The state of Nebraska is known throughout the United States for two things: corn, and college football. That’s about it. With a population of 1.869 million (about that of Perth, Australia) and 77,421 square miles within its borders (roughly the size of the nation of Kyrgyzstan), farm acreage far outnumbers cities, and the 6,150,000 cattle on those farms far outnumber people. The Midwest state is home to one of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffett, is birthplace of Academy Award-winning actor Marlon Brando, and is the unlikely sight for three famous UFO stories. These were from people. The cows aren’t talking.
The Airship Wave of 1897
Between 1896 and 1897, people from across North American and Europe reported mysterious slow-moving airships traveling overhead. Some people reported lights in the sky (strange lights, of course, since human flight was still in the future). Others told of encounters with metallic craft, and occupants who claimed to be everything from Martians to descendants of the lost tribe of Israel.
Nebraska had its own sightings.
People in the town of Hastings (population 7,000 in 1897) reported seeing an “air ship, or something of the kind … sailing around the air west of this city,” according to the 2 February, 1897, edition of the Nebraska Bee. The news report was anything but new, claiming the sightings happened the previous fall. The ship floated slowly about 500 feet off the ground before circling, then traveling north before it “sank into oblivion.”
Residents of Hastings saw a second ship (possibly the same one. The ships were too far away for a detailed description) floating at about 800 feet west of Hastings on 31 January. "At first sight it had the appearance of an immense star, but after closer observation the powerful light shows by its color to be artificial. It certainly must be illuminated by powerful electric dynamos for the light sent forth by it is wonderful," an anonymous witness told the Bee.
The third and last sighting occurred on 5 February about forty miles south of Hastings near the Kansas state line. This craft was much closer. Witnesses (returning from a prayer meeting, mind you) claimed it had a bright front light, three smaller lights on each side, four wings, and a “large fan-shaped rudder." The ship was close enough the witnesses heard an engine and voices of the occupants.
The airship wave is still a mystery.
Nebraskan Reinhold Schmidt was a grain buyer who had a really odd day.
Schmidt drove near Kearney, Nebraska, when he noticed a large metal cylinder with rudders lying in a farm field. Since this wasn’t something a farmer would casually leave in a field, he pulled his car to a stop. Four men and two women – completely human – who spoke German (really? German?) took him inside the cylinder, told him they were from Saturn, and were on Earth to observe the Russian satellite Sputnik.
People from Saturn who spoke German spying on the Russians in Nebraska?
After the Saturn Germans released Schmidt, he brought local law enforcement officials to the site. They found a depression in the field, along with a green goo (goo being the best scientific term at the time).
After he went home, according to Schmidt, the space people he encountered continued to visit him. They would land their ship nearby his home, and drive an MG sports car they kept aboard the cylinder for such an occasion (although Schmidt never mentioned if they also brought a casserole). The visitors took Schmidt aboard their ship (with propellers at each end) and orbited earth.
That part was important.
After lecturing across the country (with his book, “Edge of Tomorrow”) about the Saturn German’s message of peace, and how they helped the Venusian Jesus Christ save the world, Schmidt moved to Bakersfield, California, and called on all the elderly women who had heard him speak during his lecture tour (he kept attendance), and told them that during his trip into orbit the spacemen showed him areas of quartz crystals that could cure cancer. He just needed all their money to dig it up. He collected $30,000.
After he got out of prison, he moved back home to Nebraska.
For the record, I didn’t claim this was an encounter. I simply said it was a story.
Now this is an encounter.
A relatively new officer for the Ashland, Nebraska, Police Department, drove slowly down U.S. 6 highway near a Y in the road where 6 meets State Highway 63 at 2:30 a.m. on 3 December 1967. Herbert Schirmer made his nightly rounds that Sunday, stopping at businesses on the outskirts of the small town to make sure nothing was amiss, when he saw lights he first thought belonged to an overturned truck.
He was wrong.
“As soon as my headlights, which were on bright, struck the object, I knew it was no truck, and what I saw scared me,” Schirmer told The Ashland Gazette in its 7 December 1967 edition. What he saw was an oval metallic object “perhaps 20 feet long and as much as 14 feet thick,” according to Schirmer. Lighted portholes circled the object, connected by a line, which might have been a catwalk, he said.
The object hovered a few feet off the ground, partly over the highway and partly over the shoulder next to the ditch. Schirmer couldn’t hear any noise from the craft. It suddenly shot fifty feet into the air and disappeared.
The fun didn’t start until later.
Schirmer drove back to the station visibly shaken. He drank coffee and talked about his encounter. An officer on duty offered this advice: shut up about it. Schirmer didn’t and filed this report in the station logbook, “Saw a flying saucer at the junction of highways 6 and 63. Believe it or not!” A story about the encounter quickly appeared in the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, and attracted the attention of the national press and the United States government.
By February, the Condon Committee, which investigated UFO cases under the direction of University of Colorado physics professor Dr. Edward Condon, wanted to know more about the Schirmer case.
On 13 February, Schirmer and Police Chief Wlaschin arrived in Boulder, Colorado, so experts could hear Schirmer’s story, analyze his psychological makeup, and figure out just what had happened on 3 December. Schirmer’s testimony was designated Case 42.
Dr. Leo Sprinkle, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Wyoming, was the first person to interview Schirmer under hypnosis and had a positive impression. “He was an interesting fellow and he was willing to talk about his experience,” Sprinkle recalled. “There were a couple of things strange from his standpoint. He viewed himself a good policeman from the sense of duty, and he saw himself having a psychic sense that he knew when something was strange.”
Using the pendulum technique to put Schirmer under hypnosis, Sprinkle talked the police officer back to 3 December. What he found were things Schirmer himself hadn’t remembered – events that had never been spoken of began dropping slowly into the conversation. “He said he reached for his pistol when he saw the thing [UFO] and he reached for the microphone, but he didn’t follow through with it,” Sprinkle said, mentioning Schirmer thought he was under someone else’s mental control after he saw the UFO. “He felt that, yes, he was in contact with someone during the encounter. There was a definite feeling he was given information.”
Schirmer told Sprinkle he went inside the craft, and the occupants (humans wearing uniforms with a feathered snake insignia Schirmer later described to paranormal investigator Brad Steiger) showed him their propulsion system.
His personal and professional lives suffered from the attention, and his book deal didn’t help. Whatever really happened to Schirmer on that December night changed his life. He never worked another police job after Ashland, and he stopped talking about his encounter.