The Delphos Ring And Strange Cases Of Physical UFO Evidence


First Published: December 4, 2016 Last updated: September 8th, 2020

Written by: Marcus Lowth


UFO Insight

While tending to the sheep on the family farm in Delphos, Kansas, 16-year-old Ronnie Johnson replied to his mother’s call to come in for dinner, assuring her he would be home very shortly. It was just before 7pm on a quiet evening on 2nd November 1971.

A low rumbling sound suddenly burst out of the dark night sky, followed by an intense display of bright, multi-colored lights. They were emanating from a mushroom-shaped object that was slowly making its way over the Johnsons’ land only several feet from the ground.

The craft measured approximately nine feet in width and ten feet in height. Ronnie would later remember that the low rumbling sound was reminiscent of a washing machine. He also stated that although the entire object shone, it was the bottom of the craft that was by far the brightest, completely illuminating the ground below him.

The "Delphos ring" 10 minutes after landing.

The “Delphos ring” 10 minutes after landing.

Ronnie watched the object for what he thought was five minutes before the light intensified so much that it caused him physical pain in his eyes. It grew brighter still before it suddenly moved away from the teenager and shot off into the air at great speed. Now, effectively blind due to being plunged back into the darkness of night, Ronnie slowly made his way back to the family home to inform his parents of what he had witnessed.

The night’s events would not only prove to be one of the most credible UFO encounters in history but one of the few sightings (relatively speaking) that left behind physical evidence of its visit.

Subsequent Events And Observations In Delphos

With him throughout the ordeal, was Ronnie’s dog, who had been performing his duties helping tend to the flock. Following the events that evening, however, the usually eager and scare-free canine became withdrawn and refused to go outside after dark. The family flock would become erratic and confused, with some of them even jumping from their pens and running in any direction they could as if looking for cover.

An Aerial Phenomena Research Organisation (ARPO) investigator, Clancey Tull, took an interest in the incident and met with the family in the days following. He soon discovered that Ronnie appeared to have “lost” thirty minutes of time during the episode.

Ronne Johnson

Ronne Johnson

Ronnie had claimed to Tull that the whole incident, from his mother calling him to dinner, to him witnessing the UFO and then returning home to inform his parents had taken no more than five minutes. However, according to Ronnie’s mother, after she had called her son from the house, she and her husband had sat down to eat and had finished their meal before Ronnie returned. In her estimation, it was at least half-an-hour from her calling Ronnie to him returning to the house.

At the site of the encounter itself, a number of trees had been badly damaged, with several large branches having been “snapped” off. It appeared as if something heavy and powerful had inflicted the damage on them from above. There were no markings on the ground around the trees to suggest that vandals were responsible for the damage.

Perhaps the most interesting sight though – certainly the most researched aspect of this case – was the strange marking left on the ground directly below where the craft had hovered over Ronnie.

The Delphos Ring

In the dirt and mud where Ronnie stood to observe the object that evening, was a strange ring that glowed brightly, even in broad daylight. When she had first seen it, Mrs. Johnson had reached down to touch the glowing ring and had instantly felt a numbing feeling in her hand. This would cause her to panic. She would then instinctively brush her hand on her leg to remove whatever was on her fingertips. Instantly she could feel the strange numb sensation in the top of her leg. It would last for several days.

Although the ground itself felt cold to touch, it glowed so much that it appeared to be ablaze, and while all around the ring the ground was soft and muddy, the ring and the soil directly underneath it was bone dry.

The ring would remain visible for some time after the incident. And numerous soil samples of it would go for initial analysis. As well as to store as evidence of the presumed visitation. A strange white substance was found within the soil – a substance that appeared to be the result of an intense and unnatural reaction.

This white substance was later analyzed by respected UFO researcher Jacques Vallee, who, in his book Dimensions: A Casebook Of Alien Contact offered his theory on what it might be. He stated that biological tests he had done on it, showed that the white substance contained Actinomycetales – an organic organism similar to bacteria or a fungus.

Some would suggest that intense heat or another form of energy would result in the acceleration of these Actinomycetales to grow. The fact that they were in a ring would suggest an energy source from the underside of the strange craft. Remember he would state the underside was the brightest emission.

The Presence Of Oxalic Acid – Clues To UFO Propulsion?

The soil samples and the ring itself would offer some further interesting details years later as the results of the initial tests were studied and analyzed. What’s more, the detail of a circle on the ground at the location of apparent sightings is one on record prior to, and after the Delphos incident. This perhaps suggests the same intellect is behind many such encounters.

