(This is a joint investigation by Bruce Maccabee and Eric Byler of Oregon UFO Research,
A NICE DAY IN FLORENCE,OREGON
But, WAIT! What's, THAT...!??
There have been numerous reports over the years of red (and other color) balls/spheres/orbs
moving through the sky or near the ground. Most (or all?) of those are evening or nighttime
reports when the red color of a glowing object would be obvious. This, however, is different.
It seems to be a "breakthrough" sighting of a red sphere, complete with a picture taken in the
NOTE: it is assumed throughout this discussion that the object/phenomenon was 3
dimensional and not just a flat circular glow of light.
The story goes as follows:
On October 8 I received the following email message from Eric Byler (lightly edited):
I just got back from an investigation at the coast where I got the picture you see here along
with the negatives. I am still working on the report and have to make one more follow up call
with him to clarify something, but the long and short of it is that the photographer is a 74
year old man of half white, half American Indian heritage by the name of Ron Mossholder. He
lives alone with a rather large Doberman in a very nice home on the coast of Oregon in a small
town named Florence.
Ron spends a lot of time working in his yard and it looks quite good. On the day of the
picture, he was out with his camera, a Canon EOS Rebel X S with a Canon zoom lens EF 28-105mm
1:3.5 - 4.5, using 35mm 400 film. It is a very nice camera that he chooses to keep on automatic
for the simplicity of pointing and shooting. He had already made a number of pictures when he
approached the plants you see in this picture.
According to his testimony, as he was looking through the view finder and was about to shoot,
this red image appeared in his view finder. He quickly hit the shutter button and dropped the
camera to see what this was. He estimated the object as being a couple feet wide and glowing
like fire with an outer lighter glow that emanated like a heat wave. He pointed out however
that as close as he was, only a few feet away, he could feel no heat. He thought this was odd.
After a few seconds, the object began to slowly rise until it reached tree level which is
quite high as you can see in the picture. The whole time he was just watching in awe thinking,
"what in the hell is this?" Then he realized, hey, take another picture. He brought the camera
up to began lining it up with the object when it did a 90 degree turn and shot away from the
house traveling west towards the ocean. He immediately took the film to have the pictures
developed to see if he indeed had got the object on film. I have checked out the negatives and
the package with the number of pictures that were developed and is does appear that he stopped
taking pictures in his yard by the time he got to the picture in question. My thought is, if
this were just a reflection of some sort on the lens then it probably would have only shown up
when the pictures were developed and he would have continued taking pictures. The fact that he
did indeed stop taking pictures at number ten (the roll goes backward from 24 to 1) and then
developed the pictures, tells me that he may have indeed seen something of a nature that points
away from a simple lens reflection and is consistent with his story.
I spent some time in the house with Ron and I found him very easy to talk with. Ron is a big
man but soft spoken. His house is very nice with lots of reference to his heritage seen in the
art work on his walls. He has three WW2 medals of honor permanently displayed on a side table.
A wall in another room has a number of framed certificates of achievements and education showing
his many accomplishments over the years.
In his main den where we talked there was a large volume of books on shelves. I saw no books
pertaining to UFO material but many were related to American Indian heritage
Ron does not have a computer for internet access but does have basic television.
He has no idea what he saw. He did contact the police who came over and took a report. The
following day he says he talked to the assistant fire chief while in town and he (the chief)
mentioned hearing of a similar report on his scanner that day but remembers it as being on 24th
street, rather than 23rd where Ron lives. I am following up on this. I did contact the state
police who reports that they have had similar reports like this over the past few months in
other parts of the coast but did not elaborate. This is being followed up on as well.
I wrote to Eric,
That is very interesting.... BECAUSE he claims to have seen the object. One wonders why he
didn't notice it before he pointed the camera at the flowers. Did it suddenly "appear" just
before he took the photo?
To which Eric responded:
Thats what he says. He walked me through the yard showing me the direction he was going as he
was taking pictures and we were heading right for the area we see in the picture so he really
should have seen it if it were there previous to lifting the camera. He says that he noticed it
for the first time in the view finder while centering things to take the shot, quickly hit the
button and lowered the camera to see what it was.
