In August 2007, scientists discover an enormous black spot in the universe. It is neither a black hole nor dark matter. There are no stars inside, or planets, or cosmic dust. It is one billion light years across, and it is empty.
Seth and I smoke a cigarette on the steps of our apartment in Sunset Park, close to two in the morning, on one of the warmest days in January we can remember.
Zimbabwe 1994: it was in the morning of September and we were playing when Elsa said what's that and I turned my head and saw the thing past the playground, where we were not supposed to go. Because there are snakes and spiders and they didn't mow there with the tractors, but everyone went running to see. I didn't want to go but Emily said Come on, and we were both supposed to watch the younger ones but I did anyway. When I got there I saw there were three things, and one of them opened and he came out and started walking in the grass like bouncing on the moon, but not as much. He had eyes like rugby balls. Some of the younger ones started to cry, and I said hush! and the black boys from the village said they're going to eat us and ran back to the schoolhouse. I wanted to run but I felt weird. He was looking at me. When I got home I had a horrible feeling inside and I kept thinking things like how all the trees will go down and there will be no air and people will be dying. It was so bad, like having a dream but I was awake. Mum asked me what's wrong and I told her about the things that came down the the man that came out. She said Isabelle but I couldn't shaking and I said We are making harm on this world and she said Isabelle stop what's wrong but I couldn't stop I just said Something's going to happen It came through my head when he looked at me It came through my conscience Something is going to happen Something is going to happen Something -- and she slapped me. And that's how it happened.
"There are four types," Seth says. "There are skeptics. They assume that what you say is wrong, until they get some proof. Bud considers himself a skeptic. He asks his questions, and he has a template he works from, something he considers really reliable, to gauge 'Well, okay, this is the truth. There's nothing to gain here.' Versus, 'This is a lie, this one's crazy.'
"Then there are the Believers. Whatever you say, whatever you show them -- it's all bullshit to them. They know already what the story is, and if you ask them, 'Well, what about this and that, you know, the Rendlesham Forest, or the 60 kids in Zimbabwe...' they said, 'I don't know that.' But they still believe it's all bullshit. They think, 'Oh, these sad people, they just want to be in front of the camera and get out of their insignificant lives for 15 minutes.' You can't shake them.
Jim Penniston, Former USAF Staff Sergeant, 81st Security Police Squadron, Joint USAF and RAF Bentwaters/Woodbridge, England Air Force Base: "As we got closer, a silhouette of an object was present and I realized at that point, it was not a conventional aircraft, meaning it was not one that was published in Jane's Defense book about aircraft. It was like no aircraft that I had ever seen."
WHAT WAS THE SHAPE?
WHEN YOU SAY TRIANGULAR, WAS IT ABSOLUTELY STRAIGHT ON THREE SIDES? OR WAS IT SWOOPY LIKE A CORVETTE? OR?
No, no, it was triangular, straight on each side.
[Sketch of triangular craft by USAF Staff Sergeant, Jim Penniston, from his December 26, 1980 investigation notes made after midnight while examining the glowing craft of unknown origin in the Rendlesham forest near the joint RAF and USAF Bentwaters AFB in Woodbridge, England.]
WHAT DID IT APPEAR TO BE MADE OUT OF?
Well, I couldn't tell at that point, but obviously I set the other airmen up to complete the radio relay because we were having awful bad static on the radios. I could barely talk to the first patrolman that I had set by the logging road. I could barely hear him. I could not hear our control center at all.
I had my notebook and my camera while I was out there because cameras were carried because of terrorism to take pictures of base encroachments. And it says what I wrote that night:
'Triangular in shape. A small amount of white light is appearing from the bottom of the craft. At the left side is a bluish light. And on the other side is red.'
Then at that time, I started taking photos. I think there were 36 in a roll. They were all B & W, that's what we carried.
WHERE DID THOSE PHOTOGRAPHS GO?
Base photo lab.
AND THE BASE PHOTO LAB PHOTOS WOULD BE IN WHOSE HANDS TODAY?
U. S. Air Force.
DID YOU TOUCH IT?
Yes, as part of the investigation. The size of it was approximately 3 meters wide by 3 meters tall -- that's approximately 9 feet.
AND WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE SURFACE THAT YOU TOUCHED?
