You may picture flying saucers when you think of UFOs, but there are many different sizes and shapes of True UFOs (TRUFOs). Here are the five main shapes that have been spotted over the years.
The most common type of TRUFO reported is the flying saucer or disk. A flying saucer may look like a doughnut with a dark center, two saucers facing each other, or a saucer bottom with a domed top. It can be small or large, with a variety of lights. According to UFOlogist Mark Rodeghier, who has studied TRUFOs that have followed or otherwise interfered with automobiles, a disk-shaped TRUFO is usually described as a metallic object that produces sound and gives off a white beam of light.
Danish UFOlogist Kim Hansen has researched many TRUFO sightings. Perhaps one of the most interesting involved a disk-shaped UFO in Imjärvi, Finland, on January 7, 1970. Two men, Aarno Heinonen and Esko Viljo, were skiing in a rural area of southern Finland. Around 4:45 P.M. they stopped at the bottom of a small hill to catch their breath. The sun was setting, and a few stars had become visible. Suddenly a strange buzzing sound began, and the two men noticed a reddish gray cloud streaking across the sky. As the cloud came closer, the sound intensified.
When the cloud was about fifty feet from the ground, Aarno and Esko could discern something inside it: a round, flat-bottomed metallic object. As it approached the ground, both men saw a dome on its top. Then they noticed a tube that extended slightly from the center of the bottom. Without warning, a beam of bright light from the tube illuminated the ground.
The men stood motionless. It was at this point that they saw the creature.
"I think I took a step backward," Aarno reported, "and in the same second I caught sight of the creature. It was standing in the middle of the light beam with a black box in its hands. Out of a round opening in the box there came a yellow light, pulsating."
What exactly did the creature look like?
Almost three feet tall, it wore light green overalls and dark green boots. Its face looked pale and waxen. It was quite thin and seemed to have claws rather than fingers. It wore a cone-shaped metallic helmet.
The creature aimed the opening of the black box to-ward Aarno, and the reddish gray cloud spread over the men. Red, green, and purple sparks began to fly from the center of the beam of light. Esko said that many of the sparks hit him, but he felt no pain. The cloud became so thick that the men could not see the creature or each other, even though they were just a few feet apart. All of a sudden, the light beam flew up from the ground like a flickering candle flame, and the UFO and the mysterious cloud disappeared. Both men estimated that they had seen the creature for no more than twenty seconds. For perhaps three minutes more they stood there mesmerized.
Aarno gradually became aware that his right side, which had been closest to the light, was numb. In fact, as he tried to take a step, his right foot felt as if it had been shot full of Novocain. He toppled over, unable to keep his balance.
Eventually Esko was able to drag his friend home. A doctor was called when Aarno complained of aches and pains throughout his body, including severe headaches. Surprisingly, the doctor could not find anything wrong with him, even though he developed some very strange symptoms that lasted more than six months. He had difficulty with his memory and sometimes forgot how to get home after he went out. The doctor admitted that Aarno's symptoms could have been caused by exposure to radioactivity, but he did not have the proper instruments to test this theory. A professor of physics at Helsinki University, Dr. Matti Tuuri, suggested that Aarno's symptoms were similar to those caused by an overdose of x-rays.
Was the story true?
The men could offer no proof of their encounter. Scientists who studied the site of the incident discovered nothing, not even signs of excessive radiation. Still, two other, unrelated people had reported a UFO the night of Aarno and Esko's encounter. And when the two men visited the site six months later, along with three journalists, the journalists' hands inexplicably turned red. As Matti Haapaniemi, a local farmer, said, "Many people in their neighborhood have laughed at this story. But I don't think it's anything to joke about. I've known Aarno and Esko since they were little boys. Both are quiet, rational fellows, and moreover they are abstainers [from alcohol]. I'm sure their story is true."
However, Aarno has reported seeing twenty-three other UFOs since 1972 as well as speaking to at least two UFOccupants. Presents given to him by these space creatures mysteriously vanished when he was asked to produce the evidence. When he tried to photograph a female UFOccupant, Aarno reported, she disappeared along with his camera.
UFOlogist Hansen rightly doubts Aarno's later encounters. But could the first encounter with a UFO have caused Aarno to imagine other such meetings? Or did Aarno and Esko simply make up the first encounter, and their illnesses as well? If so, what did they hope to gain? These contradictions demonstrate why the study of UFOs can sometimes be exasperating.
The second most common type of TRUFO is the flying cigar. It is long and narrow, much like the body of a jet plane; sometimes people say that one end emits smoke. Flying cigars have been reported in many colors. Some UFOlogists believe that they are really metallic and that their color is lankly a reflection of the sky or the sun.
