Space Case

Witnesses testify in the mystery of the Metro East UFO

The Aereon craft could fit the collective descriptions of the UFO: its configuration, low altitude, slow speed (though Barton's testimony that it accelerated fairly rapidly belies this) and lack of noise. The only problem is that an Aereon spokesperson, questioned by NIDS, "stated emphatically and repeatedly that no craft of such size was ever built, at least at Aereon." In the mid-1990s, says the report, Aereon obtained seed money from the military to develop a stealth-blimp-type craft that would contain three 50-foot radar antennae. Funding fell through, but the patent, with drawings, is still out there. Informed of the characteristics of the Illinois UFO, the Aereon spokesperson said, "If a large Aereon-type craft is flying, then it represents a stolen patent by persons unknown."

Although the craft was near Scott Air Force Base -- practically invaded the airspace there -- officials deny any knowledge of a UFO near the base. Lt. Col. Allan Dahncke, 375th Airlift Wing public-affairs director, said in the Base News, "The (air-control) tower was closed at the time of the sighting and no aircraft were in the air." The base no longer has radar facilities on the field, adds Dahnke, but relies on the FAA radar approach system at Lambert Airport. Lambert reported that the object did not show up on its radar. That the object did not present itself on a radar screen doesn't mean squat to Kathy Floyd and Mel Noll. "Heck, they're probably smarter than we are and they used radar evasion," Floyd says. Who "they" are, she is not saying.

ALL THE PUBLICITY CERTAINLY DID NOT help the witnesses put the incident to rest -- that is, those who want it put to rest. Of the seven witnesses, Noll and Barton seem the most receptive to discussing what happened, but all of them will talk, likely because it was such an amazing episode, way out of the realm of the probable. UFOlogists say it is not unusual for folks who witness something that they can't explain, something ostensibly otherworldly, to have their imaginations ignited in the days following the incident. None of the witnesses has been obsessively building Devil's Tower replicas out of mashed potatoes, as Richard Dreyfuss did in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but all say the experience has changed their lives in some way -- from perceiving a divine causality to feeling physical aftereffects to simply pondering the meaning of it all.

Jeremy Eaton
Millstadt Police Officer Craig Stevens tried documenting what he saw: "It was a rush. First thing that popped in my head: 'Get the Polaroid.' I ran to the trunk, grabbed the Polaroid, snapped the picture."
Jennifer Silverberg
Millstadt Police Officer Craig Stevens tried documenting what he saw: "It was a rush. First thing that popped in my head: 'Get the Polaroid.' I ran to the trunk, grabbed the Polaroid, snapped the picture."

Dave Martin, 28, is possibly the least impressed by the mysterious incident. "It was different," he concedes. "But when it happened, you know, it didn't really hit on me because I'm not into that stuff -- the military aircraft, the 'other world' or the stars. I'm more of a sports jock. It's not my thing to start reading into it and looking for some deeper meaning. They asked me, 'Did I follow it?' No, I didn't. I just went on with my business. I didn't think nothing big of it at the time."

Over time, however, such an experience can cause even a sports jock to start mulling things: "Like I told these interviewers, I know it was no plane, no helicopter, nothing like that. I doubt that it was a military aircraft, though I'm not that familiar with all the military aircraft out there. Until someone tells us for sure, 100 percent, what it was, I'll always wonder about it. Meantime, I've caught myself several times just looking up at the sky."

For Craig Stevens, 33, a three-year veteran of the Millstadt PD, the experience has left a yearning for the truth and whatever realizations it may bring. "Since then, I've searched the Internet and kind of started my own personal investigation," he says. "I'm trying to find out what it was, and I'm 98 percent sure it was either a military or experimental craft. You know, the stealth fighter was out, what, six to eight, maybe 10 years before the public actually knew about it, and I'm sure that was called 'sightings' prior to us knowing about it.

"Still," continues Stevens, "the questions run through your mind. It makes you take a look at yourself and your beliefs. I've just tried to make some sense of it, because I believe in God and I haven't been able to nail down how the Bible and all this relates. I still think this was something manmade, but there is that vague possibility it was something else, and if so, I don't know how God would feel about it."

Ed Barton also has a difficult time putting the experience behind him. "I'll tell you," he says, "I'm still wondering what the hell it was I actually saw. If it was one of our government's new projects, just have them say, 'It was one of ours, but we can't tell you any more about it.' OK, fine -- case closed, as far as I'm concerned. But what leads me to believe it probably wasn't some military R&D craft, No. 1, why would they test something like that over a populated area, where if the thing went down you've got a bunch of civilians to worry about and trying to contain the site would be sheer hell on the military? And two, why would they light it up like that? Why draw attention to it?"

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