Qui était cette boîte de conserve animée de 6 pouces de haut avec laquelle je vous ai vu la nuit dernière ?

John KeelKeel, John, 1967

Ce n'était pas une boîte de conserve, c'était un "ufonaute", et des centaines de gens les ont vus - à l'intérieur comme à l'extérieur de leurs véhicules spatiaux, et dans des tailles, des formes et des apparences assorties.

Explosion in Frick Park, Pittsburgh, in Sept., 1959 uncovered this weird assemblage of antenna, red light, yellow plastic body, tiny atom, and batteries. A.F. called it college prank not remains of outerspaceman s1 Project Blue Book - USAF photo
Explosion in Frick Park, Pittsburgh, in Sept., 1959 uncovered this weird assemblage of antenna, red light, yellow    plastic body, tiny atom, and batteries. A.F. called it college prank not remains of outerspaceman s1Project Blue Book - USAF photo

I would know him if I saw him in Oklahoma city tomorrow. He saw me. He'd know me too. William "Eddie" Laxton, a 56-year-old electronics engineer from Temple, Oklahoma was discussing a man he had briefly encountered in the predawn hours of March 23, 1966. He was an ordinary-looking man who might easily go un-noticed in a crowded bar, according to Eddie. But Eddie didn't meet him in a bar. He saw him getting into a strange, brilliantly-illuminated, cigar-shaped flying contraption which rested on four legs in the middle of a highway, a craft similar to many described by other witnesses all over the world. Ususally they are termed "unidentified flying objects" or UFO's.

At about 5:30 a.m. that bleak March day, Laxton was driving along a deserted stretch of Highway 70, near the Texas-Oklahoma border. He was on his way to work at Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, Texas, where he teaches electronics, when a huge fish-shaped object suddenly loomed in front of him. According to the story he later told to newsman Paul Harvey and UFO investigator Hayden Hewes, he jammed on his brakes and pulled to a stop about 50 yards from where the object was blocking the road at a 45 degree angle. The thing was, he estimated, about 75 feet long.

"There were four very brilliant lights on my side," he said. "Bright enough so that a man could read a newspaper by the light a mile away." He also observed that it seemed to be lit up inside and that it "had a plastic bubble in front which was about three feet in diameter, and you could see light through it." It had a tail structure with horizontal stabilizers about 2 1/2 feet long. Friends and associates say Laxton has always been blessed with a phenomenal memory and they believe him when he says he was able to distinguish a group of numbers painted vertically in black on the side of the fuselage. He remembers them as reading TL47(or 41) 68.

Halfway along the fuselage there was a porthole about two feet in diameter. It was divided into four equal sections and there was a small door below it, measuring about 4½ feet high and 2½ feet wide. This door was open and white light was pouring from it. Directly outside the object, a human-looking man was examining the underside of the craft with some kind of flashlight. As Laxton climbed out of his car, this creature turned, climbed up a metal ladder and entered the door. "I'm sure it was aluminum," Laxton said later.

He described the mysterious "pilot" as weighing about 180 pounds and being five feet nine inches tall with a light complexion. He was wearing what looked like a mechanic's cap with the bill turned up. "I got the impression he was about 30 to 35 years old," Laxton said. "He wore either coveralls or a two-piece suit that looked like green-colored fatigues. I got the idea that he had three stripes above and three below on his sleeve. The above stripes were in an arch and the below stripes were in a wide V shape."

A few seconds after the door closed, Laxton says, "The craft started up…it sounded like a high-speed drill. It lifted off the ground about 50 feet high and headed toward the Red River. In about five seconds it was a mile away." When the machine took off, Laxton reported, "the hair on the back of my hands and neck stood up." Admittedly excited by what he had seen, Laxton got back into his car and drove about a mile when he came upon a huge tank truck parked beside the road. The driver, C. W. Anderson of Snyder, Oklahoma, said that he had seen something following him in his mirror and that he had also watched it fly away toward Red River. After the two men's stories appeared in local papers, other truck drivers came forward with reports of having seen similar objects along Highway 70 earlier in the year.

Laxton was later interviewed by scientists from Northwestern University, the Institute of Atmospheric Physics and the U.S. Air Force.

"I was interviewed by 25 or 30 persons," Laxton says. "There were generals, majors, captains, sergeants, secretaries and stenographers. They had me make drawings of the object and tell everything I knew about it. It was all one-sided. They asked, I answered."

