Brent Swancer September 16, 2021
One place where UFOs seem to be frequently encountered is on the lonely roads and highways of our world. These objects seem to be drawn to such desolate places, and there are numerous stories of UFOs stopping cars or even abducting people from such places. One subspecies of such encounters is that of vehicles that have been involved with chasing or being chased by these mysterious objects, and here we will look at some strange cases of this.
On the evening of August 4, 1963, 18-year old Ronnie Austin and his girlfriend, Phyllis Bruce were driving along Route 15 heading towards Wayne City, Illinois, after a trip to Mt. Vernon. At some point, at around 11:30 p.m., they noticed a large, glowing white object moving along nearby at treetop level, which they soon noticed seemed to be following them. When they slowed down, so did it, and when they sped up it gave pursuit, eerily keeping pace with them much to their astonishment. On several occasions, the UFO came very close to the vehicle, only to speed off and follow once again, and it pursued the terrified couple all the way to Phyllis’ house, where her family saw it as well. Once there, it went off to hover over a nearby electronic relay tower, where it remained motionless for a time. At this point, Ronnie decided to make a run for it, and things would get even stranger from there. Francis Ridge, who was at the time a field investigator and the subcommittee chairman of National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) would later investigate the case, and said of what happened next:
As soon as he pulled away from the Bruce home, the object began to follow. In our interview with the boy’s father (Orville) on August 12, he told us that this is what scared Ronnie, the thought that the UFO was waiting for him to be alone before it took off after him. He had to head south and the object was on his left now. When he turned east onto another gravel road, the object suddenly shot diagonally ahead of him over a barn about a mile away, just beyond the T-road. The object now changed from a brilliant white to a duller or dimmer light with an orange tinge.
Ronnie said he “really poured the coal” to the car and must have been doing 120 mph when he topped the hill on the gravel road. Then, he reported, the object flared bright orange and came straight toward him at high speed. It hovered over the car, within 100′. Just before it hovered it had swerved upward and Ronnie judged its size as that of an automobile. At the point right over the car his radio (tuned to WLS) went crazy with static, which was described as a loud whining sound. At that time, he noticed a “cooling effect”. The object made another pass at the car, this time west to east, and at this point where the object was again overhead, the engine of the car started missing. The object proceeded back to its position over the barn, hovered, changed to a duller orange. This small road running east to west is only about a mile long and the events that took place according to the witness indicates an increase in activity by the object, which really had the boy scared by now.
Ronnie now turned north at the intersection (extension of road not shown) and headed for home which was over 3 miles away. The object followed him again. As he headed west down the lane leading to his home, the object cut across the road behind him to the left. He spun his car around in the driveway in front of the house, got out of the car and ran inside. The object was now above another farmhouse in the east about 300 yards away.
He would then tell his father, Orville Austin, of what was happening, who grabbed a shotgun and ran to the door to see it for himself. The object then moved towards the house to loom nearby, and realizing that the weapon wouldn’t do too much good, Orville put it down, closed the door, and turned off the lights. They then called the police, who arrived to see the object too, and several neighbors also saw it. It would lurk about the vicinity for nearly an hour, its intentions unknown, before speeding off into the night. According to subsequent news reports and Ridge’s report, Ronnie’s car would be found to have higher radiation levels than normal, and he would also claim that the Air Force had done an investigation into it, after which they had swept it under the carpet. Ridge would say of this:
Evidence gathered by the Air Force indicates that the car was slightly radioactive or magnetized. This was determined by the type of readings called off by members of the AF team as the family watched and listened. An interesting historical note for the record, the Air Force team consisted of three men. These were Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend, then the Director of Project Blue Book; Capt. Hector Quintanilla, and Sgt. Charles R. Sharp. Later in the year or early in 1964, Quintanilla became the Project Director. The AF, and especially Quintanilla, were ridiculing many witnesses who claimed sightings of UFOs. The “explanation” issued after the investigation was “a refueling operation” or the “planet Venus. The AF must have considered this case important. They had flown in the special team of physicists from Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio. Normally, when investigating a case, they would send the local “UFO officer” from the nearest airbase. In this case it would have been Scott AFB at Belleville, Illinois (near St. Louis). Something strange was going on in the midwest, and AF Intelligence was interested in something that “didn’t exist.” A quick check would have eliminated a refueling operation and the need for an onsite.
