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.



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.







Robbie and the Rock from Mars

IMG_4105Robbie Huntington, future space explorer, touching a chunk of a Martian meteorite at a recent visit to the St. Louis Science Center. Robbie has touched two pieces of Apollo Moon rocks at visits to other space and aviation museums, including NASA’s US Space & Rocket Center/Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Photo by Michael Huntington – Winter, 2016.

IMG_4106Robbie operating the controls of a Martian Rover simulator during our Science Center visit. He picked up the controls with no explanation and executed flawless movements of the rover and it’s cameras. Robbie (5), and his brother Sammie (3), are both avid videogamers that learn gameplay quickly. Photo by Michael Huntington – Winter, 2016.

IMG_4117Robbie standing with a NASA Martian Rover at the Science Center. Maybe one day he will stand next to one that has actually roved Mars? On Mars? Photo by Michael Huntington – Winter, 2016.

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)


The Green Futuro of Livingston, Illinois


Green Futuro – Livingston, Illinois. Photo by Michael Huntington – 2014.


Okay, maybe not THAT green. But I think this looks cool! The Green Futuro – “Flying Saucer House” – on the grounds of the Pink Elephant Antique Mall, just off Route 66 near Livingston, Illinois.
Inside of the Mall, which is an old dance hall possibly haunted by Al Capone’s ghost, tons of cool collectibles can be found (one could spend all day here exploring). Outside – on the grounds – there are a number of classic roadside attractions: a giant Pink Elephant, Michelin giants, giant chairs and bicycles, an old Twistee Treat stand, various cannons, and a few flying saucers – one being the Green Futuro.
The Futuro in a modern/futurist flying saucer-shaped ski chalet designed by the late Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. Only about a hundred were manufactured during the 60s and 70s. Less than 20 of these plastic pre-fabs survive in the US – in various states of disrepair – some with residents living in them (the Livingston Futuro is an unoccupied shell). They could be shipped in pieces and assembled, or pre-assembled and delivered by truck or helicopter. Artists and architects are rediscovering these historical gems and have, in recent years, began refurbishing old and building new Futuros for museums and art centers. Collectors value complete shells at around fifty grand.
Livingston’s Green Futuro was our first to explore. The following year, we were able to check out the White Futuro in Gulf Breeze, Florida on Pensacola Beach. We plan on seeing three more during travels this summer, with more to check off the list in the years ahead!
 Photos by Michael Huntington – 2014.


Find out more about the Futuro House at