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Sphere

The Betz Mystery Sphere: Alien Artifact or Doomsday Device?

This bizarre, allegedly self propelled, seamless metallic orb was discovered by members of the Betz family in 1974, and rapidly became the object of fascination, controversy and alarm for scientists, military officials, ufologists and the general public as the story of this mystery sphere spread like wildfire through the international media.

On May 26, 1974, Terry Mathew Betz, a 21 year-old pre-med student, along his mother Gerri and his marine engineer father, Antoine, were inspecting the damage caused by a brush fire that had raged across an 88-acre swathe of woodland that they had recently acquired on marshy Fort George Island, which is nestled just east of Jacksonville, Florida.

At first the trio found nothing out of the ordinary, but before their expedition was over they stumbled across a peculiar highly polished, metal orb that was just under 8-inches in diameter. The only delineating mark that the three could find on the eerily unblemished object was an elongated triangular shape stamped into its surface.

Stunned, Terry and his parents wondered whether or not they might have stumbled across some kind of downed NASA or maybe even Soviet satellite.

Perhaps they even speculated that the friction induced heat of this object plummeting from its orbit might have had something to do with the fire that had ravaged the property, but none of them could find any signs of an impact crater or any indication of collision or heat damage on the gleaming metal globe.

The trio then surmised that it might be an “old fashioned canon ball, which someone had silver plated,” as a souvenir. Intrigued by this extraordinary find, Terry decided to heft the 22 lbs., bowling ball sized sphere into their car and take it back to their castle-like home, where he showed the unusual object to a 12 year-old relative named Wayne. He was just as perplexed by the mystery object as the rest of the family had been.

The young medical student then placed his strange prize on a window seat in his bedroom, and there the anomalous object remained, virtually forgotten, until approximately two weeks later when Terry decided to entertain his friend, Theresa Fraser, with an impromptu guitar recital in his room, eliciting some decidedly unusual reactions from this enigmatic orb.

THE MYSTERY SPHERE AWAKENS

According to Terry’s report, moments after he began strumming his guitar the metallic ball started to “vibrate like a tuning fork,” and began emitting a curious throbbing sound in response to certain notes. This sound was accompanied by what seemed to be an inaudible — at least to human ears — resonance that deeply disturbed the Betz family’s dog.

Days later, in the April 15, 1974, edition of the Palm Beach Post, Gerri Betz was quoted as saying: “There must be high frequency waves from it. When we put our poodle beside the ball, she whimpers and puts her paws over her ears.”

In the days that followed this strange performance, the Betz family began to notice some of the sphere’s other peculiar attributes. They observed that when the orb was pushed across the floor it would stop, vibrate for a moment, change direction (often more than once) and invariably return to whoever first rolled it. In one unprecedented circumstance it rolled for 12-minutes straight without a single pause!

As if this weren’t astounding enough, Terry and his family soon realized that the sphere — in defiance of all logic — appeared to be responsive to weather conditions; becoming noticeably more active on bright days as opposed to overcast ones, as if it were being directly affected by the solar energy. Although it was clearly influenced by sunlight, the sphere did not register any obvious changes when exposed to direct heat or infrared light.

The steel globe would also sporadically vibrate at a low frequency as if “a motor were running inside” and, just as intriguingly, had just one, relatively small, intensely magnetic spot on its surface.

Terry — displaying the kind of inquisitive instincts that all science students should — began to conduct a series of homespun experiments on the object.

His initial efforts were rudimentary and consisted of tapping the orb gently with a hammer, which resulted in a distinctly bell-like “ringing” sound, but it wouldn’t be until Terry placed the object on the flat, glass surface of his mother’s coffee table in order to display his unique find that things would get really interesting.

In one attempt after another, the smooth sphere would consistently roll right to the precipice of the glass surface, pause and then reverse its direction; only to stop again at the opposite edge and repeat the maneuver.

The Betz family began considering the possibility that this object was equipped with a sophisticated guidance system or was perhaps being intelligently controlled either from within or by some enigmatic external force. The family decided that the sphere almost certainly appeared to be striving to get safely to the ground without falling.

An even more bizarre event occurred when one of the family members decided to slant the table at an upwards angle and the orb began to spin up the incline utilizing its own momentum. This seemingly impossible defiance of the laws of Newtonian gravity left the Betz tribe thoroughly baffled.

While there’s no overt connection between the cases, it’s worth noting that during the summer of 1972, a similar (though not spherical) anomalous object plagued a group of teens who repeatedly managed to capture and lose a small, self propelled, evidently intelligently guided device over a vexing 4-weeks period in the Kera area of Kōchi City, Japan. The strange device came to be known as the Kera UFO. This object’s movements also defied logic and appeared to be motivated by self preservation “instincts.”

