Space Invaders!

In fall 1973, UFO hysteria gripped the Queen City


n mid- to late-October of 1973, just days before tens of thousands of costumed kids were to hit the streets of Cincinnati and surrounding communities for Halloween night, southwest Ohio was under invasion — an invasion that seemingly came from the heavens, and police and government officials across the region were on edge. 

The Cincinnati police told The Cincinnati Post their phones were “ringing off the hook” nightly about those strange bright lights in the sky. Cincinnati Police said “a mess” of frightened callers saw something just above the tree-tops around Mount Washington, Bond Hill and 14th and Vine, and that some type of machine had landed on the railroad tracks near the 2500 block of Beekman Street.

North of the city, in Trenton, some of the townsfolk swore a flying craft of some sort, not from around these parts, landed on Main Street, right in the middle of town. The town of Reading kept going dark due to power outages officials said were due to “equipment failure.” 

The United Press International reported hundreds of sightings over southwest Ohio; all of them were at night. A woman, hysterical and screaming, cried to police that “some … some … thing” landed in her farm and killed two cows. Near central Ohio, a U.S. Army helicopter had been zapped in mid-air with a green beam of light. And The Enquirer was also on the beat, writing about “a radiancy of lights, frights and brights,” that were “dancing, flashing and hovering,” and “the reports were fast and they were serious.” 

In Greenfield, police officer Sgt. Hugh, after chasing for several miles a circular white object with a yellow glow that was humming and flying just above the trees, told The Post, “I’ve never believed in UFOs until tonight.”

Indeed, even the Governor of Ohio, John J. Gilligan, had a close call with what he said was an amber-colored “vertical beam of light.” Shaken, he felt compelled to tell America during an emotional press conference that the UFO threat was real. “I saw one (UFO) the other night, so help me. I’m absolutely serious. I saw this.”

Those damn unidentified flying objects …What did they want?

Kenny Young, R.I.P. 

In the warehouse of history, 1973 holds a special place. 

Watergate was slowly putting an end to Tricky Dick’s reign at the White House. American troops were being sent home from Vietnam, many alive. It was the year of the never-ending line at the gas pump, as OPEC cut America off from its oil, because the U.S. was again supporting Israel during the latest Holy Land tiff. Pink Floyd released The Dark Side of the Moon and had played earlier that year at the Armory Field House on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.

Also locally, “The Big Red Machine” was making another run for the World Series, while Fountain Square looked a bit like New York’s Zuccotti Park (of Occupy Wall Street fame), as Cincinnati hippies of the day championed for women’s rights and protested against the war in Vietnam. 

These events were so compelling they may have banished the UFO invasion of southwest Ohio to the dustbin of historical obscurity. If not for Kenny Young, that is.  

Kenny Young was born in Cincinnati, lived in Florence, Ky., and is considered one of the most professional, objective and successful UFOlogist’s ever, as deemed by his peers and fellow investigators. 

Don’t scoff — UFOlogists and what they investigate are being taken seriously like never before — the History Channel’s current Ancient Aliens series is one of its most-watched ever, and of course there’s Steven Spielberg, whose enthusiasm for ETs has made him and Hollywood billions of dollars.

Young was a fixture on UFO Report: Live!, which aired live on Saturday nights on a Cincinnati public-access TV channel during the 1990s and early 2000s. He also was a meticulous historian who documented the 1973 UFO wave like no one else, digging up the news reports of that day and posting them on the Internet. He had this to say about the 1973 UFO wave that had swept over his hometown:

“The unusual aerial events happening during the October 1973 time-period remains one of the most fascinating of all UFO happenings, an intense and disturbing siege that no dismissive hypothesis or explanatory venture will easily rob of its strangeness,” Young wrote.

Unfortunately, Kenny Young died of leukemia at the young age of 38. He had fought off the blood disease since a teenager when he was diagnosed, putting to rest any suspicion that he’s one of scores of UFOlogists who died early in life and under strange circumstances. Consider the story of Harvard professor Dr. John Mack, who defied Ivy League intelligentsia by devoting his research to alien abductions. But in London in 2004, while walking at night, Mack was struck and killed by a drunk driver.

Nonetheless, Young’s passion lives on. Boxes of his life’s work — papers and research documenting nearly every UFO sighting of the last century from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana — were donated to The Ohio State University after his death, which is fitting, considering the civilian arm of the Air Force’s “Project Blue Book” — a systematic study of UFOs that lasted from 1952-1970 — had been based at OSU.

And perhaps it was the event of 1973 that inspired Young. He was in the first grade when the UFO wave hit, and he recalled how a neighbor, a 40-year-old mother, frantically told his family a “blue diamond” craft 

was trying to abduct her baby daughter. Coincidentally, there was a well-documented alien abduction in October of 1973, but it took place in Mississippi. There were several reports, however, of Ohio teenagers and children who thought their UFO was out to take them far, far, far away.

Donnie Blessing chased UFOs and their witnesses around Ohio and Kentucky for 10 years with Young. She says when they were on a serious case, Young would say, “Keep your seat belt on, we are in for a ride!” 

