Project Identification


By:

Steve Erdmann

Copyright, C, May, 2021.

Another version of this article can be seen at Project Identification | The UFO Spotlight On…

PROJECT IDENTIFICATION, Harley D. Rutledge, PH.D., Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 205 pages, 1981, $12.95.   Softcover  ISBN 10: 0137307136  ISBN 13: 9780137307135 Publisher: Prentice-Hall, 1981 View all copies of this ISBN edition   1 New 

from US$ 270.57 

2 Used

from US$ 165.0

Amidst anxious anticipation by UFO buffs, Dr. Harley D. Rutledge, Ph.D., published his findings about UFOs in the Ozarks.  Dr. Rutledge was chairman of the Physics Department at Southeast Missouri University at Cape Girardeau.

After making an initial investigation in March 1973, discovering to his satisfactions that UFOs are indeed in the Ozarks, Rutledge requested funds on April 26, 1973 from several major newspapers.   The St. Louis Globe-Democrat responded.

While Dr. Rutledge’s Project Identification purports to have been a dispassionate study of UFOs (and the study is devoid of a lot of the mystical and sensational hysteria associated with the subject), the chapters are tinged with lively outbursts which could possibly betray a scientific study.   After Rutledge sighted mysterious UFOs on May 11, 1973, he says, “for more than a year, as I approached that particular episode during public lectures, I had difficulty dealing with the motion it stiffed.”   The May 11 incident was like other Project Identification episodes where ‘stars’ or ‘pseudo stars’ suddenly appear in the sky to scintillate and the suddenly ‘blink out.’   Some chapter headings are A Terribly Strange Night and A Second Terribly Strange Night.  Most of his ‘team’ consisted of fellow  students from the university.

Some of Rutledge’s cases seem to warrant more excitement.    One Thursday the Project team flew a Cessna 150 to Clark Mountain.  Rutledge observed an amber light along the slope of the mountain which blinked out.  As they approached the second light, it suddenly streaked upward at that Rutledge estimated to be “10,560 feet- per- second squared, or, 7.200 mile-s per -hour, 32-feet—per-second squared…,” a phenomenal act, especially in light of the fact that ‘flying saucer’ reports are typical of such fast acrobatics which are the basis of the so-called ‘‘UFO Mystery.”

Project Identification made approximately 160 sightings of UFOs—during which 700 photographs were taken.  No ‘Class A’ UFOs were able to be photographed (UFOs which had ‘’bizarre behavioral and/or physical properties that defy conventional explanation”).  Class “B” UFOs were recorded as photographic ‘wiggly’ or ‘gyrating’ lines across slide frames which demonstrate almost noting conclusive.

Observation of the unclouded night sky often revealed “pseudo stars” – stationary lights camouflaged by familiar constellations. Some objects appeared to mimic the appearance of known aircraft; others violated the laws of physics. The most startling discovery was that on at least 32 recorded occasions, the movement of the lights synchronized with actions of the observers. They appeared to respond to a light being switched on and off, and to verbal or radio messages

The belated UFO Study Group of the Greater St. Louis had members that made numerous trips to Elsberry, Missouri during a 1978 UFO-Animal mutilation ‘flap’ in that area.    Cameras with telescopic lenses also recorded ‘gyrating’ UFOs on slides remarkably like the Rutledge phenomena.   Interestingly, however, known, and identifiable aircraft produced ‘straight’ trails on the slides.    This seemed to add to the mystery.  However, much-later-crews went to the identical areas to again observe the same amber, orange of yellow bobbling, blinking lights which had been seen in 1978 (the ones which apparently made squiggles on film), and promptly were able to identify them as aircraft, many coming into or out of Lambert International Airfield, while other were ‘taxiing’ in a holding area over Winfield.   Many of the lights would suddenly ‘blink out.’  This latter investigative crew identified many as the ‘take-off’ light on passenger planes or other lights being ‘shut off,’ while the smaller fuselage lights never were discernable to the unaided eye at those distances.  The investigative crew theorized that some aircraft appeared as ‘straight lines’ because they were much closer; aircraft much further away showed on film  as the larger light on the crafts which demonstrated ‘wiggles’—possibly attributed to atmospherics, camera vibrations and air currents.