As if to further indicate that the sphere may have been harboring something (or possibly someone) sensitive within, it seemed to resist all attempts at being shaken by its human handlers. In the April 16, 1974, edition of Lodi, California’s News Sentinel, Gerri stated:

“If you shake the ball vigorously and then place it on the ground it feels just like a huge Mexican jumping bean, which is trying to get away from you.”

The Betz family became so concerned about the sphere’s clear ability to independently navigate its way around their home that they took to placing it in a sealed bag at night so that the object couldn’t escape. After days of watching the sphere perform these incredible feats, the Betz family decided that it was time to go to the public and try to find out just what it was that they actually had in their possession.

THE MEDIA FRENZY BEGINS

The first call that Gerri Betz made was to the local Jacksonville Journal. The Journal was intrigued by their story — 1976 was, after all, near the peak of the halcyon days of paranormal research — and they sent out a seasoned photographer, Lon Enger, to get the story and snap a few pictures. The skeptical Enger dutifully accepted the assignment, but secretly feared he might be stepping into a den of crackpots… he would abandon that theory soon enough.

When Enger arrived at the Betz home he was eagerly greeted by Gerri who wasted no time in presenting him with the sphere. Enger described the moment for the April 12, 1974, edition of the St. Petersburg Times: “I’m leery of this kind of thing. When I got there, Mrs. Betz said, ‘you won’t believe this if you don’t see it.’”

That was when the matriarch of the Betz clan instructed the still dubious Enger to give the ball a little shove across the floor. Here’s the event in Enger’s own words:

“She told me to put it on the floor and give it a push. It rolled a ways and stopped. So what? She said, ‘just wait a minute.’ It turned by itself and rolled to the tight about four feet. It stopped. Then it turned again and rolled to the left about eight feet, made a big arc and came back right to my feet.”

Enger examined the steel ball intently and, like the Betz family before him, could find no seams and no indication of a manufacturer on the surface; save for the inscrutable triangular symbol stamped on its side. As soon as the now converted photographer relayed his fantastic story to his editor, the paper wasted no time in publishing his account and within days a worldwide media firestorm was ignited.

Reporters from such prestigious publications as the New York Times, the London Daily and dozens of other papers from as far away as Japan called or traveled down to St. George Island to see this mystery sphere with their own eyes, but it wasn’t just journalists whose curiosity was piqued by this strange case. The scientific and military communities were also clamoring for a good look at this unusual object.

Representatives of the both the U.S. Marine Corps and NASA contacted the Betz family, as did UFO investigators representing the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO). The visitors often arrived skeptical, but almost universally left both impressed and perplexed by the sphere’s bizarre abilities.

A U.S. Marine spokesman even went so far as to admit on television that the ball had behaved strangely in his presence and conceded that he was unable to explain its origin. An official press release issued by Marines publicly stated that the ball was not the property of the United States government.

By this point Antoine had been forced to return to the sea on a freighter and Gerri and her children were swept up in a media maelstrom from which there seemed to be no reprieve.

The family, who had intentionally chosen an isolated place to live, had become overwhelmed by the press feeding frenzy and in the April 14, 1974 edition of the Palm Beach Post, Gerri was quoted as saying:

“We came to Fort George Island to get away to a serene atmosphere. Now I can’t get away from the telephone. It means nothing to people in the West that it’s midnight here. And when they quit calling those on the East wake up and start.”

DR. HYNEK AND THE SPHERE

At the peak of this frenzy, renowned astronomer and ufologist, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, requested that the Betz family send the sphere to his office at Northwestern University in Chicago so he could personally inspect it, but Gerri refused because she was warned that the one of a kind object might be seized or misplaced.

According to 1980’s, extraterrestrial omnibus, “The Encyclopedia of UFOs” by Ronald D. Story: “After notices appeared in the press Dr. J. Allen Hynek, of Northwestern University, requested that the ball be sent to him for examination. Subsequent callers, however, suggested to Mrs. Betz that trusting it to a public carrier would break the continuity and allow for interception, substitution, or ‘loss.’

Evidently this was an assessment that Dr, Hynek — who notably served as a consultant for, and had a cameo in, Steven Spielberg’s influential “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind” — agreed with. According to a report published in the April 16, 1974, edition of News Sentinel:

“She [Gerri Betz] said that experts she has talked to at Northwestern University decides it would be ‘too much risk’ to fly the sphere to Chicago for examination.”

