When relief police officer, George Wheeler, witnessed and reported a UFO in April 1976 in Elmwood, Wisconsin, an incident also witnessed by several other residents, it was the second time in a year he had been present at such an event. That the incident took place in a small town with a population of less than 1,000 and a one-man police force lends it a sense of both romanticism and reality.
Furthermore, several other sightings in the mid-to-late 1970s in the Badger State seemingly share very similar details and descriptions, suggesting once more that a persistent presence of an intelligence unknown was patrolling the skies of the dairy lands of America.
Each and every state across America, much like every country around the planet all have their own UFO histories, waves, and various theories and claims behind all of them. And the mid-1970s sightings of Wisconsin are no different. What’s more, although we won’t examine them here, sightings continue in this part of the world today, two decades into the twenty-first century.
The George Wheeler account appeared in the public arena almost immediately in the April 1976 edition of the APRO (Aerial Phenomena Research Organization) newsletter. Today, almost half a century later, the case is still of interest to UFO researchers and enthusiasts. Just what did George Wheeler that April evening? And might the encounter fit into the overriding journey of the UFO and alien question?
A Strange Glowing Object Over “Small Town America”
At around 11 pm on the evening of 22nd April 1976, George Wheeler would spot what he believed to be an orange glow from a fire near Tuttle Hill in the small town of Elmwood. Around 60 miles from the Mississippi River and with a population (at the time) of just over 700 people, Elmwood was typical of its era of small-town America.
Wheeler himself had over three decades experience in policing, having served with state departments in New York and Wisconsin, as well as acting as a “one-man police force” in Elmwood before “retiring” to a reserve officer (essentially, filling in the current one-man police force was away). It is perhaps also important to mention that Wheeler was an experienced Second World War pilot who had seen combat on several occasion. In short, it would appear the relief police officer was a reliable and credible witness.
On this evening, however, thinking a fire was about to rip through the small town, he jumped in his vehicle and made his way to the location. Upon arriving, though, he wouldn’t find any flames of an uncontrollable blaze. Instead, he witnessed “a strange glowing object”. What’s more, this object was approximately 100 feet above the ground.
Wheeler would estimate he was around 500 feet from the hovering craft. He could see “six bluish-white lights” as well as several “windows or portholes” along the side. Even more intriguing and concerning at the same time, were the moving shadows suggesting that someone was inside this mammoth, silver-colored aerial vehicle.
A Brilliant Orange-White That Was “Like Looking Into The Sun!”
He continued to watch the scene develop. He noticed an open side-panel which allowed him to glimpse inside. Wheeler could see something “revolving slowly” which reminded him of a turbine. As his focus shifted to the bottom of the craft, he noticed several “legs” protruded from the underside. However, more prominent was the “black, hose-like appendage” which connected to the bottom of the main part of the craft.
He would radio his report to the sheriff’s department in nearby Ellsworth. As he was doing so, however, the craft suddenly rose with alarming speed. In sympathy with the sudden movement, a “bluish flash” hit the area, perhaps even the patrol car itself, causing the radio to cut out instantly. The car’s lights and engine also went out without warning.
When the radio came back to life a short while later with a voice asking Wheeler if he needed assistance, he would reply:
My God, it’s another of these UFOs or spacecraft!
Wheeler would take a few seconds to clear his thoughts. He would estimate seeing the object for no more than a minute, most likely around 45 seconds. He would also recall a “whooshing” noise as it zoomed upward into the night sky.
Wheeler would further recall that the main exterior of the craft was indeed a metallic silver color, the top was a brilliant glow of orangey-white. In fact, he would claim staring at this top part was “like looking into the sun” such was the brightness. Furthermore, it was huge. At least around the size of a two-story house.
An Attempt At Extraction Of Natural Resources
Perhaps of most interest was the black hose-like appendage. Wheeler claimed it projected downward into the trees below. Whether it went all the way to the ground is unknown. There are, however, several close-contact UFO sightings featuring similar “black tubes”. Most often, these devices are seemingly used to extract water from a supply on the ground, either a water tower or even a lake or river, for example.
