WARREN, Minn. – Back home for her 55th class reunion, Janet Anderson visited the Marshall County Historical Society Museum. It’s a routine stop whenever she and husband, Lyle, return to their hometown in far northwestern Minnesota from their residence in Sun Valley, Idaho.
The top museum attraction for the Andersons — and for many others — is a patrol car from what’s commonly known as the “Warren UFO Encounter” of 1979, the Grand Forks Herald reported.
“Most of this kind of stuff, I don’t believe. But I believe this story,” Anderson said. “You have to believe in some things that you don’t understand.”
During county fair week, museum visitors routinely number 5,000. “The car is the single item that most people mention as their reason for coming here,” said museum president Kent Broten.
Dennis Brekke, the county sheriff in 1979 who is now retired, regaled the Andersons and others about the incident, which involved Deputy Val Johnson, who is believed to now live somewhere in Wisconsin. He had appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” soon after the incident, but quickly grew tired of the interviews and attention.
Brekke recounted the details that baffled investigators and scientists:
• The patrol car left skid marks of 800 feet.
• Johnson suffered “welder-type” burns to his eyes from bright lights.
• The car’s two antennas bent, one at a 90-degree angle, one at 45 degrees.
• Both the patrol car’s clock and Johnson’s watch stopped for 14 minutes.
• Johnson remembered nothing during a 40-minute period.
• The windshield was cracked, but the force of the damage didn’t seem to come from either outside or inside.
“Val told me that he knew something happened, but he didn’t remember what it was,” Brekke said. “The last thing he remembered was a big light that came all of a sudden.”
County officials wanted the patrol car — a rust-colored 1977 Ford LTD with only 60,000 miles on it — repaired and returned to the fleet. However, Brekke said, he persuaded them to leave it as it was for public viewing.
“People like strange and unusual things they don’t understand,” Brekke said.
The Warren UFO has appeared in programs on the History Channel and the Travel Channel.
Chad Lewis, a researcher of the paranormal, is making the Warren episode part of his upcoming book on Minnesota UFO sightings and phenomena such as crop circles and Bigfoot.
“I leave it up to the audience to make up their own minds,” Lewis said.