Science Fiction or Fact
Anthony Borgo July 2019
July 20, 2019, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing. "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” When astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke those now famous words, roughly six hundred million people watched on television. Armstrong’s landmark step marked the culmination of a remarkable political and scientific effort. However, in the fall of 1957, the eyes of the Calumet Region were scanning the night sky searching for a different type of space invaders.
The idea of landing on the moon was still largely considered science fiction when on Sunday, October 30, 1938, millions of radio listeners were shocked when news broadcasts announced the arrival of Martians. Panicked listeners grew uneasy as they learned of the Martians’ violent and seemingly unstoppable assault on Earth. Many people ran from their homes screaming while others packed up their cars and fled from this pending attack. In actuality, what these radio listeners heard was a portion of Orson Welles’ adaptation of the well-known novel, War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Many of the listeners believed what they were hearing was actually happening.
However, it wasn’t until July 7, 1947, that any “proof” of extraterrestrial life was ever documented. At this time, unidentified materials were recovered near Roswell, New Mexico. The United States military maintains that what was actually recovered was debris from an experimental, high-altitude, surveillance balloon that was part of a top secret program titled “Mogul.” But, many UFO proponents believe that a crashed alien craft and bodies were recovered which the military covered up. The incident has turned into a widely known pop culture phenomenon, ranking it as the most publicized and controversial UFO incident ever.
In November 1957, the Calumet Region had its own brush with the unknown reaches of outer space. According to a Hammond Times article titled, “Cops Chase Sky Object,” police officers from both Hammond and Whiting reported seeing a mysterious object in the night sky on Sunday, November 10, 1957. Charles Moore, traffic accident investigator, described the bright, soundless flying thing as an “elongated basket.”
Police began pursuit after Hammond’s switchboard operator received several calls of mysterious flying objects. Shortly after 7 p.m., Sgt. Charles Mauder and Officer Steve Betustak were the first to report after an unidentified housewife claimed that an object was over her house. The two policemen hurried to the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Cherry Street.
Once on the scene, Betustak and Mauder stated that they were unable to distinguish an outline of an object but were able to see lights hovering between 500 and 1,000 feet over South Hammond. According to Betustak, “The only thing heard was a series of beeps like the squeaking of a dry bearing.” After observing the object for a while, the two officers heard what they described as a “thumping sound,” and then watched the UFO make a 120-degree turn. Betustak stated that the object appeared to bank like an airplane when it makes a turn. However, when police later observed an actual airplane overheard performing the same maneuver, a noticeable sound was emitted.
After the object started to move away, the police sped along 169th Street toward Hessville traveling approximately 80 miles per hour but quickly lost sight of the lights. During the chase, officers reported hearing beeping sounds which caused interference to police radios as they sped along Columbia Avenue. The interference was reported to last only for about five blocks. The department also received calls that residents heard beeps on car radios and televisions. Some residents even stated that their televisions blacked out for a short time. During the pursuit, Betustak and Mauder alerted Charles Moore by radio that the UFO was headed his way.
Charles Moore joined the hunt while investigating an accident at the corner of 175th Street and Indianapolis Boulevard. After quickly scanning the sky, he was able to discover the mysterious object. Moore saw only a green light, whereas Betustak and Mauder had noticed red and white lights. Betustak went on to state that the rear lights turned green the further the object got away. The pursuit was on and it wasn’t only the Hammond cops that were monitoring the night’s sky.
During the chase of the unidentified flying object, Whiting police officials began monitoring radio conversations between Hammond and Highland police. At approximately 7:40 p.m., Sgt. Rudolph Puhek and Patrolman Eugene Surdy walked out of the station and spotted a saucer-shaped object with red, yellow and blue lights. The object sped across the evening sky heading southwest without emitting any mechanical sounds. After observing the flying disc, Puhek radioed a Whiting squad car which also confirmed seeing the object. The officer stated that he had seen the strange flying thing only to watch it vanish into thin air.
Michael Metrick, Hammond police radio and switchboard operator, stated that after receiving calls regarding the Jackson and Cherry Street sighting he notified UIKE officials and the Civil Defense center. Likewise, once the object headed toward Gary, the State and Gary police departments were contacted. Metrick also reported that during the previous week the police had received numerous calls about a strange light hovering over southwest Hammond. He said that he checked with CAA authorities and was told that the light was probably from a star. “Apparently ‘the star’ seemed to disappear at approximately 8 p.m. each night.”
According to Aime Michel’s book Flying Saucers and the Straight Line Mystery, a wave of UFOs were spotted over a seven-day period from November 9 through November 15, 1957. The first observation was made by veteran pilot, Capt. Truman Gile of Eastern Air Lines on November 9. Gile, while on an airstrip in Lafayette, Louisiana, noticed “a great big silvery shiny rounded object.” He claimed it was the biggest thing he had ever seen. The object hovered above the southwestern horizon for about 5 minutes and then vanished.
That same day people reported seeing a mysterious flying object in New England. Lillian Stickney of Hemlock, Vermont, claimed that, “an unusual whirling, spinning object passed over in the skies.” She went on to describe a large fiery-looking ball which traveled low and fast while emitting no sound. Later that night, APRO director Coral Lorenzen and her husband reported a mysterious light 30 miles northwest of the White Sands A Bomb site. The couple described, “a brilliant light which approximated the brilliance of a street light.” The strange light was also witnessed by 4 other individuals.
The day of the Calumet Region sightings, a UFO was also reported in Madison, Ohio, and Martinsville, Indiana. Leita Kuhn of Madison watched a huge acorn shaped object hover 100 feet over her garage for about 30 minutes before it disappeared. A few days later she had a bad rash and failing vision. A doctor informed her that her eyes appeared as though they had radiation burns and that the rash was a result of severe shock. In addition, Louise Wood of Martinsville said that she saw and heard a “large butterfly-like object with wings 6 to 10 feet wide” fly over her barn twice.
After November 10, printed UFO events were increasingly brief. However, there were a few impressive sightings. On November 11, Mrs. Larry Norton reported a white shapeless object traveling through Banning, California. That same day a silvery object about the size of the moon was seen in Rydal, Georgia. The next day in Bremerton, Washington, Mr. and Mrs. Ortin saw an object descend from the clouds resembling a giant metal box car with connecting material. Likewise, Mrs. John Riead described seeing a jellyfish-like saucer hovering above some trees near her home. The object appeared to emit five or six loud booms and 3 brilliant flashes, and then all of the electricity went out in a four-mile radius for approximately 10 minutes. Finally, on November 15, several residents of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, reported seeing a “flame colored star” traveling at high speed in the night sky.