Summer Twilight of the Burning Sky

The following anomalous event occurred one summer in the early 1970s in rural Prince Edward County, south-central Virginia. It remains unexplained.

This weird incident happened about five or six years after my family and I experienced an unidentified flying ship over the fields and woods behind our farmhouse. Those two experiences may have nothing to do with each other except both were strange and were dismissed, ridiculed, or explained away by our American Government.

Our paranoid Cold War fears intensified after the anomaly occurred this particular hot and sweaty summer evening. I was a young teenager back then. A group of us kids played outside in a grassy cow pasture between my house and the neighbors’. Joe, my younger brother, was running around with us, too. Our parents were out and about in their respective yards. The fireflies were already out, winking on and off along the edge of the woods bordering the field even though there was still plenty of light left. We called ’em lightnin’ bugs. We jerked alert as we found ourselves and everything around us bathed in glowing light. It happened fast. BOOM without sound.

“Whoa, look!” shouted one friend in awe. “Look at the sky!”

“Oh, wow!”

“What the hell is that?”

“I sure don’t think it’s Jesus comin’ back. Don’t hear no trumpets a blowin’.”

“Trumpets, shit. Maybe the Russians are bombin’ us.”

“Or aliens from Outer Space!”

“Whoa, look at that! Hey, over there, too. Oh man, the sky’s on fire!”

We saw the sky fill with mysterious exploding bursts of strange colors. The event startled us all. We all ran together and stared up at huge, silent explosions. The sky appeared to be on fire but without any flames. We almost expected the ground to shake and the air to rumble with thunder. Nothing happened except the sky seemed to burn with fantastic, ghostly explosions of color. I’ve never seen this phenomenon before or since. Our parents dropped their chores and staggered together to stare at what moments ago was a blue dome of sky with only a few clouds on the verge of twilight. The heavens no longer looked familiar at all.

Vast circles of glowing colors blossomed high across the heavens like giant blots of paint. One reminded me of a gigantic, glowing jellyfish. The colors were pale yet vivid. I recall pale variations of green, yellow, purple, orange, red and maybe other colors. As they expanded high up in our atmosphere they winked out. There were not any sparkling residues flickering down. We heard no unusual sounds, either. As I am hard-of-hearing, the unexpected silence was confirmed by hearing people standing next to me.

While it didn’t look anything like atomic mushroom clouds, the whole neighborhood was abuzz. Was a nuclear attack underway? Were the atmospheric colors something radioactive? Was it some kind of new chemical or biological warfare? Was poison about to rain down upon us? Was the poison Soviet or Chinese or even from our own CIA? Was our military blowing up attacking enemy missiles right over our heads? Were these strange, colored lights in the sky UFOs? Maybe it was War of the Worlds after all.

These glowing paintball splashes in the sky were clearly high up. The possibility of fireworks was dismissed immediately. Indeed, they were too high up and too enormous to be fireworks. As they were directly overhead, we surmised nearby launches of fireworks and small rockets would be visible as well as audible. We equally rejected the possibility of Northern Lights. No aurora borealis of waving, radiant, shimmering lights danced and flickered. They were extremely rare this far south but still possible.

What we saw were clearly huge explosions high up in the atmosphere. Would whatever it was ignite the air and really set the sky on fire? There was no where to run. We experienced a wild mix of fear, curiosity, paranoia, ignorance, and helplessness.

Overhanging all the chaos was the fear of global atomic war with the Soviet Empire and the Red Chinese. Waves of UFOs have been sweeping across the country since 1947 and even swarmed over Washington, D.C. Influenced by the Cold War and a dread of Communism, the film industry churned out spooky alien invasion sci-fi movies and TV shows. Hot wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East threatened to spread across the world. Apocalyptic expectations felt heavy in the air.

