The Deadly Grouse Mountain UFO Encounter – A Case Study

First Published: June 23, 2019 Last updated: June 24th, 2019 Written by: Marcus Lowth Estimated Reading Time: 17 minutes Posted in: Editorials
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Although officially the incident of 12th February 1954 is a tragic plane crash that resulted in the death of a young pilot, there is plenty of evidence and witness testimony to suggest that the crash was caused by an unknown object – a UFO. And what’s more, if true, the incident would be one more in an apparent small collection of such air force fatalities.

Remember, only months earlier in November 1953 was the Kinross Air Force Base incident which would result in the death of two serving US pilots. What’s more, the incident occurred during a particularly heavy wave of UFO sightings, as well as one of the most controversial, and admittedly outlandish alleged incidents of all time – the apparent meeting between President Eisenhower and at least two different alien races.

Perhaps strange, then, that the incident in question is not as well-known as we might expect given the tragic circumstances which surround it. Is this a purposeful attempt to downplay it?

While the case itself may not be widely known, many of us will have seen the location previously, perhaps without even realizing it as it was used as a backdrop to the climax of a two-part X-Files episode from the second season entitled Ascension which culminates in the presumed alien abduction of agent Dana Scully, after she herself is abducted by repeat abductee, Duane Barry.

The picturesque scenery of Grouse Mountain, complete with the Ascend To The Stars gondolas provides the backdrop for the episodes final, frantic minutes. In reality, though, as we shall see, the scene was once the location of a very real and tragic event. Before we examine the 1954 incident, you can check out a trailer to the aforementioned X-Files episode below.

A Tragic Instrument Checking Exercise

On the gray, dull morning of 12th February 1954, at around 10:30 am, Second Lieutenant Lamar Barlow was piloting his F86 Sabre jet over the North Shore Mountains, and specifically Grouse Mountain in British Columbia, Canada.

Earlier that morning, Barlow had left the runway from McChord Air Force Base over the state border in Tacoma, Washington. Although the jet was fully armed the flight was simply a standard instrument checking exercise. However, shortly after 12 noon, the control tower began receiving “Mayday” calls from Barlow.

According to the report, he had lost the use of his compass and consequently was now lost himself. Records from McChord Air Force Base show that at 12:06 pm, Barlow was approximately 60 miles north of Vancouver. Nine minutes later, and with the aid of radar operators, that distance was reduced to only 15 miles.

By this time, however, the F86 was beginning to run remarkably low on fuel. Preparations were made for an emergency landing at Vancouver’s Sea Island Airport. Before permission to land was granted, though, all communications were lost.

We will examine the speculative circumstances in a moment, as what exactly happened following this loss of communication is unclear. And certainly the speculation is not part of the official version of events.

However, at an altitude of 2,700 feet and at a speed of over 750 miles per hour, Barlow, still strapped firmly into his seat (which is how military recovery teams would find his body), slammed squarely into the mountainside. Debris would fly into all directions and travel a considerable distance.

Official Explanation Claims Pilot Error – “Radar Ghosts!”

Several days later accounts began to appear in newspapers, locally and nationally. The cause of the crash, according to the United States Air Force, was pilot error. Barlow, they said, was seeing “radar ghosts”. This, combined with the loss of his navigation equipment, confused the pilot, who believed he was nearer to Tacoma than he actually was. When Grouse Mountain suddenly came into view, given the speed at which he was traveling, the pilot simply had no time to react.

A sound enough explanation. However, to some, the official explanation didn’t add up. Not least why he was traveling so fast while descending in the first place. While the military chalked this up to experience or lack thereof on Barlow’s part, it was an aspect of the case, like many others, that niggled at the minds of many UFO researchers.

For example, why was the plane carrying 24 fully armed rockets on what was essentially a training exercise? Although skeptics to the UFO claims – which we will get to in a moment – point out that this is to produce the realistic weight of a plane should it be heading into combat – this would appear to be something achievable without using fully armed weaponry. Certainly not with an inexperienced pilot, if we accept for a moment the US Air Force’s claims regarding Barlow and his error causing the crash.

