BURLEY — Unexplained lights in the sky, strange far-off objects, mysterious discs following him.
As a pilot in the 1950s and 60s, Bob Dean saw it all.
Now at 87, as the country awaits a US government report due out this month summarizing what it knows about unidentified flying objects, the former mortician and commercial pilot is ready to talk about encounters he had in the Magic Valley and Nevada.
“I don’t know what they were,” Dean said.
At the time when he tried to talk about what he had seen with fellow pilots, he was told it was in his best interest to keep quiet.
Dean grew up in Mini-Cassia and served in the U.S. Army Reserves, where he reached the rank of colonel. He later became a mortician working at several mortuaries in Mini-Cassia and for the Parke family in Twin Falls. He earned a pilot’s license and commercial license, which he used to fly clients to various locations and to pick up the deceased, logging more than 3,000 flight hours. He's also an amateur astronomer and once built his own telescope.
He was well-versed in the celestial bodies regularly observed in the sky along with the characteristics of man-made aircraft.
Although he is reticent to put a label on what he saw, he does not think the technology the crafts exhibited could have been made by man at the time.
Dean, who has no photos of the mysterious sightings, just offers his stories, so readers can draw their own conclusions.
A bright light in the sky
His first encounter with an object that he couldn’t identify occurred while he and his mother, Virginia Dean, were driving the road between Malta and Strevell near the Utah border on their way to Salt Lake City in 1955 — prior to the interstate cutting its asphalt swath through the valley.
It was about 10:30 p.m., he said, and there were “lots of stars out,” when they saw “a big light” in the sky. It moved until it was in front of them on the highway.
With the bright light shining in their eyes, it was difficult to estimate how close it came or much about its appearance.
“I thought it was a plane that was going to try and land on the highway,” Dean said.
He pulled the car over to the side of the road and they both got out of it thinking they would watch as the plane landed.
“We couldn’t hear a thing and when it got near it went northeast very fast,” Dean said. “We were both just going ‘what was that?’ No one was really talking about UFOs at that time.”
Some can be identified, but a few remain a mystery
Dean’s next experience occurred at the Burley Municipal Airport around 1958.
When he arrived at the airport early one morning, one of the weather and communications station employees was out on the tarmac with a pair of binoculars.
She was looking at a “black stationary thing” in the sky southeast of the airport towards Mount Harrison.
She had called Hill Air Force Base, and staff there said they had “scrambled a couple of planes” to come and take a look, he said.
When the base officials called the airport employee back they said their pilots “could visually see it but it didn’t show up on the planes’ radar,” Dean said.
The third incident was in 1962 after Dean had flown a client to Reno and he was near Jackpot, Nevada, on the return trip.
He was at 11,500 feet and was about 5 miles southwest of Jackpot when his radios stopped working and his compass spun around.
He started looking around for a place to land the plane and saw below him to his left a large dark gray disk.
“There were no windows in it and it followed me for about 20 seconds,” he said.
When it disappeared all of his electronics came back on, he said.
Dean tried to talk with other pilots about the incident, but they laughed at him and said he must have been drinking.
He was also told by others to keep quiet about the incident, so he would not have people calling him or showing up at his door.
“So I just buried it,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve sat down and talked about it to anyone outside of the family.”
A different kind of encounter
Dean, his daughter Melanie Dean and son Phillip Dean also shared an unusual experience when they visited a farm near Heyburn in 1975 that had reported a strange disc-shaped burn in a field that had three indentations punched into the ground.
The indentations were “tripod-like” and looked like something heavy had landed there, Dean said.
The farmer who lived there had reported hearing his cattle rustling around and his two dogs barking. The dogs wanted to come inside the house and would not go back outside, Dean said.
The next morning, he said, the farmer found the burn mark and indentations in the ground.
Melanie, who was a first-grader, recalls the visit to the farm and remembers looking at the strange large burned area.
She picked one of the blackened weeds and took it to school with her for show and tell.
“I’ve often wondered what my teacher must have thought about that,” she said.
Melanie said her father always took things “seriously” as was fitting for his profession and dealing with grieving families.
“He’s not the type to exaggerate a story,” Melanie said. “If he tells you something, that’s what it is. He’s a black and white kind of guy.”
Dean’s wife, Marcelyn, agreed.
“Knowing Bob, I don’t think he was ever trying to impress me with his storytelling," she said. "He doesn’t tell stories unless it happened."
When Dean heard about the government report coming out, it rekindled memories of his encounters.
“I thought maybe there is something to it,” he said.
What the government knows
According to the Associated Press, the government’s report will summarize what it knows about unidentified flying objects, now referred to as unidentified aerial phenomena.
Late last year, Congress instructed the director of national intelligence to provide “a detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data” from multiple agencies and report in 180 days.
“There is stuff flying in our airspace,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the senators who pressed for the probe, recently told Fox News. “We don’t know what it is. We need to find out.”
According to The New York Times, intelligence officials found no evidence that aerial phenomena witnessed by U.S. Navy pilots recently were alien spacecraft, but they cannot explain the unusual movements that have been reported, according to senior administration officials briefed on the findings of the government report.
The report determined that a vast majority of more than 120 incidents over the past two decades did not originate from the U.S. military or other advanced American technology.
The unclassified version of the report is expected to be released by Congress June 25.