The first to see it
Melvern Noll wasn't supposed to be trucking that night. After all, he was semi-retired and looking forward to devoting his time to being the owner of Fun Land, a miniature golf course in Highland, IL. But his old company was short-handed, so Melvern drove the switch run from Pocahontas to Bloomington, IL. He was driving back home to Highland in his pickup when he first saw a bright light in the sky moving toward him.
"I thought I should check out the heater at the miniature golf course," says Noll. "When I stepped out of the truck I saw something bright in the sky. It reminded me of the kind of 'Bethlehem' star you see on Christmas cards. I checked everything and then went back out to go home when I noticed the star was moving toward me. It kept moving slowly toward me from northeast to southeast."
Noll says he kept watching and as the thing approached, he was amazed to see it was shaped like a box and had many bright lights.
"It was like a long two-story house with a row of square lights going up the side and a smaller penthouse on top with more lights on it," he says. "I couldn't tell what color it was because it was still dark out, but it was dark colored. If there had been anybody inside looking out the windows, I could have seen them easy, 'cause the thing was so bright inside."
Melvern says when it was directly overhead, its rate of speed was about 70 mph. It was now moving in a southwesterly direction.
"It was only about 500 to 800 feet above me when it passed over and I felt like it spotted me because it was going so slow," he says. "Then it took off in a perfectly straight line . straight and silent."
He reported it to the police, touching off an epic that people in St. Clair County will tell for a long time.
Police officers verify sighting
At least four officers from area police departments subsequently reported they saw a large peculiar object making a northeast-to-southwest flight across the vicinity at about 4 a.m. CST. Described as "huge" with very bright lights, one officer estimated it was flying as low as 1,000 ft.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and several St. Louis television news programs reported on the incident, including interviews with at least one of the police officers who had witnessed the object. According to the Post-Dispatch's story, the object was shaped like an arrowhead, sprinkled with dim lights all over its surface and with three brighter lights on its tail. Television stations quoted officers who had seen the object as being "the size of a football field."
At one point during the sighting, the object seemed to be within two or three miles of Scott Air Force Base. The National UFO Reporting Center posted a case brief after receiving two phone calls from an officer with the Lebanon Police Department. The center interviewed key people, including the base's press officer, who reported that their tower was closed at the time of the sighting.
Land Line spoke to Lt. Col. Allan Dahnke, officer in charge of media relations, who said, "no one at Scott has reported seeing anything." Dahnke told Land Line that the aircraft operating out of the AFB (C9 Nightingales, C21 Learjets, KC135 Strato Tankers and the National Guard's C-21 refueling planes) are grounded between midnight to 0600 hours.
The Missouri Air National Guard has denied reports that jet fighters from a nearby Air National Guard unit may have been "scrambled" to take a look. The ANG flies F-15s out of Lambert Field/St. Louis Airport. The report that personnel at the airport witnessed a take-off of F-15s at approximately 0420 hours that morning has been denied by an airman and a pilot with the ANG unit. Both preferred to remain anonymous. One of the men told Land Line, however, that no F-15s ever fly at that time of the morning. The airman said if it was anything, it was a blimp. A very large blimp.
Officer Craig Stevens of the Millstadt, IL, police department (south of I-255 just south of St. Louis on the Illinois side) told the Post-Dispatch that it didn't scare him, but he thought it was "cool." While the Millstadt Police Department reports that Stevens is no longer accepting phone calls, Land Line obtained this information from Stevens' Jan. 4 police report. Here's what Officer Stevens reported:
"On Jan. 5, 2000, at approximately 4:28 a.m., I, Officer Craig A. Stevens was on patrol in the village of Millstadt. I was monitoring radio traffic when I heard a report via CENCOM that the Highland Police Department had a report of a large flying object in the air. CENCOM dispatched Lebanon PD to respond. I heard Lebanon state - is the guy 10-55? Later, I heard Lebanon state that he observed the object, and that it headed in the direction of Shiloh, and to have Shiloh PD be on the look out for it. I then heard that Shiloh had spotted the object."
I drove to the east end of town to see if I could observe the object. Then I drove to the north end of town . while I was sitting there, I observed a very large flying object coming from a southward direction. The object was flying very low from 500 to 1,000 ft., and was flying very slowly. The object was making no noise. I could only hear a very low decibel buzzing sound. Then the object began banking to the northeast direction, and continued to cruise away from me toward the area of Dupo."
I contacted dispatch and advised them that I had spotted the object. I exited the patrol car and took the Polaroid camera from the trunk and attempted to take a picture. The camera was very cold. The temp was only approximately 18 to 20 degrees outside and the picture did not seem to exit the camera properly."
I heard Dupo PD advise CENCOM that they quite possibly observed the object, but it was at a very high altitude. I returned to the station and drew a rough sketch of the object, typed a report of my observations."
The kind of fame a trucker never expected
"A bunch of people have come to interview me," says Melvern Noll, "and everyone else who claims to have seen it. Nobody has come up with anything yet. The O'Fallon police still deny seeing anything and so do the people at the base (Scott AFB)."
John Velier from the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), a research institute in Las Vegas flew to the scene to investigate. Noll says they plan to return at a later date and try to piece together a composite sketch of the object from all the witnesses. A number of radio stations have called.
Melvern was on USA Talk Radio in early February for two hours answering questions about his sighting. MNM Productions (owned and distributed by MGM Studios) flew to Melvern's hometown and filmed a re-creation of the famous night. The re-creation will air on the National Inquirer Television Show. Noll says the Discovery Channel has also shown interest in filming the story.
Noll says though the UFO incident has left him quite overwhelmed, he doesn't expect it will really change his life all that much. "I'm still a trucker with a miniature golf course," he says. "I still haul an occasional load."
But Noll says one thing is for certain. "When I look up at the early morning sky," he says, "I am going to get a creepy feeling."
by Donna Carlson (Sandi Soendker and Jason Cisper contributed to this article.)