The strange disappearance of Private Gerry Irwin

I have always had an interest in UFO’s or Unidentified Flying Objects, and have read reports of some of the more famous sightings, as well as the claims that humans have been abducted by the beings on these craft before being returned to Earth. Unfortunately, despite all of the thousands of reported sightings and details of abduction encounters, physical evidence has always been lacking. Also, many of these encounters seem to take place in country locations in the middle of the night – if the aliens are so keen to make contact with us, why don’t they land one of their craft in the centre of a busy city in the middle of the day in front of multiple witnesses? Also, with the explosion of mobile phones and other personal recording devices, the amount of new, well-focused footage of possible sightings hasn’t exploded.

Despite my skepticism, I still like to read about such cases. One of the more unusual ones that I have just come across was the experience of US Army Private First Class Gerry Irwin on a winter’s night in Utah in the late 1950’s.

Gerry Irwin was a Nike missile technician at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. On February 28, 1959, he was driving back from Nampa, Idaho, where he had been on leave. At Cedar City, Utah, he turned southeast on to Route 14. About six miles from the turnoff, he spotted a glowing object that seemed to come to earth in a field just off the road. Thinking he had seen an airplane crash, or at least a forced landing, he stopped to see if he could give assistance. He wrote a note and placed it on the steering wheel of his car:

“Have gone to investigate possible plane crash. Please call law enforcement officers.”

Then, he wrote STOP in large letters on the side of his car.

About thirty minutes later, a fish and game inspector happened to being driving past, and stopped at Irwin’s car. He saw the note, and took it to the Cedar City Sheriff’s Office, where Sheriff Otto Pfief gathered a party of volunteers and returned to the site. When they searched, they found no trace of a plane crash, but they found Private Gerry Irwin unconscious in a field by the side of the road. . Ninety minutes had passed since he had first seen the glowing object.

Irwin was taken to the hospital in Cedar City, where a Dr. Broadbent could find nothing physically wrong with him. Irwin was merely asleep, and could not be awakened Dr. Broadbent could find no explanation for this, so his diagnosis was “hysteria”, meaning that his condition could not be attributed to any organic disease.

When Private Irwin eventually awoke, he felt perfectly well, but he was mystified by the glowing object he had seen. He was also confused by the fact that his jacket was missing. The sheriff’s search party stated that he was not wearing it when they found him.

Irwin was flown back to Fort Bliss and placed under observation at William Beaumont Army Hospital for several days, after which he was released as fit to return to duty.

The episode was not over yet, though. Some days later, Irwin fainted on base, and a few days after that he fainted while in the city of El Paso. He was taken to Southwest General Hospital where he was found once again to be asleep and unwakeable. About twenty four hours later, he awoke asking, “Were there any survivors?” He behaved as if he had lost all memory of the period between seeing the object on February 28th in Utah, and waking up on March 16th in El Paso.

Once again, he was taken to William Beaumont Army Hospital, where he was placed under observation by psychiatrists. After one month, extensive testing could find nothing wrong with him, so he was released on April 17. The next day, Irwin was seized by a powerful impulse that made him take a bus from El Paso to Cedar City, arriving on April 19. He then walked back to the field in which the Sheriff’s party had found him. He found his jacket on a bush. There was a pencil stuck in one of its buttonholes with a piece of paper wound tightly around it. Irwin burned the paper and then seemed to come out of some kind of trance. He could not recall the path back to the road or why he had come there. He made his way back to Cedar City and turned himself in to Sheriff Otto Pfief, who told Irwin about his first encounter on the 28th of February. Once again Irwin returned to Fort Bliss and was given psychological examinations. On July 10, he again entered William Beaumont Army Hospital. He was discharged again, but on August 1 he failed to report for duty, and one month later he was listed as a deserter. After this Private Gerry Irwin disappears from the public view, and his current (if he is still alive) whereabouts are unknown.  This case poses some interesting questions:

  • Irwin had been on leave in Nampa. Had he suffered some traumatic event while on leave, which caused him to have a hallucination or some other experience?
  • Was Irwin visiting family in Nampa? Wherever they lived, have they ever been located and contacted to help explain Irwin’s behaviour?
  • The US Army doesn’t usually let “deserters” just walk away. Did they ever locate him, and find out what actually happened?
  • What did Irwin mean when he said “Are there any survivors?” when he was in hospital?

The following books were used for this blog post:

Kevin D Randle, “The UFO Dossier: 100 Years of Government Secrets, Conspiracies and Cover-Ups”,  Visible Ink Press, 2015, pp 134-141

Richard M Dolan, “UFOs and the National Security State: Chronology of a Coverup, 1941-1973”, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2002, pp-312-313

Damon Wilson, “The World’s Greatest Unsolved Mysteries”, Barnes and Noble Publishing, 2004. pp. 34-36

Kelly D Bell, “A New Look at UFOs”, iUniverse Publishing, 2007, pp 63-64