One of Dr. Rutledge’s photos from Cape Girardeau, however,  recorded what he called a “helix effect.’’

In my opinion every Ufologist with the means and drive should emulate all that Dr. Rutledge did and more importantly if the larger so-called UFO organizations would follow his blueprint with modern high-tech-equipment, we may just uncover some answers.

Not only was he a major inspiration for me to create “In The Field,”  but his work was unlike any other person that has entered this field before or after.   Ironically, there are still researchers who are unfamiliar with him and I find this mystifying for several reasons, but mostly for the casual interest that his groundbreaking work received.

In 1966, Harley Rutledge completed his Ph.D. in solid state physics at the University of Missouri. A short time later he took the position of Professor and Chairman of the Physics Department at Southeast Missouri State University. He became President of the Missouri Academy of Science. He was Department Chairman from 1964 through 1982 and retired from teaching in 1992.


The story began in February and March of 1973 when strange accounts began to trickle out of Piedmont, Missouri of people witnessing balls of light flying around and disrupting car engines and televisions. Soon numerous people from all over began to flock to the area hoping to catch a glimpse of these anomalous balls of light. The local TV station and newspapers covered it extensively, mostly drenched in sarcasm with a few roughly criticizing the locals as uncultured.

Dr. Harley Rutledge said, “Unbiased, disinterested physical scientists usually measure the properties of inanimate matter.   Biological, medical, and behavioral scientists, on the other hand, study intelligences less than or equal to their own. In this Project, we dealt with an intelligence equal to or greater than that of man. We interacted with the phenomenon under study.”

The strange events in the small town of approx. 2,000 people was all everyone was talking about and groups of people gathered outside at night to witness these mysterious lights. One night an excited woman on a local news show displayed some photos she had taken of the lights and the next morning this prompted two of Dr. Rutledge’s colleagues to jokingly suggest that he go and investigate these UFOS in Piedmont.  He laughed and said, “I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole!”  Less than 2 weeks later he would change his mind completely.

At the time of the sightings Dr. J. Allen Hynek was active in his investigations and made a trip to Piedmont to investigate what was going on. He was contacted and invited by State Representative Jerry Howard through Police Chief Gene Bearden because of the frequency & number of sightings.  He stated, “We ourselves didn’t see anything, but that’s to be expected……but we found a great number of highly excited people”. Pointing out the power of suggestion he implied that people were seeing lights from observation towers…..”You have to disregard any light on the horizon” he said.

I believe this was a large, missed opportunity for Hynek and if he had not so hastily made a judgement and left, his story would have been much different. Surely if he teamed up with Rutledge and spent some time out there he would have observed these bizarre lights, but this was not to be.


On April 6th, 1973 Dr. Rutledge, Prof. Milton Ueleke and both of their their wives made the trip to Piedmont to be briefed on what was going on by Dennis Hovis who ran the local radio station where many of the sightings were reported. During the conversation Hovis was interrupted by listeners that were phoning in sightings reports. Dr. Rutledge thought that obviously this radio station was the real “Piedmont UFO Headquarters”.
Within a few minutes another call came in and when Mr. Hovis returned he excitedly explained “There’s been a UFO landing on Clark’s Mountain….This high school boy with his parents saw it and they are reliable!”
Rutledge agreed to go, but as he got in the car he turned to Prof. Ueleke and said “Milton, this could be a big put-on for our benefit.”

This report turned out to be a local pilot who had dropped down behind the mountain and shut his lights off, creating the illusion that something was landing.

With no success they drove back to town and had dinner with a local couple who were friends of the Ueleke’s. Over the meal they decided to visit another spot called Pyle’s Mountain which was an area with earlier reports. It was at this spot with his telescope that Dr. Rutledge made his first observations of these strange lights and he described them this way…”: Less than an hour had elapsed on Pyle’s Mountain when a small stationary light suddenly appeared near the southern horizon. After locating and centering the light in the telescope on 8X, Rutledge attempted to view the light on a higher power, but before I could focus properly, the light went out. It had been visible for about 5 seconds. At intervals of several minutes, the light appeared 3 more times, but in a different position each time.”


