As a youth, I grew up near a radar facility that looked like this one in Alaska, but the facility near where I lived was in the hills of northcentral Pennsylvania and it had long since been abandoned by the military. You could see the radar dome, or “golf ball,” as the locals called it, for miles around, even in the next county where I lived, and everybody and their grandmother had a theory that it was still in operation. Mostly the theories revolved around the Air Force using it for a radar facility for UFOs, hence the Men In Black. Occasionally, locals would say they also had seen black choppers hovering in the skies in the county where the facility was located.
After college, I got a job as a intern at a daily newspaper in my home county. I pitched the idea to my editor to visit the facility and see really what was going on there, if nothing else but to debunk the myths the locals had been perpetuating for years. After he agreed, for which I’m forever grateful because technically the facility was on the fringes of the paper’s coverage area, I contacted the Job Corps center, which was on the same property as the dome, to see who could tell me about it.
The folks there put me in contact with the National Weather Service, who still had a radar system in operation in the dome at the time. A National Weather Service meteorologist met me at the base of the “golf ball” and then gave me a tour of the building. The tour included showing me the “inner sanctum”, where there were rows and rows of outdated weather equipment, mostly unused, like this:
He told me the facility was used rarely nowadays, except for a backup when other facilities were having problems. When I told him about what some locals thought of the site, he said at one time the Air Force did have missile silos on the site in the 1960s during the Cold War. However, since then, he said the missiles had been removed and the silos filled in. The facility once also had housed a small contingent of soldiers but no longer did, he said.
After going to the site, during which I took photos to document the visit and include with the story, I went to a general store in the village at the bottom of the mountain where the “golf ball” was. I tried to talk to an employee at the store, maybe even the owner although I’ll never know since she refused to give me her name, saying:
“For all I know, you could be working for THEM.”
Or something to that effect. (I since have received a similar response when, as a correspondent for another paper, I went to a Tea Party protest in the county where I live now and asked one of the protesters there with a sign for a quote. “How do I know you’re not one of THEM?” he asked.) The woman at the store also said she didn’t believe that the facility was no longer operational as a military installation, that
“The guv’rnment is still hiding something up there on that mountain that they don’t want us to know about.”
And then she spit a wad of chewing tobacco at my feet and shut the door on my face, or so I remember it in my mind’s eye.
No way could I not use that quote, so when I wrote up the story, I included it, as “said by a woman who asked not to be identified.” I don’t remember if I included the part about the chewing tobacco, probably not because where I grew up, chewing tobacco was as sacred as a cow was to an Indian. After all, you don’t spit into the wind, so to speak.
To this day, I consider that one of my favorite stories that I ever had the chance to write as a newspaper reporter.
Next post: Not a conspiracy theory related post, but one on a survey I received from the American Red Cross but my wife inexplicably didn’t. I’ll explain then what I mean by then. Stay tuned — and later this week, a post on, the subject of newspapers again, a new newspaper in our town that you have to see to believe. Also when leaving comments, please leave a link to your blog at the end of the comment. I’m working on getting a new comment system, but until then, feel free to leave a link to your blog or even your latest post.