From the (IUR) International UFO Reporter Vol. 31, Number 1, 2007

More About The Santa Catalina Channel "Cloud Cigars"

by Ann Druffel


Author’s Note: The following material was first discussed in an article in the Proceedings of the 1976 CUFOS Conference (Ref. 1). However, the intriguing research conducted on the subject of “cloud cigars” by Herbert S. Taylor, published in recent issues of lUR (Ref. 2) impelled me to bring the information in this 1976 paper, in somewhat edited form, to the attention of the UFO community. Although incomplete and in part speculative, the Southern California “cloud cigar” phenomenon affords the UFO research field an opportunity to study this particularly long-lived type of UFO with scientific instrumentation. It is hoped that readers of this paper will offer ideas on how such instrumentation can be obtained, set up, and maintained, or provide other suggestions on how these important UFO events can be further studied.

The transitory nature of most UFO sightings dismays researchers. In most reported cases, these unidentified 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 possibly be foretold by reason of their repeated occurrence in some particular region. One of these areas is over the Pacific Ocean between the mainland of Southern California and the offshore islands, notably Santa Catalina, which lies about 20 miles off the coast.

Most cloud cigars in this area have been seen within a rectangular area between 33-34 degrees Latitude and between 117.5-119 degrees Longitude. Other nearby areas, named for the cities and islands associated with them, are sometimes involved, but in most cases the cloud cigars were viewed between the mainland and the large offshore island of Santa Catalina (Figure 1).

Figure 1


The first hint that the skies above the Santa Catalina Channel held more than seagulls occurred in 1962, toward the end of August on a Wednesday or Thursday, exact day uncertain. Two witnesses, of which this author (Druffel) was one and Mrs. James (Aileen) Cummings the other, had brought five of their small children, ages eight to three years old, for a leisurely day at the Long Beach seashore. About 2:00 p.m., I 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, in a sense, “transplanted” in the blue, smogless sky. Its diameter, at arm’s length, was about four millimeters, and its width was about one-half its length.

It was positioned at about 40 degrees elevation and approximately 195 degrees azimuth (magnetic) high in the sky. It seemed to be about midway between the shore and the island of Santa Catalina, which was clearly visible to the south and southwest (Ref. 3). There was no evidence of high-flying jets, no vapor trails or any clouds in that quadrant of sky. After about 15 minutes, I realized that it was not a normal vapor trail left by a high-flying jet aircraft. 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, 15-knot wind blowing in from the ocean. I called Aileen’s attention to it and, puzzled, we continued to observe the small white rectangle together. For about 30 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 doubled or tripled its size; the time was now about 3:15 p.m. It still hovered at 40 degrees elevation at the original azimuth. During the next half hour, it slowly enlarged into an oval shape and became 20-30 times its original size. Its apparent diameter had blossomed to four centimeters long and two centimeters wide at arm’s length. It appeared to be solid, 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 its surface, which reminded me somewhat of water boiling in slow motion. The cloud/object seemed tipped at approximately 25 to 30 degrees, its longest diameter being positioned to our right (Figure 2).

Figure 2

The mysterious sight kept our attention, mainly because it seemed that “something” was inside its churning exterior. At times it seemed as though it were about to “open up” to reveal whatever might be lurking within. About 45 minutes after the formation of the oval, Aileen and I saw flashes of light coming from the object. The flashes were bright white and momentary, and 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, possibly, of electric discharges. However, they seemed to be, strangely, triangular in shape. At no time was any sound heard. The flashes were periodic, separated by minutes, with no regular rhythm. They were greatly disturbing to me, for two of my children were playing at the water’s edge. I quickly waded out and brought them in, fearful that the “flashes” were somehow “electricity” and if one hit the water it could be fatal!

During the time the flashes were observed, numerous military jet trails were seen in the south, evidently over and beyond Catalina Island; their position in the sky seemed related more to San Clemente Island, which lies beyond Catalina Island (Ref. 4), We saw these trails 4 to10 degrees above San Clemente, which rose about 3 degrees above the horizon from our viewing position. None of the jet trails appeared within 30 degrees of the churning, flashing cloud but instead remained far out over the Pacific. However, without doubt the trails indicated the presence of a number of highly active, military jets.

After watching the flashes for about 15 minutes and observing that no one else on the beach seemed to be watching the strange “cloud,” Aileen and I approached a nearby lifeguard, hoping he could lend us some binoculars so we could get a closer view of the activity within the cloud. He denied having any binoculars; when we tried to explain to him about the strange cloud he showed no interest whatsoever. He glanced up briefly, announced that it was “just a cloud” and then continued surveying the water in pursuit of his lifeguard duties, totally ignoring us.

