INVESTIGATION OF FERNALD UFO SIGHTING
While working a UFO exhibit at the Cincinnati Convention Center during March of ‘97, I was approached by a certain individual (more specific information on this person will not be disclosed out of respect to the wishes for anonymity which has been made clear). He advised me of a UFO sighting at the Fernald Uranium Processing plant near Ross, Ohio. This informant, who we shall call Matt (Mysterious, Anonymous Tattle-Tale), claimed to have been an employee at Fernald in the months before and after the sighting. 1
Matt had been glancing at the table where still photographs taken from the CLERMONT COUNTY RECORDING were displayed. He pointed at one photograph of the triangular headlight arrangement and said, "It looked like this object." 2
I told him I was interested in the account and asked how I could get in contact for a follow-up, but "Matt" hesitated, and claimed to be afraid to give me a name.
He advised that the UFO had been videotaped by a guard at the guardshack on NOVEMBER 24, 1994 (two weeks after the CLERMONT COUNTY RECORDING). He said that the situation was perceived as a security matter, and that the FAA was contacted and advised of the event.
"Matt" also said that several people at Fernald knew about it, that it had been ‘hushed up' and people were instructed not to talk about it.
He said I should make an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) appeal with DOE (Department of Energy) to acquire the report on the incident.
Also, "Matt" said that the videotape had been examined by the video personnel at Fernald. Still images on the recording had been ‘freeze framed' then xeroxed and distributed to a few people who had access to the records. “Matt” implied that he was one of those individuals.
I provided “Matt” with a business card that included my address and phone number, and entertained high hopes that future contact might be made. For weeks I thought of the conversation, but felt my hopes languish as no further word of this strange tale came my way. Then suddenly, on Wednesday, May 14, I received an envelope displaying no name or return address. Inside was a word-processed letter which cryptically stated the following:
location: the U.S. DOE Fernald Environmental
Management Project (now called Fluor-Daniel Fernald)
contents: stills of a security video camera
Enclosed as an attachment was a large 11 x 17" sheet of paper bearing seven poor quality black & white images taken from a video camcorder. The date and time of the recording is tagged onto the video, and the information indicates the date as November 23, 1994 (the informant had earlier stated November 24) and the time listed is 5:48 a.m. The seconds are also displayed on the recording, and 5 of the images appear in reverse sequence, from top to bottom, based upon the arrangement of the digital clock so that the top image lists "AM - 5:48:10" while the bottom image lists "AM - 5:48:08"
Above: Still image captured from the
videotape which was
later acquired, computer analysis by Dale Farmer
Of the seven pictures, four contain complete images, the other three either leave the page or are broken due to copier error. Two of the four clear images depict an object that resembles a lighted [luminous?] donut. This element could be an abberation created by the internal apparatus within the lense of the camera, and not a solid object.
However, the relative sharpness of the "donut" images was also considered to be an artifact of the copier. Depending on the contrast setting of the copier used, diffuse edges are ignored and are filled in with either more "white" or more "black."
This would not be, of course, an adequate analysis until review of the videotape could be conducted.
On Saturday, May 31, I set off with an associate from a Cracker Barrel restaurant on Winton Road to proceed to the Fernald plant, intending to speak to a guard at the guardshack. The journey to Fernald was simply a fancy made on impulse with no prior planning. 3
Upon entering Ross, Ohio, we expected to find the Fernald plant easily, but took a wrong turn somewhere and got lost. Driving around for about 15 minutes, we found ourselves in Okeana and stopped at the Okeana Grocery Store to ask for directions. Inside the store, three passersby responded eagerly when asked for directions to Fernald. The clerk commented, "Just follow the glow."
This was greeted by some laughter and more jokes until I had humorously added, "Well, actually, we're looking for UFOs anyway."
"You may want to talk to some people at the Fire Department, I've heard they saw them," came the sober response. Although the clerk offered no specific details , he knew of information that could be acquired through the fire department.
Directions were given and we found ourselves approaching the guard shack at the ominous Fernald Uranium Processing site. The guard remained seated in the small shack which was situated at the main entrance to the plant as we drove the car up to the door. When advised that we were investigating a reported UFO sighting in the area, the guard stated, "I know of a security guard who you may want to talk to. He's not here tonight, but he saw one. It flew over one night on third shift."
The guard confirmed again that he had heard stories, and said, "I've heard about it, but I didn't see it. There was something that was supposed to have come over."
