Dec

21

 For nearly fifty years, a shiny spot in the Chocolate Mountains of the Sonora desert has puzzled witnesses. I have been hearing about it for twenty years from metal scrappers of the nearby Gunnery Range who have theorized that it's a 'crashed 747', UFO, or the portal to a secret helicopter launch inside a mountain, like NORAD. The spot appears only in spring and fall between 1-3pm from the southwest, and vanishes when anyone approaches within a mile.

I've heard so many reports that I decided to try to solve the mystery. Standing alone in the desert, I waited until 1pm for the light to go on, walked ahead, and at about one mile distance the reflective object disappeared! The ensuing blind approach to the foothills took four hours, followed by another two hours of climbing. Unable to approach without a visual spot, I walked the front of the Chocolate Mountains looking for a clue.

Suddenly it reappeared, up in the dark heights, brighter than a sun. I ducked for cover, watched, and continued upward. Then I was above it and had to descend. Looking down, it became clear why the object had been seen only at certain times, and disappeared from sight for five decades. The object lay nestled on the side of a canyon offering a scope of view of 15-degrees spreading to the southwest, and it lay behind a rock outcrop so it disappeared whenever a traveler neared.

I walked down and touched it. The object was a bright obelisk lying on its side split in half vertically. It measured 20' long and the base was 6' that tapered at the far end to a point. The material was reflective aluminum, also called 'lightning sheet', as reflective as polished mirror. The aluminum skin harbored a 2"-thick cardboard honeycomb for support, with a one-foot thick cast aluminum male part bolted to the obelisk base that would fit into a female part had it been there. A stamp in the cast read 'PANCOA –Denver'.

I descended with no more than scrapes for my effort, and no explanation, until I went to the Internet. PANCOA (Panel Corporation of America) of Denver in 1974 manufacturer aerial tow targets for the Air Force that are pulled on cables up to thousands of feet long behind target tug aircraft. A target tug is a modified airplane or jet with a winch to play out on the tow target after takeoff and pull it in before landing. Towing targets was a hazardous job before the advent of drones, as live fire is typically employed and the people doing the shooting are skilled in training. They were made of reflective aluminum to be lightweight and visible for up to ten miles, and usually shaped like missiles. I had found one of four fins and judging from its size the missile was about 100' long. The missile body had been shot off, or dragged into the mountainside.

The shining spot in the desert was solved.


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