Mayor Mara Hanel of Warren, MN has proclaimed August 27 to be “UFO Day.” The northwest Minnesota town of Warren joins Elmwood, WI and Bellville, WI in hosting small-town UFO Day celebrations. Like the celebrations in Elmwood and Bellville, the new event in Warren commemorates a high-profile encounter between local law enforcement and an unidentified object.
The incident in Warren, MN happened forty years ago on August 27, 1979, when a nocturnal light apparently collided with Marshall County Sheriff’s deputy Val Johnson’s patrol car. The story was widely reported and nationally circulated. It has become the most-famous of all Minnesota UFO encounters.
Around 1:40 AM that day, Deputy Sheriff Val Johnson of Warren, MN was patrolling near Stephen, MN when he saw a bright light approaching from the distance. Assuming it to be a plane making an emergency landing, he sped toward the light. “The light sat there a moment,” Johnson told CUFOS investigators, “And then—boom!—it was right on my car. I heard glass breaking, an extremely bright light lit up the inside of the car, and that’s all I remember.” When the officer came to, he found his squad car sitting sideways in the road with a broken windshield, a broken headlamp, and two bent radio antennas. The deputy’s wristwatch and electric dashboard clock had stopped for fourteen minutes, and Johnson had suffered what doctors later referred to as “welder burns” on his eyes from exposure to an extremely bright light. Johnson had to wear eye patches for about ten hours after the incident, and it was a couple of days before his vision returned to normal.
Forty years later, to the day, the Marshall County Historical Society hosts a commemorative event titled “The UFO Incident,” and the town’s cafes are having space-themed food specials during the day. (One hopes that the local cafes will also serve a slice of cherry pie with a damn-fine cup of coffee, ala Twin Peaks.)
Officer Val Johnson’s damaged patrol car (pictured above) will be on display at the event. According to the Grandforks Herald, the highlight of the new UFO Day will be a presentation at the the Marshall County Historical Society Museum which will also feature a retelling of the Val Johnson encounter and will be attended by Dennis Brekke, former Marshall County sheriff who was Johnson’s supervisor, the original radio dispatcher from the night of the incident, two of the original investigators that followed up, and some representatives from MUFON. An alien themed costume party will add to the festive UFO-Days atmosphere.
Our intrepid reporters at UFOdays.net heard about the event a little bit too late to to attend, but we wish the new UFO Day venture lots of success. One more thing. There is an Elmwood-area, local-Wisconsin angle to the Val Johnson story that bears mention. The deputy’s collision with a UFO on August 27, 1979 precipitated a series of similar encounters through the fall of 1979, several of them occurring in Western-Wisconsin. It just so happens that UFOdays.net is preparing a soon-to-be released story on the flap of 1979 and the investigations that followed those encounters.
You know, it’s kind of weird, but it seems like UFO Days really are happening.