Furthermore, the entire area was roped off and protected by armed guards 24 hours a day for several days after the incident. Officially, and understandably, this was to retrieve “most” of the 24 rockets in question. Whether that is an honest assessment or not, it certainly provided ample reason for the military to shield the activities at the crash site from the public.

Was Lamar Barlow On A Secret Armed Intercept Mission?

Returning to the question of why the F86 jet was armed, some researchers believe the reason to be far more serious than a mere test. Even sinister. According to some who have studied and researched the Grouse Mountain incident, Barlow’s mission that morning was not to check onboard instruments. According to some researchers, he left the runway that gray morning with orders to pursue and intercept a UFO. With deadly force if necessary.

As a quick side-thought here, all reports concerning the clean up operation following the crash mention that “most” of the rockets were retrieved. Might there still be missing weaponry from the F86 somewhere in the woodlands of Grouse Mountain? Or might it be that one or more of the rockets were discharged during the two hours or so that Barlow was in the air? Again, while that is pure speculation, it is certainly worth keeping in mind.

Especially when we know of the radar echoes that remain unexplained even today, as well as the sudden failure of all instruments and communications. From other similar reports, if we accept for a moment their authenticity, it would appear such a response of jamming and freezing such technical instruments is very much a defensive measure by these strange crafts.

Was this mystery radar “phantom echo” the UFO in question? And did Barlow fire upon it and so provoking such a response? Perhaps this is why the pilot was so far off-course and out of United States air space in the first place?

It is perhaps worth mentioning that the United States Air Force – at the time of the incident – would often use the phrase “phantom radar echo” to describe any aerial anomaly. What we would today call a UFO.

Circumstantial Evidence Suggests An Active Pursuit Mission!

If Barlow was on an intercept mission that fateful morning it is perhaps understandable – and even expected – that the United States Air Force would keep the details of that mission secret. That leads us, though, to as just what exactly what the pilot chasing?

UFO researcher, Gord Heath, makes some intriguing and, on balance, convincing proposals as to what happened over Grouse Mountain that morning.

For example, he asks why the pilot was allowed to “stray” so far off course, across the border into Canada, without radar control alerting him to the fact? Remember, according to the report it only became apparent that Barlow was so far off course when he himself issued a Mayday call following the apparent malfunction of his navigation instruments. Of course, if Barlow, with radar control in full knowledge, was pursuing an unknown craft then these actions of radar control would make sense.

As Heath writes:

Which makes more sense? The radar operators ignored the jet flying off into Canadian airspace until the pilot suddenly realizes he has only 30 minutes of fuel and has no clue about his position OR the radar operators guided the pilot in pursuit of a UFO into Canadian air space, beyond the farthest distance to return to base thinking the pilot would be able to land safely at Vancouver?

As you might imagine, we, like many UFO researchers agree with Heath’s questioning. It is certainly more likely, particularly if we factor in the alertness with which the United States military was kept at throughout the early years of the Cold War, that such lapses of judgment as the former point in Heath’s scenario is highly unlikely.

Furthermore, the sheer speed with which the plane descended was at odds with a typical approach for landing, emergency or not.

The Only Witness – 6-Year-Old Robin McPherson

In a twist that makes the incident sound even more like a blockbuster movie, the only witness to the events was a 6-year-old schoolgirl who was returning home from school for the lunch break. Robin McPherson would tell newspaper reporters that she was almost directly in line with the ski-lift that the F86 jet only just missed as it approached the mountain.

She would tell how the plane was “awful low” and that it “came out of the clouds” traveling “very fast”. She would then continue:

Then it sort of zoomed up and went in the trees on the side of the mountain. I didn’t hear any noise like a bang!

In the same newspaper story, military spokesmen wondered why the pilot had not “bailed out” which was usual procedure. Another sledgehammer quote noted how Barlow was “flying as blind as a bat”.

There certainly seems to have been no hesitancy to place the blame squarely at the feet of the recently deceased pilot by his military colleagues.

The fact that there was no description of the object – if indeed a UFO was present that morning – makes it impossible to compare with other sightings. However, the state of Washington in the United States and British Columbia in Canada have long histories of UFO activity. With many reports on record around the time of the fateful Grouse Mountain crash.

The Oncoming Abundance Of UFO Encounters

There would be a literal wave of UFO sightings across the entire planet in the weeks following the Grouse Mountain incident. And there are undoubtedly some that will share connections to the above incident.