If we accept, just for a moment, that the black tube that Wheeler witnessed was similar to these other sightings around the globe (with many of them, incidentally, seemingly taking place between the mid-1960s to the early-1980s), what was it attempting to extract?
There was a farmhouse nearby owned by the O’Bryan family. This means there will likely be a water supply tower too. However, it would appear that no direct activity was reported by the family. Mr. O’Bryan would claim that a little after 11 pm, the television reception went dead but quickly returned. This would likely match when the object took off into the sky knocking out the police radio and car engine.
It is also worth mentioning the testimony from a witness from another farm in the area, a 9-year-old boy would claim his sister returned to the family home that evening from “some doings in town”. Of more interest, however, was the reaction of the family dogs as she did so. Instead of running to her as they would do normally, they would purposely keep their distance and bark repeatedly.
Perhaps, then, we should turn our attention to the limestone quarry which resides in the immediate vicinity of the sighting. Might this have been the target of the apparently cosmic craft? Several contactees have claimed Earth’s natural resources are the target of such UFO activity.
“Hit” By A UFO!
Shortly after the incident, 36-year-old dairy farmer, David Moots, was returning home from dropping off the family babysitter when he saw Wheeler’s squad car parked across the road with the lights out. He pulled over his vehicle and walked over the Wheeler’s car to see if the long-time Elmwood police officer needed assistance.
Moots was aware of a past heart attack suffered by Wheeler. So when he saw him struggling to get out of his squad car he, at first, believed he might be having another similar episode. The closer he got to the car, however, he could clearly see there was something wrong with Wheeler. He called out to the relief police officer, asking if he was OK. Wheeler replied that he had been hit.
Now growing concerned once more, he asked him if a car had hit him Wheeler’s reply, however, was perhaps the last thing the dairy farmer expected to hear:
No, one of those UFOs!
The use of the word “those” is interesting, suggesting that UFO sightings were common knowledge among the residents of the town. When Moots was interviewed later and asked about this, he would claim that “a lot of people” claimed to have witnessed UFOs and strange objects in the area. So much so, that he didn’t think twice Wheeler mentioning one too. What did surprise him, though, was the claim of being “hit” by one.
Moots would further recall how “dazed” Wheeler appeared. And how he was not at all like himself.
An Orange Half-Moon Over Tuttle Hill – Corroborating Witnesses
There were, of course, several other witnesses to the evening’s events. For example, housewife, Mrs. Wergland, was at home just outside of Elmwood when her cuckoo clock announced it was 11 pm. She would make her way to the kitchen in order to take her regular shot of medicine. As she did so, however, she would happen to catch a glance out of her kitchen window.
There, opposite her home, was a “bright, orange moon-shaped” object hovering over Tuttle Hill. She would watch the object for several minutes before simply going to bed and going to sleep. When asked why she did not report the sighting or even wake her husband she claimed she had seen lots of strange objects in the area. And furthermore, her husband usually claimed they were likely “just the moon”.
Another witness, however, Paul Fredrickson would report his sighting. Fredrickson, the administrator of the Heritage of Elmwood Nursing Home was at home when he received a phone call. It was the wife of the police chief who asked that he might go to the front of his house and look out of the window. When he did, he would see an “an orange glow, like a moon cut in half”. What’s more, the object appeared to be over Tuttle Hill.
Fredrickson would quickly dismiss the idea that the orange glow was a blaze of some kind as there was no flames nor smoke. By the time he returned to the phone, his wife was now awake and downstairs. By the time they returned to the front window, the glowing object was no longer there.
We will return to Paul Fredrickson shortly, and a previous sighting he had the year before, in 1975.
