Co-Director Cleveland Ufology Project
Chief Field Investigator – Thomas Wertman
Last weekend I realized you can only put off chores for so many days, months, or when combined with procrastination in this a year. My office which was once the epitome of organization now resembles the reality show called Hoarders. Milk crates and plastic totes filled with UFO related materials are stacked so close from floor to ceiling that even my little terrier had to search for a place to lie down. Once I started little did I know that my project would become not only one of organization, but a lesson in synchronicity.
How you may ask did my epitome of office organization transform to such a disaster? Blame it on my own personal viewpoint of how to develop a better understanding in the field of ufology. Personally don’t believe you can know all about UFO’s just because you listen to Coast-to-Coast AM or watch UFO Hunters. The weakness with only watching these shows is they tend to present events and facts in a manner consistent with their producers opinion. With that in mind I would rather look at the raw data, hence the first section of totes containing research information from Mary Ann Hawks of the Cleveland Ufology Project (CUP). These include audio tapes of meetings (CUP), conferences, and regression sessions to be converted to digital format. The problem is that accounts for only one stack of totes and barely clears out space for the dog.
So I decide to shift my focus to the most daunting part of project, sorting through the wealth of information provided by the family of the late George Popowitch. In the 1960’s Popowitch was an investigator and former Director of the UFO Research Committee in Akron, Ohio. Little did I know when his family contacted that the “few” boxes of documents would end up filling my SUV.
With my procrastination now over I opened the first container. A slight smell of mildew from the fifty year old documents began to fill the room. In a strange way I felt like Indiana Jones opening a crypt. The first set of documents was requests for information about UFO’s from all over the world. Here were letters from all over the United States, Canada, England, South America, and Australia. As I leafed through the letters it struck me as usual, why so many requests during the 1960’s on a subject that could get you locked up in the loony bin? Digging deeper revealed the reason, a copy of an investigation called the Killian Case.
On February 24, 1959 Captain Killian was piloting an American Airlines DC-6B from Newark, New Jersey to Detroit, Michigan when at 8:20pm he encountered a UFO near Williamsport, Pennsylvania. During the 45 minute observation crewmembers observed lights that changed from brighter than any star in the sky to dim. Not only were the lights seen by Killian and his crew, but two additional American Airlines fights, one United Airlines flight and nine ground witnesses. The report Popowitch produced excellent and according to other supportive documentation offered for sale in the back of Fate and True Magazines. What was the price of the Killian Report, a grant total of $2 which included shipping?
In my reading I remembered the Air Force claimed Killian’s crew observed an in-flight refueling operation. But when queried by the press, Captain Killian said: “If the Air Force wants to believe that, it can. But I know what a B-47 looks like and I know what a KC-97 tanker looks like, and I know what they look like in operation at night. And that’s not what I saw.” The Air Forces later produced an unsigned letter by Killian saying he was unfamiliar with what night refueling exercises looked like. Afterwards Killian would not discuss the manner. This case accounted for the majority of the requests.
I seem to be straying from the focus of the article. Earlier I mentioned that reviewing and all this wealth of data was also a lesson in synchronicity. One of the requests for information had a return address of William E. Jones, Columbus, Ohio. This couldn’t be the same “Bill” I know? This letter was from 1961! So I emailed the Bill I know and in an around about way asked him if he lived on a certain street in Columbus. According to Bill he had just started college and was interested in UFO’s. So the 50 year old letter I’m now hold in my hand is from a college student who later go on to become State Director of MUFON of Ohio. Bill is also the man who eventually made me Chief Field Investigator of Ohio.
Along with Bills request were two separate requests from the Ralph and Vincent LePar. Those names sounds familiar too. All night long I have been stacking files on my desk and under those piles is package of filers for an upcoming speaking engagement. I quickly dug out the package and unfolded a flier. The fliers promote an October conference I will be speaking at a sponsored by the SOL Association for Research. The founder of the organization last name was William LePar. A quick Google search revealed William had passed two years ago and was preceded in death by brothers Ralph and Vincent. At this point it’s getting close to midnight, but this is really getting interesting. Right now a cup of coffee sounds great, but my mini cooler is closer and stocked with beer.
