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The Mongo multiple visual and photographic case, August 31, 1994:

Blow-up of Mongo Frame 4.


Investigated by the Indiana Group, MUFON
Francis Ridge (State Director), Linda Dahlkemper, Bruce Engstrom,
Robert Taylor, Roger Sugden, John Timmerman (CUFOS).

Analysis by: Dr. Richard Haines


Mongo, IN, is located approximately 40 miles NNW of Fort Wayne, approximately 5 miles from the Michigan border. The prime witness (referred to as JK) was an area fire supervisor for the Forest Management Division, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, residing in Jackson, MI. DB was the firefighter from Howell, MI who took the pictures. FB: Cass City, MI, retired, Michigan Department of Natural Resources. One of the witnesses was a retired Michigan State Trooper from Carroll, MI. Another was a retiree from the U.S. Postal Service. The latter did not think the object was a UFO. There was one other witness, six in all. The sighting was brief, estimated at 1-3 minutes. Six men, all retirees from age 45 on up, were sitting around a campfire at the Trading Post Campgrounds at Mongo, IN, on Wednesday, August 31st, 1994. The time was approximately 8:30 PM, Indiana time; 9:30 PM Michigan time (EDT).


The UFO Filter Center at Mt. Vernon, IN (also HQ for the Indiana Group, MUFON) received the initial report on 10/07/94, by phone. FIT Linda Dahlkemper had called me (State Director) at 11:00 AM. On the 21st, UFOFC received blow-ups of two photos, #8 and #9, drawings by the prime witness, and some news clippings. The photos were impressive. Although the images were small and taken at night, one photo looked very much like the famous Trindade Island photo. I attempted contact with Jeff Sainio, Photo Analyst, left message on his recorder.

At approximately 10:00 AM, on 10/22, I conducted a taped telephone interview with the prime witness (JK). A letter and six Form 1's were sent to the prime witness. I requested witness send copy of photos to me AND Jeff Sainio. The following are notes taken from the phone conversation:

JK: "Off to the southwest it looked like the moon, glowing through the treetops, and it was low. I said, 'that can't be the moon', 'cause we are in the last phase. (Moon not visible anyway). Then it started moving. Then it moved right out from behind the trees into an open area near a road and hovered toward us. And it was clear as can be. It was a flying saucer, just that vivid. The object glided into our area at a shallow angle, turned toward us and began to hover. Standing still, the white glow turned transparent. It looked like a white strobe light on the top of the dome. A bright red flash of light under the bottom flashed 3 or 4 times like a strobe and it disappeared to the south and east very quickly, within 2 seconds."

Before it had gone they got at least four good pictures. One of the individuals who was taking pictures around the campfire that night had a Vivitar fully automatic 35mm camera, loaded with 400 ASA color film. He was instructed to grab his camera and shoot. He had been out West with a fire crew, fighting fires and had taken pictures out there. The lens was standard, not telephoto.

Mongo Frame 4 - Original Version.

Prime witness met and talked with two hunters the following day at 10:30 AM EDT. They had been enroute to the campground from Ft. Wayne, IN, and when they were 1/2 mile south of Mongo they spotted a white object move in front and to the east at low level at a high rate of speed. This was at the same time of 2130 EDT.

Newspaper accounts show at least two other good witnesses (the Martins) testifying that this was no blimp. Reports of a blimp (Family Channel) in area. Finally, a man, his wife, and two daughters saw the same or similar object at Hamilton, IN, and took videos. Their sighting was at 8:45 PM and a little over 20 miles SE of Mongo. The object was less than 100' up and there was no sound. Although some of video was erased, the object in one scene is large, pear shaped, and definitely not a conventional object.

The blow-ups of the Mongo object were received on October 21st and were cropped negatives #8 & #9. JK had another pair of negatives at the time of the interview, #4 & #5. After making prints from #8 & #9 a few days prior to this interview, he had swapped negatives with the camera owner.

The witness says the first photos are more distinct. "You are going to be more impressed with the ones I just got yesterday," he said. Negatives #6 & #7 reportedly did not show the UFO. The blow-ups and prints were made on a department store customer-operated Kodak machine called "Create-A-Print".

