finds tough sell for his "UFO discovery"
06/22/04 - The
By Steve Rock
Knight Ridder Newspapers
REEDS SPRING, Mo. — Bob
White is convinced his story deserves a grand stage, that
his most prized possession should be displayed before a
It should draw tourists
from all over the country, he figures, and be a major
attraction for people who want to see an artifact that
White swears was retrieved from a UFO in 1985.
Instead, White's find is in
tiny Reeds Spring in southwestern Missouri, secured in a
locked display case at Museum of the Unexplained, a
converted video-rental store that, during a recent
morning, went more than three hours without a customer.
White can't figure it out.
All he wants to do is find
some believers. He wants people to quit snickering and
looking at him as if he's crazy. He wants them to listen
to his story, to take a hard look at his metallic
artifact, to give him a chance.
said, "is the most difficult thing I've ever done in
The odds are stacked
against him. He and his partner at the museum, Robert
Gibbons, have been rejected and ridiculed. White estimates
he has spent more than $60,000 traveling to conferences,
starting the museum, having the artifact tested and
And yet he forges on.
"I'm 73 years
old," White said. "I don't have much longer.
"What I'd like to see
before I'm gone is the national media get their heads out
of their ... " White paused, choosing his words
carefully, "out of the sand. I'd like to see the
national media and everybody else realize that what I have
Scientists theorize that
the "UFO" lights that White said he encountered
could have been nothing more than a meteorite, that his
artifact could be space debris. Some scientists who have
tested the object said there was nothing extraterrestrial
Ask White whether he
believed in unidentified flying objects prior to 1985, and
he scrunches up his nose.
"Never," he said.
"Not a bit. I was the biggest skeptic in the
That all changed overnight.
Here's how he remembers it:
White and a friend were
driving from Denver to Las Vegas on a desolate highway
near the Colorado-Utah border. It was 2 or 3 a.m., he
said, and White was sleeping in the passenger seat. At one
point, his friend woke him up and pointed out a strange
light in the distance. White didn't think much of it and
went back to sleep.
Then his friend woke him up
again. This time, White said, the lights were blinding.
He got out of the car and
stared, dumbfounded. The object was about 100 yards in
front of him, he said, "and it was huge ...
In time, he said, the
lights bolted toward the sky and connected with a pair of
neon, tubular lights — "the mother ship,"
White guesses now. And just like that, he said, the entire
contraption zipped eastward through the Colorado sky and
"What I saw,"
White said, "was not of this Earth."
As the craft flew away,
White said, he noticed an orange light falling to the
ground. A locator probe? Something that simply broke off?
It was red hot when he reached it, he said, but in time it
cooled enough to pick up. White shoved the object into the
trunk of the car.
The object is about 7-1/2
inches long and shaped like a teardrop. It has a coarse,
metallic exterior and weighs less than 2 pounds. It looks
a bit like it could be a petrified pine cone and is
composed primarily of aluminum.
White has had the item
tested several times, hoping for some answers.
The Nevada-based National
Institute for Discovery Science in 1996 sent a sample of
the object to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and
analysis was pretty mundane," said Colm Kelleher, a
scientist at the National Institute for Discovery Science.
"We didn't find any
evidence that it was extraterrestrial. Now you can make
the argument that we didn't spend $1 million and look at
every conceivable option. We didn't cover every
Another scientist who
tested it at a California laboratory — and who asked
that his name and that of the laboratory not be used —
said, "It didn't show any extraterrestrial
Sgt. Gary Carpenter, who
works at the North American Aerospace Defense Command in
Colorado Springs, Colo., said it was not uncommon for
NORAD to get calls about strange lights and unidentified
objects. Not once, he said, has the object been identified
as an alien spacecraft.
"Usually it turns out
to be space debris from a satellite that's decaying, or
it's in the realm of naturally occurring, celestial
lights," he said. "It could be something like a
falling star. It could be contrails, the things you would
see trailing an aircraft."
White opened the Museum of
the Unexplained with visions of turning it into a
destination. He wasn't looking to get rich — according
to the Missouri secretary of state's office, the museum
was registered as a nonprofit organization in August 2000
— but he hoped to spread the word about his experience.
The museum, about 13 miles
north of the glitzy Branson strip, might as well be in
another world. There are no neon signs pointing the way,
no twinkling lights outside the front door. Rather, it's
sandwiched between the Humane Society thrift shop and the
Sunrise Cafe on Main Street.
It has struggled, unable to
tap into the Branson spinoff crowd and secure a niche
audience of its own. Only 2,800 people went through the
doors that first year, when admission was free, and the
museum hasn't been able to replicate those numbers since.
These days, patrons age 12
and older pay $5 to stroll through about 2,000 square feet
of space. Exhibits include a keyboard from the movie
"Men in Black II" in which the shift key doesn't
capitalize or decapitalize but translates from English to
an alien language. Other exhibits are little more than
newspaper articles or passages from the Internet affixed
to the wall with thumb tacks.
The focal point is White's
artifact, and he takes no chances with its safety. Motion
detectors, closed-circuit TV and window and door alarms
protect it at all times. White packs it up in a gun case
every day at 5 p.m., and the object never spends the night
at the same place two nights in a row. You can never be
too sure, he figures, even in a town with just 465
"I'm happy for them
that they're having a good time, but I guess I'm just not
into that kind of thing," said Kacee Cashman, the
Reeds Spring city clerk since 1998. "I really think
they've been accepted, but everybody's kind of taking it
with a grain of salt."
Said White, "I don't
know what I have to do to prove this is the truth. You
can't make this stuff up."