To the chagrin of scores of scientists and military officers the sphere remained firmly entrenched in the Betz’ home, and that is where the unusual object remained until a bizarre series of unexplainable events forced the family to wonder whether or not this outwardly innocuous orb was capable of channeling — and perhaps unleashing — supernatural forces.

THE HAUNTED SPHERE

Just when the almost unbearably hectic scene that surrounded the Betz house started to become almost routine for the harried family, things suddenly took a decided turn for the weird… or weirder, as the case may be.

Gerri Betz reported that she and her family began to hear strange organ-like music wafting through their cavernous abode in the dead of night, even though there was no such instrument in their home. As if that weren’t creepy enough, doors began slamming, seemingly of their own volition, at all hours of the day and night.

While the Betz family claimed that they weren’t afraid of the poltergeist-like forces that seemed to have invaded their home, this new development did cause concern for Antoine and Gerri who decided that it was high time they got to the bottom of this mystery. To help them achieve that goal they contacted…

THE UNITED STATES NAVY

Following a series of frightening nighttime disturbances, the Betz family finally relinquished the sphere to the scientists posted at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The initial efforts of the Navy metallurgists were met with dead ends as their X-ray machines were not strong enough to penetrate the orb. According to Navy spokesperson, CPO Chris Berninger:

Our first X-ray attempts got us nowhere. We’re going to use a more powerful machine on it and also run spectograph tests to determine what metal it’s made of… There’s certainly something odd about it.”

Eventually the scientists at the station were able to determine that the exact size of the sphere was 7.96 inches in diameter and that it weighed precisely 21.34 pounds. They also concluded that the shell of the orb was approximately one half inch thick — which, according to the report, could withstand a pressure of 120,000 pounds per square inch — and made of stainless steel, specifically magnetic ferrous alloy #431. This alloy is a magnetic, Nickel bearing stainless steel designed for heat treatment to the highest mechanical properties and corrosion resistance.

The Navy team’s powerful 300 KV X-ray also discovered two round objects inside the sphere surrounded by a “halo” made of a material with an unusual density. They also noted that the sphere displayed four different magnetic poles, two positive and two negative, which were not concentric.

The Navy also concluded that while the orb was intensely magnetic, it did not show signs of radioactivity and did not appear to be an explosive. At this point the Navy scientists wanted to cut into the object to get a better look, but Gerri Betz steadfastly refused; stating to the press:

“I told them we expect a comprehensive report in two weeks, and if it can’t be identified as government property it is to be returned to us.”

The Navy made good on their promise and returned the sphere, but lingering questions remained as to the origin and identity of the odd object. At this point the Betz family began to seriously consider the possibility that they were in possession of genuine extraterrestrial technology or an “alien bugging device” as the some of their neighbors dubbed it. According to Gerri:

“If no other explanation can be found that’s as logical as any… Who could say what’s on another planet, even speculations have been proven wrong. The Navy says what it isn’t. They say it isn’t an explosive. So we still want to know what it is.”

Berninger, of course, was hesitant to even entertain the extraterrestrial origin hypothesis, stating in April 15, 1974, edition of the Palm Beach Post: “I don’t know who manufactured it, but I say it came from Earth. We do know that it’s not explosive and presents no hazard.”

As assured as Berninger’s words seemed to be, this opinion regarding the supposed safety as well as the terrestrial origin of the sphere would not be shared by other scientists who tested the anomalous steel ball. The first of these men of science would represent the frankly insidious sounding…

OMEGA MINUS ONE INSTITUTE

On April 13, 1974, Dr. Carl Willson — representing a Louisiana research firm known as the Omega Minus One Institute in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — showed up on the scene. Dr. Willson examined the sphere for over 6-hours and discovered what Ottawa’s, The Citizen newspaper described as: “Radio waves coming from it and a magnetic field around it.”

Dr. Willson confirmed the Navy’s discovery of multiple poles within the sphere and claimed that this phenomenon was a “mind bender,” as the flux density of the field appeared to fluctuate in potency based on an as yet unidentified pattern. This, he claimed, defied the known laws of physics.

The good doctor evidently went on to suggest that the metal that made up the shell of the orb, while comparable to stainless steel, contained an unknown element making it slightly different from steel.

Dr. Willson also apparently witnessed the sphere’s ability to propel itself across surfaces and abruptly change directions, but “was unable to determine a pattern in the movement” or explain how that was even possible. One of the theories posited was that it might be a damaged extraterrestrial probe or perhaps even some sort of an anti-gravitational device.

