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National UFO Reporting Center
Sighting Report
Occurred : 8/15/1996 20:30 (Entered as : 08/15/96 20:30)
Reported: 1/8/2011 12:48:30 PM 12:48
Posted: 1/31/2011
Location: Beckley, WV
Shape: Other
Duration:3-4 minutes
Silent, low flying helicopter with light scanning below

In the late summer of 1996, I was walking a friend home just after dark. To give you a little insight, there was an unspoken rule among families that when the kids are out playing, when someone has to go home, one or more of the kids walk the returning child halfway home, usually to a street intersection on the main road or between the home yards. On this particular night, we chose to go from my house up the road to the intersection with her street, thus allowing more time to be out before going home.

Just before reaching the street intersection, we were both startled by bright lights scanning the woods to our right. To our immediate left were houses. As we stood and watched, the trees began to sway with leaves blowing around and enough wind to blow our hair and clothes. We continued to stand and watch and were shocked to see what appeared to be a very low flying helicopter with search lights, but it made no noise whatsoever. I have no distinct memory of the helicopter having lights on the body, other than the lights shining down. The helicopter was black or dark grey and hovering just over the tree tops, approximately 20 feet into the woods. The lights from the helicopter were scanning into the woods in a strategic pattern, going from left to right, right to left, as if searching a grid, area by area.

We stood there watching for a few more minutes before making a quick agreement to run to our respective homes as fast as possible, inform our parents, and call each other to ensure we both made it home safe.

I told my parents who offered the idea that possibly the WV State Police had sent a helicopter to search for an escaped inmate because just outside Beckley is a regional jail and a federal prison. I informed them again that this helicopter made no noise. This statement left us a bit perplexed and we decided that we would check the newspaper in the next few days to see if an inmate had, in fact, escaped and law enforcement was searching for him. In the following days there was no published news of such an event. Another idea that we discussed was that law enforcement or a military unit was doing training flights. Again, the idea was somewhat dismissed as a silent helicopter was not something known at the time, at least to us. The closest military installment is an hour away at Yeager Airport in Charleston which houses a division of the National Guard or Reserves. I'm honestly not sure which. There are no major military bases in the state.

In the area of the woods where the helicopter was flying there is an older cemetery on the mountain, just up an old and steep road a few feet from where we were standing. Beyond that, there is a portion of the woods that has been cleared to allow for power lines that run down the mountain leading to a small power station, just below Interstate 64/77. Our location is in an established subdivision and over the mountain, something you can easily walk or take a local road, is a more rural area with homes.

I have never witnessed anything similar since, though I do catch myself watching the sky still as an adult. I am now 28, college educated, and perplexed by this experience. My parents are both college graduates and they had no reasonable explanation at the time.

The girl I was with was a year younger than I was at the time and part of an Army family that had relocated to the area several months before the event. Her family was stationed here for a few years to staff the local recruiting office. Her parents had no other logical explanation beyond what my family had devised.

((NUFORC Note: Witness indicates that the date of the sighting is approximate. PD))