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Bizarre Appalachia: Navy UFO tale reopens stories of strange lights in region’s mountain skies

Hubble Space Telescope spots a UFO. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/WikiCommons)

Unidentified Flying Objects, best known to the public as UFOs or flying saucers, recently appeared in the national news again when U.S. Navy pilots talked about seeing strange objects with no visible engines that could reach hypersonic speeds. Some pilots described one of the UFOs as a “flying Tic-Tac.”

On May 26, The New York Times reported incidents experienced by Navy pilots in 2014 and 2015 between Virginia and Florida while flying off the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. Some pilots managed to film the unidentified objects. Earlier this year, the Navy set up new guidance for how to report such encounters.

In southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, UFOs join Bigfoot sightings and sightings of mountain lions as one of the strange things seen in and above the Appalachian Mountains. According to state-by-state listings on the National UFO Reporting Center website, both West Virginia and Virginia have had their share of UFOs.

These local UFOs have been described as “lights,” “triangle shaped,” sometimes “chevron shaped,” or “cylinder shaped.” One UFO sighted 2012 near Oak Hill in Fayette County was described as “a large boomerang with a pulsating front edge.” Athens, Princeton, Bluefield, the area between Bluefield,Va. and Bland County, Va., the town of Union, Panther, Camp Creek, Oakvale, Lashmeet, Tazewell, Va. and other area communities have had their share of strange objects in the sky.

Sometimes UFOs touch on the lives of people in the aviation industry even if they’ve never actually seen a flying saucer or anything else strange in the sky. Clint Ransom, manager of the Mercer County Airport, recalled a letter he received several years ago from a concerned citizen living near the airport.

“I personally have never seen anything,” Ransom said. “I did receive a letter a few years ago from somebody on Ceres Road. They saw something and they sent (letter) because they were worried it would mess with the planes coming in over here. (Ceres Road) is right off the end of the runway, really.”

Ransom said that he framed the letter, but no longer has it. He did have his own opinion about what generates many UFO sightings.

“In my personal opinion, what people are seeing is mostly military,” he stated.

One possible candidate for UFO inspiration was the SR-71, later known as the supersonic Black Bird spy plane. The Black Bird was developed in the 1960s, and later aircraft like the stealth fighter and the boomerang-shaped stealth bombers could have led to even more UFO sightings.

Bluefield City Manager Dane Rideout, former garrison commander for the West Point U.S. Military Academy, said he never saw a UFO during his military career, but in 1997 he did see an object in the night sky while in Fort Polk, Louisiana, that was unidentified for a short time. Personnel were infrared night vision goggles spotted something “burning across the sky.” It had “unique signature,” and everybody was wondering what it could be.

Two days later, Rideout learned that he had seen a space shuttle reentering Earth’s atmosphere. While it wasn’t an alien spacecraft, the space shuttle was indeed a spaceship.

There are some places West Virginia in that are considered “dark sky” areas that do not have a lot of ambient light, Rideout said. These are places in the state where the night sky is not drowned out by the light created in big cities; this makes objects like meteors and satellites easier to see. Rideout recalled seeing a different sort of night sky while serving in Afghanistan, a country lacking the nighttime light sources seen in the United States,

“When I was in Afghanistan, you could see things not usually seen by the naked eye,” he recalled. “It was pitch black.”


© 2019 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.)

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