Posts

UFO research pioneer Coral Lorenzen

June 2019 Newsletter: The Flying Saucer Woman Who Changed UFO Research Forever

Coral Lorenzen’s interest in UFOs began at just 9 years old, when she witnessed a mysterious object in the sky over Barron, Wisconsin over a decade before Roswell.

In an unprecedented move, the Pentagon has recently admitted to an active interest in UFOs. A secret study that began in 2007, known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), “did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena” until the program closed in 2012, according to the Department of Defense.

In May the Rolling Stone wrote about a “New York Times report confirming that between 2014 and 2015, Navy pilots reported ‘almost daily’ sightings of unidentified flying objects lurking in the air, including one that resembled a ‘spinning top moving against the wind.'”

In April the Navy reported they were developing guidelines for reporting UFO sightings following “a surge in what the Navy called a series of intrusions by advanced aircraft on Navy carrier strike groups,” according to the Navy Times.

A May headline from the Washington Post declares “UFOs exist and everyone needs to adjust to that fact.

Declassified image of Navy pilots encountering a UFO in 2015
A recently declassified image of Navy pilots encountering a UFO in 2015

Of course, the government publicly acknowledging the existence of unidentified flying objects doesn’t automatically mean we are being visited by extraterrestrials. It’s probably just weather balloons and swamp gas. But whatever we’ve been seeing in the skies, it’s been going on a long time, and the government has been paying attention. Other notable studies predating the AATIP, sparked by the high profile 1947 Roswell incident, include Project Sign in 1948, Project Grudge in 1949, and Project Blue Book throughout the 1950s and 60s.

“I had scarcely heard of UFOs in 1948 and, like every other scientist I knew, assumed that they were nonsense,” Dr. J. Allen Hynek said about his early involvement in the studies.

Hynek agreed to participate in the investigations in hopes of debunking the sightings. But as unexplainable cases piled up, Hynek’s perspective began to change.

“The witnesses I interviewed could have been lying, could have been insane or could have been hallucinating collectively—but I do not think so,” he wrote in 1977. “Their standing in the community, their lack of motive for perpetration of a hoax, their own puzzlement at the turn of events they believe they witnessed, and often their great reluctance to speak of the experience—all lend a subjective reality to their UFO experience.”

But the Air Force didn’t seem to be taking reports seriously, or making any real effort to identify what people were seeing. Hynek became disenchanted, as did the general public. Critics of Project Blue Book, Hynek wrote, called the program “The Society for the Explanation of the Uninvestigated.”

It was during this time that Coral Lorenzen, a young reporter for a small press in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin decided it was up to the public to conduct a proper investigation of UFO phenomena.

The General Mills UFO

UFO researchers Jim and Coral Lorenzen
UFO researchers and APRO founders Kim and Coral Lorenzen, 1955

“I turned the corner at Third and Michigan and walked toward the drugstore,” Coral Lorenzen wrote in her 1966 book Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space. “Suddenly someone called, ‘There’s the ‘flying-saucer woman’-ask her what it is!’ Third Avenue, the main street in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, was literally full of people watching the sky to the northeast. I looked up and saw it too-a silver, ellipsoid object.”

On May 21, 1952, Lorenzen, along with countless other residents of Door County, witnessed the Sturgeon Bay Flying Saucer. Coral was a writer for the Green Bay Press-Gazette at the time, using it as a platform to research decades of UFO sightings in the area.

The object in the skies over Sturgeon Bay appeared to be metallic with a bright red glow at the bottom, according to Coral’s description in her 1966 book Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space. It was moving very slowly toward the northeast, and was visible in the area for about 50 minutes. Based on calculations from observations made in Sturgeon Bay, as well as Fish Creek 30 minutes to the north, Coral and Jim estimated the object to be 780 feet in diameter at an altitude of about 40 miles.

Many attempts to explain the sighting were made over the next few days until the General Mills Company of Minneapolis, known today for their cereal brands, took credit for the UFO. They were testing balloons designed to transport equipment in the upper atmosphere for a secret government program called Project Skyhook.

General Mills Project Skyhook billboard
“Where our balloons now float will be man’s highway of tomorrow,” Project Skyhook engineer Otto C. Winzen told Popular Science in 1948.

“Not explained was the bright light on the bottom of the object,” Coral wrote of General Mills’ claim. “It wasn’t even mentioned in the press release. The reliability of the observers wasn’t mentioned either. I had had a good deal of experience with estimating degrees of arc in the sky, and both policemen who had observed the object in Fish Creek were World War II veterans and capable observers. The General Mills statement did not attempt to discredit Mr. Lorenzen’s triangulation, nor did it mention the facts that the big balloons were considerably less than four hundred feet in diameter and were not equipped with huge riding lights.”

