Thirty-five years ago, Wythe County was ground zero for UFO sightings when thousands of people reported seeing mysterious, unidentified flying objects in the nighttime skies. To mark the anniversary, the Wytheville UFO Fest will touch down June 11 at the Wytheville Meeting Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
During the day-long fest, there will be speakers, including retired Wytheville news man Danny Gordon, who first reported the UFO sightings, and retired reporter and local science fiction writer Paul Dellinger. Together, the two men wrote a book about Wythe County mysterious encounters titled “Don’t Look Up.”
There will also be vendors offering everything eerie and weird from artwork and stuffed animals to jewelry and comics.
UFO Fest organizers William and Robin Van Huss said they have been interested in UFOs and cryptozoology (the study and research of animals rumored to exist, like Bigfoot) for years. William Van Huss even wrote a book, “Saucers over Appalachia.” Together, they own an online business, Mystic Novelty Co.
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“So we both spent a good amount of time researching UFOs,” Robin Van Huss said. “We’ve been into UFOs our whole lives.”
Her husband remembers hearing about the Wythe County sightings when he was growing up in Bristol, where people were also seeing UFOs at the time.
“We wanted to start a festival; we are always busy attending festivals. But wanted it tied to somewhere near to where we lived. We were surprised nobody had done a festival there before,” Robin Van Huss said. “We love Wytheville.”
The Wythe County sightings started in October 1987 and lasted well into the next year as person after person reported seeing ominous saucers, triangles and cubes floating over Wythe County. Most reported a massive object with lights the silently hovering over the area. Ten years ago, one witness talked to the Wytheville Enterprise about her UFO encounter.
“It was very, very close to the house,” Linda Spiker recalled. “It was huge. It was floating very slow. It took forever to go over the house. We lived in the country and it was pitch black outside. You could tell something was moving, but couldn’t see outlines or shapes, but it was bigger than our house and made a soft humming sound.”
She and her daughter watched in awe as the massive craft moved over their house and into the night sky. As soon as it disappeared from view, three helicopters came rushing in behind it.
“Two followed the object and the third one veered the right to go beside it,” Spiker said. “As soon as I saw the helicopters, I figured it was something military and went back to bed. But it was strange and one of the biggest things I’ve ever seen.”
Spiker said she believes what she saw was some sort of military blimp.
Last year, the U.S. government confirmed reports by military pilots of unidentified UFOs.
Gordon, a well-known figure at WYVE Radio before his retirement in 2016, was the first person to break the story and personally witnessed several sightings. His reports brought media attention to the county, including the television series Unsolved Mysteries, which produced an episode dedicated to the sightings. The episode is available for viewing on the UFO Fest website at www.wythevilleufofest.com
Gordon received more than 3,000 reports of UFO sightings and took the only known photos of one of the crafts in December 1987 from a parking lot where more than 100 people, including a school bus full of students from Floyd County, saw several crafts fly over.
During the fest, Gordon will discuss his first-hand experience investigating the sightings and reveal a new theory he has regarding the sightings. Other speakers include Dellinger, a longtime UFO aficionado. According to the fest website, the first book he ever checked out of the library was “Behind the Flying Saucer,” an early and sensationalized account of the purported crashed saucer near Roswell, New Mexico. Dellinger has published works of science fiction for decades.
Speaker Dave Spinks is an investigator and author who has been investigating and researching the supernatural since 1986 because of several experiences he had as a young man. As a result, he has conducted several hundred investigations across the U.S. and Europe.
Filmmaker Sean Kotz is working on a documentary about the fascinating events surrounding the Wythe County’s UFO reports. Other speakers are researchers/artists Ron Lanham and Joe Purdue.
In addition to speakers and vendors, there will be music and fun for the entire family at the Wytheville UFO Fest. Admission is free.
To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 573, or email email@example.com