Listening To Events Unfold On The Police Scanner
At the time of the incident on the evening of 22nd April 1976, Elmwood Police Chief Gene Helmer was at home, monitoring the “police scanner” as he relaxed for the evening. However, when he heard Wheeler’s report of a UFO he took an immediate interest in the unfolding events. Even more so when the radio suddenly went dead in the middle of Wheeler’s report.
Helmer was preparing to leave the house to make his way to the location when the radio suddenly burst into life again several moments later. On the line, was Wheeler’s voice:
Get somebody up here – I’ve been hit!
The police chief then left the house and jumped into his car, immediately setting off for Tuttle Hill around a quarter of a mile away. When he arrived several minutes later, Moots was already with Wheeler attempting to calm him down. Interestingly, Helmer, who knew Wheeler very well, would later claim to have not previously seen him so upset, or frightened.
At around the same time as Helmer arrived at Tuttle Hill, so did Wheeler’s wife, who had also been listening in on the police frequency scanner. She would ultimately take her husband home and contact the family doctor, Frank Springer, for advice. Dr. Springer would ask that she bring Wheeler to his home so he could examine him straight away. She did so, and following this, the doctor prepared a shot which would calm Wheeler and help him to sleep.
However, after returning home and reporting the incident in full to Chief Helmer, by 1 am Wheeler was still quite distressed. On the further advice of Dr. Springer, Mrs. Wheeler would drive her husband to the nearest hospital.
A Sudden Spate Of Nightmares And Ill-Health
Wheeler would ultimately stay in the hospital for three days. During that time, doctors would perform several tests and examinations of him. However, ultimately, they could find nothing wrong with him.
After his initial discharge from hospital, however, he would return there a second time suffering from intense headaches and bizarre nightmares. He would stay this time for 11 days. Again, however, nothing of concern was discovered and doctors could find no obvious reason for his symptoms.
Mentally, Wheeler was certainly back to his normal self. Dr. Springer, however, would state that the physical ailments that had hospitalized him were certainly not normal for Wheeler. And he spoke as someone who had been the family doctor for a quarter of a century.
Perhaps one of the most bizarre elements of the case is that Wheeler would tell of his encounter, in front of his wife, to his superior, Chief Helmer on the night of the incident. Helmer would write the report in full following Wheeler’s version of events. However, by only several weeks later, Wheeler had all but forgotten the details of the incident.
This is an interesting detail in that had there not been so many witnesses to the incident, as well as to Wheeler’s state at the time, and had it not been Wheeler’s automatic duty to radio a report of the incident, might it be that there are many more such encounters that people opt not to report or even speak of. Ones that then fade from memory relatively quickly, and to the point where the witness no longer remembers anything about the incident.
Perhaps for people who have recurring dreams, persistent headaches and mystery ailments, or “memories” of places or encounters that they can’t quite remember in full, may have similar tales to tell.
Evidence Of Electromagnetic Propulsion Technology?
Before we examine several other similar sightings in Wisconsin, we should perhaps consider several other details. Not least of which is the state of Wheeler’s police car. In the weeks prior to the sighting, the vehicle had recently received a complete tune-up and general once over. Any minor ailments of the vehicle were repaired or replaced.
However, following the events of 22nd April, an investigation of the vehicle revealed some remarkable and troubling finding. For example, according to the report “all ports and plugs” in the car’s engine had to be replaced. As did the vehicle’s starter.
Given that we know the car’s radio, engine, and lights went dead momentarily during the incident, it is likely that the electrics in the vehicle were completely shorted out by some kind of intense burst of electromagnetic energy by the cosmic vehicle as it departed directly upwards with lightning speed. Might this be evidence of an electromagnetic propulsion system? One that would revolutionize our collective power usage should humanity ever attain such technology.
Given that, according to some UFO researchers including the controversial Bob Lazar, it is these futuristic highly advances propulsion systems, and the consequences for the status quo in terms of power suppliers and the amount of money involved, that keeps the UFO subject top-secret. More secret, in fact, than the atom bomb.
Just think about that for a moment.
