Montana is famed for its big sky, and author and scientist Joan Bird believes that skyscape is populated by more than clouds. Spending time with her new book might bring even UFO skeptics to the same conclusion.
Bird – daughter of an aeronautical engineer and sister to a planetary scientist – spent much of her life working in the fields of ecology and conservation. She was surprised to discover that some of the most famous UFO cases happened in Montana, and used these well-documented sightings to craft a “UFO 101 course with regional roots.”
The book begins with one of the best-known events, captured on film in 1950 by Nick Mariana, then general manager of the Great Falls Selectrics baseball team. The film shows two silvery, flying discs that, according to Mariana, “appeared to be spinning like a top.”
The incident was well covered in local papers, but later discredited by both the Air Force and national media, including an article in Cosmopolitan that called such sightings a “a disgraceful flying saucer hoax.” Bird goes on to detail various government efforts to debunk or obfuscate UFO sightings, including Project Grudge, Project Blue Book and the Condon Report.
She also includes a fascinating chapter on UFO encounters at Minuteman missile silos across northern Montana. In many instances, such sightings corresponded with missile alarms or shutdowns in the silos, and crew members who had witnessed the sightings were ordered to sign non-disclosure statements by the Air Force.
She explores crop circles in Montana and elsewhere, and concludes her book with two Montana-based tales of contacts with extraterrestrial beings: the story of Leo Dworshak and his brother, who claimed to have spent time with human-looking aliens and visited their spaceship in the early 1930s; and miner Udo Wartena’s story of meeting aliens in May 1940 near Townsend. He reported encountering a large ship, “that was round, like two dinner plates, one inverted over the other,” meeting a man about his age, who spoke English, but slowly, “as if he was a linguist,” and being invited onboard.
“Here at the dawn of the Third Millennium, we may have more ‘worldviews’ to choose from than at any time in history, and they are colliding,” says Bird in her introduction. “This is both unsettling and liberating” – as is her book.
– Kristi Niemeyer