In the end, the Omega Minus One Institute’s findings regarding the identity of the mystery sphere were just as inconclusive as the Navy’s, and the Betz family were no closer to the truth. It was be then that members of the APRO managed to convince the family that they might be in possession of evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence and as such were legitimately eligible to win the National Enquirer’s then $50,000 reward for…

PROOF POSITIVE OF UFOS

In the early 1970s, the editorial staff of the National Enquirer — and most other popular publications, for that matter — took a serious interest (at least in terms of profit margins) in subjects like cryptozoology, ufology and the supernatural.

On March 12, 1972, the publication offered an award of $10,000 for the “best scientific evidence of the reality of UFOs” and $50,000 to: “the first person who can prove that an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) came from outer space and is not a natural phenomenon.” This already bountiful sum was raised to $1,000,000 by 1976.

While the Enquirer was considered by most to be little more than a supermarket tabloid, the publication took great pains to assemble what they referred to as a “Blue Ribbon Panel,” which consisted of noted scientists including Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Dr. James Albert Harder, Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle — who in 1974, was involved in the investigation of the infamous Carl Higdon abduction case — biologist Frank B. Salisbury and State University of New York professor of philosophy, Dr Robert F Creegan.

Besides the Ph.D holders, the panel was rounded out by such esteemed members as a former Supreme Court Justice, a former Attorney General of the United States and a former New York Court of Appeals Judge. The heads of the APRO, MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) and NICAP (National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena) were also on hand to form a sort of “mini panel,” that was in charge of deciding which cases would go before the primary panel.

The team came together once a year and was charged with the daunting task of designating the most legitimate cases of UFO encounters reported in the past year, as well as examining any physical evidence of said encounters.

It would be at the panel’s discretion to decide if any of this evidence represented incontrovertible proof of alien life and thus award its presenter the prize money. Up until this point the only winner was Durel Johnson and family who were involved in the renowned Delphos, Kansas UFO encounter, resulting in an intriguing series of photos, which won them $5,000 for “scientifically valuable evidence  on UFOs.”

TERRY AND THE SPHERE HEAD OUT

In 1974 the panel convened in New Orleans and the Betz family decided to send the mystery sphere to the event. While they no doubt hoped to become the recipients of the substantial reward, the family’s primary objective was to expose the sphere to these esteemed scientists who might be able to suggest what further analysis might be performed to identify the anomalous orb.

Terry was designated as the personal courier of the object and was sent to New Orleans with the sphere in tow. Needless to say, the mystery sphere became the center of attention and between April 20 and 21, 1974, the device was subjected to yet another battery of tests.

While the panel confirmed much of what the Omega Minus One Institute and the Navy’s researchers had already revealed — including the fact that that the object acted like an audio transponder — it could not discern the origin of the orb, but, as intrigued as the panel members were by the object, the fact that it had no direct connection to any UFO sighting negated any possibility of the Betz’s winning the $50,000 reward.

In the end, Hynek surmised that the object was likely man-made, although he conceded that he had no idea what it was or where it came from, but the orb also caught the attention of one of his Blue Ribbon Panel colleagues and this noted scientist’s investigation into the object would take a potentially terrifying turn, forcing him to ask:

IS THE SPHERE A DOOMSDAY DEVICE?

Dr. James Albert Harder — a professor emeritus of civil and hydraulic engineering at the University of California at Berkeley — became increasingly intrigued by the reports he was reading regarding the Betz sphere as was no doubt delighted by his opportunity to examine the object first hand.

Following the National Enquirer competition, the Betz’s allowed him to examine the globe, the results of which were disconcerting to say the least. Below is an excerpt from “The Encyclopedia of UFOs” that helps to illustrate the scene:

Dr. James A. Harder, the APRO’s consultant in civil engineering, commented that an X-ray of the sphere should result in a donut shaped presentation. However, the Navy X-ray showed two internal spheres after the 300 KV X-ray bombardment rendered the shell invisible. This indicates that the internal material is more dense than the stainless steel shell. Thus, a substantial portion of the weight in the internal material, and the shell could be much thinner than half an inch.”

If all of the above seems a little anticlimactic, then all one needs to do is read the final conclusions that Dr. Harder came to regarding the nature of the sphere and its internal contents. In an announcement made at the International UFO Congress in Chicago on June 24, 1977, Dr. Harder presented his truly astonishing, and utterly terrifying, findings regarding the Betz sphere. According to Story:

“He [Dr. Harder] asserted, based on his X-ray studies, that the two internal spheres are made of elements far heavier than anything known to science. While the heaviest element yet produced in any atomic reactor here on Earth has an atomic number of 105, and the heaviest element occurring naturally on Earth is uranium, with an atomic number of 92, Harder claims to have determined that the Betz sphere has atomic numbers higher than 140. If one were to drill into the sphere, he asserted, ‘perhaps the masses would go critical’ and explode like an atomic bomb.”

