Form: 97 Interview
Date: Mon, 05 Jun 2006 18:15:58 +0100 (BST)
From: daniel wilson <>
Subject: Pickering Re-interviewed by Bill Jones, April 12, 1977
Cat: 1,11


An Analysis of the Thomas Mantell UFO Case
nalysis of the Thomas Mantell UFO Case 
Pickering Re-interviewed
On April 12, 1977, Ohio UFO researcher William E. Jones, interviewed Pickering about his sighting. The story that emerged was slightly different, and if the details were accurate, then the Air Force explanation of Venus was wholly unsatisfactory. Pickering told Jones:
<>This night the overcast was 1200 feet. I remember this just as though it was yesterday. I know what the weather was - 1200 feet, heavy overcast, with a 10 mile-per-hour southwest wind. It was dark. Inside the shack, I never turned the lights on because the illumination of all the dials, meters, and everything was sufficient for just sitting in there listening to the radio.

<>The only time I'd turn the lights on would be when an aircraft would be in trouble and call me for an emergency. Then I'd turn the light on so I could be sure to given him the right reading. So I was laying there on my back just looking out the window. Practically right over my head - it was at a 30 degree angle from vertical - down through the overcast came this great big, round, red object. The instant I glimpsed it - I was looking in that direction - I thought it was an aircraft falling in flames. So I jumped off of the box and started to reach for the mike of the telephone, and I see that it isn't an aircraft. I know by the time 2 seconds has passed that it is no aircraft. The tower called me even before I had a chance to call him and said, "What the hell is that out there over your station?" I told him I don't know. I said it's just a great big round red ball.

I tell him to call airways... He calls the airways operator and him and the captain, the meteorologist that night - they come to the door and they look at it.

It stops just as it comes through the overcast and hovers there in the air. There's no sound that you can hear at all. It don't stand perfectly stationary. It maneuvers around and goes a hundred feet or kinda circles. It just is maneuvering around in the air without any great distance. After it's been there for about five minutes - and all the time I'm trying to contact another aircraft on the radio and so is the tower. We've got different frequencies so we're trying to call an aircraft to take a passe through there and tell us what it is.

Well, it starts from an absolute perfectly stationary position and makes a circle of the entire base. Now, the north/south runway is 1 mile long and there's at least 3/4-mile from the end of the runway to the limits of the base at the north. And there's about a quarter mile of so, maybe, to the south. So this makes this object make a circle of better than 6 miles, since it's 2 miles in diameter, it has to be more than 6 miles.

It does that, and we timed it (I did). It accelerated to a speed of an (sic) excess of a thousand miles an hour. It comes back and stops instantly. It don't slow down... and coast to a stop. It stopped like it run into a wall.
(Q) How many times did it circle the base?
Just once. Just one big circle. When it comes back it's still right over my head. It has drifted to the Southwest.
(Q) So you're at the south end of the runway?
Yeah. I'm on the east side of the runway about - I'll say - two maybe 300 ft. This object has drifted. When it came back, it stopped... It wasn't really drifting. It just had moved southwest. Not that's against the wind, since the wind was from the Southwest. When it got down nearly to the edge of the base, just a little past the end of the runway, it descended to the ground vertically. It just came to the ground and stayed at the ground 10 maybe 15 seconds. [It] rose vertically back up to just under the overcast.

We had gotten in contact with an airplane, by that time, that was coming from Wright Field. He said he couldn't see anything. He was too far out yet.

Well, this is an assumption, but I think the object itself detected this airplane approaching Lockbourne because, just before the airplane arrived at Lockbourne, it went back up into the overcast and disappeared.
(Q) You never saw it again?

It didn't change color. Other than the fact... if it did get dimmer it was wisps of clouds that was going between me and it. I didn't see the thing get dimmer and brighter as some people have described them.

I eliminate first... you couldn't have seen the full moon had it been out. It can't be the moon or the planet Venus, or some other astronomical objects that they're talking about... It can't be a balloon because a balloon would not drift against the wind. It can't be a light because, if it has been a light when it made the circle of the base, it would have elongated as it got out away from me. It didn't change shape other than the fact I attribute to an optical illusion. It went so fast it looked like - you know your eye retains an image for an instant... it went fast enough that your eye retained a little of that image behind it.

There was no exhaust.

My estimate as to the size of it I base on the fact that I know how high it was. I know how far it was away from me - 1200 feet. If I hadn't had the weather report in front of me and it had been a clear night, I couldn't have told you how big it was. But, since I know it was 1200 ft., plus a very little, since it was at a 30-degree angle, it wouldn't be much more than 1200. Then I can tell you reasonably close to how big it was. It was bigger than a one-car garage and it wasn't as big as my two-car garage.

