Project Blue Book Declassified: The Pittsburgh, Kansas UFO Encounter

“Each wave of sightings adds to the accumulation of reports which defy analysis by present methods... An investigative process in depth is necessary here if, after twenty years of confusion, we want some answers.” - J. Allen Hynek

On August 25, 1952, at about 5:30 AM, KAOM radio staff member and musician, William Squyres was driving from his home in Frontenac, Kansas, to his workplace when he saw a large disc-shaped object hovering above the ground 7 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Squyres described the object “as resembling two turtle shells, or two oval meat platters, placed edge to edge”, with clearly defined rectangular windows and a body of a dull aluminum color measuring about 75 feet long, 45 feet wide, and 25 feet in diameter, slightly rocking back and forth as it hovered 10 feet over a two-acre field of grass near the highway. 

Witness’ sketch of the object.

Squyres also saw what he believed to be a series of small propellers “spaced closely together”, measuring about 6 to 7 inches in diameter.

“These propellers were mounted on a bracket so they revolved in a horizontal plane on the edge of the object. The propellers were rotating at a high rate.”

As he closely observed the object, Squyres described seeing some sort of movements behind the windows, with blue lights fluctuating in different shades. Although these activities were quite obscured, Squyres said he could plainly see the head and shoulders of a man or humanoid silhouette, sitting motionless at one particular window and facing the forward edge of the object.

In his opinion, Squyres believed that the object was probably a new government aircraft “piloted by humans, and not some men from Mars.”

Squyres then turned off the motor of his car, and walked out towards the object where he could hear a steady throbbing sound as he approached within a hundred feet. The object then suddenly began a vertical ascent with a sound similar to “a large covey of quail trying to fly at one time” before taking off at tremendous speed, and blowing the vegetation underneath.

Squyres later returned to the site accompanied by people from the radio station who also confirmed seeing the impressions left on the ground. 

Squyres reported the sighting to the police and gave a detailed report of his encounter, which then made its way to the U.S. Air Force UFO investigation, Project Blue Book. One local newspaper wrote of the incident: “Flying saucer seen hovering near ground northeast of Frontenac, radio man tells police; disappears in sky.”

The Air Force considered the reliability of the observer good due to his disbelief that the craft was extraterrestrial, although they denied the existence of such terrestrial technology. Further investigation of the site showed proof that the vegetation had been blown around. Investigators found that the long grass in the centre of the field had been squashed flat in a circle about 60 feet in diameter, and the grass stems had all been bent over – not broken, and formed a swirling spiral pattern. However, an examination of the grass and soil samples indicated nothing unusual.

Project Blue Book later dismissed the case as hallucination, thanks to Dr. J. Allen Hynek. The astronomer commented mainly on the propellers Squyres had described. He noted that it cannot be possible because these propellers were too small to lift such an object. Hynek also ruled out the possibility that a man and not an extraterrestrial being was inside the craft as no human aircraft ever matched the description of the craft Squyres had seen. Lastly, the fact that this particular case had only one witness makes it less impressive among UFO researchers and subject to heavy skepticism.

Hynek wrote about the case 25 years later, and said that he remembers “puzzling long and hard over this case, one of the very early ones received by Blue Book.” Although he initially dismissed the case as hallucination, after having encountered many cases years after years, the astronomer reluctantly admitted that such careless dismissal may not have been a scientifically bulletproof approach to the question.


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