My favorite UFO story from Wisconsin - and there are
zillions - is about an Eagle River
chicken farmer who said the spacemen
served him pancakes.
In the spring of 1961, Joseph Simonton said the silver
flying saucer landed in his yard.
Three short men who appeared to be
of Italian descent indicated they
wanted a jug filled with water,
which he gladly did. One of the
visitors on the ship "was frying
food on a flameless grill of some
sort," Simonton, 60, said in a
Milwaukee Journal article from back
They gave him three small pancakes, but no syrup, and
zoomed off. The locals backed up
Simonton as a solid citizen and,
according to the sheriff, not a
drinking man. The Air Force
investigated and proclaimed the
space food to be ordinary pancakes.
The encounter was peaceful and friendly, not at all like
the ones envisioned by Stephen
Hawking, the renowned physicist, who
last week warned that
extraterrestrials that show up here
someday will be interested mostly in
conquering and colonizing us.
Hawking went on to say we should keep to ourselves and
stop any efforts to beam "Hey, here
we are" messages into space where
aliens almost certainly are lurking.
Life on this Earth isn't scary enough already without the
scientific community freaking us out
about space invaders? Hawking
compared it to Christopher Columbus
discovering America and how poorly
that turned out for Native
I ran Hawking's comments past two UFO enthusiasts from
Wisconsin to see how worried they
are. Not very, they said.
"The first thing I thought is that it was great that
somebody in mainstream academia is
talking about the possibility of
extraterrestrials or that they're
coming here. That alone lends
credibility to the study of ufology,"
said Chad Lewis of Eau Claire.
He's an author and lecturer on E.T.s, haunted sites, crop
circles, that sort of thing, and he
has a master's degree in psychology.
"The Wisconsin Road Guide
to Haunted Locations," among other
"Researchers in this field, we deal with a lot of people
who believe there have already been
encounters with extraterrestrials.
That not only is it possible that
they're out there, but they've
actually visited and are abducting
people," he said.
Or at least flipping flapjacks. Actually, these people
report undergoing forced physical
and mental tests at the hands of the
aliens, Lewis said. Don't believe
it? No, me neither. Without concrete
proof, even Lewis remains
Both he and Noah Voss, who runs
they can imagine a scenario where
spaceships come in peace.
"What if they're so advanced from us that war is not known
to them? We never think of that. We
always think of the negative," Lewis
said. "There's always an old joke in
ufology that the proof that
intelligent life is out there is
that they haven't tried to contact
"Hopefully they're not bent on destruction. Perhaps I've
just seen 'Star Trek' too many
times," Voss laughed. The Sun
Prairie man has archived more than
1,000 UFO reports, mostly from
Wisconsin. He's the author of
"UFO Wisconsin: A Progress Report,"
and he sells paranormal
investigating equipment online. His
day job is fire and security alarm
"I think it's extraordinarily exciting to speculate and to
think and daydream about potentially
encountering another civilization
that developed off of our planet. I
think it would be very exciting just
personally to experience. I don't
have high hopes or low hopes that it
happens in my lifetime," Voss said.
He calls himself an open-minded skeptic. Lewis said he has
more questions than answers about
the paranormal. Part of the fun, he
said, is in the what-ifs about other
life forms in the universe.
Unless Stephen Hawking is right and we're destined to be
on the dinner menu.
Call Jim Stingl at (414) 224-2017 or