August 27, 2017

1970: Prescott's Close Encounter of the Second Kind


Dick Zabriski 
It all started when a 7th grader named Dick Zabriski looked up into the night sky and saw an object that according to him, "seemed to stand still within a column of four stars and then it started to move (erratically)...It changed colors from red to blue then to green." (*1)

This incident would be only the beginning. Soon the town would be abuzz over a massive wave of UFO sightings and the curtain would be raised for the most bizarre event in Prescott history.

In 1970 far fewer people "believed" in UFOs than do today. Back then people who witnessed such phenomena generally kept it to themselves for fear of ridicule. Yet the show that was put on that August in Prescott was so incredible that it compelled many respected citizens to come forward and allow their accounts to be printed in the newspaper!

Mrs. Bill Barringer who lived near the saw mill related: "Last night we saw two objects. One we watched for about an hour. The second object remained about 20 to 30 minutes. They looked like big bright stars that moved forward and backward and then in an up and down motion. They seemed a reddish color, dimmed, went to a greenish color and then back to a bright star like appearance." (*2)

"Rev. John Foster (Conservative Baptist minister visiting from Phoenix): I saw a light that moved erratically. It's course changed. It seemed to pulsate and waver at times. It went across the full expanse of the sky but took a course slightly to the right..." (*1)

"Agnes Liljegran (Pilot from Glendale): I have seen the objects for more than three nights now here in Prescott...I know what planes look like. It was not an airplane. I believe this was a true sighting." (*1)

Mrs. Irene Wood: "We were on a hill on DeMerse St. and at 8:15pm we saw a huge brillant mass of light looking as big as three moons coming very fast from just over Thumb Butte. It seemed almost over Prescott and went to the east. It halted and a huge mass detached itself and fell straight down behind the hills. (*2)

"We came back in the house and at 8:30 we saw another smaller object that was reddish color with a glow. No blinking lights either. It came from exactly the same position and went the same route as the first. But when it got to the place where the first mass had detached its load, it let down six small red objects. There was no breakage appearance. Just as the thing hovered the six fell and they were spaced exactly the same distance apart. At one time we saw four of these things in the sky at one time." (*2)

"My husband and I were fated or privileged to see what was called the 'Mother Craft'," Wood said later. "Now I believe in flying saucers. I have more faith in my fellow men than to believe they were all liars who saw these. If you haven't seen one of these objects, don't laugh until you have seen one and then laugh -- if you can." (*3)

Indeed, "over a two week period many hundreds of flying saucers were seen by hundreds of witnesses." (*4)

This photograph, taken by Courier photojournalist Chuck Roberts and published in the 8/3 edition, has an arrow pointing to a hairline streak through the sky. The text in the circle reads (verbatim): "Arrow points to trail of (?) and distance covered is approximately 5 minutes...information on it? call the Courier." Roberts reported that before this picture was taken the object "was moving quite erratically." (*5)


The Strange Case of Paul Solem:
Paul Solem
One man who will always be associated with this event was Paul Solem. The managing editor of the Courier wrote: "Paul Solem is either a hypnotist, magician, has a vivid imagination or he is telling the truth...According to Solem, Mormon scripture teaches that the keys which the Latter-Day Saints Church holds will in the last days be turned over to the American Indians." (*6)

About the aliens piloting the spacecraft, Solem said: "There is no reason to fear these people. They are like Angels. They come from the planet Venus and they are here to lend credence to prophecy, not to harm anyone...They look just like humans, but of almost a divine quality. They have hair cut neatly to their shoulders and due to their fine qualities and almost musical tone to their voices it is difficult to tell male from female." (*6)

Solem said the aliens first contacted him in Idaho, "called him by name and told him that in a previous life...he had lived with them on Venus." (*6)

Since then Solem had been "directed to several areas where he would speak to people about the prophecy... This, he says, is why he is now in the Prescott area "working not only with several Indian tribes, but with others as well." (*6)

Knowing that most people would dismiss such claims out-of-hand without the slightest forethought, Solem insisted that he could prove it. He invite anyone interested to meet him at a certain location and watch him "call" a UFO into sight. A small group of around 17 people showed up and were astonished when a UFO did appear just as Solem had predicted. This happened again and again with the size of the crowd growing each time and testifying that Solem's predictions came true!