As if this weren’t potentially dire enough, Harder went on to warn the assembled audience of scientists and UFO investigators that any attempt to discern the contents of the sphere might unintentionally set it off… or, worse yet, offend it’s ostensibly extraterrestrial creators:

“Because of this danger, and because the object is still presumably under surveillance by its supposed alien makers, Harder warned the audience against any attempt to go to Florida to investigate the Betz sphere.”

It went unreported whether or not the Betz family concurred with Dr. Harding’s potentially apocalyptic conclusions, but it is difficult to believe that they were not at least a little anxious about the potentially devastating effects tampering with their family’s favorite “toy” might cause.

It is at about this time that the stories surrounding the mystery sphere (not to mention the object itself) seemed to vanish without a trace — at least from the public eye. This is baffling considering the fact that it was at just this moment that the tale became truly fascinating, not to mention possibly dangerous. As the years have slipped into decades, two primary questions have haunted investigators. The first unanswered query is …

WHAT THE HELL WAS IT?

The million dollar question is, of course: “Did Terry Betz and his parents actually stumble across an alien artifact that spring day or is there a more prosaic explanation for the whole affair?”

Some of the more mundane hypotheses proposed have ranged from the sphere beings an extra large ball bearing, to a paper mill valve, to a cryogenic storage device known as a Dewer flask, to a check valve used in a phosphate-pumping line, but it seems likely that any of the number of scientists and engineers who examined the sphere were likely to have ruled out any commonplace industrial tool.

Nevertheless, there is one mechanism that numerous researchers have glommed onto as the true identity of the orb; and that is that the sphere was nothing more than a…

SEA BOTTOM MARKER:

The fact both the Marines and the Navy denied ownership of the device is noteworthy; especially in light of the fact that in the years that would follow there would be numerous investigators — including UFO author, Roland D. Story — who would suggest that the object might have been a sea bottom marker, which was used to assist missile launching submarines by giving them stable points of reference for ballistic calculations.

According to Story: “The Navy’s failure to identify [the sphere] could be due to ‘need to know’ restrictions related to classified devices.” The inherent flaw in this theory resides In the fact that even if Berninger and his team did not have “top secret” clearance, the hoopla surrounding the discovery of this sphere, not to mention the reams of paperwork that would have been necessary to conduct these experiments with Navy personnel, would have surely set off some kind of alarm, even in clandestine circles.

The Betz family had already agreed to give up the device if it proved to be military property and it would have taken very little effort on the Navy’s — or the Marines before them, for that matter — part to keep the sphere in their possession if the technology were that sensitive, even if they wanted to keep the device’s purpose a secret. The flip side of this coin is that the Betz sphere might have been a piece of top secret (or maybe even extraterrestrial) technology and that the Navy replaced with with and exact replica, but that is pure speculation.

One should also consider the fact that Antoine Betz was a marine engineer. While he was not likely to be an expert on military tech, it would seem improbable that he would not have at least recognized the device’s maritime origin. So, assuming that this was not a ballistic reference marker, perhaps we ought to consider the possibility that the Betz family came across a…

STOLEN STEEL BALLS:

According to the April 23, 1974 edition of the Ocala Star-Banner, a sculptor by the name of James Durling-Jones claimed to have lost the orb when a cluster of them fell off the luggage rack of his Volkswagen bus while he was driving through the Jacksonville area near Easter of 1971 on his way home to Taos, New Mexico.

Durling-Jones asserted that he had gotten the industrial valve spheres from an anonymous friend who had procured the objects illegally. He further asserted that the rattling that the Betz’s claimed to hear within the sphere was due to the fact that the company that manufactured it had drilled holes into the object allowing metal chips to fall inside, before re-welding them shut.

This seems to fly in the face of the fact that none of the experts who examined the orb noticed any weld marks and that the X-rays seemed to reveal distinct structures within the object. His testimony is further cast into doubt due to the fact that the artist — ostensibly in an effort to protect his friend and his illicit activities — refused to name the company that manufactured his spheres, which might have put the whole business to rest once and for all.

While it seems as if the industrial angle may rest on shaky ground, there’s the distinct possibility that the sphere was another kind of artificial object, which may have plummeted from the loftiest of heights to the Earth below in the form of a…

DOWNED SATELLITE:

It’s difficult to claim that the Betz mystery sphere does not resemble a Sputnik style Soviet satellite with its antennas ripped off, or perhaps even a simplified version of China’s Shijian-1 experimental satellite, which was launched in 1971.

