The Night The Coast Guard Got Buzzed
By Christopher Evans
They keep it in the "Classics File" at the Coast Guard's 9th District Headquarters downtown: a single-page incident report issued by the Fairport Harbor station on the night of March 4, 1988. The subject: Unidentified Flying Objects.
"None of those guys are around anymore and I wasn't there," says Chief Quartermaster Leo Deon of the Search and Rescue Data Section. "They saw something, but who knows what."
Sgt. Greg Reid was the executive officer at the Fairport station before he retired and joined the Lake County Sheriff's Department.
"I believe my guys," he says. "They were definitely sure of what they saw."
Sheila Baker sits in her kitchen, sunlight streaming through the windows, a black, prune-faced Shar-Pei snoring on the floor.
"I'm a typical Jewish mother with three kids," she says. "I go to temple. I believe in God."
She fingers her ponytail. Then leans forward.
"I know," she says. "I saw it."
Friday, March 4, 1988, started cold and got colder. There were light snow flurries throughout the day, but by the time the sun set at 6:21 the clouds had broken up and the night sky was clear and star-studded.
Sheila Baker and her husband, Henry, drove north along Ohio 91 into Eastlake and then turned east on Lake Shore Boulevard. They had taken the kids to Chuck E. Cheese for dinner and were almost home. As they neared the lake, they saw the blink of red warning lights on the two smokestacks that towered over the CEI plant.
Sheila liked the lights, the way they rose 500, 600 feet straight up those cement chimneys like the fins on a rocket ship. But tonight they looked different. The kids noticed it, too. At first Sheila thought some of the lights had burned out. But as they drove closer she could make out a shape. Something in the air. Out over the lake. Motionless.
"There's something out there," she said to Henry. "See, over by the stacks."
Henry couldn't see anything. "You're pregnant," he said. "You're probably hallucinating."
Sheila was thinking it could be the Goodyear blimp. It kind of looked like a football. But what would the Goodyear blimp be doing out on a night like this?
"Go down to the beach," she told Henry. "I wanna take a look."
Instead of arguing, Henry passed their house on Hiawatha and drove down the hill to the beach. He parked at the base of a wide ridge that climbed some 30 feet in front of them, dirt and chunks of concrete that acted as a breakwall.
A well-worn path led around it to a small, sandy beach that curled into a corner at the feet of the two smokestacks.
Sheila got out of the car.
The moon was bright and full, and the ice on the lake looked eerie. Sheila could hear it cracking. Loud. Like claps of thunder. In between the claps, nothing. A dead calm. Not even a dog barking. Everybody around here had a dog and one of them was always barking.
"That's weird," Sheila thought, reaching the beach, the night sky bursting above her, limitless, going up and up and up, and there it was. The Goodyear blimp times 10. But without the cabin underneath it. This thing was slick. A football the size of a football field. Gunmetal gray. Blinding white light poured out of both ends, but the thing itself made no noise, the ice beneath it grinding and exploding like a string of M-80s.
Sheila figured it was about a quarter-mile above her, just off shore. It rocked back and forth like a teeter-totter. She knew what it was. She read the Weekly World News. She saw "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." But she didn't believe it. It couldn't be real, and yet there it was, moving now, one end swinging ponderously toward shore, dipping down, closer and closer toward her.
Sheila started running and she ran right into Henry, who swore and started running, too. They beat it back to the car like a couple of hicks in a Martian movie. Henry hit the gas. Sheila locked the doors and told the kids to get down.
"You don't think they're going to come and get us?" Sheila asked.
Henry was oblivious. "Wow," he said. "This is great. I'm gonna get the binoculars."
Three minutes later, Sheila had hustled the kids out of the car and into the back bedroom. She opened the closet door.
"Get in there," she said and shut the door before they could argue. She pulled down all the window blinds, turned off the lights and locked the bedroom door. Then she walked into the living room.
Henry was standing by the window that faced the lake. The object had moved out over the ice. It seemed to be descending. Red and blue lights were now flashing sequentially along its lower edge. Sheila picked up the phone and called the Eastlake police.
"I want to report a UFO," she told the cop who answered.
He seemed insulted.
"There's something out there," she said. "I'm watching it now."
He told her to call Lost Nation Airport in Willoughby. Probably an advertising plane, a helicopter. Sheila called the airport. They guy in the tower told her they had nothing taking off or landing. She asked if there were any weird blips on his radar screen. He said no. He figured maybe it was the planets, Venus and Jupiter. She should call NASA.