For example, on the evening of 28th March 1954, around six weeks following the fatal F86 crash into Grouse Mountain, five witnesses would report several “mysterious lights” over the town of Sumner. As the witnesses drove along, however, the lights would come together and then descend upon their vehicle. As it did, one of the witnesses claimed to see a humanoid figure encased in the orb-like light, as if it was some kind of futuristic and incomprehensible vehicle. Then, the light and the humanoid vanished.

One incident, however, stands out more than the rest. Not just because it took place over the two same separate air spaces as the Grouse Mountain crash. But it demonstrated an apparent knowledge of the aviation procedures of the United States.

The “Correct IFF Response” Incident

Shortly after 8 pm on the 21st June 1954, radars from the state of Washington and from Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada would pick up an unidentified object on their systems. The radar system would automatically “ask” who the object was, essentially requesting their IFF code.

Quite certain the object was not a United States aircraft, the control tower was collectively shocked when at 8:24 pm a response came back. And what’s more, the code it offered was indeed the correct one. Making the encounter even more concerning was the fact that the object, or whatever the intelligence was behind it, would respond with several more correct and appropriate codes.

This was something not lost on those in the three different control towers currently tracking the strange and unknown object. If those that were behind the UFOs increasingly witnessed around the United States had access to such secret codes, it meant that air defense was essentially ineffective. And air space could be breached easily.

Making the incident even more unnerving, when two F86 jets were sent to intercept the object, the anomaly would “split into two” and perform maneuvers far beyond what the fighter could perform before finally disappearing from visual sight and radar. The total length of the encounter was 82 minutes.

The sighting remains unexplained. It is perhaps interesting to note the course of action taken by the US Air Force – to scramble F86 fighter jets.

Interestingly, a local newspaper would tell of residents’ reports of a “strange light” in the sky between 9 pm and 10 pm on the night in question. Interestingly, a sighting earlier the same day near Mount Vernon was described by the witness as looking like the “upper half of a bubble on water”. You can see the clipping below.

Several Similar UFO Incidents Of 1953

As much as there were several sightings and encounters that followed the Grouse Mountain incident, there were equally as many that proceeded it in the state of Washington, and British Columbia on the Canadian side of the border.

Almost exactly a year previously, for example, in the town of Rosalia came another incident involving another military aircraft, this time a B-36, although the meeting between the two aerial vehicles was one of chance as opposed to the B-36 being sent to intercept it.

The incident occurred at just after 1:30 am on the 6th February 1953. The B-36 was in flight when the crew noticed a “white omnidirectional light flashing” at them at short, but regular intervals. The crew would watch the light for between three to five minutes before attempting to turn towards it. As they did so, however, it vanished, leaving the plane to continue on with its original course.

Several months later on the evening of 12th May, “several unidentified blips” appeared on ground control radars. When jet interceptors were scrambled, although they could also see the anomalies on their radar screens, none of them could confirm visual identification.

Strangely, however, one particular aircraft pilot (with the handle, Pronto Red) would claim to have “locked-on” to one of the objects on several occasions (although there was no known wreckage or recovery of such). After a little over two hours, the objects simply vanished.

The Larson Air Force Base Incident, December 1952

A little over a year before the Grouse Mountain incident, on the evening of 22nd December 1952 at another Washington air force facility, Larson Air Force Base, an off-duty instrument technician would make a report of a strange object near the base.

The technician in question was driving back toward the base at around 7:30 pm when the object became visible through the windshield of his vehicle. He pulled the car over in order to watch the strange aerial anomaly more closely.

The object would move in “spurts” at an angle of 45 degrees before suddenly speeding up considerably. While it was at this full speed, the object appeared to glow a brilliant white. All except, that is when it “rolled” in the air. It would perform this maneuver three times, and on each occasion, a red “underside” was clearly visible. Equally, at one point during these rolls, the light appeared to go out completely. This suggests that the craft had three “sides” or surfaces to its exterior. One of which housed no lights at all.

The object would eventually settle in the sky at a relatively high altitude. It would occasionally dart to the left or right and then back again. Around fifteen minutes after the object first appeared the witness would get back in his car and drive away, simply leaving the “hat-shaped” object behind, hanging in the night sky. You can check out a sketch of the craft below.

