My most recent book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land,” has nothing to do with the paranormal – almost. It’s a travelogue. I drove more than 1000 miles from my hometown in northwest Missouri to Canada looking for (beer, and) forgotten pieces of history. After visiting the birthplaces of bandleader Glenn Miller and Nobel Prize-winning author Sinclair Lewis, numerous places where American Indians got tired of the government’s crap (insert blood and gore here), and natural wonders like the source of the Mississippi River and Minnesota’s Lost Forty, I discovered I can’t get away from the paranormal no matter how far I drive.
The town was Long Prairie, Minnesota, 103.5 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The year was 1965. The witness was James “Jerry” F. Townsend, 19.
Townsend drove through the gentle hills of Minnesota State Highway 27 between Little Falls and Long Prairie around 7:15 p.m. on 23 October 1965. Townsend, a budding radio host on the local 1,000-watt AM station KEYL, rounded a curve about four miles outside of Long Prairie and suddenly faced something that shook his Christian upbringing.
According to the Mutual UFO Network report, Townsend saw a silver rocket in the middle of the road, standing on three tail fins standing at least forty feet tall.
As Townsend’s mind tried to make some sense of the object before him, the electrical system of his car died and the controls became sluggish. He shoved his feet onto the brake pedal, sending the car into a screeching halt about twenty feet from the rocket. His first thought was to push over the metal cone in the rode, but his car wouldn’t start.
He stepped outside.
As Townsend stared in shock at the craft, he suddenly knew he wasn’t alone. Three metal entities, about the size and shape of beer cans, walked awkwardly on two legs from beneath the rocket and stood between it and Townsend. The entities put down a third leg that acted as a tripod and sat staring at Townsend.
After a few minutes the beer can entities walked clumsily back into a light that shone underneath the craft and disappeared. Seconds later, a loud humming broke the silence Townsend hadn’t realized surrounded him during the encounter. The rocket rose into the night’s sky and disappeared. The ship gone, Townsend crawled back into his car and cranked the starter – the engine fired. The car’s headlights shone on the spot where the craft had been; music on the radio blared into the night.
After the ship disappeared into the night, Townsend drove to the Todd County Sheriff’s Department and reported the encounter. Although deputies only discovered an unexplained oil slick at the landing site, there were a number of reports by farmers, hunters and the sheriff of a neighboring county corroborating Townsend’s claim of a silver rocket flying through the sky of central Minnesota that night.
The United States Air Force’s Project Blue Book, and UFO investigators John Keel, Jacques Vallee, and Dr. J. Allen Hynek, all investigated Townsend’s case. They chalked it up to just another unexplained UFO report.
This encounter could have happened to me during my trip through Todd County near Long Prairie, but Jerry Townsend, I’m glad it happened to you. I may have tried to drink the Beer Can Men, and that probably wouldn’t have ended well.