Photo #8 shows object (moving west to east in downward course) with illuminated leaves in the foreground due to camera flash. Photo #9 is similar, w/o flash, object still moving west to east and downward. Camera flash had been turned off for #9.

In the first two photos the object had come closer and reportedly looked like a "fried egg".

I requested that he fill out a Form 1 and try to get the others (5) to do the same. Six Form 1's were provided.

A drawing was supplied with the blow-ups of negatives #8 & #9, and witness states that this is what the UFO looked like, as it was very bright and coming in, first like the moon. Object had panels that could be seen when the object was due south. He says drawing/photos don't do justice to the actual event. There was absolutely no noise. Three dogs did not react in any way.

He was out hunting the next day and actually saw the Family Channel Blimp that others had reported. "There is no way in hell (that) we saw a blimp that night."

The object they saw and photographed on the 31st was no further than 1/4 mile away, and from 500' high to as low as 100' at one point. Witness then states the object was more vivid when first coming in. Apparently the object was receding on subsequent shots. At first he thought the object to be a bright meteor. It didn't take long for them to realize that the object was not a meteor. In negative #4 & #5 you "can see a distinct line right around the center", he said.

On 10/23/94 I ran an EZC Skyplot (computer check) for 8:30 PM, for the Fort Wayne latitude and longitude. Jupiter was in the SW, as well as Venus, Saturn in the SE, Moon not visible. A note and copies of prints #4 & #5 were received from the prime witness informing me that photo copies had been mailed also to MUFON's Photo Analyst, Jeff Sainio.

The following day a letter, copy of the current investigator's activity log, telephone report, drawing, Form 8, EZC Skyplot, and map of NE Indiana, were sent to Jeff Sainio. Copies of photos to Sainio were shipped direct from witness.

12/04/94. 8:30 AM. Found message on answering system. Jeff Sainio needed some information, unclear. Tried several times to contact him, to no avail.

12/06/94. Letter to Jeff Sainio in reference to his recorded message on telephone answering system. I suggested a form letter be used to let people know if he received materials and to make additional simple requests. No answer.

12/22/94. Received a phone call from prime witness at approximately 8:45 PM. He advised me that Jeff Sainio had called him earlier, about 5:00 PM, and stated that he had NOT received any photos! The witness was supposed to make up a new set and send them again. I advised against it, not faulting Mr. Sainio, but something in the system, possibly mail tampering. However, there appeared to be a major flaw in communications. This was too important a case. Prime witness was to make new copies of two of the photos (from the only two negatives he had in his possession) and send them to me. I would then submit them by certified mail to an analyst.

12/23/94. Mark Rodeghier returned my call from the previous evening. I asked who else would be appropriate for an analysis. (It had been two months since we submitted photos and materials to Sainio). He suggested two others. I decided to go with Richard Haines. A letter was also drafted to Jeff Sainio, describing our actions and the reason behind them, since he was expecting JK to send the photos all over again. Computer copies of the letter were submitted to Walt Andrus and Mark Rodeghier.

12/27/94. 5x7 copies of Photo #4 & 5 (one regular and one blow-up each) received from primary witness. Awaiting response from Richard Haines. Four days later it came. He requested (1) positive prints, (2) original negatives, and all particulars. Securing original negatives could have been difficult. The primary witness had two of the four negatives but I was afraid he might be reluctant to turn them over to us. It is MUFON policy NOT to secure and mail original negatives.

It was a New Year. On the 3rd, I sent Haines a letter and all current material, including two prints and two blow-ups (of two of the four 35 mm shots), submitted via certified mail, signed receipt requested. Copy of letter sent to MUFON and CUFOS.

01/09/95. Received completed Form 1 from D.B., a retired fire officer. On the 17th Dr. Haines received the the Jan 3rd mailing. Took two weeks! Was our mail really being tampered with, or is this simply the US Postal Service?

02/21/95. Letter from Richard Haines dated 10 Feb requested negatives and other information. Says case warranted further study.

02/22/95. Contacted primary witness by phone, told him about letter from Haines. Sent letter to primary witness and Haines, outlining plan to send half of the original negs first, await safe return, then send other half. To make copy of negs first. Plan was accepted. Two of the original negs (strip containing same) were on the way to Haines, certified mail, signed receipt requested. At 9:00 PM I contacted Jeff Sainio at a new number. Got OK to send two prints (not enlarged) to QUADTECH, Attn: Jeff Sainio in Sussex, WI. He was to call me when he got them.