When asked if there were any video recordings, the guard answered, "I'm not sure if there were or not."
Plant 4 underwent safe shutdown, decontamination and dismantlement before being successfully imploded on Saturday, August 24, 1996.
The guard suggested we contact Lieutenant Paul Disney, the supervisor in charge of security at FERMCO, the agency contracted by Fernald to furnish plant security.
Suddenly aware that I was writing down this information, the guard became uneasy and more reluctant to talk: "Why don't you come back later and talk to them about it?"
This second-hand information provided ‘soft' confirmation of a story first conveyed by "Matt," an anonymous whistle-blower who strangely told of his ‘fear’ about involvement with a story that had been ‘hushed up.’
I had contacted Mr. DALLAS at Fernald Security and announced the nature of my call. According to Mr. Dallas, Lt. Disney was unavailable until Wednesday, June 4. Dallas knew of the UFO sighting but was unsure of a report filed on the incident. Dallas said, "The guys on third shift made a claim and a videotape of a UFO sighting." 4
When asked whether or not the information would be retained with Fernald or Firmco, Mr. Dallas said, "It's all the same," adding that the records would be accessible to the public. "If they kept anything, whether it be videotape or written reports, you would be able to get that."
Dallas again suggested I contact Paul Disney, who could address my inquiries better.
Thinking to take the ‘back door approach,’ I placed a few phone calls to the main security gate several times and talked with the night-shift employees. One guard who answered the phone began laughing hysterically when I placed my inquiry. “Is this a joke?” he giggled as I sought to restore seriousness to the conversation. “Who is this?” he chuckled, and from that point on, the inquiry went downhill. The serious tone as I sought after was ‘down the commode’ as I could sense tears welling up in his eyes from hysterical laughter. Ultimately, his silly conduct prevailed and I found myself somewhat humored by his giggly demeanor as well. A phone call the next evening was not as mirthful, however, as the receptionist taking my call ‘hung up’ when I had asked for a certain guard by name. Perhaps it was understood that I would be calling...
Days later I finally contacted Lieutenant Disney, who also confirmed hearing of the UFO sighting and to have seen photos. Disney said that he had heard stories of a "ball or something in the sky" that was photographed, but didn't know what had become of the material. He said he had seen the photos "floating around" from time to time. 5
Disney deferred the call to Susan Walpole, the Public Relations Manager for Fluor-Daniel Fernald. Disney stated, "All such off-site inquiries will be handled by the public relations department. They want to be the ones to respond to any questions people have regarding an incident or anything that may or may not have happened."
Disney wasn't sure how available this information would be. The cameras used by the security staff are fixed cameras, but are moveable and remotely controlled from a monitor room. The information is recorded by means of a time-lapse recording system. When asked, he responded that the guards "do not use video camcorders and do not bring camcorders to work with them."
The Public Relations Supervisor, Susan Walpole, was then contacted, and said she would research the story for me. Taking my name and number, she assured a phone call would be returned. When asked what procedures she would use to research the story, Walpole said she would "find out from the video people and other people, who, if anybody, has the video and report," and added that it "was not in public affairs." She said she would make some phone calls to find out where it "exists on site." 6
The following afternoon, after awaiting a phone call that never came, I again contacted the Public Relations Department, where, not surprisingly, it was made clear that no videotape of a UFO over Fernald was officially retained, and the spokesperson added: “I don’t have any information for you.” 7
“The one guard who evidently saw it works on third shift and I left a message but he hasn’t called back.“ She released the name of this individual (that will not appear in this text), who she said was the ‘witness to the incident.’
The search inquiries were made with the communications center where no record of the event or video was said to exist, the multi-media visual ("the AV people"), where they reportedly searched their database and no video was found. A check was also made with three or four persons in security who equally did not claim to have the video.
A phone call was again placed to Lt. Disney, where he was asked if I could acquire records and logs. He was also asked if I could make arrangements to speak directly with the security guard.
Disney said, "Sure, he works on third shift though."
I went on to add that I had made several late-night phone calls and couldn't reach him, and I would rather find out a good night to call. Disney stepped away breifly to check his schedule, then came back and said "Uh-oh, it looks like this gentleman will be on vacation for several weeks. He just took off."
Susan Walpole, Public Relations Supervisor of Fluor-Danile Fernald, was again contacted after a delayed response to my previous inquiries. She said that she had been making numerous inquiries with different persons, and still turning up negative results. 8
She checked for any AEDO reports (Assistant Emergency Duty Officer) which is a 24 hour office which fills out a log of any “off-normal occurences.” These reports are routed to the duty officer who keeps a log of incidents. She also consulted with the person in charge of emergency operations center with no results (I inquired if this would have been perceived as an emergency situation, and she said, “I don’t think so”).
