At about 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 11, Zach Stanfield was taking his dog outside of his Jackson home when he spotted something strange in the clouds of the evening sky. He quickly ran inside to grab his binoculars, which revealed a more detailed view of a -- well, he didn't know what. He ran back into the house, grabbed his DVC handheld video camera and filmed away.
"I really don't know what it is," says Zach, talking on the phone to his cousin, Audrey Stanfield, while taping.
"It's black." Pause. "Round, it's round," he says.
"What is it?" he asks.
What the video captured was about five minutes of a 35-minute episode in which a dark shape hovers in a tight holding pattern of small circles above Stanfield's yard. Slowly the subject makes its way east across the evening sky before disappearing into the dark clouds of oncoming night.
On the tape, as the object makes its revolutions, the shadowy shape shifts from a round dot to a thin rounded bar, resembling a penny as it rolls on its edge in circles on a surface. But this coin-shaped object was rolling on an invisible plane in the air a good distance above Zach Stanfield's head.
"Sure it's not a plastic bag or something?" asks Audrey, now standing beside cameraman, watching the object hover.
"Why would there be a plastic bag up in the clouds?" shoots back Zach. "You wouldn't be able to see it that high up."
"What else could it be?" Audrey asks.
Can't gauge size, distance
Larry Davis isn't sure, either. Davis has spent the last 12 years looking at objects in the sky as Cape Girardeau Regional Airport's chief air traffic controller. Viewing the videotape, he could only guess.
"It could be one of those mylar discs," he said, referring to the popular flying toys that are essentially disc-shaped balloons made of metallic plastic and often filled with helium.
The problem is, Davis said, that the video just shows the shape in a vast sky, so it's impossible to gauge the distance and size of the object. Mylar discs are usually about 30 inches in diameter.
Difficult to explain is how something as light as a mylar disc -- which weighs little more than an ounce -- could hover in the same area and avoid being blown about. However, Davis said it is possible that the metallic plastic could conduct enough heat from the sun's rays to create convection heating that would produce the effect. Davis also said thunderstorms can create an updraft that could catch such an object and keep it in one area.
But for all the possibilities, he isn't sure of anything.
No digital alteration
Jim Dufek and Fred Jones of Southeast Missouri State University's communications department aren't sure what the disc was either, but they are sure that the tape is legitimate.
"Whatever it is, it's real," Jones said, watching the tape in the university's video room.
"There's nothing digital on it," Dufek said. "I don't see any pixel breakup around the subject. There's no superimposing."
One effect Dufek said would not be hard to doctor is the flare of light that abruptly appears on the underside of the shape toward the end of the tape. The light quickly flickers and fades as the shape continues its holding pattern. But Dufek said it doesn't appear doctored on this tape.
Zach Stanfield, a member of the Notre Dame Regional High School Audio/Visual Club, said he thinks the flare might be the reflection of the sun as it sets in the west. That would suggest a metallic element to the object, like that of Davis' mylar disc.
But all of this is speculation, and right now he isn't exactly sure what it means or what he's going to do with his amateur movie. He said he'll probably just wait and gauge local reaction. All he knows for sure is that he, Audrey, his neighbor, Judy Hoffman, and Hoffman's mother-in-law, Carmen Hoffman, saw an unidentified flying object in the sky over Jackson.
"Do you think it's a saucer?" Audrey asks on the tape as the sky darkens. "Like a flying saucer?"
"If it's that high up, it's got to be big up close," Zach replies.
"It's perfectly round," Audrey says. "Uh, Zach, that's weird."
The full 45 second clip will be posted soon on our Video Club
335-6611, extension 137
By Tony Rehagen ~ Southeast Missourian
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