By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Ray Downs
Among the witnesses, Barton was the one who had at least already entertained the notion of UFOs' appearing at odd times and places on the planet. This open-mindedness on the subject has no doubt been fueled by listening, as he does, to the late-night ruminations of Art Bell on KTRS (550 AM), where no conspiracy theory, no government coverup, no paranormal experience is too far-fetched. Bell, coincidentally, claims that he and his wife saw something quite similar to the Metro East UFO some two years ago in the American Southwest, where he lives. If this revelation brings out the sniggering skeptics, Barton is not among them.
"Personally, I think it's kind of arrogant for us to sit here and think we're the only life forms in the entire universe," he says. "That doesn't mean I believe that whoever, whatever it is was coming from light-years away just to see us for whatever reason."
Both Stevens and Barton have experienced bouts of insomnia since the sighting. "When the incident first happened," says Barton, "I didn't sleep for two-and-half days. I finally calmed down to where I was able to get some sleep." Then came the headaches -- "real strong, above and behind the left eye" -- which began a few days after seeing the UFO. "I don't want to say it's directly related to this (Jan. 5 incident)," Barton cautions, though he has contacted Peter Davenport at the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle. "I told him what was going on, and he said that headaches were a fairly common occurrence (after seeing a UFO). He said they should go away pretty soon, which I'm hoping, because it's not a case where they slowly come on and slowly fade. It's like one minute -- boom! -- they're there, and the next minute they're gone."
Though his daughter had assured him he had seen an actual UFO, Steven Wonnacott kept wondering about it, and when he saw the article in the Post the next Sunday, he was largely delivered from his state of bewilderment. "It was such an unusual thing I had seen," he says, "and I wasn't sure there was some rational explanation for it." Wonnacott still doesn't have a rational explanation for it, but, like Officer Stevens, he's become more interested in the subject of UFOs -- searching the Internet, reading books. "Just curious," he says, "no more than that. I think about it from time to time, especially when I drive over that overpass."
Despite differing attitudes toward the experience, the witnesses are united in their reaction to the dismissive comments in the Jan. 25 Post-Dispatch by four UFO experts, including Phillip Klass, founder of the Committee of Scientific Investigations of Claims of the Paranormal and the purported "dean of UFO research." Among the article's speculations: that the sightings represent a "social-psychological phenomenon" in which people believe they see a UFO because they are looking for one; that movies and TV shows such as The X-Files have stepped up belief in extraterrestrial life, causing more people to see more UFOs; that smart, honest, good people can still be seriously wrong about seeing a UFO. The most contentious comment was by Klass, who flatly stated the object described was "probably a hoax" and called the entire remarkable incident "bogus."
"When I read that, I wanted to call Mr. Klass and give him a piece of my mind," says Barton. "Well, I'm sure that someone who's never seen what we've seen can talk the skeptic," Stevens adds. "It (the article) kind of aggravates me because I feel that my credibility and integrity as a police officer is pretty high held. I mean, I state facts all the time, and that's what I saw, and that's what I reported."
"I didn't read about it," offers Martin, "but the other guys told me about it and, you know, it kind of pissed us off. At first we thought we ought to call them up and give them a piece of our mind, but then we thought, 'Well, that's just going to carry it on, so maybe we shouldn't.' So we just let it at that and said, 'Whatever they want to print, that's fine.'"
Mel Noll puts it succinctly, saying, "Nobody seems to know what it was, but I know what I seen, and that's all the further I can go." Seven witnesses in seven separate localities -- that number holds reassurance for Noll. "That night they told me somebody else seen it, I was relieved. I could sleep better then. I didn't know what I'd seen, and I wanted somebody else to see it, too."
Maybe others did see it but are keeping mum -- well, not talking to the press, perhaps, but willing to share with a fellow witness. "I've had five to six letters from people, saying they saw it the same morning," says Stevens. Is it possible other cops saw it that morning? Barton thinks so. "There's two officers in Mascoutah that saw it," he says, "apparently watched it go from I-64 to Summerfield. One is Sgt. (Cathy) Anstedt and the other is Officer (Bob) Ribbing, but for whatever reason they've decided not to come forth." He adds with a chuckle: "I've been dimin' 'em out anyways."