02/26/95 2:45 PM. Contacted primary witness. Told him I finally contacted Jeff. PW was sending negs of two photos to Haines & two uncropped photos to Sainio. I sent letter to Haines: (2) negs on the way, strip of four connected frames, 6,7,8,9.

03/07/95. Four pages of Q/A notes via phone by Haines w/DB. Haines requested series of overlapping color photos at same location where originals were taken. Should be daylight photos. Work was progressing.

03/29/95. Call from Dr. Haines. Needed county map or topo map with big scale, possibly 5 miles. Also requested info from hunters, who they were, would they file reports, etc. In particular, where were they in relation to the others and in what direction did they see the UFO from beginning to end.

03/30/95. Letter to JK requesting series of overlapping photos of sky sector. Material from Jeff Sainio, along with (in his own words) "Photoanalysis (sort of)", stating that the "tiny images give little to work with" and "witness testimony of shape and flashing lights gives a close match with the balloon (theory)."

04/03/95. 10:40 AM. Received call from primary witness. During the first week in May they would use the same camera and take overlapping pictures from exact site. Names and ID of two hunters was unknown, but their position was noted.

04/20/95. Mark returned my call from previous day. Was checking on blimp flights. Would get John Timmerman to do it. Requested zerox of photos. Sent letter, photos, and Sainio material to Rodeghier.

04/23/95. John Timmerman called. Would help on Mongo case. Requested information on sighting and photos. I sent complete accumulated file designated for CUFOS. Had primary witness send photo copies.

04/26/95. Letter to FI Bruce Engstrom at New Haven (near Fort Wayne) requesting his group aid Timmerman in investigation.

05/11/95. Primary witness and the original photographer took a series of daylight photos for Dr. Richard Haines, to provide a panoramic view of the sky from the same vantage point as the night UFO photos taken August 31, 1994. Dr. Haines would use these, and the large-scale map being provided, to plot the object's position during its flight and be used to make other calculations regarding each of the four photos.

05/17/95. Got a call from John Timmerman of CUFOS. He had made arrangements to meet with the two men on Friday, May 19th, to get whatever information, photos of sky sector, and maps, etc. I advised him that it was very important we are able to rule out the blimp explanation. He was checking into flights by FAMILY CHANNEL and VIRGIN LIGHTSHIP. Witness reports rule out blimps, in particular the speed of flight and rapid acceleration. However, it would be good to know that there were no blimps in the area that evening. If there were blimp flights on the 31st in that area it would create a problem for analysts, nonetheless. It was interesting that one of the witnesses DID see and report a blimp the very next day.

07/20/95. Information from blimp manufacturer submitted by Dr. Haines. This was descriptive information, not flight schedules. Also, note mentioned Dr. Haines had just received second (best) set of negatives.

Undated. Memo from John Timmerman. No word from McDonald Company in Toronto. Sent photo of Virgin Lightship to Dr. Haines for dimension ration comparisons with the Mongo object.

09/14/95. One final attempt to contact newspaper man and his wife (the Martins') who also saw the object or similar one. To no avail.

09/28/95. Investigation concluded.

Preliminary Evaluation

Source Test, Natural: All natural sources were eliminated. An EZC Skyplot for Mongo coordinates during time slot shows three planets as conspicuous targets. Jupiter and Venus were in the SW, Saturn was in the SE. Description of object, movement, and number of witnesses precludes a misidentification of an astronomical object. Also, an on-site investigation by John Timmerman of CUFOS failed to show any other natural source that might explain the sighting.

Source Test, Man-Made: Advertizing, commercial, military, and private aircraft eliminated. A blimp seemed possible. Witness testimony appeared to rule this out. Later analysis by Dr. Richard Haines effectively ruled out any type of blimp or any other source. We had already eliminated a balloon, fixed structure, hoax (on witness or by witnesses). Twelve witnesses were reliable, object was real, description and photos (and a video) indicate an unidentified craft was in the area, along with a possible blimp.