All the time Sheila was watching it. It was about five miles out now, still descending, red and blue lights flashing as if it was going to crash. She called the cops back. They told her unusual activity over the lake was the responsibility of the Coast Guard. Sheila called Fairport Harbor. They suggested Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
"Everybody thinks I'm nuts," she told Henry.
Suddenly a series of bright triangular yellow lights shot out of the center of the object. These triangles, there were five or six of them, it was hard to count they moved so quickly, looked about the size of a single-seat Cessna. They hovered point-up around the object. Then darted north, then east, heading inland toward the Perry nuclear power plant. Sheila had never seen anything move that fast. Zero to warp- speed in less than a nanosecond. Without making a sound. She called the Coast Guard again. This time, they said they were sending a crew by the house. Sheila let her kids out of the closet, but made them stay in the bedroom with the doors locked.
Mobile Unit 2 was a 1984 blue Chevy Suburban and the two guys in it were gung-ho. Seaman James Powers and Petty Officer John Knaub said they could see the lights from Fairport Harbor. They figured they were flares. Fishermen trapped out on the ice, that kind of thing. They were towing a 22-foot Boston Whaler just in case.
Sheila and Henry pointed to the object they now thought of as the mother ship. A couple of the triangles were zipping around it. Powers and Knaub didn't say a word. Instead of driving onto the beach, they four-wheeled the Chevy up the ridge. The ice was going nuts, rippling and rumbling and roaring. Sheila and Henry got out. The windows were down and they could hear Knaub and Powers talking to the base.
"Be advised the object appears to be landing on the lake," they said. "Be advised there are other objects moving in around it. Be advised these smaller objects are going at high rates of speed. There are no engine noises and they are very, very low. Be advised these are not planets."
All of a sudden one of the triangles zoomed toward the Chevy, low, just above the ice, a blur of light blistering straight at them. Knaub quickly rolled the van back down the ridge. The triangle veered east, then went straight up and came down beside the mother ship. Sheila told Knaub to turn his lights off.
"Why attract attention?" she asked.
Fifteen miles to the southeast, not too far from the Perry plant, Cindy Hale stepped outside to walk her dog. She noticed a triangular light hovering above her. The dog began to whine and cower. Cindy took it back inside. But she came out again. The triangle flashed a sequence of multicolored lights and Cindy responded by flicking her Bic. This went on for about 30 minutes, then the triangle accelerated and was gone. It didn't make a sound.
Tim Keck was observing the stars through his telescopte when a bright triangular object caught his eye. Luckily, Tim had his camera with him. It wasn't a great camera. In fact, it was a little plastic number he had gotten free from Burger King. But it worked, and he took a picture of the triangle before it disappeared silently over the horizon.
Back at the lake, the mother ship was almost on the ice. For an hour, Henry had stood on the ridge and listened as Powers and Knaub communicated with their base. They said things like, "You should be advised that the object is now shining lights all over the lake and turning different colors."
The ice thundered. Powers and Knaub had to yell to be heard. Henry thought the big ship was in trouble. So did Sheila. She had gone back to the house. The kids were still locked in the bedroom and she watched from the window. Suddenly the triangles were back. They shot one by one intot the side of the mother ship as it seemed to set down on the howling ice.
It flashed a sequence of red, blue and yellow lights. Sheila thought they looked beautiful. Then the white light that poured from the front of the object turned red and the triangles reappeared, hovering over it. The ice boomed, louder and louder, and then suddenly it stopped. The lights disappeared. So did the triangles. Now there was nothing. Darkness and silence.
Powers and Knaub drove off white-faced. Sheila and Henry stood watch through the night. In the morning all that remained were scattered chunks of broken ice. But that evening, the triangles returned.
Sheila called the Coast Guard. This time they sent three people. But they arrived to late and the triangles were gone. To reassure the Bakers, they called Lost Nation Airport and talked to Elizabeth Mele in the control tower, who told them the two bright lights in the sky were Venus and Jupiter, and the flashing lights were gases in the atmosphere.
That was Saturday. On Monday, The Plain Dealer ran a short item headlined "Cozying of Jupiter, Venus light up sky." The Lake County News-Herald ran a similar version with the caption "Sky-gazers mistake planets for UFOs."
Sheila called Fairport Harbor. Powers and Knaub weren't there. She left a message. They didn't call back. She called again and again and again. Nothing.
Four years later, she's still confused.
"The government flat-out denies it happened and I was standing there with two government employees watching it and they saw it and then they disappear."
