National UFO Reporting Center
Looking Back - by Bob Gribble
November 1956
- 40 Years Ago

NUFORC Home Page

A UFO flap covering the area of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota began on November 8th. The sightings, made during nearly every hour of the day and night, continued until December 2nd. More than 85 separate visual sighting reports from some 60 different localities were received from the three state area. Due to the unusually large number of reports, it was possible, in some instances, to determine that the same phenomenon was seen at widely separated areas. In other cases, the sighting reports indicate a great number of different objects were aloft at one time over different areas.

The flurry of UFO reports began with the sighting of a Dickinson, South Dakota farmer, Laudie Dvorak. He was driving into his farmyard about 8:30 p.m., on the 8th, when he glanced up and saw what at first appeared to be a falling star, off to the north. But in a few seconds it seemed to be "right in front of me." He thought it might be an airplane, but it wasn't. "It went too fast," Dvorak said, "even for a jet - maybe 800 to 1000 miles per hour. It was just a streak through the buttes as it approached from the north and traveled in a southerly direction."

The busiest day in the 25-day concentration was the 16th. From 9:30 a.m. until late that night, reports streamed in from towns in Minnesota and South Dakota, many sightings obviously of the same individual object. During the day and evening of the 16th, 13 reliable witnesses described objects over the cities of St. Paul and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota; Peever, Oelrich, Wall, Hermosa, Minot, Mobridge, Glenharn and Milbank, South Dakota, and over Des Lacs, Bismark and Englevale, North Dakota. A Lemmon, South Dakota telegrapher saw an object like a ball of flame that followed a freight train into the Lemmonís yards at daybreak. It was estimated to be 25 feet from the ground. It swooped low over the stockyards, turned, and sped away. Seconds after turning, a noise, as if lightning had struck, was heard in the depot. The telegrapher, Calvin Goats, tried to call the next station only to find the railroad phones, the Western Union service, and the automatic block system were mysteriously dead. Shortly thereafter they started functioning again, just as mysteriously. The object was about three feet in diameter.

South Dakota and Minnesota reported several sightings on the 25th. State Patrolman Don Kelm and radio dispatcher Jack Peters were on patrol at 12:15 a.m. on Highway 31, about 25 miles east of Pierre, when they suddenly came upon a strange object stationary over the roadway. "We came over the top of this hill," Kelrn said, "and - gee! - right down there in the valley below us was this object. We were within a block of it. I slammed on the brakes. I thought we were going to run into it, we were that close." The two men got out of the car and watched it for a few minutes. As they observed the object it moved up and away from them. The two men got back into their car and pursued the UFO which stayed about a mile ahead of them. "We must have chased it for seven miles," Kelm said. "It wouldn't let us go by it." It moved back and forth across the road as they followed it. Peters took a picture of the object which shows a white, dome-shaped UFO.

Another UFO was spotted in the sky near Hot Springs, South Dakota, about two hours after the encounter near Pierre, and at the same time a jet interceptor from the Ellsworth Air Force Base registered an unidentified blip on its radar screen. The object was reported about 4:30 a.m. Robert Coates, who accompanied his father, Sheriff Allen Coates to the scene, said the UFO was brilliantly lighted, flashed red, green and yellow, and moved up and down. Coates said a jet interceptor made three passes at the object and on the third pass the pilot reported by radio that a blip registered on his radar screen. Coates said, however, that two other jets flying in the vicinity did not report picking up anything unusual on their radar. Coates said the jets radio was being monitored by police radio

About the time that UFO activity was occurring in South Dakota, 19 year-old Mary Whelan of rural Reading, Minnesota observed six disc-shaped objects. "They were flying in formation and swished over the farm five or six times. It was dark...must have been about 7 o'clock...and I was leading my colt around the farmyard to exercise it. All of a sudden the colt became frightened. It stopped and shook its head. Another horse fenced in near the barn acted the same way." Mary said she looked around to see what was frightening them and saw six discs swishing through the air, south of her parents farm. "They gave off a green light and kept flying in a near semi circle. They were in the same position every time they flew by."

Other heavy concentrations occurred on Sunday, November 27th, Wednesday the 30th, and Friday, December 2nd. Then, as suddenly as they appeared nearly a month before, the skies were void of UFOs.


While the UFOs were busy over the northern Plain States, they surprised a few people in southern Florida also. About 9 a.m. on November 8th, several witnesses in Coco Beach observed two UFOs move in behind an F-l00 jet fighter. Through 7X50 binoculars, and also with the naked eye, they watched as the jet moved across the sky at about 1250 miles per hour. The UFO came up fast and the jet pilot made a tight turn, but couldn't catch the object. It was learned later that the same object was seen earlier pursuing a rocket launched from Cape Canaveral.