I then pointed out that his camera had a good depth of focus since all the images from the
closest to the furthest seemed to be in good focus. I suggested a standard test for calibrating
a photo (or video) to determine the angular size of the field of view:
You could stand where he was and use his camera to zoom in until you get the same foreground and
background features in the frame. The effective focal length or the angular size as a function
of image size could then be determined by the "yardstick at 30 ft" method: photograph a
yardstick 30 ft away from the camera with the yardstick perpendicular to the line of sight from
the camera to the yardstick.
Instead of this test, the diameter (width) of the circular garden was measured and found to be
about 12 feet while the distance of the camera from the garden was about 10 feet away from the
camera, measured horizontally. The camera was about 5 1/2 above the ground (eye height). Hence
the distance of the camera from the edge of the garden was about 11 1/2 ft. If the glowing
sphere was at the edge of the garden as it appears to be, then its actual size was proportional
to the diameter of the garden multiplied by the size of the image of the sphere divided by the
width of the image of the garden.
Eric also wrote:
I squatted at the spot where the object appeared to be in the photo. Based on the apparent
position of the object close to both the ground and bush and his estimate (he put his hands at
the spot and said, "it was about this big right here") it appears that the brightest part of the
glowing ball was about 2 feet in diameter. The fainter outer glow appears to be about twice
In the photo the outer diameter of the red glow is about 1/3 the diameter of the image of the
garden so its actual size was about 1/3 of 12 ft = about 4 ft. The diameter of the inner,
brighter red region is about 1/2 of that or about 2 ft, which is consistent with Ron's estimate,
which was documented over a month before this calculation was done. The following illustration
is simply a blowup of the garden and sphere.
The following picture shows discrete brightness levels to make the extent and structure of the
red sphere image more obvious (the blowup picture was "posterized"):
The above size estimates assume that the red glowing sphere was at the distance of the garden.
If it had been closer to the camera it would have been smaller in proportion, i.e., if at 1/2
the distance, then it was 1/2 the size. If we had only the photo to go on we wouldn't be able
to determine the distance and hence determine the approximate size. However, it seems
reasonable to accept Ron's testimony that it was at or close to the garden which means that, at
the very least, this glowing sphere was several feet in size.
For comparison, here is a non-UFO photo also showing a ball:
I made the following comment:
As for what the red "ball" might be, I don't know.... but there certainly have been plenty
of night time reports of red objects moving through the sky. This may be the only daylight
photo of such a thing, supposing it isn't a hoax.
to which Eric responded:
As well, we have had reports of red balls coming and going out of lakes in
this coastal area over the past few years.
Other repeated red orb sightings have occurred numerous times on the Toppenish area of
Washington near Yamika and Hessdalen in Sweden, but these have been nighttime sightings.
I asked if there was a witness report in his own words. Eric responded:
Here is the report in Rons own words. I felt from our conversation that he used the word
fireball as a description of what it "looked like" rather than what he thought it was...that it
wasn't in fact burning.
Occurred : 9/6/2001 10:30 (Entered as : 09/06/01 10:30 am)
Reported : 9/9/2001 13:20
Posted : 9/24/2001
Location : Florence, OR
Shape : Circle
Bright red fire ball in front yard
While taking photos in my yard a bright red burning ball of fire appeared in
my camera lens. I lowered the camera and no more than 10 feet from me was a
ball approximately two feet in diameter; with an outer glow that extended it
to about 3 feet. The shape was almost a perfect circle. I did not feel any
heat irradiating from the ball, yet it was burning bright red and emitting
heat waves. It remained about 20 seconds, then started to rise vertically,
very slowly to about 60 feet, where it remained motionless for a short
period. It then made a 90 degree turn and then accelerated out of site. I
have a color photo of this event. I called the police to report it and they
had another report of a fire ball a block away.
Eric sent copies of the photo to both me and Jeff Sainio, MUFON photoanalyst.
