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Fifty years ago, a wave of Galesburg UFO sightings made headlines worldwide, only to be debunked later as likely misread or mislead.
But that conclusion doesn’t explain what Judy and others saw that same night above Tazewell County, in perhaps three separate incidences. Judy’s sighting, reported to police and corroborated by a separate party, was the most glaring: a giant ball of light that hovered across much of East Peoria before ZOOM! — suddenly vanishing toward the west.
“What the heck was that?” she asked then, the same question she echoes a half-century later.
Earlier this week, you might’ve seen the story about UFO sightings in and around Galesburg, mostly on March 9, 1967. A Knox County sheriff’s deputy, along with other witnesses, saw a circular white object, underscored with a red pulse and surrounded by a blue haze. After other inexplicable sightings over the next few days, police recovered two separate sources. One was a garment bag, inflated with hot air from a candle and floating through the air — a stunt not atypical (or safe) back then. The other involved two two large kites carrying battery-operated red lights that could flicker in the wind.
Mystery solved? Not in Tazewell County.
On March 10, 1967, the Journal Star reported four accounts based on reports to East Peoria and Pekin police. One involved Judy, then 20, who doesn’t want her full name in the paper for this story.
“I’m a Democrat,” she says with a laugh. “People already think we’re crazy.”
About 7:30 p.m. on March 9, 1967, she and a sister were motoring west on Meadows Avenue, from Morton into their hometown of East Peoria. They suddenly spotted a big glow in the sky. As they headed west through East Peoria, so did the light. They pulled over to watch.
“It looked a bit greenish,”Judy says. “It wasn’t moving like a plane. It was kind of bubbling along.”
They got back into the car and followed the light toward downtown East Peoria. There, it seemed to hover above Pekin Avenue, the road that wends up the bluff behind the Kroger store off Main Street.
The sisters decided to find more witnesses. They got out of the car, ducked into a drug store and cajoled two older women to come outside to glimpse the peculiar light.
As the white-haired ladies stared skyward, one blurted, “This is scary.” The pair darted back inside, leaving the sisters alone to watch.
They saw the light move farther westward, about midpoint over the Illinois River. It hung in the sky for a while.
“Then all of a sudden, wham, it took off like a shot,” Judy says.
It zipped toward Bartonville, then vanished. Not knowing what else to do, Judy called East Peoria police and told her story.
She wasn’t the only one. An East Peoria man recounted to police an identical story. Both accounts (including their names) appeared in the Journal Star, as did two others. An East Peoria man reported a “white glow” from an object that made “noise” over Highview Lane. And in Pekin, a resident reported “a bright orange object in the western sky,” an occurrence corroborated by two Pekin officers.
After that night, Judy never saw anything else like the bright light. But her UFO experience wasn’t over, as her phone began ringing off the hook.
“The creeps came out of the woodwork,” she says. “It was scary.”
But she did address two UFO groups, including a big gathering with a fancy dinner. So, at least she got something out of the UFO experience, which to this day she can’t explain.
“I have no idea,” she says, chuckling. “If I were a drinker, maybe I could blame that. But I’m not. So I don’t know what it was.”
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.