<>The object when it came down to the ground was even closer than 1200 ft. I would estimate it was a little less than half that because if you take a 30-degree angle from here to the ceiling is 8 ft. If you drop a string from that 30-degree angle, it's going to hit out here, not quite half 8 ft. So it was a good bit closer to me when it came to the ground than when I first sighted it. But I went out and looked to see if the grass was burned, mashed, or if there was prints where it landed, and there wasn't.
It is at this point, if this statement as provided to Jones is accurate, that the Venus explanation is eliminated. Pickering gave the impression here that the object had circled all around the field, that it had not only been in the southwestern sky, and that there was a solid overcast that came down to 1200 feet.

The discrepancy is that Pickering's original statement gives the impression that the UFO had circled an area, to the southwest, and that it had stayed in the southwest. He also suggested that the sky during the day had been overcast, but the overcast had been at 10,000 feet and not 1200.

If the earlier statement is true, and if the Air Force report that the overcast had begun to break up is true, then Venus, as the culprit, is still viable.
Nobody that I know of - maybe the Army did, or the Air Force - [took] radioactive measurements, but not while I was there...

They flew us to Wright Field three different times for interviews when this Project Blue Book was on. They wouldn't tell us anything...
(Q) How many witnesses were there, then?
There would be four, total. The Captain [identified from records as Charles E. McGee], which was the meteorologist. And Frank Isley [Eislle], which was in airways that night... the fella that was in the tower [Alex A. Boudreaux]. In fact, I've forgotten the names of nearly all of them... that's been almost 30 years ago.
(Q) Who did you talk to at Wright Field?
I don't remember whether it was Ruppelt or not, now. [In January 1948, it wouldn't have been Ruppelt] In fact, we talked to at least five different individuals, all officers... You'd talk with one awhile and go out. Then you would sit there... and another would come in and talk with you...

It's rather simple as far as I'm concerned. I saw it. It came down through the overcast. It made those, if you want to call them erratic maneuvers in the air. Didn't seem to be erratic from the standpoint of intelligence. It looked to me like the thing was intelligently controlled... it wasn't a haphazard performance it put on...
(Q) How long did it take to go around the base?
I forget the seconds it took, but the thing you do... you count [like you learn to count as a pilot to time a turn]... We calculated at the time that it wasn't less... than 1000 mph.
(Q) What time did this happen?
It was about 10 after 7 in the evening. Five to 10 after when it first appeared. And it was visible for a little better than twenty minutes.
(Q) was it light at that time or was it dark?
It was dark.
(Q) Completely dark?
Yeah! After 7:00 in the winter time it's dark.
(Q) You say it was exactly the day of the Mantell case. So you know what day it was... You're sure it was the night of the day Mantell had his accident?
(Q) How could you pin that down?
Because we heard Mantell's death. All of it was on our communications.
(Q) That night?
That day, after it happened.
(Q) So you heard it... on the same day?
(Q) So you had that on your mind, I take it?
<>I didn't have it in mind at the time I seen this. I mean, I wasn't thinking about it.I figured after the event that it [was] possibly the same object that he was chasing...
(Q) Could you describe the object a little more?
Perfectly round. Just as round as a basketball. Perfect sphere.
(Q) It was a sphere and not a disc seen...
If it was a disc, it always kept either the bottom or top side to us, and was sitting on edge. Now, I couldn't say for sure that it wasn't, but it would have to of have been sitting on edge with its flat side facing me at all times. It certainly wouldn't do that with its maneuvering around and its complete circle of the whole base and coming down to the ground...
(Q) [Did it illuminate the ground when it came down?]
I don't know whether it did or not because I was at the same level as it and it being down at that distance, I didn't see any illumination on the ground. Had I been higher... maybe I could have seen some illumination on the ground...
(Q) Did the object... pass behind any other object?
No! It landed between me and a fence. There was a fence at the edge of the base. I couldn't see the fence [between me and the object. So it must have been between me and the fence.]
(Q) Could you describe the motion it made before it went around the base or after it came back?
The motion itself was like it wanted to mozzey [sic] around. [Drift a little in different directions, like it wanted to stay in that general area.]
(Q) No pattern that you could discern?
No pattern at all... this was a slow movement backwards and forwards.
(Q) From the time you first saw it, did it immediately begin these movements?
It stopped there dead... between 1 and 2 minutes. Then it started maneuvering around... they were curved lines... It stayed in an area less than a city block... [Then it went around the base.]
(Q) How long did it make the maneuvers [before going around the base], timewise [sic]?
If it was in sight for 20 minutes, it was visible stationary at the start for say 2 minutes, it made these maneuvers around for awhile. Stopped stationary again for a couple more minutes. So, it took it some time for it to come to the ground. Time to go back up. It was stationary after it went back up. So you would have to just guess. I didn't time it...
(Q) How long did it stay there...
Well, I'd guess 3 or 4 minutes before it came down to the ground. It stopped and stayed stationary and may have moved 20 to 50 ft at that time because it didn't necessarily look like it was screwed into position. When it did come down, it just started descending vertically... just perfectly straight like an elevator. I would definitely say 15 seconds would cover the length of time it was on the ground. And maybe 10 would... then rose vertically the same way.

