In April 1950 the idea of “flying saucers” was still a relatively new one, especially in North Dakota. New Mexico’s Roswell Incident had occurred a few years before – in 1947 – and had gotten the nation a bit saucer crazed. Even so, folks from the Peace Garden State were still getting used to the idea of unidentified flying objects flying overhead. This is the story of a UFO sighting in Mandan, North Dakota.
A note from Jack and Kitty…
Today on our travel blog we launch a new “Weird Wednesdays” series called “Mystery in the North Dakota Skies”. In this weekly episodic blog series we’ll be exploring UFO sightings, aliens and unusual extraterrestrial encounters in the Peace Garden State…and highlighting the people and places where these strange events occurred. Visit us every Wednesday for a new chapter…to find out just what the heck is going on in the skies above North Dakota. Today we’re telling the story of a UFO sighting in Mandan, North Dakota.
In April 1950 the idea of “flying saucers” was still a relatively new one, especially in North Dakota. New Mexico’s Roswell Incident had occurred a few years before – in 1947 – and had gotten the nation a bit saucer crazed. Even so, folks from the Peace Garden State were still getting used to the idea of unidentified flying objects flying overhead.
Bismarck residents were understandably shocked to wake up to the local newspaper headline which declared: “Hold everything, folks, Bismarck’s got a flying saucer story, too!”
Flying Saucer over Liberty Memorial Bridge
The story is officially one of the earliest mysteries in the skies over NoDak.
The paper continued: “Yep, one of those shining disks that have confused the nation and confounded the experts for the past couple of years was reported spotted here Wednesday morning!”
Apparently three Grand Forks high school students all spotted the unidentified flying object around 10:25 AM one cool spring morning in April 1950. The young men were identified as: John Thorgrimsen (age 18), Gene Schere (age 17) and Bob Lampman (age 18). All three of the boys had the same story: they saw a strange flying disc circling above the Liberty Memorial Bridge. They had been driving from Mandan to Bismarck across the historic bridge which spanned the Missouri River.
“I thought it was going to land on the Missouri River!”
The Liberty Memorial Bridge is historically significant. It was built in 1920 and cost nearly two million dollars to complete. It connected the “twin cities” of Bismarck and Mandan, marking the first time eastern and western North Dakota where connected by a continuous roadway. The bridge would also prove to be the final link in the chain of coast-to-coast roads later designated as U.S. Highway 10.
Gene Schere was the first to spot the mystery in the skies.
“I was driving the car and I happened to look out across the trees and there it was – real shiny. At first it appeared to be standing still.”
In interviews at the time, John Thorgrimsen added: “I thought it was going to land on the river!”
The three high schoolers all said that they watched the disc for about ten seconds before it started to move, “leaving little swirls behind it.”
Gene: “It circled around a bit and then headed off south and east.”
One of the boys added: “it was going really fast!”
Gene continued, “there was a repair crew of some sort working on the bridge and we tried to get the man who was flagging down cars to look at the saucer. He evidently thought we were kidding him, though, as he just flagged us on.”
The Bismarck Tribune managed to track down that flagman and he corroborated the boys’ story. “I remember the boys stopping and saying something about flying saucers but I was too busy directing traffic here to stop and look.”
It Remains a Mystery…
The young men said the saucer was floating about 2,000 feet above. All three described the craft as “shaped like a discus that is used in track”.
Bob Lampman provided further details. “There weren’t any markings on it and we couldn’t see anyone in it. If we had a camera we could have snapped a picture of it.”
The boys all said they didn’t believe in “flying saucers stories”…but after their close encounter they weren’t so certain.
The local airport and police both claimed no calls had been received about a flying saucer. In fact, the airport rebuffed the boys’ story saying what they had seen was vapor trails from a C-47 airplane which had landed around the same time.
The three young men all scoffed at this explanation: what they saw was not an airplane, nor its vapor trails. What it was, however, remains a mystery to this day.
What did you think of our story of a UFO sighting in Mandan, North Dakota? Let us know in the comments!
This article is an excerpt from the forthcoming book “Mystery in the North Dakota Skies: UFO Sightings, Aliens and Unusual Extraterrestrial Encounters in the Peace Garden State” by Jack Norton. This blog is reader supported. If you’d like to help us out, please consider becoming a Patreon or visit the “Support” section on our Contact page if you’d like to send a one-time gift. This article and all supporting images (unless otherwise noted) are copyright © 2023 by Jack Norton and Kitty Norton.
About the Authors
Jack and Kitty Norton are Emmy Award winning travel experts. They have spent a lifetime on the road: as traveling musicians, documentary filmmakers and television producers. They now focus on writing for their travel blog (JackAndKitty.com) and making fun videos for their YouTube channel. Jack and Kitty offer travelers fun and quirky things to do in Minnesota, the Midwest and beyond. High school sweethearts turned married soulmates, the couple lives in the small college town of Winona, Minnesota and would love to have you over for some hotdish.