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UFO Case 2: Marshall County, Minnesota Vehicle Interference and Physical Traces Event

On August 27, 1979 a close encounter of the second kind occurred in the Red River Valley area of far northwestern Minnesota that is one of the most evidential UFO cases on record, and one of the best investigated.

Deputy Sheriff Val Johnson of Marshall County was on duty that night, driving not far from the North Dakota border, when at around 1:40 a.m. he saw a light through his side window. It was obviously not on a road and looked too glaring to be a car headlight. He first thought it might be a small plane on or very near the ground. He turned left on another road to try to get closer to the light to identify it. Suddenly, the light moved toward him, travelling so fast that it almost instantaneously was upon his car (covering an estimated mile and a half). Johnson was blinded by the brilliance of the light and heard glass breaking, then lost consciousness.

When he returned to consciousness, the car was stalled and had skidded across the highway. He felt sluggish and shaky. He radioed headquarters, at 2:19 a.m., to request assistance. Soon another deputy arrived, who called an ambulance. The doctor who examined Johnson found him to be in a mild state of shock. His eyes were irritated as if Johnson had suffered "mild welder's burns," and Johnson couldn't stand to be exposed to any bright lights.

The patrol car had very peculiar damage. The inside headlight on the driver's side was smashed but not the one to its immediate left. There was a flat-bottomed circular dent on the left side of the front hood, about a half inch in diameter, close to the windshield. There was a crack in the windshield on the driver's side, that ran from top to bottom, with four apparent impacts. The electric clock was running 14 minutes slow, as was Johnson's wristwatch. The shaft of the roof antenna was bent over at a 60-degree angle, starting about 6 inches above its base. The trunk antenna was bent over at 90 degrees, but only near the top. No damage occurred to the car's regular antenna on the front hood. Essentially, all the damage to the car occurred on the left, or driver's side.

Investigations occurred immediately, both by the sheriff's department and by investigators from the Center for UFO Studies. The police determined that Johnson's car traveled about 950 feet after the first damage occurred. No cause could be found for the event, including collision with another vehicle or a low-flying plane, a hoax on the part of Johnson, or anything else. In addition, experts from Ford Motors (the vehicle was a 1977 Ford LTD) and a team of engineers from Honeywell examined various portions of the damage.

A windshield expert, Meridan French, from Ford, noted after examining the windshield fractures that "Even after several days of reflection on the crack patterns and apparent sequence of fractures, I still have no explanation for what seem to be inward and outward forces acting almost simultaneously. I can only [conclude]... that all cracks were from mechanical forces of unknown origin." No cause could be found for the clock running slow, the peculiar antenna damage, or other physical traces.

Fortunately, Johnson's eyes healed quickly, and he suffered no lasting effect from the close encounter.

The most complete account of this case is in The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon from the Beginning by Jerome Clark (1998), Omnigraphics. Other references include Allan Hendry "Minnesota CEII: The Val Johnson Story," International UFO Reporter Pt. I, 4 (Sept./Oct. 1979):4-9, and Pt II, 4 (November 1979): 4-10.