close encounter (CE) with a TRUFO is a fairly rare
occurrence, since most sightings take place at a great distance.
However, CEs have happened often enough to be categorized. UFOlogist J.
Alien Hynek described three kinds of
CE in his 1972 book, The UFO Experience.
A Close Encounter of the First Kind, or CE-1, is the most common
type of UFO experience. A CE-1 is any close-range sighting that occurs
without tangible evidence: no trace
of the craft is left, no creatures are seen. Without proof, the
experience is impossible to study. Yet
a CE-1 is hardly boring.
One CE-1 occurred on Interstate 70 near Indianapolis
on March 29, 1978. Three trucks were traveling together
on the highway; the truckers were talking to one another on their CB
radios. Suddenly the trucks were covered with a bright blue light, as if a giant
spotlight from the sky were shining on them.
The drivers couldn't see beyond the hoods of their trucks, and
everything was silent. The CBs stopped working, and the engines of the three
trucks began to run roughly. This lasted for
perhaps five seconds. Then the blue light blinked off and things returned
to normal: road noises, CBs, and engines. The drivers were stunned, but one
man announced on his CB, "Hey, UFO, if you have your ears on, I want to go
As if someone were listening, the blue light covered the
trucks again, this time for fifteen seconds. The three engines ran into
trouble again, and the trucks lurched and
slowed to 10 mph. When the light stopped the second time, it did not
Other people witnessed this strange incident. A woman
who was across the highway told the truckers on her CB that "it
looked like a big bright blue lampshade over the three trucks."
CE-2 is commonly called a "physical trace" encounter, since
the UFO leaves behind some kind of evidence that
it landed. This kind of encounter has the potential to
prove that UFOs exist. In actual practice, though, most
CE-2s have provided little substantial evidence.
Two types of CE-2 exist. In a Type 1 episode, the person
does not actually see the UFO, only the results of
its landing. In a Type 2 episode, the person sees not only the results
but the UFO itself—at
close range, so there
can be no doubt that the witness is observing a TRUFO.
One of the most studied Type 2 physical-trace encounters took place in
Delphos, Kansas, on the evening of November 21, 1971, and was researched
by UFOlogist Ted Phillips, among others. A sixteen-year-old boy named
Ron Johnson was working on his parents' farm. About seven o'clock, he
was in the sheep pen with his dog.
Without warning, he heard a rumbling sound ("like an old
washing machine," he told investigators later) and saw a brightly
lit mushroom-shaped object about seventy-five feet away. It was hovering
a few feet from the ground, glowing with a steady mass of lights, not
individual lights. Ron and his dog remained silent, though the sheep
began to bellow. The bright lights hurt Ron's eyes.
The base of the UFO lit up with even brighter lights, and the craft moved at a forty-five-degree angle over the hog
shed. Ron was blinded by the intense light and heard the UFO zoom away like a
jet plane. Moments later, when he was able to see again, he saw the UFO in the
southern sky. He ran to the house and told his parents what he had witnessed.
With them, he returned to the yard, and they watched the UFO light grow smaller
in the sky.
Then Ron showed them
where the UFO had hovered. Even in the darkness of the November night,
they could see a luminous gray-white ring. Some nearby
trees also seemed to glow. The Johnsons touched the soil ring: it was
cool and slick. But Mrs. Johnson said that her fingers became numb, and when she wiped her fingers against her
pants, her leg also became numb. Both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson
experienced prolonged numbness over the next few weeks, while Ron
developed headaches and some eye trouble. He also began to have
Investigator Phillips checked for other possible witnesses
and found none. He also made sure that samples of
the glowing soil ring were sent to different laboratories for
analysis. Unfortunately, the findings at some laboratories
contradicted the findings at others, and the results must be called
Close Encounter of the Third Kind (CE-3) occurs when
a person makes contact with a UFO and its occupants. A CE-3 that
received almost no publicity in the United States took place in
Rendlesham Forest, England, in late December 1980. Because the case is
far from solved, it is still very
controversial, so this version of the events may not be the final
Rendlesham Forest is located near two Royal Air Force
bases that are leased to the United States. Because of
the sensitive nature of operations at the two airbases, great care is
taken to secure the area surrounding them.
On December 27, 1980, a group of air force security officers
saw what they thought was a small aircraft heading for the
forest. This was so close to the base that it had
to be investigated, and two security officers walked into
There, in a clearing, they came upon a kind of green fog. It rose
from the ground to a height of about three feet and seemed circular.
Through it they could see the ground and some cows on the other side. As
one of the security officers said later, "It was like nothing I'd
ever seen before."
The two officers tried to find the aircraft
that seemed to have fallen, crashed, or landed in the woods, but found nothing
except the fog. Suddenly a red ball of light sailed over the trees
toward the clearing and stopped above the fog. Then the red ball burst
into a spray like a large chrysanthemum firework. When the lights
dissolved, the green fog had disappeared and a large
wedge-shaped UFO standing on three legs was in the
The men watched the object for a while and even tried to approach it.
Each time they did, the UFO rose about six feet and moved away. One of
the men saw what he thought were aliens. "There was definitely
something inside it," he said later. "I don't know what. But
the shapes did not look human. Maybe they were like robots."
Time and time again the two men attempted to touch the
craft. Each time the UFO retracted its legs and flew a short distance away. It made no noise and maneuvered easily
through the trees.
Eventually the security
officers were joined by other air force personnel, perhaps thirty in all. The men formed
a ring around the UFO, with fifteen-foot spaces between
them. But the object took off without warning. The cows and some
forest animals went into a frenzy, rushing
away from the site. An hour later the UFO was spotted
near the rear gate to the airbase. Then it disappeared.
force investigated afterward and discovered triangular indentations at
the site as well as high radiation levels in the indentations.
But the story does not end there.
Supposedly, three nights later the UFO
returned. This encounter is described in much less detail than the
first, and some say that it never occurred at all. If it did, this is
what some sources report:
The UFO, damaged in some way, returned. More
airmen went to the woods, and this time they saw three UFOccupants. The
creatures were small humanoids, identical to each other, dressed in
silver suits. A beam of light that fell from under the craft allowed the
three creatures to float in the air. Wing Commander Williams ordered
everyone to stand back as he approached the aliens. Apparently he was
able to communicate with them without using any speech. Soon the craft
was repaired. It took off slowly,
then quickly sailed toward the North Sea.
The CE-3 at Rendlesham Forest raises many
questions and answers none. Perhaps the most important question
is, did it happen at all?
Because all of the witnesses
were military personnel, most did not want to speak publicly. Those who
did risked exposing themselves to ridicule. Could the whole account have
been made up by a few bored airmen?
Could it have involved a secret military aircraft? Or did the
encounter with UFOccupants really
happen? Eventually, with additional study, we may learn the truth
about the Rendlesham Forest CE-3.
©James M. Deem.
Originally published in How to Catch a Flying Saucer
(Houghton Mifflin, 1990). All rights reserved.