What's Smoo?

by Martin Kottmeyer

Certainly not this case. It was written up more than a decade ago in the CUFOS Associate Newsletter [Center for UFO Studies] – the April-May 1984 issue to be precise. The incident goes back even further, to the summer of 1953 and was set in Medford, Oregon. Though we are not given any names, there are said to be three witnesses: a husband, a wife, and their 12-year-old daughter.

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As they are returning home at 10 in the evening, three "creatures" appear in their headlight beams off to the side of the road, about 6 feet away. They were white with "very smooth satiny fur" and were shaped like Smoos in the old Lil’ Abner comic strip, but bigger – about 4 feet high – and with longer necks. They lacked any features like arms, legs, wings, or beaks. They glided, in a sideways motion at first, then straight away from them till they disappeared into a wooded area. The last of the three was slightly smaller than the other two.

The following day they looked the area over for clues and asked neighbors if they had seen anything. This only succeeded in frightening people, so they kept it to themselves from then on. The wife of the group finally contacted CUFOS confessing she "always wondered who or what they were, and from where?" She also exclaimed, "I assure you, we are very normal people!!!"

CUFOS, quite accurately, termed the case a unique entity sighting. Though no UFO was seen, the unusual nature of the report was felt to maybe provide "a piece of the puzzle." They couldn’t explain it offhand and didn’t plan to do a follow-up, presumably because of the very late date of the case. There might be an issue of relevance here. With no UFO around, why should CUFOS be involved? Still, where should one turn ask what’s going on here? They are too furry to be ghosts. They are too footless to be bigfoots. Aliens are probably as good a guess as any.

The article included a drawing and the image lodged in my memory, presumably because it was so different and vaguely amusing. Being of a later generation than the witness, I thought it resembled Gloop and Gleep of the old Herculoids TV cartoon series. They were amorphous aliens on a distant world with a lot of exotic zoology. I doubt the case impressed anyone. It has never been recounted anywhere else in the UFO literature that I am aware of. It was just one more story one reads and never hears about again.

It is a nice little puzzler if you stop to think about it, though. Gliding above the ground as they do, they clearly seem outside normal reality. The description resembles nothing known in nature. If there are three witnesses as claimed, the idea of hallucination seems barred. How does one explain it? Optically distorted snowmen? Not in summer and not with a sideways motion. Polar bears in Oregon half illuminated? Not too likely. The witnesses considered geese and eliminated them because of an absence of wings and beak. The size and presence of fur doesn’t make it too likely either. My guess is most skeptics would opt for hoax at that point and think no more about it. The brevity of the account seems confusing, however. Why opt for a shape like smoos? Why not throw in a UFO while one is at it, to justify contacting CUFOS? Yet what is the alternative?

Last November, the solution to this case leapt into view. I was driving down the lane leading from my home and four deer jumped out of a neighbor’s cornfield across the road. They ran across 80 acres of open field towards a forest following a curved arc. As I watched, the viewing angle gradually changed so that I was seeing them directly from the rear. Two of the deer had white haunches and white tails which were short and sticking straight up. The light brown portion of the hide, including the legs, blended into the color of the open field and suddenly I was observing a pair of white blobby smoos gliding sideways across the landscape. The smoos even tilted off the vertical as in the drawing. This was because of the curved nature of their path across the field and their leaning into the curve as they ran. What seemed so unexpected was how the haunches did not bounce up and down, but simply glided. Everything fit: the shape, the color, the motion, the size, the satiny fur, the direction to a wooded area, and the brevity of the experience. Only two things were different. The Medford witnesses were closer. The deer were over a hundred yards away when I recognized the smoo shape. But their encounter was also at night, where mine was during the day. Presumably the darkness would have been conducive to such an illusion at closer quarters.

I’ve seen deer a fair number of times over the years and had never considered them before as an explanatory possibility in this or any other entity case. The illusion was dependent on a combination of factors like field color, lighting conditions, and unbroken viewing, and a favorable trajectory which I would guess few people, outside of deer-hunters, would encounter in the course of a lifetime. There is no reason to expect any UFO investigator or skeptic to hit upon an explanation like this a priori. One simply has to have experienced it oneself to get the right answer.

I vacillated on whether to bother writing up this discovery. The solution will likely never reach the witnesses, coming so long after the write-up. The case is a minor one and one people who read about it will have long forgotten, if indeed they barely noticed it at all. It’s a dozen years too late to be newsworthy. The involvement of three witnesses in an entity case is better than average and it is potentially instructive to demonstrate that an animate illusion can stump this many people and investigators for sound reasons having nothing to do with competence. Yet that isn’t a particularly new lesson.

I don’t know if this case ended up in any UFO databases, but I doubt this would catch up to anyone who would want to remove it. This particular solution will almost certainly be useful in generalizing to other cases simply because the smoo description was unique. One could certainly spend the time writing about more important stuff. That convinced me not to for a time, but here it is anyway. Why? A deer’s rear got mistook for an alien. Sensitivities be damned, that’s funny.

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