Finally, the Managing Editor of the Courier, Joe Kraus went to see for himself. Understandably, the paper had been slow to report on the ongoing phenomena, but the story had grown too big to ignore any longer.

"Numerous people from all walks of life in the Prescott area have been reporting UFO sightings here for the past several nights. In an effort to learn more (Kraus) agreed to a personal encounter with the saucers with Paul Solem the man who says he is responsible for their coming." (*6)
"I stood in a backyard in Prescott with several neighbors," the Courier editor wrote, "and watched spellbound for almost half an hour Friday (8/7). It looked like a star--almost. It rose in the sky, stopped, hovered, wavered to one side and then continued across the sky repeating the maneuvers. 
"It was a long way away, but we thought it changed colors from a white to a reddish orange and then to a purplish blue and then a reddish white. And then it was gone. A flying saucer? Yes, if we could believe our eyes. 
"But there is more--Paul Solem, the man who says he is responsible for the saucers which have visited here for the past three nights. And according to him, the sightings will continue until the message of why they came is given. 
"He stood off by himself, alone Friday, gazing into the sky while the rest of us watched only a few feet away. He was calling--mentally, he said. And then after about 15 minutes he yelled: 'They are here. I can't see them yet, but I know they are here. One just said "We're here, Paul! There are several people in the saucer.' I can here them talking." 
"After a couple of minutes a star appeared in the sky that wasn't there before...As the saucer hovered overhead, Solem repeated to us the words he said he heard through mental telepathy from the space craft. 
"'My name is Paul, the second, fourth in command of all ships that enter the atmosphere of the planet called Earth. We come to lend credence and as a sign or token that the Hopi prophecy was of a divine nature. Great sorrow and fear will be coming to this planet very soon and few will escape it. Our leader as spoken of in Hopi prophecy is already here (on Earth) in mortality and is known as the Apostle John (the same one as in the New Testament). The white brother shall be introduced by a huge fire and the Earth shall quake at his arrival. we are of the 10 lost tribes and we will return several nights unless there is contempt for us.'" (*6)
The message ended and the UFO disappeared.

"Solem had a way of attracting the saucers to himself. Trailed constantly by skeptical reporters Solem seemed to have the knack of making UFOs appear at his bidding. On the night of August 9, for example, about 100 persons watched Solem 'contact' the saucers, which obligingly appeared shortly afterwards." (*7)

Then it Happened:
The same night Joe Kraus met Paul Solem to witness his prediction come true, Kraus also sent a photographer named Vell to the airport to take any interesting pictures he could see. He took the following photos which were published on the front page August 9th:

The caption reads: "Prescott Courier staff member and photographer Vell along with Mr. & Mrs. Bill May all of Prescott were waiting at Highland Pine lookout at the time Paul Solem made his saucer contact Friday (8/7). They saw quite a different view of the saucers which Vell described as  zig-zagging, making formations and landing (emphasis mine) in an area between Prescott and the airport. The glow, Vell said was caused by the objects seemingly landing in that area. The small lights below the outline of the mountains are homes. Prescott is out of camera range to the right of both photographs. Taken with time exposure, the long zig-zag lines are the unidentified objects in the sky. About six objects remained in the area for about a half hour. The time was about 10:30pm." (*6)

Enter the Hopi:
Chief Katchongua, his
counselor and his translator
are seen with Paul Solem.
The Hopi do indeed believe that what we call UFOs will play a part in the end times. When news of this massive sighting reached the Hopis, their Chief, Dan Katchongua along with a delegation of two, went to Prescott "to learn more about the rash of UFO sightings here which they believe is in direct line with Hopi prophecy." (*1) 

On August 14th the 3 Hopis went with Solem to Yavapai Stone at 741 6th St. to witness the UFOs for themselves. As usual, all other interested parties were invited to attend. (*1)

According to Dan Carlson who was there with about 50 others, the UFO did indeed show up at 9:20 pm. "For 20 minutes we watched it cut an erratic path across the sky, as it traveled slowly in a southwesterly direction." (*8)

"If one is to believe Hopi Prophecy," Carlson said, "the reasons the saucers are sighted here most often and contacters seem to be attracted here is that this is a choosen land. Prescott is within the Hopi circle of sacred ground, where these beings from another world are supposed to bring about prophecy." (*9)

