This article was published in the daily newspaper Huntington Herald Press, Huntington, Indiana, USA, on January 4, 2004
The object of their vexation
By CINDY KLEPPER
Chip Olinger was warming up his car when he saw it.
He radioed for an extra set of eyes; he got two.
Greg Hedrick and Randy Hoover looked skyward; they saw it, too. All three are Huntington law officers, guys who have seen just about everything. But this time, they didn't know what they were seeing.
They're hoping someone else might have been looking toward the sky shortly after 2:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 26, and can at least compare notes, if not provide an explanation.
The object, seen from just north of the city Police Station, came out of the northwest to the steeple of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, then shot straight back north. It didn't make any noise, and it remained in their sight for less than a minute.
But it was big — described as the size of a hot air balloon or a backyard trampoline — and low enough that Olinger thought it was going to get hung up on the steeple of the Cherry Street church.
Normally, such an object passing over the city would have lit up emergency lines. But this one didn't. No one called 911; no one called city or county dispatch; and no one called the State Police. The three officers may have been the only ones to see it. And for a few days, they didn't say anything about it.
"We thought people would think we were crazy," Hoover said.
But now, curiosity has the best of them.
Did anyone else see it?
And what was it?
Olinger had finished his shift at 2:30 p.m. the day after Christmas and was warming up his car, parked in the lot across Market Street from the station. He was sitting in the car, facing north.
"It came from a long ways off," he said, describing the sighting a week later. "First it looked like a parachute that you can steer, black and curved, but there was nobody in it. It started rolling, a slow roll, and turned upside down. Then it looked like a giant set of bird wings. It did more rolls, and turned into an oblong circle that was orange."
Olinger radioed Hedrick, who was inside the station's kitchen, to come out and look. Hoover, who had just walked out the station's back door, heard the radio traffic and looked up.
"It was so big, within no time at all I spotted it," Hoover said. "When I first saw it, it was going in a flat plane, hovering, moving slowly right toward the church."
Then it stopped, began moving in a circular motion, and turned bright orange, Hoover said. It went flat again, and hovered over the steeple.
The officers believe the object turned orange when it reflected the sunlight, "like a compact mirror would if you twirled it," Olinger said.
Hedrick, who did not return phone calls, told the other two that his first impression was that it was "a tire" in the sky, but that made no sense.
Olinger said the object changed shape three or four times. It moved in a straight line, tumbling as it moved, and made no noise.
"It would glide, rotate the wide way around, and stay at one level," Hoover said.
It appeared to be moving along at treetop level, no higher than the roof of the church. It disappeared from Olinger's view after it went behind the church steeple, but Hoover and Hedrick — who had slightly different vantage points — said it went behind the steeple and moved directly north.
Olinger was in the parking lot at Market and Cherry; Hoover was walking from the back door of the station to his car parked at Cherry and Market; and Hedrick was 30 to 35 feet to Hoover's left.
Olinger said the sighting lasted 30-45 seconds; Hoover agreed that it was less than a minute.
"It wasn't any kind of flying machine that I can think of," Olinger said. "And it's not like a ‘50s flying saucer. It was that big, but it didn't have a hump in the middle."
"It was completely circular, dome shaped," Hoover said. "I can't imagine how it could possibly be anything I could relate to." The object would stop and then spin slowly, he said, a maneuver no known aircraft can accomplish.
"I was never really afraid," Hoover said. "I was just in total amazement."
Father Ron Rieder, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, said he didn't see anything unusual that afternoon, and hasn't received any phone calls from anyone who did.
"That's the first I've heard of it," he said Friday.
Diane Redlich, one of the managers at Huntington Municipal Airport, was in the air that afternoon, but was headed to Cincinnati and didn't fly over Huntington. Several other planes took off from the local airport that afternoon as well, she said, but there's no record of any out-of-the-ordinary craft making either a takeoff or landing at Huntington.
Bob Scott at Fort Wayne's Smith Field doesn't have any clues, either.
"I worked that afternoon, and I don't recall anything unusual," he said. "Other than Santa Claus heading home, I don't know what it could have been."
Sandra Lux, public relations manager at Fort Wayne International Airport, did not return a phone call.