The Cairo Jaycees Flying Saucer Stunt of 1950

The Post Office Buildings in Cairo, Illinois. Photo by Michael Huntington – Spring, 2016.

by Michael Huntington
     At the very tip of Southern Illinois, where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet, is the small town of Cairo (Kay-row). It was once a bustling, up-and-coming city at the trade junction of America’s biggest rivers. But, decades of economic decline, corruption, crime, and incessant flooding has decimated this once prosperous place – leaving behind some beautiful architecture amidst the numerous abandoned and boarded-up buildings. It feels like a ghost town at times – a locale where one might film an episode of the Walking Dead.
     During it’s hey-day in the 1950s, Cairo was the model American small town. Almost cliche, it reveled in it’s Americana: family, community, civic duty, church, patriotism, small-town values, a healthy dose of Cold War paranoia. The men bowled and attended Lodges, ladies tended to their households, children rode their bikes about the the neighborhood with little fear. Post War America. Baby boom.
     The culture of Cairo was led by it’s times, and in the post-War world of 1950, the times told tale of Buck Rogers and Flying Saucers flown by Weird Creatures from Outer Space Worlds. The influence also came from REAL stories being told – through the media and local grapevine – of recent encounters with strange discs in the sky. FLYING SAUCERS OVER AMERICA! The nation was a-buzzed by aliens psychologically and in reality. Kenneth Arnold, Roswell, the Mantell Crash – these were new flying saucer stories from recent years – all ablazed the pages of many-a-town’s newspapers and were sensationalized in the dominant media of radio. Sci-fi pulp magazines, no doubt, also contributed greatly to this climate. The May/June issue of Life Magazine, sure to be found on every coffee table and in the local barber shop, carried the now-famous McMinnville saucer photos by Paul Trent. Saucer talk was everywhere.
     But they knew it all was a joke, right? There are no Martians, right? And yes, to many it was all a joke and something to be made fun of, or something just for fun. A goof. But, those Commies were out there and maybe THEY were up to something…so we should keep watching the skies! Or maybe it’s a secret aircraft we have in secret – like those nukes and rockets we have, you know. Or maybe, just maybe – and especially to the young that would begin to mature in the coming decade – those Flying Saucers Are Real!
     On July 26, 1950, the news spread quickly through the streets of Cairo: a FLYING SAUCER with Little Green Men inside had landed or CRASHED down by the Post Office Building and it was being GUARDED by the Army! Folks headed down in droves and beheld what the rumors conveyed: a silvery disc on the Post Office lawn with four uniformed military personnel standing nearby, keeping the growing crowd from approaching too closely! No one (except maybe a few) knew what was really going on or what was happening at this curious scene. But, a carnival-like excitement was in the air and it was growing with each minute. Someone notified the Press…and calls started flooding into local police and military switchboards. What the heck is going on in Cairo? Have aliens landed? Are creatures from Another World invading Southern Illinois? 
     Okay, so…in actuality, those that did go down to “see the flying saucer” – and got close enough for a decent look – knew what was up after closer examination: the so-called “saucer” proved to be a man-made affair constructed out of maybe plywood, or perhaps sheet metal, and probably brushed with some shiny silver paint! The “craft” wasn’t a large vehicle by any means, it could provide maybe just enough room for a kid or two! It had a wire antenna coming out of the top…that looked like it was maybe just a stretched-out metal hangar! And the military cordon? Well, those fellas guarding the spaceship didn’t look like stiff-and-proper Army soldiers: their uniforms didn’t match, they didn’t have correct insignias and patches, their khakis seemed not to fit, and “hey, wait a minute, I think I bowl with that guy…or, isn’t that Mary’s boy? I didn’t know he was in the Army…I thought that kid was still in High School!”
     So it was a bunch of baloney. But what was up with all of this? Who was behind all of this and are they gonna get in trouble? WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT? This was entertainment gold for folks living in a small American town in 1950…there wasn’t much else to do. So they waited. Meanwhile, word still spread to other towns – by passersby traveling through Cairo – that there was a flying saucer in the town.
     After a few hours, when the time arrived (or maybe after being pressed to wrap it up by Authorities who had begun to think that maybe things were getting just a bit out of hand), there was finally some movement. A khaki-ed young guard broke ranks and walked towards the alien craft and proceeded to open the cardboard hatch which led into the saucer’s interior. Perhaps in a startled fashion, the soldier moved back away from the craft just as a small, green “Martian” leaped out – or slithered out – of the craft carrying a sign marked with a greeting of some kind! Moving towards the crowd, the “alien” – who was obviously just someone’s face-painted kid dressed in a jumpsuit adorned at the top with the short end of a couple of car antennas – held up the sign for all to read in plain-old American English: I FLEW DOWN FROM MARS JUST TO SEE THE JAYCEES MINSTREL SHOW!
     Yes, it was all a prank. A publicity stunt. But, within a day or two, the dust-up that this event caused for the region was made apparent. Word and rumors spread so quickly that the Army itself had to respond – and they were not happy with the prank. They suffered a deluge of inquiries and concerns, “thousands of phone calls,” many critical of the military for being involved in such a stunt (which they weren’t). A number of local papers wrote pieces detailing the whole affair…all unclear if any one was ultimately held responsible for this distracting “scare.” Eventually things went on as normal…the Jaycees held their show (at which I’m sure many chuckled, getting a big kick out of the whole ruckus that was caused) and the story faded into the past – becoming a handed-down tale, becoming an urban legend, becoming altogether forgotten.
     Looking back through the veil of history, perhaps we missed something, though. Maybe we overlooked the five men and women who, perhaps, watched the saucer prank unfold that day from across the street and who didn’t think that the affair was funny at all. You see these folks, just a few weeks before on June 28th, witnessed two shiny chrome discs fly across the skies of Cairo – hover for a time – and then speed off to the southwest towards the Missouri Bootheel. At least that is what was officially reported.
     But who knows for sure? Maybe they were actually in on the stunt and were laying the groundwork for the Jaycee event and all were in cahoots? Guesswork. Alas, such is the way with the past: long-dead stories, from long-dead people and all that is left now are old newspaper clippings that are but pieces of the puzzle… our re-tellings becoming stunts in their own right. The mystery forever remains, only occasionally to be dusted off and given a fresh coat of paint…maybe silver, like on Cairo’s home-made saucer from long ago. 



