Giant Spinning Top
June 29, 1964
Businessman Beauford E. Parham was returning home late on the evening of June 29, 1964. He was between Carnesyille and Lavonia, Georgia, in the northeast corner of the state.
"I spotted a very bright light in the sky . . . coming directly toward my car," the witness said in a letter to a NICAP member. "The next instance it was directly in front of my headlights spinning like a giant top. It was shaped like a top and made a hissing sound like a million snakes. The top part of the object was moving in a clockwise direction and the bottom part . . . in a counterclockwise direction."
The UFO, "big enough to hold a man," was amber-colored, about six feet tall and eight feet wide. A tower-like projection with a dark band was seen at the top. Vane-like configurations were also observed. Small portholes dotted the bottom, through which "flames" could be detected.
Disappearing in a flash, the strange object reappeared a second time.
"It stayed directly in front of my headlights for at least a mile, never touching the car but spinning just in front of my lights," said Parham.
Although he was traveling at 65 m.p.h., the UFO kept an estimated five feet in front of the automobile and only one or two feet above the road. The top part of the object was tilted toward the witness. Parham said he followed in a near trance-like state.
"When the object left ...," Parham wrote, "it suddenly went up over the top of my car, leaving a strong odor . . . like embalming fluid and a very gaseous vapor which left an oily substance all over my car.
After disappearing, the UFO reappeared for a third time, again heading directly toward the car. The vehicle's motor began to miss and the driver stopped the car. After "spinning like crazy," the object took off and disappeared in a "split second."
"By this time, my arms were beginning to burn," Parham related, "and my only thought was to get somewhere and let someone know what I had seen."
The witness drove to Lavonia, then to Anderson Air Force Base, South Carolina, to report the incident to FAA officials and newsmen. Reporter T. F. Acker told NICAP that he found Parham "intelligent, sincere and sober."
Parham said that repeated cleanings of his car still left the oily marks and the "burning sensation" remained even after his arms were washed.
NICAP adviser Dan Sheridan, former Marine Corps pilot, interviewed the witness and found him a "very sober individual." Sheridan also discovered that Parham's car hood was warped and "bubbled up paint" was on the body. Samples were taken for analysis by a local college, but no results were reported. Parham, in a local newspaper interview, said that his car radiator had been "eaten away" and his water hose was collapsing.
Albert Myrick and Dean Carpenter, Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) personnel at Anderson, checked the vehicle for radioactivity. Reportedly some was detected, but the amount was not disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Air Force had labeled the UFO "ball lightning," according to The Anderson (S.C.) Independent. The witness, however, did not accept this.
"There was not a cloud in the sky," he stated. "Lightning would not rotate at top and bottom as this object did. . . . It was definitely not that because ball lightning could not have followed my car at least two miles."
Ball Lightning Theory Weak
Nor do the physical characteristics of the sighting correspond with the ball lightning explanation.
" 'Ball lightning' is the name given to the luminous, roughly spherical regions of air that with some rarity occur during lightning storms," wrote personnel of the Westinghouse Research Laboratories. "They have been reported with diameters as small as 1 cm [about one-third of an inch] and as large as 150 cm [approximately 50 inches], but diameters of the order of 10 or 20 cm [about three and one-third and six and two-third inches, respectively] are most common. - .. The phenomenon usually lasts for only a few seconds, but durations of several minutes have been reported. . . . Ball lightning occurs more often on high mountains than in the lowlands."(3)
A member of the Rocket Power, Inc., Research Laboratories adds that ball lightning "may be white, blue, red, or orange in color. . - - When it disappears a pungent odor is sometimes noted. The ball may vanish silently, with a hissing noise, or often with a loud bang."(4)
Even a sister phenomenon, corona discharges, in recent years used as a frequent explanation for UFO sightings, cannot account for the report.
"Corona discharges usually last only a small fraction of a microsecond and dissipate no more energy than that consumed by a 40-watt bulb operating for a second," said an article in Scientific American (5)
Dr. James E. McDonald, in a concentrated study of top-quality UFO reports, rejects the ball lightning explanation for any but a very small percentage of reports.
"The most obvious difficulty with the ball lightning hypothesis," the atmospheric physicist stated, "is that any plasmoids of that type can be naturally generated in absence of intense electrical storms. . . . Hundreds of credible observers have reported UFO phenomena without any involvement of power lines (as well as without any involvement with thunderstorms).
"About three months ago, I examined some of the 'ball lightning' cases in the Project Blue Book files at Wright-Patterson AFB, while there in the course of a current study of the entire UFO problem. Not one of the cases categorized as 'ball lightning' in the sample shown to me was at all similar to what meteorologists would call ball lightning."(6)
It is obvious then that the official explanation for the clearly detailed, spinning-top UFO observed by Beauford Parham is singularly weak.
Doctor Ponders Possible Radiation Effects
A member of NICAP's Medical Panel speculated that Parham himself may have picked up a dose of radiation.
"In a case like this," Dr. Julian G. Kirchick, of Hempstead, N.Y., wrote NICAP, "a blood count would be valuable depending upon the dosage received.... This ... would have to be done immediately. Depending upon the dosage .. ., [the blood count] could show no changes or could evidence transient bone marrow suppression which would show drop in the red ... and .. . white blood count. This gradually might come back to normal or, if the dosage was severe enough, the count would not come back to normal. Also depending upon the dosage and amount of body exposure or the amount of inhalation of radioactive particles, the witness could show abnormal red . . . and . . . white blood cells and abnormal platelets. In a period of a few years, such a person might develop leukemia. Such a person could also develop anemia or a leukopenia or thrombocytopenia. It would seem that if the witness did not complain of such symptoms as headache, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, the possibility is that the exposure was of too small a dose and that no changes might be found. So you can see that abnormal findings could very well depend upon the length of exposure and the strength of exposure to radioactivity. However, a blood count should be done immediately in all persons complaining of a burning sensation, following the witnessing of a UFO."
Gordon Lore, Chief Researcher and Writer
Source: Strange Effects From UFOs - A NICAP Special Report, pages 5-7