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No. 109: Jan-Feb 1997

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The Return Of The Monolith

Some readers have asked that UFOs receive more attention in SF. We now address these complaints with a case of adequate strangeness.

T.M. Olsen has investigated a bizarre observation from Kentucky. The date was September 28, 1996.

"Vance C. Johns, a secondary-school horticulturist, lives a rural area east of Louisville. Sometime between midnight and 1:30 AM, he got up to use the bathroom and saw a strange object outside his bedroom window. His wife, Florence, keeps the drapes open on the center of three picture windows, and he immediately opened the other drapes for a better look. The open view through the windows, which face south, is of a grass lawn sloping to a curved driveway. This 0.8-hectare cleared area is devoid of trees and other objects. Two large, automatic floodlights illuminate the ground around the entire house, and under a full moon, it was bright enough to read a book. The night was clear and about 10C with no noticeable wind. No aircraft were in the area.
"At a distance of 14 m (measured after the incident) from his vantage at the bedroom window, there appeared on the lawn an object resembling a common railroad cross tie but oriented in a vertical position, with one end on the ground. It was matte black, 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 m high and 30 - 35 cm wide. The sides were smooth with a well-defined corner joining the west and north sides. The view of the top showed the west and north top edges were also welldefined. The object appeared solid but did not cast a shadow.
"As Johns watched in astonishment, the object began moving toward the front porch. He could clearly see two sides of it as it approached. As the top passed under the eaves, the bottom bent backwards over the bushes which border the 71-cm high porch, in the manner of a man's leg bending at the knee, forming an obtuse angle. At this point, he lost sight of it, grabbed his .38 handgun, and quickly went to the windows on the other three sides of the house, hoping to again see the object in the ample illumination, but without success. Although the object had moved very slowly from its original position, total viewing time was less than ten seconds. There was no sound at any time during the sighting."

When Johns reported the above incident, he was advised to see the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which an eerie monolith is a key player. Johns did so and commented that said monolith "blew his mind." It was just what he had seen, except that it was wider and shorter.

(Olsen, Thomas M.; "Sighting Alert," report, 1996)

Comment. We can understand why the monolith of 2001 appeared: (1) to protohumans; (2) to lunar explorers; and (3) in orbit around Jupiter; but WHY in Kentucky in 1996?

From Science Frontiers #109, JAN-FEB 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987