Wednesday 17 October 1973. It was 10pm on a quiet night in sleepy Falkville, Alabama, a town of about 1 200 residents. 23-year old Police Chief Jeff Greenhaw’s TV programme was interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing. He picked up. It was a woman in a state of near panic and Jeff could barely make out what she was on about.
She said she saw a UFO land on vacant land outside down belonging to Mr Bobby Summerford. Despite being off duty the conscientious officer decided to check it out. Equipping himself with his Polaroid camera and his gun he jumped in his truck and sped towards the scene.
Seeing nothing unusual Jeff had a brief look round on foot then returned to his car and took a gravel side road nearby. Driving slowly along he saw a figure in the distance moving in an erratic, mechanical way. Thinking the figure was hurt Jeff slowed down.
The stranger seemed to have an antenna attached to his head: perhaps some kind of communication device like Mik Kanrokitoff, writer for Space Week, whom Tintin & Co meet on the tropical island in Flight 714.
“Howdy, stranger?” Jeff asked in his friendly Southern drawl, but there was no response.
From his own recollections:
“It looked like his head and neck were kind of made together… he was real bright; something like rubbing mercury on nickel, but just as smooth as glass – different angles give different lighting… when I saw him standing in the middle of the road I immediately stopped the car and asked if he was a foreigner… but no sound came out of his mouth.”
Jeff remembered his camera and snapped four pictures of the being. Then he turned on his patrol car’s flashing red and blue lights.
When the flash went off followed immediately by the flashing lights the creature got a fright and decided he’s had enough. He dashed off into the darkness. Maybe he thought he was being shot at by something more lethal than a camera.
Despite its odd robotic way of moving the strange figure ran way faster than any human Jeff had ever set eyes on, and was soon lost to sight, perhaps towards a hidden UFO somewhere out there in the darkness.
Jeff went back to his truck and chased the figure but due to the rough terrain could only reach 35 mph (56 km/h) and the strange figure seemed to have jet-propelled heels, able to bound up to three metres in a single spring.
The black and white pictures are so grainy and unclear it resembles a Pearly King on his way home from the Lambeth Walk and a long way from London. It could be an Elvis impersonator who lost his way to Vegas… A conspiracy theorist time traveller from the future fully equipped for anything in a full tinfoil suit… But it could just be an alien in full protective space kit, or an extraterrestrial mechanical man aka robot. We must remember it was well after 10 pm and hastily taken with a 1960s style Polaroid flash camera in the pitch dark.
His photos were carefully examined by the research organization MUFON who judged them to be genuine. They also noticed some UFO-like images on the negatives which didn’t show up when the pictures were printed.
Being deep in the extremely conservative heartland of Alabama where anything unusual is viewed with suspicion, many locals ridiculed the officer’s reports and he was constantly hassled and tormented by sceptical residents who thought he had made up the story for publicity.
He certainly had a string of bad luck in the weeks and months following the incident. His trailer home burnt down under suspicious circumstances. His car engine blew up. His wife, unable to handle the unwanted negative limelight, left him. He was asked to leave the town’s police force.
There are some rumours (made by anonymous bloggers who won’t stick their neck out…) that it was a hoax perpetrated by local high school kids who maybe got their star actress to call Jeff in a distraught voice and the star athlete to play the alien role, and who had it in for the police chief. This seems highly improbable. It’s not so easy to fool a smart, sober police officer. Just because Jeff didn’t see a UFO doesn’t mean there wasn’t one that night. It could easily have been hidden from view by hills, rocks or trees.
Jeff sticks to his story. The fact that he does so despite all his mishaps since the incident seem to show that what he saw can’t be dismissed as a hoax.
After leaving the police force Jeff rebuilt his life. He married again, went on to study computer technology and became a PLC programmer and Master Electrician. He’s now retired and is a successful farmer near Moulton, Alabama. After all the bad things which followed his 1973 experience he deserved success.
He no longer wishes to be bothered by people who want to discuss what he witnessed as there are just too many skeptics who continue to try running his good name with their hoax accusations, He quite understandably prefers to put the past behind him and focus on his family, a few close friends, his cattle and his dogs.