Jimmy Carter's Weird Science (Politico, Oct. 20, 2010).
" Carter, as president, was enthralled by and impressed with the Central Intelligence Agency's use of parapsychology in intelligence gathering"
The incident occurred in Leary, Georgia, about forty miles from Plains, on the evening of January 6, 1969. Mr. Carter was the local district governor of the Lion's Club, and had come to Leary to boost the local chapter. While standing outdoors at approximately 7:15 pm, waiting for the Lion's Club meeting to begin, Mr. Carter reported seeing a single "self-luminous" object, "as bright as the moon," which reportedly approached and then receded several times. Mr. Carter reports that his "UFO" was in the western sky, at about 30 degrees elevation. This almost perfectly matches the known position of Venus, which was in the west-southwest at an altitude of 25 degrees. Weather records show that the sky was clear at the time of the sighting.
No other object generates as many UFO reports as the planet Venus. Venus is not as bright as the moon, nor does it actually approach the viewer, or change size and brightness, but descriptions like these are typical of misidentifications of a bright planet. Every time Venus reaches its maximum brilliance in the evening sky, hundreds of "UFO sightings" of this type are made. At the time of the Carter UFO sighting, Venus was a brilliant evening star, nearly one hundred times brighter than a first-magnitude star.
Mr. Carter is in good company in misidentifying Venus as a UFO. Many highly trained and responsible persons, including airplane pilots, scientists, policemen, and military personnel, have made the same mistake. During World War II, U.S. aircraft tried to shoot down Venus on numerous occasions, believing it to be an enemy aircraft. In October of 1973, Ohio Governor John Gilligan made headlines by reportedly sighting a UFO. Governor Gilligan's "UFO" turned out to be a misidentification of the planet Mars.
My investigation revealed that many of the details published concerning this incident were widely misreported. These errors significantly hindered the investigation. The location of the sighting has been widely misreported as Thomaston, Georgia, and the year as 1973. In his handwritten UFO sighting report, mailed to the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City, Mr. Carter incorrectly recalled the date as sometime in October 1969. However, official records from the Lion's Club International headquarters in Oakbrook, Illinois, give the date of Carter's Leary Lion's Club speech as January 6 of that year. Attempts to determine the date by interviewing numerous Leary residents had been unsuccessful. Mr. Carter made no mention of any "UFO sighting" in his report filed with the Lion's Club.
Although Carter reports that "ten members" of the Leary Lion's Club also witnessed the event, attempts to locate ten other witnesses proved fruitless. No one else seems to have paid much attention to the "UFO." While most Leary residents interviewed did recall Mr. Carter's visit, even those who attended the meeting generally had no recollection or knowledge of any unidentified object being sighted. The only Leary resident who recalled the incident at all was Fred Hart, 1969 president of the Leary Lions Club, who faintly recalled standing outside with Carter watching a light in the sky. Mr. Hart believed that the object might have been a "weather balloon," and said that the incident did not leave much of an impression on him. He believes the "UFO" to have been some ordinary object and agrees that it might have been a bright planet.
Robert Sheaffer is a member of the UFO Subcommittee of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
New Information, January 2017: It is possible that Carter saw, next to Venus, a Barium cloud launched into space from Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.
Leary, Ga (NEA) - Jimmy Carter had a close encounter of a highly suspicious kind here in 1970. He was a political hopeful then, making a speech at the local Lions Club, and he says he spotted an unidentified flying object 30 degrees above the horizon. He also says 10 to 12 others saw it with him.
As it happens, however, there is no one in Leary who remembers sighting a UFO in company with the future president. Carter insists that the object's brightness attracted a crowd, but it appears it only attracted him. Not one resident recalls anything unusual about that particular January evening.
The townsfolk are mildly amused by the inconsistency of the matter. They have in fact been chuckling ever since last year when the media carried belated news of the Carter encounter. Some think that Carter actually viewed the town's silver water tower; from a distance it can look a bit odd.
But whatever Carter saw, he apparently saw it alone. Mayor Stanley Shepard says he has talked with everyone who might have attended the Lions Club meeting on the night in question, "and nobody remembers anything about flying saucers." People recall that Carter's speech was dull - but as for spaceships, no....
DUBLIN- Gov. Jimmy Carter doesn't scoff at people who report UFO sightings, because he saw one himself about three years ago. And, Carter quipped, "it was on a very sober occasion."
Carter said he saw a blue, disc-shaped object during a campaign stop in Leary, a South Georgia town in the same general area where numerous UFOs have been reported recently.
The object came into view as Carter and several members of the Leary Lions Club stood outside the hall where Carter was to speak. All the members of the group observed the object for about five to ten minutes, Carter said. He immediately went to a tape recorder and dictated a description of what he remembers as "a very remarkable sight."
"It was about 30 degrees above the horizon and looked about as large as the moon. It got smaller and changed to a reddish color and then got larger again," Carter recalled.
