The Mystery of the Delphos Ring UFO Sighting

50 Years Ago, on November 2, 1971, sixteen year old Ron Johnson was tending sheep on the family farm in Delphos, Kansas. He heard his mom calling him for dinner and, as the story goes, when he turned to reply his attention was drawn to a strange mushroom-shaped object hovering in the air about 75 feet away, making a sound not dissimilar to an old vibrating washing machine.

I believe that’s the first time in UFO history such a description was used for the sound of a hovering object. If someone was sitting in this rattling contraption hovering above the earth, and if there were intelligent space beings that somehow made a harrowing trip across the cosmos in that thing, I hope they had a mechanic check it out before they drove it back home. Could have been a loose muffler or something.

Now back to the story…. Ronnie claimed the craft appeared to be about six to eight feet in diameter, which is pretty small when you consider it. That’s an awful cramped space to travel that far. Humans require huge RVs to go just a few thousand miles.

Anyway, according to the story (there’s even a book about it on with a massively long title: The Compelling Scientific Evidence for UFOs: The Analysis of the Delphos, Kansas UFO Landing Report) the object was hovering just a few feet above the ground and left a circular area of bare land where, from then on, grass refused to grow.

Upon investigation the affected soil was found to be resistant to water, and when compared to soil samples from outside of the ring it was found to contain more calcium, soluble salts, was more acidic, and apparently contained an unidentified hydrocarbon. There was also a white, fibrous, crystalline material found in the soil.

Let’s take a look at these chemical findings first. Off the bat we can exclude calcium, salts and acidic soil as evidence of some strange event. Those components are not uncommon in soil, and plants tend not to thrive in acidic soil so that could explain the bare spot. Hydrocarbons in the soil, especially in this situation (it’s a farm), can be explained by various agricultural operations including the use of pesticides, and regular use of farming equipment or vehicles.

Next, the white stuff. I read this thing (which is consistent with other reports on the Delphos ring, indicating that they’re all just regurgitating the same information), and according Jacques VallĂ©e, a well known French astronomer who wears many hats including UFOlogist, the white material was analyzed by a French biologist and found to be actinobacteria, and referred to in the report as a form of fungus.

Just a note: Actinobacteria is not fungus. As the name not so subtly implies, it is bacteria. It is also common in soil, especially in forest areas (you know, around trees). The only thing fungus-like about actinobacteria is their tendency to form colonies and develop into whitish, stranded, branching formations called hyphae.

So, funny white fungus-like bacteria, trace forms of calcium, salt and acidic soil do not indicate that something weird happened. It means something rather normal happened. It happens all over the place. Soil isn’t just some inert stuff sitting there waiting for us to look at it. Natural processes are happening all the time.

But why is it shaped like a ring, and why doesn’t it absorb water? Since we have learned that the soil was not really that strange, those remaining factors can be relatively easily deduced. It may have been that the soil had be come too compacted to readily absorb water, and the things that compacted the soil could be the very same things that caused the ring and the acidic quality of the soil.

Remember this was a sheep farm, and sheep pee. Put a bunch of peeing sheep with trampling hooves around a circular bale feeder, day after day, and you’ll have compacted salty soil in no time.

That’s just my theory, but I think it’s a good one. It doesn’t take an unidentified hovering object to make a circle of dry dirt on a farm. Farm animals can do that with no trouble at all.

But why would a sixteen year old boy make up such a far-fetched tale about a hovering UFO? Come on now… telling stories is what humans do.


The Unexplained Files – Leave the Bunk Alone

Carl Kolchak - The Night StalkerAs I said in my last post, we bounced back and forth between The Unexplained files and slightly better TV, Restaurant Impossible, and spent most of the time on the latter. Nothing new on The Unexplained Files, same bunk different day.

Why bother complaining? There is a reason I run this site. A reason I tend to read books and watch TV and movies about monsters, UFOs and strange mysteries in general: it’s fun sometimes. I’m not above admitting an attraction to this stuff. It’s been an interest of mine for a long, long time, and I like it. Tales of the unexplained are entertaining, and sometimes I watch bunk TV even if it’s just to toss wisecrack commentary at the screen during shows like The Unexplained Files.

Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I wish some of it were true, but all of these things emerge from human imagination and our evolutionary heritage. The thrill we get from tales of the unknown is psychological. There is a reason the phrase “spine tingling” exists; humans love adventure and mystery. Stories and spooky legends turn on our imagination and excite us.

What makes it all a farce is the people coming forward with their “evidence” like “doctor” Phyllis Canion. She has a stuffed mangy dog she’s touting as an unknown predator, and the frozen corpse of a dead something we’re never given a clear shot of. Her comment? “I don’t know what it is, do you?”

Maybe we’d be able to figure it out if the damn cameraman were allowed to get a good shot, but no, we’re not allowed to really look at the “evidence” for ourselves, but should we? Should we bother to investigate? Should we play Kolchak or Fox Mulder? Why? Let’s just enjoy the entertainment and leave it alone.

Shows like this actually detract from the wonder of the entertaining and enduring “mysteries” like Bigfoot, UFOs, ghosts and other wonderful strangeness. It all started with stories and legends.

None of this stuff is true, but it’s fun. Tell the stories, enjoy the mysteries and the “what if” factor, enjoy the thrills and the scares. But don’t try to explain it, don’t ruin the beauty of legend and lore as it exists in our culture.

If we look at it for what it is, and explore the mysteries as a way to entertain ourselves, that’s fine. But don’t try to make it real.