From The MUFON UFO Journal, December 1981, No. 166

California Report
An Urban Problem: Very Close Encounters with UFOs

By Ann Druffel


UFO reports flow into SKYNET at a filter center in the Los Angeles Basin at a fairly steady rate, ranging from two to three per week in flap periods to about one every month in slower times. The majority of reports are nocturnal lights (NLs) or daytime disks (DDs), but of degrees of strangeness that they cannot be identified (1). Close encounters occur less frequently, and very few landings occur here. Those landings which are reported seemingly leave no residual traces which would lend themselves to scientific follow-up study.

Beginning in September 1979 there was an unprecedented buildup of very close encounter reports which continued into January of 1980. During this same period, numerous reports of NLs and DDs were also received through SKYNET channels (2).

Los Angeles, it has been said, is a bunch of suburbs seeking a city. In actual fact, Los Angeles proper (including a myriad of communities incorporated within it) is about 50 miles long and about 12 miles wide. Practically every square mile is built up with residences and industrial buildings. Only the hills which form our famous, smoggy basin are relatively isolated.

In the 10-week period from August 3 to October 12, 1979 there were 12 cases of comparatively high strangeness reported through SKYNET channels. These included two of the most extraordinary and closest encounters ever to be reported in this area. Extending this concentrated flap period back to 23 July 1979 and forward to 25 March 1980, there were 23 reports of moderate strangeness, including another close encounter on 3 January 1980 which was apparently as close as any ever reported.

Because of limited space, only the most cogent details .of these three close encounters can be given here:

1. On 14 September 1979 at 7:55 p.m., two women driving in a car stopped at a major intersection in Canoga Park, a Los Angeles community 20 miles north-west of Los Angeles Civic Center (3). While they waited for a red light to change, they suddenly saw "an enormous round or elliptical object which looked like two bowls put together" cavorting over the road ahead. Jets of flame were seen spaced around its perimeter. The object's apparent size was 4 to 6 inches at arm's length. It seemed to be no more than 100-200 feet from their car and 200-300 feet above the earth.The object, "at super speeds," tilted, scooted, hovered, and scooted again in a small section of sky. After about a minute it took off at very high speed and disappeared into the northeast.

Although the object was silent, the two women could not understand how such a huge, brilliantly lit object could maneuver so openly over a heavily settled region of the city. They did not notice any other car in sight at the time, so there was no opportunity to seek additional witnesses. They were both very interested in parapsychology, but could not relate to anything in their experience which could provide a satisfactory answer to what they had seen.

The case was also investigated by MUFON's Morrey Allen, and an artist's sketch was produced with the help of the witnesses which vividly showed the strange but beautiful giant object. At least two other reports were received for the Canoga Park area matching the same time and date as the close encounter, but these witnesses were all some distance from the intersection in question. Unfortunately, these cases could not be followed up due to an injury suffered by investigator Allen about this time.

2. On October 12, 1979, while the flap continued unabated with interesting NL and DD reports flowing in at a rate of one to three per week, one of my trusted friends, Dorothy Shapiro of Los Angeles, confided a startling incident which had occurred while she was riding in a car on the Golden State Freeway in Burbank, a city 12 miles due north of the Los Angeles Civic Center.

Dorothy was riding alone in the back seat while her adult daughter, Susan, and a friend were in the front. They were headed toward the Hollywood-Burbank Airport. The car had just passed a number of commercial buildings and parking areas when Dorothy suddenly heard a peculiar rattling noise in the sky above the car. Looking through the left rear window, she saw a "circular kind of aircraft" flying low, apparently over the busy freeway (See sketch).

She tried to figure if it was some sort of experimental U.S. observation platform, since it seemed to be in the landing pattern of the airport. In the 30 seconds she had it in view, she noted numerous details of its construction. It was black or dark gray like cast iron, with a dull "stucco-like texture rather than smooth." Its shape was like a bowl with a solid circular section on the bottom. As the object changed its angle slightly, the witness saw that the sides also were solid, and a row of white lights were around the rim.