Other Similar Sightings In The Dairy Capital Of America
Whether there are connections to be found or not, there are several other sightings in the Wisconsin area that took place around the same time. In fact, in a recent article about a particular two-year period in the mid-1970s in Elmwood specifically, that saw dozens of UFO reports, one long-time resident would state that “everybody was just going bezerk”.
We have written before, for example, of the Ashland UFO landing incident, which shares some of the details and descriptions of the George Wheeler case.
Many residents would also wonder if the limestone quarry attracting these apparently otherworldly visitors. Some would insist the sightings and encounters were part of a top-secret government experiment. Whatever the truth may one day prove to be, that something was taking place in the skies of Wisconsin at the time is surely beyond any reasonable doubt.
Although there are few details of it, Wheeler himself even claimed to have witnessed a UFO in 1975. And what of the sightings from further afield in the state? Do they have a connection to the UFO encounters in Elmwood? We will start, though, with the sighting of the previously mentioned Paul Fredrickson.
The Fredrickson Tuttle Hill Incident, October 1975
We earlier looked at the witness statement of Paul Fredrickson who witnessed the glowing object from the front window of his home. Although there was little detail Fredrickson could offer on this sighting, given the distance he was away from the craft, not to mention it disappearing while he was away from the window, he did have another experience of his own only several months earlier somewhere around the 20th October 1975. And what’s more, the sighting occurred at approximately the same location.
That evening, at a little after 10 pm, Fredrickson was returning home with his son in the car after working late. Suddenly, as they were driving near Tuttle Hill, his son spotted something strange in the skies overhead and alerted his father to it.
Fredrickson at first believed the object was simply a full moon. That was until it moved with great alacrity overhead. He would immediately pull the car to the side of the road and exited the vehicle. He would later describe the objects as a “big orange light coming toward them”. However, when it was directly overhead it looked like “the bottom of a huge, gray plate”.
He would estimate the craft was between 500 to 1,000 feet above them and was approximately 100 feet in width. Interestingly, when it hovered over them a sound similar to a waterfall was audible. Fredrickson’s son would also later state that a “blue and green beam” emerged briefly from the object. In a matter of seconds, the glowing craft was disappearing into the distance.
The Forster Family Encounter, Elmwood, March 1975
A little over six months before Fredrickson’s encounter, and once more in Elmwood, the Forster family would share an experience that would forever change their lives. So much so that Mrs. Forster would tell the Elmwood Argus in their 13th March 1975 edition that:
I was always an unbeliever as far as UFOs were concerned. But I am not anymore!
According to the account, Mrs. Forster and her three children, 9-year-old Mary, 5-year-old Ann Marie, and 4-year-old Tom, were driving back from Arkansas where they were visiting family. As they were driving, they noticed a “bright star” in the sky above.
All through the journey, the star appeared to remain with them. However, it wasn’t until they had just passed through Eau Galle that Mrs. Forster noticed the star “dipping lower” and seemingly toward them. She stopped the car temporarily and contemplated driving into one of the many farms in the area for assistance or advice on what the strange light might be.
However, she would quickly dismiss this idea and set out once more on her way. By the time she had reached the Weber farm, though, the “star” was no right above the treetops. She felt sure it was not merely a star and finally convinced herself to drive into the Weber Farm.
The Weber’s son, Roger, was at home with his own two children. All three would witness the strange light. Roger would offer that it was not a star but it might be a satellite. Feeling a little reassured, Mrs. Forster got back into her car and drove on once more.
She was, she reasoned, only three miles from home.
An Attempting Landing To Block The Road
She had only been back on the road for a matter of minutes, however, when the brightly lit object came closer to their vehicle. So close, in fact, that it began to descend in the middle of the road right in front of their car.
She would later describe the object as looking like two stuck together saucers. The object itself was white but there were various colored lights around the sides. On the underside, there appeared to be “stick-like legs”. She would estimate the craft to be around the size of a standard car.
