- Shortly after 1:30 last Thursday afternoon, the Wallowa
County Chieftain was alerted to a phenomena taking place over the city
of Enterprise at that very minute. The message was that spider web-like
material was falling from the sky and said to be the product of "contrails"
from three military jets that had been flying back and forth in a east-west
flight pattern at high altitude at the south end of the Wallowa Valley
above the mountains.
- They flew "at least an hour" and one flight
pattern was directly overhead, according to the informant, Steve Doster
of Enterprise. He said stuff like that which was falling from the sky here
has been making people sick all over the country.
- Doster, the person who called, suggested that someone
with a good camera come out to shoot some photographs above the street
in front of Ace Hardware, where he and a group of other people were watching
the "webs" fall down.
- Though there was no aircraft visible when the requested
camera arrived, and the bright sky made a decent photograph doubtful, spider-web
like material - from thin filaments to thicker masses - was indeed falling
from the sky, hanging up on utility lines and car antennae. The stuff seemed
to be everywhere.
- Doster said, according to information he'd read on the
Internet, some of this material had been tested in a health lab and was
found to be a "biological soup" designed to make people ill.
He said theories ranged from the government trying to raise the immunity
of residents to the government trying to reduce world population to somehow
facilitate the establishment of a world order.
- "I haven't formed any opinions myself, I just wanted
people to be aware that this has been happening," said Doster.
- Doster later supplied Internet material, most of it reports
published by Environmental News Service (ENS), as well as Internet links,
talking about the "contrails" coming from military jets flying
in a grid pattern.
- Contrails are condensation trails generated at altitude
high enough for water droplets to freeze in a matter of seconds and not
quickly evaporate. Unlike normal contrails , which dissipate soon after
a jet's passage, videos show "eery silver jets streaming fat contrails
from their wing tips," according to a ESN release dated Jan. 8, 1999.
One from Jan. 12, 1999, described "globular filaments resembling spider
webs usually falling in clumps or wads ranging from pencil eraser size
to the size of a balled up fist. ... Winds often whip the cobweb-like material
into filaments as long as 50 feet. ... (The) sticky substance 'melts in
your hands' and "adheres to whatever it touches.'"
- According to ENS reports, flu-like illness with symptoms
ranging from bronchial problems and headaches to fever and diarrhea connected
with the contrail/web phenomena, according to the Internet reports, with
some hospitals reporting epidemic conditions.
- The contrail patterns have been reportedly been observed
in over 40 U.S. cities and in 10 or more countries, according to the reports.
The address to the web page from which most of the material was taken is
http://www.islandnet.com/~wilco/. Most of the reports were written by William
Thomas, who can be described as a right-wing environmental journalist.
- Before reading this material - which cautioned against
handling the stuff because of illness associated with it - the Chieftain
retrieved a sample of the stuff lying on the ground. As of press time the
reporter handling the web-like material had not gotten sick.
- However, Doster said Tuesday this week that he was suffering
from an "upper respiratory infection and fever, typical flu symptoms,"
while two of the people who'd been watching the webs with him had light
headaches that night and one woman was suffering from severe diarrhea.
"Of course it could be coincidental," he noted.
- A call to Wallowa Memorial Hospital Tuesday afternoon
uncovered the fact that there were then five patients in the hospital,
"a little lower than normal," said a spokesman. When told about
the web-like material that had fallen that is said to possibly make people
sick, he commented, " As far as I know, nobody has even heard of that
- A trip Friday morning (when there was no longer webs
falling from the sky) to the Wallowa County Extension Office to investigate
the web stuff was inconclusive. The filaments, by this time mostly a sticky
white glob, were compared under a 20-power bioscope with a normal spider
web. The two samples were very similar, though it did appear that the material
that had fallen out of the sky was somewhat coarser than what was known
for sure to be a spider web.
- A call was placed by Wallowa County Extension Agent John
Williams to Oregon State University to consult an entomologist. Insect
identification specialist Lynn Royce said that this time of year spiders
do produce a large amount of spider web material to send their spiderlings
"ballooning"off into the world. She said they could seem to be
coming from high in the sky.
- She admitted, however, that usually the spider webs would
not fall all at once, in one day, and the phenomenon described - with the
spider web material falling heavily at once did sound to be atypical. "I
would expect to see spiderlings (on the webs) ... and not all at once,"
Royce commented. An insect wing - but no spiderlings - had been found on
the material under scrutiny, but then it had been retrieved from the ground.
- Local rancher Pat Wortman happened to be coming into
the Extension Office at the time of the inconclusive investigation. When
he heard about it, he had his own theories: "They are spider webs.
It happens every year on an annual basis, you see them everywhere. ...
Chief Joseph probably saw them, and wondered if they were coming from airplanes
- Wortman added one more theory, "It was probably
caused by the hot air from the presidential debates."
- Whether Wallowa County was the victim of a somewhat mysterious
phenomena that has been reported - or rather non-reported by most major
news outlets - around the country, or whether there was just an unusually
heavy drop of spider webs last Thursday may never be known.
- Copyright 2000 Wallowa County Chieftain
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