We had some discussion over whether or not this could be a lens flare or a light leak. Although
Jeff thought it possible that there was some light leak, neither explanation seemed reasonable
to me. I didn't think it was a lens flare because the photo was taken in a downward direction,
the sun was not in the photo nor was it illuminating the lens. Moreover, the lack of distinct
shadows and the uniform whiteness of the sky suggest an overcast condition in which the sun
could not be directly seen. An obscured sun would not likely produce a lens flare even if it
were in the picture..
Also, the coloration and image shape seemed wrong. Off axis lens flares caused by round light
sources like the sun cause oddly shaped images, generally not round, and the color of the flare
is basically that of the source. Only if the photo had been taken roughly toward the unobscured
sun at sunrise or sunset (red sun on the horizon) would I consider a this red sphere image to
possibly be a lens flare. (The photo was taken at 10:30 AM when the sun was well above the
horizon.) A light leak seems even less likely since none of the other photos were similarly
Of course, neither a flare image or a light leak would have been seen by Ron when he lowered his
camera to look directly toward the garden. If there had been nothing there it seems unlikely
that he would have stopped taking photos. The previous photos indicate a definite intent to
systematically dlocument (photograph) his gardens and landscaping. Yet this systematic program
was interrupted and 9 pictures were left unexposed so that he could have the film immediately
Eric continued his investigation:
I contacted 10 different Photo shops today about the camera negative direction situation with
Rons picture... turns out they all know how the Canon EOS Rebel X S works and were in agreement
that this camera in fact rolls all of the film to the other end of the roll, as my own camera
does, and begins taking pictures at what is referred to as 24 on the negative itself...in other
words, number 24 was the first picture he took and number 10 was in fact the last.
There has also been some concern as to whether in fact this is a lens flair as many of us,
including myself, were concerned it may be. It was noted to me by these photo shops that, in
fact, almost all pictures containing lens flair also show signs of "tracer" type flair traveling
from the light source (the sun in one corner of the picture) down to the reflection itself. You
hardly ever find a source of light at one corner of the photo and the flair at the total other
end of the picture without some sort of image of light or circles leading to the flair.
I in fact looked at some 50 flair images on the net today and found no images where the sun or
light source was at one end and the flair at the other with nothing in between, as is the case
with our picture.
These findings do seem to help bolster this mans claims and make one question why he would stop
taking pictures at number 10, get all excited and go down and immediately develop the
pictures...simply because of a flash of reflection during picture taking.
Still following up on the extra witness possibility but have got nothing back yet.
I have looked at no less than 50 pictures on the internet and I, too, don't
think this is lens flair. I agree with your reasons why and add that I have
found very few that don't have "tracer" type images somewhere along the path
between the light source and the main reflected image. The Florence picture
has some brightness up left indicating the sun is off to the left somewhere,
but then nice clear image of the yard right down to the red spot...no other
images between the sun and the image, very rare (I haven't found one yet).
Jeff Sainio did get back to me and he finds only two possibilities;
1) That the witness is telling the truth and we have an image that was there
and can not be explained...or,
2) That the witness allowed light into the camera somehow, such as would be
the case if, after taking picture number 10, opened the camera up, exposing
1-9 and partially exposing number 10 in the process.
And I believe that the characteristic color of light-leaks is due to
passage of the light through another layer of film, which is the color
in question. This implies some other part of the film should be
leaked-on, which is unknown. There are more ways to accidentally
expose film than I can imagine, so I won't go there. The image is
so consistent with a double-exposure of stray light; bad focus,
no blockage of background, that I'm reluctant to put much faith in
the physical evidence.
Eric commented on Jeff's suggestion:
There is no indication that this (opening the camera) happened, as is indicated in his testimony.
Jeff suggested that the red circular image could have been created if Ron partially opened the
camera, AFTER taking the photo, and thereby exposed to lower corner of the film to some red
light, essentially making a double exposure (hence the "transparent" nature of the red image). I
think it highly unlikely that opening the camera could cause a circular image. Furthermore this
hints at a hoax because how else would one explain the opening of the camera in the presence of
a red light? It certainly wouldn't be an "accident."
Eric contined the investigation:
It seems to me that if any light got into the camera, and particularly in this one
picture only, that the damage to the negative would have been more wide
spread than just this rather uniform circle.
