Mellen, Wisconsin at first glance might not appear to be the kind of place that would be associated with strange tales of visitors from other worlds. A tiny little town of around 1,000 residents tucked within the wilds of Ashland County, Wisconsin, it is the kind of peaceful hamlet where everyone knows each other and doors are left unlocked, and is known for its sprawling vistas of picturesque nature, hiking trails, camping, and supreme natural beauty. Nature lovers from all over the country come here for the views and outdoor activities, yet some of them may not be aware that this stunning place is the home of one of the weirdest UFO incidents the state has ever seen.
It was 9:00 PM on March 13, 1975, and the Baker family was just starting to settle in for the night in their secluded home. 12-year old John Baker was up in his room with his older brother Monty listening to the radio, while their father watched TV downstairs and their mother Shirley did some last housework before bedtime. The family’s daughter, 15-year-old Jane went to put the cats out into the garage for the evening in a routine she did every night. It was by all appearances a perfectly normal, quiet spring evening, the comforting sounds of the radio and TV floating through the air and everyone ready for a good night’s sleep. However, the tranquility of the evening was about to be shattered by otherworldly events.
The evening was dark, the rural property offering little to guide Jane’s way as she carried those cats, but it was such a routine thing for her that she could have done it with her eyes closed. And then it wasn’t so dark anymore. There was a light coming from the direction of the road, and when she drew closer she was surprised to see a large silver disk sitting right on the gravel lane about 150 yards away, just at the crest of a small rise, with a row of green and red lights around it that alternately blinked on and off. At its top was a dome that gave off a very bright yellowish glow, and from within it came a series of “high toned noises” and other “funny sounds.” The light emanating from the thing was so bright as to light up the entire hill, and it was all so frightening that she screamed out to her family and exclaimed, “There’s something not right out there, there’s something out on the road!” This brought her father and brothers running, and John would years later explain what he remembered of it:
It was like this turtle-shaped dome with lights all around it — yellow, green, red — circling it. But it was the other light. It was like it had a halo above it. So bright. If there’s a heavenly light, a peaceful light that draws you in, this was it. There was this whirring noise, like a blender or something. But then there was this banging going on, like someone banging on a pipe. Like they were hitting and hitting and hitting something, trying to get it going. I remember Dad saying, ‘We need to get closer to see what it is,’ and my mom coming out of the house and screaming, ‘Don’t go closer or I won’t ever see you again.’
Mr. Baker ignored her pleas and crept closer to the thing, and as he did, the light of the object began to dim and the blinking lights stopped. Now that the illumination wasn’t quite as blinding, he could see that it had a diameter of twelve feet and a height of six feet, and he could now notice a square lighted area with rounded corners in the middle of the object that looked like some kind of open hatch. He warily went closer still, his curiosity insatiable even as the noise coming from it seemed to build in intensity along with the background cries from his wife and daughter to get away from it. He would later explain:
I felt I could’ve looked inside if I’d been closer, but I couldn’t see any details. It made a high whiny, sing-songy noise. I never heard a sound like that before. There was also a sound of metal hitting metal as though someone were repairing or fixing machinery. Some bangs were louder than others, like a heavy hit and then a light tap. There was no pattern to it.
This was enough to snap him out of his deep fascination, his curiosity turning to fear. Mr. Baker stepped away and joined his family at the house, where he wasted no time in contacting the authorities. As he excitedly explained what was going on there at the property, there was a thunderous boom “like something breaking the sound barrier” from outside that rattled the house, and when they looked outside the object was gone. Unfortunately, when Undersheriff George Ree arrived there was nothing to see anymore, no evidence that anything had been there at all, and when he left Mr. Baker decided that it was probably best to keep it all to themselves. John would remember:
My father asked us to keep it confidential, and my brother told me not to say anything to anyone at school. We agreed that this was something we would have to keep just in the family. We didn’t want people to think we were crazy. My brother cried himself to sleep. He was terrorized. ‘They’re going to come back and get us. They’re going to come back and get us,’ he said all night. All night, those logs would crack and pop as they froze and expanded. And every time, I thought, ‘Oh God, they’re back.’
