COLUMN: Slightly spooky stories: UFOs — Part 1

From skepticism to excitement, extraterrestrial activity was hot topic in 1970s as Orillia Packet & Times reporter cheekily discovered

The 1970s was one really weird decade — orange shag rugs, jellied salad moulds, flared jeans, and near hysteria over everything unexplained or otherworldly.

Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle and the Loch Ness Monster were all the rage. My father collected all of Erich Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods series of books, which had sought to present ancient mysteries as proof of extraterrestrial visits to Earth.

Dad also picked up one of psychic Jeron ‘the Amazing Criswell’ King’s works. Wikipedia states this man “was known for wildly inaccurate predictions.” That was information I could have used when I spent an entire summer day hiding in the basement after reading Criswell had predicted the world would end on that particular date.

Crazy stuff, right? Who would believe any of that junk? Not sane, level-headed people; that is certain.

Technically, I do not necessarily ‘believe in UFOs,’ but I am going to out myself here and tell you that, in the summer of 1979, I saw something very odd indeed with my own eyes.

I was definitely not the first person in Simcoe County to see something in the night sky that could not be easily explained. I would guess the majority of such sightings went undisclosed. A story like that would only produce ridicule and questions about a person’s sanity.

The 1950s, in the early years of the Cold War, was a time of futuristic dreams. Jet planes, both domestic and military, became common and the space race was gearing up. Everyone was looking to the sky.

“In the Cups Again” was the cheeky byline of a small notation in the Barrie Examiner of March 27, 1950.

The Examiner writer penned that an Orillia Packet & Times reporter “laments that none of his readers has reported a flying saucer. He said he would give a free subscription to the first person who produces clear evidence of a flying saucer — with or without the cup. While gliding over a moonbeam, a roving reporter asked a flying saucer pilot if he ever passed over Orillia. ‘The only time I ever gave Orillia a whirl, the people there wouldn’t believe me, so I haven’t been back since.’”

In 1964, three Barrie boys camped out in a backyard one summer night. The Barrie Examiner of July 9, 1964, reported Robert Powell, Dean Kelley and Glenn Osborne saw a flying saucer at 11 p.m. and then a trio of extra-bright ones passed by half an hour later.

By the late 1970s, the flying saucer term had largely been replaced by unidentified flying object, more commonly known as a UFO.

After a flurry of sightings in our area in March 1978, it was clear no local authorities had any interest in taking reports about strange things in the sky.

The Barrie Examiner of March 27, 1978, reported Base Borden “does not invite UFO calls from the public,” the OPP “make notes of it but does not do anything with the information,” and Barrie police refused to take any such reports at all.

One local man did speak to the newspaper. Frank Stephens, of Burton Avenue in Barrie, was heading north on Highway 11, on his way to a meeting in Guthrie. It was 7:45 p.m. and the sky was dark.

“Suddenly, I saw the weird object.”

Check back next week to learn more about that ‘weird object.’

Por Ovnis

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