The Mount Spokane Encounter

Although the exact date is uncertain, another sighting in the state of Washington in 1952 occurred at Mount Spokane. The witness, who was in the area riding on horseback would report a “domed disc-shaped object” descending and then landing in an open field near to his location. Three “metallic legs” would protrude from the underside to support the weight of the disc, which had several windows around its side.

Then, a sudden “strong rush of wind” hit the witness, while at the same time, a ramp was stretching to the ground from an opening in the craft. On the ramp, three humanoid “men” appeared, each wearing “shiny, silvery coveralls”.

The witness heard the “men” speak an unknown language as they seemingly discussed his presence. He would recall how they seemed to have a particular interest in the horse. The account stops there, and while it doesn’t say what happened after that, we have to assume the witness vacated the area as soon as he could.

Alien Abduction At Point Defiance Park

Yet another witness of a similar nature occurred in the summer of 1952 at Washington’s Point Defiance Park. And while there is not much known of the encounter, it is certainly intriguing. It also further demonstrates an apparent extraterrestrial presence in the upper northwest corner of the United States during the early fifties.

One evening in July 1952, at a little after 9 pm, the witness, a 9-year-old boy, would report seeing a “yellowish light” moving around in the sky above their home. As he watched the light, he was suddenly aware of “many small beings” all around him. They were speaking in a language he had not heard before.

The next thing he knew, he was in a bright, white room. He was in a sitting position on something resembling a stool. Then, he was back at home. The strange light, as well as the equally strange beings, were gone. A look at the clock, however, revealed it was now after 11 pm, despite, in his mind, only a few minutes had passed.

Two sightings would unfold on the same day in the Washington area on 1st June 1952. At around 1 pm in Walla Walla, a former military pilot, Major Vollendorf witnessed and reported a shining oval object climbing extremely fast in the sky. Two hours later, on Soap Lake, Ray Lottman, would report seeing three shiny objects, each flying perfectly straight.

Reports of “inverted tin colored” saucers surfaced in August 1952 over the Skylight Mountain region. According to what little information there is on the sightings these strange crafts were “darting in and out of (a) cloud bank” and flying in a circular pattern.

Incidents From The Canadian Side Of The Border

While we have focused on the American side of the border for the majority of this article, we should also note some of the similar sightings from the Canadian side in and around Vancouver, British Columbia.

The McRoberts Vancouver Island UFO Photograph, October 1981

Perhaps one of the most fascinating, not least due to the photographic evidence, is the Vancouver Island picture (which is one of the locations in our previously mentioned 1954 IFF code incident).

On this particular evening, at a little after 6 pm in early October 1981, Hannah McRoberts was on vacation on Vancouver Island. During this time, she would take multiple pictures of the mountain ranges and woodlands.

According to McRoberts, one specific picture she took she noticed a strange cloud around the top of the mountain similar to a “volcano issuing steam”. The rest of the group she was with didn’t see anything unusual and so she simply forgot the incident. That was until she had the photographs developed several weeks later.

When she focused in on the strange cloud her attention immediately went to the right of it. There, was an apparent solid, circular object. You can view that picture below.

The picture soon came to the attention of UFO researchers and investigators. It would also come to the attention of a member of the Vancouver McMillan Planetarium, David Powell. Powell would ultimately, through several channels, get the photograph to a UFO group in Arizona.

Essentially, their investigation of the picture would ultimately lead them to believe Hannah McRoberts’ picture was a “legitimate classical type UFO photo”.

One thing we should take note of before moving on is the location of the McRoberts photograph, a spot (relatively) a stone’s throw away from Mount Rainer, which was the location of the famous Kenneth Arnold sighting from the summer of 1947.

The Vedder River Incident, August 1980

Although the incident wasn’t widely known about outside of the small circle of the witnesses involved until 2011, the previous year to the McRoberts picture in August 1980 came another intriguing UFO incident on the Vedder River.

On this particular evening, around 7 pm, Cynthia and her family were driving back from a camping trip when they suddenly noticed a large, dark, circular craft. They would later estimate to have been around 60 miles outside of Vancouver at the time of the sighting. Within seconds, the object was suddenly right next to the moving vehicle’s right side.