She also checked the Fire & Safety log plus the SHIFT LOG. She assured that she would furnish me with the names of the people who were on duty during the event.
Regarding the videotape, she didn’t know if the Fernald security systems embed a date and time stamp onto their video recordings, but said she would find out for me. She said that the Fire & Safety people retain a personal camcorder at all times, and they may be the ones who recorded the video.
Overall, it looked as if nothing substantive would come of the Fernald story.
PREVIOUS UFO SIGHTINGS
A quick review of Fernald history revealed that an Unidentified Flying Object was reported over the FERNALD URANIUM PROCESSING PLANT on August 25, 1955. This event, witnessed by police Sgt. Ralph Weber, Patrolman Ernest Nehree and Patrolman Maurice Wiseman, was observed at 10:55 p.m. The ‘flickering red glow’ over the atom plant was described as 'something like the exhaust from an airliner, which flickered.' The object reportedly would drop 100 to 300 feet and then go back up, sometimes darting 'side to side' like it couldn't stay stationary. The Cincinnati Post reported that the Atomic Energy Commission had launched an investigation into the matter. 9
On April 10, 1983, an unknown object was visually observed by two motorists and an area resident in the vicinities of Layhigh Road and Hamilton-New London Road, both near Route 748. A power failure and unusual animal response followed as the object then landed in a field. A 50-foot circular area of effected ground was discovered, its outer fringes were scorched and there were several broken branches found there, having been forcefully removed from a nearby tree. A 3-foot ‘burned area’ was found at the center of the effected region. After meticulous research by Ron Schaffner and other investigators, this case remains unexplained. This location is 4.5 miles northeast of the Fernald facility. 10
Interview with the Security Guard
After several weeks of patience, I thought it time to contact the security guard, thinking he may have since returned from his vacation.
A 1:00 a.m. telephone call was made to the Fernald Security department, and a long talk with the primary witness finally made. The witness, also a part-time police officer, was willing to provide the tantalizing details of this mysterious event. 11
“I was just out on perimeter patrol enroute to stationary post, and there was this light in the sky that followed me,” stated the officer. “It looked like this thing had landing lights. When I turned, it turned, and just set there. It hovered east of my location, over the Hamilton parking lot.”
“It first appeared to be about the same elevation as routine air traffic, it was going due south, and then when I turned west, this thing turned around and followed me, so then I thought this was a helicopter. I rolled the window down and didn’t hear any sound, so then I called the Control Center.”
“Someone from the Control Center evidently swung their cameras around and was able to pick this up from a remote location. When 'The County' showed up, there were still photos of this thing that was given to them.”
“The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department was summoned to the scene by someone from the Control Center, and they talked to me in the Administration Building and also took a report.”
The unidentified aircraft, described by the guard as a silent light which moved from north to south before suddenly hovering like a helicopter, performed a banking maneuver that could not be duplicated by conventional aircraft. According to the security guard, the object departed Fernald by lifting to a high elevation and hovering stationary in the sky, appearing as a star until well after daylight.
Inquiries with Hamilton County 9-1-1
Dave Matthews, supervisor of the Hamilton County Communications Center, confirmed that the call was received and also furnished an ‘incident advisory’ which states the time and nature of the call, plus the name of the two officers that handled the report. A notation on the log states: ‘strange sphere with strange lights sighted over Fernald.’ 12
“This was just a routine call,” stated Matthews, “we get UFO calls all the time. I am just one of nine supervisors here, and on my watch, I’ve handled about 250 to 300 calls for UFO reports in Hamilton County since 1974,” informed the 9-1-1 supervisor.
“UFO reports are considered a Priority 3, or routine, simply because such reports are not deemed emergency situations. If we had sufficient information that would warrant an emergency-type response, then we would upgrade the priority status of these type of reports, but at this time, we do not have such information,” Matthews said.
This image is of the reported phenomenon
behind trees, which can be seen in the foreground
The Videotape is Acquired
Initially, persons at F.E.M.P. denied that a videotape of a UFO sighting over Fernald was actually retained or even made at the facility. But suddenly, at a staff meeting on Monday, July 1, the videotape finally surfaced.
