In 1966 and 1967 there was a sudden flurry of UFO activity around the United States, especially within the Ohio River Valley, and from here a great many weird cases have sprung up, including the Mothman phenomenon and countless UFO reports. A curious report from the era appeared in the book The Mothman Prophecies, by John Keel, and revolves around a usually nondescript man by the name of Tad Jones, of Dunbar, a suburb of Charleston, West Virginia. He was by all accounts a God-fearing man who did not drink or do drugs, and was known as an honest, hard-working man not prone to fights of fancy or tall tales. Yet, on one January morning in 1966, Jones was driving to work, an appliance store he managed about 10 miles outside of Charleston. It was a route he took every day, and the drive started just like any other, but things were about to take a turn into the surreal, and it would become a case that blends all manner of strangeness, odd clues, and inexplicable events that have never really been solved.
As he drove along, at around 9 AM Jones came to something blocking the road up ahead. Since the road he was on, I-64, was a fairly new multi-lane highway he at first assumed that this must be a road construction crew, and so he dutifully slowed down, yet as he crawled closer, he realized that this was far stranger than that. It appeared to be a large sphere with a luster like dull aluminum, but what was even weirder was that it was not sitting upon the road, as he had first thought, but rather hovering several feet over it. The sphere was described as being around 20 feet in diameter, with two antennae-like protrusions jutting out from the top, and four legs and what looked like a propeller attached at the bottom. Jones would say of the sphere:
There were four legs attached to it, with casterlike wheels on the bottom of each one. And there was a small window about nine inches in diameter on the side facing me, but I couldn’t see anything inside the sphere. On the underside there was something like a propeller. It was idling when I first drove up, then it started spinning faster and the whole object began to rise upward. It disappeared into the sky and I drove to my store. I believe what I saw. It was there. I never saw anything like it before, and I haven’t seen anything like it since, but it was there that morning on I-64.
The incident had left him shaken and afraid, and after some time pondering what he had seen, he decided to contact the police, and before long his bizarre experience was being featured all over the local papers. At around this time, Jones woke one morning to find that a slip of paper had been deposited under his front door. Not really thinking much of it at first, he picked up the paper and a glance at it caused his heart to drop. There scrawled upon it in handwriting was a note that read; “We know what you have seen and we know that you have talked. You better keep your mouth shut.” It was all very sinister, indeed, and there was no indication of who had written the note or where it had come from. Jones became paranoid, and began constantly looking over his shoulder.
A local UFO expert by the name of Ralph Jarett soon became aware of Jones story right after having his own strange experience, when a mysterious unidentified phone call had turned out to be just a few minutes of a low beeping, as if in code. Jarett would reach out to Jones and uncover many extra details about the sighting, including the fact that the UFO appeared to have been hovering directly over a major gas line. During his extensive investigation of Jones’ case, Jones would once again receive an ominous note slipped under his door. This time it was written on a piece of torn cardboard with burnt edges, and simply read: “There won’t be another warning.” All of this attracted the attention of the imminent researcher John Keel, who happened to be in the area investigating a UFO flap in the Ohio River Valley and the infamous Mothman sightings that were going on at the time. When Keel began questioning Jones and looking into the case, he would unearth even more strangeness.
Jones would mention to Keel an incident that he hadn’t really thought much of at the time, but which he had become convinced was somehow connected to his sighting. He said that one week after his UFO incident, he had been driving along the same road at around the same time when he had passed a lone man on the side of the road. He pulled over to see if the man needed help, but got no response, merely a wave. The next day, Jones passed the same man again at the same spot at the same time, and he would tell Keel that there had been something unsettling and “off” about him. Jones would describe the mysterious stranger:
He was very tanned or his face was very flushed. He looked normal and was wearing a blue coat and a blue cap with a visor… something like a uniform, I guess. I noticed he was holding a box in his hand. Some kind of instrument. It had a large dial on it, like a clock, and a wire ran from it to his other hand.
Thinking that it may have been a utilities worker, Keel checked with the gas company, but it would turn out that not only had they not had any personnel out there at the time, but that they did not wear the uniform described by Jones and also did not use such an instrument. What mysterious connection does any of this have with Jones’ experience? No one really knows. It would only get even more curious still when Keel went out to the site himself and found a strange series of footprints that looked like the tracks of a huge dog that he estimated must have weighed upwards of 200 pounds. In addition to the “dog tracks” found at the site of the Jones encounter, Keel turned up among them a human print that in some ways struck him as unusual, as well as some other weird things. He describes this as follows:
Aside from the dog tracks, we found a single footprint of what appeared to be a large, naked human foot. This was planted in the center of a muddy section with no other footprints of any kind around it. But a short distance away I came across some old friends… a type of footprint that has appeared at many UFO sites around the country. They look like the type of prints made by ripple-soled shoes, but their spacing is always peculiar. They don’t start anywhere and they don’t lead anywhere. Ripple soles had been in fashion since the early 1960s and had then faded out. But these phantom prints had a ridge around the edges. Years later, when the first men walked on the moon, I realized that the photos of the prints left by their moon-walking shoes were identical to the footprints I had seen over and over again in my travels.
Plaster casts taken of the dog tracks were sent to be analyzed and were found to not be dog tracks at all, and indeed no local wildlife experts could identify them as any animal known to the area. Oddly, Keel claims that the imminent cryptozoologist Ivan Sanderson had told him that very similar dog-like tracks often appeared in places where paranormal activity had occurred, and also said that he would later encounter similar tracks around the country in completely separate cases. What did all of this footprint weirdness have to do with Jones’ encounter, if anything? No one really knows, but Keel was certain that it was all connected somehow. In the end we are left to wonder, what did Tad Jones encounter out there on that road? What is the meaning of the strange tracks, the mysterious stranger on the road, and the sinister notes he received? It is unclear, and it continues to be a weird case surrounded by oddness that we may never fully understand.
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