By Bob Zientara
It was 81 years ago today, on the night before Halloween in 1938, when much of the eastern United States was shocked to hear a radio broadcast announcing that the country was being invaded by Martians.
CBS radio “interrupted” its programming that evening to report the event. Many thought it was real, but the broadcast turned out to be a radio drama, produced by actor and communications genius Orson Welles, and based on the fictional book “The War of the Worlds.”
Before the outcry subsided, thousands of Americans reportedly panicked, some fleeing their homes to escape the invading aliens. Newspaper accounts indicated that switchboards were jammed as people called police to ask where the Martians were.
However, the “War of the Worlds” phenomena was predated (by four years) by what a Barron native said was an actual sighting of an unidentified flying object, according to a blog post on the website Wisconsin Frights.com
According to www.wisconsinfrights.com, author and Barron native Coral Lorenzen described her experience seeing an unidentified flying object in Barron “on a sunny summer day in 1934.”
On the web-based blog, Lorenzen said her hometown was “a place where airliners were rarely if ever seen, (and) it would be safe to say weather balloons were never seen. Indeed, even a small monoplane was an event in that area.”
Which was why the “thing” in the sky caught her attention. She was at play with a couple friends and saw something in the west-southwest sky. Lorenzen directed the attention of her two playmates to the object (they aren’t named in the portion of the book appearing on the website).
One of the friends “said she thought it was a parachute. Its color was “a glowing white,” the excerpt said. “The object was about as large as a dime held at arm’s length. There were no ropes or lines suspended from it and, therefore, no parachutist.”
“We watched the object for perhaps twenty seconds,” Lorenzen wrote. “Then it appeared to go over the horizon, or perhaps it came to rest north of Barron in the vicinity of a body of water referred to locally as the ‘Upper Dam,’” most likely the dam west of Mill Street, across from Anderson Park.
“I went home and told my father, who made inquiries, and the matter was dropped,” Lorenzen wrote. “No one had seen the object we three children had watched, and there was no news of a parachutist landing north of the dam.”
Later, Lorenzen and her husband later founded the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), according to Wisconsin Frights.
Author J. Allen Hynek, who published several books about UFOs, later wrote that while APRO had among its number members who were “overenthusiastic and uncritical persons enamored of the idea of UFOs,” he stated that it was not a “crackpot” organization. APRO had “many serious members, many of whom have considerable technical and scientific training,” Hynek added.
On the Wisconsin Frights website, you can read about other horrifying moments in state history:
• A hunter in Manitowoc County who encounters a Wendigo (a woodland demon described in Native American legends) while in a swamp near Two Rivers.
• The story of the haunted witches’ tower in Whitewater.
• Rare film footage from an auction held on the property of mass murderer Ed Gein, near Stevens Point, in 1958.
Editor’s note: Wisconsin Frights did not immediately respond to a request for comment and further information by press time Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019.