Text Copyright by Sunell Koerner. All rights reserved.




After 40 years… to tell, or not to tell?
By Sunell Koerner

To tell, or not to tell? That is the question. 1967 was a hot year for UFO sightings across the country, yet many who experienced the phenomena were often reluctant to tell about it. Even today, forty years later, some individuals herein initially hesitated to use their names as they recalled the reactions of the past … “People looked at you a little different.” “Did you fall and bump your head?” “How much hooch have you been drinking?!”

Nevertheless, the youthful exuberance of two highly excited high school teenagers from Hill City, Kansas could not be held back. In this fortieth anniversary year of his sighting, artist Michael Boss recalls the experience with nearly as much enthusiasm as the night it happened.

The wide-open night skies of Northwest Kansas are perfect for astronomy buffs, so the Hill City High School science club met once a month on a Tuesday evening. The club sponsor and science teacher, Ralph Scott, had just purchased a 2.4-inch Unitron refracting telescope. Eager to break in that new scope, Boss, a sophomore, and a friend, junior Jim Tinkler, were north of the high school watching Saturn as it rose in the east. What an amazing September night it was; a stargazers dream. Dark and clear, with a low, setting moon. But the telescope wasn’t necessary to catch the sight that caught Mike’s eye.

As Jim was peering at Saturn through the scope, Mike looked up, almost straight overhead, to see an intensely bright red light. It was stationary, hard-edged with no haze, and appeared to the naked eye to be about the same size in diameter as Saturn, maybe even a bit larger. After watching it for a short period of time, Mike turned to Jim and said, “Jim, look at that!” Tinkler looked up and exclaimed, “Oh, my God!”

As soon as Jim had seen it, the light “shut down,” resembling the appearance of a closing camera aperture. The direction of the closing “diaphragm” was counter clockwise. There was never any sound that the boys could hear, and the light did not reappear. It wasn’t long before they ran screaming back toward the school.

Hearing their story, the teacher, Mr. Scott, laughed at the boys, not in disbelief, but rather at their excitement. He also admitted having seen objects himself that he could not identify.

Today Mike Boss is an accomplished artist and is very familiar with aviation and space. Many of his works fall within that genre. Jim Tinkler is no longer with us to tell his version of the 1967 encounter, but in the early 1980’s Mike had an opportunity to talk with him about it. Tinkler, who became a “spook” diver in the Navy, had this to say, “Boss, I was in on a lot of weird stuff while I was a diver in the Navy, but I never saw anything like what we did that night at the high school.”

“Mom, Mom, look!”

Betty Striggow, referring to the fall of 1967, described herself as “kind of timid and shy back then.” When she first told the story of her encounter, “all the people made fun of me, and I dropped it pretty fast!” Today however, she says, “If I ever saw another object, I’d get in my car and follow it. I’m just very curious.” While she doesn’t want to believe in UFOs, because she feels that there has to be a logical explanation to everything, she also realizes that “too many people have seen things that there has to be something going on there!”

Betty is the Director of Dawson Place, a nursing home facility in Hill City, Kansas. A responsible, respected position. At first she wasn’t sure if she wanted her name used in this article, but the rational, reasonable side of her recognizes without a doubt that what she saw was real. “I just know it was something I’d never seen, and it was something unusual.”

Living on a farm about eight miles from Hill City, Betty really enjoyed looking at the sky. She would often take the kids outside and lie on blankets to view the starry nights. This particular night Betty’s husband had sent their 9-year old daughter out to shut the chickens up for the night. Betty knew her daughter was “scared to death of the dark,” so she went out to stand on the porch to be nearby. A few steps away from the chicken house, her daughter stopped in her tracks, pointed to the sky, and hollered, “Mom, Mom, look!”

Her daughter, who was scared of everything, ran back into the house. Betty stayed to watch. To the south, she could see “a bright red light just barely coming over the horizon.” It looked to her like the light was floating. The light traveled about one-third up from the horizon, hovered for about a minute, and then went “lickety-split to the east.” She never heard a sound.

The next night Betty went back outside to see if she could see a repeat performance. As she was looking around, she looked over her shoulder to the northwest and this time she saw an orange light. The light “looked odd.” It was “bigger and brighter than a star would ever be, and it was orange.” She said that the light “was kind of wavering a little bit. Then it just went out… It was just gone!”

These two nights were the only times Betty ever saw anything unusual in the Kansas skies, and she often theorized as to what the sightings could have been. She knew that if conditions were right, moisture in the air would create a reflection of the distant lights from Hill City. She debated whether the atmosphere was playing visual tricks on her.

