This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 22, 1998

April 22, 1998 UFO Sighting in Castle Rock

On January 3, 1968, Denver Post writer Chuck Green reported "One of the best-verified sightings of an unidentified object." It happened in Castle Rock.

According to one Deputy Sheriff Weimer, about 12 "reliable citizens" claimed to have seen "a large, bubble-shaped object" flying over Castle Rock between 6:10 add 6:25 p.m. on January 2. Morris Fleming, director of the Douglas County Civil Defense Agency, said that at least 30 people saw the object.

Most compelling was the witness of Howard Ellis, a Castle Rock business man who happened to be at the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) Building, then in the center of town, when "all of a sudden about a dozen lights shined on me."

He said that a bubble-shaped object hovered about 50 feet overhead. Shortly, Ellis was joined by five other businessmen who estimated the object as floating about 600 feet high. They guessed its width at 25 to 50 feet.

The UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) wandered north a couple of blocks, hovered over the Douglas County Courthouse, then made what Green called "a spectacular disappearance."

The object rose quickly, shot out some impressive sparks, then the main light abruptly went out.

The Douglas County Civil Defense Agency spokesman somewhat ominously announced that it would administer a blood test on one of the witnesses to determine if any "radiation or unknown or foreign matter is in his bloodstream."

One Dr. Norman Levine, research associate with the University of Colorado's Air Force-financed UFO study project, also planned to look into this occurrence.

Now all of this has the makings of a terrific movie, doesn't it? The big metropolitan paper soberly reports a bizarre phenomenon in small town Colorado. You can FEEL the tension, you can almost hear the Twilight Zone theme.


About a week later, the Douglas County News-Press featured a report from "a Castle Rock mother." She recalled that "her young son had been in the vicinity of the tennis courts where the UFO had flown over." The report stated that,

"She asked her son if he had seen the UFO, for he hadn't mentioned it.

"His reply: 'Sure Mom, I saw it, but I didn't pay any attention to it, because it was just a plastic bag up in the air.'"

Somewhat later, the Douglas County News-Press ran the definitive investigative follow-up. I quote:

"A slightly embarrassed Castle Rock mother came forth Thursday with an explanation....

"The UFO, Mrs. Norbert Dietrich explained, was built by her two sons, Tom, 14, and Jack, 16...

"The UFO actually was a clear plastic dry cleaning bag, 'a small one, the kind that comes on a suit jacket...'

"Tom and his brother closed up the top of the bag, braced the bottom opening with a couple of balsa wood sticks, put an aluminum cup in the center of the sticks and set four birthday-cake candles in the cup."

The Dietrich boys sent up the first experiment on Christmas, 1957, which their neighbors enjoyed tremendously.

The second attempt was the one that attracted all the attention. It rose (air warmed by the candles) and floated for about 15 minutes.

The News-Press reported that "The UFO had been described by residents as lighting up the sky, shooting out balls of flame and having a dozen lights."

"Come on now," said Mrs. Dietrich. "There were only four little birthday candles."

The article concluded that "Their mother, amused but a little contrite, emphasized that her family had no intention of causing hysteria in the community."

Let me summarize. Thanks to research gathered at the Philip S. Miller Library, we have a marvelous case study of celestial phenomena, the gullibility of the business community, the incisiveness of youth, and the ultimate justification of the local small newspaper's investigative prowess.

(My thanks to William Kirby, our diligent patron, for this altogether marvelous gathering of clippings.)

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