By Jim Miles
UFOs reached Griffin on Sunday night, September 9, when Mrs. Hugh D. Beall called the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office to report an “upside down cup and saucer-shaped object” hovering at treetop level above her house. It had gold, red, and green lights on the bottom that changed colors, and made a “funny” noise, pitched too low for a conventional aircraft.
UFOs Crashing to Earth 1
A deputy dispatched to the scene radioed that he had seen “two red lights descending slowly to earth” which then disappeared.
At four p.m. on September 10, Ress Clanton, a retired textile worker known by his friends as Shorty, was sitting in a yard chair beneath the shade of a large magnolia tree beside his house in Orchard Hill, five miles south of Griffin. Clanton was contemplating supper while scanning a beautiful, sunny afternoon sky. He was focused on a small thunderhead crossing the face of the sun “when the thing dropped.”
The “thing,” variously described as having the size and shape of an egg or baseball, was bright gold in color, but its most curious aspect was that it did not plummet rapidly to earth, but appeared to be descending at a controlled rate of speed, floating, apparently under intelligent control. The object did not spin, it “just come down plumb straight…didn’t come down too fast, just take its time,” Clanton recalled.
When tree branches blocked his view, Clanton jumped out of his chair and ran to a yard swing, which he climbed onto for a better look.
“I stood on the swing till it come down,” Clanton said. “It didn’t make no racket, now, when it hit the ground. When it hit the ground it stay there for a second, and directly white smoke raise up. It never did spread, it just stay together about as big as a nail keg, it just keep going up till it was a little wisp of a thing, and then one line of smoke come out toward the evening star, another toward the morning star.”
The projectile vanished when it encountered the ground, apparently destroyed during the curious impact. Once the white smoke dissipated, all that remained was a smoldering, scorched patch of lawn the size of a basketball, about a foot long and five inches deep. Strangely, there was no crater.
Clanton started for the point of impact, then wisely changed his mind and detoured to a neighbor’s house. He enlisted another neighbor, a former deputy sheriff, before the three ventured to the scorched site, located twenty-five yards from his house, on the property of an adjacent warehouse, between grain elevators and the municipal water tower.
When the men kneeled down beside the lazily smoking spot, Clanton passed his hand three feet above the charred spot. The heat was so intense that it nearly burned his palm. Clanton unfolded his pocketknife and ran the blade through the soil for several seconds. When he extracted it, the metal was too hot to touch.
Clanton reported the curious incident to the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office. Before a deputy arrived, a crowd had gathered, patrons of a convenience store across the road, who had been attracted by the commotion. No one who had been in the area had heard or seen evidence of any aircraft operating in the vicinity.
While deputies made an official report, a crew from local radio station WKEU arrived. They took it upon themselves to excavate the center of the seared ground to a depth of four inches. Most of the earth was deposited into a zinc washtub, but a fine gray ash from the hottest part of the spot was dumped onto an unfolded county map. None of the assembled multitude had any notion what the mysterious object could have been, but one of the radiomen thought to call Dr. O.E. Anderson, head of the Agronomy Department at the Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin.
Anderson waded through a crowd that was four to five people deep. Although he arrived at the scene two and a half-hours after the incident, when Anderson placed his hands near ground zero, which was still smoldering, he estimated the temperature at that time to be 200 degrees. Presumably it would have been far hotter immediately after impact-Anderson later ventured an estimate of 300 degrees. He said a normal afternoon soil temperature for the area in summer would be 115-120 degrees.
The soil scientist took three samples-from the impact site, a spot two feet away, and a third site thirty feet distant. Anderson also collected the soil excavated by WKEU and departed to run a soil analysis, a reluctant scientific participant in a bizarre event. He estimated it would require three days to determine if anything unusual had been found.
Shorty Clanton had no need to await test results. “I tell you, I believe it to be a piece of brimstone from Heaven come down here to show people how He can burn the earth with it,” he proclaimed.
By nightfall WKEU had received at least three reports of area UFOs.
“Something definitely elevated the temperature of the soil,” Anderson soon informed the press. “The soil was unusually hot for just grass to be burning. It was hot down to a depth of at least a half an inch and at as much as an inch the soil was very, very hot.” He also said a “glob about the size of your little finger of molten metal or slag, had remained on the ground. They are seeing some form of energy,” he believed, “but what?”
Anderson was also convinced of Clanton’s sincerity, saying he “had the feeling he was telling us what he thought he had seen.” After a second interview with Clanton, Anderson said, “he stuck to the same story. It is a credible story. I don’t think he dreamed something up and went out and set a fire.”
There was no hole or depression in the soil, but grassroots and wood chips had been burned beneath the surface. Anderson allowed that gas poured on the ground and ignited would provide a similar affect, but he doubted that had occurred because there was no evidence. However, he stressed that his analysis, aimed at identifying foreign particles in the soil, might not reveal a hoax because volatile substances could have completely evaporated by the time he reached the scene.