He was finally able to catch it magnified at 80X when it remained visible for 20 seconds and described it as a stationary ball of light that didn’t just shut off, but “decayed” as a powerful tungsten bulb does when the power is cut.

Prof. Ueleke stated his opinion that he thought they were just viewing car headlights in the distance, but Dr. Rutledge disagreed completely and devised a plan to show that this theory was not the answer.  The very next week he hired a pilot who happened to be a university student majoring in physics, to fly a Cessna 150 over the area to look for a road to use to prove his point.  They located an old logging road and returned that night to observe the area. Once they were in the air they could quickly see the lights of the town when suddenly an amber/orange light appeared on the slope of the mountain near the top. The pilot turned the aircraft and made a beeline towards it, but within seconds it went out. Simultaneously another one came on several hills away and the pilot banked towards this one. Through the binoculars, Dr. Rutledge said it looked to be awfully close to the earth’s surface, possibly on it and as they got closer to it suddenly shot straight up and out of view. Rutledge stated “My interest took a decided leap after those two sightings from the Cessna 150. But although the appearance and behavior of the two lights were perplexing, I did not accept them as UFO’s at the time.”


This launched into what would become “Project Identification” and would span from 1973 until 1980. A total of 158 viewing stations were setup all over the area and the sky was watched for 427 hours. There were 620 observers over the years and 378 were Project observers. Not included are the many hours Project members observed the sky when not present at a station. There were 157 sightings of 178 UFO’s and the behaviors that they observed have all been recorded by different members of “In The Field” in the present day. Some examples are what Dr. Rutledge called “Pseudo stars” and this is when they will hover in place, sometimes for a long period of time to blend in with the stars and then suddenly move off or blink out. Another example would be something Rutledge did not observe, but many told him they had witnessed it and that would be a ball of light cruising over an area and dropping a smaller lit object down to the surface, usually a wooded area. Several members of ITF have caught this on video and it is obvious that they have some type of agenda and are intelligently controlled.

The advantages we have today are extremely better for observing and gathering data from these sightings, yet it has not happened except in sporadic individual cases with “Active Observers” like us. Not only is our equipment far more advanced than in the 70’s such as night vision, telescopes, cameras, or spectrometers, but to communicate with others and move in on a repeat, active area (Flap) would be swift.

Unfortunately this has happened in a few cases, where an area was highly active and was reported over and over yet ignored and even scorned at without any observation by laptop critics. Meanwhile the larger so-called UFO organizations are posting videos or photos of lens flares and insects, yet this actual UFO activity is clearly ignored. They need to take a good long look at what this man achieved or what we at ITF are trying to achieve and follow suit….follow the Rutledge Blueprint… 

Rutledge said: “A relationship, a cognizance, between us and the UFO intelligence evolved. A game was played. In my opinion, this additional consideration is more important than the measurements or establishing that the phenomena exists.   This facet of the UFO phenomena perturbed me as much as the advanced technology we observed. It is a facet I cannot really fathom – and I have thought about it every day for more than 7 years.”

At 2 a.m. in March 1967 on a farm about 4 miles west of New Baden, Leona Boeving saw a UFO in a field near her house.

In a Belleville News-Democrat story by reporter Michelle Meehan from August 9, 1992, Boeving said, “It was like the full moon was cut in half standing on the ground.”

“It had a bright white light on top and then a whole row of little red lights at the bottom. There were these metallic things around it, like strips of silver,” Boeving said.

She woke her daughter, Marilee Black, who was staying with her.

In a July 2017 interview, Black said, “Yes, I remember it. All I have to do is close my eyes to picture the thing.”

“It was round and large even from where we stood in the house. It was something I had never seen before,” Black said.