About 5:00 p.m., Aileen and I collected our small children, for it was time to make the 35-mile drive back to our Pasadena homes to cook dinner for our husbands, who would be returning home from work. We left reluctantly, pausing several times during the quarter-mile walk to our cars to stare at the object. The flashing had stopped, but the cloudy oval still hung motionless in the sky. We discussed reporting the incident to the local newspaper, the Long Beach Press Telegram, but rationalized that the object must have been seen on the beach that day by others and would be reported by someone who lived in the Long Beach area. For by the time we had to leave, it had been in plain view for more than three hours. However, careful monitoring of radio and television programs that evening and the next few days, as well as copies of the Press-Telegram, indicated, to our complete surprise, that there was never any media coverage of the event (Ref. 5) As awed as Aileen and I had felt over the cloud’s strange exterior, the activity within it was so inexplicable that we both felt inadequate to even verbalize it. We remained totally unaware of the possible significance of the occurrence until years later. Consequently, for many years it went unreported until I presented the paper at the 1976 CUFOS conference, together with sketches drawn by an associate. In the intervening years, further correlative material on the possible significance of our 1962 sighting had surfaced.


The second instance of a “vaporous cloud” over the Catalina Channel occurred on July 9, 1968. By this time, the Los Angeles NICAP Subcommittee had established SKYNET, a tracking system and filter center designed to collect and investigate public UFO reports, and I had accepted the position of project coordinator.

On that summer evening, the phones rang off their hooks at my Pasadena home. Thirty air miles south in Long Beach and in surrounding communities, citizens began reporting a large, glowing mass positioned high over the Catalina Channel (Figure 3).

Figure 3

The first call came from a group of five teenagers gathered at the home of Kevin Allgreen, three miles north of the shoreline. At 9:35 p.m. they had noticed a gray-white, solid-appearing “cloud” under the full moon in the south-southeast. At 10:05 it moving 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 clean-cut edges. Two of these were grayish and three were described as “kind of white.” The boys, ages 13-18 years, viewed the objects through binoculars and determined that all of the unknown masses looked “solid.” They kept their shape and precise edges throughout subsequent maneuvers. Although the edges of the larger object seemed “fuzzy” they were nevertheless clean-cut. It certainly was not a normal cloud because it moved too fast during its brief journey westward and back again, traveling 55 degrees each way in 10 minutes. It was many times the size of the smaller accompanying objects and an estimated 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 10 miles high. Around 11:00 p.m., the large object turned reddish-orange in color and began traveling upward at an approximate angle of 30 degrees. By 11:30 it “just faded away,” taking five 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, the family had viewed a group of four oval, cloud-like objects the size of pinheads at arm’s length, or roughly 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 to the right and the left. “They seemed to be far out in space. The objects spread out and then dashed toward one another,” Castano related, adding, “It looked like some kind of a war!” To Castano, who had never before believed in the existence of UFOs, the event was completely mystifying (Ref. 6). The Castanos did not report seeing the large cloud, probably because their home was several miles further inland than the Long Beach witnesses. Were they seeing the smaller objects, moving inward from the channel?

Another report that seems to validate the above speculation comes from the files of Paul Wilson, a local UFO researcher. His neighbors, Michael and Leslie G., informed him 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 (15 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 clean-cut 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. The duration of their sighting was 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. Had the five small objects associated with the main cloud-mass split up into two groups, while the main object or “cloud cigar” hovered high over the Pacific?

While all of 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 five witnesses at the Long Beach home of Kevin Allgreen. Through binoculars, Griebel could see a cloudlike conglomeration low on the southerly horizon. He wasn’t certain whether it was comprised of one or two masses, but the mass(es) seemed diamond-shaped on one end and rounded on the other, similar to the witnesses’ descriptions at the Allgreen home. The bright light from the moon interfered with Griebel’s view, but there seems little doubt that he was seeing the primary cloud-object that was being viewed from Long Beach. Including Griebel, 12 witnesses from four independent groups reported the July 9 event (Ref. 8).

Nothing about the above cases seemed to click into place at the time of their occurrences. The 1962 case remained an enigma for 13 years, shoved back into the inner recesses of Aileen Cummings’s and my own minds. That “something” could appear from almost “nothing” and retain shapes, position, and activity for over three hours was inexplicable to us. The 1968 case, however, which lasted at least an hour and one-half, was considered a possible cloud cigar. Aime Michel had described this UFO type in his classic book, Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery, so the term and description were familiar to us (Ref. 9).


On December 20, 1973, another mystery occurred over the Pacific Ocean between the mainland and Santa Catalina Island. This sighting was as bizarre and long-lived as the two that had gone before. Although at first glance it appeared unassociated with the vaporous masses in the first two events, further study has demonstrated that all three phenomena had many factors in common. Since Herbert S. Taylor has sought additional cases which seem to fit within cloud-cigar phenomena, this case is being placed in the literature.