One of the most recent major sightings of a TRUFO involved a flying cigar. This series of encounters, re-ported by UFOlogist Don Schmitt, occurred in Belleville, Wisconsin, beginning in January 1987. According to Schmitt, the first few people to sight the object saw a triangle of lights. Officer Glen Kazmar of the Belleville Police first saw them around 8:00 P.M. on January 15, while on patrol. At first he didn't think much about them, since knew that planes from the Milwaukee airport frequently flew over the area. Around 3:00 A.M., though, he armed his partner saw many more lights. They had driven up the highest hill in the county where they witnessed a "close-knit cluster of red, blue, and white lights." The two men reported the unusual sight, but the Milwaukee airport could confirm only that it was tracking a slow-moving object that was not in voice contact.
That might have been the end of the encounter if other witnesses; had not observed the mysterious lights. In fact, at least three independent reports were phoned in to local po lice departments. All of them described a cigar-shaped object flying over and in front of drivers in their cars.
Schmitt heard of the various reports and set out to investigate. First, he eliminated the possibility that the UFO was either a UAP or an IFO. No planes were re-ported in the vicinity, and no unusual atmospheric conditions were present.
As he tried to find an explanation, other sightings occurred. Perhaps the strangest was reported by Harvey Funseth and Fred Gochenaur, who were driving north of Belleville on Friday, March 6, when they spotted four strange objects in the sky to the west. What they saw startled them so much that they stopped their car to get a better look.
One of the objects was quite large and resembled the mysterious flying cigar. While it was in the air, its position was straight up. Positioned directly beneath it were three other, much smaller objects. Funseth and Gochenaur thought that these objects were sections of the larger cigar.
Suddenly the cigar-shaped object changed position and began to fly horizontally. It did not look like any plane the men had ever seen: there were no wings or tail — just a fuselage. Its only other noticeable characteristic was a red glow from the rear, like a rocket without flames. It streaked out of sight toward the northeast.
What can be made of this series of sightings? As Schmitt concluded, "We could not certify that space-ships were visiting the area, but we were certain that UFOs — whatever they are — were."
Another frequently seen TRUFO is shaped something like a football, or perhaps the Goodyear blimp. Many witnesses report seeing flying footballs with domes or portholes; some see both. Sometimes the objects are covered in metal, sometimes in a quilted clothlike material.
A well-documented case of a flying football TRUFO, which was reported by writer Margaret Sachs, occurred in Red Bluff, California, on August 13, 1960. What is particularly interesting about this sighting is that at least fourteen police officers observed the UFO at one point or another.
The episode began near midnight, as Tehama County Highway Patrolmen Charles Carson and Stanley Scott searched for a speeding motorcyclist. As they raced down Hoag Road, a large object appeared in the sky in front of them. Believing that it was an airplane about to crash, they quickly stopped the patrol car and jumped out. Instead the officers saw a football-shaped craft that they later estimated to be about 150 feet long and 40 feet high. It gave off a white glow and had small red lights at each end.
As Carson and Scott watched, the UFO flew slowly about 200 feet from the gound, then reversed direction and accelerated. It varied its speed, hovered, climbed higher, and flew low — as if it were performing aerial stunts in a strange kind of circus!
Each time the UFO seemed to stop near the patrolmen, they tried to approach it. As soon as they stepped toward it, however, the UFO moved away, as if it knew the men were attempting to contact it. Twice, though, it flew toward their patrol car, illuminating the area with a beam of red light. Both times the radio in the car did not work when the patrolmen tried to radio for help. Finally the UFO began to move slowly toward the east, but only after Officer Scott turned on the patrol car's red light.
Carson and Scott followed the UFO in their car at a safe distance. They were surprised to see another UFO, similar to the first, approaching from the south. It joined the first; then both of them stopped, hovering in the sky. Eventually, they flew off together and disappeared in the east.
By the time this encounter was over, it had lasted more than two hours and had been tracked on radar by a local airbase. Besides the two patrolmen, witnesses included the night jailer at the Tehama County jail and even several prisoners who were allowed onto the roof of the jail to watch this strange occurrence.
Although the air force suggested that Carson and Scott had observed Mars and two bright stars, UFOlogist Sachs concluded that these could not have accounted for the sighting, since all three were below the horizon at midnight. Concerned about the air force's conclusion, Officer Carson, who had served in the air force, said: "Both of us were aware of the tricks light can play on the eyes during darkness. . . . We find it difficult to believe what we were watching, but no one will ever convince us that we were witnessing a refraction of light."
Two other kinds of UFOs have been reported in substantial numbers. UFOlogists are not certain whether these TRUFOs are the same object seen from different angles.
A series of encounters with a boomerang-shaped UFO occurred in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City, from 1982 to 1984. The object became known as the Westchester Boomerang, since so many sightings took place over Westchester County.
