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Gray Barker's Chasing the Flying Saucers:
A Pre-Mothman UFO Encounter

Deciding to stop procrastinating, I've decided to just go into the Room of Doom, -- also known quaintly as "the study" but in reality, it's a nightmare of books in jumbles amidst other piles and jumbles -- and organize my UFO and paranormal books and files over the summer. I've discovered a lot of surprising things, like, I have a lot of books on these subjects, so far, around 400 books. That's not counting the file boxes I have of FATES, Strange, Fortean Times, Omnis, and other magazines as well as file drawers full of clippings. So, while diving into my summer project, I found an issue of Ray Palmer's Flying Saucers magazine from July, 1962.

Inside is an article by Gray Barker, who wrote the classic They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. Chasing the Flying Saucers recounts several UFO sightings from the U.S. as well as one from the UK, including a strange event that occurred in 1959 in West Virginia on the Elk River. The witness who spoke (via "beeper phone" -- I love that), was referred to Barker by Hugh McPherson at WCHS, and referred to as "Toney." Toney and three friends were camping on Elk River where, around 9:00 p.m., the area was filled with a brilliant white light. They looked up to see "...a huge dish shaped object...estimated ...about 800-900 ft high" above them, and 50 to 70 ft. in diameter."

The object stayed above them for about two minutes; it left abruptly and rapidly when a plane approached. As the UFO left, "...a tremendous force wave or gust of wind hit their cabin, tearing off the loose boards..."

Toney reported his sighting to the airport in Charleston, and it was soon after the Air Force showed up, asking numerous questions of all the witnesses. Barker asked Toney if the Air Force "hushed him up" but Toney said the story was already in the papers so he didn't think it mattered if he talked about the sighting. He did add that "they told us it was better not to mention it." Barker ends this story with the comment that Toney said he'd send more information on the sighting, but he never heard from him again.

Aside from the articles general coolness as a neat-o vintage find, this story is interesting in the context of Mothman history. Here we have an account of a spectacular UFO sighting in the area where seven years later, Mothman appeared. But as many people know, that area has a long history of UFO and supernatural events that precedes Mothman. Strange activity didn't stop when Mothman supposedly disappeared; accounts continue to come in of all kinds of anomalous experiences, from UFO sightings to cryptids.

There are many people who've experienced these things; witnesses who live in the area, researchers who've investigated West Virginia for themselves. Some are ex-residents, researchers, and witnesses all in one, like author like Andy Colvin. (Mothman's Photographer series) I, unfortunately, have not been to West Virginia or have never had a Mothman experience. But even my west coast armchair explorations into Mothman have shown that the area is rich with a very strange history.

Gray Barker, Chasing the Flying Saucers, Flying Saucers magazine, July 1962

Andy Colvin, The Mothman's Photographer III: Meetings with Remarkable West Coast Witnesses Touched by Interdimensional Entities, Archetypal Avatars, and the Phenomenon Known Infamously as "Mothman" , 2008, Booksurge Publishing

The Mothman's Photographer II: Meetings With Remarkable Witnesses Touched by Paranormal Phenomena, UFOs, and the Prophecies of West Virginia's Infamous Mothman, 2007, Booksurge Publishing,

The Mothman Speaks: Candid Conversations Concerning Cosmic Conundrums - Cryptic Creatures, Chimeras, Contactees, and the Cleverly Coded Coincidences of the Collective Unconscious (Volume 1), 2011, CreateSpace

Related links
My blog Mothman Flutterings: orangeorb.net/blog/