Just another bogus flying saucer “publicity stunt!”



Major General Harry L. Bolen, 44th National Guard: “I got thousands of phone calls…” – AP article



The 1973 Grand Tower UFO Sightings

by Michael Huntington 

The Mississippi River town of Grand Tower, Illinois has a reputation for being a strange and unusual place. Time Magazine, no less, once dubbed it “The Unluckiest Town in America” due to constant flooding disasters and economic hardships common to living in a flood plain. But, it is also known as a regional “Twilight Zone” because of it’s long history with all shades of paranormal wierdness. You name it, they have a story about it: ghosts, haunted houses, Bigfoot, unexplained sounds, bizarre electronic phenomena, cursed lands, two-legged dogs (I know it, because I saw it), creepy ritual activity, etc. In fact, the weirdness goes far back beyond even the town’s founding – back to when the local natives viewed the giant rock feature that jutted out of the Mississippi (The Grand Tower) as an off-limits sacred/mystical place, to when the Conquistadors erected a cross atop the rock to mark their explorations (and to ward off evil?), to the numerous massacres of settlers and natives, to when the coves around Grand Tower were occupied by river pirates that camped along the ridges of the Devil’s Backbone and attacked shipping from the top of the Devil’s Bake Oven. There is a tree that looks like the Grim Reaper that sits atop this “Devil’s Kitchen,” right next to the giant gas pipeline that comes out of the Bake Oven to span the Mississippi, right next to the ruins of a house haunted by the spirit of a girl named Esmerelda. There is a hint of sulfur in the air. Weirdness, indeed.

Today, however, we mark the weirdness that was alleged to have taken place on March 22nd and April 16th, 1973 when a large, doughnut-shaped UFO was observed hovering above Grand Tower’s Central Illinois Power Plant, possibly siphoning off some power before being chased off by American military jets. While not a major story unto it’s self, the Grand Tower Incidents are considered to be part of the large wave of UFO activity that was taking place about 60 miles southwest – around Piedmont, Missouri – known as the Brushy Creek Wave of 1973.

