Mysterious Island: UFO Action Galore

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In last week’s column, I regaled you with the story of one of Catalina’s most famous UFO accounts; “famous” for the most part because of the coverage it got on the History Channel’s show UFO Hunters a few years ago.

This, of course, was the story of a pilot named Noah Felice who claimed that a USO (the undersea version of a UFO) shot a “beam of light” at his small plane, causing it to crash and resulting in the death of his cousin, not to mention severe injuries to himself.

In last week’s column, I regaled you with the story of one of Catalina’s most famous UFO accounts; “famous” for the most part because of the coverage it got on the History Channel’s show UFO Hunters a few years ago.

This, of course, was the story of a pilot named Noah Felice who claimed that a USO (the undersea version of a UFO) shot a “beam of light” at his small plane, causing it to crash and resulting in the death of his cousin, not to mention severe injuries to himself.

Regardless of the veracity of such accounts, the waters around Catalina have long been a hotbed of UFO reports making it a central location for study by UFO enthusiasts.  Skeptics often chalk these accounts up to the large presence of military activity in the area (including some very high-tech action) or just plain imagination.

The earliest possible account of a UFO in the area I have come across is a photograph I found recently on a website interestingly named “stuffnobodycaresabout.com.”  There was no associated article with the photo, so I have no idea what the background is.  I got a kick out of it nonetheless.

One of the first such reports to make it into the local paper, was the supposedly widely-viewed account of several “flying discs” over Avalon in 1947, just about the same time as the infamous Roswell incident.

In case you’re unfamiliar with that event, let me explain.

On July 8, 1947, a remarkable headline splashed across the front page of a small town newspaper in the dusty, relatively unknown town of Roswell, New Mexico.

It seems that the crew at the public information office of the nearby Roswell Army Air Field reported they had recovered wreckage from a “flying disc” that had crashed near a ranch outside of town.

The following day, General Roger M. Ramey of the U.S. Army’s Eighth Air Force, stated that—rather than an exotic disc-shaped craft—his men had, in fact, recovered the debris from a wrecked radar-tracking balloon.  A press conference was held—complete with a display of the alleged wreckage—and, satisfied with this, the press went on their merry way.

Not as widely reported at the same time, however, were a number of other “disc” sightings both before and after the Roswell incident.

On the evening of June 26, 1947, U.S. Army Major George Wilcox of Warren, Arizona, reported a series of “eight or nine” disc-shaped objects traveling near his home and at an altitude of about 1,000 feet above the nearby mountains.

That same evening, a Captain E.B. Detchmendy reported seeing a “white disc glowing like an electric light bulb” passing over Pope, New Mexico, a sighting echoed by several local townspeople.

Dozens of other sightings—many by military officers—were reported in the region in the coming days and weeks.

But the Southwest wasn’t the only venue.  Similar sightings were reported throughout much of the western United States as far north as Washington State and as far west as California—including Catalina Island.

On July 8, 1947, the very same day that Roswell’s Daily Record was reporting the initial “flying disc” story, a remarkable incident reportedly occurred in the skies above Avalon.  An article on the front page of the week’s issue of the Catalina Islander details an alleged sighting by three visiting Army veterans of six “flying discs” traveling at high speed from the northeast and passing directly over Avalon before disappearing over East Peak.

According to the story, the six discs appeared at about 1 p.m. and flew in a formation of two sets of three and were witnessed not only by the veterans, but by “hundreds” of others as well.

Alvio Russo, one of the reported witnesses and an Army Air Corps veteran who had flown 35 bombing missions over Germany with the Eighth Air Force, estimated the velocity of the discs at “850 miles an hour,” according to the story.

Bob Jung, listed as a “former aerial photographer” agreed with this estimate and said they were flying roughly as fast as the U.S. Navy’s “Tiny Tim” rocket, which he had photographed numerous times for the Navy.

In the coming months, the sightings of discs around the nation waned, at least for the time-being, and public interest in them faded as well.  Even the Roswell Incident was largely forgotten until 30 years later when famed ufologist Stanton Friedman began fielding what he claimed were eyewitness reports from civilian and military personnel of REAL flying saucer wreckage and alien bodies.

No mention of the Catalina incident was ever made again in the Catalina Islander nor, apparently, in the Los Angeles Examiner.

As far as the local hub-bub was concerned, the aliens-over-Avalon story seems to have faded as quickly as those inexplicable discs disappeared over the vast Pacific Ocean.

Jim Watson is the author of “Mysterious Island: Catalina,” available on Amazon, Kindle and in stores all over Avalon.

Mysterious Island: UFO Action Galore