One of the earliest encounters occurred on February 26, 1983, and involved Monique O' Driscoll and her seventeen-year-old daughter, Maureen. According to UFOlogists J. Allen Hynek and Phillip J. Imbrogno, the two women were driving on an isolated country road around eight o'clock that night when Maureen saw some lights on a hill. Both women knew that there was no house on that hill. Then the lights started to move along the treetops.
"I was entranced," Monique told investigators later. "What really caught my eye was the brightness of the lights, and the way the object was moving so slowly. There must have been fifty lights."
Monique and Maureen began to follow the UFO. Suddenly it passed directly over the car. Monique stopped, and she and her daughter watched as the UFO hovered over a nearby lake. Monique wanted to get a better look and left the car.
The UFO's lights, all flashing wildly, reflected off the ice on the lake. The object itself was large, perhaps 200 feet across, and its surface reminded Monique of a bridge with crisscrossed beams of metal. Despite its size and apparent weight, the UFO made no noise whatsoever. Monique stood at the edge of the lake and watched for a few minutes, then the UFO began to move away.
"Oh, please don't go," Monique said to herself. "I want to look at you some more." Just then the UFO stopped, changed direction, and began to move slowly toward her.
"It's gonna take us!" Maureen yelled.
Monique reported that she had mixed emotions about the UFO at that moment. She wanted it to come closer, but she was also afraid that it would harm her. As she began creeping back toward her car, the UFO took off in the opposite direction.
Other people reported seeing the Westchester Boomerang that night, and during the next two years many had sightings similar to the O'Driscolls'. Some also reported that they felt the enormous UFO was watching them and knew what they were thinking.
On March 31, 1983, in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, near the New York border, Cindy Tillson was watching television with her great Dane, Thunder. It was about 8:30, and Cindy hadn't bothered to turn on any lights yet. Suddenly Thunder started to bark wildly. Though she tried to calm him down, he wouldn't stop. Finally Cindy got up and walked into the kitchen, where the dog pawed the sliding glass doors.
Cindy immediately saw what was disturbing him: a brightly lit, brown, boomerang-shaped object. She watched it for a while, trying to decide what she was seeing. A fire? It was bright enough. A truck? It appeared to have headlights, but they were enormous. And it was in the air. Nothing made sense.
Then Cindy turned on the outside floodlights. The UFO moved to the left. She flicked off the lights and the UFO moved back to its original position. She turned the lights on again, and the UFO moved to the right. Confused and now scared, Cindy turned the lights off for good; she felt that the UFO was watching her.
"I made sure everything in the house was off because I wanted to stay hidden," she told investigators. Then she watched as a wide beam of light projected from the bottom of the object. As Cindy said, "It looked like it was trying to see something below." Finally she telephoned a relative, but the UFO had disappeared by the time she hung up. All the while, Thunder had barked at the object. The next day he would not go outside.
Although hundreds or perhaps thousands of people reportedly saw the Westchester Boomerang and various photographs of the object were taken, no one knows for sure what it was. Some thought a formation of light air-craft was responsible for creating a UFO hoax, but it is doubtful that airplanes could have continued to fool people night after night. While the object might have been a long-lasting UAP, still unknown to scientists, it is just as likely that it was a TRUFO.
UFOlogist John Timmerman has described a woman's encounter with a large triangular UFO near Lima, Ohio, on February 12, 1986. Mrs. Larson was awakened after midnight by an indescribable sound. Her first thought was to check her daughter's room to make sure that she was all right, but her daughter was sound asleep. Then Mrs. Larson glanced out the window in her front door. She saw strange lights above a neighbor's house. More curious than frightened, she opened the door for a better look. She quickly discerned a triangular object hovering in the sky. It had a red light on top and a white light on the bottom corners. Unlike many UFO cases, the lights were steady, not blinking.
Mrs. Larson witnessed the giant triangle for two minutes. Although she had been awakened by a sound, she was not aware of any sound coming from the UFO now. By the time she roused her husband, the object was gone.
An astute observer, Mrs. Larson told Timmerman later that the UFO appeared "to be a very large object with a very dark central exterior and a slightly lighter perimeter. I could see the shape and body of the object against the slight glow in the lighter background sky. `Big,' massive,' and 'heavy' describe what I saw."
Timmerman attempted to verify the sighting. In order to turn Mrs. Larson's UFO into an IFO, he contacted the Allen County sheriff's office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and the local airport for any possible explanations, all without success. He even placed a newspaper ad searching for witnesses. But no one else had seen the strange object that night.
As is the case with many UFObservers, Mrs. Larson was not interested in UFOs and had never read any books about them. She had a master's degree in counsel-ing and worked in a local nursing home. Was she dreaming, or did she see a TRUFO? What do you think?
Remember, these are the most common types of TRUFOs reported—-which doesn't mean that a UFO you see won't look very different from these. You just might be the first person to spot something completely new.
Copyright © James M. Deem. Taken from How to Catch a Flying Saucer (Houghton Mifflin, 1991). All rights reserved.