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 Case #12

between St Louis and Mitchell, South Dakota, USA - October 25, 1963

This twelfth eye-witness account is from a letter written by the witness and sent to the Flight Information Center, Civil Aeronautics Administration, in Huron, South Dakota. The letter is dated May 11, 1963 and is part of the Blue Book archives. The name of the witness is censored but could be retrieved from accompanying documents in the archives.

You might be interested in a most unusual sighting that occurred in your area during the late afternoon of October 25, 1963, during the course of a VFR flight plan filed by Bonanza ------- between St. Louis and Mitchell.

The aircraft was cruising at a true air speed of 170 MPH at an altitude of 6500 feet on a heading of 310 magnetic. The sky condition was clear with winds from the southwest at approximately 15 knots. At approximately 1845, what appeared to be an unusual object was sighted bearing south. This object seemed to be somewhere north of the Tyndall intersection.

It first was noticed as a dark, sharply defined mass, which appeared to be slightly above our altitude. At first study it was judged to be a large tanker making drogue contact since there was a small object behind it. It appeared to be paralleling our course. It then began to grow larger. Although the outlines were extremely sharp and concise, it did not have an identifiable aircraft shape.

We turned towards the object. A lack of relative movement indicated it was not an aircraft, probably a cloud. However the small, adjacent speck began to grow larger and the main object began to shrink in size and the whole mass appeared to recede. At this point we turned back to our original course toward Mitchell. At that time the single remaining mass disintegrated into approximately 10-20 small objects and the whole group disappeared with the exception of one pronounced dot, which looked very much like an aircraft from the rear. This dot became progressively smaller and we discontinued our watch.

At approximately 1900 we discovered that the shape was returning and we immediately turned towards it on a heading of 180. At this time the sun was over the horizon but there was considerable light in the sky and the object was clearly back-lighted and thus sharply etched against the sky.

At that time the range was impossible to assume. The object looked like a 707 might appear at a distance of two miles head on. At that distance the increase in size stopped. A small dot appeared to the east side of the mass. The dot began to grow in size and the main mass began to shrink. Finally the two objects had completely changed positions, the dot was as large as the original mass and the original mass was gone. We continued on this heading towards the object until 1915. Since the range appeared to be opening and it was fast becoming dark, we discontinued the chase and returned to Mitchell, landing at approximately 1940.

My own experience as a military reserve jet pilot and that of the pilot ---------, left us with no conclusions. It was quite obviously no aircraft, since aircraft do not change shape and size. Further, the relative movement did not fit an aircraft's course. Although it resembled a cloud of smoke that could have been caused by altitude gunnery, the rapid change of size, disappearance and reappearance and our inability to close the range consistently would seem to rule out any condensation. An extremely dense cloud of birds could have accounted for the unusual movements of the shapes, but at our speed we would have closed on such a flock.

After a great deal of discussion, we were forced to conclude that it was simply a U.F.O.

Comment - The constant changes in size of the "masses" seem consistent with towering, back-lit cumulus clouds entering an elevated mirage duct. As in the 1944 Omaha Beach case, the 1954 Labrador case and the 1959 Green Head case, the phenomenon is compared with "a cloud of smoke that could have been caused by altitude gunnery". The "inability to close the range consistently" is also suggestive of an optical phenomenon.

The authors look forward to receiving additional reports and/or comments which may help assess the soundness of the mirage theory for this particular type of UAP sightings (to contact us, see our e-mail address on the contact page).