If you would have met him Bruce, I think you would have had a really good
impression from him.
Here is some info on the red orb situation from our part of the world as shared by team member
Jim Doerter of Ashland.
From what I have read, Orange, yellow, amber, gold, white and blue lights have been around for
quite a while and are a puzzlement. The easiest out is to say they are St. Elmo's fire or ball
lightning. Another more general way to describe them is that they are super heated energy made
up of electrically charged plasma. Persinger attributes them to the stresses in geological
faults and claims his experiments have manufactured such tiny balls of "look-a-likes" in the
lab. Sometimes they have been seen around the world just prior to an earthquake.....but that is
The problems with the above scientific answers is that many of these balls of light do behave
in a very natural
[perhaps he meant unnatural]
way and often show what seems to be
independent flight...they are seen doing rather idiosyncratic things like splitting into parts,
emerging and plunging into lakes or mountains from time to time.
The Yakama area (Indians now prefer that spelling to Yakima) is a famous place for these balls
of light and Akers still studies them with magnetometers of his own variation. There are also
the famous Marfa lights and orbs have been seen around the big megalithic monuments like Avebury
and other sites in England. Sometimes seen at crop circles (very rarely I understand).
Continuing the investigation, Eric wrote:
Nov 15, 2001
On the day that I visited Ron, I examined the photo packet that contained the pictures and
negatives. I noticed that negs 1 thru 9 were missing from the packet and asked where they were
as I was hoping to look at both pictures before and after the red ball picture to see if
anything showed up. It was at this time that he explained that he had stopped taking pictures
after taking the one in question and could only guess that the reason that negs 1-9 were not
present was because they must have been left on the developers cutting room floor.
I, too, have had rolls of film developed in the past that were not all used up and have had some
developers leave out those unused strips from the packet, while others have left them in, so I
thought this as a reasonable possibility. You probably already new this too, but Ron's camera
is the kind that transfers all of the film into the can before any pictures are taken, thus the
first picture to be taken shows up as number 24 on the negatives.
With the absence of 1-9, either negs or pictures, present in the pack when I examined them, I
thought it reasonable to assume that a motive to stop taking pictures at number 10 was present
as most of us want to get our moneys worth out of a roll of film by finishing it before
developing. If in fact he had seen something unusual through the view finder and had taken a
picture of it I can understand that he might want to stop photographing and get the film
developed. On the other hand, if this was a leak of light onto the negatives from some other
source I doubt he would have known it was happening and would have had no reason to discontinue
taking pictures of his yard that morning.
He explained that there is a manual button on the camera that lets you finish winding the rest
of the roll which he used before removing the film for developing.
There is another picture from another area of the yard, but you can see this island where the
orb showed up off in the distance as he was facing in that direction. All of the pictures in
that roll were in his yard outside his house and you could tell from the sequence that
he was indeed making his way around the yard that morning taking pictures as he went.
Ron was on the Jeff Rense show with Peter Davenport on the night of November 13.
Click on November 13th.
I asked Eric to check up on the possibility of other witnesses, as mentioned by Ron. He wrote:
No other sightings were reported to us. However, there were a number of
other sightings reported to Peter from a number of other areas in the US on
the same day.
Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center wrote:
I made a radio appearance with Eric and Ron Mossholder and there is some
disagreement as to the existence of the (alleged) second witness.
Ron stated that he talked to a Assistant Chief (retired??) in the Florence,
OR, fire department, who recounted that he had heard over a radio scanner a
police report about a citizen on "24th street," who had reported a similar
event to what Ron had seen.
Eric thinks that either the person either did not hear the report correctly,
or the police reported the wrong street. In any event, Eric could not find
any convincing evidence regarding the second witness. I think the evidence
for a second witness is ambiguous, at this point.
Apparently there was no other witness to the exact object/phenomenon seen by Ron Mossholder.
So, What Was It?
There are only two basic possibilities: a hoax or the "real thing," whatever the
real thing might be. It couldn't be an accident of the photography (accidental light
leak or a lens flare that was noticed after the photo was developed) since Ron claimed that he
actually saw the object.
