Volume 1              The SWAMP GAS JOURNAL        ISSN 0707-7106
Number 7                      April, 1980

     Special Report:  Stephen, Minnesota; Not Proof, But ...

A main issue under examination at the Manitoba Conference on Ufology on March 16, 1980, was
the Val Johnson UFO incident which occurred on August 27, 1979. The case received wide publicity
and has been noted in most ufozines (it was noted in SGJ #6), so it will not be repeated again here.
Briefly, it involved the apparent impact of a US police vehicle with an unidentified flying object,
near the town of Stephen, Minnesota, The incident was supported by various physical evidence in
the form of dents, impact marks and broken glass.
     Frankly, it is one of the most puzzling incidents in the history of ufology. This strong
statement is partly because of the fact that the case involves a man who has been described as "the
perfect witness." Val Johnson is a Deputy Sheriff in Marshall County, Minnesota, and is a trained
observer as well as an experienced police officer. The physical evidence suggests that something
very strange happened to him in the early morning on a lonely stretch of road near the Red River.
The time sequence of events is very firmly established by both tape recorded and written logs of his
actions that morning. The physical traces were examined and measurements were made immediately
after the encounter by trained police investigators, and  Johnson was taken to a hospital by
ambulance directly from the site.
     At MCU, the case was discussed and reviewed in detail by all participants, as presented by
guests Val Johnson, Everett Doolittle and Greg Winskowski. Doolittle was the first individual to
reach the site after Johnson radioed for help, and Winskowski conducted the initial police
investigation. Many fascinating points were noted, as follows:

The Physiological Effects

When Val Johnson was found by Everett Doolittle, he was slumped forward over the steering wheel
and in mild shock. A bruise later appeared on Johnson's forehead, presumably caused by impact with
the steering wheel. He was dazed, and said that "everything was in slow motion." He had an intense
pain ("excruciating") in his eyes, and, having done some welding in his career, knew what welders'
burn was like, comparing his pain to this. 
     "It was as if someone had hit me in the face with a 400 pound pillow," he said of the
sensation of his head. However, he stated repeatedly that the only pain he experienced was from his
eyes. This is extremely interesting in the light of dental examinations he had one week previous and
one week after his experience. At the first, he had an extensive series of x-rays taken, in preparation
for major dental work. His bridgework, including the caps on his front teeth, was intact. At the
second examination, the dentist found that Johnson's bridgework was broken at the gums. Yet, no
swelling or pain was felt.

The Physical Evidence

When Everett Doolittle arrived on the scene, Val Johnson's police car was front-end-first in the
left-hand ditch, with the other end sticking out into the left-hand lane of the road. The "impact point"
was determined by the location of the broken glass of the headlight on the road, 953 feet from where
the car was found. From that point, "yaw marks" (described as faint skid marks caused by putting
a car out of gear without applying the brakes) traveled in a straight line for 854 feet down the road.
These became dark skid marks from there to where the car stopped moving, going in a straight line
for most of the remaining length, turning abruptly at the end toward the ditch.
     The right member of the left pair of headlights was broken. There was a round dent,
approximately one inch in diameter, directly over the master brake cylinder, on the hood. This dent
appeared as if a hammer had struck the hood at an angle between 45 and 75 degrees from the
horizontal. A photograph taken with a UV filter showed that there was a deposit left on the flat
bottom surface of the dent.
     The windshield of the car had an interesting pattern of breakage, In the shape of a teardrop
(point up). This was located on the driver's side. There were three main impact points visible, though
the lowest of the three was largest and most complex. Testing of the glass by the Ford Motor
Company suggested that there were signs of both inward and outward motion of the windshield.
They were apparently unfamiliar with the breakage pattern. It is fairly obvious, though, that even a
small stone would have been driven through the windshield, even at relatively low speed, so it is
hard to interpret the shattering as an actual impact. However, it was noted at the Conference that the
analytical findings bear some resemblance to those of a shock-wave-induced breakage.
     The roof light which was affected had its glass knocked out. The police radio antenna on the
center of the roof was bent about 5 inches up from the roof, at about a 45 degree angle. The CB
antenna on the trunk was bent near its tip, at an angle near 90 degrees, 3 inches from the top.
     An interesting observation. made by the police investigators was that all the damage on the
vehicle occurred in a straight path no wider than twelve inches in diameter. Because of this "linear"
formation, it was suggested that an object had struck a glancing blow to the car, initially impacting
the headlight, rolling over the hood, up the window and over the roof. However, at the Conference,
it was realized that this scenario could not account for all the damage in the form it was observed.
An object hitting the car at the front would not have the capability to redirect its force downward
further up the hood, graze the window and still have enough force to bend the antennas.
     The antennas are spring loaded, so anything bending them would have to have been traveling
extremely fast to create the shape they are now in. It was also proposed that the antennas were bent
by a strong deceleration, causing them to whip forward. But the design of the antennas is such that
they can withstand a strong deceleration without acute bending. Any deceleration of sufficient
strength to bend them backwards as they moved forward might have killed the occupant. Most
curiously, the insects adhered to the antennas were not wiped off from the impact, as might be
     The battery of the car can no longer hold a charge. It has been proposed that the
headlight-and roof light were imploded by a high-energy electrical source. Ball lightning was
suggested as a cause, but it could not have created the dent in the hood, nor the impacts on the
window, let alone the bending of the antennas. The electric clock in the car was found to be missing
14 minutes. Strangely, Val Johnson's mechanical wristwatch was also lacking 14 minutes. This is
indeed odd, because both were synchronized with the clocks in the police station earlier in the night,
and all time checks after that agreed, as late as 01:00, only a short while before the incident.
     Finally, the CB radio in the car, although It was said not to have been In the best working
order before the incident, was described as being "even worse" after it.
     Allan Hendry, of the Center for UFO Studies, sent a gauss-meter to the police investigator,
in order for them to test for changes in the car's magnetic pattern. These results were, apparently,
     There was evidence of dust particles in the shattered glass, and it was suggested that this dust
was the residue found in the round dent in the hood.