Soon after he had filed his initial report, a group of army vehicles picked him up at his office. 'A colonel, his driver and a detail of men drove me to the landing area," Laxton reports. "We were there about 30 or 35 minutes. While I answered more questions, the men searched the area. I got the impression they knew what they were doing."

Composite drawing of 10 witnesses of West Virginia monster. Project Blue Book A.F. team shrugged. "If he walks he's an Army problem. Let us know when he flies." s2Michael Mann Photo
Composite drawing of 10 witnesses of West Virginia monster. Project Blue Book A.F. team shrugged. "If he walks he's    an Army problem. Let us know when he flies." s2Michael Mann Photo

"We'll put down that you saw a helicopter," he says one of the officers finally told him.

Laxton's report of a human-type UFO pilot in coveralls did not come as any great shock to followers of UFO news. In recent years there have been many UFO reports involving human-type and 'tuman-sized pilots.

These unidentified tourists seem to have a limited wardrobe. They wear either coveralls or some type of space suit, topped off with visored helmets or transparent "goldfish bowls." In a few instances, as when one of them appeared near Adelaide, Australia, on October 28, 1962, they have been seen wearing a "gas mask" type of headgear. In that case the witness, a high-school teacher named Mrs. Ellen D. Sylvester, told of seeing an illuminated oval object resting on three legs near a highway. Mrs. Sylvester said she saw a six-foot-tall being "in some kind of uniform" with its face covered by "a form of breathing apparatus." It was apparently inspecting the tripod landing gear of the craft. She watched as it got back into the machine and took off in a northerly direction.

On one occasion at least, it appears that a UFO pilot may have been photographed. On July 31, 1952, a 30-year-old Italian engineer, Gianpietro Monguzzi, and his wife were mountain climbing in northern Italy. They were struggling up the Cherchen Glacier in the Bernina Mountains.

"It was about 9:30 a.m.," Monguzzi explained shortly after the incident, "when we saw this circular machine a transparent dome on top swoop low and land 75 or 100 feet away from where we were standing. I wanted to move closer to it, but my wife became frightened and begged me to stay with her."

Lying in the snow, Monguzzi says he unlimbered the camera he was carrying, a Kodak Retina I. It was loaded with fast black4nd-white film and was equipped with a Schneider f.3.5 lens. He set it at infinity, f.8 1/300 of a second. (With this type of camera at this setting every-thing closer than 25 feet would be out of focus.) After snapping a picture of the object, he and his wife were astonished to see a normal-sized being walk around from behind it and inspect its underside with a long flashlight with a glowing sphere on the end of it. This being was dressed in a space suit, wearing a helmet, a pack of some sort on its back and heavy, possibly weighted shoes.

Monguzzi excitedly snapped away, he reports, taking a series of pictures as the creature stiffly walked around the craft and bent over to look under It. An antenna had unreeled above the object after it landed and it looked as if the space-suited being was also wearing an antenna. The two witnesses could not see any form of landing gear. The object had settled directly onto the snow, its convex body leaving a circle on the spot. After completing its inspection, the creature disappeared behind the thing again and it lifted noiselessly into the air and flew away. Monguzzi even took a picture of its departure.

He was certain that he had taken the most astounding pictures of the century. And perhaps he had. But when they were developed, they looked too good to be true. A Hollywood special effects studio could not have done a better job with the latest in table-top photography techniques. The lighting was perfect. Too perfect. The bright mountain sun bouncing off the shimmering snow and ice produced a high contrast. The object was clear and distinct, and the creature was well outlined and appeared as a human-sized being might appear at that distance (75 feet) under those circumstances. At long last, the world had "proof" that flying saucers existed and that some kind of "human" life was riding around in them. Or so he thought.