At this point, all three of the children were beyond frightened. Mrs. Forster immediately put the vehicle into reverse and quickly made her way back to Weber Farm. As she did so, she repeatedly pressed on the car’s horn. It had the desired effect as both Roger his two children rushed outside to see what the matter was.
Roger would ultimately put his children in his car and then escort Mrs. Forster home. Although the glowing object continued to follow them, it did not attempt to land again. Interestingly, the lights of the object appeared to glow an orange color as it moved with them.
Whatever the craft was, remains unknown. However, given the “smaller” size of it (around the size of a car) we might be safe to assume, if we accept of course an extraterrestrial connection, that the vehicle was most likely a scouting ship of some kind.
The Wausau Incident, April 1975
At around 2 am in the early hours of 6th April 1975, Rod Seagraves and Mike Lewandowski – both 18-years-old – were driving toward Athens from the town of Wausau. Suddenly, their CB radio ceased to work. At around the same time, Mike would notice a “pulsating silver-gray” object ahead of them.
He would later describe the object as “flat on the bottom and dome-shaped on top” and appeared to be hovering just above the ground. They continued forward, the road particularly quiet, due to the late hour, until they both saw what they thought was a tree at the roadside, around seven feet in height.
However, when they saw it “moving slowly” they increased the car’s speed, not stopping until they arrived back in Wausau at around 3 am. They would park the car behind a restaurant, and both sat there contemplating what they had just witnessed. They would ultimately fall asleep. However, upon waking, they were in a completely different location in the car park.
Even stranger, both had dirt all over their clothing and their petrol tank was showing lower than it should have. Half a tank lower.
They would ultimately propose to themselves that they returned to the location of the incident at some point after parking up. However, whatever had happened once they arrived there, they could now no longer remember.
In the months following the incident, Mike’s memory would become increasingly worse. So preoccupied with the unknown events of 6th April 1975 was he that even thinking about the simplest tasks became a task in itself.
A most intriguing case indeed.
Reports Of Sightings Immediately Before And After The George Wheeler Incident, Early-1976
Although most are nowhere near as detailed as some of the other incidents we have examined here, there were several UFO reports and encounters around Wisconsin in the weeks immediately before and after the George Wheeler incident.
For example, on the early morning of the 6th March 1976 at a little after 5 am, police would receive reports from a resident in Two Rivers of a “blue-white light” hovering just to the north of the city. A police unit would set off in the direction of the glow. They too would report seeing a glow, as well as something akin to a “long vapor trail”. The police would state their belief that the glow was from a comet.
Just over a week after George Wheeler’s encounter, a small notice in the Tribune Record claimed that UFOs were the “topic of discussion” in recent days. Furthermore, the story claimed, “a few” calls had come into the sheriff’s department from concerned locals. Specifically of seeing “strange objects” overhead, although not always as high as we might imagine.
An incident around six weeks after George Wheeler’s sighting in late-May, however, stands out a little more than the others.
The River Falls Incident, May 1976
At around 10:30 pm on the 20th May, friends, Gayle Bock, and Kathy Holt were driving back to Elmwood after attending an Emergency Medical Technician training course in River Falls. However, shortly after setting off, an object flying just above the treetops to the side of them caught their attention.
They followed it for several moments before losing sight of it as they traveled along the road. The next thing they knew, though, the light was seemingly in front of them and coming straight at them. They would ultimately stop the car, realizing as soon as they did that the object was directly overhead.
When Gayle left the car to observe the object more clearly, she could see that on the “perfectly round” underside were several red and blue flashing lights. Bizarrely, almost in sympathy with the two ladies setting off once again, the object immediately moved in the opposite direction.
Interestingly, both Kathy and Gayle would state to local reporters that they had both witnessed similar incidents before, including an “orange glowing” object. We should remind ourselves that George Wheeler and Paul Fredrickson claimed to have witnessed strange objects on more than one occasion.
Perhaps even more interesting, then, that Gayle Bock would make reference to Wheeler when she said to reporters that the object she witnessed was “not as big as the one George Wheeler saw”. She would also claim that a previous sighting took place in the company of one, Paul Fredrickson.
