Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2012 15:39:45 +0100 (BST)
From: fran ridge <nicap@insightbb.com>
Subject: Aug. 1963; Balloon Hoax Hoax
To: EMCAT


In December of 2004 I began getting emails from a gentleman named Rob Davis. He said that someone he knew claimed to have created some balloon contraptions that caused all the S. Illinois sightings. My NICAP team was in on this major investigation, along with officers from Project Blue Book, and I knew that no balloon contraption of any kind could even remotely produce the maneuvers and the illusions that were claimed. And before the email thread was over it was obvious that the claim was a hoax in itself and I simply dropped the matter. I didn't bother to write a report on it so it never became part of the record.

So, in June of 2012 while we were updating this set of cases, when we found some Blue Book documents, I went through the entire case file and put pages together to put all of the evidence, including this report and the email thread, on the case directory.


Readers can go over the entire thread for details I won't go into here. There are a few obvious facts I can make known at this point in time.

Mr. Davis was reporting information that he even claimed was second-hand. I can't find fault with him because I believe he was/ is sincere, but those that created the hoax story can be easily exposed as hoaxers. They claimed they caused ALL of the sightings. There had been a sighting up around Springfield, Illinois, in mid July but the men had allegedly conjured up the idea of a balloon hoax:

"...in the backyard over some beers. As you know, during that time, reports of UFO sightings were VERY numerous."

If you look at the comprehensive 1963 UFO Chronology and the UFO Intelligence Summary of 36 sightings for the mini-flap of 1963 you will note that the sighting wave started WITH the Austin case. So the balloon hoax, if true, didn't originate from the news stories of UFOs in the summer of 1963. The hoaxers didn't know there were no sightings to get their interest-in and doing a hoax. Later on they simply took the news stories and recreated history with them as the artists, using all the newspaper details.


The balloons were supposed to set off sightings at the Drive-In theater but no one reported anything. Only the Austin car was involved in this episode and over a wide area with lots of twists and turns.

"The "Boogers" were constructed with the following materials: A VERY large, heavy rubber balloon approx. 2 ft in diameter purchased from the toy department in a local department store in Mt. Vernon, filled with helium. The empty helium tank is still in the basement of the house where George lived. Over 500 ft of nylon cord (was) hanging from the balloon. This very long length put the balloons out of the light, so they were almost invisible. It also made the weighted end of the cord swing, which can be verified in several of the witnesses descriptions as to how the light "swooped" and "made U-turns".This length also gave the "Boogers" the effect of making turns as the balloon would enter and exit thermals. George used the example of how a hot air balloon is guided."

First of all, the weight of the line alone is beyond the capability of a 2' balloon. Add to that the balloon itself was supposedly a  "VERY heavy rubber balloon". Department stores don't sell heavy rubber balloons but those used for birthday celebrations, etc. Either the hoaxers caught it themselves or later someone else, all this was questioned and the number of the balloons used jumped from one to 8-10 balloons per flight!!! "When packed in tightly the balloons filled the car!" I'm told that not even one of these 2' balloons from Ben Franklin store would fit in a car, and they have virtually no lifting power to speak of.

"At the end of that cord was tied a series of fusees. The fusees were several different colors. The multiple colors of fusees was a VERY key point to the construction, because at that time, alot of people would rule out fusees when they saw the color change. With Coy being a fireman, he had access to the multi colored fusees that (as far as I know) have never been available to the general public. The number of fusees changed with each test and each build. They discovered that the number attached greatly effected the way that the "booger" flew. The fusees were attached to each other end-to-end, using wire coat hangers."

Fusees are red and very heavy and are about the size and weight of a stick of dynamite or a flashlight. Even one would be difficult to bouy up into the night sky. But now with all the colors reported by witnesses the number and colors of fusees had to be increased. I haven't found anyone that can verify there are more than one color of fusees now or back then. Chemicals can be added to flares to produce different colors but common fusees are red and are a potential fire hazard and very dangerous if they could somehow be put into the air. One of the hoaxers was suuposed to have been a fireman! Who supposedly helped put a fire hazard in the air or a populated area!

