Bursting the balloon of UFO mystery

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

The Jackson UFO mystery is over. It can all be chalked up to a vacation Bible school game gone awry.

Just after 7 p.m. on Aug. 11, 16-year-old Zach Stanfield was videotaping a shadowy, disc-shaped object hovering in the sky above his Jackson home at 1320 Broadridge Drive. Meanwhile, just down the road outside Calvary United Pentecostal Church, Edward Moore was getting a dirty look from his wife, Cherie, as the two watched a mylar disc float into the atmosphere.

As it turns out, Zach and the Moores were looking at the same thing.

Cherie Moore had bought a pair of the $9 mylar discs for the children attending the church's vacation Bible school to play with. But one had sprung a leak, and Edward Moore was having trouble getting the other one to fly.

"It just wasn't discing right," he said. "So I got the bright idea of airing it up with some helium."

But he filled the balloon-like disc with too much helium, and it soared off into the air, drawing a big laugh from those in attendance. Everyone, that is, except the woman who paid for the toy.

But Cherie Moore got the last laugh when she looked at Tuesday's Southeast Missourian. On the front page was a picture of her lost toy and a story about an unidentified flying object hovering over Jackson.

"We were joking about it, saying that someone was going to see it and turn it in as a UFO," she said. "When I saw the paper this morning, I about died."

Upon viewing a copy of Zach's tape, chief air traffic controller Larry Davis of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport posed the possibility of the object being a mylar disc. Now that the rest of the story has emerged, Davis says too much helium would indeed have given the disc the strange hovering effect seen in the tape, especially on a day with mild winds.

Stanfield said he wasn't convinced that what he saw and videotaped that day was anything necessarily alien to Southeast Missouri skies. In fact, he said he suspected it was just a balloon or mylar disc.

Finding out the truth gave the Notre Dame Regional High School student a sense of relief.

But still, he's a little disappointed that it was only a toy gone astray.

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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