Carter speculated that the UFO "was probably an electronic occurrence of some sort," rather than a visitation from outer space. At any rate, the governor said, "it was obviously there, and obviously unidentified."
Carter recounted the experience during a stop here on his statewide listening tour.
...Three Georgians who had known Jimmy Carter for years told me they doubted that the sighting occurred in Thomaston. My investigation had reached a standstill: I now had no remaining thread to pursue.
I began making inquiries of various UFO researchers, looking for someone who might be able to provide some facts on the case. Finally, someone suggested that I contact Hayden Hewes, director of the International UFO Bureau, who had written a brief piece on the Carter sighting for Argosy UFO [Nov., 1976]. I reached Mr. Hewes by telephone at his home in Oklahoma City, and it was he who provided the first significant lead. When brief press reports appeared during the big UFO flap of 1973 to the effect that Governor Carter had previously spotted a UFO, the International UFO Bureau mailed a UFO sighting report to Carter at the State Capitol in Atlanta. Carter apparently filled out the form in some haste, his handwritten replies brief and not easily legible. He then mailed it back to Oklahoma. Mr. Hewes was kind enough to lend me a photographic transparency of the 1973 report in Carter's own handwriting (plate 1).
[Hewes sent a copy of Carter's report to me in a letter dated Nov. 20, 1976. I made my own copies, and return his copy to him. Sometime later, I was contacted by Jack Acuff of NICAP, a now-defunct major UFO organization, asking for a copy of it. I sent one to him, and the Carter sighting report was reprinted in the Feb., 1977 issue of the NICAP UFO Investigator, as if were a NICAP form that Carter had filled out. The information it contains, however, was unchanged. MUFON now claims to have Carter's UFO report. However, all these documents (dated Sept. 18, 1973) are simply typed copies of the handwritten form that Carter sent to the International UFO Bureau, having been "ripped off" from Hayden Hewes.]
Name: Jimmy Carter
Address: State Capitol, Atlanta Telephone: 404-656-1776
Occupation: Governor Education: Graduate
Special Training: Nuclear Physics Military Service: U.S. Navy
Date of observation: October, 1969 [exact date not given - later information established the date as January 6, 1969]
Time: 7:15 P.M. E.S.T. Location: Leary, Georgia
How long did you see the object? 10-12 minutes.
Weather conditions and type of sky: shortly after dark.
Position of sun or moon with respect to object: not visible.
Were the stars or moon visible? stars.
More than one object? No.
Please describe the object(s) in detail. Please use additional sheets of paper if necessary. [no response]
Was the object brighter than the background of the sky? Yes.
Compare the brightness with the sun, moon, headlights, etc.: At one time as bright as moon.
Did the object:
Appear to stand still at any time? yes.Did the object(s) pass behind or in front of anything? no.
Suddenly speed up and rush away at any time? (no response)
Break up into two parts or explode? (no response)
Give off smoke? (no response)
Leave any visible trail? (no response)
Drop anything? (no response)
Change brightness? yes.
Change shape? size.
Change color? yes.
Seemed to move tow(ard?) us from a distance
Sto(p?) move partially away Return then
depart Bluish at first - then reddish -
Luminous - not solid.
Was there any wind? no.
Did you observe the object(s) through an optical instrument or other aid, windshield, windowpane, etc.? no.
Did the object(s) have any sound? no.
Please tell if the objects were:
A. Fuzzy or blurred
B. Like a bright star
C. Sharply outlined (check mark here)
Was the object:
A. Self luminous(check mark here)NOTICE Please draw, to the best of your ability, a sketch of the object(s), including all details. You may use extra sheet. (no response)
B. dull finish?
Did the object(s) rise or fall while in motion? Came close, moved away Came Close, then moved away.
Tell the apparent size of the object when compared with the following held at arms length: Pinhead, pea, etc. (none were checked, handwritten response) About same as moon maybe a little smaller Varied from brighter/lar(ger?) than planet to apparent size of moon.
How did you happen to notice the object? 10-12 men all watched it. Brightness attracted us.
Where were you and what were you doing at the time? Outside waiting for a meeting to begin at 7:30 PM.
How did the object(s) disappear from view? Moved to distance Then disappeared.
Compare the speed of the object(s) with a piston or jet aircraft at the same apparent altitude: not pertinent.
Were there any conventional aircraft in the location at the time or immediately afterward? no.
Please estimate the distance of the object(s)? Difficult - maybe 300 to 1000 yards.
What was the elevation of the object(s) in the sky? About 30 degrees above the horizon.
Names and addresses of other witnesses, if any: 10 members of Leary, Ga. Lion's Club.
How did you happen to notice the object? 10-12 men all watched it. Brightness attracted us.
Please draw a map of the locality of the observation, showing North.... Please use extra sheet for map and attach to form. (no map drawn) Appeared from west about 30 degrees up.
Is there an airport, military, governmental, or research installation in the area? no.
Have you seen other objects of an unidentified nature? no.
Please enclose photographs, motion pictures, newspaper clippings.... (line drawn here to indicate not applicable.)