Chief Leo Deon said the Coast Guard had no official policy in regard to UFOs, and since there were no more sightings that was the end of it. All personnel assigned to Fairport Harbor in 1988 have been rotated out. Deon said he couldn't located Powers, who had left the service, or Knaub through personnel records, because those records had been archived in Washington.
"It was big around the station for a while," says retired executive officer Greg Reid. "Then it just fizzled out."
Sheila Baker frowns and points a finger.
"You start to worry," she says.
End of article
the Coast Guard was observing the ice "cracking and moving abnormal
amounts as the object came closer," Tim Keck was several miles inland,
staring at the stars through a telescope. He managed to photograph a partial
image of one of the glowing triangles that had flown out of the object.
The triangle was so large and moving so fast, that he captured only half
of it. Dr. Bruce Maccabee, an optical physicist for the U.S. Navy, analyzed
the photograph and determined it was not a hoax. What it was, he couldn't
Actual Coast Guard Report on Eastlake Visitation (text)
COPIES CPC DCS DGP DPA B M O OLE OSR 9 FP D9AW D9 AW DE ISN-FP021 P 051405Z MAR 88
FM COGARD STA FAIRPORT OH//CO//
TO AW/COMCOGARDGRU DETROIT MI//OPS// INFO D9/CCGDNINE CLEVELAND OH//OSR// BT UNCLAS //N16144//
SUBJ: INCIDENT REPORT: UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS
1. UNIDENTIFIABLE FLYING OBJECTS 1/4 MILE EAST OF CEI POWER PLANT.
2. AT 2035 LCL THIS STATION RCVD A CALL FROM [Name deleted] RPTNG A LARGE OBJECT HOVERING OVER THE LAKE AND APPARENTLY ON A SLOW DECENT. THE OBJECT HAD A WHITE LIGHT AND WAS APPROX. 1/4 MILE UP. [Deleted] WAS UNABLE TO DETERMINE HOW FAR OUT IT WAS. THIS UNIT SENT 2 CREWMEMBERS TO INVESTIGATE. BEFORE THEY ARRIVED O/S, WE RCVD 2 MORE CALLS RPTNG THAT THE OBJECT HAD APPARENTLY DISPERSED 3-5 SMALLER FLYING OBJECTS THAT WERE ZIPPING AROUND RATHER QUICKLY. THESE OBJECTS HAD RED, GREEN, WHITE AND YELLOW LIGHTS ON THEM THAT STROBED INTERMITTENTLY. THEY ALSO HAD THE ABILITY TO STOP AND HOVER IN MID-FLIGHT. WHEN MOBILE 02 GO O/S, THEY RPTD THE SAME ACTIVITY. THEY WATCHED THE OBJECTS FOR APPROX. 1 HOUR BEFORE RPTNG THAT THE LARGE OBJECT WAS ALMOST ON THE ICE. THEY RPTD THAT THE ICE WAS CRACKING AND MOVING ABNORMAL AMOUNTS AS THE OBJECT CAME CLOSER TO IT. THE ICE WAS RUMBLING AND THE OBJECT LIT MULTI-COLOR LIGHTS AT EACH END AS IT APPARENTLY LANDED. THE LIGHTS ON IT WENT OUT MOMENTARILY AND THEN CAME ON AGAIN. THEY WENT OUT AGAIN AND THE RUMBLING STOPPED AND THE ICE STOPPED MOVING. THE SMALLER OBJECTS BEGAN HOVERING IN THE AREA WHERE THE LARGE OBJECT LANDED AND AFTER A FEW MINUTES THEY BEGAN FLYING AROUND AGAIN. MOBILE 02 RPTD THAT THEY APPEARED TO BE SCOUTING THE AREA. MOBILE 02 RPTD THAT 1 OBJECT WAS MOVING TOWARD THEM AT A HIGH SPEED AND LOW TO THE ICE. MOBILE 02 BACKED DOWN THE HILL THEY HAD BEEN ON AND WHEN THEY WENT BACK TO THE HILL, THE OBJECT WAS GONE. THEY RPTD THAT THE OBJECTS COULD NOT BE SEEN IF THEY TURNED OFF THERE LIGHTS. ONE OF THE SMALL OBJECTS TURNED ON A SPOTLIGHT WHERE THE LARGE OBJECT HAD BEEN BUT MOBILE 02 COULD NOT SEE ANYTHING, AND THEN THE OBJECT SEEMED TO DISAPPEAR. ANOTHER OBJECT APPROACHED MOBILE 02 APPROX. 500 YDS. OFFSHORE ABOUT 20 FT. ABOVE THE ICE, AND IT BEGAN MOVING CLOSER AS MOBILE 02 BEGAN FLASHING ITS HEADLIGHTS, THEN IT MOVED OFF TO THE WEST.