The General Mills website mentions the balloons, and the stir one caused in 1947 when something “glowing an angry red” was witnessed over Minneapolis. Many residents called the University of Minnesota, jamming their phone lines for an hour, asking if there was a flying saucer in the sky or if it was “the beginning of the end of the world.”

UFO Over Barron

Something crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Whether it was an alien spacecraft as many UFO researchers believe, or merely a weather balloon, it sparked a new public awareness of seemingly extraterrestrial objects in our skies, and reports flooded in for years after.

But UFO reports didn’t begin with the Roswell incident.

In the decades preceding the notorious crash in New Mexico, there were many documented UFO sightings that defied explanation. Mysterious things were flying over our heads long before top secret government aircraft began causing a stir in the 1940s and 50s. And, since Wisconsin ranks as the second highest state where you’re most likely to have a close encounter, it makes sense that the future of UFO research would begin here.

UFO sightings at Benson's Hide-a-Way in Dundee, WI
A binder full of UFO photos at Benson’s Hide-a-Way, Wisconsin’s “UFO Capital of the World”

“The beginning of the mystery of UFOs was, for me at least, on a sunny summer day in Barron, Wisconsin, in 1934,” Coral wrote. She was just nine years old when she and two friends watched an object she described looking like “an open umbrella without the ribs or spurs” glide silently through the sky and vanish over the horizon.

“Barron in 1934 was a small town of about 1500 population. Airliners were rarely if ever seen, it would be safe to say weather balloons were never seen and, indeed, even a small monoplane was an event in that area. The ‘thing’ was in the west-southwest when I first noticed it. I called it to the attention of my two playmates, and one said she thought it was a parachute. Its color was a glowing white. 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.

“It made no sound as it wobbled in a northwest direction across the clear, cloudless sky. It wasn’t going fast—rather, it was poking along at a leisurely rate of speed and with a rather strange motion, that has been described in recent reports as ‘undulating.’

“We watched the object for perhaps twenty seconds. 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.’ I went home and told my father, who made inquiries, and the matter was dropped. No one had seen the object we three children had watched, and there was no news of a parachutist landing north of the dam.”

Coral’s sighting predated the 1947 Roswell crash and the resulting UFO flap by 13 years.

“There was only one explanation for the thing I had seen,” Coral wrote. “There might be intelligent life on other worlds, and their ships were the strange things people had reported in the heavens from time to time through the years.”

Arial Phenomena Research Organization

1952, the year Coral and many others witnessed the massive silver object float silently over Lake Michigan, was a busy year for UFO sightings. And as quickly as the reports were coming in, the government was dismissing them with what many believed to be poor investigations and worse explanations. Coral, still haunted by what she saw years earlier, realized there needed to be an organized way that amateur researchers could investigate UFO sightings and exchange information.

Coral and Jim founded the Arial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) that year. It was the first group of it’s kind.

In his book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry, Hynek 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.”

Already known as the “flying saucer lady,” Coral soon found herself in the perfect position to track down information on local sightings.

Related Posts

“In the fall of 1952 I started doing news correspondent work and feature writing for the Green Bay Press-Gazette,” Coral wrote, “and consequently I met a lot of people who were of great assistance to me in tracking down early, unpublished sightings in Wis­consin.”

Coral recorded numerous strange occurrences, including a number of brightly lit objects moving in formation over a minister’s farm in 1910, and a silver globe-shaped object with light emanating from within over Lake Michigan.

Coral dedicated her life to researching the UFO phenomenon. Her enthusiasm for the truth forever changed the way UFO reports were investigated, as today’s modern UFO research groups owe their existence to APRO.

In 1969, APRO members started the Midwest UFO Network, now known as the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON. Among them was Allen Utke, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Wisconsin State University, who became the first director of MUFON. The group is still active today, with chapters in every state, some 3,000 members, and more than 390 field investigators actively investigating reports of unidentified flying objects.

Jim and Coral Lorenzen at APRO headquarters
Jim and Coral Lorenzen at APRO headquarters after they moved to Tuscon, late 1960s

Have you seen a UFO or had an alien encounter?
Please share your story for an upcoming feature.