Logically, the more she thinks about it though, the more she realizes that what she saw was not a reflection. While she doesn’t understand for sure what it was, it didn’t scare her. She also knows that she was not the only one to see the orange lights of the second night. Another neighbor reported seeing the same thing, as did people in Norton, Kansas, some thirty miles to the north. And today Betty has no problem talking about her curious encounters of the past.

The Cadillac of All UFOs

Long-time newspaper veteran Tom Dreiling is currently the editor of The Norton Telegram. Tom had been the editor of another northwest Kansas newspaper, The Goodland Daily News, for about two years when local police officers Durl Rouse and Ron Weehunt woke him up in the early morning hours of March 8, 1967.

In those two short years he had built up a good reputation in the community and had a very good rapport with the townspeople, so at first he was a little hesitant to run the story that unfolded that night. He wondered what people would think. But after he got out and “whispered this to people who whispered it to other people,” the calls began to come in from others who had also seen something very unusual that same night.

What happened would give this small community worldwide attention. Dreiling says, “It was strange living in that time.” Newspapers from as far away as Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even London were calling to get the scoop. Newspapers even stated that, “Goodland had the Cadillac of all UFOs.”

The events also grabbed the attention of well-known UFO researchers and writers. Early May 1967, renowned radio host and best-selling author Frank Edwards (1908-1967) wrote to Dreiling requesting a copy of The Goodland Daily News. Edwards died suddenly June 23, 1967 of a heart attack, however, he did manage to finish the book, “Flying Saucers – Here and Now!” before his death and included Dreiling’s account of the Goodland sighting as well as the reports that had come in from neighboring Sharon Springs and Atwood, Kansas.

The legendary skeptic of government explanations regarding UFOs, the University of Arizona physicist Dr. James E. McDonald, also contacted Dreiling and Rouse. He wrote that he found Rouse’s story to be “very interesting.” McDonald requested copies of news clips for his file, and also sent Dreiling an article from the Tucson Daily Citizen that reflected his belief in the incompetence of “official” reports. He even encouraged Dreiling to “Feel free to use any of the quotes… The more editors that ask questions about this the better.”

Of course, Dreiling was also contacted by the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) out of Washington, D.C. He was sent a form to fill out and return to the agency.

Goodland, Kansas is located in the far northwest edge of the state, just 17 miles from the Colorado border, and about 48 miles south of the Nebraska state line. In 1967, grain and sugar beets were the mainstays of its thriving population of around 6000 people. “We’re known as the high plains area because we’re 4000 feet above sea level,” Dreiling once said. “But there’s nothing more than an inch high for miles in any direction.” Once again, the flat terrain and open skies make for perfect, unobstructed views of the night skies.

The first Dreiling knew of anything strange happening during that night was when the officers were knocking on his door. “Come out and see what we see,” they said eagerly and out of breath. Dreiling, however, did not get the chance to see everything that had excited the officers so. What he did see was a cigar-shaped object and a glow of light in the sky, similar to a large light bulb. And he heard a sort of “fluttering” sound, but that was it.

In order to do a full, credible story, Dreiling would have to rely on the officers’ accounts of the events. He asked them to come to his office the next day to talk about it. While they were in his office, Dreiling separated the two officers and asked them to draw a picture of what they each saw. He said, “Remarkably, the drawings were very similar.”

After careful consideration, Dreiling finally did decide to run the story in that day’s newspaper. He broke it with the title, “Yes, Virginia! There are Unidentified Flying Objects”. Four days later, he ran another story with similar accounts of sightings from other neighboring communities. He also printed one of the officers’ drawings in this same publication.

Both Officers Rouse and Weehunt are now deceased, so some of the accounts here are taken from The Goodland Daily News, supplied by Dreiling, and from another magazine publication of the time entitled, “Flying Saucers, UFO Reports”, which, coincidentally, happens to come from the collection of Michael Boss.

The excitement in Goodland actually started much earlier on that Tuesday evening when, around 9:15 p.m., Officer Rouse and fellow patrol officer Jack Armstrong were dispatched with a report of a woman from Sharon Springs, thirty miles to the south. She had apparently witnessed a UFO along Highway 27, about halfway between the two cities.

It was around 9:30 p.m. when Rouse spotted the object. As Armstrong joined him, they watched as the UFO headed rapidly due north. Suddenly and abruptly, almost imperceptibly, the object turned and headed east. Moving to a new vantage point on the east edge of town, they watched as it moved east and then appeared to hover over another community, Edson, about 9 miles away. Occasionally it would move side to side, and sometimes up and down.

The two officers had been watching the object off and on from a distance for over an hour when it was time for Armstrong to be relieved by Officer Weehunt. Rouse and Weehunt were in for quite a night!