Evaluation: Unidentified craft. Berliner Strangeness Scale: 2 (Night object); Berliner Credibility Scale: 7 (Still photo(s) by professional). Speiser Strangeness Factor: S5 (Highly strange; suggests intelligent guidance); Speiser Credibility Scale: P5 (Highly credible, leaving almost no doubt).

Analysis by: Dr Richard Haines

Mongo - Computer Enhanced

Digital Image Analysis Results

Frames 4 - 7 were scanned with a Lacie Ltd., Silver Scanner II and processed by Adobe Photoshop software running in a Power Macintosh model 7100/66. This scanner provided for a variable sized scan area.

Mongo - Negative Contrast

THE ADVERTIZING BLIMP HYPOTHESIS: It was suggested that the UFO was an internally illuminated advertising blimp on the basis of the fact that a blimp definitely was in the area that evening [Anon., 1994(a); Anon.,1994(b)] and similarities in general shape of video images obtained previously in other geographic locales by several people (Kelley,1995;Sainio,1993). We will evaluate this suggestion in light of each piece of evidence. Mr. JK said that he went hunting the next day and saw the "Family Channel Blimp" flying nearby. He remarked to the investigator, Francis Ridge, "There's no way in hell (that) we saw a blimp that night." As will be seen, several different avenues were followed to test this personal assessment by this eye witness.

BASIC BLIMP CHARACTERISTICS: Author and Mr. John Timmerman of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (separately) contacted various lighter-than-air ship manufacturers for specifications, illustrations, and flight schedules. Figure 12 is a drawing of the "Lightship" built by the American Blimp Corporation of Hillsboro, Oregon. Four variations are sold which vary in length but not in width-to-length ratio. The overall length of the A-150 model is 128 feet and its maximum diameter is 30'10" for a width to length ratio of 0.24 (about one-half of the measured width to length ratio of the UFO seen in frames 4 and 5; viz. 0.444 and 0.452, respectively). One shorter and two slightly longer models than the A150 are manufactured by this company. The top speed of this model is 55 mph using two each 68 hp German Limbach engines operating at 2900 RPM.

The maximum rate of climb for this blimp is 1600 feet per minute and 1400 fpm maximum rate of descent. Its rated service ceiling is 7800 feet and maximum range without refueling at 40 mph is 560 nautical miles. Its minimum turn radius is 375 feet. Needless to say, its ability to accelerate is very limited. More importantly, the outer skin of these blimps is made from a tough woven fabric and plastic film that is translucent. Spotlights located inside it make the entire blimp glow relatively evenly. The advertising panels on the sides of the blimp do not move relative to the blimp itself but are attached by numerous tie-down cords.

A blimp was in the area. (Ridge: "One newspaper account said that The Family Channel blimp was responsible for reports in northern Indiana at that time). Kelley (1995) reported that a blimp owned by the Virgin Lightship Co. (Orlando, Florida) traveled from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Lakehurst, New Jersey in thirty one hours, including that evening.

No sound heard. If a blimp was the source of these photographs its reciprocating engines also probably would have been heard at distances under about 2,000 to 3,000 feet in the calm night air. No such sounds were heard by anyone.

Blimp shape. Several previously recorded VHS segments of positively identified blimps were analyzed by Jeff Sainio, chief photo analyst for MUFON. He provided the author with a copy of these VHS clips and still frame photographs for comparison with the present photographs. While they appear to be similar in shape to the present images they also differ in interesting ways.

Figure 14 (not shown here) shows three consecutive 1/30 sec. video frames from a camcorder recording taken by Mr. John Stanolevich on August 23, 1995 at Rego Park (near Shea Stadium) New York and which was conclusively identified as an advertising blimp. These three video frames show: (A) the one-per-second white, anti-collision strobe light on the bottom appearing as a bulge beneath the oval shaped object. Each flash is seen in only one frame indicating that its duration is less than 1/30th of a second. (B) and (C) the generally oval-shaped blimp image is composed of several horizontal (raster) TV lines separated by blank lines whose ends stair-step in order to produce the overall image. The overall width to length ratio of these images is 0.42 and no prominent dome is seen on the top.

Contradictory film image size. If the object was one of the American Blimp Corporation airships (128 feet long) for instance, it would have had to be 21,395 feet (about 4 miles) away to produce the small image length found on these photographs! This large a distance contradicts the testimony of the main group of witnesses at the campsite as well as two hunters who said they saw the object to the north of their estimated position.

