It is so hard to think back before for the Age of Star Trek, when movies about outer space weren’t quite so common, and they certainly weren’t their own specialized genre. At the time Orson Wells staged his famous radio broadcast, War of the Worlds, on 30 October 1938, science fiction movies were mostly about science experiments gone awry, plus a terrific assortment of monster flicks: from The Invisible Man to the all too visible Frankenstein. The High Point Enterprise didn’t even mention the Wells broadcast of the fictional alien invasion that caused public panic. Also, despite the fact that approximately 82.8% of Americans owned radios (according to the 1940 census), only 2% of listeners actually heard the broadcast at all (a 5000 household survey was conducted after the on-air production). In fact, the only flying object that made headlines in High Point was a “giant 16-passenger Ford airliner” piloted by Capt. O.M. Goodsell “who brought the first big airplane ever to fly in High Point in 1931.”
It wasn’t really until later when the American government set their ambitions on the stars that interest in the heavens started to… well, look up. In 1946, the United States began engineering rocket planes, and our country’s interest followed. As Americans looked heavenward, the 1950s saw the launching of our first satellite and the founding of NASA. Popular culture followed suit with movies like Forbidden Planet, Day the Earth Stood Still, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and Cat Women of the Moon, to name just a few. It is not surprising then that our country wanted its own real space adventure and Americans soon landed on the moon in 1968.
While the space program grew, so did American reports of Unidentified Flying Objects—UFOs. Perhaps too, various agencies became more open to officially recording UFO sightings. In the 1960s, The High Point Enterprise reported, “Astronomers have arrived at the quite speculative conclusion that there may be some hundred million advanced communities throughout our universe.” In 1966, a spacecraft sighting prompted the newspaper to say, “After several months of absence, the UFO’s are back in the neighborhood…” (June 18, 1966). The news story relates how on Lloyd Rule’s way home from a revival at High Rock Baptist Church, he had a close encounter with a “large oval object hovering 75 feet in the air.” He reported the dimensions as about 50 feet wide by 15 feet high with blue lights around the middle and “humming like a dynamo.” When asked what he would have done if he’d actually met one of the aliens on board, Rule responded: “I wouldn’t have been afraid. I would have just offered to shake hands and asked if he knew Jesus.” That must have been one inspiring revival!
Earlier that same year, two Trinity children reported a flying object described as a large shiny ball with a whitish ring that damaged their home. It is hard to imagine there could be Trinity-trailer-detritus floating around outer space officially classified as “space junk.”
More disturbing still was a call to the local Action Line on December 4, 1968. The High Point Enterprise reported what they thought was credible testimony about a flying saucer abducting a young woman right on Montlieu Avenue!
Of course, some sightings that the newspaper reported were indeed hoaxes such as the doctored photograph The Enterprise ran on April Fools’ Day when a flying saucer hovered in a “wooded area just west of High Point College,” along with bogus testimony from a High Point College student. The faux report with Army officers flying in to investigate was quite the multimedia production back in 1965.
With the advent of websites and social media, it is much more difficult to discern a hoax from any credible observation. The National UFO Reporting Center tries to do some vetting by returning calls and following up on testimony, but the High Point reports come from a full range of sources, from prisoners to medical doctors. However, it is precisely the wide range of witnesses which makes the reports so much fun to read.
For example, a Navy veteran and F-18 mechanic, whose father was a pilot and who had never been unable to identify any kind of aircraft, proved to be flummoxed by what he and his brother saw over High Rock Lake:
We both saw an orange light turn on quite bright, then off, EXACTLY like a lighthouse beacon made one rotation. We both made comments, and kept our eyes peeled. Within two minutes slightly to the left and farther away, we saw TWO orange lights, together in unison, repeat the same action, but slightly dimmer. As if a car’s headlights made a U-turn in the sky. There were no strobes or position lights, or even a solid object. Just the light appearing/disappearing... (June 9, 2011)
Another report came in from a district manager for a men’s clothier who had stepped outside his home to smoke a cigarette:
I was able to see the undercarriage or belly of the object. There were lights in the shape of a triangle under the object that were in some sort of series of blinking. The lights were red and a very white crystal light. I am still assuming at this point that the object is a plane. Within what seem to be a minute or so, the object then made another maneuver in the same half round or moon motion coming back around to the right in the direction of the tree I had first initially seen and maneuvered past the tree over to my side of the street a few houses to the right. At this point, the object had descended and I was able to see the top of the object. The object was round in shape and had a ring of lights on the outer edge. The object sat in the air still almost as if it was staring at me. (January 1, 2009)
Do you think he needed another cigarette after observing all of that?
Here is a report from a local doctor:
On January 16, I was driving north on US 311 between High Point and Winston-Salem, NC. Around 9 PM, I looked to the left (south) and saw a V-shaped craft hovering about 1000 feet in the air. It was quite close to the highway, close enough to see a series of red and white lights along the wings. It looked like an airplane without the body. It did not move or emit any sound. It appeared to be shiny metal with some reflected light off the surface. I did not stop as I was on my way home from a local hospital where I work as a physician. I have never seen a UFO and have always been skeptical that any aliens have visited earth as we have no physical proof. This did not strike me as an “alien” or extraterrestrial craft, it just looked like a man-made craft that somehow was able to hover silently. However, I have no explanation for what kind of craft could have appeared as it did. (January 16, 2007)
I think I would have written myself a prescription for a good sedative.
As a skeptical but hopeful observer, I definitely think our planet might need help one day, and I hope that if we have not yet been contacted by more intelligent life, that we’ll make friendly contact in the not too distant future. Of course, we really haven’t done well with the different shades of our own fellow Earthlings, so I’m not sure how well we’ll react to sherbet-colored aliens. It’s not easy being green; just ask Kermit the Frog.
Yet I’m sure, with all the international business High Point has maintained over the years, it won’t be so difficult to broaden the city’s appeal with a little interstellar design for all our friends out there… somewhere…
National UFO Reporting Center: http://www.nuforc.org/
National Security Agency, UFO Documents Index: https://www.nsa.gov/news-features/declassified-documents/ufo/
Stephen Rantz is a Research Associate in the Heritage Research Center at the High Point Public Library. Contact him at 336.883.3637 or email@example.com.