As tempting as it is to suppose that the sphere was a man-made byproduct of the space race, the fact remains that that there was absolutely no indication of a crash on the Betz property (save the brush fire) and no sign of any reentry burns on the object itself. These two facts alone would seem to entirely disqualify the notion that the mystery sphere was a terrestrially constructed, orbiting object.

So leaving behind both industrial and satellite theories let’s look at some less ordinary options, including the fact that the orb seemed to have an eerie resemblance to the oft report World War II aerial marauders known as…

FOO FIGHTERS:

Beginning in November of 1944, WWII Allied aircraft pilots began to describe frightening encounters with small, glowing, silver colored spheres in the skies over Germany and, eventually, the Pacific Theater.

These strange airborne anomalies appeared to follow the Allied planes individually and in clusters. They were able to maneuver around the planes at tremendous rates of speed and displayed astonishing dexterity.

Even stranger was the fact that these peculiar “machines” seemed to toy with the crew of these aircraft, causing a great deal of consternation among those aboard, but exhibit few (if any) overtly hostile actions.

These sightings were taken very seriously by the military brass, who assumed that these “foo fighters” were yet another new weapon conceived by Nazi scientists to turn the tide of the war, but soon it became evident that these bizarre aerial acrobats were also accosting Axis pilots. According to UFO researcher and professor of natural sciences at Western Michigan University, Michael D. Swords:

“During WWII, the foo fighter experiences of [Allied] pilots were taken very seriously. Accounts of these cases were presented to heavyweight scientists, such as David Griggs, Luis Alvarez and H.P. Robertson. The phenomenon was never explained. Most of the information about the issue has never been released by military intelligence.”

While foo fighter run-ins continued to be reported by pilots following WWII, reports had dwindled down in the latter half of the 20th Century, still it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the fact that the Betz sphere, at least on the surface, seem to be very similar to eyewitness descriptions of foo fighters. But if these round, glowing hummingbird-like objects are not to blame, then might this be some kind of…

ALIEN ATOMIC BOMB:

In his influential 1969, book “Chariots of the Gods?” author Erich von Däniken introduced the world at large to Robert Charroux’s theory that it might have been extraterrestrial atomic weapons that were responsible for the total destruction of the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as well as other ancient disasters. According to von Däniken:

Let us imagine for a moment that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed according to plan, i.e. deliberately, by a nuclear explosion.”

Supporters of the alien atomic bomb theory maintain that in the ancient past extraterrestrials — or, possibly, a lost civilization such as Atlantis — managed to detonate nuclear weapons on Earth. The venerated Hindu epic known as the Mahabharata even describes a “single projectile charged with all the power of the universe. An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as ten thousand suns rose in all its splendor.”

This, one must admit, sounds suspiciously like an atomic explosion and its resultant mushroom cloud. The Mahabharata also refers to great battles were fought with in the ancient past with airships and beam weapons, which resemble some modern reports of UFO technology.

Needless to say, mainstream academics dismiss this theory out of hand, but if (for the sake of argument) we entertain the notion that aliens were visiting Earth in the ancient past and occasionally waging war with our ancestors, then is it not possible that the potential doomsday device described by Dr. Harding might not be a more modern alien weapon that accidentally (or intentionally) fell into the hands of human beings? The premise is admittedly thin, but still intriguing in a science fiction sort of way.

The truth is that we may never know what the Betz mystery sphere was, but one sure fire way to try and end this enigma is to solve the second biggest mystery surrounding this device; and that is…

WHERE THE HELL IS IT?

When all the routine theories and wild speculations are put finally aside, the single biggest mystery that remains is — whatever happened to the Betz mystery sphere? In the years that have followed this strange series of events numerous other unfathomable orbs have plummeted to the Earth in such diverse places as Russia, Australia, Iraq and Alabama, but none have ever managed to capture the world’s attention quite like the Betz sphere.

Is Terry Betz, or one of his relatives, still in possession of the orb? Have its allegedly alien creators reclaimed it or has it long since been confiscated by the United States military? The latter would make sense if Dr. Harding’s warning about the object’s destructive potential proved to be true.

Sadly, following Dr. Harding’s dire forewarning in 1974, there’s been very little mention of the sphere in the media. Like many flash-in-the-pan curiosity stories, this one likely ran its course and the public’s interest was captured by some other passing fad before wrapping this puzzle up in any satisfying fashion.

Of course, there’s a chance that in the years following these bizarre events some accredited scientific institution inspected the mystery sphere and made a formal announcement regarding its origin, thus solving this enigma once and for all, but if that’s the case than there’s no public record of it anywhere that I’ve found.