At 2:15 a.m., both Weehunt and Rouse spotted the UFO, each from a different vantage point. Rouse was waiting for a train to cross the tracks, but Weehunt was free to pursue. He began “frogging her out” at 85-90 miles per hour. The object suddenly put on a burst of speed and Weehunt lost sight of it.

Just as Weehunt was answering back to Rouse’s radio call, the UFO came out of nowhere, heading directly toward him. It was traveling so low that Weehunt pulled his car off into the shallow ditch on the side of the highway to avoid a collision. Weehunt got out of his car and knelt beside it as the object passed overhead. Flying at a height of about 400 feet, it left no vapor trail or sign of exhaust. Both officers agreed that it sounded similar to a vacuum cleaner.

They watched as the UFO headed west for about six miles, traveling at an estimated speed of 100-125 mph. Again, it made an abrupt turn and headed straight back toward Goodland. Now the officers felt it was time to get the newspaper editor out of bed. Officer Rouse radioed the dispatcher and told him, “Call Dreiling. Tell him I’ll come by and pick him up.”

It didn’t take long to stir up Dreiling. The editor and the officers were able to watch the object “glide” for a short while before it picked up speed and then vanished over the horizon in the distant sky.

Reports from all over the area came in from people who had seen a flying oval craft that night. The description, as detailed by Officer Rouse, was that of a torpedo-shaped object, about 50-60 feet in length. A shaft rose from the center some 4-5 feet high, with braces or wires running down to the front and the back of the craft. It appeared to be about 15 feet high from the bottom of the object to the red light on top of the shaft. There was a small blue light in front, then a big white light followed by a solid area, then another white compartment, a red compartment and an orange one. In the middle was a white lighted window or compartment, followed by a blue one, then amber, then blue, then red. From there on it was solid. The rear end was funnel-shaped, with a red light in the center.

Dreiling spent 24 years at the Goodland Daily News and saw many things during his tenure there, but nothing quite compares to those late hours of that one night in March of 1967.

Foo Foo’s Fright

Phyllis Robinson’s story takes us back a bit earlier, to the summer of 1957. She was clicking along, rollin’ down old Highway 40 in eastern Colorado heading toward Kansas. She was driving her 1955 Pontiac with the windows rolled down and the radio blaring.

Nineteen years old, blonde and carefree, Phyllis had a heavy foot, so she liked driving under the cover of darkness. Besides, it was cooler at night during the summertime. She made frequent trips back and forth between her home in Denver and the horses she loved to ride at her father’s place near LaCrosse in western Kansas.

The road was dark, with virtually no traffic. Suddenly, up ahead to the east, she noticed a bright light. At first she didn’t think much about it because it was so far away. Then it kept getting closer and closer. Finally, it was right in front of her, practically on top of her hood.

Then it happened. “The car stopped. The motor stopped. My watch stopped. The radio stopped. Everything went ‘p-kewhh’… just stopped!”

I don’t know what it was doing, or what it was looking for. It just sat there.”

The UFO was wider than the two-lane highway, and she could see a portion of it from the driver’s side window as well as the “rear “of the craft ahead and above the car.

Phyllis really wasn’t afraid, but she didn’t get out of her car. She laughed, “I just sat there like a dumb blonde looking at all the lights! I remember it made me mad because it turned my radio off!”

It was big, really big. It had this thing on the bottom with lights all the way around it… and it was going around and around and around, with all these flashing lights.” The lights moved in a counter-clockwise motion, were very bright and lit up quite a bit of the surrounding area.

Because her watch stopped, she doesn’t have a good reference for time. But it seemed to her to be quite a while. “It just stopped there, up in the air, hovering … I couldn’t figure out why it was staying there so long.”

Then it raised up, and just went!” The object had headed back east and quickly vanished. She didn’t hear a sound, coming or going.

Phyllis didn’t quite know what to think about it all, but her lights came back on, the radio came back on, and she was able to once again start her car and head right back down the highway.

And she didn’t tell anybody about it for a long, long, long time. Not even her dad. She’d heard stories about other people telling about what they’d seen. “People made so much fun of them… saying they were nuts!” She also didn’t want her dad to worry about her taking the long trip and driving at night.

Today, Phyllis, affectionately dubbed “Foo Foo” by her grandchildren, lives in Hill City, Kansas, and looks at it as just something that happened in the past. “I don’t know what it was, why it was, it was just there!”

The one thing that the people here all share is, the more they tell their own story, the more they hear about others who have experienced similar encounters. And while they still don’t have answers to what they saw, the more they hear these other stories, the more they believe in their own.

Sunell Koerner is a free-lance writer, graphic designer, commercial and corporate video producer and entrepreneur.