Round two of Indiana Jones quest for the Holy Grail produced more interesting documents related to synchronicity. The next letter that caught my eye was from a Cleveland UFO investigator called Earl. Popowitch asked Earl to talk to one of the American Airline crews who witnessed to Killian Lights. According to the letter and follow up documents the crew was difficult to contact and the results of the discussion were to be hand delivered. I had to ask myself why hand deliver document? Popowitch felt it was the best method. Best method? Reading deeper into the letters indicated Popowitch believed he felt his mail was being read. Read by whom? Other letters and telegrams in the box were addressed to congressman, senators, various military personal, and newspaper editors. At this point I’m now starting to form an image of how passionate Popowitch was in ufology. But who was this Cleveland investigator called Earl? Earl referred to Cleveland Ufology Project (CUP) Director Earl Neff. After reading the documents I began to get a whole new appreciation for early UFO investigators. There was no internet, no easy access to public records, and to acquire flight data numerous letter to various government organizations. And for the synchronicity, today besides being Chief Field Investigator for MUFON of Ohio, I am also Co-Director of CUP with Aaron Clark.
The quest has now reached 2:00am and time for another beer as I examined two more synchronicities in the form of communication from Jerome Clark and Frank Edwards. Jerome Clark went on to become an editor of Fate magazine and International UFO Reporter, and a board member of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). In 1997 Clark wrote The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial which won the Benjamin Franklyn Award in Science/Environment category sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association. Frank Edwards was already in broadcasting in 1948 when he received and advance copy of Major Donald Keyhoe’s book, Flying Saucers are Real. After reading Keyhoe’s comments about the military’s knowledge of UFO’s Edwards began talking about UFO’s on his program. This open discussion about the military’s knowledge of UFO’s led to his 1954 dismissal from the Mutual Broadcasting Company. Edwards went on to work as a commentator at WTTV in Indianapolis along with writing numerous books which included Flying Saucers – Serious Business.
Where is the synchronicity with these two? Three years ago I started doing presentations at public libraries around Ohio. The intent of the programs is to educate the public on the study of UFO’s, what it takes to be a field investigator, classic UFO cases, and recent investigations. In the past three years I have conducted over 70 library presentations, been on 10 radio shows, 5 television appearances, and taught two college classes on UFO’s. Public interest is strong. My last program in Westlake, Ohio had 118 in attendance.
Since my first library program I always hold up two or more books that influenced me in ufology. My first was purchased in the seventh grade (1966) through the book of the month club. I read Frank Edwards book Flying Saucers – Serious Business from front to back and even added my own opinions to the margins. And as Paul Harvey would say “And now for the rest of the story”, in one of the other boxes was publicity stills of Edwards plus promotional items for Edwards talk sponsored by the Cleveland Ufology Project. Videos of the talk “Project Redlight and the Military Industrial Complex” at the Lakewood Civic Center are posted on YouTube. So now I have publicity stills, signed correspondence, and even documents of speaking costs for the author of my first UFO book. And who is the current Co-director of the group, me.
Jerome Clark’s book is the second I hold up. The book is well written and contains UFO stories over various subjects. One of my favorite cases is the Thomas Mantell UFO Chase. Every time I read the story I try to relive the events as an investigator of the case. So here I have fifty year old connections to some of my favorite authors.
This article is getting a little longer than I planned, but I have to mention one more synchronicity. Westlake Porter Library asked me to create a new program titled “Unknown Encounters’. The focus on the cases presented during the program is cases with only unknown outcomes. One of the cases involved a 2012 event reported by a resident of Elmore, Ohio. It was interesting that when I conducted a library program in Elmore in 2012 there was no mention of the sighting.
On a side note the library is directly besides the police station and for some reason, I call it my Spidy (Spiderman) sense, every time I looked at the police station I felt a UFO connection. The 2012 Elmore event was to be included in my Westlake presentation. Follow up research on Elmore revealed a significant UFO encounter with law enforcement officers in 1966. Unfortunately time constraints before the program prevented me from reaching out to the Elmore Police Department. But guess what I found in one of the Indiana Jones crates after the program, a copy of the 1966 Elmore Police report that will be incorporated into future presentations
As I put this story together I wonder how many unknown connections not just myself, but others have in this field. As I keep searching for the Holy Grail in my plastic totes I made a promise to myself, never turn down any offers of research material from an investigator especially from the 60’s or 70’s. I can only imagine what I will find when I start reviewing the reports. Maybe a connection to the Portage County UFO chase of 1966.