At approximately 5:00 p.m. on the evening of December 21, as he drove east along Route 250 between Staunton and Waynesboro, Virginia, Horace Burns, a gunsmith in Harrisonburg, saw an immense cone-shaped object cross low over the highway ahead of him.
It was moving in a north to south direction at a slow speed estimated to be about 15 mph. The point of the cone was tipped slightly forward in the object’s line of flight.
It crossed the highway approximately 200 feet ahead of Burns and settled in a meadow to the right of the road, landing gently, «like a bubble.» At the moment the object crossed the highway, Burns’ car motor failed. The object settled in the field as he brought the car to a stop on the shoulder of the highway.
Burns got out of the car to get a better look. «It was 125 feet in diameter, at least, and 80 to 90 feet high,» he later reported. Its circular, sloping sides rose toward the top in six large, concentric convolutions that decreased in diameter and were surmounted by a dome.
The object was so large, Burns said, that when it crossed the road ahead of him it had more than filled the entire width of his windshield. In the gathering darkness, Burns could not make out with certainty the exact nature of the object’s surface material but it gave the appearance of a dull, metallic finish.
He saw no features such as windows, ports, doors, or seams on the object; however, extending around its base at a height of about six feet was a band of bluish-white light, sharply-edged and about 12 to 18 inches wide. The light was steady and did not flicker or dim. No landing gear was evident and the object seemed to rest lightly on the ground on a somewhat convexly curved undersurface.
Burns watched the object for from 60 to 90 seconds at a distance no greater than 150 yards when it suddenly rose straight up to a height of several hundred feet and, emitting a soft «whoosh» like rushing air, took off in a northeasterly direction at an exceedingly high rate of speed, again with its top tilted slightly forward in the line of motion. It disappeared from view in a matter of seconds.
Following its disappearance, Burns drove home and told his wife about his sighting, swearing he wouldn’t tell another soul because «they’d think I’m crazy.»
However, a few days later, a local radio program announced the formation of a UFO investigations group at Eastern Mennonite College, under the direction of Dr. Ernest G. Gehman, a professor of German at the college. At his wife’s urging, Burns got in touch with Gehman by way of the radio station to report his observation.
On December 31, Dr. Gehman traveled alone to the landing site and made a geiger counter test of the area. An extremely high reading was obtained, and was verified by the arrival of two DuPont research engineers who, having heard about the landing, had driven to the site the same day Dr. Gehman made his investigation.
In fact, Dr. Gehman had been able to locate the landing spot (later verified by Burns) by the readings on his Geiger counter.