From her position in back seat while her parents were driving, the teenage Cynthia noticed the shiny, metallic exterior of the craft. Even stranger, she would recall how there was:

…no visible seams or separation from the domed top to the wider bottom. (It had) square-like edges but also very rounded looking in appearance!

As the craft moved slightly, exposing its underside. Cynthia would recall that by comparison to the shiny exterior of the top of the craft the bottom was “very dark”. Furthermore, the material appeared to be “like very small squares like a vent”. Even more bizarre, while this vent-like section remained perfectly still, the outer section (which extended to the top) was spinning quickly.

What is further interesting is the description and indeed the sketch of the craft (which you can see above) looks almost identical to the sightings from across the border in Washington from the 1950s.

While the car, driven by Cynthia’s mother, continued down the highway, the UFO would suddenly move away from it. The witnesses did see where it went, although their last views of it suggested it was attempting to land.

One Sighting Every 55 Hours In The State Of Washington

Before we return to the Grouse Mountain incident, we should perhaps look at some of the very recent UFO sightings. And while we have mentioned previously that UFO sightings in Canada are seemingly on the rise, we should perhaps look at incidents in the state of Washington.

And while which state has the highest number of sightings depends on which sources, there is no doubt that the Evergreen State continues to be a hotbed of UFO activity. This perhaps lends a touch more credibility to the plethora of sightings from the initial days of the modern UFO period of the early 1950s.

According to a recent article, in a 12-month period from January 2018 to January 2019, there were 160 reported UFO sightings in the state of Washington. Just to break this down, this translates to one sighting, on average, every 55 hours, or one every two-and-a-bit days. And that is before we take into account the sightings that go unreported, unremembered, or even unrecognized.

The sightings, according to the National UFO Reporting Center statistics include various types of crafts and occur at equally various times of the day. Some of them, however, undoubtedly sound extremely similar to those, as far as we are concerned here with this article, the key sightings of the region of the 1950s.

A Continual Stream Of UFO Encounters

For example, on the evening of 25th January 2018, several people in Yakima witnessed several strange lights “blink on and off” before “three smaller craft arrived”. Two of these crafts hovered at a similar altitude. The third one, however, “began to climb at an incredible rate higher than the other objects”.

They would note how bright the object that was climbing was, which would be in sympathy with similar comments from the sightings of the fifties. However, the strangest part of the sighting was by far when the “disc-shaped object” seemed to create a “cloud for it to vanish behind”.

In April 2018 in the Kittitas region of the state, a witness who was smoking a cigarette outside would suddenly notice a globe-like object overhead. He would later describe it as moving in a circular motion and flashing red, blue, white, and green. He would liken the object to a “fireball of energy bursting repeatedly”.

Perhaps a sighting that had chilling similarities to the types of intercept missions of previous decades occurred on the night of 26th May 2018. On that evening, an engaged couple on their evening bike ride witnessed several objects moving in purposeful formation. Then, a military-style helicopter approached the objects only to turn away as if repelled.

A sighting in June almost exactly a month later took place in the immediate vicinity of Mounts St. Helens. A passenger on board a Boeing 737 reported a strange craft traveling at a 45-degree angle before disappearing into the clouds.

Another sighting, from October 2018, with the witness being a former pilot witnessed a spherical orange glowing craft which moved silently across the skies of University Place. The movements, bizarrely or not, were more akin to how “a living creature” would move as opposed to machinery.

The Westfield Shopping Center Footage, December 2014

One last incident we will look at took place on the evening of 2nd December 2014 at around 6 pm in the Vancouver region of Washington. An ex-member of the United States military would record the footage from the Westfield Shopping Center after they noticed four strange lights, going from dim to bright, captured his attention.

Knowing a member of his family (the person who submitted the video and the report) had an interest in such incidents, he managed to capture several minutes of footage.

Because of their close proximity to each other, as well as the way they moved, the witness quickly dismissed that they were approaching airplanes. Furthermore, if they were hovering (or stacking) airplanes, their altitude was much too low.

He would estimate the objects were between 5 and 10 miles from his location at the shopping center. They were in sight for approximately ten minutes in total (not all of the sighting was filmed).

