September 13, 1966
Location: Gwinner, North Dakota, United States
Randy E. Rotenberger was waiting for the school bus outside
his home when he saw "some flashing lights,"
then an object. "It looked like two bowls put together,"
the witness told an AP reporter. He saw three "pegs"
on the bottom and antennae projecting from the top. Later,
"some burnt marks" and tapered holes were found
at the scene, each about a foot in diameter and five inches
UFO which hovered just above ground at Gwinner, N.D.,
September 13,1966. Sketched by witness.
NICAP (National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomenon),
'Strange Effects from UFOs', by Donald Keyhoe and Gordon
7:30 a.m., September 13, 1966, young Randy E. Rotenberger
was waiting for the school bus outside his home in Gwinner,
North Dakota. His mother was baby-sitting and his father
was at work in the Melroe Manufacturing Company, a farm
saw "some flashing lights," then an object.
looked like two bowls put together," the witness
told an Associated Press reporter.
saw three "pegs" on the bottom and antennae
projecting from the top of the silver-colored object.
It also had red and green lights and was about eight feet
thick. It was hovering just above the ground. Running
into the house, Randy called his mother.
tone of his voice convinced me there was something wrong,"
Mrs. Emmanuel Rotenberger stated. "He was scared."
Rotenberger told her son to lock the door and remain in
the house. A moment later, he called her back. He said
the UFO was taking off and emitting a sound.
could hear a noise over the phone," Mrs. Rotenberger
remarked. "It was a whirring sound."
following day, Randy and two friends inspected the area
where the object was seen. They found "some burnt
marks" and tapered holes, each about a foot in
diameter and five inches deep. The holes formed a triangle.
One side measured 26 feet, the second 23 feet and the
third 22 feet.
Melroe, President of the Melroe Manufacturing Company,
also inspected the holes.
been around equipment all my life," Melroe stated.
"Only a heavy piece of equipment could have made
these prints. . . . Something made those holes other than
someone trying to be funny."
of the witnesses to the physical evidence was General
Homer Goebel, commander of the Fargo, North Dakota, Air
National Guard base. General Goebel was not so impressed,
was a light rain at the time," he said. "There
could have been . . . 'ball' lightning."
the Air Force itself did not agree with the General.
.. . depressions in the ground . . . were compacted solidly,"
said Major James H. Aikman, of the Department of the Air
Force, in a letter to NICAP. "For this reason,
the sighting is carried as UNIDENTIFIED in Air Force files."
official non-acceptance of the ball-lightning explanation
in this case is reminiscent of the campaign of Philip
Klass, an editor of Aviation Week and Space Technology,
to explain most good UFO sightings as plasma/ball lighting.
In an interview with the late Frank Edwards, famed news
commentator and NICAP Board member, Klass publicly offered
$10,000 to anyone who could prove the extraterrestrial
theory of UFOs. Edwards countered by offering the same
amount to Klass if he (Klass) could uncover a single report
that the Air Force explained as ball lightning. The betting
reached a stalemate.