A close encounter in Lawrence County, Tennessee, Part I
It was the morning of Monday, June 6, 1988. Coy Luna, the 59-year old caretaker of a remote 600-acre farm in West Point, Tennessee, was working in his vegetable garden around 8:30 a.m. when he heard the frenzied bark of his dog Scottie. Luna left his “potato bugging” work in the garden to find out why his dog “was raising so much hell.” “He just took off running and barking towards it,” said Luna. When he got about 30 feet away, it went straight up off the ground and took off real fast. The dog like to have went nuts, and I did, too.” Realizing he was seeing something out of the ordinary, Luna ran back to the house to call the police. The call went to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, and Deputy Tim Jackson was dispatched to investigate. Jackson confirmed Luna’s sobriety. He was unable to find any ground markings at the scene to indicate the landing of an unearthly ship, but wasn’t ready to say that Luna hadn’t seen something. “I made him go over the story seven or eight times, and he had the same story each time. He never varied, and he wasn’t and hadn’t been drinking,” said Jackson, who said he intended to call the air traffic controllers to determine if anyone had been flying planes or helicopters around the Tennessee Valley Authorities power lines that crossed through the Knob Creek Road farm owned by Bob Kelley. Luna described the object as “big enough to hold four or five people,” and looked like a water tank covered in tin foil. “When I first saw it, it was just sitting there,” Luna said. “It was so bright it would put your eyes out to look at it. I don’t know if it was the sun reflecting off of it, or if it was lights.” Despite the intense brightness, Luna said he could see a small door, but “no kind of propeller, landing gear, or nothing.” The object “went out of here like a jet plane, but it was quiet. You could hear that it had some kind of engine, but I don’t know what it sounded like. It sounded kind of like a weed eater,” Luna said. When the call came into the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Depart, Advocate newspaper reporter Joe Baxter was at a desk making notes of the latest offense reports for news copy. Baxter dropped what he was doing, and drove to Knob Creek Road for what could be a much bigger story. It was. Baxter’s interviews with Luna and photos produced two stories for the Lawrence County Advocate, and a front page story for the Nashville Tennessean, as well as a story by David Logsdon in the competing Nashville Banner. Baxter, who two years later became the director of Emergency Management for Lawrence County, continued his investigation, and found others who had witnessed strange phenomenon on the nights of June 5-6. One day previous to Luna’s sighting, six members of the Leoma Church of Christ witnessed an object in the sky while heading home from Sunday night church service. “My wife saw it first, so we pulled over to the side of the road and watched it for about ten minutes,” said a Lawrenceburg man, who did not wish to be identified. “Another one of the church members thought we were having car trouble, so he pulled over with his wife, and then another pulled over a minute or two later.” The man said the silvery-white colored object looked “like a partially-deflated balloon” that rocked back and forth while constantly getting higher. “Seeing that thing didn’t bother me too much, but seeing a couple of specks sitting motionless above a small cloud close to it did bother me,” he said. “They were there for a while, and then they separated, and went up and out of site.” At least five other persons in the state reported seeing flying objects on the night of June 6. An anonymous woman caller said she and her husband saw a bright greenish-blue light in the sky that she first thought was a comet or a meteorite. “It was very beautiful, and took forever to fall,” said the caller, who saw the object while driving on Interstate 65 near the Goose Creek exit. “It was so bright, I worried that it might set a fire when it hit. I’ve never seen anything like it. The caller said she “felt sorry” for Luna, who had been the only person to report seeing the UFO. Another report from the same night came from four Whites Creek High School graduates, who had spent a weekend camping on Center Hill Lake in Smithville, in Dekalb County. Paul Douglas, Terrance Ingram, Todd Hurst, and Todd Chapman, all said they saw a bright greenish-blue light fly across the night sky, covering the entire horizon distance in less than ten seconds. “We were out on the lake around 10 p.m. baiting trotlines,” said Douglas. “Todd Hurst and Todd Chapman both saw a falling star, so we looked up into the sky. Then we all saw this light that moved from one corner of the sky to the other corner of the sky. It looked like a bright star. We were facing south and it moved from west to east,” said Douglas. Douglas and the others told their girlfriends what they saw, but “they didn’t believe us,” said Douglas. “They thought we were all crazy. Then the next saw we saw the story in the paper and everybody was freaking out,” Douglas said. When notified of the other sightings, Coy Luna said “I’m glad somebody else saw this besides me, but I don’t care if anybody believes me or not. I didn’t make this story up. If this thing comes back, I won’t call anybody. I’m just going to run over the hill.” The report brought great attention with television news crews and several interested visitors to the remote farm in the West Point community. A junior high school science teacher named John Feurbacher took the first radiation readings at the site on Friday, June 10. “The radiation lever did not upset me. In that one area, it jumped to two or three times the normal level, but it wasn’t dangerous.” Feurbacher’s findings were confirmed by Lawrenceburg resident Joe Douglas, a a member of the Tennessee Army National Guard certified as a Radiological Monitoring Officer by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. Before taking his readings on Saturday, June 11, Douglass requested that he not be shown the exact spot where Luna said the object had been six days earlier. After conducting a sweep of the entire field, Douglass’ pinpointed spot had seven times the strength of the surrounding area. “The normal reading most areas of the field was .05 milli-rads per hour, using the XI.1 setting, which is the most sensitive setting,” said Douglass. “When I went over this spot, it jumped to .35, which was seven times stronger that the average for the field. Douglas pointed out that it still “wasn’t a lot of radiation, but it was definitely higher at this one spot.” “It would have been better to have checked it right after the sighting instead of a week later.” Another visitor to the site identified himself as George Parker Ford, stating he was “a physicist from Lexington, Kentucky.” Ford said he visited the site on Thursday (June 9) after noting “several things in Luna’s story that were too close to the truth.” “I’ve been studying the possibilities of electromagnetism as use of powering a spaceship,” said Ford. “I just came down here to see if I could learn something from this.” An unsuccessful attempt was made to confirm Ford’s identity, which was likely a cover for an actual information-gathering mission for whatever government agency had sent him. No other military or government personnel made themselves known during the investigation, which most would consider unusual. Unfortunately, Luna also was opened up to ridicule and skepticism by making the report. Morning radio personality Carl P. Mayfield put Luna on the air live on WKDF to poke fun at his story. “I didn’t call to report this,” said Luna. “I wanted to know if anybody else had seen it. I probably wouldn’t have called if I’d known it was going to get blown up so big. I haven’t had a minute’s peace for the phone a ringing.” “Of course I tell the story again, and I’ve walked out there in the field a hundred times to show them were it landed,” Luna said. “They’re real interested in hearing about it, but it’s getting kind of old to me.” Luna didn’t call the Sheriff’s Department the next time the he was visited by an unearthly object three weeks later. But he did share the experience with his family, and eventually told his story to a representative of CUFOS (Center for UFO Studies), a non-profit Illinois Corporation. But that is another story, for another time.