Weird Georgia: Great Balls of FIre! Part 2: Investigation
By Jim Miles
Anderson’s initial analysis revealed nothing out of the ordinary-no signs of radiation was present-but he planned chemical tests “in hopes there may be something in the analysis that will give us a clue to what heated the organic matter in the soil.” Tests of the soil samples would reveal the presence of certain inorganic and organic material. Despite the absence of a crater at the impact site, grassroots and wood chips had been burned beneath the surface.
Anderson declined to speculate on the cause of the charred spot, emphasizing that he was not conducting a flying saucer investigation. However, he did term the incident puzzling.
Results of the chemical analysis raised as many questions as it answered. The absence of hydrocarbons eliminated the possibility that gasoline or other petroleum products initiated the ignition of natural organic material in the soil at the impact site. The use of flares was ruled out when the content of magnesium and strontium, commonly used in flares, was not found to be higher than normal.
What was found in unusual amounts were copper and chromium, metals commonly found in alloys. The concentration of copper at the impact site was 2,000 times greater than in control samples taken a distance from the site, 43,050 parts per million, while thirty feet way it was 7.4 parts. Chromium was 200 times higher at the impact site.
The evidence lent “support to the observation of an individual who observed the area immediately after the alleged occurrence,” Anderson’s report stated. “He observed what was described as a small metal-like object at very high temperature slightly embedded in the soil.”
Clanton had been vindicated, but Anderson’s treatise continued:
“Subsequently sampling at the site failed to disclose such an object but soil sampled in the immediate vicinity of spot where the object was said to have lain was immensely higher in metallic constituents than the soil a few feet distant.
“This lends further support to the possibility that the occurrence involved something in the nature of a small meteorite or a piece of space hardware, either of which would have impacted at a very high temperature.”
The mystery of the object’s controlled descent was never addressed.
“I’ll tell you what I think it was,” Clanton said years later. “And nobody can convince me different. A piece of brimstone. It’s the only thing could burn pure dirt. Before this happen you couldn’t get nobody out to Sunday School or into church. Now it’s full all the time.”
The soil required time to regenerate. Years later the spot was still bare of grass, the soil grayer and finer than the earth surrounding it.
The frenzy of Georgia’s continuing UFO wave had immediately focused on tiny Orchard Hill. Newspapers and radio stations across the country contacted local media and police authorities for updates. Clanton was deluged with telephone calls from news agencies and the curious. He reenacted the event for an Atlanta television station.
HIT AND DISSOLVE
The hits kept coming. Roy Lawhorn was a tenant farmer living in Brook, a community 20 miles southeast of Orchard Hill, with his daughter Donna. He was awakened about two a.m. on Friday, September 14, by “a sound like locusts and a bright light outside the house.”
Mr. Lawhorn took immediate action. “I grabbed my rifle, because it looked like it was coming towards the house. I shot at it about three or four times and it just disappeared into the ground.”
The object, “as big as your head,” demonstrated the same characteristics as the earlier one in Orchard Hill. “It came down like an umbrella,” he continued, “it gradually came down. I thought the devil had come to get me.” For fear that he would be thought a fool, he waited until September 17 to report the incident.
The object left a charred spot on a dirt road 10 yards from the house. Dr. Anderson was called in again. This impact also left no crater, but there were markings one foot long by seven inches wide, nearly the exact dimensions of the earlier incident. Beneath the top layer of soil Anderson excavated a wide area of charred soil and organic matter.
Test results revealed nothing unusual in the soil. A high organic content indicated that the site might have been a dumpsite for plant remains, charcoal, and other common farm residues that were later covered by clay when the road was constructed.
This analysis was released on September 20, along with reports of UFOs seen over Griffin the night before. Police received a number of calls, including several from members of local government agencies. Police Captain Larry Howard and neighbors observed a disk shaped UFO with lights which darted around the sky. It was white or silver, noiseless, and would stop in the air, then race off at high speeds.
The wife of Probation Officer Eddie Freeman was returning home from church when she saw lights being shined on the ground by an aerial object. The lights separated, then came back together. Excited, she rushed home and told her husband. The couple searched for the UFO, and before long two disk shaped UFOs appeared, hovering in the sky. One object, with three lights which pulsed from bright to dim was the size of a Volkswagen.
Detective Sergeant Marvin Barrow also spotted four strange lights in the sky, and Griffin resident Harry Lambert saw a gold colored, football shaped vehicle that was 60 feet long.
Jim Miles is the author of nine books about the Civil War, two Weird Georgia books, and three books about Georgia’s Civil War ghosts. Buy Jim’s books.