On August 14th, Solem stated that the big show was over, but the sightings would still occur "for some time to come." He was right again. (*8)

The following March, "Prescott's own 'Flying Saucer Prophet' returned with Chief Dan and predicted that a saucer would appear east of Drake. Press releases were sent out and the Hopi along with several hundred people went to be witness. Solem stated that "the 50-foot-wide ship, commanded by Paul II, would be from Venus. It would be seen close up during daylight hours. Solem said he expected it would bring more messages about the Hopi prophecies." (*10)

The UFO "will hover above the ground at about 100 feet, turn at various angles so that it can be seen and photographed and then depart," Solem said. "It will remain for about five minutes. In addition, the mother ship will also be seen hovering overhead, but much higher in the sky." (*10)

"Although hundreds of people journeyed to Drake to witness the phenomena, the promised saucer appearance failed to materialize." (*3)

Solem explained later that the reason for the no-show was that "just prior to the meeting bulldozers appeared in the area 'destroying the ground' where the saucer was to appear." (*11)

The Aftermath:
When the city's adventure was over, Courier Editor Kraus tried to take stock. He admitted that some of the sightings were probably satellites. Yet, "there are far too many other sightings, however, to conclude that the entire sightings were hoaxes. The changing colors, the zig-zags, the contacts which Paul Solem claimed he made and observed by several hundred witnesses including Courier staff members did not seem to us to appear as a satellite or a plastic balloon," he wrote. (*2)

"With the little facts we have on hand most of us here are keeping an open mind on the subject hoping that someday we may know for sure." (*2)

Solem left Prescott to move farther north, nearer to the Hopi nation. In the 1980s he moved back to Blackfoot, Idaho where he died at age 91 on February 11, 2012. (*12)

Hopi Chief Dan Katchongua's passing was far more mysterious.  "He was last seen walking up a small valley where a UFO had just been seen." Then the 107 year-old slipped into the strange case file of "Human Vanishings." His body was never found.  (*4)

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The story of a rash of Flying Saucers (UFO) sightings around Prescott, AZ, in the first half of 1953. Includes the "Arizona's Roswell" incident around the same time.

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$20 REWARD for LOST HISTORY:
On April 2, 1971, the Prescott Courier published a special 8 page edition (costing 25 cents) about all the UFO sightings that occurred here starting in August 1970.
Since this was a special edition, it was not delivered as a part of a regular subscription. As a result, NO COPY OF THIS EDITION ever made it to any library.
It is my hope that someone stashed this away somewhere and that I would be able to donate it to the Sharlot Hall Museum archives (after a write a blog about it, of course!)
I know some might think this subject silly, but I assure you that there are thousands of potential tourists who would be very interested in finding out about this.
If you happen to have a reasonably good copy, please contact me via Facebook or email me at prescottazhistory@yahoo.com

SOURCES:
NOTE: Occasionally, Google Archives mistakenly puts several issues of the Courier under one date.  The author used the true dates, page and column numbers in his footnotes--but if you are using the links provided here, please note the page number you should skip to to get to the correct edition.

Photo at the top of the article: See reference (*2) Also see the Courier 8/12, Pg. 1 (On Google Archive it's Pg. 7 of 18 on 8/11) for a thorough explanation of its veracity.
(*1) Prescott Courier, 8/10/1970 front page
(*2) Prescott Courier; 8/21/1970 Pg. 1 cols. 7-8. (On Google Archive it's pg. 57 of 8/14)
(*3) "The UFO Flap in Prescott, Arizona" by Richard W. Kimball
(*4) UFO Mag Blog, "Flashback 1970: UFOs Over Arizona and Hopi Prophecy". From Prescott Public Library Vertical Files: "UFOs".
(*6) Prescott Courier 8/9/1970, Front page & Pg. 2 Col. 1.  
(*8) Prescott Courier 8/18/1970; Pg. 1 Col. 6 (On Google Archive it's pg. 39 on 8/14)
(*10) Prescott Courier; 3/24/1971, Pg. 1 Col. 1 (On Google Archive it's pg. 12 of 57 on 8/22)
(*11) Prescott Courier; 4/6/1971, Pg. 1 Col. 1 (On Google Archive it's pg. 50 of 54 on 4/6/1971) 
(*12) Paul R Solem Obit.

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