Here is the story according to a National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) report:

730322 9:15 PM. GRAND TOWER, IL. Cl.
Oscar Wills, 57, was an operating engineer at the Central Illinois Public Service Company’s power generating station on the Mississippi River at Grand Tower, Illinois. He was on duty when another employee, Willis Hughes, a turbine operator, telephoned from his home in Grand Tower to ask Wills to check on something that was hovering over or near the station’s 66,000-volt transformer yard. Wills went out the north door of the power generating station and immediately saw an object approximately 1,500′ high over the yard. He estimated the object’s size at 25′ in diameter (250 yards away). He described the object as a ring of lighted panels or windows with definite spacing between windows, each emitting pulsating light varying from a dark red-to-orange-to-white sequenced in a clockwise rotation like a theater marquee. The pulsations gave the impression the object was spinning clockwise, but the window separators remained stationary. Wills said the object was doughnut-shaped, or more like a wedding band, since only the lighted panels were visible. Wills walked to within 150 yards of the transformer bank, viewing the object with great curiosity. Then he became a little apprehensive and decided to return to the Power Plant and ask two other employees on duty to come out to witness the phenomenon. As he retraced his steps, the object which had been hovering directly over the transformer bank, started moving directly toward him, and passed over his head. As the object darted noiselessly past the northwest corner of the building, he lost sight of it for a moment as the Plant building obstructed his viewing area. He walked rapidly around to the west side of the Plant, facing the Mississippi River, and noted the object was now hovering directly over the middle (No. 2) of the three water pumping station buildings. He walked up to the ramp to the pump station house and on to the sea wall protecting the Plant from the river. He was now again directly under the object. Wills said it would take a circular object 5′ in diameter at arm’s length to cover it at this point. After watching for 7 to 8 minutes, the PA system called Wills back to the telephone within the Plant. It was Willis Hughes, who wanted to know what Oscar could see from his vantage point. Willis cut the conversation short so he and the other two men could go out to view the object. The object was gone. In 25-30 minutes 3-4 jets made 8-10 sweeps of the area about 2-3 minutes apart. The nearest base is is Scott at Belleville.

(Source: SL-66,7)




An excerpt from the May, 1974 FATE Magazine article “The Brushy Creek UFO Scare” by Jerome Clark recounting the Grand Tower Encounters:

Grand Tower, Ill., the Illinois-Missouri border, is almost 60 miles northeast of Piedmont but the UFO Oscar Wills sighted the evening of March 22 sounds very much like those from Brushy Creek. Wills, an operating engineer at the Central Illinois Public Service Company’s power generating station on the Mississippi one and a half miles from Grand Tower, first saw the object when fellow-employee, Willis Hughes called from his home to say something was hovering over the transformer yard. 
“I went out by myself to take a look,” Wills recounted in an interview with FATE, “and there it was, hovering about 1500 feet in the air and about 200 yards from me. It was a round saucer-shaped object about 25 to 30 feet in diameter. It looked like a high-intensity red light with a lot of lights coming out of what seemed to be portholes. The lights were flashing and causing a spinning effect. I couldn’t see any image of its bottom, which may have been concave, I’m not sure. I kept walking and got to within 100 yards of it. I looked at it for two or three minutes until it darted behind the power plant almost like a blur. I went north of the power plant to see where it had gone and found it hovering over a water intake pump on the other side of the station. I stood there for a couple of minutes and watched it.” Wills’ vigil was interrupted by a phone call from another employee (not Hughes) who wanted to know what was going on. By the time Wills got off the phone and enlisted two other men to go outside with him the UFO was gone. 
Wills then called Hughes who informed him the object had flown across the river and disappeared into the Missouri hills. Within minutes, however, Wills and his crew saw four jet planes making passes over the plant area as if searching. “The most amazing part,” Wills says, “is the way this object moved rapidly with no effort and perfectly silently. I just can’t get over that. I don’t know what it was but I know this much: we don’t have anything like this.” Wills claimed that a nearly identical object appeared over Grand Tower nearly a month later, on the evening of April 16.


Close Encounters: The Railroad Crossing at Padgett Switch near Irvington, Alabama

Spielberg Stood Here: The Padgett Switch railroad near Irvington, Alabama – just outside of Mobile. This is the on-location filming site of Roy Neary’s UFO truck encounter scene from the classic sci-fi film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977). Photo by Michael Huntington – Spring, 2015.

ce3kfilmpadgettwebgoodAn iconic shot from one of the greatest science fiction films of all time – Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977). Photo Columbia Pictures.