Other arguments

  1. the lack of any visible protuberance on the top of the blimp which is clearly visible in all of these photographs,
  2. the presence of a small gondola below the blimp which is not visible on these photographs,
  3. the presence of a dark, opaque (structural) tip at each end of these blimps which is not seen in any of the eye witness drawings or photographs,
  4. the probable average velocity calculations presented below tend to exceed the maximum ground speed of a blimp,
  5. the reported high acceleration departure exceed the capability of blimps
  6. only one of the six witnesses at the main campground saw a flashing light on the object as it departed to the SE. However, FAA approved anticollision strobe lights on flight certified blimps must be visible from all possible viewing positions relative to the blimp so that everyone in the group should have seen the strobe light.

The results presented in Table 6 (not shown) also support the opinion of Mr. JK wherein the angular size of a 128 foot-long blimp was calculated for each of four hypothetical viewing distances. The length of the image of the object on the original negative represents only 0.86 percent of the width of the frame which is considerably smaller than any of the values given in Table 6.

Finally, the majority of blimps have a width to length ratio of from 0.25 to 0.30 which is approximately one-half of the ratio of the present aerial object (not including its dome on top).

Discontinuous object motions. All but one of the main group of witnesses indicated that the object wasn't a blimp. It moved relatively fast, stopped, changed directions (appearing to approach the witnesses), stopped again, and then accelerated away in a matter of seconds. Blimps do not behave this way!

Object velocity. Assuming certain values for total distance traveled (d) and sighting duration (t), object velocity can be calculated. Mr. JK thought the sighting lasted about 15 seconds while DB had a longer estimate of from 60 to 180 seconds. The other three primary witnesses (one of the six did not report) did not make temporal duration estimates. The total horizontal angle through which the object travelled [as measured from the main campsite] is approximately that shown in Figure 1 although its distance from the observers is not known for sure.

Assuming the flight path of the object was that shown by the heavy dashed line in Figure 1 and it was in sight for t=60,90, or 120 seconds, its average (constant) velocity is 65.3, 43.5, or 32.6 ft/sec, (95.3, 63.8, or 47.9 mph), respectively. Only the slowest of these values is within the 55 mph maximum speed of the commercially produced Lightship Blimp discussed above. If the actual flight path of the object was far more of an acute angle V with its initial and final distances much greater than are shown in Figure 1, i.e., an assumed total flight path length of about 10,740 feet, with the nearest point as illustrated, the object's average velocity (also assuming a constant velocity) for t=60,90, or 120 seconds would be 262, 175, or 131 mph, respectively. All of these velocities are significantly faster than this blimp can fly. And so for a blimp, comparable to the Lightship Blimp, to have caused this report it would have had to do all of the following:

  1. fly at its maximum speed and never stop moving,
  2. fly along the approximate path shown in Figure 1 or nearer to the campsite,
  3. remain in sight for about a hundred seconds or more (traveling at a constant speed),
  4. somehow appear to accelerate at a high rate of speed, and
  5. remain silent the entire time!

Since most of the witnesses said that the object moved discontinuously and actually seemed to stop once or twice, its actual velocity would have had to be even faster than calculated above to make up for the time it had stopped. Finally, no witness indicated that the object changed shape. If it were a blimp and changed heading its length would seem to shorten somewhat without changing thickness.


The self-luminous aerial object seen and photographed at Mongo, Indiana on August 31, 1994, has remained unidentified after the various evaluations cited above. On the one hand, its overall shape and flight characteristics are not unlike many scores of other UFO reported for more than fifty years from around the world, many of which were captured on photographs. On the other hand, a blimp definitely was seen during the night of August 31, 1994 in the Mongo area. The aerial object photographed cannot be positively identified at this time. It remains a UFO.

Comments by the State Director

We have been unable to obtain any official flight records for any blimp flights explaining the Mongo event. Two different blimp companies were "identified" (Family Channel & Virgin Lightship) by "authorities". A current and separate investigation is underway involving a video taken the same evening at Hamilton, Indiana just a few miles SE of Mongo! The witnesses also claim the object at one point was less than 100' over them, was as big as a football field, and made no noise!

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