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UFOs: Invasion at Oak Ridge

For me, one of the most important aspects of a UFO encounter is the location. And when the location is one of significance and importance, it makes the encounter even more intriguing. A classic example is a series of startling UFO incidents which occurred at the Atomic Energy Commission facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, from the latter part of 1950 to early 1951. The cases are documented in the now-declassified UFO files of the FBI and make for notable reading.

An FBI teletype of October 13, 1950 refers to the detection of a definitive squadron of unknown objects tracked over the Oak Ridge installation at 11:25 p.m. on October 12. The documentation states: “USAF radar installation at Knoxville…picked up indications of eleven objects and perhaps more traveling across controlled area of Atomic Energy installation at Oak Ridge.” The report continued: “Altitude of objects varied from one thousand to five thousand feet…and density from reading made by light aircraft equal in size to C-47, speed from one hundred to one hundred twenty-five miles per hour…”

Then we have the following from the same document: “No reasonable explanation for radar readings yet developed although operators are experienced reliable personnel and radar set is in perfect operating condition. Bureau will advise of further developments.” Four days later, the FBI received the details of yet another alarming incident, this time involving the visual sighting of a UFO over Oak Ridge. The witnesses were a trio of military personnel. In a report of October 16, signed by Troopers Lendelle Clark and Hank N. Briggs, it was reported…

“…at approximately 2:55 p.m. Trooper [John L.] Isabell stopped us at this installation and showed us an object in the north that was traveling toward the northwest. It looked to be about 2,000 feet in the air and a white-silverish looking color, rotating in a counter clockwise manner. It was round in shape and going in a rather fast motion. This object was at a high altitude and seemed to come in sight and then disappear. It looked about the size of a ball and round at every angle we looked at it.”

Trooper Isabell added further details: “This object was slowly circling in a wide circle and spinning very fast, that is, the object was spinning around and around. The object drifted toward the southwest and in just a few minutes it reappeared at a very high altitude going back into the northeast and going very fast…”

Now, we’ll turn our attentions to the mid-October report of Trooper E.D. Rymer and Captain J.J. Zarzecki. The UFO they encountered at Oak Ridge was “…about the size of a four or five passenger plane. The object had a smoke trail the same cross-sectional size of its body and about one quarter of a mile long. The smoke was grayish in color. The color of the body of the object was silver metallic…When first observed, it was describing an arc toward the ground…While I was making the phone call, Captain Zarzecki watched the object continue downward to 1,500 feet. At that altitude, a second object was noticed alongside the smoke trail. The second object was the same size and shape and was about 50 feet behind the first object…”

Both men agreed that the objects both changed shape – “from a bullet shape to a bladder shape.” Suddenly, one of the objects vanished. The other, however, did not. Rather, it descended quickly and extremely close to the ground, as Trooper Rymer noted: “The object was hovering about 5 or 6 feet above the road in a completely stationary position. I went toward the object and the object started moving southward as I moved toward it…It moved straight up to about 12 feet then described a horizontal movement southward across the fence, then it again moved straight up at about sixty feet where it again moved over a light pole and a willow tree…As it moved away it got larger in size and again assumed a pear or bladder shape. The object continued in this manner until it had passed over the ridge south of Solway road and disappeared.”

The cases described above were just several of dozens that reached the FBI from personnel at the Oak Ridge facility, between late 1950 and early 1951. They were reports which prompted staff to inform the FBI of the following: “The opinions of the Security Division, AEC Oak Ridge; Security Branch, NEPA Division, Oak Ridge; AEC Security Patrol, Oak Ridge; FBI Knoxville; and the OSI, Knoxville, Tennessee, fail to evolve an adequate explanation for OBJECTS SIGHTED OVER OAK RIDGE, TENNESSEE [Note from Nick: the capitals are in the original document].”

Radar screen

Significantly, the following was added: “…the possibilities of practical jokers, mass hysteria, balloons of any description, flights of birds, falling leaves, insect swarms, peculiar weather conditions, reflections, flying kites, objects thrown from the ground, windblown objects, insanity, and many other natural happenings have been rejected because of the simultaneous witnessing of the objects with the reported radar sightings; because of the reliability of the witnesses; because of the detailed, similar description of the objects seen by different persons, and because of impossibility…”

In conclusion, the FBI was told that explanations likely fell into three categories: “physical phenomenon which have a scientific explanation;” “experimental objects (from an undetermined source);” and “the third is similar to the second except that an intended demoralization or harassment is involved.”

And, just for good measure, these words were added: “The fantastic is generally rejected.” Almost certainly, “the fantastic” was a reference to the UFO phenomenon. But, it must be said that the nature of the reports I refer to above do indeed fall into a UFO-themed category. And I could have referenced many more to get the point across. Whatever the nature of the wave of encounters at Oak Ridge from late 1950 to early 1951, of only the following can we be sure: something which remained unidentified decided to make its presence known above one of the United States’ most important atomic energy installations. And time and time again.


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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