Probably the most fascinating instance of encountering visitors from outer space was the story Mr. and Mrs. Barney Hill told, under hypnosis, of being kidnapped by six "humanoids" near Portsmouth, N.H., on Sept. 19, 1961, and taken aboard their spacecraft for two hours. Neither recalled any details until psychiatrist hypnotized them in effort to determine why they were experiencing anxiety. John Fuller wrote a book about them. "Interupted Journey" s3UPI Photo

As soon as the existence of the pictures became known, and the young Italian didn't make much of an effort to keep them secret, he was inundated with reporters and, he claims, "an American secret agent" turned up at his cottage disguised as an Italian bersagliero (military ski trooper) and questioned him closely through an entire night, trying to get him to contradict his story. Later he sold the pictures to the Roman magazine EPOCA and was horrified when they were published with a caption identifying them as clever fakes. The conservative Italian Edison Society, of which he was a member, was also horrified. They booted him out unceremoniously. Regrettably, the director of the Society was also Monguzzi's boss at the Monza industrial plant near Milan. He fired the now disgraced photographer. Today Monguzzi prefers not to discuss the incident. "They cheated me," he told one UFO investigator. "This bad joke of the journalists made me lose my job as well as my membership in the Edison Society. I was in fact out of work for a year and a half."

Not all of the millions of people throughout the world who have reported seeing UFO's have lost their jobs, not even the hundreds who claim to have seen "pilots" or "ufonauts."

A French student of UFO's, Aime Michel, recorded and investigated over 100 sightings of ufonauts in 1954 alone. Jacques Vallee, an astronomer at Northwestern University and author of the best-selling Anatomy o/ a Phenomenon (See page 16), published a study in which he tabulated 80 specific sightings between 1909 and 1960. A total of 153 "beings" were observed around grounded UFO's in these sightings. Of these, 35 were described as normal-looking humans and several were seen wearing coverall-type garments similar to those reported by Eddie Laxton.

Other investigators have made similar tabulations, all of which tend to show that real or imagined contact with "space beings" is much more common than most of us realize. And it seems reasonable to believe that more cases occur than are actually reported. Many people, for obvious reasons, are reluctant to walk into their local police station or newspaper office and announce, "Hey, I just had a talk with a little three-foot man who got out of a flying saucer." Many witnesses who do make reports insist that their names not be used.

Since 1947, there has been a small but very vocal group of crackpots and publicity seekers who claim to be in almost constant touch with the "Brothers from Outer Space." These people have founded mystical cults and published absurd books expounding sophomoric philosophies (supposedly passed on to them by the flying saucer operators), bringing ridicule to what is already, in the eyes of many skeptics, a pretty ridiculous subject anyway. The odious reputation of these groups makes many an apparently sincere "contactee" reluctant to step forward with his story and thus inadvertently join their ranks.

But a few courageous souls have taken the plunge. Consider the alleged experience of a prominent Brazilian lawyer, Prof. Joao de Freitas Guimaraes, a sober middle-aged military advocate in Sao Sebastiao. He says that he went joyriding in a flying saucer on a cool evening in June, 1956. For a long time afterward he kept his experience to himself, sharing it with only a few friends. On a dull, overcast evening, he recalls, he was walking alone along a beach on an island off the coast of Brazil, when he saw a jet of water rise up. A "potbellied" machine surfaced and moved towards shore. To his astonishment, two men, both over five feet 10 with fair hair and wearing tight green coveralls, clambered out.They approached him directly and silently indicated that they would like him to step aboard. He spoke to them in French, English, Italian and Portuguese, but they didn't seem to understand any of these languages. Since they didn't seem hostile, and since he was overcome with curiosity, he accepted their unspoken invitation, climbed up a long ladder mounted outside the craft, and, with the help of the two men, stepped inside.

The ladder was retracted and the door eased shut. The professor remained in a small compartment next to a window. He could not say later how many compartments there were in the craft. As the machine lifted into the air he was surprised to see water splashing against the portholes. "Is it raining?" he asked.

For the next 40 minutes or so (he says his watch stopped during the flight) the flying object flitted about in the starlit upper atmosphere. During the trip he noted that he felt pain and cold in his extremities. He tried to ask the men where they were from but they did not answer. One of them showed him a chart, something like a Zodiac, and he had the feeling that they were trying to explain when they would return, and that they wanted him to meet them again. Finally they delivered him to the spot where they had picked him up and six months later he told the story to a friend, Dr. Lincoln Feliciano, who contacted a Brazilian journalist. Professor Guimaraes quickly became a celebrity of sorts in Brazil and was, he confessed, amazed by the grave respect his story was accorded.

