Spotting a huge, unidentifiable object in the evening sky with flashing lights “not like an airplane” may sound far-fetched but it’s a scenario at least a dozen residents from Fort Frances to Barwick said they saw Sept. 20.
Reported to be extremely large, stationary for up to an hour, and bright red after sundown, it also was estimated to be at atmospheric heights far above the navigational paths of airplanes.
While descriptions of the object were plentiful and strikingly similar, an investigation into its origin remains unsolved.
A multitude of phone calls to both Canadian and U.S. aviation authorities, airport weather station officials, and military bases turned up nothing.
No one claimed to know anything about the object, or where it came from. The only officials left to contact in the end were National Defense personnel and somehow the cliché “run around” deterred any conversations with them.
The only so-called “lead” in the whole curious affair remains in the suggestion that it was some sort of enormous high-altitude research balloon—a determination conveyed by pilot Thor Einarson of International Falls.
“It was pretty cool. It must have been at 80,000 feet plus and was very large and very shiny,” noted Einarson, who caught sight of the object while taking a walk in the Falls area with a friend around 7:05 p.m. that Saturday.
Einarson said that two or three days later, he talked to someone in the Falls who had examined the object with a high-quality telescope, concluding it was a balloon.
In fact, an article entitled “Racing the Wind," found in the September issue of National Geographic magazine, noted huge airships called "Roziere balloons” (a design that combines gas and hot air technologies) were being tested to travel around the world.
“It is a possibility that this was one of them,” reasoned Einarson, who said he had heard of one 800 feet long.
One Fort Frances resident who got out of her car to get a better look at the thing admitted she was terrified at the sight of it, and quickly got back in to her car—locking all the doors.
“It was quite a thing,” explained a Devlin resident, who was reluctant to have her name published.
“It stayed in one spot at least an hour. It was absolutely not an airplane,” she stressed.
“I saw it [too] and it was far higher than any jet would fly,” echoed a resident from the Emo area who spotted the object just before sundown.
“It seemed to turn red and glowing after the sun went down,” he added.
The U.S. National Weather Service in Duluth, Mn. said that if indeed the object was a high-altitude balloon of some sort, it is quite likely the red glow people saw was nothing more than a reflection of the sun off the balloon.
They said that at altitudes of 100,000 feet, the sun would still be shining on it even after sundown at ground level.
Small weather balloons are launched from the Falls airport twice daily but—on a good day—reach no higher than 30,000 feet.