In the end there’s a good chance that we will never know definitive origin of the mystery sphere, but There is the (frankly minute) chance that as you read these words, the irrefutable proof of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence might be sitting in a cardboard box, collecting dust someone’s dingy basement just waiting for a curious child to discover its enthralling (and potentially apocalyptic) secrets.

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  • Kandinsky

    Fascinating stuff and ,as ever, a very well-written article.

    It’d be good to see footage of it moving independently because that particular claim bugs me a little. It isn’t that I don’t believe the story, you’re article shows it was all real and I’ve checked some of the details myself. It’s just hard to imagine anyone in authority having a sphere that is self-propelled and then not finding it remarkable enough to want to study.

    Senior scientist – “Well look at that?! This thing moves of its own accord. Next!”

    Even from a competitive standpoint the Navy would be curious about other arms of the military or Intel and what tech they were advancing. Likewise any US military organisation would need to rule out something from the Soviets.

    Altogether, I wonder if the Betz’ have woven a series of fantastical layers around the reality of  the sphere?

  • Scott Hamilton

    …”but it seems likely that any of the number of scientists and engineers who examined the sphere were likely to have ruled out any commonplace industrial tool.” And that’s the crux, isn’t it? Maybe they couldn’t rule it out, because that’s what it was. It was exactly the same size and weight as a paper mill valve bearing, so why assume it’s anything else? All the “strange behavior” reported fits well within what I’d expect to see from a hollow metal sphere with some small amount of free weight inside (probably from the manufacturing process, it was suggested), including the “rolling uphill” bit. See the show Chained Reaction, where every week some team does the “tires roll uphill” trick. Anything can seem mysterious if you just arbitrarily ignore the plausible mundane explanations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/feltbettor Jeff N.

    Reminds me of the core from the bomb the kid built in the Manhattan Project. 

  • Plotus

    Perhaps it should be taken to the sites of crop circles or other enigmatic sites like the pyramids or Stonehenge or? To see if it interacts with any of these sites.

  • YourSecretAdmirer

    they dont know, therefore aliens

  • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

    Amazing no one proposed the ball was a malfunctioning drug orb discarded by a careless time traveler :P

    An astounding essay, Rob

  • psycros

    The Florida marshlands would be an excellent place for something to be forgotten, preserved and then found again (if it was built entirely of very high-grade stainless steel, that is).  As forensic tools improve, Its only a matter of time before science is forced to start looking at historically anomalous relics objectively.  Who knows what heights civilization may have reached in the distant past only to fall victim to calamities either natural or self-inflicted?

  • http://profiles.google.com/dedicated.dad Dedicated Dad

    how can there be no film of this thing?

    Smells like bunkum to me…

  • Sweet ‘n’ Tender

    Where is this family now? With todays tech maybe they could get to the bottom of it…. Maybe throw it at the hadron collider in Europe and see if it sticks. lol ….. seriously, where are they now?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Fenster/100000084475671 Steve Fenster

    When I was in the Army in the early 1970′s I was an X-ray tech.  One day some guy came into the clinic and showed me a gray oblate spheriod object.  It was maybe 6 cm in diameter and 3cm thick in the center, tapering to smooth edges and ceramic like. He said that he had found the object near Mt. Shasta and that it had the unusual property of being able to be immersed in hot water briefly, but then continue to be hot for an extended time.  It would reach the high temperature almost immediately.  I radiographed the object which appeared to be homogenous.  I then placed it in the refidgerator for maybe 15 seconds.  When retrieved it was ice cold and remained ice cold.  After about 30 minutes the gentleman, object and radiograph went out the door.  I never saw any of them or got any other information about this.

  • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

     Homogeneous? how much did it weigh?

    Did you keep a copy of the X-rays?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5C7RHEIL742ARMZAXEOCKPDVEM Denny M

    I find it funny that with all the information in the article that the author didn’t conclude it with where the sphere is today and if the Betz family still has it.

    By leaving it all up in the air it either smacks of incompetence on the authors part or that it has since been determined that it’s of more mundane terrestrial origins.

  • Aman_karir

    There is, it’s called “The Sphere”. Remember, with Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson. 

  • roxaway

    Its interesting that the Betz family found the sphere in May 1974 but the news paper articles about it began in April!

  • Justsomerandomguy

    What a well written, error-less article. You just don’t see that often anymore, hence, I decided to let you know.

  • cplan9

    What does the family say about where it went?

  • [email protected]

    I KNEW THE GUY HE TOLD ME THE NAVY WANTED TO CUT IT OPEN HE DECLINED THE SPHERE WAS RETURNED

  • sumal

    Clearly he tried to find what happened and states
    “there’s no public record of it anywhere that I’ve found.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ERKURTKST25X6RJ75YVCRPRBIQ Tom Thumb

    If people were really that baffled, they would just crack the thing open.