The object seemed to be about 200 feet above the freeway and to be close enough to the car so that it actually seemed to be above (or following?) the freeway. Its motion was slow, perhaps hovering or traveling at a very slow rate of speed. It gave off a steady, rather loud "rattling noise like an old-fashioned motor."The angular size was estimated as three inches at arm's length, and the time was 6:50 p.m.

The car in which Ms. Shapiro was riding was moving in steady traffic, and before Dorothy could call the attention of her daughter and friend, they had passed by the object and it was lost to sight behind them. Dorothy did not think to notice if any drivers or passengers in other cars around them seemed aware of the amazing sight (4).

Dorothy Shapiro's integrity, intelligence, and observational ability are excellent. She holds a responsible bookkeeping position with a major Los Angeles newspaper. She is also deeply interested in metaphysical subjects. She was not aware of the UFO flap going on in the Los Angeles area at the time and was amazed to hear that we had gotten another very close encounter report just 4 weeks prior. Her report, though a single-witness situation, cannot be doubted. We can only assume that she saw exactly what she reported, inexplicable though it was.

If the same object had been reported in an isolated rural area, it would not have seemed half so strange as being reported flying low over a busy city freeway.

As inexplicable as these two CE's seemed, they were relatively mild compared to a close encounter which occurred on 3 January 1980. This case had several aspects which bespeak of its believability. One of the two women percipients is an adult daughter of a veteran Los Angeles researcher (5). This researcher tape-recorded his daughter's experience within one-half hour of its occurrence. A few days later, when all three witnesses (including a teen-aged daughter of the other woman witness) were regressed hypnotically in an attempt to obtain added details, all of the conscious and subconscious statements of the three witnesses were non-contradictory and had not changed from the original version.

The sighting occurred in Van Nuys, a suburb of Los Angeles 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles Civic Center. It is important to note that these witnesses, like the three others in the two prior CE cases described above, were totally unaware of the localized flap occurring at the time. (In Los Angeles, researchers are not aided, or hindered as the case may be, by media coverage of UFO reports. For the most part, local sightings are ignored by newspapers, radio, and TV, and researchers have opportunity to work in an uncontaminated environment, as far as possible "copy-cat" reports might be concerned.)

In the 3 January 1980 incident, the two women witnesses were traveling by car to a local fast food restaurant at 8:30 p.m. Also in the car were four children, three of whom were under 5 years of age. As they passed Mulholland High School on Van Owen Boulevard, which the teenager would soon be attending, they stopped the car to look over the grounds of the school. Within a few minutes, one of the women noticed a large bright light in the sky. It suddenly dropped down to within 50 feet of the car.

All witnesses agree that it was shaped like a huge disk covered with individual bright lights. It first showed a half-round, flattened shape, then it tilted, showing the top clearly. A solid, opaque hump was seen on top, with a row of porthole-type lights circling the lower part. On the very top was a blue light. The angular size covered the windshield of the car.

The witnesses had varying reactions to this startling sight. The mother of the children considered it to be a "beautiful sight, almost like a divine encounter." The other woman (daughter of the UFO investigator) on the other hand, experienced terror, as did the teen-aged girl. After a few seconds, the object "shot back up into the sky" and was joined by two other lights. The three lights formed a triangle and moved away out of sight.

Because of the credibility of the one witness in particular (the researcher's daughter) and the fact that all three witnesses' statements remained non-contradictory, even when interviewed and hypnotized separately by three different researchers, the case received more attention than the two preceding it (6). It was evident by now that huge UFOs were being repeatedly seen approaching cars in the midst of heavily settled urban areas.

It was learned that the site of the January 3rd incident was near the edge of a landing area of a small local airport and that a private Cessna had taken off sometime near the reported time of the sighting. Although this information was enough to convince the Center for UFO Studies that the case was probably a situation of "mistaken identity," researchers close to the situation maintained doubt about this explanation. All three witnesses were adamant that it could not be a private plane taking off. As they expressed it, "No way!"

The details of the object, including its rounded shape, top hump, lighted ring of "portholes," central blue light, plus the tilting and rapid ascent to join two lights which had the identical appearance of the main object when first seen, plus their departure in triangular formation, bespoke of a valid UFO experience. But could a huge craft, even though silent, at least 100 feet in length, approach a parked car within 50 feet and not be noticed by other residents living in homes adjacent to the school? A search for other witnesses was unfruitful.

