ENCOUNTER IN RIVERLAND
DATE February 10, 1982
TIME: 1135 p.m.
DURATION: 7 Minutes
WITNESSES: 1 + 2 (all independent)
PLACE: West of Escanaba, MI
"I've got to get home! I've got to get home to Mom and Dad! I’ve got to tell them...and then, the more I thought about it, I said to myself: ‘I just saw a UFO…My God! I just saw a UFO…’ and then I just went nuts…I had to get home. I went as fast as I possibly could. I looked in my rear view mirror, but it wasn’t following me anymore. I had just left it parked on the road.”
So replied Tammy Utt after I asked her, "Do you recall what thoughts were going through your head just after it happened?” Tammy is a 17-year-old recent high school graduate who was working temporarily as a check-out clerk in a 24-hour Escanaba, MI supermarket. She expects to continue her schooling and has just enrolled in a Bell and Howell computer training program.
Tammy had been coming home from the supermarket, a journey of nearly a half-hour (the Utts live well out in the country). It was just after 11:30 P.M. The night was clear and there was a bright, nearly full moon. The attached map traces Tammy's journey and indicated the critical spots along the way.
It was Dr. Kenneth Schellhase, Professor of History at the Northern Michigan University, and contributing editor to this publication, who had first alerted the Center to this case; he had already interviewed Tammy and her parents before I joined him in Escanaba to further delve into the particulars of this encounter.
In the course of this inquiry, we discovered the existence of two additional and completely independent witnesses. As is our custom, we asked the primary witness to relive her experience "on location." First, in order to time the duration of the event, we asked her to relive the experience as though she were alone and it were happening again (it was approximately the same time of night also) and secondly, to repeat the process but this time describing it as she went along, without regard to timing; the first run had yielded seven minutes as the total duration of the encounter.
The photograph (Figs. 5, 6) correspond to the places indicated on the map. The rural nature of the countryside is apparent. Tammy is very familiar with this road, traveling to and from the supermarket. Never before had anything unusual happened to her on this familiar journey.
Tammy had arrived at "A” (see map), just having turned left. Suddenly she saw two most unfamiliar lights, just above the trees in the field. "As I turned that comer," she said, "l looked up and there were these bright lights, like headlights in the sky. They were staying in one spot, but they backed up as I got closer to them. Now the road tums to the right again (A)...I was heading west again. Now it (i.e., the lights) came closer to the road and it followed me all the way down that road." (A to B) The object was now close by, viewed through the window on the driver's side.
Figure 4: Map of sighting near Escanaba, Michigan, February 10, 1982
"How could you be sure it wasn't way beyond the trees and just looked like it was over the trees?" she was asked.
"Because it was just there...right there!" Tammy replied.
As Tammy approached B, she slowed down to watch this curious apparition. Adding to its strangeness, she saw a “mist” coming from the rear of it that looked like "lit up snowflakes." By this time she was able to make out the shape of the craft despite the brightness of the two main, very bright lights: flat on top, the sides sloping outward, and a "rim around the bottom with little red windows all around...but the red was coming from inside, like it was lighted red inside."
Tammy was now approaching the curve near B. She didn't want to make the turn, which would then have placed the object in back of her. So she stopped the car at this point (B) and just watched. The object also stopped.
"So then I backed up, twenty feet perhaps, and stopped again (C). I turned my radio off and rolled down my window. I wanted to listen. I turned off my lights too, but as soon as I did that, it dove for the ground, behind the grove of little evergreen trees, like it was trying to get out of my sight or something. But I could see the lights shining through the trees, so I knew it was theirs."
Now Tammy backed up still more until she could see it again and stopped once again (D). “And that’s when it went right back up over the trees again . . . just poof! . . . and it was up again."
Backing up still more, this time all the way back to the small country store where County 414 meets County 537 at right angles (E), Tammy had backed up to where she could look directly down this side road. It was on this road that she saw the object again. (Fig. 6).
"Now it was sitting on the road. It had gone lower, behind the trees, and landed. When it landed, its bright lights went off and now I could clearly see the windows all around it...then underneath these windows were these little white lights. There was some light on it blinking, but I don't know where it was from."
Tammy stayed there just long enough to take in the picture: the object was large enough to more than span the road (24 feet wide). There was still no noise whatever. It was at this time Tammy's bravery abruptly left her and she rushed home, now just a few minutes away. Her parents were still up.
"The porch light was on...the folks hadn't gone to bed yet, and I was so happy that I didn't have to wake them up."