Weird News

A selection of the strangest and most fascinating headlines in science, history, archaeology, travel, and more from last month:

June Observances

June 23 – Cult of Weird turns 9
June 23Pink Flamingo Day
June 24Flying Saucer Day

From the Cult of Weird Community

Share your oddities and weird adventures by tagging your photos #cultofweird

Send questions, photos of your favorite oddities, or share share your strange or unexplained experiences to be included in the next newsletter. Use the contact form or email info@cultofweird.com

WTFact

Bearded female saint Wilgefortis in Prague

This sculpture in the Loreta church in Prague seems to depict Jesus in drag, but it is actually St. Wilgefortis, the patron saint of women seeking to be liberated from their husbands. According to the story, Wilgefortis was a teenage noblewoman from Portugal. Her father had promised her to be married to a Pagan king, which she wanted nothing to do with. She took a vow of virginity and prayed to God to make her repulsive so the king would not want to marry her. God answered her prayers by giving her a thick beard. The king called the wedding off, and her father, deeply angered, had her crucified.

Previous Newsletter: Curious objects from the Cult of Weird collection #1

Want to receive email notifications about new posts?

Click here to sign up.

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Saturday Schedule

Katrina Weidman, Loren Coleman, Butch Patrick, and more! Here’s what’s going on today, October 15th at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2016 Saturday schedule

The first day of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference features a Q&A with Paranormal Lockdown star Katrina Weidman, cryptozoology expert Loren Coleman on the Minnesota Iceman, and much more. Afterwards, be sure to check out The Raven’s Masquerade Ball costume contest and performances by Dead Man’s Carnival, Gnarrenschiff and Tamarind Tribal Belly Dance, Quasimondo Milwaukee Physical Theater and others.

Cult of Weird will be there all day. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates throughout the day, and be sure to find us in the vendor hall and say hi! We have candy…

Here’s the schedule for the day:

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Day 1

@ University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Student Union (2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.)

UWM Ballroom East: Vendor floor open 10:00am-5:00pm

Wisconsin Room

11:00-11:45am: Linda S. Godfrey, “Midwest Manwolves: 24 Years on the Trail”

12:00-12:45pm: Allison Jornlin, “Milwaukee Forteana Vol. II”

1:00-1:45pm: Mary Marshall, “Paranormal Entanglement”

Paranormal Lockdown star Katrina Weidman at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
Katrina Weidman, star of Paranormal Lockdown

2:15-3:00pm: Shepherd Express presents “Q & A with Katrina Weidman of Paranormal Lockdown,” special presentation with Mike Huberty and Wendy Lynn Staats from See You On The Other Side podcast, who will talk with Katrina Weidman, star of Paranormal Lockdown and Paranormal State. Includes audience Q & A and autograph session– get an autographed photo for $20!

3:30-4:45pm: The Roswell Debate with Donald R. Schmitt and Mark O’Connell

5-6pm: Keynote: Loren Coleman, “The Minnesota Iceman: the Milwaukee Connection and More”

Loren Coleman at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
Loren Coleman, founder of the International Cryptozoology Museum

UWM Ballroom West

12:00-12:45pm: “Best UFO Reports 2016,” moderated by Nick Roesler, w/ Chase Kloetzke (MUFON) and Kevin Malek (UFO Wisconsin Research Team). Supporting sponsor: KGRA radio

1:00-1:45pm: Celeste Contreras, “Celebrating Dia de los Muertos”

2:00-2:45pm: Kristan T. Harris, “The Hidden History of Giants”

3:00-3:45pm: “Searching for Wisconsin’s Sasquatch,” moderated by Sanjay Singhal (Beyond the Forest radio), w/ Jay Bachochin (WPI Hunts the Truth), Linda S. Godfrey, Larry and Jen Dopke (WI- Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization)

Worshops (Room 191)

12:15-1:00pm: Brew City Paranormal, “Paranormal Investigating: NOT as seen on TV”

1:15-2:00pm: Ron Schaefer, “Dream Interpretation”

2:15- 3:00pm: Society for Anomalous Studies, “Historical Hauntings: Supporting Historical Properties through the Paranormal”

3:15-4:00pm: Dark Star Ministry, “Ouija and Tarot: Occult Tools and the Paranormal”

Third Ward Walking Tour, presented by Milwaukee Ghosts- Tours and Investigations. Meets outside Milwaukee Public Market, 7:30pm.

The Raven’s Masquerade Ball @ Irish Cultural and Heritage Center (2133 W.Wisconsin Ave.) 8pm.

More info at MilwaukeeParaCon.com

Close Encounters at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference

Curious crowds came in droves to the inaugural Milwaukee Paranormal Conference for a day of ghosts, monsters, UFOs and weird Wisconsin legends.
Bigfoot at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
Sasquatch decides which speaker to catch next at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.