When it went up into the overcast, the overcast - bottom side of it - was evidently thin in places because I saw it as it was going up into the overcast for say 3 lengths... I could see it that long. See it disappear gradually into the overcast even though it went up at a rate [pause] it went into the overcast. When it went into the overcast, I could see the overcast between me and it.
(Q) Did it reflect light on the overcast?
No! That was a little bit peculiar because had it been shining a light out from itself, as bright as it looked to me, it looked like that it would be illuminating something around it. All I could do was see it through the overcast...

It went up and stopped below the overcast and stayed there maybe 2 or 3 minutes and then went up into the overcast. And all this time I'm on the radio, telephone in one hand and microphone in the other... trying all frequencies... trying to contact an aircraft. that the only one we contacted, coming from Wright Field. He said he couldn't see anything because he was too far out...
(Q) Did you turn in a written report on this?
We signed a typewritten report that they made over there. We didn't write it ourselves.
(Q) Was it classified at any time?
It was classified... we was warned not to talk about it...
(Q) Do you remember the contents of the report circulated about Mantell that day?
The reports was that he ran out of oxygen. He exceeded the safe altitude and didn't have oxygen aboard and he was at [15,000 ft]...

Part of his transmission was - now this I won't say for sure - he either said it's gigantic and it's metallic or it's monstrous and metallic. But I think he said it's gigantic and metallic.
(Q) Was this in the report your read there that day?
I didn't read 'em. I heard part of 'em.
(Q) They were coming over the radio?
Yeah! Coming over the telephone and radio. There was an hour or so of discussion about it was over and when they found the wreckage, they determined 2 or 3 days after this that they had become unconscious and the airplane disintegrated in the air because it dived.

A P-51 don't disintegrate that easy, I don't think, in the air...
(Q) Was this normal radio transmission you were picking up of the search?
They was relaying it, evidently, from the tower in Kentucky, from the people in contact with him, through our tower at Columbus. How this was accomplished, I don't know. We had direct lines, at the time, everyplace. I could punch a button and call Cincinnati, direct line telephone.
(Q) Was this normal procedure for them to pipe in this sort of information over the...
<>No, we didn't do it very often, but... it was possible to do it. I think it was such an unusual situation was the reason they did it. We had written reports of the conversation that we got to read. I don't remember now the exact wording of this here conclusion of the board of inquiry when they have an airplane loss... but I know the conclusion was that at 15,000 ft he ran out of oxygen. The last words he said, "I'm closing in on the object. It's gigantic and it's metallic." Now, that's the last words he transmitted that we heard.
(Q) Did you actually hear his transmission?

... It [the object] was low when he first observed it. And it started climbing and he started climbing.
(Q) Were you there when this started?
Yeah! This was sometimes [sic] in the afternoon, I think... I was on duty. It must have been in the afternoon.

<>...There was confusion. Couple trying to talk at the same time. Probably excitement in their voices. After it was over, there was still some discussion going on. This direct line to Cincinnati, I talked to 'em down there and they was talking to Kentucky. None of this am I clear on. None of that stuck in my mind [like my own sighting].
(Q) How long after... did you see the object?
It was that night. I just about forgotten all about it [Mantell]. In fact, that wasn't even on my mind. When I was laying there I was just listening to the radio and looking out the window... I kept an AM radio on all the time [but turned down so as not to drown out the official radio].

...He [Mantell] had crashed before the conversations terminated, because there were other aircraft flying. He was ordered not - I didn't hear this [but learned through channels later on] - to ease in with it. To breakoff [sic] at 10,000 ft.

He said he was at 15,000 ft and closing. It's gigantic. It's metallic. It was the last words he said.
(Q) You heard that?
Yeah! I don't know whether it was "gigantic" or "monstrous". I'm 99 percent sure it was "gigantic" - the word he used.
(Q) Were you aware at that time [of the skyhook balloon launchings, some of which were reportedly used for aerial photographic reconnaissance of Russia?]
Had he been an idiot, he might not have been able to tell a balloon. But a combat pilot with as many hours as he had... [it doesn't happen.]
(Q) Do you know what the shape of the object was that Mantell reported?
It was supposed to be the same as the one I saw. A perfect sphere. It was - he didn't say it that I heard it - [I learned it later.] They have tapes, I think, of his entire conversation.