    Conclusion:
    Fake or just some run-of-the-mill sphere designed for some specific [Earthly] purpose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/st.steinberg.1 St Steinberg

    Excellent article.

    To which I add the following:

    At the time that the original story broke, back in 1974, I was a researcher, with a specialization in the sciences, at CBS News, and was intrigued by this story — so I dug into it, interviewing various of the principles involved.

    One such person whom I spoke with was Jeri (“Gerri”?) Betts (“Betz”?).

    Contrary to what was reported, by some outlets, as to her (or her family’s) observations re this “mystery object’s” behavior, as I recall she made no claim to me of hearing “organ music” or “doors slamming” since taking possession of this object. So I wonder: are the reports of the Betts family claiming to have been hearing those sounds true, or were those reports fabricated by others and not reflective of what Mrs. Betts or her family had actually stated?

    Or is it possible that the Betts family perhaps made that claim – of hearing those sounds – sometime after Jeri Betts and I had spoken together?

    But I can also add this: Jeri was emphatic in telling me — and tearfully so — that neither she nor anyone in her family had ever claimed that the object might have a UFO connection, but that, as I recall, it was elements of the media – and possibly even the US Coast Guard (or Navy) that had examined the sphere – who were the ones that were spreading the false assertion that she or her family were claiming a UFO-connection. And that these reports were causing her family huge distress.

    The following morning’s broadcast of “The CBS Morning News with Hughes Rudd” affirmed to me that – in my opinion – my own broadcast network was apparently part of the problem that Mrs. Betts had described to me the day before:

    Watching that broadcast, I witnessed the program’s anchor, Hughes Rudd, conclude the newscast with a supposedly “humorous” commentary about the Betts story. In that commentary, as per my recollection, Rudd – in my opinion – abhorrently “tore into” Jeri Betts on a personal level, including in his attack a claim, which he stated as though it were fact, that she (or her family) had declared that the sphere was possibly from a UFO. And, in my opinion, he portrayed her in a highly offensive, factually unwarranted, and likely personally damaging, way – and did so on national TV.

    Perhaps he thought it was a joke. I doubt if Jeri or the Betts family concurred.

    But, what, actually, was that sphere? And, after the story faded from the headlines, whither Jeri Betts and family?

    Anyone?

  • http://www.facebook.com/st.steinberg.1 St Steinberg

    Me here again, with an editorial P.S. :

    The correct name of the scientist whom you wrote about (and whom I, as part of CBS News, also interviewed at the time), is not “James Harding” but, as even your quoted item from APRO states, “James Harder”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/st.steinberg.1 St Steinberg

    Oops! Me once more — this time with a clarification of something confusing that I myself had written!

    In my comments below (headed “Excellent article”), in the paragraph that starts with “But I can add also this”, I erroneously made that paragraph’s closing-sentence appear as though the USCG or Navy were claiming that “that these reports were causing her family huge distress”. What I had meant was that Jeri Betts — not the USCG or Navy — had said to me that these reports were causing her family huge distress.

  • mitchaki

    Maybe it’s the ball from Phantasm?

  • Seijinvet

    I would guess about 8 oz. We did not have a way of copying radiographs and the film departed with the gentleman and object.

  • Michael

    I live in Saint Petersburg Florida. Will see what I can find!

  • Sadly

    The mix up of dates in this story makes it hard to follow and loses credibility.

    1)The object was found in May 1974 but the newspaper was reporting about it in April 1974?

    2)Then Betz calls The Journal ” The Journal was intrigued by their story — 1976 was, after all,
    near the peak of the halcyon days of paranormal research — and they
    sent out a seasoned photographer, Lon Enger, to get the story and snap a
    few pictures” But the reporter Lon Enger then teleports back in time I guess to April 1974 “When Enger arrived at the Betz home he was eagerly greeted by Gerri who
    wasted no time in presenting him with the sphere. Enger described the
    moment for the April 12, 1974, edition of the St. Petersburg Times: “I’m leery of this kind of thing. When I got there, Mrs. Betz said, ‘you won’t believe this if you don’t see it.’””
    :( Not very good journalism, doesn’t anyone proofread these before they are printed?

  • Pat Moane

    Funny how you find flaws like dates and how they report strange sounds but not to you, thats because the sounds didn’t start at first as you can clearly see, I love it when you discredit the real deal, you try to discredit it by using false information if you only read the whole thing you see they have made false claims to discredit it, not to mention the object has gone missing which is most likely in government hands, next time you do a smear campain be a little bit smarter because you insult my intelligence