President Truman demanded answers: did the US government have another Roswell on their hands? Why were flying saucers interested in the tiny North Dakota town of Woodworth? Several hundred people had seen the wreckage: could this “incident” be contained?

A note from Jack and Kitty…
Today on our travel blog we continue our “Weird Wednesdays” series called “Mystery in the North Dakota Skies”. In this weekly episodic blog series we explore UFO sightings, aliens and unusual extraterrestrial encounters in the Peace Garden State…and highlight 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 focusing on a UFO sighting in Woodworth, North Dakota.

“We just wanted to see what would happen,” said Oscar Cellemer.

A simple enough explanation for a complex web of lies Cellemer and five other Woodworth, North Dakota men perpetrated one hot summer evening on July 11, 1947.

Cellemer and his accomplices spent Thursday evening building a “flying saucer”. They snuck over to good old Bert Miller’s lawn and “planted” the mystery disc where it was discovered by a panicking Mrs. Miller early the next morning.

By breakfast time, the entire town was standing in front of the Miller’s home: gawking at the crashed craft.

The Bismarck Tribune newspaper sent their best reporter out to Woodworth to cover the history event. Before lunch several hundred visitors had flocked to the small town of about two hundred residents (today there’s just under forty). Some visitors arrived by foot, others via car and several in planes which landed in nearby fields (much to the chagrin of local farmers). 

A UFO Sighting in Woodworth, North Dakota?

By noon, Washington DC came calling!

The United States Army officially contacted the Woodworth Mayor. 

Soon, President Truman demanded answers: did the US government have another Roswell on their hands?

The event in Woodworth happened at the height of the “flying saucer craze” which took place in the summer of 1947. The craze was ushered in by Kenneth Arnold’s story of seeing a formation of nine flying saucers whizzing past Mount Rainier at speeds the pilot estimated were well over 1,200 miles an hour (1,932 km/hr).

A week or two after Arnold’s saucer sighting, the incident in Roswell, New Mexico took place. Because of these two major news events, over the course of the next few weeks, there were nearly a thousand “copycat” saucer sightings reported. But it was rare for the United States government to receive reports of crashed UFOs…even rarer for an entire small town to surround a downed saucer, gawking at the wreckage. 

When word of Truman’s call came in, Cellemer and the other pranksters knew it was obviously time to come clean: they quickly admitted the hoax.

Time to Come Clean

Oscar Cellemer and his friends William Clark, John Wingire, Palmer Hanson and Lester Thompson admitted (through bursts of awkward laughter) that they had worked until midnight to craft their vision of a flying saucer.

Newspapers reported that the crafty pranksters used: “the bottom of a washtub, a lamp shade, some old tubes and wiring from weather observing equipment, some strands of human hair and miscellaneous electrical equipment. The propeller turned out to be the fan blades of an automobile heater. They lettered ‘X441’ on its side.”

And that, my friends, was all it took to raise the eyebrows of the US Government in 1947!

Deputy Sheriff Don Johnson told newspaper reporters that, “the miscellaneous equipment was assembled cleverly.” After his inspection he added that the saucer was covered with several layers of thick silver paint.

Shortly after their confession, the newspaper reporters left town. Visitors drove away. Locals joked about the prank throughout the summer and life returned to normal…or as normal as things could be during the Flying Saucer Craze of 1947.

What did you think of this story about a A UFO sighting in Woodworth, 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.

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