By Stephen D. Bowling
Gene Bays never changed his story. He told it for more than fifty-five years and never altered his description of the events. It was a strange and unusual story that was hard for many to believe. Many around Jackson dismissed it as an overactive imagination, but other witnesses saw the same object.
In the fall of 1961, twelve-year-old Gene Bays had a hair-raising experience. “I remember I was frozen and paralyzed. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I could not speak,” Bays said in an interview in the late 1990s. “I have got to get out of here, I thought, but I could not do anything.”
The encounter happened one evening following a Boy Scouts meeting at the Methodist Church on College Avenue. According to Bays’ account, he and a friend were walking home up Highland Avenue. Bays carried his Boy Scout book and a short section of rope that he used to practice knots at the meeting. He had been working for several weeks to complete his knot requirement for the Scouts and had finally earned his rope requirement that evening.
“I was happy and we were talking and laughing as Butch and I walked along in front of the (Jackson City) school,” Bays said in the interview. “It was a good night.” His friend Butch turned down Lincoln Avenue and the two said their goodbyes and headed home at about 8:30 p.m. Then he saw it.
Bays said that he took about two steps and saw a bright, circular object in the sky that he initially thought was the moon rising over Picnic Hill. “It was about the size of a ping pong ball and I had seen the moon come up there lots of times.” Bays said. “Then, it started getting coming toward me.”
The craft started moving closer. According to his vivid recollection, the object was silver, metallic, and about the size of a vehicle. The unidentified flying object crossed Bridge Hollow at a fast rate of speed and came under the telephone wires on Highland Avenue. Bays said that the object “looked like two plates stacked together with a cup on the top.” The center portion of the ship had a row of windows around the base where it was attached to the ship. These large, square windows appeared to rotate with lights colored red, orange, and yellow.
“It sounds corny and impossible,” Bays said. “I looked right at it as it dipped toward me at about a thirty-degree angle and I was only about twenty-five feet away.” The craft did not make a sound but he felt “a static electric field.”
Bays said that he remembered that he “noticed that he was just standing there” with his Scout book and rope in his hand. After a few seconds, he noticed that the little finger on his left hand was moving. He threw the book and rope into the air and dived under a car that was parked on the street.
As he rolled under the car, Bays saw a bright beam of light come out of the ship and hit the Scout Book as it flew through the air. He watched as the book tumbled and hit the ground. The aircraft moved across Highland Avenue and went higher in the air before circling a power pole where it seemed to hover for “an eternity.”
He remembered yelling at his friend who ran back upon the street toward him just as the craft lifted away. Bays watched as the mysterious ship went straight up in the air and, as he described it, made an immediate right turn. The UFO disappeared rapidly over the mountain at the Indian Post Office toward what is now Lakeside Drive.
Butch and Gene Bays made their way back into the street where Bays found his book lying open on the pavement. The book had a single hole about an inch in diameter burned through “about a half of the book where it had flown open in the air.” The boys looked around the area, but never found the section of rope he had been carrying. The boys ran home and told their stories to skeptical parents.
The community was skeptical too. The pair started to tell the events on Highland Avenue to anyone who would listen. Over the next few years and for much of the rest of his life, Bays said that he was laughed at and there were those who “said I did not see what I saw.” “They told me I was a liar and that I was making it all up,” Bays said as he smiled. “But I will tell you one thing- I saw what I saw and I know what I saw. It was a flying object. Was it one of ours or something else? I cannot say but I saw it just as plain as day.”
In the years that followed, Gene Bay’s father, Clyde Eugene Bays, sent the book and a narrative of the events on Highland Avenue to Project Blue Book. The Project was established to investigate UFO sightings and to collect evidence. It operated from 1952 to 1969 and investigated hundreds of thousands of unexplained sightings. The Project, based at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, sent back a simple letter saying that it was unable to make any determination based on the evidence presented. They did send back the Scout Book as requested.
Dr. Bays continued to tell his story of that eventful night on Highland Avenue. He never understood exactly what had happened but he remembered it vividly. It was, he said, “something that changes your life and makes you look at things differently.” He never forgot what he saw.
Gene Bays and many volunteers traveled to Haiti and other areas. He treated thousands of children and adults that needed dental care. The group saved many lives through their free dental clinics. He saw many things during his time in the Caribbean and his interactions with voodoo practitioners that he described as “interesting and unexplained.” After his Highland Avenue experience and his time overseas, he always told friends that there were “things that go on in this world that I am not capable of understanding.”
Through the years, others admitted that they had seen the same thing that night. Bays’ friend on Picnic Hill was a witness too. An older couple in South Jackson watched it cross Picnic Hill. A minister in downtown Jackson saw the “silver disk” in the sky but waited more than 30 years to tell anyone because they would think he was “crazy or drunk.” There were certainly others who caught a glimpse of something that night and never spoke of it. Only Dr. Bays was direct enough to talk about his experience.
Dr. Clyde Eugene “Gene” Bays, Jr. died on August 2, 2017, at the University of Kentucky Medical Center after a long illness. He was 68. He was buried in the Jackson Cemetery. What exactly he saw in the fall of 1961 has never been explained. In his opinion, it was not from this world.
Author’s Note: Sometime after I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Bays, my friends Walter and Wade Begley mentioned that they had filmed Dr. Bays in April 2009 telling his story. The brothers graciously provided me with a copy of the interview. I watched intently to see if any element of what he told me differed from what he had said in the interview with the Begleys. It did not.
© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling
Gene and I would often talk about our ufo sighting ,as I experienced one while driving from Chicago to Louisville late one night in 1967. It was a very scary encounter.