Anoka County History: UFO sighting in the county in 1967

In late July, I picked up on a couple of media stories covering a decades old incident in Marshall County.

Apparently, in 1979, Marshall County Deputy Val Johnson was patrolling near Stephen around 2 a.m. when he encountered what he described as a beam of light on the road that sped towards him and engulfed his squad car.

Glass on the vehicle was shattered, antennas were bent down,  a doctor diagnosed him with trauma to his eyes similar to welder burns, and he lost consciousness for 39 minutes.

The squad car that Johnson drove is exhibited at the Marshall County Historical Society’s museum in Warren.

As you can imagine, it is quite the draw.

The story got me wondering if there are any recorded Anoka County encounters with any Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs).

The subject files of the Anoka County Historical Society do not have a subject listing for UFOs, but I was able to find one incident in the pages of the soon to be published history of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, “Keepers of the County: Crime and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.”

Alongside the homicides, assaults, and political campaign stories are more bizarre and humorous tales of loose alligators, juvenile pranks, and one documented UFO sighting.

According to a Feb. 10, 1967 story in the Anoka County Union, three boys in the Soderville area of Ham Lake called the authorities when they saw what looked like a small airplane gliding to a crash landing.

It dropped out of their sight before they could see what happened to it.

The sheriff’s office and highway patrol were called out, but a search of the area did not reveal the craft.

Two more stories came out that identified a similar UFO.

One came from an unnamed couple who said they saw it from their back yard.

They described it as shaped like a “short, fat cigar,” with windows and a greenish color, and flying just a few yards above the treetops.

Floyd Olson, from St. Francis, was driving on County Road 9 and claimed he saw the thing.

He described it as a “flying boxcar.” But he went a step further and said he could see U. S. Air Force markings on its stubby wings.

The story went on to say that the Air Force had not yet commented on the incident, which certainly implies that they were asked about it.

Searching the Internet for more information on UFOs sends one right down a rabbit hole of conspiracies, difficult to verify testimonials, and, likely, outright fabrications.

Given that, it does appear that 1967 was a record year for UFO sightings.

Experimental aircraft tested by the Air Force seems like a reasonable answer to this incident for a skeptic like me, especially given Olson’s description of the UFO.

But I am willing to admit I don’t know everything there is to know about Anoka County or the galaxies beyond.

Editor’s note: Todd Mahon is the Executive Director of the Anoka County Historical Society.

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