From Proceedings of the 1976 CUFOS Conference

Santa Catalina Channel "Cloud Cigars"

by Ann Druffel


ABSTRACT:  Since 1962 there have been recurring sightings of so-called cloud-cigars over the Catalina Channel in Southern California.  These hovering, seemingly energized clouds are reported both day and night, and are accompanied by sightings of smaller, disc-like objects miles inland, while the larger objects remain high above the Pacific Ocean between the mainland and Catalina Island,  twenty (20) miles off the coast.  Available facts indicate the possibility that the  small craft "materialize" within the developing cloud.  Ways are suggested in which CUFOS can obtain cooperation from civilian and military authorities in monitoring these phenomena.
SANTA CATALINA ISLAND'S CLOUD CIGARS:   The transitory nature of UFOs dismays researchers. The objects appear unexpectedly to startled witnesses and in most cases are gone before any permanent record of their passage can be obtained.

In rare instances, however, the appearance of UFOs can be predicted by reason of their repeated occurrence in some particular region. One of these regions is over the Pacific Ocean between the coast of Southern California and the off-shore islands, notably Santa Catalina Island, which lies about twenty miles (20) west of the mainland.

We are concerned specifically here with a rectangular area between thirty-three (33) degrees and thirty-four (34) degrees latitude north and between one-hundred-nineteen (119) degrees and one-hundred-seventeen point five (11.7.5) degrees longitude west. Other "channel" and "basin" areas, named for the cities and islands associated with them, are involved here in question, is more meaningful. In most cases, the objects were viewed between the mainland and the large off-shore island of Santa Catalina Ref. 1) (Also see Figure A)

Figure A

The complex sea floor off southern California is becoming one of the best-known submarine areas in the world.  Data on the topography, sediments, rock formations and seismic character have been published in several sources (Ref. 2).

There has typically always been poor navigational control in this area, but it is difficult to correlate this fact with the numerous magnetic anomalies existing here
(Ref. 3).  

The following material has never been published or, indeed, never collected together before in cogent form.  It is necessarily incomplete and speculative. When viewed as a whole however, it might afford the UFO research field an opportunity to study long-lived UFO phenomena with scientific instrumentation. Hopefully, readers of this paper will offer ideas on how such instrumentation can be obtained, set up and maintained.

THE 1962 MYSTERY: The first hint that the skies above the Santa Catalina Channel held more than seagulls occurred, to the best of our knowledge, in August 1962. Two women witnesses, of which this author (Druffel) was one, had brought their six small children, ages eight to one year, for a leisurely day at the Long Beach, California seashore. About 2:00 p.m. one of the women (author) noticed a small, white rectangular cloud, which looked exactly like a newly-formed section of vapor trail. It seemed to be neatly sliced off at each end and transplanted in the blue, smogless sky. Its apparent diameter was about four millimeters at arm's length, and its width was one-half its length.

It was positioned at about forty (40) degrees elevation, approximately one hundred ninety-five (195) degrees azimuth (magnetic) high in the sky. It seemed about midway between the shore and the island of Santa Catalina, which was clearly visible to the south and southwest. 

There was no evidence of high-flying jets and no other vapor trails or clouds in that quadrant of sky. After about fifteen minutes, the witness became aware that it was not a normal vapor trail. It was too short, too isolated and did not change shape or size in the slightest. Neither did it move in any direction [in spite of a brisk wind blowing on the seashore.) The witness called her friend, Mrs. James (Aileen) Cummings's, attention to it, and the two women continued to observe the small white rectangle. For about thirty more minutes it remained motionless, unchanged in size and shape.

Then something began to occur within the tiny cloud. Its white vapor began to "churn", presenting an impression of internal activity. It enlarged two or three times; the time was now about 3:15 p.m.

During the next half hour, it slowly changed into an oval, twenty to thirty (20-30) times its original size. It still hovered at forty (40) degrees elevation at the original azimuth, but now its apparent diameter had blossomed to four (4) centimeters in length and about two (2) centimeters in width at arm's length. It was solid-appearing, unlike a normal cloud. Its vaporous, oval shape was definite, and at no time did the edges dissipate beyond the perimeter. There was a constant churning motion all over the visible surface, somewhat like water boiling in slow motion. The object seemed angled at approximately twenty-five to thirty (25-30) degrees, its longest diameter being
positioned to the witnesses' right (See Figure B).

Figure B

The mysterious sight kept the witnesses' attention, mainly because it seemed that "something" was inside its vaporous exterior. At times it seemed as though the object were about to "open up" to reveal whatever might be lurking within.  About forty-five (45) minutes after the formation of the oval, the witnesses saw flashes of light coming from the object. The flashes were bright white and momentary. They extended about a diameter's length out from the surface. They gave the impression of strong reflections from the bright sun off some metal surface within the cloud, or of electric discharges. At no time was any sound heard. The flashes were periodic, separated by minutes, with no regular rhythm.