Figure 5: Tammy Utt and Dr. Hynek near point B
She rapidly related her story. Mr. Utt remarked that she "nearly tore the door off its hinges" in her excitement as she came bounding in. As she was telling her story, a car came down the road that runs directly in front of the Utt house and "she like to went up the wall. All she could see was the bright car lights with that balsam tree in the way...she thought it was happening all over again."
So there we have Tammy's story. Its similarity to the previous case and the one following this is striking. Although Tammy was the only close-up witness, there were two other witnesses (one less than half-mile away, the other about ten miles) to strange lights maneuvering low in the sky. Lines of sight from these two widely separated observers intersect Tammy's position remarkably well. The times were the same and both secondary witnesses have others to corroborate their sightings took place long before they knew of Tammy's sighting. They were near strangers to Tammy which, I am told, is as far as two persons can go to being total strangers in a small town.
As to primary witness, Tammy, all queries made by several of us as to the reputation and character of Tammy Utt resulted in confirming our own estimate of her as a normal, healthy 17-year-old, much more interested in her social contacts in town and just enough in her school work to establish herself as a good student, than in any unusual topics and, certainly until now, no interest in UFOs.
Rather pleased at the attention her sighting has given her, she appears not to have let it go to her head or to seek publicity (enough came to her without her asking). Open and mildly extraverted, she appears as an outgoing, friendly, normal girl, not given to storytelling or practical jokes. Transcripts of Tammy's story as related to the local radio station and to Kathy LeDuc (an investigator for SBI who lives in Escanaba), as well as separately to Dr. Schellhase and to me, all match without being suspiciously the same.
Figure 6: Looking down Road 537 from point E
Now as to what the object could have been: A helicopter naturally suggests itself as the most logical solution but the observations do not support this hypothesis. Inquiries to officials in Escanaba, Marquette, and the K. l. Sawyer air bases and to the DNR (Department of Natural Resources. . .suspected to have a helicopter) all proved negative. There appear to be NO helicopters based in the area. The nearest one used to be operated by the Coast Guard at Traverse City, across Lake Michigan. Sawyer AFB informs us that helicopters rarely land at Sawyer and moreover, nothing was detected on their radars that night in the area of the sighting.
The complete absence of sound, acutely listened for, from an object so close argues convincingly against the helicopter hypothesis as do the maneuvers of the object itself; finally, we considered the implausibility of a helicopter cruising so close to the ground, late at night, in a rural area, and landing on a small country road despite the presence of telephone wires alongside. Add to this that this type of sighting is not unique but fits a global pattern; a pattern, furthermore, with which Tammy was totally unfamiliar. As in the general case, this one also exhibited seeming intelligent action and control. At one time I asked, "Did it give you the feeling that it knew you were there, or was it just cruising around?" to which Tammy answered, "Yes, it looked like it was looking right at me...those bright lights were shining right at me." (Compare the Marshall TX case).
One can wish, as all ufologists do, that the primary witness had had others directly present, armed with cameras and tape recorders. However, within twelve hours after the event, the Delta County Sheriff's Department checked the estimated landing site (some 300 yards from the Sodergren store), accompanied by Tammy. The Sheriff’s seven page report (a model we wish all police departments would follow) states that they found only a small (5 feet wide, 2 feet deep) depression in the snow bank on one side of the road and a 30-foot-long stretch of thick hardened snow, broken and cracked, on the other. Dr. Schellhase visited the scene some sixty hours after the event and confirmed the above and collected a water/snow sample at the site. An expensive analysis does not seem warranted in the absence of any convincing landing marks.
Reference for the above text is: International UFO Reporter (IUR) by Kenneth C. Schellhase, May-June 1982, pp. 8-11.
UFOCAT PRN – 118781
UFOCAT URN – 118781 International UFO Reporter (IUR) by Kenneth C. Schellhase, May-June 1982, pp. 8-11
UFOCAT URN – 118804 IUR (International UFO Reporter), (CUFOS), May-June 1978, p. 8, Hynek, J.A.
UFOCAT URN – 190984 UNICAT computer database by Willy Smith (820), #028, no © date
UFOCAT URN – 167885 *U* UFO Computer Database by Larry Hatch, # 14348 © 2002
North America – United States, Michigan, Delta
Escanaba Latitude 45-44-43 N, Longitude 087-03-52 W (D-M-S) [populated place]
Riverland Latitude 45-47-48 N, Longitude 087-13-36 W [populated place]
Marquette Latitude 46-32-37 N, Longitude 087-23-44 W [populated place]
Traverse City Latitude 44-45-47 N, Longitude 085-37-14 W [populated place]
Lake Michigan Latitude 44-00-28 N, Longitude 086-45-25 W (D-M-S) [lake – Mason County]
K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base Latitude 46-21-12 N, Longitude 087-23-45 W [military – closed in 1995]
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