In the meantime, Ree headed back to the station and turned over in his mind what he had heard from the frightened family. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, but Mr. Baker was known as a no-nonsense guy not prone to making up tall tales, and he had seemed truly disturbed by whatever he had seen. Ree would say of it:
Baker was very upset. He’s a pretty reliable, dependable person and I have no reason to disbelieve him, but he was quite excited. I had to tell him, ‘Take it easy, cool down and just tell me what it is.’ I firmly believe that the Baker family did see an object.
Little did he know at the time that this was just the beginning of the night’s bizarreness. When he reached the station he soon learned that the phones had been ringing off the hook with dozens of other reports of UFOs in the area. The calls were coming in so rapidly and consistently that Ree went out with some deputies to look up at the sky and try to see what was going on. They would not be disappointed. Ree would later say of what he any various other law enforcement officers all over the county saw that night:
We saw one object come from the south going in a northerly direction. There was a second one, and it was a little lower than the first. We watched these two for maybe a half hour. Then a third one came from the north going south, and that was the lowest one of all. We could see different colored lights on it. That one stayed in the air for approximately ten or fifteen minutes, just moving, sort of doing a jig, going up and down, making a big ‘U’ and going up and down again. We had two more cars on U.S. 2 in the northern part of Ashland County and I was transmitting to the deputies in that location. Two deputies were watching from a fire tower on Birch Hill and another, Drolson, was northwest of them on Lake Superior when one of these objects we were watching took off at a very high rate of speed. I radioed to deputy Peter Drolson and told him, ‘It’s going your way,’ and all of a sudden he said, ‘I see it coming–’ and his radio went blank.
In the meantime, Drolson was having quite the odd experience. Shortly after his radio went dead, the light he saw came practically right up to him, bathing the entire area in light as if it were midday rather than the middle of the night. He desperately shouted over the radio what was going on but there was no response, just static interference and some garbled pieces on conversations. He would explain:
Everything got so bright I could’ve read a newspaper. I could see my shadow on the ground. I was leaning against my car with the microphone in my hand and whatever it was came from the west behind me going east across the road. All I could see was this bright glow maybe a couple of blocks behind me at treetop level or a little higher. It sounded like a big gust of wind coming through the woods. I was talking on the radio the whole time but they heard only part of my transmission. They heard me talking, then a ‘whoosh’ and then me talking again.
A total of 10 sheriff’s deputies would spend that night chasing the UFOs all over Ashland and Iron counties, their radios in constant chatter between them as they reported in astonishment what they were seeing. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind at this point now that the Bakers had been telling the truth. The skies were alive with strange lights the whole night, and the next morning things would continue to get weird for the Baker family when Jane went out to investigate the area where she had seen the UFO and noticed the same object hovering over a nearby swamp. At the same time she was seeing this, her dog whined and pawed at its ears as if it was hearing a loud, unpleasant noise, even though Jane could hear nothing. Jane started off to go get a closer look, but the dog refused to move and she eventually had to carry it back to the house, but the object was gone by the time she got back.
As soon as the UFO story hit the news it was a major media frenzy, and considering that the Bakers had gotten the closest look at one of them, it was they who were targeted the worse. Journalists incessantly nagged them, curiosity seekers came to their home in droves, they were inundated with inquiries about appearing on television programs and in documentaries, and they would later say that they had even been approached by mysterious military figures and the shadowy Men in Black. This was all wholly unwanted attention, but the more the family tried to isolate themselves and distance themselves from it, the more the media and UFO researchers came at them looking for more information to the point of harassment. The fervor would die down, the media attention would wane, and the strange events of that night would be sort of forgotten to fade into the mists of time, but John Baker has never forgotten it. When asked decades later what he thinks the objects might have been he seems a bit reluctant to say, but has admitted:
Well, I’m thinking it’s probably, I don’t know. I’ thinking it was maybe alien life. I’m thinking maybe the minerals in these Penokee Hills might be what attracts them. Maybe they used the flashing lights to communicate or something. To tell you the truth I’m not 100% sure what it was. But I know there’s more information out there. I know the government is admitting now that this stuff is real. I bet if you could get into those files, and see what the Air Force really saw that night, it would be phenomenal. Maybe that still will happen one day. Maybe one day we’ll know.
What happened on this evening, which numerous witnesses and law enforcement personnel personally witnessed? It seems like a very compelling case considering all of the myriad witnesses and law enforcement personnel who witnessed it. What did they see out there? What were all of these lights up there and what did they want? We will probably never know for sure.