Tammy Brown rarely thinks about it anymore, but remembers every detail still.
Eighteen years old that autumn night in 1987, she changed into her pajamas, cut off her bedroom lamp and snuggled into bed. Tired and ready for sleep, she closed her eyes. Then, she sensed it. Light fluttered across her eyelids. Had someone cut her lamp back on?
She opened her eyes and was blinded by a floodlight beaming through the second-story window of her Fort Chiswell bedroom.
“Mama!” she screamed, running across the hall into the bedroom of her mother, Linda Spiker, “somebody is shining a headlight into my window!”
Frightened, the two women ran back to Brown’s bedroom. The light was gone, and in the darkness they could see some sort of dark aircraft hovering above their home.
“It was very, very close to the house,” Spiker recalls. “It was huge. It was floating very slow. It took forever to go over the house. We lived in the country and it was pitch black outside. You could tell something was moving, but couldn’t see outlines or shapes, but it was bigger than our house and made a soft humming sound.”
They watched in awe as the massive craft moved over their house and into the night sky.
“After it got over the house, we could see at least two red lights on it,” Spiker recalled.
As soon as it disappeared from view, three helicopters came rushing in behind it.
“Two followed the object and the third one veered the right to go beside it,” Spiker said. “As soon as I saw the helicopters, I figured it was something military and went back to bed. But it was strange and one of the biggest things I’ve ever seen.”
Brown and her mother had just witnessed what thousands of Wythe County residents would see in the coming months – unidentified flying objects hovering over the area.
A wave of credible and dramatic UFO sightings swept through Wythe County from October 1987 through well into the following year.
As the 25th anniversary approaches, a Christiansburg documentary company, Horse Archer productions, has launched a new film project to revisit the sightings.
The story centers on WYVE news director, Danny Gordon, who inadvertently became the hub of the flap on October 7, 1987, when Wythe County Sheriff Wayne Pike called in his crime report. Pike told Gordon that four police officers, including some with military experience, had witnessed a UFO.
Within a few weeks, Gordon had sighted a strange craft and the town was buzzing with reports, most of which came directly to him. A press conference in mid-October drew national attention and by the following year, Gordon personally received more than 3,000 reports.
Gordon took the only known photos of the craft in December of 1987 over a parking lot where more than 100 witnesses, including a school bus load of students from Floyd County, saw several craft fly over.
The film, called “Strange Country: A Different Kind of UFO Documentary,” will approach the story from a unique angle, according to Sean Kotz, who is directing and producing the film with partner Chris Valluzzo.
“Most of the time, UFO documentaries focus on the most outlandish aspects and are often marked by wild speculations or unfounded assumptions,” said Kotz.
“Instead, we are interested in the human story which is typically forgotten in these cases. What happened to the town and in particular, Danny Gordon, whose life was turned upside down by the ensuing attention and excitement?”
Valluzzo said the UFOs themselves would not be ignored in the film, however.
“It is a compelling case because there were hundreds, if not thousands, of individual witnesses and a variety of craft over the course of several months,” said Valluzzo.
“The witnesses were reliable people,” he added. “In fact, the National Enquirer sent a reporter who decided not to run a story because the people were just not weird enough!”
Kotz said that the reigning opinion is that it was some kind of classified military project, but there are some details that just don’t match up.
“First of all, why Wytheville? If you are trying to hide something, the intersection of two major highways is not a good place to do it,” Kotz said. “Secondly, the B2 bomber and refueling exercise explanations don’t fit the facts. The majority of the unexplained reports feature noiseless, hovering, low-level craft.”
As for Spiker, who now resides in Kentucky with her daughter, she believes they saw a stealth blimp.
It moved like a blimp, it almost floated,” Spiker said. “You could tell it wasn’t being moved by motors because it was very quiet. I don’t think it was extraterrestrial, I think it was military.”