During the time the flashes were observed, numerous military jet trails were seen in the south, evidently over and beyond Catalina Island. These trails were observed from four to ten (4-10) degrees above the island, which rises about three (3) degrees above the horizon from that viewing position. None of the jet trails appeared within thirty (30) degrees of the churning, flashing cloud. However, these trails indicated the presence of a number of highly active, military jets.

After watching the flashes in the cloud for about fifteen minutes, the witnesses approached a nearby lifeguard, hoping he could lend them binoculars so they could get a closer view of the activity within the cloud. He denied having binoculars, and when the witnesses tried to explain to him about the strange cloud he showed no interest.

About 5:00 p.m. the witnesses collected their small children, preparatory to making the long thirty-five mile drive back to their Pasadena homes. They left reluctantly, pausing several times during the quarter-mile walk to their cars to stare at the object. It still hung motionless high in the sky. They discussed reporting the incident to the Long Beach Press-Telegram but rationalized that the object must have been seen and reported by many others. It had been in view more than three hours.  However, there was never any media coverage of the event, to the witnesses' surprise (Ref. 4).

As awed as the witnesses felt over the cloud's strange exterior, the activity within it was so inexplicable that both felt inadequate to even verbalize it. Consequently, it went unreported until this date. They remained totally unaware of the possible significance of the occurrence until years later.  More on the possible significance of this sighting, after further correlative material had surfaced, has been presented below.

THE 1968 "CLOUD-CIGAR":  The second instance of a "vaporous cloud" over the Catalina Channel occurred on July 9th, 1968.  By this time, the Los Angeles NICAP Subcommittee [to which the author belonged] had established SKYNET, a tracking-and-filter center designed to collect and investigate public UFO reports.

On that summer evening, the phones rang off their hooks at the Project Coordinator's [Druffel's] home in Pasadena.  Thirty air miles south in Long Beach and surrounding communities, citizens began reporting a large, glowing mass positioned high over the Catalina Channel. Accompanying the silent, hovering cloud were several glowing, smaller globes which maneuvered in the same area of sky (See Figure C).

Figure C

The first call came from a group of five teenagers gathered at the home of Kevin Allgreen, three miles north of the shore line. At 9:35 p.m. they had noticed a gray-white, diamond-shaped haze under the full moon in the south-southeast. At 10:05 it began moving fifty-five (55) degrees in a horizontal line toward the west. By 10:15 it had returned, intact, to its original position near the moon. Maneuvering near the large
object were five smaller cloud-like objects, oval-shaped with clearcut edges. Two of these were grayish and three "kind of white." 

The boys, aged thirteen to eighteen years, viewed the objects through binoculars and determined that all of the unknown masses looked "solid". They kept their shape and precise edges through subsequent maneuvers. Although the edges of the larger object were "fuzzy," it did not seem to be a normal cloud because it moved too fast during its brief journey westward and back again, traveling fifty-five (55) degrees in three (3) minutes. It was many times the size of the smaller balls, an estimated five to six (5-6) times the diameter of the full moon.  The end facing west was long and narrow, and the part facing east was shaped "like a diamond."

The boys were convinced that they were viewing something highly unusual. They estimated the main mass was about ten (10) miles high. About 11:00 p.m. the large object turned reddish-orange in color and began traveling upward at an approximate angle of thirty (30) degrees. By 11:30 it "just faded away," taking five (5) minutes to dissipate out of sight.

Following hard on the teenagers' first call, the family of Mr. I. Castano of Compton also called SKYNET. From their home seven miles north of the Long Beach witnesses, his family had viewed a group of four oval, cloud-like objects the size of pinheads at arm's length, or about one-eighth the size of the full moon. First seen at 9:30 p.m. and disappearing at 10:00 p.m. they were glowing white with precise edges. They were gathered around the moon when first seen, and then started departing "right and left." They seemed to be far out in space. The objects spread out and then dashed toward one another," Castano related. '"It looked like some kind of a war." To Mr. Castano, who had never believed in the existence of UFOs before, the event was completely mystifying (Ref. 5).

The Castanos did not describe the large cloud, but this is probably because he was much further north than the Long Beach witnesses. Was he seeing the smaller related objects on a mission inward from the Channel (Ref. 6)?

Another report which seems to validate the above speculation comes from the files of Paul Wilson, another local UFO researcher. He was informed by his neighbors, Michael and Leslie G. that they had seen a glowing UFO about 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. on the same night. It traveled toward their home in Hawthorne (fifteen air miles northwest of Long Beach), approaching from the east.  It was oval and slightly smaller than the full moon. It was shiny white with clearcut edges, seemed to be several miles away, and traveled toward the south away from the moon and back again. It was soundless, spun in an apparent circle "around the moon" and afterwards let off streams of smoke or vapor from its side. Duration of sighting was twenty (20) minutes (Ref. 7).

