On a frosty late afternoon in March, the 47-year-old technical director from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, was driving along Route 153, on a lonesome stretch of highway cutting through Moshannon State Forest between Penfield and Clearfield. It was here, near Dague’s Nursery, where Dr. Hunter claims that he pulled off the highway to fix an electrical problem with his automobile. He had just fixed the short circuit when a strange sound compelled him to look up. “Seeing nothing on the road or the ground nearby, it occurred to me to look up into the sky,” recalled Dr. Hunter. “As I did, this flying saucer hovered into view.”
Dr. Hunter claimed to have seen a mysterious object drifting across the twilight sky in an east-to-west direction, traveling at a low rate of speed at an extremely low altitude. This not only allowed him to get a close-up view of the craft— it allowed him to become the first civilian on record to see an intact UFO at close range.
“The object appeared to be about 50 to 100 feet in diameter and was about 25 to 30 feet thick at the center,” Dr. Hunter told reporters the following day. “It was trailing a streamer about 200 feet long and 10 inches in width.” Hunter admitted that he was skeptical when he first spotted the object, which was drifting at an altitude between 250 and 500 feet, but soon realized that his eyes were not playing tricks on him.
“Visibility was excellent and I noticed during the two to two-and-a-half minute period I observed the disc that it seemed to be constructed in three concentric circular portions,” said Hunter. “The outer edge, which was about ten feet wide, appeared to be stationary and had slits covered about one third of the area visible to me.” He added that there were two apertures immediately in from the leading edge, which appeared to be “lighter in density than the corona which surrounded the saucer”, which moved through the air at about 65 miles per hour. While the inner part of disc remained stationary, Hunter stated that the second ring was the only moving part of the craft, rotating with “a great hissing whistle”.
Dr. Hunter said that he continued to watch the disc for a little while after the trucker left, and observed it traveling in a westerly direction until it disappeared int the sunset. “It seemed to be losing altitude,” he added. Unfortunately, the truck driver who had witnessed the event refused to corroborate Hunter’s story, presumably out of fear of ridicule, though he was later identified as Ellis Yeager of Curwensville.
Dubious reporters immediately began to look for additional holes in Hunter’s story, and two days later it was reported that Dr. Hunter’s drawing of the flying saucer bore an uncanny resemblance to a schematic drawing made by Navy Commander Robert B. McLaughlin, an expert on naval ordnance and guided missiles. McLaughlin’s drawing accompanied an article on UFOs which had appeared in the March 1950 issue of True Magazine.
However, Dr. Hunter strongly denied that he had seen the article, or had even heard of Commander McLaughlin, who had gone on record claiming that he had observed “spaceships” of a similar appearance while assigned to White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico in April of 1949. But there was one very crucial difference between the disc observed by McLaughlin in New Mexico and the one seen over Clearfield County by Dr. Hunter— the method of propulsion. The drawing made by McLaughlin shows a craft powered by “radiation pressure” with no moving parts. The rotating section which produced the “great hissing whistle”observed by Hunter was nowhere to be seen in the Navy commander’s rendering.
Further developments came two weeks later, when a strange piece of metallic fabric was recovered from a “kite-like contraption” which crashed in Delaware County. In a radio interview with WCPA on March 30, Dr. Hunter told station manager William J. Thomas that the object he had seen bore little resemblance to the object recovered in Delaware County, which was later determined to be a weather balloon.
Though many were skeptical of Hunter’s story, he refused to change his tune. He insisted he was not seeking publicity when he had told the local newspaper what he had seen; he was merely doing his duty as a citizen. “I have a deep sense of loyalty and patriotism to my country,” he explained in late March to the Clearfield Progress. “My first thought was to report to the right authorities what I had seen… I felt this was something that the government should know about.”
The Clearfield Progress also seemed to throw their support behind Dr. Hunter when he produced over 160 letters, mostly from Clearfield County residents, who had seen or heard the same mysterious aircraft. One letter had come as far away as Long Island, where a man claimed to have seen an identical disc on the same day. After performing his calculations based on the speed at which the UFO appeared to be traveling, the Long Island man speculated that it should have reached Clearfield by 6:15 that evening. This was precisely the time at which Dr. Hunter was pulled over on the side of the road fixing his car’s short circuit. The Progress also obtained affidavits from three Clearfield residents who had seen the flying saucer on March 15. These included two men who had seen the object while crossing the Market Street Bridge, and a housewife from Kerr’s Addition, Mrs. Rudolph Litz, who had seen the craft gliding over her home.
As to the origin of the UFO, Hunter never hinted that it might have been constructed on a distant planet in a distant corner of the galaxy; until the end he clung to his belief that what he had seen was a technological marvel constructed by the U.S. military.
“In my opinion, this is something new in design, incorporating an unknown idea in aerodynamics, that is owned by the government of the United States which, for security reasons, they have not made public,” he later stated.
Based on available evidence, it appears that something did hover across the sky in Clearfield County in March of 1950. But what? After 70 years, that part of the story is still missing.