Atlanta Journal Constitution, Scott Marshall STAFF WRITER, Roswell policeman looks for clues to UFO mystery., 07-17-1997, pp H01.

Roswell policeman looks for clues to UFO mystery

Michael Hitt, a Roswell police officer who has become known locally as an accomplished historian, has embarked on an unusual odyssey.

For more than a year, Hitt has collected enough information to fill two 2-inch-thick binders with tales of UFO sightings in Georgia --- categorized by year, starting in 1947.

"There is a phenomenon that does exist; it's real," Hitt said. "It's credible people making sightings."

The results of his worldly pursuit of sightings have been surprising.

By chronologically listing reports of UFO sightings, Hitt hopes the research will show truths that so far have been overlooked, such as trends and common denominators.

Hitt began by poring over hundreds of newspapers in libraries. When he found a sighting in a newspaper, he sought other newspapers in nearby communities that were published during the same time, in an effort to find all of the pieces of any given UFO-sighting puzzle, Hitt said.

Besides compiling data, Hitt and his roommate, Charles R. Brown, plan to assemble a massive map detailing all reported sightings in the state.

Hitt and Brown, who runs White Star Consulting and conducts such projects as historic cartography and historic research and preservation, previously have collaborated on several detailed historical maps.

For instance, the two created a Battle of Atlanta weather map, which shows the weather for each day, supported by diary accounts of soldiers who fought and often died there. They also have assembled maps that show historic remains of the battle ---on a backdrop that illustrates what lies in the areas today ---as well as a similar map of Cherokee Indian lands, divided by U.S. Census tracts.

Among Hitt's preliminary findings about UFOs, based on sightings reported from 1947 to 1987:

More than 300 cases of UFO sightings have been reported in Georgia during that time.

Of those, military or civilian police personnel have been involved in 81 reported sightings; pilots have been involved in 18 reported sightings. A GBI agent reported one; so did former President Jimmy Carter, when he was Georgia's governor in 1969.

By far, 1973 was the busiest year, with nearly 100 reported sightings between Aug. 30 and Oct. 20, a period that corresponds with the Yom Kippur War, Hitt said. Nearly half of the sightings that year involved police personnel. So many sightings were reported that year that they were the subject of a story on the front page of The Atlanta Constitution.

By far, the most sightings have been in Fulton County, with 37; Cobb County had 12; DeKalb County, three; and Gwinnett County, nine.

As unusual as his latest project may be, Hitt's reputation among local historians is solid, and they, too, are fascinated with the possibilities of what he ultimately will find.

"Michael Hitt is a fine historian," said Louise DeLong, director of the Archibald Smith Plantation Home, one of Roswell's most historic sites. "And he always backs up his findings with fact."

Copyright 1997, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, All rights reserved.