Well, I think the fabric or the shell was -- I guess the best description would be a very smooth opaque, like black glass. I was pretty confused at that point.
WHAT DID YOU DO NEXT?
That's when it started to -- I backed away. I backed away from it because the light was starting to get brighter. There no sound. That is probably the most incredible part of this. There was absolutely no sound from this craft.
It lifted up a few feet, sort of went through the woods maybe 25 or 30 meters,
hovered momentarily, then lifted up to about 250 feet above the top of the trees and then it was literally in the blink of an eye, gone at that point.
YOU AND JOHN BURROUGHS FILED A REPORT ABOUT EXACTLY WHAT
Yeah, we kept a very sanitized -- we reported it to our Security Shift Commander, I think it was Captain Mike Verrano at the time. And we were assured by then the senior officer at Bentwaters that this information would not go outside the United States channels.
DID YOU SAY TO COL. HALT, 'I SAW IT. IT WAS TRIANGULAR. IT
SEEMED TO BE MADE...?
Oh, he was fully briefed.
DID HE SAY TO YOU ORYOU SAY TO HIM, 'WE'RE DEALING WITH AN
EXTRATERRESTRIAL CRAFT HERE?'
YOU DIDN'T DISCUSS ENTITIES?
In Philadelphia I heard it all:
We were playing barbershop so I got scissors and I nicked his head a little bit.
I always kept candy in my pocket and when I went up the stairs he tried to steal it.
My stepdad had these tapes and I watched them when he was out. That's when I started thinking about it.
He was a baby about it. I said, I didn't mean to cut you but then he started to cry. And I got mad.
I said, You can't have any candy, Maurice, but he kept grabbing around my pockets, and at my shorts.
I saw a woman lying on a table and they were strapping her hands down with these metal clamps.
I told him, You're being a big baby and he said, I'm telling Mom. So I said, I'll give you something to cry about.
He kept touching me around there and then I just stopped thinking and I grabbed his hand.
I knew something was about to happen.
Seth lit another cigarette. "The third type, they're the fanatics. They take anything you give them and say, 'Yes! I knew it.' They form cults and shit." He drags. I noticed Orion's belt, and tried to find his hands. "They're the loudest ones, you always hear them talking and it bothers the skeptics, who are trying to be logical and understand that this is really hard, it's nuanced, you can't say 'Well it's always this way or the other.'
The fourth are regular people. They don't give a shit either way. Bud think they should."
"Because it matters. You know, there are maybe 70% who are just making it up. And then there are the real crazy ones. But the rest -- they're not enjoying this. They aren't looking for a camera to talk to. They were driving somewhere, maybe with a few other friends, and suddenly they're on a different part of the same road and they feel the same, except a few hours are gone. Gone. That's what happened to Barney and Betty, back in the 60s. Something happened, they saw what they saw, felt a vibration and then it was all over. They went home.
"But Betty found powder on her dress, Barney kept checking his genitals. He couldn't explain why. Then the nightmares. Betty was on a table, they checked her teeth, her breast, they told her to lie down. They put a six inch needle in her vagina and said it was a pregnancy exam. She said it hurt until they touched her head and then she felt fine. They showed her a map of the heavens. She woke up and realized that the three hour drive that night took seven.
"The next morning a near perfect circle of warts appeared around Barney's groin."
We finished our cigarettes. We were in spring jackets, Seth's sleeves rolled up. He looked at me. "Did you ever tell those kids, 'No, you weren't raped? You're wrong, it didn't happen, get over with it?' What do you think that would do to someone? Did you know that Barney was black, that they were a mixed race couple? This was 1962. What do you think people thought? Betty became a celebrity in the community, but she didn't stop having nightmares. What would you do if you were driving and suddenly your standing next to your car, it's three hours later, and the radio's playing nothing but static? Who would you tell? And what would you expect them to say?"
"This is 1,000 times the volume of what we sort of expected to see in terms of a typical void," said Minnesota astronomy professor Lawrence Rudnick, author of the paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal. "It's not clear that we have the right word yet ... This is too much of a surprise."
Holes in the universe probably occur when the gravity from areas with bigger mass pull matter from less dense areas, Rudnick said. After 13 billion years "they are losing out in the battle to where there are larger concentrations of matter," he said.
Retired NASA astronomer Steve Maran said of the discovery: "This is incredibly important for something where there is nothing to it."