Where can you go to have an encounter with Bigfoot in the women’s bathroom? The Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, apparently. I mean, I wasn’t in the women’s bathroom personally, but second-hand accounts and blurry photos were evidence enough for me.

The conference was held Saturday, June 6th at the Irish Cultural & Heritage Center, which happens to be a deconsecrated church built in the late 1800s, complete with pews, stained glass windows and a massive pipe organ looming behind the stage in the main hall. According to the website, where the church stands now was originally part of the “Old Cemetery” Catholic burial ground prior to 1886. Where did the dead go when the church was built? Maybe they’re still there and caught some of the presentations.

I should note that, despite being held in an old church, no one was struck dead, burst into flames, etc. As far as I know.

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference vendor hall
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference vendor hall.

The conference was conceived by Milwaukee journalist Tea Krulos, who wanted envisioned a celebration of the paranormal to coincide with the launch of his new book Monster Hunters. An estimated 900 attendees was astounding proof that the weird is alive and well in Brew City.

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
I’m not sure what is going on here, but it’s awesome.

Cult of Weird Table

Thanks to the support and ingenuity of my partners in crime Rob (Mad Taxidermist) and Christina (Slasher Betty) we were able to scrape together a pretty decent Cult of Weird table. Although at least a few passersby seemed to think we were recruiting for an actual cult of some kind.

I suppose the skulls and occult symbolism may have had something to do with that.

Cult of Weird table at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
The Cult of Weird table in the vendor hall featuring Cult swag as well as the Mad Taxidermist’s new hand-made beeswax spine candles.

Skulls at the Cult of Weird table
The Mad Taxidermist brought some skulls along.

Cult of Weird at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
Rob and Christina man the Cult of Weird table.

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Speakers

When I wasn’t at our table fighting off a paralyzing social anxiety with Rob (while Christina did all the talking) I managed to catch a few of the presentations. Wisconsin MUFON investigator Mark O’Connell discussed some of the unusual and often quirky UFO sightings in the state.

Did you know that in 1961, aliens served a man pancakes from their flying saucer?

Yes…that happened.

Linda S. Godfrey, author of Weird Wisconsin and The Beast of Bray Road, revealed some of the cryptozoological oddities seen in the state as detailed in her most recent book American Monsters.

Weird Wisconsin author Linda S. Godfrey discussing strange creatures seen around the state.
Linda S. Godfrey discussing strange creatures seen around the state.

And, of course, I wouldn’t miss Cult contributor J. Nathan Couch’s presentation on the more paranormal elements of the goatman legends in Wisconsin and across the US.

J. Nathan Couch talks goatman legends at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
J. Nathan Couch talks goatman legends to a riveted crowd in the lower Pub.

There were many other great speakers who I didn’t have the opportunity to see, including Allison Jornlin of Milwaukee Ghosts Tours & Investigations, Bigfoot researcher Jim Sherman, and Roswell expert Donald R. Schmitt, whose table happened to be right by ours and I didn’t even realize it, damn it.

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
Tea Krulos hosts the Best Evidence Ever! panel with Allison Jornlin, Jim Sherman, and Nicholas Roesler at Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2015.

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Vendors

We had the honor of being (very) near illustrator David Beyer, Jr. and his amazing work, Alex Groh of Muddy Waters Press (he had a furry trout poster), The guys from Blurry Photos podcast, the Brew City Paranormal crew, and Mike Hoke of The Strange Side with Mike and Nate and Cedarburg Ghost Tours.

The artwork of illustrator David Beyer Jr.
The artwork of illustrator David Beyer, Jr.

Podcast of the Century crew at Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
Podcast of the Century

Goatman author J. Nathan Couch and MUFON investigator Mark O'Connell
Author J. Nathan Couch (Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?) and Mark O’Connell, MUFON Chief Investigator for Wisconsin.

milwaukee-paranormal-conference-dark-star-ministries
Steve Hayes and Kim Poeppey of Dark Star Ministry (and Cult of Weird readers!)

Bigfoot photo booth at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference
Yep, we found Bigfoot. Mystery solved.

Thank you to everyone who stopped to say hi! It was great to meet some local Cult of Weird readers who are passionate, curious, and, most of all, helping to keep the world weird.

Also, our eternal gratitude to Tea Krulos for putting the event together and bringing Cult of Weird on board. Can’t wait to do it again next year!

For more go to www.milwaukeeparacon.com

More 2015 Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Media