The Psychological Effects

When Val Johnson called for help, his voice was described as being "weak," and like "someone
coming out of a daze." He had been, apparently, unconscious for 39 minutes, from the time he heard
glass breaking and felt the light "hit" him, to the time he woke up, opening one eye to see the red
ENGINE light on his dashboard. During that period, the car had traveled in a straight line for 953
feet, before veering to the left over the left lane into the ditch. He does not remember applying the
brakes, yet the skid marks belie the fact that they were definitely applied.
     At MCU, Johnson was asked what he thought had happened to him that morning.  He said
that he believed he "had seen something (he) wasn't supposed to see." Questioned on this, he could
only speculate that he had stumbled upon somebody doing something that wasn't meant to be
observed, and that his powers of observation had been effectively neutralized. 
     He also was asked if the procedure of regressive hypnosis had ever been suggested to him.
He replied that the National Enquirer had asked him to submit to a regression, and offered to pay him
for the exclusive rights of the results. He had rejected their offer. He was then asked if he would
agree to a hypnotic regression with a clinical hypnotist, for research purposes, and not for
publication. He said no, and added that he was "not curious" about what had happened to him that
     Everett Doolittle said after this that their file on the case is now closed, and that their
investigation is now terminated, after reaching no conclusions. They stated that their investigation
was over, and that the matter is now in the hands of the ufologists. They will not subject Johnson to
either a polygraph or a regressive hypnosis, as they feel it is not necessary for their investigation. All
three were asked if the Air Force, CIA or FBI had approached them, and they all answered to the
     Val Johnson was asked if he had since experienced any other unusual incidents such as
extremely vivid dreams, MIB or psi phenomena. In response, he revealed a highly interesting thing;
from time to time, he said, he will find himself thinking three words, which somehow stick in his
mind. The words stay with him "like a McDonald's commercial," and he can find no reason for
thinking them. The three words are: "I AM COMMITTED." He concluded by noting that if he ever
saw that light again, he'd stop the car and "yell for help!"


This case was reviewed in detail at the conference, and photographs of the car were examined
closely. Addition evidence was brought forth and theories were presented to try to account for all
the evidence. Guy Westcott, a NOAP investigator, stated that he had found a "burn mark" in the field
beside the road, while he was examining the site. This mark, about 6-7 feet in diameter, had no
vegetation on its surface and bore some resemblance to a fertilizer burn. Val Johnson said that a
representative from the USDA (Agriculture Rep) ex-
pressed a personal interest in the case and had taken infrared aerial photographs of the site. These
showed that the ditches on either side of the site had a "different" chlorophyll absorption than the
surrounding fields.
     After much debate, it eventually was concluded by the MCU participants that the incident
was inconsistent with the theory of the car having been struck by an object of some sort, including
ball lightning. The idea of hits by multiple objects was considered and found marginally tenable.
However, there are 39 minutes to account for, a complex sequence of impacts by several objects and
some effects caused at a short distance that still need satisfactory explanations. Actions by unknown
individuals can be included in the list of possibilities. It is easily demonstrable that something very
unusual happened that morning. 
     At the present time, there is no adequate explanation for the effects noted in the case, based
on the proposed theories. Many questions still remain unanswered, and they may remain unanswered
for some time to come. The Stephen, Minnesota, incident is listed in UFOROM files as "unknown."

The Swamp Gas Journal
Box 1918
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Canada   R3C 3R2

c 1980, 1996 by Chris Rutkowski

    Source: geocities.com/thecynicalview