It disappeared so fast it was gone with a snap of your fingers. I felt elated and frustrated. I wish I had a piece of the ship so I could have concrete evidence of what I saw.”
Nearby Chippewa Falls is the home of UFO Site Center Corporation, whose members announced the proposed construction of an extraterrestrial landing pad at Elmwood, where the alien craft seemed to be constellating. Although the venture was backed by Elmwood’s mayor, it fell through for lack of funds in 1999. Over the last 15 years, however, this town of 1,000 residents ahs staged an annual UFO Days festival, with floats and celebrations welcoming the space brothers.
A Fatal Encounter
More serious was an encounter of the worst kind experienced on the night of April 22, 1976, when police officer George Wheeler investigated a flaming red object hovering a hundred feet or so over central Elmwood. As he drove up beneath the craft, his radio abruptly ceased to function. Sometime later, David Moots, a local resident, saw the patrol car sitting silently and unlit in the middle of a downtown street. Inside, Officer Wheeler was barely conscious. In response to ambulance technicians trying to save his life en route to the emergency ward, Wheeler claimed he had been hit in the chest with a painful red ray that shot from the UFO through his windshield. As his health rapidly deteriorated for causes his doctors could not determine, he repeatedly told them, to their disbelief; that he was dying from the mysterious effects of internal injuries caused by alien beings. Within six months after his April encounter, Officer George Wheeler died of unknown causes. What is it about the Belleville-Ridgeland-Elmwood area that attracts visitors from another world? Whatever the reason or reasons, the relationship between extraterrestrials and the territories where they are sighted cannot be discounted. Investigators hoping to learn some answers may wish to camp out in Wisconsin’s Valley of the UFOs – if they dare.