The Thing in the Woods
July 25, 2017 8:33 AM   Subscribe

In 1962 woodsman David McPherson Sr. found himself deep in the forest of Lutes Mountain, some 15 kilometres west of Moncton, N.B., staring upwards at a 181-kilogram white box with cameras and hanging from a tree by a deteriorated parachute. What began as a day of scouting timber would turn into the mystery of "the thing in the woods" that would stay with his family for the next 55 years.
posted by twilightlost (25 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Looks like an AN/DMQ-1 Gondola.
posted by r1ch at 8:40 AM on July 25 [53 favorites]


Got it in 7 minutes, r1ch. Next case, please!
posted by dazed_one at 8:43 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


AKA Gopher/Genetrix. The USSR used unexposed film from captured Genetrix gondolas for the Luna 3 mission.
posted by zamboni at 8:45 AM on July 25 [6 favorites]


I love the knowledge on this site.
posted by twilightlost at 8:45 AM on July 25 [6 favorites]


New record for solved FPP.
posted by maryr at 8:46 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


That poor gondolier.
posted by pracowity at 8:49 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


Ha, the answer was already in the comments, which I initially didn't read because CBC comment sections are the worst.
posted by chococat at 9:00 AM on July 25


"The Thing in the Woods" sound like a rejected title for a Lovecraft pastiche.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:06 AM on July 25 [7 favorites]


Hinterland Whose U-2?
posted by Kabanos at 9:13 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


#mysterysolved

More info on GENETRIX program from the Stratocat Stratopedia, an encyclopedia about the who, what, when, where and why of scientific ballooning, which includes this summary of the program under Aftermath:
During the operational period, 516 balloon systems were launched. Of these systems 399 were considered to be operational; there were 117 known failures, and 12 of those considered operational were later recovered from friendly areas without having entered the target area. Of the remaining 387 operational balloons, 144 were later heard to transmit, of which 123 were tracked, and 2l were termination signals heard as the first transmission; 243 were never heard from after launch. Of the 123 which were tracked, only 67 entered the recovery area. 57 of these were terminated and 44 of them were recovered. One more gondola was recovered in isolated parts of Alaska in late 1956 and another in 1958.
Looks like they can update that page and note that an additional gondola was recovered in 1962 in or around Moncton, NB, Canada (Google maps).

The question I have is what was written inside? From the article in the OP:
Once the military left, Lois McPherson did not leave the box alone.

"And mom later told us she opened it up," said David McPherson Jr.

McPherson said his mother said the mysterious box had two cameras and about a dozen bottles of clear liquid surrounding the lenses.

And she said there was writing on some of the equipment, according to her son.

"But it wasn't in the English alphabet, she thought maybe Russian, but she didn't tell dad she'd opened it that day," McPherson said.
Was it technical notations?

Also, that photo of David McPherson Sr. is the most delightfully 1950s Dad image. Suit, tie, hat, AND A PIPE! Major E. W. Flewelling is not impressed, though.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:19 AM on July 25 [6 favorites]


The timing is kinda interesting, though. GENETRIX (WS-119L) was Jan-Feb 1956, before protests from the USSR, Turkey and West Germany caused Eisenhower to call an end to the program. (A support bar on the balloon was the exact wavelength of the Soviet P-20 early warning radar, which meant that they saw them coming a mile away.) They also had issues with the balloon failing to detach on radio command.
A later higher altitude mission in 1958, MELTING POT (WS-461L) only launched three balloons, and ended badly when the timed detachment device, intended to provide a backup in case they had further radio issues, was set to too short an interval, causing at least one balloon to descend over Poland. The Soviets happily put it on display.

If it's a GENETRIX balloon, which it most likely is, it hung in that forest for 6 years before the McPhersons found it.
posted by zamboni at 9:24 AM on July 25 [7 favorites]


damninteresting.com had a really interesting bit on the whole "Russians steal film from shot down recon equipment to use for dark side of moon" angle. Very interesting.
posted by ensign_ricky at 9:26 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


If it's a GENETRIX balloon, which it most likely is, it hung in that forest for 6 years before the McPhersons found it.

It was in the middle of a timber lot with no roads or paths so that's not surprising. There's probably quite a few Cold War relics waiting to be found out there.
posted by tommasz at 9:29 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


damninteresting.com had a really interesting bit

The relevant Mefi post.
posted by zamboni at 9:32 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Hinterland Whose U-2?

The woodchuck, also called the groundhog, is one of the larger Canadian rodents. A mature adult may weigh up to seventeen pounds. In winter, it depends almost entirely on SPLAT!
posted by pracowity at 10:56 AM on July 25


Also, that photo of David McPherson Sr. is the most delightfully 1950s Dad image. Suit, tie, hat, AND A PIPE! Major E. W. Flewelling is not impressed, though.

I'm pretty sure that that is J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, but I'm not sure what he's doing standing next to that slackless pinko.
posted by loquacious at 11:14 AM on July 25 [7 favorites]


"The Thing in the Woods" sound like a rejected title for a Lovecraft pastiche.

When I read that title (before actually reading the post), my immediate assumption was "Yeesh, another Bigfoot 'sighting'..."
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:06 PM on July 25


loquacious: I'm pretty sure that that is J.R. "Bob" Dobbs

I'm not so sure. Serious question: Did Bob ever wear a hat? Seems like it could rough up his perfect hair.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:42 PM on July 25


Beware of strange things in the woods — In 1945 a Japanese Bomb Exploded in Oregon, Killing Six:
Only one balloon bomb claimed any American lives, and it was more of a sad tragedy than a military triumph: Five kids and their pregnant Sunday school teacher, Elyse Mitchell, came across the balloon in Oregon during a picnic in the woods. As Mitchell’s husband explained, "[One of the kids] came over and told us that there was a white object near by. We went to investigate. It blew up and killed them all." Mrs. Mitchell, Joan Patzke (11), Dick Patzke (13), Eddie Engen (13), Jay Gifford (12), and Sherman Shoemaker (12) became the only World War II casualties in the continental U.S...
More about this unique attack and Japan's fire balloon bombs.
posted by cenoxo at 3:19 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


You'd think they'd put some text on the thing saying to call 1-800-UFO-FIND for a cash reward.
Shout out to my cousins in Moncton.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:46 PM on July 25


Reading about the balloon bombing led me down a strange internet hole where I discovered that the lone survivor of the group, Reverend Archie Mitchell, remarried a couple of years later, his bride being Betty Patzke, the elder sister of two of the victims. And that they later worked in a leprosarium in Vietnam, from which Archie was kidnapped in 1962 by Viet Cong and never seen again.

That was a man who did not have good luck in his life.
posted by tavella at 3:57 PM on July 25 [5 favorites]


1962 ... a large antenna attached to the box that was later discovered to contain a dynamite cap, which was used to extend the rod to full length when detonated.
That was back in the days when they dropped cannisters of exposed film from Corona spy satellites (1959-72). "The capsule was intended to be caught in mid-air by a passing airplane."

Might be something of that ilk. Chute might've got ripped away. Might be hard to locate in-air if the antenna doesn't pop out.
posted by Twang at 6:21 PM on July 25


This thing could well be an alien toilet.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 9:42 PM on July 25


Only one balloon bomb claimed any American lives, and it was more of a sad tragedy than a military triumph…

As is always the case. The tragedy of war is simply that it happens at all.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:26 AM on July 26




« Older Sadiq Khan Takes on Brexit and Terror   |   “It’s real. Those emotions are real. The loss is... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments