By Nick Redfern
One of the most notable UFO encounters ever recorded occurred shortly after 11p.m. on October 18, 1973. That the prime witnesses were serving members of the U.S. Army Reserve only added to the credibility of the report. Having departed from Port Columbus, Ohio, their UH-1H helicopter was headed for its home base at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Aboard were Captain Lawrence J. Coyne; Sergeant John Healey, the flight-medic; First Lieutenant Arrigo Jezzi, a chemical engineer; and a computer technician, Sergeant Robert Yanacsek. All seemed normal as the crew climbed into the air and kept the helicopter at a steady 2,500 feet altitude.
Captain Coyne immediately swung into action, putting the helicopter into an emergency descent, dropping 500 feet per minute. Equally alarming was the fact that radio contact with Mansfield Tower could no longer be established, and both UHF and VHF frequencies were utterly dead, too.
When it seemed that a fatal collision was all but imminent, the red light came to a halt, hovering menacingly in front of the helicopter and its startled crew. At that close proximity to the object, Captain Coyne and his team were able to determine that this was no mere light in the sky. Coyne, Healey, and Yanacsek agreed that the object before them was a large, gray-colored, cigar-shaped vehicle, which they described as being somewhat “domed,” and with “a suggestion of windows.” They could now see that the red light was coming from the bow section of the object.
Then without warning, a green “pyramid shaped” shaft of light emanated from the object, passed over the nose of the helicopter, swung up through the windshield, and entered the tinted, upper window panels. Suddenly the interior of the helicopter was bathed in an eerie green light. A handful of seconds later the object shot off toward Lake Erie. But the danger was still not over.
To the crew’s concern, the altimeter showed an altitude of 3,500 feet and a climbing ascent of 1,000 feet per minute, even though the stick was still geared for descent. The helicopter reached a height of 3,800 feet before Captain Coyne was able to safely and finally regain control of the helicopter. Shortly thereafter, all radio frequencies returned to normal and Coyne proceeded on to Cleveland Hopkins Airport without further problems.
While the UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass opined at the time that the crew had been spooked by nothing more mysterious than a “fireball of the Orinoid meteor shower,” this was never proved, and an in-depth study undertaken by investigator Jennie Zeidman for the Center for UFO Studies summarily ruled out any conventional aircraft as being responsible. Zeidman concisely and accurately concluded: “The case has maintained its high ‘strangeness-credibility’ rating after extended investigation and analysis.”
On several occasions in the immediate aftermath of their encounter, Captain Coyne received telephone calls from people identifying themselves as representatives of the Department of the Army, Surgeon General’s Office, asking if he, Coyne, had experienced any “unusual dreams” subsequent to the UFO incident. As it happened, not long before the Army’s call, Coyne had undergone a very vivid out-of-body experience.
Sgt. John Healey also reported being called about the incident and its aftermath. “As time would go by,” said Healey, “the Pentagon would call us up and ask us: ‘Well, has this incident happened to you since the occurrence?’ And in two of the instances that I recall, what they questioned me, was, number one: have I ever dreamed of body separation? And I have. I dreamed that I was dead in bed and that my spirit or whatever, was floating, looking down at me lying dead in bed. And the other thing was had I ever dreamed of anything spherical in shape; which definitely had not occurred to me.”
That the Army’s Surgeon General’s Office was interested in both out-of-body experiences and the nature of death and the after-life in the early-to-mid 1970s is not in doubt. For example, a September 1975 document titled Soviet and Czechoslovakian Parapsychology Research that had been prepared for the Defense Intelligence Agency by the SGO’s Medical Intelligence and Information Agency contains a section titled Out-of-the-body Phenomena that focuses on the research of Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder who “reported that the Soviets were studying out-of-the-body phenomena in Yogis.”
Ostrander, a Canadian, and Schroeder, an American, were the authors of the classic 1971 book, Psychic Discoveries behind the Iron Curtain. In June 1968, the pair was invited to attend an international conference on ESP in Moscow. The invite had come from Edward Naumov, a leading figure at the time in Soviet psi research.
With the late 1960s seeing the emergence of a more relaxed atmosphere of discussion in such controversial areas of research in the Soviet Union, Ostrander and Schroeder began contacting Soviet scientists and researchers in an effort to understand the scale of investigations being undertaken behind the Iron Curtain. This ultimately led to the publication of their book.
Interestingly, the Soviet and Czechoslovakian Parapsychology Research document also displays interest in the issue of unusual, and somewhat unsettling, occurrences reported at the moment of death within the animal kingdom. Referring to the work of Russian scientist Pavel Naumov, the document states:
“Naumov conducted animal bio-communication studies between a submerged Soviet Navy submarine and a shore research station: these tests involved a mother rabbit and her newborn litter and occurred around 1956. According to Naumov, Soviet scientists placed the baby rabbits aboard the submarine. They kept the mother rabbit in a laboratory on shore where they implanted electrodes in her brain.”
The document continues: “ When the submarine was submerged, assistants killed the rabbits one by one. At each precise moment of death, the mother rabbit’s brain produced detectable and recordable reactions. As late as 1970 the precise protocol and results of this test described by Naumov were believed to be classified.”
Of course, all this begs two important questions, which I will leave you to ponder on: (A) Why is the world of officialdom interested in out-of-body experiences; and (B) why was someone, also in officialdom, making a connection between that curious phenomenon and UFOs?