The Trumbull County Disturbance


Considerable attention has been given to the theory that twinkling stars and planets may explain the many UFO sightings reported in Trumbull County, Ohio on December 14, 1994.

This scenario, first advanced by Astonomer James McGaha of the Grasslands Observatory, was presented on the February 17, 1999 CONFIRMATION special on NBC.

The pros and cons of this explanation will be presented here:

The following report is from Mr. Eric Martin:

What is going on here?
By Eric Martin

In the last 20 min of NBC's Confirmation special, was a segment on a northeast Ohio (in Trumbull County) police departments' run-in with 3 UFO's. A skeptic stated they were chasing the planet Mercury. On the below Redshift 3 image of that night, it is clearly shown Mercury was too close to the sun to have been seen, and the only planet visible was Saturn. The nearly full moon was also visible. So now what Mr. Skeptic.

NBC's UFO Crockumentary
By John Cason

Not to mention many other similar cases, but let's take a fresh look at this sighting.

As is too common in UFOlogy, good quality evidence concerning the Trumbull County case is not readily available. Although Kenny Young has had the 911 tape since last June 1, only part of the transcript is available on the internet and it is _not_ a word-for-word transcription. Audio CDs and tapes can be purchased, of course, but I will omit that URL. The partial, non word-for-word "transcript" is at:

Parts of the tape were played on the Sightings radio show on June 4, 1998 (Trumbull County starts at 1:29 into the show) and on June 17, 1998 (starts at 1:00). The show tapes jump around and coherent progress through the incident is not easy. Those tapes can be accessed through:

Jim made a pretty serious charge, saying that the producers of the show were intellectually dishonest about the Trumbull County incident.

Do the police officers say anything on the tape to indicate that they might be looking at stars or planets?

Kenny Young's website also has part of an interview with the officer who went to the airbase and saw the UFO with the security guard. "The officer told of how he was pursuing the UFO, which he described as a bright light with no structure visible."

What about the officer who saw the three large spaceships with lights all over them, the ones that were shown on NBC? Here's what he said:

So the three spaceships looked like stars? Jim's dishonesty charge is scoring some serious points against the producers of the show.

How about the thing that kids notice, the old "move-when-I move, stop-when-I-stop" behavior of astronomical objects? Did any police officers report that?

In the interview with the officer who went to the airbase, Kenny Young wrote, "He could never seem to get near to the object, as it always moved away when he approached."

Did the officers give any reason why they thought the UFO was not a planet or star?

"Starlight can be refracted into a rapid sequence of colors.
Red, white, and blue are the most common although every
color in the spectrum has been reported to me, including
'gold' and 'lavender.' . . . The effect is especially prominent
when the stars are near the horizon."
Allan Hendry, UFO Handbook, p. 26

What about the reports of a visible structure to the UFO?

In the transcript and on the tapes, the only officers who said they could see any structure were using binoculars.

Are the officers seeing the UFO clearly, or are they straining to see something?

"Whenever witnesses trained magnifying optics on a star
undergoing atmospheric distortions, the magnification
served only to exaggerate the distortion and make the
situation worse."
Allan Hendry, UFO Handbook, p. 31.

"Naturally, these witnesses were quick to tell me the
shapes of the magnified images plus their sizes, ignoring
their apparent sizes and shapes to the naked eye. Thus
I always made a point of asking the witnesses this
particular question, sometimes to their puzzlement,
only to learn that the 'saucer' through binoculars was
only a point source to the eye."
Allan Hendry, UFO Handbook, p. 197.

Were the officers observing through good quality optics?

So how do Jim's charges hold up when measured against what's said on the tape?

Jim was correct. The show's producers were dishonest about the Trumbull County UFO.

What about Kenny Young? He did a great investigation of the flares case in southern Ohio almost two years ago, and UFOlogy's less serious investigators criticized him severely. This time he totally misinterpreted the event and his punishment was two appearances on Sightings, a prominent mention on the NBC show, and tonight he's on Art Bell. That's quality control as practiced in UFOlogy.

This message appears here with the permission of Mr. J.K. Cason

Comment in response to above message:
from Kenny Young

Would I be correct by thinking that astronomer James McGaha, who appeared on the NBC special, was equally 'punished?' Further, Joe Nickell of CSICOP has also made a recent appearance on Art Bell... is this quality control as practiced in the debunking industry... or is there a double-standard here?