The “Green Men” Incident, July 1976
Although we should perhaps take the sightings with a little bit of a larger pinch of salt than usual, an incident that unfolded on the last evening of July certainly warrants inclusion here. That evening in the small town of Malone in the Fond Du Lac region of the state, Mark Ziegelbauer would claim that he witnessed a strange object descend and land in a field of his family’s farm. Shortly after, he witnessed the “green men” outside the craft.
As bizarre as this account truly does sound, Mark’s father, Orville, also witnessed the craft descending several moments earlier at around 10 pm while he was working late. He would then alert his son to the strange events. Both would see the multi-colored rotating lights seemingly of the craft as it came down towards the field in which it settled.
Upon his father’s instructions, Mark would drive over to the field in question. Upon arriving he would see the two strange figures. He would inadvertently shine the car’s headlights directly at them, noticing how they lifted their hands to their faces to shield their eyes from the light. He immediately dimmed and lowered the beam.
As he did so, however, the two figures simply “disappeared somehow” right in front of him. Unnerved by this latest occurrence he left the area and returned to his father. When UFO investigators arrived in the area to speak with the family, it would come to light that another nearby resident witnessed a flying object around an hour before the incident at the Ziegelbauer farm.
The Coltrane UFO Picture, April 1978
Although it was almost three years to the day of the George Wheeler case, an incident on the afternoon of 19th April 1978 would also feature a Wisconsin police officer witnessing a strange aerial craft. Furthermore, Mark Coltrane would also manage to snap several pictures of the saucer-like craft with his Polaroid camera. The pictures, one of which you can see below and the other a little lower down, are some of the better pictures of the later twentieth century.
Coltrane was on patrol duty at the time and was driving near the town of Colfax. It was a little after 12 noon, so he would decide to find somewhere to pull over and buy something to eat. He was just about to radio in of his intention to do so when he realized that the radio was crackling significantly.
It was then that he noticed the “metallic looking disc” making its upward into the afternoon sky. It appeared as though it was heading toward him but being more concerned with picking up his Polaroid camera, he wasn’t sure of the exact movements of the craft.
The saucer-like craft was out of sight within a few minutes such was the speed with which it cut through the sky. Although the sighting was, for the most part, from a considerable distance, the incident left Coltrane in a state of mild shock. So much so, in fact, that he simply sat in his car for at least an hour, maybe two before officially submitting his report of the incident.
You can view more of the Coltrane pictures below. Given that there is little doubt about Coltrane’s credibility, the pictures are truly some of the most remarkable on record.
Coincidental Encounters Or Signs Of Something More Predetermined?
The George Wheeler case is perhaps, then, one of several such incidents in the Wisconsin area in the mid-to-late 1970s of significance. And certainly, ones to keep in the forefront of our minds as we delve ever deeper into the UFO and alien question.
And what of Wheeler’s previous sighting? Might this be pure coincidence? After all, he was police officer, albeit a relief one, so it is perfectly reasonable to assume he would have more chances than your average resident of witnessing something strange in the skies over the town.
Or might it suggest there could be more sightings than just a previous one? Might there have been several? And, as wholly speculative as it is, might these potential previous sightings have been more than just sightings? These are all questions that are unlikely to receive satisfactory answers. Certainly not in the foreseeable future.
And what should we make of the other sightings that would unfold around the Wheeler case? Many of which we have examined above. Perhaps in particular, because of the photographic evidence, the Coltrane photographs. Maybe they should really make us wonder, not only of these sightings but of many others that are surely just as credible.
Tragically for Wheeler’s family and friends, as well as the Elmwood community at large, despite a lifetime of relatively good health, George Wheeler would suddenly deteriorate. So much so, in fact, that within six months of the incident he had passed away. Furthermore, the official cause of his death remains unknown.
Check out the video below. It looks at this incident in a little more detail.
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