UFOs Then and Later: Pascagoula Abduction Site

Pascagoula, Mississippi – 1973

On the early morning of October 11, 1973 two shipyard workers – Charles Hickson, 42, and Calvin Parker, 19, – were fishing on the banks of the Pascagoula River when a large, hovering, metallic craft appeared behind them. Three silvery robotic creatures then floated out of the UFO and grabbed the petrified men – pulling them into the illuminated craft. On board, the dazed men underwent a medical examination before being released back onto the bank by the occupants. The craft then flew away into the night sky.

The panicked men debated telling their story, but then decided to contact the police and the military.  The resulting investigations, by law enforcement and UFO investigators, gained the attention of the national and international press which resulted in a media frenzy. Cronkite reported this story to the nation on the CBS Evening News.

The credible and sincere testimony of the witnesses – along with a secret recording of a private conversation between the two – have led many to support Hickson and Parker’s claims. This famous alien abduction case is considered to be one of the best Close Encounters of the Third Kind in UFO history.

Color photos by Michael Huntington – Spring, 2015 – Pascagoula, Mississippi.







Joplin and Senath Spooklights: Maps Show Identical Layout

The Joplin/Hornet Spooklight Road (OK E50) at the Missouri-Oklahoma Border (Southwest Missouri and Northeast Oklahoma). The marked position is the general viewing location. The spooklights are visible in dark conditions when facing west. The distance between the viewing location and the NE/SW highway (I-44/Will Rogers Turnpike) is about 3 1/2 miles. (Map from Google Maps)

SenathMaps2The Senath/Hornersville/Arbyrd Spooklight Road (Dunklin CR602) located in the Missouri Bootheel. The spooklight viewing site is denoted, the other points are haunted urban legend locations associated with the lights. The spooklights are visible in dark conditions when facing west. The distance between the viewing location and the NE/SW highway (412) is about 3 1/2 miles. (Map from Google Maps)


by Michael Huntington

Spooklights, or Ghost Lights, are a unique anomalous atmospheric phenomena associated with rural Lover’s Lane urban legends involving ghosts and, more recently, alien visitors and their technology. American folklore tales involving spooklights are numerous and can be found in nearly every state, in some form. The lights can go by different identifying names, depending on the nearby town names by witnesses from those towns.

The lights, themselves, appear as glowing, basketball-sized “orbs” – of various colors and intensity – that flit and move about long, country nighttime roads. In some accounts the lights interact with witnesses and their vehicles.

Traditional ghost stories generally involve a cursed Native American Indian spirit, or an unfortunate railway worker, eternally looking for their missing heads. Contemporary stories, influenced by 20th century Space-Age/Flying Saucer popular culture, see “alien probes” or “Interdimensional Beings” as the cause of these Nocturnal Lights.

Skeptical investigators, seeking a more mundane scientific explanation for a visible and documentable phenomena, theorize: optical illusions, hallucinations, ball lightning, seismic discharge plasma (Earth Lights), glowing phosphorous, swamp gases, hoaxers, or simple mis-identifications of some other natural phenomenon.

Do the similarities between the Joplin and Senath Spooklight Road layouts denote evidence supporting some kind of optical illusion involving automobile headlights and unique positioning? Quite possibly – and probability would tend towards this explanation. But, many of the early native tales – based upon observations – predate modern roads that would cause luminous nocturnal mirages…so who can tell? And what of reported electromagentic effects caused by proximity to active and “interactive” flying orbs? Are these also illusory optics? Questions abound.

The lights remain mysteries, however, due to the fact that the various locations that purport anomalous lights may have varied causes as multiple as the explanations. These map similarities may just denote a certain “type” of spooklight anomoly and not be the complete answer to all encounters, everywhere – as sweeping conclusions to this varied subject can never be. However, each of these localized phenomena CAN be tested and studied and documented.  Each anomaly must be investigated fully on their own, first, before any true correlative data can be fully extrapolated. These similarities are interesting pieces of some intriguing puzzles, though, and aid in helping us see how things fit (or don’t fit) together. The answers, as always, lay in more study.  

