Analysis of the Thomas Mantell UFO Case
nalysis of the
Thomas Mantell UFO Case
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
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
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.
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
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
<>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
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
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
(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
the event that it [was] possibly the same object that he was
(Q) Could you
describe the object a little more?
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
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
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
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
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
(Q) Was it
classified at any time?
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.
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].
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.