The video below features the 2014 episode. This is just one of quite literally dozens of sightings available online. Proof, surely, that the entire region is as busy, in terms of UFO activity, as it ever has been.

Where Does The Grouse Mountain Incident Fit Into All Of This?

If we return, then, back to the Grouse Mountain episode, where does it fit within the plethora of UFO sightings from this part of the United States, as well as within the surge of such incidents unfolding regularly in the early part of the 1950s?

While there is no proof of a nuts-and-bolts UFO in the skies over the America-Canada border area on the afternoon of the 12th February 1954, given what we know of such incidents, including just how many UFO sightings take place in the state of Washington, it is not at all a stretch of the imagination to think that what ultimately led the young man to his death that morning was an “intercept” mission as opposed to pilot error on an instrument checking mission.

As we will examine in a moment, it would appear that such fatal UFO incidents as the Grouse Mountain crash were quite a regular occurrence in the late 1940s and early fifties. What happened to change that? Is there, as we have asked when we have touched on the UFO wave of 1954 previously, a connection to the alleged meeting between President Eisenhower and, depending on the source, two different alien races?

Was there, for example, a deal reached as the claims state which resulted in such tragic aerial fatalities involving these strange and otherworldly crafts from happening, at least with such regularity?

Even more disturbing, at least according to some researchers, and certainly something that we should perhaps think about very carefully, are the claims from some that the deaths of such pilots as Lamar Barlow are a consequence of interaction with extraterrestrial crafts. And further still, the military, or aspects of it, not only knew such information but actively covered it up.

More Secrets Still To Surface?

Is there still information or secret files to surface regarding the alleged UFO involvement in the fatal crash of Lamar Barlow? We should perhaps remember that like the Kinross Incident and the feelings of at least some of the families of the two deceased pilots that there was a distinct effort hide the truth regarding the circumstances of the deaths.

There were very similar claims, at least from some quarters, concerning the Mantell Incident, arguably the first serving air force pilot whose death, albeit unofficially, was connected directly to a UFO sighting. That each of the pilots involved in these other incidents all met their ends in seemingly very similar circumstances is perhaps very telling.

What’s more, these types of situations are not at all limited to the United States. We have examined, for example, several similar instances alleged to have taken place off the east coast of the United Kingdom. All in remarkably similar circumstances.

Perhaps what we should ask is are these incidents merely defensive measures? Or might there be, even now, a more sinister and secretive reality to these outlandish but unnervingly intriguing incidents? And just what is the nature of that reality? How much of the official version of such encounters is close to the true timeline of events?

Check out the video below. It looks at the Eisenhower interview incident in a little more detail. Whatever did take cause the plane of Lamar Barlow to go headlong into the rocky, snowy mountainside is certainly up for debate. What isn’t, is that the state of Washington, and indeed, at least on occasion, the Canadian region of British Columbia seemingly in sympathy with it, is awash with bizarre, unsettling, and seemingly otherworldly activity.

Disclaimer

The stories, accounts, and discussion in this article are not always based on proven facts and may go against currently accepted science and common beliefs. The details included in the article are based on the reports and accounts available to us as provided by witnesses and documentation.

By publishing these accounts, UFO Insight does not take responsibility for the integrity of them.  You should read this article with an open mind and come to a conclusion yourself.

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About Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years experience. Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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4 Comments

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  • CXIX says:

    we like the term ‘ET’ rather than Alien.

  • Ted Oliver says:

    Contrary to the articles,the plane was largely intact when I first hiked up Grouse in august 1957.The engine kept going uphill before it came to a stop about 200 ft uphill from the main wreck.A couple of years ago members of the pilots family came up from Utah and built a shrine near the engine ,which is still there.Oddly,the plane parts started disappearing in the 60s and all that remains is the engine.How the plane was removed is a reat mystery ,as it would be nearly impossible to carry the still intact fuselage,wings etc down the rugged mountainside.

  • Roy Rochelle says:

    How is the Kenneth Arnold sighting “infamous”? On the contrary, I think it is simply famous. I do enjoy your reports and thank you for them.

    • Marcus Lowth says:

      This is simply an error on my part (it should say famous). We will rectify this.

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