She could not see anyone inside it, only the bright lights coming from it.

They watched it for a few minutes. “Then, my mother opened the window.  Suddenly, it lifted and went south.  If it made a sound, we didn’t hear it,” Black said.

Terrified, Boeving and Black remained in the house until morning. “It was just scary,” Black said.

When they explored the field, Black said the heat from the object left burn marks on the ground. “Nothing grew there for quite a while,” Black said.

Boeving called Scott Air Force Base, which is about 7 miles from the farm, for an explanation.

Black said, “They knew nothing and could say nothing about it. I guess it didn’t fly from the base.”

Black has seen nothing unexplained since that time and is fine with that. “I don’t ever want to see it or anything like it again,” Black said. “It was frightening; it really was.”

In the 1992 BND article by Meehan, Boeving is quoted as saying, “There were a lot of people who, to this day, think we were crazy. But I’ll tell you, I was the biggest non-believer there was. I probably still would be — if I hadn’t seen it myself.”

Not all the lights seen at Elsberry could be identified to everyone’s satisfaction, however.   For instance, a stationary ‘star’ seen on June 25, 1978 that  remained so for over fifteen-minutes  or longer,  suddenly began to bob and weave in a circular pattern.  The UFO then  moved in a wide arc  heading  eastward over the Mississippi River as seen through the tree line.  Surprisingly, it doubled-back towards three witnesses stationed on a farmer’s field.  There was no sound at all.  The witnesses  estimated the craft to be at  a 2,000 feet level.  It came directly over the farmer’s field and witnesses, banked directly over them, and then headed back out over the river.    It appeared to be a lighted fuselage with passenger windows.   As it left the area, a red strobe light seemed to have been turned on.   A very peculiar and uncharacteristic airplane.

On July 16, 1978, over ten people were suddenly surprised  by lights that seemed to ‘pop’ onto the scene of Highway V and W, momentarily hovering (or seemed to)  and then ‘drift’ off  (these were photographed).   Others  insisted these were regular airplanes.

Rutledge would feel vindicated by these sightings, it would seem.  However, the more skeptical investigators feel a rigorous study in aircraft identification is needed:

**  Field crews consisting of aeronautic engineers, flight operation managers, aircraft pilots, and FAA specialists jointly observing UFOs at night and consensually giving their opinion as to identity.   Pilots, amateur astronomers, aircraft technicians often aren’t able to singularly identify the behavior or appearance of airplanes or helicopters.

**  Experts specializing in ‘nocturnal aerial photography’  are needed:  we have found that opinions as to what is ‘photographed’ in the night sky and  ‘why it appears on film as it does,’ are as varied and entangled as the dispute as to what ‘lights’ constitute UFOs and which one don’t.

Rutledge admitted that much study is necessary.    The team used radar and other electronic scanning (some of it was never removed, however, from Rutledge’s home office).   One of the findings was the recording on color film the spectrum of a UFO using an objective blazed diffraction grating—but Rutledge does not say one word as to what was discovered.   Perhaps, then, it was really nothing.

Rutledge did not, however, insinuate that space people are involved; he entertained the possibility that UFOs are little known manmade inventions.   He talked about German research on ‘flying discs’ in 1941, and about PRVs (Remotely Controlled Vehicles) which resembled spinning discs which “hardly make a sound.”

As Logician Peter Kor stated in his article The Tue Inquirer: “The process of discovering reality depends on a rigorous rationality.  Intense focus on any matter will produced countless apparent connections and confirmations.  Without a rigorous approach, these will be accepted as probable proof of truth, rather than mere possibilities that should be tested.”

If Project Identification could have been expanded into a perpetual, thorough team, into a broad range of experts and equipment in weekly or daily trips into UFO areas, possibly the problem of UFO identification would have become less of a will-of-the-wisp.

**********

Photos Extra Steve1 34934490_10156520897824595_8244253719684710400_n

Steve C, Erdmann, C, May, 2021, Independent Investigative Journalist

Another version of this article can be seen at Project Identification | The UFO Spotlight On…

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