Note: Last Fall, I visited the Senath Spooklight Road in Southeast Missouri and conducted a field study observation with my friend, Julian Yarbrough. While doing some recent background, I came across these Joplin/Senath spooklight location map layout similarities on Google Maps and was excited enough to share! I will be fully documenting our observations in a future article and, possibly, a short doc (tons of pics and video)! I also plan to conduct a nighttime observation – with the family – at the Joplin Spooklight (OK E50) location next year when we travel to Texas and will share those as well! 


2016 Huntington Strange Travels



2016 Strange Travels


Here are some Strange Travel destinations for the Huntingtons for 2016! We may add a few more interesting spots, but here’s what we’ve got so far! Fun and weird travel adventures ahead!
Ozark Mountain UFO Conference – Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Face time with famous UFO illuminaries: Erich Von Daniken, Linda Moulton Howe, Jim Marrs, Nick Pope, Richard Dolan, and others.




The famous haunted Crescent Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas. A tour of the most haunted hotel in America.




Wright-Patterson AFB/Air Force Museum – Dayton, Ohio – home of the Project Bluebook UFO Investigation, the legendary Hangar 18, the Avrocar and numerous X-planes.avroscem
The famous 1976 Stanford Abduction – travel route, abduction site, and hotel investigation location. Stanford, Kentucky and Liberty, Kentucky.




Two trips to Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Hopkinsville museum artifacts and famous encounter site. Kelly Little Green Men Days festival in August.




The famous 1973 Enfield Horror creature sightings locations. Enfield, Illinois.




The 15th Mothman Festival and 50th anniversary in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. UFOs and creature sightings locations. Mothman Museum and statue. September, 2016.




The famous haunted Lowe Hotel in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
The Big Muddy Monster Brewfest in Murphysboro, Illinois. Sightings locations and the only Bigfoot-themed Beer Festival in America. October, 2016.
A trip to Cairo, Illinois to investigate the 1950 Cairo Jaycees’ Flying Saucer Stunt.
A follow-up excursion to Grand Tower, Illinois to explore the 1973 UFO sightings, Bigfoot encounters, and haunted locations.
The famous haunted Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, Missouri.
The real Exorcist House in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Space Museum in Bonne Terre, Missouri.
The famous white squirrels of Olney, Illinois.
The former Del Taco flying saucer building in St. Louis, Missouri.
Two adjoined Futuro flying saucer homes located in Carlisle, Ohio.
The Futuro home located in Covington, Kentucky.


Alternate and possible side-destinations and day-trips may include:

– The haunted McPike Mansion and the Piasa Bird of Alton, Illinois.

– Elsberry, Missouri – 1978 UFO Flap and cattle mutilations locations.

– Louisiana, Missouri – ’71-’72 “Momo” Bigfoot sighting locations.

– A return visit to Millstadt, Illinois area – famous 2000 triangle UFO sightings locations.

– Jackson, Missouri – 1973 Rutledge-investigated UFO burn case and lawsuit.

– Piedmont, Missouri – 1973 UFO flap “jet crash” location.

– “The Space Penguins of Tuscumbia” – 1967 UFO landing location near Tuscumbia, Missouri.

– The secret and infamous “Marley Woods” Missouri UFO hotspot location.

– The famous 1966 Roaring River UFO photos campsite in Missouri.

– Newport, Arkansas – sightings locations of the White River Monster, a legendary “manatee-like” creature.

– Muddy, Illinois – spooky abandoned train tipple.

– The Danville, Illinois Futuro.


Close Encounters: The Guiler House in Fairhope, Alabama

Set Jetting: Robbie Huntington standing on the porch steps of the Guiler House from Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” filming location near Fairhope, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Huntington – Spring, 2015)


guilerdoor2finYoung Barry Guiler opens the door to the aliens in this iconic scene from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977). That same front door and doorknob is still in use today.  (Image Columbia Pictures)


guilerbackgoodStanding where Spielberg stood: the back yard of the the Guiler House near Fairhope, Alabama. In CE3K, the mother ran out this back door and towards the field – chasing the UFOs that just abducted her boy. I had to chase Robbie around this house for ten minutes, he did not want to leave! (Photo by Michael Huntington – Spring, 2015)


guilerbackgood1Same porch, same steps, same bush (looking just a bit different) – from here, Barry and his Mom watched the alien ships descend from the sky in CE3K. (Photo by Michael Huntington – Spring, 2015)