ROCHESTER -- Reports of a UFO in rural Rochester last week are intriguing enough that an investigation could be launched by the Mutual UFO Network. Roger Sudgen, MUFON assistant director for the northern part of Indiana, said Monday he'll be calling several residents who saw a disc-shaped object in the sky last Thursday night around 10 p.m. Bev Carpenter, who lives on County Road 450 North, in rural Rochester, said she and her 13-year-old granddaughter, Shannay Carpenter of Valparaiso, Ind., had just pulled into the driveway of her home that night when the experience began.
"I'm a line-dance instructor," Carpenter began, "and I'd just picked up my granddaughter, we'd gone out to supper, and I'd taught the class, so we were pulling into the drive around 10 p.m., the normal time. Shannay said, 'Grandma, what's that?' I'd been getting my stuff out, and I turned around, and said, 'Oh, my God! That's a UFO.'"
The unidentified flying object, Carpenter said, was ahead of them on the northwest side of her home.
"There were lights sort of aiming downward," Carpenter said, further saying the lights were not focused toward the ground, nor straight out from whatever it was holding them in the air.
"You could just barely see the outline of the craft," she said. "There was no color, no sound, and it just hovered right above the tops of the trees."
Carpenter said the lights -- three in a row, side by side, and another three in a row, side by side, separated by nothing Carpenter could see -- stayed bright for about 20 seconds before they went out. A few seconds later, they came on again.
"Then the craft started slowly, and I mean slowly, moving in a northeast direction," she said. The house was then blocking both their views, and they ran across the north side of the house to see where the object went when it moved northeastward.
"It was gone. We couldn't see anything, or the lights were out. We couldn't tell," Carpenter said, adding that the lights never came back on.
She said the entire event took place in less than a minute, but when the pair could no longer see what had been up there, "we bee-lined it into the house, locked the doors, and called the sheriff."
Sgt. Ed Beaird of the Fulton County Sheriff's Department was dispatched to Carpenter's home, where a written report was completed. A spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Department said on Monday that several calls were received by dispatchers Thursday night, but no number was available. Beaird was not available Monday for comment, but the spokeswoman said the Carpenter residence was the only location to which an officer was dispatched concerning the UFO.
Carpenter, a 22-year worker with Hart, Schaffner & Marx and union steward before the plant closed, said she's never experienced anything even remotely close to a UFO sighting before, but she knew enough from seeing various television shows that she should contact the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle.
She spoke with Peter Davenport, director of NUFORC, who took down her information, but when she tried to e-mail the information to him, her computer showed the message: "Difficulties -- try at a later time." Carpenter said the lights dimmed four times during that period, as well. She waited until Friday morning to send the information.
"Until we have a butterfly net and can actually snag one of these, they'll remain UFOs," Davenport said in a phone interview Monday.
Davenport said he'd had "about a dozen calls" about the sighting, but was trying to "unbury myself" from a mountain of data he's analyzing from more than 250 reports from around the world. His office averages 20 reports a day, he said.
Carpenter also called Rochester's WROI radio station to report the sighting. Baron Imhoof, news director at the station, said he received up to 10 calls when Carpenter went on air live Friday morning to share her experience. Others, too, had seen the strange lights in the sky. Gene Winters and his wife, who live half-way between Mexico and Denver in Miami County, had no idea what neighbors to the north were experiencing when he saw a large craft hover over the pond behind his house around 10 p.m. Thursday night. He knew it was that time, he said, because a television show had just ended, and it was time to take the dog outside. That task was delayed as the Winters couple saw, first from the patio door on the right side of the living room in their home, "what looked like two rows of lights, like two planes flying together," Winters said his wife described it. Then they saw the object out of the patio door to the left side of the room, indicating it was closer and lower to the horizon, he said.
"We were both looking out, and there were six to eight lights in a row on this very, very large object," Winters said. "Living north of Grissom Air Force Base, I thought it was one of those big jets... but there were two things wrong with the picture. It was very low in the sky, and it wasn't moving. And it was hovering over the top of our pond."
Winters said the lights did not light any other object in his viewing area, and the object appeared to be about 35 to 50 feet in the air above the pond surface.
He said as he walked back to the other patio door to see it from another angle, it disappeared, "just like the lights were turned off."
Winters called Carpenter after reading her story in a local newspaper.
Carpenter said she's been receiving calls from residents in Winamac and Kewanna about Thursday's baffling sight in the sky. She's preparing a map for investigators, she said.
Mutual UFO Network's Sudgen said he will complete interviews with Carpenter, Winters and others before a decision is made to physically make a trip to the area.
April 13, 2004
By ANITA MUNSON
Tribune Staff Writer
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