To my knowledge, there were about 4-6 "Boogers" launched over a period of about a week (August 4-11). The first one (Sunday August 4th) and the third (Wednesday August 7th) on were launched from somewhere close to the intersection of Veterans Memorial Drive and 42nd street. If you check this out on a map, you will see that this is close to where the old drive-in theater used to be, which is where Ronnie Austin was driving home from. A straight line can be drawn on a map from this location to Fairfield, and the line crosses directly over Keenes and Wayne City. The witnesses in the "chase car" said that although the "Boogers" sometimes made sharp turns, they still basically followed one directional path."

The fusee was so bright and obvious that nobody came forth later and said they were at the drive-in and also saw it? The real object, a UFO, was flying low and chasing Ronny Austin over a wide area. The object didn't fly over the area in a straight line carried by the wind. Look at the sighting map.


"The second "Booger" was launched on Monday August 5th from the Old Union Cemetery on the North outskirts of Mt. Vernon. If you look on a map, this is VERY close to Old Centralia Rd, and Bishop Ave., (where Mayor Harry L. Bishop lived), and where several other reports came from on at least two nights."

The hoaxers screwed up big time. The Harry Bishop incident happened five days later!!! On the 9th!

"There are a couple of sidepoints concerning the sighting that was reported by the ex Mayor that I would like to mention. In his interview with the Mt. Vernon Register News, he was quoted as saying, 'I noticed a car coming down the Centralia road. It stopped suddenly and the driver jumped out and looked upwards. He saw the object, too, and it startled him to a stop.' This quote was probably the part that amused everyone the most. The car that he is referring to was the chase car, occupied by George, Coy, and George's wife (Mary). They said that they could see Mr. Bishop and his wife standing outside watching. George was driving the AMC Rambler convertible. He stopped the car in the middle of the road to watch the Bishops. Once the car was stopped, Coy actually got out of the car and fell on the ground. From a short distance away, this would appear like someone in distress, but had Mr. Bishop been closer he could've heard the laughter from inside the car. To read this in the paper the next day, was almost a reward to George and Coy."

In the newspaper article, Bishop said, "It seemed to be making a light whirring sound."..."I noticed a car coming down the Centralia road.  It stopped suddenly and the driver jumped out and looked upwards.  He saw the object, too, and it startled him to a stop." 

The unidentified driver was later identified but wouldn't allow his name to be used. He was an ex-AF man. He wasn't one of the so-called hoaxers.

Apparently, George and Coy tried numerous times to come up with a way to pull off a believable daytime flight, but they couldn't come up with anything that looked "real" enough to satisfy them. They were still discussing this when the Air Force team came to town, which is what brought their projects to an end. As I've stated in previous emails, I think when they realized that the magnitude of the investigation had grown to the point of the AF being brought in, they got scared, and brought everything to a skreeching halt. This was probably a very wise choice. LOL"

It was the AF PRESS RELEASE of August 11th that brought everything to a screeching halt. All the witnesses had been labeled as fools who couldn't recognize the Moon or the Planet Jupiter, or jets refueling. There were 36 reports that we checked out. Sixteen before the AF dropped the bomb on the witnesses and seventeen more that continued unabated over into Indiana.

"Well Francis, maybe now you can see why I said that this is undoubtedly the source of the reports from this area for that 7 or 8 day period. For there to have been another 'light' in the area on those same nights, would be nothing short of a miracle. As far as E-M readings, mechanical problems with Ronnie Austins car, radio interference in his car, '"whirring noises', or any of the other strange reports from these several nights, the only explanation I can offer is that sometimes coincidental things happen, that might lead someone to believe they hear or see a little more than they are actually seeing or hearing.

Or to simply believe or not believe. Or better described as the will to avoid the evidence.  I think Rob Davis was taken in by irresponsible liars who used newspaper accounts and stories to rewrite themselves into a hoax-hoax.