Fran Ridge, Investigator
CASE: CAR CHASE; AUG. 4, 1963, WAYNE CITY, ILLINOIS
After a long UFO "dry spell" in the U.S., a sudden rash of sightings in 1963 in southern Illinois prompted an investigation by our NICAP team. The primary event of 1963 occurred on the late Sunday evening of August the 4th, at about 11:30 PM, at Wayne City. The story hit local papers on Tuesday, the 6th, when the Evansville Courier had a very short article, "Strange Light Chases Area Teen-Agers Car". The next evening I had given a talk to the local REACT group (Radio Emergency Associated Citizens Team) at the YMCI. I had exited the building and heard some chatter on my car's CB radio about an unidentified object being observed. I heard one of the persons ask what they were watching and one of them said that "It's supposed to be the light that chased the boy from Wayne City the other night." As the mystery lights in southern Illinois began to be reported more in the papers later in the week I got my team together and we planned a trip to investigate. Although a little out of our territory (about 75 miles to our SW and out of state), it was urgent that we respond. There were no NICAP FI's anywhere in S. Illinois. Because of jobs, we had to wait a few days until after the weekend. By the 12th, we were on our way. Accompanying me on the investigation were James Catt (Communications Officer) and Phillip Studler (Public Relations). Phil had contacted the news media and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and had arranged the interview. We interviewed the witnesses to the Uphoff-Hill case first, there in Fairfield, then made a trip over to the Austin home in rural Keenes, Illinois, just 14 miles further west. By then it was getting late. The young man had gone through quite an experience and his father would not let us interview him, but did give us a lot of important information. Here is what we found:
A week earlier, the young man, Ronnie Austin and his girlfriend, Phyllis Bruce (both 18) had driven to Mt. Vernon, Illinois, to see a drive-in movie, "The Great Escape". At around 11:30 p.m. they departed on Route 15 heading east for home, which was Wayne City. Phyllis had gotten angry with him about something, and as they drove along past the airport, Ronnie leaned over to speak to her. As he did this, he glanced out of the window to the south and saw a big white object moving along at treetop level, about 20-degrees above the horizon to the southwest. He described it as fuzzy and about the size of a washtub. Both witnesses watched, casually talking about the light for several minutes.
Then they discovered that the light seemed to be keeping pace with them. Ronnie reported that when he speeded the car up, the object seemed to speed up. Also, when he decelerated, the object seemed to slow down, as well. This continued, as indicated by the map I included in this report. At first the light was on the south side of the car; then it crossed over in front to the north side. The transition took place when they were about 6 miles west of the Orchardville Road intersection. The object had been on their right (south) and had kept up with them, when all at once the object headed for the car. It appeared to get within a few hundred feet and then it suddenly gained altitude and stopped for several seconds over an electronic relay tower. Then the light shot across the road to the north side to the left of the car. It maintained this position for a while about 500 feet distant.
They then turned north on the gravel road leading to Phyllis' home, which was approximately 1.5 miles away. The object was now on their right. Upon arrival, Phyllis' sister Forestine came outside to observe the thing, which was now in the southeast. The object appeared to move closer, so she went back went inside, turned out the lights and watched through a window. After a few minutes had passed, Ronnie decided he had better go home and made a run for the car. As soon as he pulled away from the Bruce home, the object began to follow him. In our interview with the boy's father (Orville), 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 in Chicago) 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 automobile engine 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.
When Ronnie woke his parents, they thought he had gone crazy. He told them that "it" had chased him home. He could hardly talk; every third or fourth word would trail off. Mr. Austin thought that somebody had chased the boy and was trying to hurt him, so he grabbed the shotgun as he went out the door. Ronnie told him that it wouldn't do any good. Orville Austin told us that when he saw the object hovering over the field, he understood what the boy was trying to say and put the gun down. The object started to move closer again so they went into the kitchen and turned out the lights, watching through the windows. Mr. Austin felt that the object was attracted by the lights. Then Ronnie told him to call the police. Orville tried but the phone was dead. Later, the phone was operating and he called Fairfield Police. He said that they thought he was joking. He wanted them to contact Scott Air Force Base which was 80 miles to the northwest. It was about 2:25 a.m. now.
At this time Ronnie's parents began to see that he needed medical aid, so they called Dr. Konarski of Fairfield, and he told them what to give him. When the police arrived, they saw the "object", too. Several friends and neighbors watched this "object" and at one time Ronnie got scared and ran back into the house. Several buddies of Ronnie's watched an object until 4:00 in the morning.
In all there were six witnesses of the original UFO: Ronnie, Phyllis, Orville, Ronnie's mother, Ronnie's sister Roxie, and his brother (name unknown). The total sighting time was 50-minutes. The other observers probably never saw the UFO; but probably the morning star.
The above report was derived from corrected versions of the WAYNE COUNTY PRESS, our interview with Ronnie's father, and the story by Jeffrey Liss (FATE).
The following day, August 5th, the WAYNE COUNTY PRESS had interviewed Ronnie. His parents were not at home; he was alone. The press report and report by Mr. Orville Austin differ in several ways. Orville stated to me that the WAYNE COUNTY PRESS had "put words in the boy's mouth".