A more recent contactee is a California TV repairman named Sidney Padrick. Padrick, who is 46 years old, was strolling along Manresa Beach, California, at 2 a.m. on the morning of January 30, 1965, when he says he heard a loud humming sound and saw a strange machine land nearby. It was, he said, about 50 feet long and 30 feet high. He has refused to describe it further, claiming that an Air Force major has instructed him not to discuss the details of his experience. In early newspaper accounts of the incident he said that a voice spoke to him from the craft and invited him aboard, assuring him that he would not be harmed. He says he entered through a square door and saw nine normal-looking men inside. One of them spoke to him in English. They all wore bluishwhite tight-fitting uniforms and had dark hair. He noted that they seemed to communicate to each other silently, through gestures and facial expressions. Although he insists that he spent two hours aboard the machine, Padrick has not divulged much of what he saw or was told.

A gifted linguist who once served as the British Consul in Brazil, Mr. Gordon Creighton, has been quietly compiling documentation on the many incidents in South America and the Soviet Union. He has turned up some astounding accounts. On the night of June 5, 1964, for example, a 42-year-old doctor and his wife (they asked to remain anonymous, as many witnesses do) were driving from Cordoba to Rio Ceballos, Argentina, when suddenly, they say, a huge, brilliantly-lighted object came out of the sky and landed directly in front of them on the highway.

'I flashed my lights," the doctor said, "as a signal for the other to dip his, for the light was so powerful that it was impossible to see the road at all." But the light remained undimmed and continued to approach. The doctor pulled off the road and his engine stalled. The object came up to within one yard of his car and halted there, the bright light slowly fading to violet. Now the two alarmed witnesses could see that it was an elongated, cigar-shaped object. They sat motionless in confusion for 20 minutes. There was no movement in the object and it blocked their path. Finally the doctor tried to start his car again but it wouldn't respond. He was carrying a revolver and he at last decided to get out and investigate. But just as he was about to open the door he saw somebody, a very human somebody, coming up to the car.

"Que le pasa, amigo?" ("What's the matter, friend?") the person asked in a soft voice.

"My car won't start," the doctor answered in Portuguese, taken aback.

"Why don't you try it again?" the man directed. The doctor turned the key and this time, to his surprise, the motor caught. Then he turned on his head lights and they spilled onto a "fantastic object," a metal craft unlike anything he had ever seen before.

After decay of Sputnik IV at Manitowoc, Wis. on September 5, 1962, this unusual object turned up in Snohomish, Wash. as possible portion of Sputnik. Wright-Patterson AFB concluded object was formed in a stream bed or in sand and gravel from stream bed because stream-worn pebbles were embedded in outer layer. They said it couldn't possibly have fallen from outer space. s4Project Blue Book Photo

"Don't be frightened," the mystery man continued. "I'm a terrestrial. I have a mission to complete here on earth." Then he walked off slowly, towards two other human-looking beings, both dressed entirely in gray, who were apparently waiting for him beside the machine. All three got into it and it took off quickly and disappeared into the night sky. The doctor and his wife reported that they began "to tremble and shake like leaves" and it was several minutes before they could pull themselves together and continue their journey.

Another, even more incredible incident, is supposed to have occurred at almost the same spot seven years earlier. The witness, a young man from Cordoba, Argentina, swears that he was taken aboard a UFO there in April, 1957 He claims that he was headed toward Rio Ceballos on his motorcycle early one morning when his engine suddenly stalled. As he dismounted to look for the trouble, he was stunned to see a gigantic disc-shaped object some 60 feet in diameter hovering directly above him. In a state of terror, he leaped into a ditch and tried vainly to hide himself as the mysterious craft landed on the road nearby. A "lift device" descended from the machine and a humanlike being appeared. The young man described this being as five feet eight inches tall, wearing "clothing like a diver's suit, fitting the body closely, and appearing to be made of plastic rather than cloth." This being walked over to the ditch where the youth was cowering and gently offered his hand, helping the Cordoban up and leading him to the craft. They entered the lift and rose into the saucer. Several other ufonauts were inside the machine, he said, seated before a series of intricate-looking control panels. None of them paid any attention to their visitor. He was surprised to notice a series of large square windows above the panels because no windows had been visible at from the outside. After a few minutes, his silent guide gestured towards the lift and took him back to the ground. The young man mentioned hearing a sound like the hissing of escaping air during this entire time. The ufonaut put his hand on the youth's shoulder in a gesture of farewell, then returned to the craft. The witness reported that his motorcycle would not start until the strange flying machine had risen into the air.