From the similarities in description from the Castano and G. families, it might be assumed that they were viewing the smaller objects during a foray inland. The Castanos saw four objects, the G's a single one. We might speculate that the five small obJects associated with the main cloud-mass had spilt up into two groups, while the parent object or "cloud cigar" hovered high over the Pacific.

While all this activity was going on, SKYNET was making frantic efforts to obtain additional witnesses and documentation. The only SKYNET member residing near the coast, Jim Griebel, was contacted. His home was three miles north of the Long Beach witnesses.  Through binoculars he could see a cloud-like conglomeration low on the southerly horizon. Whether composed of one or two masses he was not sure, but the mass(es) seemed diamond-shaped on one end and rounded on the other. The bright light from the moon dissipated Griebel's view, but there seems little doubt that he was seeing the primary cloud-object which was being viewed from Long Beach.  Including Griebel, twelve (12) witnesses in all, from four (4) independent groups, reported the July 9th, 1968 event.

Nothing about the above cases seemed to click into place at the time of their occurrence. The 1962 case remained an enigma for thirteen years, shoved back into the inner recesses of the two witnesses' minds.  That "something" could appear from almost "nothing" and retain shapes, position, and activity for over three hours was inexplicable. The 1968 case, which tasted at least an hour and one-half, was considered a possible "cloud-cigar."  This UFO-type is described by Aime Michel in his classic book, Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery  (Ref. 8).

THE ENIGMA OF 1973: On December 20, 1973, another mystery occurred over the Pacific Ocean between the mainland and Catalina Island. This sighting was as bizarre and long-lived as the two which had gone before. Although at first glance it appeared unassociated with the vaporous masses in the first two events, further study has convinced this author that all three phenomena have many factors in common. Therefore, the three cases are being presented together in order that opinions can
be sought from other researchers.

About 2:15 a.m. on December 20, 1973 Michael Wagner of Pacific Palisades noticed a yellow glowing "blob" hovering in the south-southeast at an elevation of approximately twenty (20) degrees. He called it to the attention of Robert B. Klinn, known in UFO circles as a skilled researcher. Their viewing position was about twenty miles northwest of Long Beach.

The two witnesses took turns studying the light through a 16-power Navy spyglass, which they were able to steady on a ledge at Klinn's residence. As seen through the telescope, the "blob" resolved into a precise arrangement of round, yellow-gold lights. Though the entire mass appeared larger than Venus with the naked eye, through the 'scope the lights encompassed an area of approximately three (3) millimeters. They were arranged in a vertical column bisecting a horizontal column of equal length. Additional columns of light appeared and arranged themselves into a nearly perfect light-studded triangle.  The witnesses adjusted the telescope, and when Klinn again looked through it about three minutes later, the complex of lights had assumed the shape of a huge, cigar-shaped "machine."   Its edges were clearcut against the sky. Along its side was a horizontal row of about five huge, fiery round lights along the length of the object. These lights were very much larger and brighter than the ones observed earlier; in fact, the entire  object had expanded in size at least twenty times. (See Figure D).

Figure D

Each light held tremendous activity within it, "as if looking  inside a boiling steel furnace, and even more so". Their primary color was yellow, but many other colors were visible in their teeming mass. As the witnesses watched astounded, the first light ballooned up "like a critical explosion" and smashed through the light directly to its right. That one in turn seemed to flare up, as did each in the entire row, as the first   fireball traversed the entire row. At the extreme right, the fiery,explosive light paused and pulsated about twice per second; then the smashing reaction returned along the row of lights from right to left. The entire trip back and forth took an estimated thirteen (13) seconds.

As this was happening, a fin-shaped appendage with a vertical  row of smaller yellow lights was moving back and forth along the top of the cigar-shaped object "in a very mechanical way."  Meantime, the entire object, which now covered more than one and one-half (I 1/2) centimeters in the 'scope's field of view, was moving slowly westward at an estimated five (5) degrees per hour.  Toward the end of the sighting, which lasted about one and one-half hours, the object changed shape once more. The appendage on top widened, the lights flickered out, and the object became a darkened cone-shape with a rounded bottom. One faint red light blinked with regular rhythm on the top. Then the object faded from view at 3:37 a.m. (Ref. 9).

ATTEMPTS AT CORRELATION: The July 1968 manifestation at least seemed to fit into a recognized UFO class, that of the so-called cloud cigar, widely assumed to be a conglomerate of smaller discs, alternate names being "carrier craft" or "mother ship." But the 1962 and 1973 sightings cannot so easily be categorized.  Both of these objects changed shape, grew larger and more complex, and demonstrated intense internal activity reminiscent of electrical discharges of high intensity. Is it possible that the 1962 sighting, and the 1973 sighting as well, were incidents of "materialization" into our space-time?