On Saturday, August 10th, after being interrogated by the Associated Press and FATE magazine, Ronnie was interrogated by an Air Force team. The team of physicists was made up of three men: Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend (Director of PROJECT BLUE BOOK), Captain Hector Quintanilla (later the longest-term PROJECT BLUE BOOK Director), and Sgt. Charles P. Sharp.
According to our interview with Orville Austin, the boy was instructed by the team to wash the car. The officers then appeared to be decontaminating the inside of the automobile. After this was done, the car was checked for what we thought at that time was radioactivity. Later, I thought that it might have been a magnetic signature check, but I found that no special magnetic device is used for this...simply a magnetic compass which doesn't give any readings as were later reported. . The "readings" called off and remembered by the Austin family were as follows: "Six point something for the front of the car...four point something for the top of the car...."
Orville said that his younger boy (name unknown, to this investigator) had been there during the check and would vouch for the rough figures. Within a half-an-hour the boy showed up and confirmed the figures to us without any issue. I was amazed. He even added a "two point something for the trunk area"...
At that time I was a Civil Defense radiological monitor and was in training for the position of Radiological Defense Officer. It appears there was radioactivity present for these reasons:
a) Background radiation readings range from 16-30 cpm, or 0.05 milliroentgens depending on locale. You wouldn't get the wide difference of 6-4-2 under normal conditions and even then those readings were too low.
b) Roentgens per hour would indicate the opposite, a high dose-rate, something expected after a nuclear attack has subsided, etc., very high. I didn't believe for a minute that this was the proper interpretation.
The Orville Austin interview produced several other findings:
a) Ronnie's car was capable of very high speeds, "easily could peg 100". Orville doesn't believe he was going that fast. I believe the loose gravel gave false mph at high (but short) acceleration. In any case, Orville said that he and the boy knew the road too well to take that kind of a risk, normally.
b) Mr. Austin was convinced the object was something unusual...not natural. He saw it from the front porch. Mr. Austin's father told him that he would not have been afraid of it and his son told him that, something to the effect, "Oh yes you would have...it did look horrible".
c) Ignition interference was discussed. Mr. Austin did not confirm the fact that the object seemed to cause the E-M effect. It was mentioned in the WAYNE COUNTY PRESS articles. The only thing we have is the statement that the car was in top shape and the press report of the car sputtering and missing...almost died when the object made a pass. Ronnie allegedly made the statement also to the FATE MAGAZINE reporter, Jeffrey Lies. I believe this effect was observed and reported accurately. Mr. Austin may not have realized the significance.
d) Radio interference was confirmed by Phyllis Bruce (WAYNE COUNTY PRESS article), Mr. Austin, and the FATE reporter. Mr. Liss believes the area is "noisy" anyway, from his experience during the investigation he conducted. However, the burst of static occurred when the object made the first good pass at Ronnie, within an estimated 100'. This is when it zoomed toward him and swerved up over his car. This is where Ronnie estimated the object's size of a small automobile.
e) Telephone interference was noted. When they tried to call the police, the line was dead. This came from Orville, himself. No repairs had to be made.
f) The "cooling effect" was confirmed by Mr. Austin as an accurate statement made by the boy. It was stated later that it was possible that Ronnie had a sudden chill. Again, this should be viewed as a physiological effect, in any case, since it deals with reaction to stimuli.
g) The "whirring sound" was correctly reported. This was during the passes.
h) Ronnie had really needed sedation. Not only his father (and family) noticed this, but Trooper Gidcumb and Marshall Sexton, and others. He was so keyed up that he reportedly ran inside when others saw a star "they" thought was a UFO.
i) Mr. Austin felt that he and the family saw a real UFO and that it disappeared before the other people got to the scene.
3) The radiation angle came out of our talk with Orville and his other son. Nobody else seems to have reported the incident of the Air Force men taking readings. I still believe that the car was indicating an abnormal reading, then. Our checks showed normal readings. I doubt that radiation would linger for a week and then abruptly drop off to normal in a couple of days. It is a gradual, but steadily decreasing process. The point remains, the highest readings were in the areas of the most metal.
k) Statement by Mr. Austin that Ronnie always ran around with a group of boys at night, but since the incident he had been afraid to leave the house. On the previous Thursday (4 days after the incident) the boys had asked him to come out; he had refused.
l) The dogs barked all night.
This unknown is listed as a CE-2 with E-M effects on car radio, car engine, speedometer, and telephone.
The 1956 Ford Victoria was equipped with a magnetic speedometer which was probably giving false speed reading due to the UFO's E-M effects. This case was investigated by our NICAP Subcommittee AND a team of Air Force Project Blue Book physicists. 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 would become 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 mail out an 8-page
questionnaire. If the case was important enough 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). But they
did something unheard of by normal Air Force standard
operating procedure. They flew a team of physicists,
headed by the Project Blue Book Director, himself.
Something strange was definitely going on in the
Midwest, and AF Intelligence seemed to suddenly be
interested in something that "didn't exist." A
quick check would have eliminated a refueling operation
and the need for an onsite. And Jupiter can't change
positions in the sky and chase a car. But later
onlookers would question every star and planet and
blinking light in the sky. There were over 70 reports.