Not all ufonaut reports concern human-type beings. Some of them are described as "little men." When police officer Lonnie Zamora reported seeing an egg-shaped UFO standing on four legs in Socorro, New Mexico, on April 24, 1964, he said that he had also seen "two children or small adults in white coveralls" walking around it. They leaped into the craft and flew off with a roar in front of his disbelieving eyes. Astronomer J. Allen Hynek, an official UFO consultant to the Air Force, investigated this case and termed it "one of the most puzzling" without attempting to explain it.

In 1949 two prospectors in Death Valley, California, told reporters that they had seen a flying disc crash. They claimed they had chased two tiny pilots across the sand dunes until they disappeared. When the prospectors returned to the crash site, the craft had also disappeared.

Radio announcer James Townsend of station KEYL, in Long Prairie, Minnesota, claimed that he saw three "animated tin cans" six inches high around a rocket-shaped device in the center of Highway 27 on October 23, 1965. Townsend says he watched the object take off with a bright glow and a loud humming sound. He led the local police to the site and they observed a large, glowing sphere in the sky over the area.

What appears to be a weird-looking spaceman with oversized eyes is shown in this photograph of unknown origin. It appeared on cover of "Saucerian Bulletin." Michael Mann Photo.

"Little men" have perhaps gotten more publicity than any other type but there are other varieties of ufonauts as well. One of the most common is a stiff-walking character with a "melon-shaped" head. A recent adventure with this type of being was related by Ricardo Mieres, a 17-year-old Argentinian, Mieres insists that he encountered some kind of "robot" while motorcycling down a road outside of Parana at 8:30 p.m. on July 26, 1962. He nearly ran off the road, he told investigators later, when he came upon a tall creature with a melon-shaped head and large round eyes that stared at him fixedly. The creature grabbed the boy's scarf and turned abruptly away in a manner Mieres described as "scarcely human." Badly frightened, the boy sped back to the city and gathered some friends. They returned to the spot in time to see a large white light rise into the sky. The area was covered with strange footprints and deep tracks.

It would, of course, be easy to discount the excited testimony of a 17-year-old boy, but less than a month later a medical doctor and his wife came face-to-face with the same kind of beings in the same locale. Dr. and Mrs. J. Gazcue were driving near Parana on August 21, 1962, when they discovered a large circular object surrounded by a luminous halo parked beside the road. Two "strange persons" walked towards the road, Doctor Gazcue said, and made signals for him to stop. They were over six feet tall and had light hair and huge, widely separated eyes. The doctor ignored their signals and stepped on the gas. Local newspapers reported that Mrs. Gazcue suffered a "nervous attack" over the incident and required several days to recover.

There have also been reports of small, black monsters. A luminous sphere blocked a street in Caracas, Venezuela, early on the morning of November 28, 1954, forcing two truck drivers to stop. When they got out of their cab to take a look, they were attacked by three dwarfs covered with bristly hair. One of the drivers, Gustavo Gonzales, pulled a knife and tried to stab one of the creatures. He later reported that his knife glanced off "as if it were hitting steel." The truck drivers managed to escape. A local doctor, out on a late call, witnessed the whole episode and confirmed their story.

At 4 a.m. on the morning of August 16, 1955, another truck driver, Ernest Sudard, 35, encountered a UFO on a street in Bradford, England, and briefly glimpsed a small being, about four feet tail, wearing skintight black clothes with a silver disc on his chest. This one moved with a peculiar, jerky motion, holding its arms tightly against its sides.

Detail from first photo

The strangest being of all is probably the one sighted in Malvern, Arkansas, last summer. Fabar Mills, a local merchant who saw it, called it an "unidentifled walking object." He described the creature as being luminous, about eight feet tall, and changing in color from red to orange to yellow.

Unfortunately, each new ufonaut sighting only adds to the mystery, a mystery that the U.S. government has now assigned scientists at the University of Colorado to solve. Any immediate solution, however, seems improbable. The origins and motivations of these creatures, if they are real, can only be speculated about. But millions of people throughout the world are now convinced that something is going on, that there is "somebody out there." More and more respected scientists, too, are beginning to take the matter seriously as they delve into the question of life on other worlds.

In the spring of 1966, some 300 physicists, astronomers and exobiologists met in California to discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life. At that meeting, Dr. Lee A. DuBridge, president of the California Institute of Technology, said, "Sometimes I think we are alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case, it's a staggering thought."

John A. Keel