But Young always remained grounded when it came to UFOs, no pun intended, says Blessing, who currently resides in Alabama.

“Kenny was a fun and good person, and his passion was UFOs — but he was always a skeptic,” she says. “He was always telling witnesses, ‘Show me 

(evidence).’ I think he believed that UFOs were extraterrestrials, but he didn’t like the word ‘believe.’ He kept an open mind. His attitude was, ‘It’s out there, but we have to prove what it was.’ ”

Buzz kill

When Oct. 31 finally arrived in 1973, the UFO fever began to cool. Police phones weren’t ringing off the hook. Stories of glowing disks skimming the tree tops had dried up. The buzz was tapering off mostly because the public’s sudden rush of a mind-boggling reality was being tempered with heavy doses of explanation.

Just across the border in Indiana, police had spied on pranksters preparing to launch homemade hot-air balloons made of balsa wood, plastic dry cleaner bags and birthday candles for lift-off. 

In Xenia, three man-like creatures with silver skin were spotted walking along U.S. 35. Scared out of their wits, drivers called police, who were quickly on the scene. The “creatures,” however, turned out to be high school-aged pranksters wrapped in tin foil.

Perhaps the most sobering answer to the UFO wave of October 1973 is offered by none other than Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a mythological location in UFO history to begin with, as UFOlogists believe the apparent spaceship that crashed at Roswell, N.M., in 1947 was transported to “Wright-Patt” and stored in Hanger 18. 

On Oct. 6, 1973, the Yom Kippur War erupted when Egypt and Syria, along with 10 other Arab nations, invaded Israel. Desperate for survival, Israel threatened to launch nuclear warheads against the Arab world. Thus seeing the apocalypse on the horizon, the White House made the decision to come to Israel’s aid, ordering the U.S. Air Force to execute “Operation Nickel Grass” beginning Oct. 13.  

Within hours of the order, Wright-Patt was buzzing as an armada of military cargo planes stuffed with war materials were taking off for the Mediterranean Sea around the clock and would do so for the next 30 days. 

Could it be that all those witnesses from southwest Ohio were seeing military ships and crafts from this world?

The Coyne Incident

William E. Jones is the director of Ohio’s Mutual UFO Network, better known as MUFON, which is America’s leading civilian effort to investigate strange lights and other weird things in our skies. 

Jones lives in Columbus and is an attorney for Battelle Memorial Institute, which is directly across the street from The Ohio State University. Battelle is another historical location in UFO history, as conspiracy theorists, and several legitimate witnesses for that matter, believe the UFO wreckage of Roswell eventually ended up in the laboratories of Battelle so its technology could be reverse engineered. 

Jones, a young adult at the time, says the UFO wave of October 1973 actually swept across the entire American Midwest, but “Ground Zero” was southwest Ohio and, to an extent, central Ohio. “It was an amazing time for UFOs,” he says.

He is also aware of Operation Nickel Grass and the Air Force’s C-141 StarLifters and C-5 Galaxys, which essentially are oversized cargo jets, that were departing Wright-Patt virtually nonstop during the same time. 

Still, Jones says there is one incident from this wave that still has the most rigid of skeptics scratching their heads: The Coyne Incident. On Oct. 18, Capt. Lawrence J. Coyne was at the controls of a U.S. Army Reserve Super Huey flying at 2,500 feet on a crystal clear night not far from the city of Mansfield when a strange red-light appeared in the southeastern sky (cue the creepy music). 

Seconds later, Coyne and the rest of his three-man crew watched in shock as the red light made a beeline straight for their Super Huey. Coyne grasped the copter’s throttle stick and dove. The Super Huey was descending 2,000-feet per minute and moving at 100 knots. But it was useless — the red light was moving at a speed that defied logic.

Miraculously, mere moments before collision, the Super Huey was paralyzed. Coyne remembers the altitude was 1,700 feet when the mysterious red light revealed itself: It was a featureless, metallic-colored, cigar-shaped craft with no windows, as the crew would later agree. It hovered in front and slightly above their helicopter. The red light was positioned on the front nose cone of the ship. 

Suddenly a sickly green light glared from the top of the UFO. A green light that quickly formed a cone-ish, searchlight appearance, and slowly swiveled towards the front of the helicopter — flooding the cockpit.  

Within seconds the cigar-shaped ship disengaged from the Super Huey, but as in any good horror flick, Coyne and crew were not out of the woods. The helicopter’s compass disk began spinning out of control, Coyne told military investigators, and the copter itself was ascending at a 1,000 feet-per-minute clip even though Coyne insisted he had the throttle stick pressed forward in descent mode. 

If there was ever a UFO case that called on our government to reveal what it knows, whether UFOs are extraterrestrial or some secret Air Force technology, the Coyne Incident is probably the case for disclosure, says Jones.

“The Coyne Incident stands out because of who the witnesses were,” Jones says. “As cases go, you don’t get much better than that.” Coyne would later be promoted to major, he adds. “They (the military) didn’t hold it against him. A lot of military people would have said, ‘Coyne, you’ve got to be nuts,’ but they didn’t. Promoting him says a lot.” ©

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