About 2:15 a.m. on December 20, Michael Wagner of Pacific Palisades noticed a yellow, glowing “blob” hovering in the south-southeast at an elevation of approximately 20 degrees. He called it to the attention of Robert B. Klinn, noted in UFO circles as a skilled researcher and at that time a member of SKYNET. Their viewing position was about 20 miles northwest of Long Beach. Wagner and Klinn took turns studying the light through a 16x 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. Although the entire mass appeared larger than Venus with the naked eye, through the scope the lights encompassed an area of approximately 3 millimeters. They were arranged in a vertical column, bisecting a horizontal column of equal length. As the witnesses watched, additional columns of light appeared and arranged themselves into a nearly perfect light-studded triangle.

The witnesses adjusted the telescope; 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 clear-cut against the sky. On its side was a horizontal row of about five huge, fiery round lights which ran 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 20 times (Figure 4).

Figure 4

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 of the others, 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 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 1 1/2 centimeters in the scope’s field of view, was moving slowly westward at an estimated 5 degrees per hour. Toward the end of the sighting, which lasted about 90 minutes, 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. 10).


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 activity reminiscent of internal electrical discharges. 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. 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 metal but some other sort of solid, though transparent, material? Could Klinn and Wagner have been viewing a similar type of cigar-shaped solid structure that had been surrounded by thick haze during the summer sightings of 1962 and 1968?


After 1973, I became involved in so-called abduction cases, which had begun to overwhelm the UFO research field around our nation. Such cases were being reported from Tujunga Canyon, about 10 miles northeast of Los Angeles. This research did not give me much time to avidly pursue the continuing SKYNET reports of cloud-cigar phenomena. After my first book on “abductions”, The Tujunga Canyon Contacts, was published with co-author D. Scott Rogo in 1980 (Ref. 11) the intensity of SKYNET investigations slowly declined as other research projects and full-time work with a local research organization made it hard for me to devote the tremendous amount of time the continuing cloud-cigar type reports required. But other such reports did continue to occur in the same five-to-six year time periods. I include a few such case reports here in order to reinforce this fact. Their inclusion will, I hope, make my call for instrumental observation of this area that much more compelling.

On January 24,1979, an avid amateur astronomer with many years experience. Brad Bell, who lived in North Hollywood, observed an unidentified, glowing spherical object over the Pacific area through a three-inch refracting telescope, at 20x amplification. The object was stationary at 35 degrees above the Pacific, at 225 degrees true heading, west- southwest over the Catalina Channel. The time was 5:15 p.m., just on the verge of twilight. The object looked “like an opaque bubble, like milk stirred in water” (Ref. 12), It was whitish in color, pearl-like, and remained stationary in the sky, moving very slowly down to 15 degrees from the horizon, where Bell’s telescope no longer showed it clearly. He had been viewing it for over an hour. “Anyone knowing astronomy would have noticed the object,” Brad Bell stated when he reported the sighting to SKYNET. He called the Griffith Observatory in Hollywood to report the anomalous object, and a worker at the observatory ran outside to see if they could view it. However, they could not see the luminous sphere, indicating that it was not an ordinary astronomical object.

Also fitting in with the six-year period between the long-lasting anomalous channel sightings, in 1985 (month and date uncertain). Henry T. Nowicki was working on his ranch in Pauma Valley when he viewed a round, iridescent cloud of “unusual shape and color” around 3:00 p.m. in a clear blue sky. Pauma Valley is in San Diego County, about 90 miles south of Los Angeles Civic Center. The object was seen in the west, about one-quarter up from the horizon toward the zenith, over the Pacific Ocean. Nowicki, a retired rancher, held a master’s degree in environmental science and engineering. He estimated the object to be about 6,000 feet high, and at first he thought it might be a missile launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base up the coast. As he watched it, however, he realized that the “cloud” was not moving in the sky. He called a neighbor, B. C., to view it with him and together they watched the object for a full hour (Ref. 13). It remained in one place during that entire time, maintaining its round shape and iridescent, glowing characteristics, after which it simply, in Nowicki’s words, “disappeared.”

Some six years later, on October 28, 1991, a witness, Annie B., was walking with a friend, N. J., headed north on Fourth Street in Hollywood (Ref. 14). At 1:10 p.m., they viewed a cluster of three round, white “balls” in the northern sky, which soon were joined by “two oblong dark objects” which “just appeared” on either side. The cluster of objects remained in place for 10-15 minutes. At first the witnesses thought they might be balloons, but their ability to stay precisely in place in the sky precluded that explanation. Suddenly, off to their left (West), three more white balls appeared which “moved erratically.” The attention of the witnesses soon focused back on the three original objects in the northern sky which soon “faded back into space gradually, either dematerializing or moving off into the distance.” Sometime during this 10 to 15 minute period, a large orange object was seen in the west, apparently over the Pacific Ocean and in the general area as the erratically moving balls of light. This object, in Annie B.’s words, “came into the picture or was there, I can’t remember.” Annie B. explained that she could not say how long the much larger orange object was in the sky because her attention, and that of her friend, had been totally engaged in watching the other multiple objects. This large orange object was oval in shape with what seemed to be cone-shaped streamers projecting down from the bottom.