The hypnotic regression of the three witnesses yielded confirmation of their conscious recall of details, and some hints that perhaps the mind of the teen-aged witness had been aware of some details of the interior of the craft. There was also some evidence that the mother of the children has suffered some physiological effects reminiscent of disturbances in blood chemistry. However, these details cannot be covered in this article, which intends only to point up the problems inherent in very close encounters in heavily settled environs.

Summing up the three stated cases, all six percipients in the three separate cases did not know each other and to this day are unaware of each others' experiences. It is perhaps interesting to note that all percipients were women.

In addition to these three, another CE occurred within this flap period, on 4 August 1979, also in Canoga Park. At 10:35 p.m. a 6-year-old boy and his grandmother viewed from the windows of their home a "large, glowing disc with a bubble-like dome on top." Two "forms" were seen inside the dome. When questioned for details, the witnesses could remember only that the seemingly humanoid forms had "large heads." The sighting duration was minimal, a few seconds at most, and no satisfactory estimate of apparent size could be obtained. A detailed investigation was not made (7).

In view of my recent column concerning the large cigar-shaped "carrier craft" UFOs which appear, or form, over the channel waters west of the mid-Southern California coastline, it is also interesting to note that the localized Los Angeles flap described above began on July 23, 1979 with the sighting of a group of five or six large, glowing disks traveling in formation from the region of the Santa Catalina and San Clemente offshore islands. Reported by Mr. and Mrs. F. R., the objects took a V-shaped formation and traveled swiftly inland (8). Then they hovered in a group for 10 to 15 minutes over the end of one of the runways of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). One suddenly streaked northward and the others dispersed in varying directions. All flew, according to Mr. R., as though under control. This situation was independently viewed and reported by another witness in another city about five miles south (9).
Are the UFO reports received by SKYNET from July 23, 1979 through 3 January 1980 a random collection of oddities, a mixed bag of unusual but conventional and grossly misidentified objects? Were perhaps a few valid, far-off UFOs thrown in here and there? Or can a patterned sense be made of this group of reports? Did they begin with fast-moving orbs being released in formation from an (unreported) "carrier craft'-type UFO high over Channel waters (10)?

Most importantly perhaps, can the very close, very bizarre, virtually "impossible" close encounters described here as occurring over busy city streets be given credence? Occurring as they did during an intense period of UFO report activity which was completely unknown (or ignored) by the local media, can they be considered as "real" events?

If they were real in every sense of the word, the unanswered question facing us is this: How and why do huge UFOs approach within yards of human witnesses without being reported by other witnesses in the immediate vicinity?



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(1) Mixed in among the UFO reports, naturally, are frequent misidentifications (IFOs) which are promptly identified and are not considered in the situation which is discussed here.

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(2) SKYNET is only one private source receiving public UFO reports in the Los Angeles area. Since there is not much interchange at the present time between researchers who hear of local sightings, the statistics quoted in this article are necessarily incomplete.

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(3) Names remain confidential in SKYNET files at witnesses' request.

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(4) Signed report in MUFON and CUFOS files.

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(5) Names confidential at witnesses' request. Identifying information in Druffel, Uhlenkott, and de Herrera files.

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(6) The three small children were not considered as witnesses, since they could not adequately verbalize their feelings about the incident.

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(7) Names confidential by request. Identifying information and report in SKYNET files.

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(8) Identifying information in Druffel and Epperson files.

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(9) Information in SKYNET files.

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(10) [Added 10 October 2006] For detailed information on the recurring "cloud cigars" (also termed carrier craft) go to Section "UFO ARTICLES" in this website and click on "Santa Catalina "Cloud Cigars." Since these huge, recurring phenomena occurred every five to six years, in 1962, 1968 and 1973, the stream of UFO reports referred to in this "California Report" SKYNET article you are reading, occurring as they did in 1979, could possibly fit in with the recurring Southern California "cloud cigar" phenomena.

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