UFO book zooms in on sightings in Georgia
Larry Hartstein -
Friday • November 26, Atlanta Journal Constitution
This story appeared first in the Nov. 25 North Fulton community section.
When it comes to UFOs, places like Roswell, N.M., and Area 51 quickly come to mind.
A new book suggests the state is a veritable UFO hotbed, with at least 234 sightings reported from 1947 to 1987.
"When you think of this phenomenon, you think about the things happening out West, because that's what you hear about," said author Michael Hitt, a police officer in Roswell (Georgia, that is) who spent three years researching the topic.
"We've had just as much right here."
The book, "Georgia's Aerial Phenomenon 1947-1987," offers a chronological account of UFO sightings Hitt discovered while combing newspapers, declassified government documents and witness statements.
A poll taken last year found that 59 percent of Southerners and 66 percent of people outside the South think UFOs are real, or at least could be.
The Southern Focus poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also revealed that 53 percent of Southerners and 62 percent of people outside the region believe it's at least possible that aliens have visited Earth.
Hitt's book does not concern itself with speculation about who might be visiting. The book sticks to reported sightings. Hitt stopped with 1987 sightings because he believes reports after that year might be "contaminated" by the phenomenon's exposure in popular culture.
Many reports in the book come from military and civilian pilots and law enforcement personnel.
"The bottom line is that it's a real phenomenon, not a bunch of nuts," said Hitt, 43.
There's the 1952 case in which Dobbins Air Force Base airmen saw a mysterious object streak overhead, then disappear. The object also was spotted on radar scopes, traveling 1,200 miles an hour.
In 1967, a slew of police agencies in Middle Georgia reported seeing unidentified flying objects, prompting the federal government to send two scientists to investigate. In one encounter, two Newnan patrol officers claimed that they followed --- and then were chased by --- a ball of light.
"It was gaining on us and was going about 75 miles per hour," one officer is quoted as saying. "After the object caught up . . . it pulled into the sky, emitting a beam of bluish light that illuminated the roadway, then zoomed up into the sky."
Future President Jimmy Carter and other members of the Leary Lions Club reported seeing a blue disc-shaped object in 1969.
"It was about 30 degrees above the horizon and looked about as large as the moon," Carter was quoted as saying in 1973. "It got smaller and changed to a reddish color and then got larger again."
The book sometimes supplies multiple sources for each account. Walter Sheets, a former College Park police chief who is president of the Georgia chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, said Hitt is "a consummate UFO researcher."
Hitt, who has written several books on the history of Roswell, said he decided to delve into UFO reports because "the curiosity was just there all of a sudden, to find out more."
He said he used the same research methods that he employed for books on gold prospecting, the railroad, military operations and law enforcement in Roswell. His books are available at the Roswell Visitors Center.
"This may seem a lot more bizarre, but everything I do is
documented," he said. "My opinion is out of it. It's just cut and