It seems extremely unlikely that a man who is a war veteran and greatly interested in
American Indian affairs, but with no obvious interest in UFOs, etc., would suddenly, at age 74,
decide tell the police and UFO investigators that he had a daylight photo of a "ball of fire."
Certainly there are people who might do such a thing, if they thought of it, but those people
would likely have a history of practical jokes, pranks, etc. behind them (or might have
Moreover, what hoaxer would think of it? Previous reports and photos have shown orbs or lights
at night. I am not aware of a daytime picture of a self-luminous, red or orange (or other
color) orb at such a short range. (I am aware of a video from Gulf Breeze, Florida, of a moving
yellow or orange object/orb, taken in the late 1980's. But the object was so far from the
camera that its actual shape could not be determined from the image.) Usually glowing orbs
reported to be noticeably above the ground or silhouetted against the sky. For a hoaxer to
claim that he has photographed a red orb silhouetted against the ground would be, so far as I
know, totally unique. I therefore assign a very, very low probability to the hoax hypothesis.
The dyed-in-the-wool skeptic would say that this sighting and photo MUST be a hoax, there is no
other reasonable explanation. (Note: said skeptic occasionally pulls his head up out of the
sand and looks around.... but quickly replaces his head in order to retain a semblance of
sanity in a chaotic world.)
But if real......
RON'S BURNING BUSH?
If real, this is a breakthrough photo. The transparency of the red glow, allowing the ground
and leaves, etc., to be visible right through it, means that this orb, and by inference other
such orbs, are really non-massive objects.
One wonders, could an electric discharge within the atmosphere create such a glow by stimulating
the air to emit red light? A typical "glowing atmosphere color" is that of excited nitrogen,
whitish-blue or pale violet ("lightning color" or the color of the corona around a high voltage
electrode). To produce red light from the atmosphere requires selective electronic stimulation
of oxygen and nitrogen to pick out the "red lines" in the spectra of the excited (but not
necessarily ionized) gases. (These spectral lines are generally seen in low pressure
discharges, not at atmospheric pressure.)
Granted that there might be a way that the proper stimulating electric field could cause a
small volume of the atmosphere to glow red, there is no apparent reason that the atmosphere would be
stimulated to glow in this way. What electrical stimulation system could exist? Dr. Michael
Persinger and co-workers have suggested that mechanical stress in the earth can, through the
phenomenon of piezoelectricity, create high frequency oscillations in a local electric field
that might stimulate the atmosphere to emit. Such stresses may presage earthquakes. One might
consider this as a (remote) possibility if the red glow had remained stationary. However, one
wonders how earth stresses could account for the reported motion of the orb, first lazily upward
and then laterally at high speed.
If the red glow did NOT result from stimulation of the atmpospheric gases, then one must assume
that the red glow came from some sort of material that was itself a source of light without
being opaque. Material? Where did it come from? What sort of glowing material could this be,
that suddenly appears in our universe and then moves about, willy nilly doing its own thing,
only occasionally being observed (and once photographed in daylight) by occupants of this
universe? Could the red glow have been caused by "something" penetrating our spacetime from
another, higher dimensional spacetime?
While looking at this photo and trying to imagine what it was like looking directly at the glow
I am reminded of the "bush that was burning and yet not consumed by the flame." I always
thought that Moses' description could be explained as an electrical discharge described as "St.
Elmo's Fire," a not uncommon phenomenon, often associated with electrical storms. I saw it once
after an electrical storm.... a pale bluish glow up in a tree. How did it get there? I don't
know. (I wonder if there is a really convincing explanation of St. Elmo's fire.) But I do know
that I didn't have the impression that the tree was burning. After all, there was no heat and
the color of the glow was not the color of burning material. But now suppose several thousand
years ago a man had seen Ron's Red Glow silhouetted against a bush. The observer might well
describe the scene as the bush burning, yet not being consumed.
Shakespeare had it right: there's a lot of strange stuff... out there.... and we are aware of
only some of it.
Or, as the Sci Fi channel says: "Sci Fi Happens."