One particularly interesting detail was that of a high concentration of oxalic acid. Upon studying the results of the soil analysis, Dr. J Robert Mooney would offer that such high concentrations of the acid in the soil of the circle may suggest the use of a “low-temperature ionization or combustion engine” at the site, the fuel source of which would be “elemental carbon”.

Example of the ring left behind

Example of the ring left behind

Mooney would further argue that as the carbon gases would largely escape into the atmosphere, the expelled acids would “concentrate in the soil beneath the ‘exhaust’”. And as a fuel, elemental carbon would make sense as it contains a “high energy density” and is transport safe.

It is certainly an interesting theory. And one that makes a perfect sense in terms of the fuel and propulsion systems of these strange crafts. While sampling is impossible for the plethora of incidents that have left similar dark rings at UFO landing and close encounter sites before, as Mooney recommends at the time “future ring site (should) be carefully assayed” for similar acids.

Indeed, such analysis might prove to be crucial in unraveling the secrets behind UFO propulsion.

Much To Contemplate

Undoubtedly the presence of the ring on the ground would appear to be the key to the incident. At least in terms of its credibility. And all notes and records suggest that not only were the Johnson family honest and highly unlikely to be behind a bizarre hoax but that officers and journalists who witnessed the ring in the days immediately following were both impressed and bemused with it.

For example, police records show how the ring was “dry to touch” while the soil all around was damp from the remains of the recent snowfall. Even more amazing, several weeks later when investigators performed further examinations of the ring (which was still visible), they would find that no matter how hard they tried to pour water onto the soil on the ring but it simply ran off as if waterproof.

Delphos ring a little over 3 years after the incident

Delphos ring a little over 3 years after the incident

Perhaps of equal importance to the whole affair was what the purpose of the encounter might have been. In similar incidents, for example, especially encounters over farms, such action as the contents of the water tower has been drained or soil samples appear to have been taken (some encounters even resulting in sightings of the apparent occupants). However, there doesn’t appear to be any such action undertaken.

Perhaps lesser known is the fact that another sighting took place in the state of Kansas that evening, this time in the town of Minneapolis. There, Lester Ernsbarger – a reserve police officer and another credible witness – would report a similar object although his sighting was from much further away than that of the Johnson family.

The (Ill-Thought Out) Newspaper Prize

While investigators, by and large, dismissed the idea of a hoax as unlikely many others would remain unconvinced. Perhaps one of the loudest skeptical voices – as in many other cases – was that of Phillip Klass. He would offer that the ring was not the result of space craft from another world landing on the Johnsons’ farm, but the result of years of sheep urine that had collected there when a drinking trough used by the farm’s sheep was located there.

While it was true the area (roughly) housed the water trough that Klass refers to, it would appear unlikely that his take on the issue is accurate. Not least due to the previously mentioned higher than usual levels of oxalic acids.

Sketch of the landing

Sketch of the landing

Another detail at the skeptics’ disposal is the $5000 “reward” from the National Inquirer received by the Johnson family in 1973. The newspaper had gathered together a group of scientists and APRO members and asked them to rank the most believable UFO cases. Upon their choosing the Delphos case, the Johnson family would then receive the prize.

Did the Johnsons manufacture the entire incident in order to win the $5000? Remember, this would have been a relatively substantial amount at the time. It remains a possibility, however remote of one. And it is something that we need to keep on the mental backburner as we continue to examine and compare the incident approaching half a century later.

An Intriguing Case With Many Answers Still To Find

The Delphos UFO incident is an important case, then, due to the physical evidence it left behind as well as the credibility of the witnesses. This, despite the insistence of some that the case is perhaps a hoax.

Perhaps the one thing that opens the door to these allegations of a hoax is the money from the National Inquirer. Was this merely an ill-thought-out publicity stunt by the newspaper which the Johnsons unwittingly became involved with? Or, as many skeptics insist, was the reward money the reasons for perpetrating such a hoax in the first place?

And, just why did this strange craft land on the Johnsons’ farm that evening? If it wasn’t to obtain soil or vegetation samples or water from the farm’s water supplies, why would such a public display have taken place over the farmland? Might there have been other sightings, perhaps even ones of more consequence, that simply went unreported? Perhaps even covered over? While these thoughts are purely speculative, they are intriguing, nonetheless.

Should more attention perhaps go to the “missing 30 minutes” of time of Ronnie Johnson? Is this merely bad timekeeping in recalling the details on Johnson’s part? Or might it be evidence of an abduction experience? Might that be the reason for this otherwise mysterious visit?

For their part, most regard the Johnsons as very credible witnesses, who were not prone to giving false information. The Sheriff of Delphos, Sheriff Enlow, would state at the time that of their standing the community. And that he did not at all believe the incident to be a hoax.

The video below that looks at the Delphos case in a little more detail.

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