Arrangements were hastily made and the tape was hand-delivered by Fernald officials at the ‘badge-issuing trailer’ on-site.
“The reason we couldn’t find it the first time was because it was held by a D.O.E. official,” stated the cordial employee.
This was the graphic created by the
video department, which tags and identifies
the beginning of the videotape.
The videotape depicts a glaring light which shines toward the camera like a spotlight, only much brighter. Another videotape of the event was also recorded from a communications center camera, and it depicts an odd-looking light hovering in the sky, and then jump-cuts to the phenomenon as it hovers behind trees. Many voices can be heard saying, “Look at it, look at it!” and “didn’t it just move?”
One person declares, “I’ve been working third-shift too long!”
The images from the two cameras have been edited by the F.E.M.P. video department, and dubbed onto one videocassette labeled “Unidentified Object at the F.E.M.P.” The edited sequences are out of order, as per the time listed on the date-stamp within the video frame. There is some indication that there were other sequences not included on the video which had been edited out, based upon the gaps in the video date/time-stamp.
The 1994 Fernald UFO event happened during a spate of UFO sightings around the Cincinnati area. Two weeks prior, a Clermont County resident recorded a home-video of a triangular headlight configuration which performed an odd maneuver during a rain shower. Before that, a UFO was reported to the Forest Park Police Department by motorists near the Forest Fair Mall.
Looking back over this affair, the most outstanding aspect isn’t an overflight of an unidentified flying object above this facility, it is the ‘hush hush’ mannerism in which the incident was handled afterwards. The silence a byproduct not of a great secrecy machine, but moreso an offshoot of a convenient ‘file it away’ approach assumed by Fernald and Hamilton County 9-1-1. The video, deemed valuable to UFO researchers and investigators, would furnish excellent material for analysis and computer scrutiny. The participants did not recognize neither the common proliferation of UFO material in our society in which certain interest may be gathered from this happening, nor did they acknowledge the apparent value of the recording in the hands of credible investigators. It found its place on a shelf somewhere, known only among those privileged few.
This sort of event, if happening in the late 80’s, would have been an considered intrusive to the security of The United States due to the sensitivity of the Fernald operation.
But more interesting was the look in the eyes of Matt, the mysterious informant who seemed to express fear upon the telling of this account, as he cryptically stated, “Let me just tell you, this is something I don’t want to get involved with.”
1. Victory of Light Psychic Fair held on Sunday, March 16, 1997 at the Cincinnati Covention Center, sponsored by Victory Books
2. The CLERMONT COUNTY RECORDING was videotaped on November 10, 1994 near U.S. Route 50 in Owensville, Ohio, and reported in The Cincinnati Post, The Middletown Journal and also on WXIX TV-19 News. The videotape depicts images of a triangular-shaped headlight configuration which may be explainable as common air traffic. However, there remain numerous questions about the maneuvers in progress as well as the computer analysis of the video, which left more questions than answers.
3. The Fernald Environmental Management Project (FEMP) is located about 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio. Between 1953 and 1989, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facility, then called the "Feed Materials Production Center," produced uranium metal products for the nation’s defense programs. The FEMP’s products were used in production reactors to make plutonium and tritium at other DOE sites. In 1992, Fluor Daniel Fernald assumed responsibility for managing all cleanup activities at the FEMP under a contract with DOE. Formerly known as the Fernald Environmental Restoration Management Corp., Fluor Daniel Fernald is a subsidiary of Fluor Daniel Inc., based in Irvine, Calif. The Fluor Daniel Fernald company is composed of Fluor Daniel, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Haliburton NUS Environmental Services, and Nuclear Fuel Services.
4. Telephone contact on Monday afternoon, June 2, 1997 with Mr. DALLAS at Fernald Security (513) 648-5594
5. Telephone contact made on Wednesday, June 4, at 12:20 p.m. with Lieutenant Paul Disney, Fernald Security (648-5594)
6. Telephone contact made on Wednesday, June 4 with Susan Walpole, the Public Relations Manager 648-4026.
7. Telephone contact made on Thursday, June 5, 1997
8. Telephone contact made on Friday, June 13, 1997
9. The Cincinnati Post, August 26, 1955
10. MUFON UFO JOURNAL. Walter H. Andrus, Jr. Editor, August 1983, Number 186.
11. July 27, 1997 Phone call made to Security Guard whose name will be withheld for privacy purposes
12. Discussion at Hamilton County 9-1-1 Center, Saturday June 29, 1997
Report filed July 2, 1997