When I was in high school, I was just going to bed one night when I heard a sound out the window. We had a greenhouse right up against the house, and I could just imagine someone lurking around out there. So, I got up, turned on the bedside lamp, and walked over to the window. I was trying to see out when suddenly I could see this huge shadow of something looming up behind me. You’ve seen that before in horror movies and Scooby-Doo, right? I was instantly terrified, and I whirled around ready to scream for my life. It was my cat. He stood up to stretch and was right between me and bedside lamp.
I am not positive of the year this next thing happened, but I think it was August 1982 or ’83. It was definitely August. I was staying at my grandparents’ house in Midway, between Gulf Breeze and Navarre in Santa Rosa County, Florida. I went out about 10:00 p.m. to watch the Perseid meteor shower. I had the perfect view of the sky from the end of their pier that jutted out into East Bay.
I hadn’t been out long when I saw a red light in the sky. It was glowing red and also pulsing a brighter red. It was coming straight across the bay towards me. I couldn’t hear any engine noise, which usually would carry over the water. I felt exposed on the end of the pier and ran back to shore. When I did that, the light stopped moving. It just hovered there. Okay, so, helicopter? I had seen helicopters across the water at night before, shining searchlights below. Nothing this time but that red pulsing light hovering in the night sky. It was, to me, an unidentified flying object. Whether it was a spaceship or not, I will never know, but all the possibilities (Darth Vader or Han Solo? E.T. or the Xenomorph from “Alien”) went through my mind. I was alternately terrified and excited. Then whatever-it-was turned north-northeast and eventually went around the corner and disappeared from view.
I ran back to the house and told my grandparents, Hoyt & Willie Cook, and I think my cousin Jimmy was there, what I had seen. They told me they had just seen on the news that there was a meteor shower. Yes, I said, I know all about the meteor shower. That’s why I was outside. And I’ve seen them before, and a shooting star doesn’t glow red and pulse a brighter red, and it definitely doesn’t stop and hover in the air. They just laughed and I went back and saw a glorious astronomical show with dozens of meteors.
Just in case you’re wondering, it was several years later that the Gulf Breeze Sentinel newspaper published those infamous photos that turned the town into a mecca for UFO enthusiasts. I remember reading a full page of first-person accounts of sightings, and one of them described exactly what I saw. At least I know that whatever it was, I didn’t imagine it.