I SAW IT. I KNOW I SAW IT. Once Upon an Anecdote

Some folks said that Earl and Eleanor were seeing things.  They said the couple had seen things that did not or could not exist.  And, to top it all off, Earl and Eleanor lived in a haunted house for six years.  And,  they unabashedly  told several people of the strange and mysterious goings on inside their old antebellum home and strange things in the sky.

Earl and Eleanor didn’t live the easy life at first.  They lived in public housing for awhile before Earl decided to take up farming full time.  They bought an old house which had been built before the Civil War.  Earl spent most of his adult years  in college and the Navy. He knew only a little about farming, so he took classes to learn more on how to make a living  in agriculture. Eleanor took accounting classes to learn how to manage the farm’s books.  As Earl’s farming business continued to grow and grow, he began to pay it forward by serving others.

It was on Friday morning on September 14, 1973  when Earl stopped in at the Dexter Café to say hello to his good friends, Levi and his bride - the former Miss Collins.   He came to Dexter and Dublin to find out how could help  the people here and make some new friends.

Eleanor had kin people here in times past.    Eleanor’s great grandfather was born in Laurens County and lived on a large farm at the southwest corner of the Old Macon Road and Highway 338 near  what has long been  been called Lybrand’s Store.

Earl and the coffee drinking crowd talked about crime and the recent robbery of the Knight State Bank in Dexter.  They also talked about the dangerous traffic on Highway 257 and the alarming number of accidents and deaths along that twisting thoroughfare.

As Earl was comparing Dublin and Dexter as similar to his own hometowns,  he told the folks in Dublin that he was definitely planning to get out of political office for good.

Then a newspaper reporter asked Earl about a potentially embarrassing event which happened in Earl’s past some four years before. Somehow the story of the event had leaked out.

Earl told the reporter that  he saw a blue, disc-shaped object during a visit to Leary, Georgia near Albany while Earl and about a dozen members of the Lions Club were standing around outside of the school cafeteria just after dark on a cold, fair, winter night waiting for the meeting to start.

“All of a sudden, one of the men looked up and said, 'Look, over in the west!' And there was a bright light in the sky. We all saw it. And then the light, it got closer and closer to us. And then it stopped, I don’t know how far away, but it stopped beyond the pine trees. And all of a sudden it changed color to blue, and then it changed to red, then back to white. And we were trying to figure out what in the world it could be, and then it receded into the distance," Earl remembered.

Earl and the men watched for about ten minutes or so as the mysterious object, which Earl described as about the size of a full moon, flew  about 30 degrees above the horizon.

Earl’s  military training told him to run to his car, pull out his tape recorder and dictate exactly what he had observed.

That day in Dublin Earl remembered the object as a very remarkable sight,  but began to discount the sight as simply  “an electronic occurrence of some sort.”

It was on that day in Dublin when  the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) wrote to Earl about the mysterious object which he saw back on January 6, 1969.  Four days later after he left Dublin, Earl filled out a form in his own handwriting detailing what he observed was a UFO in January 1969 and mailed it back to the NICAP.  

Later people tried to discount Earl’s sighting as the  extraordinarily bright planet of Venus above the horizon. Earl retorted by stating that he was somewhat of an amateur astronomer and what he saw was definitely not Venus nor any known heavenly object.  Seven years after that January 1969 sighting,  only one person could be found who was present that night. And,  he told authorities it looked something like “a weather balloon.”

Earl and Eleanor had long  moved out of their old  haunted house for some 14 years.  But the folks in town kept talking about the house.  Today they still talk about the house, which Earl and Eleanor recently had preserved as one their county’s oldest and most historic houses.   The house was known to have been haunted since the end of the Civil War.  The sources of the apparitions are said to be Union soldiers who were killed while hiding in the house.  Others in the town said the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad where escaped slaves came to find refuge.

"I never saw any ghosts - I don't believe in them - but I heard something in the attic every night that sent shivers up my spine. Those eerie noises gave me goosebumps," Eleanor said back then.

"One day while my son was playing he found two loose bricks in the attic fireplace. When he picked up the bricks, he discovered a room beneath the fireplace, four feet deep and six feet wide. There was nothing in the room but a chair," Eleanor recalled.

Unlike Earl’s story about seeing a UFO, most folks in  town tended to believe Eleanor’s story about their haunted house because some of them saw the secret rooms with their two seeing eyes  and heard the mysterious noises with their very own listening ears.

Earl kept his promise to leave office. But,  he could not resist his yearning to get back into politics.  After winning his next election, Earl continued to maintain that what he saw was not an astronomical object nor was it a weather balloon.  After all, this observer was more than a peanut farmer from Southwest Georgia.  This man was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, who spent ten years in the Navy -  part of the time as a nuclear engineer.

At the time of his visit to Dexter and Dublin, Earl was considered to be a highly credible witness.  After all, he was the Governor of the State of Georgia.  A little more than three years later, James Earl Carter was elected as the 39th President of the United States.   Joining him in yet another very old house in Washington, D.C., said to be haunted by the commander in chief of the Union Army during the Civil War,  was his wife Eleanor Rosalyn Carter, a great granddaughter of a Laurens County man, Drury Murray.

Oh, by the way, those dear friends of Carters  in Dexter were Cecil Leon Passmore, Jr. and Faye Passmore.

So now you now  know the story of the day when  the future President of the United States first publicly admitted right here in Laurens County to a reporter for the Atlanta Constitution  that he really did see an unidentified flying object.

Jimmy Carter and some of his Laurens County Friends, The White House, 1980. 

Here is President (Governor) Carter's report of his sighting of an Unidentified Flying Object.