The following year, on June 29, 1964, a man named Beauford E. Parham was driving home near Lavonia, Georgia, in the United States, when he was startled to see a very bright light approaching him from directly ahead. As it drew nearer, he could see that it was “a top-shaped object,” about 6 feet high and 8 feet wide, spinning and “emitting a hissing sound like a million snakes,” and there were flames spewing from several portholes around it. The mysterious object then stopped right in front of him, matching his speed, seeming to toy with him, and at this point, Parham would say that he was in some sort of daze that had washed over him. It then made several passes at him, emitting a mist or vapor of some sort, before passing right over the car to disappear. Parham would later develop a burning sensation in his arms, and noticed that the paint on his car in some spots had bubbled up as if subjected to high heat. What was going on here? We’ll probably never know.
Image by Steve Baxter
Another very spectacular encounter allegedly happened on April 17, 1966, and involved police officers. In the early morning hours of that day, at around 5 a.m., deputies Dale Spaur and Wilbur ‘Barney’ Neff, with the Portage County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Department were on patrol near the town of Ravena, Ohio, when they noticed a strange lighted object coming up over some trees from a nearby wood and experienced a deep hum like “an overloaded transformer.” Spaur would explain of what they saw:
When I looked in this wooded area behind us, I saw this thing. At this time, it was coming up… to about tree top level. I’d say about one hundred feet. It started moving toward us. As it came over the trees, I looked at Barney and he was still watching the car, and he didn’t say nothing and the thing kept getting brighter and the area started to get light. It was very bright; it’d make your eyes water. I told him to look over his shoulder, and he did. He just stood there with his mouth open for a minute, as bright as it was, and he looked down. And I started looking down and I looked at my hands and my clothes weren’t burning or anything, when it stopped right over on top of us. I was petrified, and, uh, so I moved my right foot, and everything seemed to work all right. And evidently, he made the same decision I did, to get something between me and it, or us and it, or whatever you would say. So we both went for the car, we got in the car and we sat there.
Image by Steve Baxter
When they reported it, their sergeant then told them to pursue the object, and they proceeded to chase it through the countryside as it headed over the road, illuminating the ground beneath it as it did. It was moving at a brisk pace, travelling at around 100 mph and still pulling ahead as the two officers tried to keep up with it, with other police officers joining in the pursuit as they did. Police Officer Wayne Huston of East Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border, saw the UFO pass with the police chasing it sirens blaring, and he joined in as well, tearing off after it along with the others. They chased it for nearly 85 miles, with numerous patrol cars from different jurisdictions chasing it, and then it suddenly stopped to hover there over the road as they all screeched to a halt. There was allegedly chatter that the Air Force was scrambling fighter jets, and then the object just shot straight up into the sky at breathtaking speed. The Air Force would quickly step in to brush it all off in typical clumsy fashion, and UFO researcher Richard Hall would say of this:
The Air Force “identified” the UFO as a satellite, seen part of the time, and confused with the planet Venus. Under pressure from Ohio officials, Major Hector Quintanilla, chief of PROJECT BLUE BOOK, had an acrimonious confrontation with witnesses and refused to change the identification, although it was pointed out to him that they had seen the UFO in addition to Venus, and the moon at the conclusion of the observation. Major Quintanilla also denied that any jets had been scrambled. William B. Weitzel conducted an exhaustive investigation on behalf of the NATIONAL INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE ON AERIAL PHENOMENA (NICAP), obtaining taped interviews, signed statements, sketches, and all pertinent data which was assembled into a massive report that was made available to congressional investigators. When the UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO UFO PROJECT was initiated in 1966, a copy of Weitzel’s report was hand-delivered to the director, Dr. Edward U. CONDON, for his consideration. The CONDON REPORT, published two years later, does not mention the case.