About two hours after the UFO pursued the jet and rocket, a mysterious object which apparently played aerial tag off the tip of Florida for several minutes before shooting into space at 4000 miles per hour was reported by a Pan American World Airways radar expert. Donald Freestone said he picked up the UFO while testing weather radar equipment in the FAA shops at Miami International Airport. Surprised by the unexpected target return on the screen, he called fellow employees. Six of his colleagues confirmed the finding. None knew what it was. "I didn't believe in such things before," said Freestone. "But after this happened, I got some books and read up on it. Now I'm convinced it was something that is out of our experience, so far as aircraft is concerned."

Freestone said the UFO was "four to five times larger than any aircraft observed in the past." It appeared to be egg-shaped or oval-shaped, and to have a double pattern resembling an hourglass or figure eight. The radar expert said he was working on a Bendix RDR-lA weather radar which FAA uses in some planes to spot bad weather ahead. It is capable of "seeing" storms and thunderstorms 150 miles in the path of planes. With the radar at "zero tilt" - that is, pointed straight out, Freestone first saw the UFO. "It appeared at approximately 65 miles southwest of Miami, at an altitude of between 7000 and 8000 feet. It disappeared and reappeared several times. I found that by turning the antenna tilt up, it could be brought back on the screen. It disappeared once at 70 miles and reappeared at about 55 miles, then moved back to 70 miles. The speed was estimated at 550 to 650 miles per hour."

"It then moved in to 50 miles and remained stationary for two to three minutes. Then it began going off in the south-southwest direction it had come from. One time it was noticed that the target moved 20 miles in about six sweeps or rotations of the antenna, which rotates at a speed of 20 times a minute. (Calculations indicate that this showed a flying speed of about 4000 miles per hour.) The object was last observed at about 100 miles from Miami, still moving south-southwest. It was watched on the radar screen for about 20 minutes by six other people, from 1l:l5 a.m. to ll:35 a.m. From returns, the target was fairly large, being four to five times larger than any aircraft observed in the past. It had a definite shape and moved on a definite course." While the UFO activity was in progress in southern Florida, Homestead Air Force Base, south of Miami, was placed on an "alert status."


On November 14th, a major UFO incident occurred over the state of Alabama. Capt. W.J. Hull, veteran Capital Airlines pilot was a UFO skeptic. He had written an article entitled, "The Obituary of The Flying Saucers," for the Airline Pilot magazine. At 10:10 p.m. on the l4th, Capt. Hull was the pilot of Capital Flight No. 77, approaching Mobile, Alabama, enroute from New York City. Suddenly, he and his co-pilot, Peter MacIntosh, noticed a bright light through the upper part of the windshield. The plane was on a southwesterly course, and the object, looking like a meteor, was railing across their path from left to right. But, instead of burning out, the 'meteor' halted abruptly directly in front of the plane. "What the hell is it, a jet?" MacIntosh shouted. As the UFO remained a constant distance in front of the plane, Capt. Hull grabbed his microphone and called Mobile Tower. "Bates Tower, this is Capital 77. Look out toward the north and east and see if you can see a strange white light hovering in the sky."

Mobile quickly answered that a thick cloud layer was obscuring vision, and asked Capt. Hull if he thought the object was in the vicinity of Mobile. "Affirmative," Hull replied. "It is directly ahead of us and at about our altitude or slightly higher. We are right over Jackson and have descended to 10,000 feet..." Immediately after the radio exchange, the UFO began to move. It darted back and forth, rising and falling, making extremely sharp turns, sometimes changing course 90 degrees in an instant. The color and size remained constant. "MacIntosh and I sat there completely flabbergasted at this unnerving exhibition," Capt. Hull reported. After 30 seconds or more, the object ceased its violent maneuvers and again appeared to hover ahead of the plane.

About this time Mobile Tower called back: "Capital 77, we are trying to raise the Brookley Air Force Base Tower." At this moment, the UFO began another series of "crazy gyrations, lazy 8ís, square chandelles... and then shot out over the Gulf of Mexico rising at a steep angle. It diminished rapidly to a pinpoint and disappeared in the night. Elapsed time: At least two minutes. "The one thing which I can't get over," Capt. Hull stated, "is the fact that when it came, it came steeply downward; when it departed after its amazing show, it went steeply upward!"