Eclipse was a time for UFO landing site, wingnuts

Bill Sniffin, Guest Columnist
Posted 9/22/17

Bill Sniffin column for Sept. 22, 2017

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Eclipse was a time for UFO landing site, wingnuts


Is it any wonder that a place as wondrous and unique as Wyoming would be the site 40 years ago for the filming of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind?”

We traveled across the state last week in a grand loop which took us to Devils Tower, the country’s first national monument, which was the reason that movie was filmed there.

This tower, called Bear Lodge by the Indians, is just plain odd.  It looks like a giant tree trunk (made of hardened lava) that juts out of the ground to over 800 feet high in the middle of the Wyoming Black Hills.  

It was the country’s first national monument back in 1912. And of course a huge Facebook rumor went out this year where it was claimed that archeologists discovered it really was a tree trunk with petrified roots deep underground. Alas, not true. 

But first, let me tell you about our latest road trip around the state. Our drive took us through Wind River Canyon to Thermopolis and Worland and over the Big Horn Mountains to Buffalo and Gillette before getting to Devils Tower. Our trip home was through Hulett, Moorcroft, Gillette, Wright, Casper, Shoshoni and Riverton. 

That route took me through some of the best viewing areas of the recent solar eclipse.  

Melissa Neylon, who works at the Washakie Museum and Culture Center in Worland, was at Boysen for the eclipse and said 39,000 cars were counted all over the park.

Wyoming native Alan O’Hashi, who made a video on Vimeo about the eclipse, said Glendo hit that magic number of 50,000 people which they were expecting for the eclipse.

I’m not sure if Shoshoni got the 40,000 visitors they were expecting, but they did get something permanent about the event.

At the extreme northeast part of town is a unique monument built by some odd visitors who build these things where eclipse epicenters are located. The only other one is in Namibia, Africa.

A fringe group with some serious money behind it built this edifice. Members believe there are actually two moons and during an eclipse, an alternate universe comes into play. The group is headed by Eames Demetrios of Greece and quite a little group gathered at the Shoshoni site during the eclipse. We don’t think they tore their clothes off or sacrificed any animals during the event, but based on seeing this concoction of strange objects — well, they must have had a really good time.

One of Wyoming’s greatest photographers is Dewey Vanderhoff of Cody, and he was telling me about this site and he provided some of this research on it. 

He also took some wonderful eclipse photos from his vantage point in Shoshoni.

Dewey was also impressed by the bumper-to-bumper traffic from Shoshoni to Casper. Here is how he described it:

“Try to imagine a solid caravan of cars all the way from Shoshoni to Casper and beyond after the eclipse. This is 100 miles of unbroken, solid traffic. If each car is a dot and the space between them a dash, it spelled out SOS over and over again. Allowing for a generous average of 50 feet per vehicle, that works out to 10,560 cars at any one time during the mass exodus from Wyoming.” The real total was probably much more than this as it went on all afternoon and early evening.  

Huge numbers of people left the next day, which were not included in the record counts compiled by the Wyoming Department of Transpiration.

Also on the list of eclipse oddities, there was the report of a man jumping off a cliff in central Wyoming at an abandoned uranium open pit mine.  

Apparently there was water in the bottom, but he missed and scratched the heck out of himself. Luckily, a passer-by saw the leap and called 9-1-1.

Meanwhile, the partying continued back at Devils Tower as they celebrated the 40th anniversary of the famous movie. Among the contests was one to see who could make the best replica of the tower out of mashed potatoes. Now that could be a real test. 

With the country and the world focused on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida, there really is not much interest in what is happening here in Wyoming. But I thought it important to document some of the oddball events that have been going on here. 

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