3. THE CREWMEMBERS WERE UNABLE TO IDENTIFY ANY OF THE OBJECTS USING BINOCULARS AND AFTER CONTACTING LOCAL POLICE AND AIRPORTS, THIS UNIT WAS UNABLE TO IDENTIFY THE OBJECTS, AND RECALLED MOBILE 02.BTTOR-03:05:14:44
Correspondence from researchers
Date: Thu Apr 7 20:52:04 1988
From: RICHARD P. DELL'AQUILA (ab114)
Subj: EASTLAKE UFO REPORTED BY COAST GUARD
In a reply to a recent question from Dale Wedge, Page Stevens has mentioned that an unusual UFO event occurring over Lake Erie in early March was the result of a misidentification of the planets Jupiter and Venus which appeared close to each other in the night sky.
Page mentioned that a Coast Guard report on the incident "agrees fully" with the Venus/Jupiter hypothesis. The report has been submitted to an astronomer for his expert opinion as to whether the Venus/Jupiter hypothesis adequately explains all the phenomena described in the report by the Coast Guard personnel, also reported by at least a half dozen other independent witnesses.
The sightings, which have continued unabated for the past month, have been reported by several independent witnesses, one of whom took photographs. The case is being investigated by Rick Dell'Aquila (ab114) and Dale Wedge (ae511)
The document confirms that members of the Coast Guard saw a group of strange objects cavorting on and near the icy surface of Lake Erie. A local astronomer attempted to explain the sightings as resulting from the apparent conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in the night sky, coupled with "spontaneous gas emissions" caused by viewing the conjunction through the Earth's atmosphere.
The incident involves large blimp-like object, "larger than the Goodyear blimp," which released up to a half dozen triangular-shaped lights and objects, in close proximity to the Perry nuclear power plant and Eastlake coal burng plant, and multiple independent witnesses, apparent animal reactions, as well as government documents, and hence qualifies for high- priority. The case is officially classified as a Close Encounter of the Second Kind.
The Coast Guard report for the following evening suggests that the Coast Guard had misidentified the planets Jupiter and Venus. I ask the astronomers on this board, skeptical or otherwise, for their opinions as to the adequacy of the Venus/ Jupiter hypothesis in light of this report. Page, I ask you whether the foregoing report "fully agrees" with the Venus/Jupiter hypothesis, and also whether you believe that these Coast Guard personnel, experts in their own way and no doubt familiar with the night sky and celestial navigation, could have so grossly misidentified the planets for several hours.
Date: Mon Apr 11 21:47:08 1988
From: RICHARD P. DELL'AQUILA (ab114)
Subj: TO THE ASTRONOMERS
RE: EASTLAKE UFO
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PROFESSIONAL SKEPTICS, RE: UFO SIGHTING OVER LAKE ERIE OVER THE WEEKEND OF MARCH 4, 1988
It is understandable that a professional in any occupation will have a reputation to preserve among is or her peers, and that the desire to maintain that professional reputation will sometimes require the professional to defend indefensable positions (e.g. "C.Y.A.") from which he cannot otherwise extricate himself. It's okay guys, I understand. You out the Venus/Jupiter hypothesis before the Coast Guard report was released and now you are stuck with it for better or worse.
I suspect that, being the professionals you are, and given the natural curiosity which is the sine quo non of the true scientist, your real opinions are very different than those you publicly express. Anyway, for the rest of us who remain willing to fairly examine ALL the reported phenomena and express our true opinions, it is now apparent that the professional skeptics on this SIG have so commmitted themselves to their position that the Eastlake UFO sighting of March 1988 was a misidentification of the planets, that it is almost laughable to expect any thinking individual, who has read the Coast Guard report of the sighting, to accept the Venus/Jupiter hypothesis.
Frankly, a more honest response would have been a simple, "I don't know what the Coast Guard saw that night for 3-4 hours, it could have been Venus/Jupiter."
But at least you had the fortitude to respond.
It is important that the subject of UFOs be discussed openly without emotionalism or hysterics. After all, we are free to disagree, hopefully in a civil manner. I suppose yours is at least a more straightforward approach than that taken by the sysop of another Freenet SIG who, after inviting UFO discussion, has elected to erase all UFO uploads from his SIG and who, when all else fails, resorts to name-calling as a torical device.