Were you interrogated by Air Force Investigators? By any other Federal, state, ..... no.
Were you asked or told not to reveal or discuss the incident? If so, ..... no.
We would like your premission to quote your name in connection with this report... However, if you prefer, we will keep your name confidential... Please note your choice by checking the proper statement below...
You may use my name (check mark here)
Please keep my name confidential
Date of filling out this report: 9/18/73
Signature: (signed) Jimmy Carter
The old Southern home the Carters rented for five years, 1954-59, just outside the town of Plains, Ga., has been the subject of ghostly legends since the time of the Civil War, Mrs. Rosalynn Carter told the ENQUIRER.
Legends say the house was taken over by Union soldiers, that some of them were killed there, and that their spirits still roam through the house.
"I knew that the house was haunted ever since I was a little girl, because I grew up in the town," Mrs. Carter said. "I used to go all the way through the woods to avoid walking close to it. When I did go near it, I saw flashing lights in the attic when there was nobody in the house." Before she and her husband moved in, Mrs. Carter said, she had heard stories about a spooky bedroom where bedcovers flew mysteriously off the bed.
"I was too frightened to find out what would happen to me, so I made the bedroom into a living room," she said. "I just didn't dare sleep in that room."
"I never saw any ghosts - I don't believe in them - but I heard something in the attic every night that sent shivers up my spine. Those eerie noises gave me goosebumps."
"One day while my son was playing he found two loose bricks in the attic fireplace," Mrs. Carter continued. "When he picked up the bricks, he discovered a room beneath the fireplace, four feet deep and six feet wide. There was nothing in the room but a chair."
She speculated that possibly some of the Yankee soldiers hid in the room, giving rise to the ghostly legends.
Mrs. Carter recalled that the man who rented the house before the Carters moved in, Dr. Thad Wise, told her he had often seen a little white dog walk to the porch of the house. "But every time the doctor would try to pet it, he told me, the dog would disappear," Mrs. Carter said.
Another former resident, Mrs. Jeana Pantall, said she and her husband were asleep when something suddenly yanked the bedcovers off her - twice in the same night. "But I couldn't see anyone," she said. The present occupant, Mrs. Bertha Hewitt, says she often hears light switches clicking on and off after she goes to bed. "And I heard that one man who slept in the haunted bedroom got picked up out of his bed, set on the floor, and then put back in bed again."
Added Mrs. Carter: "It's a house you can fear, but love at the same time, because of its beauty."
(photo caption: "Secret door leading to underground room discovered by Rosalynn Carter's son, is shown by the house's present occupant, Mrs. Bertha Hewitt.")
Former President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter lived with a terrifying ghost years before moving into the White House.
Their once magnificent antebellum home in Plains, Georgia was haunted by the eerie spectre of a sobbing woman in a white dress and a mysterious phantom dog.
Built in 1850, the old wood frame plantation-style building was already the legendary haunt of ghosts and fearsome creatures of the night when Jimmy and his wife-to-be, Rosalynn Smith, were growing up in Plains. "When I was a little girl, my best friend was Jimmy's sister Ruth," Rosalynn recalled.
"We had to pass the haunted house to visit each other. We were about 11, and so afraid of the house that we took the long way around."
Amazingly, years later after Rosalynn had married her best friend's brother, the young couple had moved into the scary house.
From 1956 to 1960 they raised their three sons in the spook-filled home.
Almost immediately after they moved in, the mysterious forces lurking in the house reminded the new occupants that they were not alone.
Mrs. Carter said that one night they were startled by the sound of a loud crash coming from the front room.
"We waited a bit, then the whole family trooped in together, thinking a window had fallen shut. But the window was still wide open," she shuddered.
Inez Laster, who worked in the house as a cook during the early 1950s, also learned first hand of the menacing supernatural presences that haunted the scary room.
"Things would happen in that room," she whispered. "I could hear knocking on the door. Then it would open and shut and I'd hear walking. I'd see a woman with a long white dress coming from the cemetery."
"Sometimes I'd hear her walking on the attic stairs," the cook confided.
Mrs. Carter also recalled stories she heard of a tiny, silent, white dog which was said to appear on the front steps. It always suddenly vanished when someone reached down to pat it.
One of the most puzzling mysteries of the brooding old plantation house a small secret space squeezed between the attic and the haunted living room. The Carter boys discovered it one day as they were playing and noticed a loose brick in the hearth. They found that there was just room enough for about three men to hide.
Could it be that the little room holds the solution to the hidden secrets of the mystery phantoms that stalk the old house?
(Photo caption: "Ex-First Lady Rosalynn Carter inspects secret space above the hearth in attic of wood framed haunted house (top) in Plains, Georgia." The photo shows a woman who certainly appears to be Rosalynn Carter, bending down and inspecting a hole in the floor before a hearth.)
[I wrote to Mrs. Carter asking if she would either confirm or deny this story. I received no reply. - RS].
Back to The UFO Skeptic's Page