(ORDO NEWS) — April 17, 1966, 5 o’clock in the morning. Chief Gerald Buchert is on patrol in Mantua when the Portage County Sheriff’s Department radios a message to his deputies to look for lights in the sky, last seen heading east.
Buchert rushes home to wake his wife and grab the camera. Joan Buchert is still out of her mind as Gerald walks her out of the house, muttering excitedly but not making any sense of it. She is annoyed by his refusal to explain why she has to go outside in her bathrobe before sunrise.
She abruptly stops complaining when he points to the dark, cloudless sky. Not far from their courtyard, an object resembling two tea saucers connected together floats.
Light comes from it, but it makes no sound. It then moves slowly and deliberately to the east, leaning along the way. Gerald takes the picture before the subject disappears from view.
Around the same time, near Ravenna, Portage County Sheriffs Dale Spore and Wilbur “Barney” Neff investigate a car abandoned on the side of a rural road. The car appears to be filled with radio equipment. On the side is a triangle with a drawn lightning bolt and the inscription “Seven Steps to Hell”.
Behind them, they hear a strange electrical humming sound. They turn around and watch in amazement as the saucer-shaped vessel perhaps 50 feet long and about 20 feet high slowly rises from the trees and floats in the air.
A bright light shines from below, bathing the earth. Squinting, the officers saw what looked like a dome on top and a protrusion that looked like a thick antenna.
Spaur remembers his radio and reports what he sees. After a confused exchange, the dispatcher advises the officers to shoot him down so they can prove their case. Spaur hesitantly draws his pistol and aims at the ship.
At the Ravenna Police Station, Sergeant Henry Schoenfelt suddenly wonders if Spore and Neff have spotted a government weather balloon. He himself connects to the radio and cancels the order to shoot. Wait there, he says, until someone is sent with a camera.
But then the ship suddenly begins to fly to the east. Spaur and Neff scramble back to their car and give chase.
Half an hour later, Spaur and Neff are out of their jurisdiction and speeding along dark rural roads at over 100 miles per hour. At the Pennsylvania border, East Palestine police officer Wayne Houston joins the chase as it continues out of state. Even as the approaching dawn pales in the sky, the lights of the strange ship remain distinct.
Back in Ravenna, the controller calls the air traffic control tower in Pittsburgh. While they are talking on the phone, Spaur radios that there are already fighter jets in the sky, flying towards the ship. Another Portage County official also sees three planes heading to intercept.
At about 6:15 a.m., Spore and Neff’s car pulls up to a service station in Conway, Pennsylvania, where Officer Frank Panzanella is standing drinking coffee as the object floats by.
Moments later, Spore, Neff, Houston, and Panzanella listen as their radios pick up chatter between the pilots chasing the ship. When they spot it below them, the saucer rapidly accelerates, this time heading straight up, and disappears.
As a result, when the sheriff developed the film and published the photo in the local newspaper, the FBI intervened, took the original film from the sheriff and told the media that the police saw the “planet Venus”.
The press abruptly fell silent and suddenly stopped writing about UFOs, but the cops were furious. They were hardworking people, dedicated to their cause and respected in their cities, and the United States government had just told the world that they were so stupid that they pursued the planet from Ravenna to the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
The police tried to prove that they were not the idiots that the FBI made them out to be, but the state machine turned out to be stronger.
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