Now that the Pathfinder has safely landed on Mars and the roving Sojourner has begun exploring and transmitting pictures back to earth of the planet's Death Valley-like surface, where are the Pod People?
For that matter, where are Orson Welles' green Martians who in his 1938 radio broadcast were supposed to have landed in Grovers Mill, N.J.?
After all, his famous Halloween radio play managed to scare the dickens out of believing listeners everywhere.
While World War II put Unidentified Flying Object sightings on hold, an Associated Press wire story in The Sun of July 6, 1947, reported that they were back in force that summer.
"The nation's perplexity over disks reported spinning through the skies deepened today in the wake of July 4 reports from virtually all parts of the country. There was no scientific explantion offered to fit the observations which spanned the nation from the Pacific to the Gulf, to the Atlantic," said the newspaper.
"A mass of evidence piled up swiftly as holiday throngs and fliers joined in telling of seeing bright, pancake-like objects skimming through the air with varying estimates of altitude and speed."
The newspaper identified the spectators as being "ex-airmen, picnickers, motorists and housewifes [who] swelled the number of witnesses to the strange phenomenon."
Baltimore was no exception to alien curiosity.
No noise, no twinkle
In the northwest section of the city, Gertrude Landry and her daughter, Frances, sitting just after dusk July 3 in two beach chairs in front of their Ridgehill Street home, suddenly saw "something in the sky."
"It wasn't a star," said Landry. "It didn't twinkle."
It wasn't an airplane, because they couldn't hear its engines and its lights didn't blink.
A neighbor, Howard Riley, a service-station attendant, described as being "yellow looking and going too slowly for a falling star."
After hovering over the neighborhood for about five minutes, it slowly moved off in a straight line toward the direction of Pulaski Street.
"It looked something like the one in the newspaper. It sounds like these disks they've been talking about. But I couldn't swear to it," Riley told The Sun.
"Hard on the heels of this revelation came announcements of saucers over East Baltimore, the Johns Hopkins campus, Brooklyn and East Linthicum. By July 8 a recapitulation showed that the saucers had made their appearance over 43 states of the Union, Australia, England, Africa, France and Iran," said an editorial in The Sun.
UFO sightings quieted down until 1950, when a Frederick couple reported seeing a tandem set of flying saucers. In 1952, John Schoolfield, editor of the Eastern Shore Times in Berlin, was parked at the Sandy Point end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge when three white disks "flying from north to south" buzzed the bridge at a tremendous rate of speed.
Apparently, the Bay Bridge is a favorite target of aliens. It seems, according to UFO experts, that they have been drawn there over the last 50 years because of the proximity of the Naval Academy.
"As if this weren't a lively enough summer already, comes now word that eight enlightened delegates from somewhere were seen speeding along the other night at better than 1,000 mph about 2,000 feet over the lower Chesapeake Bay," said an Evening Sun editorial.
Unexplained red fireballs streaked over Glen Burnie in 1955, which later turned out to be a flight of F-80 jets.
The really big scare took place Oct. 26, 1958, just south of Bridge No. 1 over Loch Raven Reservoir. To this day, it is considered the most spectacular UFO sighting in the Baltimore area.
Alvin Cohen and Phillip Small, who were described as being "young, sober and scared to death," were driving around Loch Raven when they saw "it," a large, flat, egg-shaped object hovering over the bridge and giving off a brilliant white light.
Suddenly, the car's motor went dead and the headlights mysteriously turned off. The men got out of the car and felt the "thing's" heat as it slowly pulled away. Climbing back into their car, which now magically started, they may have set a new land-speed record to the nearest gas station, where they nervously recounted their experience to the Civil Defense Ground Observer Corps. They were laughed at.
Consigned to the UFO file
"Baltimore's giant flying egg officially became UFOlogical persona non grata, joining thousands of other reports in the unidentified flying objects file," said the Evening Sun in a 1971 story recounting the incident.
Canton residents have reported at least three UFO sightings over the years, which prompted a letter writer to The Sun to observe: "There's no mystery about those flying saucers -- they're hub caps jolted from autos driven over Baltimore streets. Or could it be that they are pennies from Heaven -- for Governor Lane?"
Replied the editor: "They may even be the plates for that long- awaited pie in the sky."
In 1969, the Air Force officially ended Project Blue Book, which for 21 years had investigated UFO reports.
"Are the UFOs coming back?" asked the Evening Sun in 1972. "No, they never left. It's public awareness of them that comes and goes. Some are reported in the press; some get into police reports. All are quickly forgotten -- at least by officialdom."
Despite The Sun's resistance to the existence of UFOs, "which may say more about human craziness than about the likelihood of of creatures from outer space visiting us here on earth," said a 1973 editorial, there are still questions.
Out in the back yard under the stars or on a dark, lonely road, we still occasionally see and experience weird soundless specks of moving light or an odd, unexplained phenomenon that stimulates our imaginations.
Could it be?
Could it be too much Rod Serling and his "Twilight Zone" or "Captain Video," as one annoyed mother wrote in a letter to The Sun in the 1950s.
UFOs -- aliens and ships from far-off planets -- are still possible.
Pub Date: 7/13/97