Anderson’s initial analysis revealed nothing out of the ordinary-no signs of radiation was present-but he planned chemical tests “in hopes there may be something in the analysis that will give us a clue to what heated the organic matter in the soil.” Tests of the soil samples would reveal the presence of certain inorganic and organic materials.
“If it was a magnesium flare, we would expect to find a high amount of magnesium compared to the soil around the burned site,” he added.
Anderson declined to speculate on the cause of the charred spot, emphasizing that he was not conducting a flying saucer investigation. However, he did term the incident puzzling.
Results of the chemical analysis raised as many questions as it answered. The absence of hydrocarbons eliminated the possibility that the use of gasoline or other petroleum products initiated the ignition of natural organic material in the soil at the impact site. The use of flares was ruled out when the content of magnesium and strontium, commonly used in flares, was not found to be higher than normal.
What was found in unusual amounts were copper and chromium, metals commonly found in alloys. The concentration of copper at the impact site was 2,000 times greater than in control samples taken a distance from the site, 43,050 parts per million, while thirty feet way it was 7.4 parts. Chromium was 200 times higher at the impact site.
The evidence did “lend support to the observation of an individual who observed the area immediately after the alleged occurrence,” Anderson’s report stated. “He observed what was described as a small metal-like object at very high temperature slightly embedded in the soil.”
At least Clanton had been vindicated.
Anderson’s treatise continued:
“Subsequent sampling at the site failed to disclose such an object but soil sampled in the immediate vicinity of spot where the object was said to have lain was immensely higher in metallic constituents than the soil a few feet distant.
“This lends further support to the possibility that the occurrence involved something in the nature of a small meteorite or a piece of space hardware, either of which would have impacted at a very high temperature.”
“I’ll tell you what I think it was,” Clanton maintained five years later. “And nobody can convince me different. A piece of brimstone. It’s the only thing could burn pure dirt. Before this happen you couldn’t get nobody out to Sunday School or into church. Now it’s full all the time. “The soil required time to regenerate. Years later the spot was still bare of grass, the soil grayer and finer than the earth surrounding it.
The frenzy of Georgia’s continuing UFO wave had immediately focused on tiny Orchard Hill. Newspapers and radio stations across the country contacted the local media and police authorities in Griffin for updates. Clanton was deluged with telephone calls from news agencies and curious citizens. He was even induced to reenact the event for an Atlanta television station.
On September 13 Mildred Pierce, driving to her job as postmistress of Waverly Hall, north of Columbus, saw a glowing object, lit up both internally and externally, flying through the sky at an altitude of only 100 feet. Andy Jones was also driving to work that morning when he saw a round, glowing object on U.S. 41 five miles south of Buena Vista, which is thirty miles south of Columbus.
UFOs Crashing to Earth 2
The hits just kept coming. Roy Lawhorn was a tenant farmer living in Brook, a rural community eight miles from Griffin and twenty miles southeast of Orchard Hill, with his five year old daughter Donna. He was awakened about two a.m. on Friday, September 14, by “a sound like locusts and a bright light outside the house.”
Mr. Lawhorn took immediate action. “I grabbed my rifle, because it looked like it was coming towards the house. I shot at it about three or four times and it just disappeared into the ground.”
The object, “as big as your head,” demonstrated the same characteristics as the earlier one in Orchard Hill. “It came down like an umbrella,” he continued, “it gradually came down. I thought the devil had come to get me.” For fear that he would be thought a fool, he waited until September 17 to report the incident.
The object left a charred spot on a dirt road located ten yards from the house. Dr. Anderson was again called upon to exercise his expertise. This impact also left no crater, but there were markings on an area one foot long by six or eight inches wide, nearly the exact dimensions of the earlier incident. Beneath the top layer of soil Anderson excavated a wide area composed of charred soil and organic matter.
Test results revealed nothing unusual in the soil. A high organic content indicated that the site might have been a dumpsite for plant remains, charcoal, and other common farm residues that were later covered by clay when the road was constructed.
This analysis was released on September 20, along with reports of UFOs seen over Griffin the night before. Police received a number of UFO calls, three from members of local government agencies. Police Captain Larry Howard and neighbors observed a disk shaped UFO festooned with lights which darted around the sky. It was white or silver, noiseless, and would stop in the air, then race off at high speeds.
The wife of Probation Officer Eddie Freeman was returning home from church when she saw lights being shined on the ground by an aerial object. The lights separated, then came back together. Excited, she rushed home and described the experience to her husband. The couple drove to a high point on Teamon Road to search for the object, and before long two disk shaped UFOs appeared in the sky, hovering 150 yards from the pavement. One object had three lights which pulsed from bright to dim. Described as the size of a Volkswagen, it had a light on each side and in the middle. The UFO alternately moved rapidly and slowly, and emitted no sound.
Detective Sergeant Marvin Barrow also spotted four strange lights in the sky.
Griffin resident Harry Lambert saw a golden colored, football shaped vehicle that was sixty feet long. “Everybody thinks I’m crazy,” he stated, the Georgia mantra of the month, “but I know what I saw.”
From Weird Georgia, with subsequent additional research.
Jim Milesis the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org