In my estimation, Mr. Cason's use of term 'spaceship' is not an appropriate term to use in the discussion, as it is highly leading and suggestive. As far as I'm aware, it has not been anywhere argued that what had been observed by the officers was a "spaceship."

The dramatic effects used by CONFIRMATION, although out of context and used during inappropriate sequences, were essentially derived from collective eyewitness testimony. The spectacular appearance of a structured, rotating saucer, however dramatized on television, still does not suggest that usage of the term "spaceship" would be appropriate during analysis.

It is clear that Mr. Cason has taken his time to selectively pick and choose excerpts from the Trumbull County 9-1-1 tape that -on the surface- readily conforms to the 'twinkling star scenario.' By doing so and attempting to formulate an argument based upon selective data (while disregarding contrary material), these methods seem to constitute a flagrant, one-sided manipulation of detail.

From the same transcript Mr. Cason is quick to reference from, here are certain items which he has strangely overlooked:

Furthermore, portions of the tape which have not been transcribed appear troublesome to dismissive efforts promoted by the 'Star Scenario' proponents. Officers state: "It was NOT a star or planet," they discern a clear distinction between stars vs. planets.

To add further weight to this, consider a segment used on CONFIRMATION (where the produers had taken inappropriate 'dramatic license' that ultimately resulted in distorted detail), which works contrary to the 'twinkling star scenario,' as the officer indicates a distinction:

Any contention that the reported 'structure' which was viewed by the officers was pure misperception based upon two passages by Allan Hendry in the UFO Handbook, p. 31 and 197, leaves much to be desired. Why is it that this sort of explanation always tends to violate Occam's Razor? In this scenario, a half dozen natural phenomena mixed in with witness misperception is required to explain a single UFO sighting. The odds of so many things happening at once is astronomical, and we are left thinking that the explanation is far more unlikely than the report itself.

I would have to disagree that excitement and misperception promoted by atmospheric refraction contributed together to create this event (or more specifically, the entirety of the police pursuit sequence). Again, consider Occam's Razor (the reason for my disagreement) and the situation in-context regarding the incident being sparked by the initial citizen advisement. Something was there... structure later described.

Occam's Razor basically states that the more simpler of explanatory ventures is probably the most correct. To obfuscate this particular case with a dash of this and dash of that (misperception, excitement and atmospheric refraction) stretches credulity and is far more complicated than the basic possibility of an aircraft -- identified or otherwise -- operational over this vicinity, observed by citizenry and held under consideration by law enforcement.

Most notable was Mr. Cason's lack of attention to eyewitness testimony gleaned from not only the 9-1-1 recordings but during eyewitness interviews. Various descriptions are given to recount the physical appearance of the object, ranging from a bright light to a structured object with a parachute-like attachment, to an object with an element protruding from the top of it. The primary object was first said to have been 'blue-colored' and even described as a 'long streak with flames' or the "back-end of a fighter jet." Other callers described a bluish-green object with flames. Police officers described a brilliant red light on a 'huge' object, others reported a bright-white light. Still others described a glowing red, saucer-shaped object which rotated, as if on an axis.

The deletion of key detail in conformity with one particular explanatory venture damages any potential for seriousness that these dismissive efforts may have been otherwise given.

I strongly consider the twinkling star scenario as viable to address some of these sightings, especially during the 'pursuit' sequence.

To balance this account, one must also note the possibility
that the excited and alert officers could have been observing
and misidentifying stars or airplanes while on the lookout
for a UFO reported across the county by several of their
fellow officers. This is even referenced on the tape as
speculation by other policemen who apparently did not
see the main object. However, it should be stressed that
an officer on the tape did qualify a distinct difference
between stars and routine air traffic against the unknown
objects, which he counted to be as many as six. He made
the analysis while speaking to the controller as he was
visibly observing the objects. Another officer flatly
discounted the 'star or planet' scenario, stating that the
object was 'huge' and lit up the ground as if it were

Perhaps researchers inclined to derive selective information (while disregarding contrary data) with the intent to formulate an ideological contention could cast aside conjectural pretense and seek to acquire fact with an objective approach - disregarding agenda in favor of accuracy.

It would be most refreshing if these 'agenda-investigators' would actually pick up their telephones and work a few witnesses for exacting descriptive detail: at least this would enable more serious consideration to be given to these legitimate concerns.

Kenny Young

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