By TRACI L. WEISENBACH | Huron Daily Tribune
11:30 AM CST, November 10, 2008
Picture it: You're driving along a country road on a Thursday night in the early spring, and out of nowhere, something strange appears from the darkness alongside the road. An illuminated, bluish figure moving very quickly, perhaps even dancing.
Then, in the blink of an eye, it's gone.
You try to make sense of it, but your mind can't quite wrap around it. You've heard stories of UFO sightings, but no, it can't be -- an alien?
What would you do? Do you keep your eerie experience to yourself, not wanting to appear like you're in need of a straitjacket? Or do you tell others, as perhaps others have witnessed the same spooky sight?
While this scenario may sound like something from a science fiction show, it actually happened in Elkton in 1958. Once the mystery was solved, news of the "Little Blue Man" stretched across the globe, along with a photo of the "alien" and two policemen. Fifty years later, people still talk about this famous caper, and a local corn maze celebrates this tale that's almost too "out of this world" to be true.
The zany tale starts with three young men who had just returned home from serving in the military, one of those men being Don Weiss.
"We were 22 or 23 years old, and we were looking for work," Weiss said. "We had a little extra time on our hands."
Weiss said he and the other two gentlemen -- LeRoy Schultz and Jerry Sprague -- were best of friends and spent a lot of time together. They were known for being jokesters in town. Using this sense of humor, the trio devised the ultimate prank.
"There was starting to be flying saucer stories, and the idea came from that," Weiss said. "We wanted to take this idea a little further."
They decided it would be fun to have one of them dress as an alien and go out at night to surprise people. In a garage, they devised a costume, which included long underwear, Weiss' high school football helmet, Styrofoam attached to the helmet, large gloves, German combat boots with metal soles, a bedsheet with two holes cut out for the eyes and a button sewed on for the mouth and blinking lights on the helmet.
"They didn't have blinking (Christmas) lights back then, so we had to make the lights blink ourselves," Weiss said. "We had a battery pack attached to the costume."
The entire costume was spraypainted blue.
"The paint glowed a bit in the light, which added to the effect," Weiss said.
He said there was a song on the radio at the time called "Little Blue Man" by Betty Johnson, which inspired the blue color of their "alien" creation.
On one Thursday night in the early spring of 1958, the trio debuted their prank. Because the long underwear would fit only him, Sprague became the "alien."
During the trio's nighttime jaunts, Sprague would hide in the trunk of "the getaway car," and Schultz would drive out to a country road, and Weiss would let Sprague out. Sprague would run along a fence line or alongside a ditch bank so people could see him. After traveling a short distance on foot, Sprague would hop back into the car's trunk. Weiss said he was in charge of helping Sprague get in and out of the trunk.
"Jerry never jumped out in front of cars," Weiss said.
Because they didn't want to make themselves too easy of a target, the three friends only embarked on their capers on Thursday nights.
"We wanted to let people see (Jerry), and then we'd sit back and wait to see if people talked about it," Weiss said.
He said it took three or four Thursday trips before they started hearing chatter about it.
"Then, people's imaginations started taking over," Weiss said.
He said some accounts had "the blue man" measuring 10 feet high while others said it was just two feet high. Another report indicated someone spotted him sitting atop a telephone pole.
"My favorite was an account that said `It ran faster than any human,"' Weiss said with a chuckle.
Most of the time, the trio would do their pranks in the Elkton area.
The trio embarked on eight to 10 jaunts.
"We knew it was just a matter of time before the police found out it was us," Weiss said.
One night in Elkton, then-Michigan State Trooper William Collins was patrolling and the three pranksters approached him.
"We said, `I hear that you're looking for us,"' Weiss said.
Collins took Weiss, Sprague and Schultz to the Huron County sheriff's office, where they were questioned by then-Sheriff Merritt McBride and then-Prosecuting Attorney James Umphrey. Weiss said he and his friends weren't too concerned about getting into serious trouble, as no one had been hurt in the pranks.
"They thought it was hilarious," Weiss said of McBride and Umphrey. "They wanted to carry it further. They proposed that we walk around the radio station to see what would happen."
Weiss said they didn't go to the radio station. He and his friends received a warning to never do the "blue man" prank again.
"We were told 'Take your underwear and go home,"' Weiss said.
Other than Weiss's football helmet, which still has a bit of blue paint on it and is on display at Weiss's barbershop in downtown Elkton, Weiss isn't sure what became of the costume.
A photo of Sprague in the costume flanked by Collins and then-Huron County Deputy Sheriff Robert Quinn was taken by Bob Barrett of the Huron News, which is now the Huron Daily Tribune. That photo and the accompanying story took the rural, innocent prank and turned it into an international story. Soon after, the photo and story appeared in the Huron News, other Michigan newspapers picked up the story. The Associated Press also picked up the story, and it ended up in "Stars and Stripes," the military newspaper, Weiss said.
"We got calls from TV stations around the country," he added.
Perhaps the most exciting mention of the "blue man" was in the May 1958 issue of Life Magazine.
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source & references:
Archived UFO Articles and News Items, 2008
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