In August of 1979, a Deputy driving on a lonely road experienced something that has been shrouded in mystery for decades. Val Johnson's UFO incident is considered the most famous UFO case in Minnesota history. This incident deals with a close encounter of the second kind and involves, perhaps, a brief period of missing time.
On August 27th, 1979, Deputy Sheriff Val Johnson sighted a strange luminous object while on patrol at approximately 1:40 AM in Warren, Minnesota. He first noticed the object out in the distance in front of him, about 3 to 4 feet off the ground. Within a matter of seconds, the object struck his car and was inside the vehicle with him. It seems as if the strange object struck his vehicle and passed through the car while he was driving. Immediately, the car's brakes locked, and Johnson spun out of control. He remembers hearing the sound of glass shattering, which was made apparent when examining the vehicle after the incident.
Just after he and his car were struck, Val made an emergency call to report the incident. Val was dazed and confused, just the way someone might sound immediately after an accident. According to the original investigation report, Johnson called in a 10-88 (Officer Needs Helps).
Here is a direct transcript of the actual call he made that early morning:
[Operator] 407, what is your condition?
[Deputy Johnson] I don't know, something just hit my car! I don't know how to explain it. Strange!
[Operator] Are you... What's your condition? Are you ok?
[Deputy Johnson] Something attacked my car! I heard glass breaking and the brakes locked up! I don't know what's going on.
[Operator] 10-4, I'll get a hold of 406 Stephen and send them along the way.
Before this call, Val was unconscious for about 39 minutes. The car's clock and Johnson's watch stopped synchronously for a total of 14 minutes. He was left with multiple burns to his face, and his teeth were fractured at the gumline. He suffered from a minor yet painful case of welder's burn in his eyes. Undoubtedly, his squad car was struck by a solid object as numerous impact marks were left behind from the incident. The car's hood was dented, the glass of the front windshield was cracked, two spring-loaded antennas were bent in an odd manner, and one of the driver's side headlights was shattered. On the road, Johnson's car left behind skid marks as the vehicle's brakes locked upon impact. The original investigation report made by Marshall County Sheriff's Department stated the skid marks were approximately 99 feet long. According to those first on the scene, shattered glass was first found on the road about 854 feet from the beginning of the skid marks. At the end of the lengthy skid marks was Johnson's 1977 Ford LTD squad car. Due to the unusual characteristics of the damage, a crash technician specialist from the Ford motor company was sent to examine the vehicle. As a glass expert, he concluded that the shattered glass and damage were unusual in the sequence that they appeared. After examining the fractures, he said, "I'm convinced that the fractures as we see here were made by some type of a blow from outside of the glass by some firm, probably hard object, but with not sufficient force to crush the glass but enough to bend the glass to the point of breaking it. I have not seen anything like this before. They are extremely unusual."
(Val Johnson's actual squad car)
Following the incident, an investigator for the Center for UFO Studies named Allan Hendry examined the area. He studied the road and determined that what Val encountered was nothing short of otherworldly. He said, "the biggest mystery about the Val Johnson case to me is trying to find one neat explanation for something that could behave the way he described yet create the kind of damage that we analyzed and discovered."
In a 2015 news interview, Val's supervisor Deputy Dennis Brekke said, "this didn't seem to be any airplane, [the object traveled] way faster than something like that." He further said, "we do believe that our deputy had an encounter with something that we haven't been able to explain yet."
According to Dr. J. Allen Hynek's classification scale, Val Johnson's UFO incident was an encounter of the second kind since the unidentified object left behind physical evidence.
An August 2021 Minnesota news broadcast reported that Val is now living in Wisconsin and hopes that the recent coverage of the UFO phenomenon could give people a new perspective on his story. He did not want to go on record at the time.
Val's case is not as widely known as many others. Perhaps this has to do with the notion that Val has not spoken publicly about it. In a television show taped about six months after his incident Deputy Val Johnson said, "Perhaps the creator has made other things that we can't readily see or readily identified, and perhaps this is one of the things we encounter out on the road."
Two days after Val Johnson's encounter, another motorist some 400 miles away in South Dakota reported that he too encountered and was engulfed by a strange luminous object on the road. His name was Russ Johnson (no relation). The object that he sighted accelerated rapidly toward him and engulfed his car in very bright light. He claimed to have had no knowledge of Val's experience before making his report.
In the days and weeks that followed, Val Johnson's encounter was covered in newspapers all around the United States. Eventually, however, Val became reluctant to talk about the experience. It has been that way ever since.
Initially, after the incident and in the months that followed, Val and his family were swarmed by the media on a daily basis. Reporters and investigators from all over the world wanted to hear about Val's incident. Val and his wife eventually grew tired of the attention as they tried to get past the incident and move on with their daily lives. After all, they had three young children at the time. However, before Val ceased talking about his incident, he made an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America in September of 1979 alongside comedian Don Rickles.
For nearly four decades, Val has not spoken in a public capacity about it. He believes that what he encountered on that lone Minnesota road in 1979 can be attributed to a religious occurrence. He doesn't believe that the object that struck him and his patrol car was extraterrestrial.
(Newspaper clippings of the Val Johnson UFO incident)
Val's car, perhaps the single most crucial piece of evidence regarding this case, has been preserved and displayed at the Marshall County Historical Society Museum in Warren, Minnesota. By at least November of 1979, just months after the incident, newspapers had already reported that the car would be placed in a museum. At the time of the incident, Val's 1977 Ford LTD squad car had an accumulated mileage of 80,000 miles. It is unlikely that it has been driven too frequently since the incident.
Johnson's original reports state that the object he encountered was round and about 8 to 12 inches in diameter. It was described as a bright luminous object. It made no sound as it moved through his vehicle at an incredible rate of speed. Although Val has spoken very little about it, he believes it may have been akin to a religious phenomenon.