The purpose of the original 1976 paper, on which this article is based, had been to alert researchers to the fact of recurring, long-lived phenomena in the Catalina Channel area and to point out that much value to UFO research might be gained if this region could have been placed under surveillance with scientific instrumentation. There are two main reasons why this was suggested in 1976 and is again encouraged in 2006:

  1. The Catalina Channel cloud-cigar sightings have apparently continued through subsequent years, up to the present, although they have not been thoroughly investigated as were the three instances in 1962, 1968, and 1973 detailed above. These cloud-cigar sightings are long-lasting (1 ½ to 3 hours at present knowledge) giving Southland researchers more than adequate time to activate a surveillance system.

  2. In the Catalina Channel area, at least, cloud-cigars occurred every 5 to 6 years on a more or less regular basis (Ref. 15). The Channel area has for the past 40+ years abounded in UFO reports of all type—even surface and underwater UFOs have been reported— but the great majority of these sightings have been unclear and short-lived, compared to the long-lasting “cloud cigars.” In light of this, continuing research on the cloud-cigar phenomena over the Santa Catalina Channel seems to be an extremely worthwhile investment in surveillance equipment and research time.


It is important to reiterate six points concerning the cloud-cigar phenomenon, as manifested in southern California:

  1. They are generally ovoid and huge in size.
  2. They sometimes appear highly energized, with the “energy” seemingly resulting from internal activity or interaction of conglomerate smaller objects held within.
  3. They are often accompanied by smaller objects which reportedly make forays inland.
  4. Compared to other UFO reports, they are extremely long-lasting.
  5. They seem to recur in this area every five or six years on what might be termed a “regular basis.”
  6. In some of the summer sightings of 1962 and 1968, the ovoid shapes were thickly covered with vaporous material, while in others the vapor was seemingly nonexistent. Consider the value to UFO research if, by 2007 or 2008, when researchers might reasonably expect another “visitation” by these Channel intruders, scientific instrumentation could be set up in the Southland area so that these long-lived UFO phenomena can be detected, photographed (even in infrared for nighttime sightings), videotaped, and otherwise scientifically studied.



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(1) See original paper as published in CUFOS 1976 PROCEEDINGS at author’s website here.

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(2) For example, see Herbert S. Taylor, “Cloud Cigars: A Further Look”, in IUR 30, no. 3, pp. 10-13.

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(3) In Long Beach, the Pacific Ocean, at least in the view of Long Beach residents, lies to the south, because of the extreme curve in the coastline where this city is located.

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(4) The author was not aware at the time of the large U.S. military installations that were, and still are, on San Clemente Island.

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(5) Documentation of the August 1962 Long Beach, California, event is in the author’s files. Full reports were also sent to MUFON and CUFOS.

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(6) Ann Druffel, “SKYNET: Making Sense from Confusion,” SKYLOOK, December 1973, no. 73, p. 3.

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(7) In Paul Wilson’s private files, copy in Druffel files with identifying information.

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(8) Griebel report in Druffel files, report also sent to MUFON and CUFOS.

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(9) Aime Michel, FLYING SAUCERS AND THE STRAIGHT-LINE MYSTERY (New York: Criterion, 1958.)

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(10) The Continuing UFO”, column by Robert B. Klinn and David Branch, in the Santa Ana REGISTER, December 26, 1973. [This prominent newspaper is now named the Orange County REGISTER.]

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(11) Ann Druffel and D. Scott Rogo, THE TUJUNGA CANYON CONTACTS (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1980). Updated edition with two new chapters (New York: Signet Books 1989). [New edition by Anomalist Books, 2006, available at, and various other sites.]

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(12) Report form filled out by witness and sent to MUFON. Interview notes taken from Druffel’s SKYNET logbook.

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(13) Report form filled out by main witness and sent to MUFON, with identification of second witness. Notwicki’s comments noted in Druffel’s SKYNET logbook.

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(14) Sighting form, with witness identifications and interview details, sent to MUFON.

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(15) This recurrence rate is possibly related to that which David Saunders found in a study some decades ago, that UFO “flaps” occur around the world, in a regular pattern, every 5 1/2 years.

Ann Druffel, a veteran UFO investigator who lives in the Los Angeles area, is the author of
Firestorm!: Dr. James E. McDonald’s Fight for UFO Science (Wildflower Press, 2003)           

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