In trying to determine with witness Bob Klinn the possibility that what he had seen was related in some way with the 1962  and 1968 objects, Klinn pointed out that there was no cloud or vapor associated with it. He felt that the 1973 object was a metallic structure and that he was viewing the clashing spheres through "holes" of some kind in its side.

To the author's mind, however, in order for the 1973 witnesses to view the activity within in its entirety, the side of the object might have been transparent or otherwise open to view.  Is it possible that the object was not metallic, but some sort of solid, though transparent, material? Could they have been viewing a similar type of cigar-shaped solid structure which had been surrounded by thick haze during the summer sightings of 1962 and 1968?

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY: The purpose of this paper has been to alert researchers to the fact of recurring, long-lived phenomena in the Catalina Channel area. It would be of much value to UFO research if this region could be placed under surveillance with scientific instrumentation.

This paper would not be complete unless it was pointed out that the Channel area has for the past thirty years abounded in UFO reports of all types. Many surface-type and underwater UFOs have been reported, but compared to the long-lasting "cloud cigars" they have been unclear and short-lived. Nevertheless, the sightings exist in sufficient numbers to alert us that this area is, for some reason, of constant concern to someone, or something, unknown.

Space does not permit here to discuss these surface sightings in detail.  Suffice it to say that they are reportedly continuing up to the present.  They could most probably be perceived by the same type of surveillance net used to detect the high-altitude "cloud cigars."  It is important to reiterate five points concerning the latter type:

  1. The cloud-cigars are generally ovoid and huge in size;

  2. They are highly energized, the energy apparently resulting from internal activity or interaction of conglomerate smaller objects held or hidden within;

  3. They are long-lived, duration of sightings ranging from one and one-half (1 1/2) to three (3) hours;

  4. They seemingly recur every five to six years.

  5. In summer, the ovoid shapes are thickly covered with vaporous material; in the single winter sighting known, the vapor was seemingly non-existent.

Consider the value to UFO research if, within the next few years, one of these long-lived UFO phenomena can be detected and studied.  Consider, too, the possible spinoff from a surveillance system— the detection of frequent UFO surface phenomena in the same area.



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(1)  "Reconnaissance Airborne Magnetometer Survey of Southern California," (map) I960, by R. W. Bromery, K. 0. Emery, and J. R. Balsey, Jr.  Published by Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Survey, Washington, D.C.— Geophysical Investigations Map GP-211.

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(2)  "Seismic Activity and Oceanography of the Sea Floor Off Southern California," by Clements, Thomas and Emery, K.O. 1947, Seismology Soc. America Bull. V. 37, No. 1, pp. 307-13

Also:  "Seismic Studies of the Pacific Ocean Floor Off California," by Raitt, R. W., 1950, Geophysics, V. 15, No. 1, p. 156

Also"  "General Geology of the Offshore Area, Southern California," by Emery, K. 0., 1954, California Div. Mines Bull. 170, pp. l07-11

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(3)  "Introduction," accompanying Map described in Reference #1.

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(4)  Documentation in private files (Druffel).  Full report to be sent soon to MUFON and CUFOS.
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(5)  "SKYNET:  Making Sense from Confusion," by Druffel, SKYLOOK,
December 1973,  No. 73

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(6)  In private files (Paul Wilson), copy in Druffel files with identifying information.

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(7)  In private files (Druffel).  Full report to be sent soon to MUFON and CUFOS

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(8)  Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery, by Aime Michel, Criterion Books, New York 1958

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(9)  "The Continuing UFO," column by Robert B. Klinn and David Branch, in Santa Ana Register, Santa Ana, California December 26, 1973.  [Newspaper now named The Orange County Register.]

 Also "Object Changes," SKYLOOK, February 1973, and in private files (Druffel) and (Klinn)

BIO/RESUME [1976]:
Ann Druffel is an Associate Editor of the MUFON UFO JOURNAL and writes a monthly column, "California Report," for that publication.  She received her B.A. in Sociology at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood, California and acquired one years' graduate credit toward a Social Case Work at the Catholic University, Washington, D.C. She is a licensed R.S.W. (Registered Social Worker) in the State of  California and worked for five years in Family and Child Welfare case work before marriage.  Ann and her husband, Charles K. Druffel, are the proud parents of five daughters. Her professional skills of interviewing, recording, and  objective value-judging were transferred to UFO research and free-lance writing on various earth mysteries, especially in the fields of Ufology and psychic research. Her more recent works include THE TUJUNGA CANYON CONTACTS, co-authored with parapsychologist D. Scott Rogo.  Her forthcoming book, THE DETECTIVE AND THE PSYCHIC, is authored with renowned psychic Armand Marcotte.

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