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1966 Portage County UFO chase by policemen:

These events have been the model for the scene of the UFO chase by the police in the world famous movie "Close Encounters of the third Kind" by Steven Spielberg. Yet, who knows that the scene was inspired by real events?

This case is Project Blue Book Record 10073.

"I've seen Venus many times, but I never saw Venus 50 feet above a road and moving from side to side like this was..."

(Portage County Sheriff Ross Dustman to United Press International.)

In this case file:

Click! The case: events, investigations.
Click! The report by Richard Hall of NICAP.
Click! The witnesses written statements.
Click! Article from the Ravenna, Ohio, RECORD-COURIER newspaper, April 18, 1966 (unreadable).
Click! Article from The Cleveland Plain Dealer Monday, April 18, 1966.
Click! Article from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sunday, October 9, 1966.
Click! Air Force letter to Project Blue Book, May 17, 1966.
Click! William Weitzel letter to Professor William Powers.
Click! Letter to Spaur and Neff from Wm. T. Powers.
Click! References.

The written statements of some of the main witnesses:

Wayne Houston:

"It was Sunday A.M. April 17, 1966 when over the Police Radios I heard the Summit County and Portage County radio operators advising there Patrol Cars of a report of a flying object reported by a woman. Later the Portage Patrol Cars reported to his office that he had seen the object and was following it. He was following it east and towards Columbiana County. As he came through Columbiana Ohio I went to Route #14 and waited. At 5:30 A.M. the object went over me at what I thought was around 800'. The object appeared to look like a large Ice Cream cone with point down. The pointed part didn't look like a solid looked more like light beams. At that time I pulled out and caught up with the Portage County Car and followed behind him on into Pennor. The object was traveling at speeds 85 to 105 ground speed. At the entrance to Brady Run Park we lost sight of it. We went on into Bridgeport and then we saw it again. We followed it on into Conway, Penns where a Conway Police Officer had his office to call the Greater Pitt. Airport. At that time I returned back to East Palestine, Ohio."


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William L. Ackers:

"May 17, 1966"

"To whom it may concern"

"I was on duty as a Watch supervisor in the Greater Pittsburgh Tower during the period of 0000-0800 EDST on the day of April 17, 1966."

"I received a report from some local police agencies that an unidentified flying object had been sighted in Ohio and had been followed into our area of which I had radar surveillance. I observed nothing on the radar presentation that coincided with the reported object nor did I observe any other radar return."

"P.S. Since this statement is being submitted to the military representative at my home on my regular scheduled day off duty and not through the channels of the Federal Aviation Agency, I would request that my name be withheld from public use."


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Patrolman Frank Panzanella:

"Nat2
"May 18, 1966"

"At 5:20 A.M. stopped at Conway Hotel and had a cup of coffee. I then left the hotel coming down Second Avenue to 11th Street and made a left turn on 11th Street preceeded up the hill. Looked to my right and saw a shining object. I thought it was a reflection off of a plane. I got to Mickey's Lounge on the top of the hill and I looked back and it wasn't moving so I turned the police car around and came back down 11th Street and went to Adamowski Service Station on 10th Street and Route 65. I then got out of the police car and looked at the object again. I rubbed my eyes 3 or 4 times but didn't say anything to anyone for the time being. I saw 2 other patrol cars pull up and the officers got out of the car and asked me if I saw it. I replyed SAW WHAT! They pointed to the object and I told them I had been watching it for the last 10 minutes. The object was the shape of a half of football, was very bright and about 25 to 35 feet in diameter. The object then moved out towards Harmony Township approximately a 1,000 feet high, then it stopped then went straight up real fast to about 3,500 feet. I then called the base station told the radio operator to notify the Pittsburgh airport. He asked me if I was sick. I told him if I was sick so were the other 3 patrolmen. The operator got the airport on the line and told them what happened, he told them to hold the line and in the meantime we kept watching the object and at that time a passenger plane passed to the left about 1,000 feet below the object. We relayed the message to the operator and he relayed it to the airport. The object continued to go upward until it got as small as a ballpoint pen. Then we received a message to make a phone call. We preceeded to the Rochester Police Department and made the phone call. Officer Parr talked to someone and then we returned to Conway Police Department where I gave Officer Parr my name and gas for his police car to return home."

"The object was in my sight from 5:20 A. M. to 6:15 A. M."


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Sheriff Dale F. Spaur:

Deputy Sheriff Dale F. Spaur and Posse Member W. L. Neff letter to Donald Keyhoe, head of NICAP.

"STATEMENT: On April 17, 1966, at about 5:00 AM, the undersigned, Dale F. Spaur and Barney (W. L) Neff, were patrolling the southeast portion of Portage County, Ohio. We had been hearing radio traffic about a UFO near Portage County. We found an abandoned car on the berm on Rt. 224 between Atwater and Randolph. We left our car to routinely investigate this vehicle. Spaur noticed a light over the trees on the hill next to the berm, and called Neff's attention to it. As we watched, the light came closer and a large, self-illuminated object was seen as its source. The object came directly overhead and hovered above us. Its light lit up the ground where we were standing, and our cruiser, P-13. It was too bright to look at without hurting the eyes. We got into our car and radioed that we had spotted the UFO. During that time, it began moving away from us. We followed it down 224 onto Rt. 14, to the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, and into Pennsylvania on Rt. 51; then through Rochester, Pa., and on Rt. 65, up to Conway, where we stopped. As we passed East Palestine, Ohio, Patrolman Wayne Huston, of the East Palestine Police, joined in our pursuit. In Conway, Pa., Officer Frank Panzanella met us where we stopped, and we stood with him watching the object as it hovered and then rose, twice, in a rapid climb. The object seemed 30-45 feet across, and 18-24 feet high. The light it gave off lit up the ground over the road and over fields as we pursued it. At first it was about 150 feet up; then it rose to around 1000 feet. During the chase it changed altitude and direction, maneuvered smoothly, had a sort of dome-shaped top, and at times showed a projection on the top part, near the trailing edge. Not all of it was self-illuminated; part of the top trailing portion looked metallic; not shiny, but satiny. At times we measured its speed over the ground at about 103 miles per hour. At one point, near Rochester, we lost it while getting through a bridge-underpass area, but when we emerged, it had come down lower and seemed to have waited for us; it went off fast ahead again then. We were, and are, sure we were not chasing an illusion, or seeing a reflection, star, planet, or similar still object. As far as our part in this sighting is concerned, at least, the article by Tom Schley in the Beaver County Times, April 18, 1966, about this, is accurate."


Fac simile

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This page was last updated on November 7, 2003.