Well, taking your toys home when you lose the game is a rather immature way to deal with confrontation. Doctor, take an example from the skeptics on this SIG, bravely sticking to their guns--going down with their ship, flags waving--but proudly, stubbornly, sticking to their guns to the bitter end. "Solution: Venus/Jupiter" period. Guys: You are the experts. People look to you for answers. If you teach, your students rely on you for accuracy. When you publish, other experts rely on your objectivity and clarity of analysis. Yet you ask us to accept the Venus/Jupiter hypothesis primarily because you have put it forward as the "truth."
Now that the professional skeptics have made their final pronouncement, I trust you will permit me to raise a few minor details, tie up some loose ends and send along you ways to comfortably bury our heads back in the sand again until the next time the planets start releasing strobing multi-colored triagular UFOs 20 feet over the surface of Lake Erie that cross distances of several miles in a few seconds, cast spotlights, and scare the wits out of U.S. military personnel for several hours.
At least when the next UFO comes along, the handy-dandy Venus/Jupiter explanation (or something similar) will be ready to go. By the way, what an insult to the Coast Guard. Apparently, according to the skeptical "experts", their men are not capable of distinguishing the planets in the night sky--even after several hours of observation. Fair enough, but don't expect any Christmas cards from the Coast Guard, guys! (No loss--they probably can't write either.)
At any rate, at least you haven't run away and hid when things got a little rough. You proud graduates of the Phil Klass School of Skeptical Technique have recognized that the first requirement of a skeptic is to remain skeptical: to sift through the evidence, only emphasizing those facts that can be made to support your hypothesis and ignoring the "meaningless residue" for purposes of clarity. However, the a priori assumption with which you approach this particular subject (i.e. "UFOs do not represent any phenomena which cannot be explained in prosaic terms.") renders your resulting opinions on the matter largely irrelevant.
Although your credentials as Skeptics remain firmly intact, be honest enough to admit you cannot adequately explain ALL aspects of the sighting. Don't push sophistry.
I respectfully suggest that the Venus/Jupiter hypothesis is a professional embarassment to you, since it completely ignores the observed phenomena and fails to explain how the Coast Guard personnel could have been so grossly fooled by known celestial objects.
Guys, it's okay to admit you just "don't know" what was over Lake Ee that night. That diploma over your desk doesn't make you a vending machine--you don't have to dispense a Pepsi every time someone drops in their change and pulls your handle.
Date: Sun Apr 10 13:44:26 1988
From: NICK SANDULEAK (aa346)
Subj: "THE EASTLAKE UFO"
During he first week of last month the very bright planets Venus and Jupiter were positioned very close together in the western sky for several hours after sunset.As has happened many times in the past,this resulted in many people calling the newspapers,TV stations,the astronomy dept. at CWRU,etc. to report these objects as UFOs. In an April 7 listing on this bulletin board,Rick Dell'Aquila gives the text of a U.S.Coast Guard report (dated March 4) which he suggests can not be explained as resulting from a misidentification of these planets.Although it contains an account of multi-colored, noctural lights cavoring about and landing on the Lake Erie ice, this report is devoid of the most important observational details which one expects from highly trained observers.What was their exact location at the time of these observations? Given that location,what were the approximate azimuth and altitude of these lights? Since the shoreline at Fairport Harbor runs almost NE-SW, saying that the lights are out over the lake means that they could lie anywhere from SE to NW as seen from near the lakeshore. Given this lack of detail, it is rather suggestive that the CG people observed the bright light to "land" on the ice at about the same time that Venus set i.e. went below the horizon that evening. Nowhere in the report do the CG people say that they saw the UFOs in addition to Venus and Jupiter i.e. if this display took place low in the westen sky,one might expect them to have compared the brightness and positions of the UFOs relative to these planets. It is therefore most likely that they were indeed observing these planets only. Because Venus was very low in the sky, the multi-color effects reported could result from atmospheric scintillation.The PD reporter apparently misunderstood this phenomenon and used the phrase "spontaneous gaseous emissions which of course is non-sense. It is my understanding that a UFO sighting can only be assigned to the CE II category if it leaves behind some form of physical evidence,e.g. a burned patch of grass,etc. I suppose this report is being given CE II status because of the reported sound of the lake ice cracking under the weight of the landed UFO. A more likely explanation for that aspect of this event is the arrival of spring.
Visitors from another planet have
When the US Coast Guard at Fairport
"We thought it might be someone
Coast Guard members saw the lights
The UFO reports rolled in again
Knaub said the phenomena is visible
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