High-altitude nuclear testing by the Americans and the Soviets lasted from 1958 to 1963. In 1963 the Partial Test Ban Treaty passed prohibiting atmospheric and outer space detonations of nuclear and thermonuclear bombs. The largest known human-made nuclear explosion was Starfish Prime on the 9th of July 1962. In 1967 the Outer Space Treaty passed prohibiting the stationing of and well as the use of nuclear weapons in Outer Space. As what we witnessed in the sky happened in the early 1970s, it couldn’t therefore be an atomic or hydrogen bomb test in our atmosphere. If it was indeed nuclear, then it must be an attack. But those silent explosions of colored lights high in the sky didn’t hurt our eyes or dazzle us to the edge of blindness. Take note, however, these high-altitude atmospheric tests created auroral electromagnetic displays so bizarre some called these nuclear explosions, “rainbow bombs.”

Later on my father told us that government officials explained that experimental rockets were fired to explode warheads of colored dye high in the Earth’s atmosphere. It didn’t make any sense, and why weren’t we warned? Why would this great nation so disrespect its own patriotic citizens? No wonder so many once loyal Americans grew to distrust their own government. This period of disorganized violence and fear of violence whether racial or atomic began in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This quasi-civil war and not-quite-a-revolution lasted well into the mid-1970s. In many ways these conflicts never ended and continue today such as the Wisconsin Insurrection, Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, the War on Cops, Standing Rock and the Water Wars, Stop the Coal Trains, Alt-Right vs. Antifa, struggles over migrants and refugees mixed up with religion, race, and politics. Overall these days are darkened by increasingly extreme pro-and-anti-Trump polarization. Back in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, however, we were always minutes away from a terrifying mix of thermonuclear annihilation and alien invasion.

Suspicion and paranoia gnawed at us from the inside as some form of cancerous dementia. In the midst of all this confusion was widespread domestic violence and economic disparity. We saw it all around us. I certainly witnessed it. Furthermore, there were apocalyptic threats from those spouting end-times religion stirring up more anxiety and arguments. Many felt America was on the verge of civil war or revolution or nuclear Armageddon or the Heavenly Raptures.

Our own government conducted chemical, biological, and psychological warfare experiments on fellow Americans and sometimes over wide areas of U.S. cities and countryside. Corporations and Big Banks manipulated and plundered our financial systems and damaged our environment in the name of free enterprise and wealth generation. Organized religions stonewalled progress, deluded seekers of truth, manipulated followers for money and sex, incited bigotry and fanaticism, and sent each other to Hell. I encountered so much bitterness, rage, injustice, and fear…from all sides.

Growing up in this climate, I questioned what I saw. Many of us did. We learned to question authority long before such became a popular, bumper sticker slogan.

Perhaps someone in the military or intelligence or perhaps industry may immediately recognize the above description of those exploding colors in the sky. Maybe the mystery can all be easily explained. Or maybe not.


William Dudley Bass
24 February 2013
Seattle, Washington

NOTE: This event was combined from old notes as well as memories and conversations with others on the scene. It is an expanded excerpt from my book addressing global democracy and economic issues beyond the limited expressions of mainstream mass media.

To explore the UFO incident my family and I were involved in along with an exploration of relationships between various UFO phenomena and the Cold War, see “UFO Encounter in Virginia,” at:


Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.

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4 thoughts on “Summer Twilight of the Burning Sky

    • Thanks, Cynthia. This was such a bizarre experience. Sometimes these days I wonder if this was some early precursor to what we today call “chemtrails.” I know very little about the chemtrail controversy with its associated allegations of geoengineering, bioengineering, & weather modification. I do know US military-intelligence entities have released massive quantities of biological & chemical agents into our air & water over the decades. Some of the other nations conducted the same experiments. It is likely at least some private corporations or lone wolves have released such agents, too.

      Not to even mention the staggering amounts of radiation released during domestic atomic & hydrogen bomb testing or during slow but large leaks such as the radioactive waste oozing into the ground & water at Hanford Reach, WA.

    • Sir, thank you for your response. I’ve done similar research without any clear or seemingly relevant results. There were high-altitude nuclear testing such as Operation Starfish Prime, but the images from the fotos & videos of these events didn’t at all resemble what we saw as kids. There is research out there from the government itself regarding spreading different chemical elements & minerals into the atmosphere to modify weather, especially to make it rain, supposedly, or seed hurricanes to reduce its power, & so forth. Like you, however, nothing specific regarding injecting colored dyes high into the sky.
      Glad to learn others had similar experiences and we weren’t the only ones out there wondering what in the world was going on.

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