Space Case

Witnesses testify in the mystery of the Metro East UFO

When contacted, however, Ribbing says, "It was just an aircraft," sounding as though he has explained all this before. "We saw an airplane with its landing lights on up near Scott Air Force Base in the early-morning hours. But as soon as it turned off its lights, I could see it was an aircraft." Although Barton is skeptical of this explanation, he understands the officers' reluctance to divulge the truth about what they saw, if indeed they saw it. Barton speculates, "They don't feel like talking about it because of the ridicule I and the other officers were getting."

For Stevens, that ridicule comes in the form of sophomoric pranks. "For the most part, the officers here have been real supportive," he says. "You know, there's one who kind of bugs me about it, in a joking manner. He believes I saw something, but still he leaves a little gummy green alien in a tube on my desk, calls it Craig's test-tube baby." With Martin, it's shades of Mork And Mindy: "Folks at the gym, the supermarket, they don't make remarks," says Martin. "The ones that give me shit are the guys I work with. They just joke around, sarcastic, do that 'nanoo-nanoo' thing with the fingers. Little stuff like that, nothing big." Wonnacott, too, admits to being the brunt of some mild ribbing. "They make spaceship noises and joke about my credibility," he says of his colleagues at East St. Louis Senior High School.

Of course, it may be that those who dispense gibes are in reality envious. Harrison L. Church, publisher of the Lebanon Advertiser, sitting in a room that looks more like a museum than a newspaper office, says he has no doubt that Barton and the others saw something quite remarkable: "Whether it's of this earth or another planet, who knows? Most people have formulated the impression there are things out there we don't know about, don't understand, probably from other worlds, but are no threat to us. I think we've figured out if they wanted to sack and burn the place, they would've done it by now."

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."

Mel Noll sits in the arcade room of Fun Land, a bunch of newspapers with stories about the UFO spread out on a table. "Tell you what," he says, "a lot more people around here are looking up at the sky." Ditto for Noll, the inadvertent instigator of this entire affair. Well, maybe not inadvertent, for Noll believes that some higher power guided him to be in that place at that time; he believes that his part in the event was more than caprice. "Oh, I think I had help letting me know I should look," he says. "Otherwise, most times if I stop in here on cold mornings, I don't bother to look at the sky. But, you know, it just seems that everything was timed just right so I could get here at the time that light was coming. And then I went in and came back to the truck and something made me look again. You don't just normally look up in the air, and I was just amazed what I saw coming. I just couldn't hardly believe myself. My goodness, what is that? Just like a floating home up there, something big with lights in it. And close, so close somebody could have waved at me out the window and I would've seen it."

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