From 1967, we have a case from the UK, which supposedly played out October 24, 1967 somewhere between Okehampton and Holsworthy, in Devon, England, and involved two police constables by the names of Clifford Waycott and Roger Willey. While they were driving along on patrol, they saw a “pulsating flying cross” that was “star-spangled – just like looking through wet glass,” and was moving about just over the tree line beside the road. They decided to pursue the object, which immediately started accelerating away from them as they sped along, reaching speeds of up to 90 mph before they gave up for fear of getting in an accident and the object sped off into the night to join a second object that appeared. The report was corroborated by a farmer in the area who also saw the spectacle, and others in the immediate area began calling in with reports of seeing the same “fiery cross,” suggesting that the bizarre flying object was lurking about for some time. The case, which would be mentioned in UFO Flying Saucers over Britain, by Robert Chapman, has never been explained.
Perhaps one of the strangest UFO chases of all comes from 1988, in Australia. On January 20, 1988, Faye Knowles, her adult sons Patrick (24), Sean (21) and Wayne (18), and their two dogs were making their way towards Melbourne, Australia across a vast expanse of limestone bedrock called the Nullarbor Plain. The area is a remote desert moonscape of a place, with no one around for miles and other cars a rarity, so it was considered odd when in the very early morning hours a light was spotted some distance ahead, just outside of the tiny town of Mundrabilla. The light seemed to get steadily brighter as they watched it, and as they got closer they could see that it was semi-spherical or egg shaped and was most certainly not another vehicle as it was just a single bright light and seemed to be hovering in the air over that desolate expanse.
As the family struggled to comprehend what they were seeing, the strange object allegedly emitted a beam of light that swept towards their vehicle and caused the driver, Sean, to take evasive maneuvers. The beam missed the car, but this is when Sean would claim the object had begun to follow them down that lonely roadway, easily keeping pace with them no matter how fast they went. They apparently passed another car going the other direction, after which the mysterious object stopped pursuing them and followed the other vehicle. Sean the reportedly turned the car around to follow the other car and its UFO pursuer to figure out what was going on, but thought better of it and turned around yet again. The object then must have decided to go after them again, because it was soon ominously closing in on them once again.
It purportedly got brighter and closer, passing them a few times to circle around to approach again before positioning itself right above their car as the terrified family within screamed out in fright. There was then a thump on the roof, and the car slowed down as if something very heavy were sitting atop it, leading them to the horrible realization that it had actually lowered itself to make contact with the vehicle.
According to the witnesses, it then issued a shrill, ear piercing sound, and Faye would say that they were overcome with the sense of something invading their minds, later saying, “It felt like something was going into our heads,” and Patrick would say “I felt like my brain was being sucked out.” They also claimed that their voices became distorted and that they moved sluggishly, as if underwater or experiencing a slowing of time itself. Things would intensify when they then felt the car physically lift off of the road, after which they were shaken violently from side to side as a grey mist filled the car and dropped back down with such force that it blew one of their tires and disabled the vehicle to leave to leave it lying in that unforgiving place like a wounded beast. Fay Knowles would say of the otherworldly encounter:
I wound down the window and I felt this thing on the roof… all of this smoke stuff started coming into the car, the car was covered in black stuff. It was a small light and all of a sudden it became big like this, like a big ball. We thought we were dying, then we got out the car and we hid behind a little tree and the bushes and it couldn’t find us.
When the cowering family were sure the object was gone, they warily went back to their car, changed the tire, and got out of there as fast as they could, eventually making their way to Mundrabilla, where they excitedly told of what had happened to them. Interestingly, a trucker at the gas station there would tell them that he had also seen the strange, eerie light out over the desert as well. When their car was examined, it was found to be banged up, and both the exterior and interior covered with a fine film of black material like soot or ash that had an unusual odor like “a blown fuse.” The Knowles were able to get some truckers to go with them out to where the incident had supposedly occurred, where they allegedly found odd skid marks on the road that seemed to show that the vehicle has been dragged sideways by some powerful force, making it all even stranger.
The police would subsequently examine the vehicle to find a grey powder that was found to have a similar chemical composition to the coating used on NASA space shuttles. Oddly, the South Australia police were apparently very eager to distance themselves from it all, finish the investigation, and sweep it under the carpet, and the whole case was just sort of filed away even as it was hitting the news in a big way.
And that was that. The rather harrowing case has been picked apart by Ufologists and skeptics ever since, but no clear answer has ever been agreed upon. What happened to this family out on that bleak stretch of road? What forces came calling for them to follow them around and terrorize them? No one really knows.
Special thanks to Steve Baxter for his artwork.
Explore steve baxter’s 525 photos on Flickr!