Reported Crop Circles for the State of Florida -

West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County (August 19, 1952)

Dunham Sanborn “Sonny” DesVergas, 30, a Boy Scouts scoutmaster (also an ex-Marine), was driving home three scouts: Bobby Ruffing, 12, David Rowan, 11, and Chuck Stevens, 10, from a meeting on a moonless night around 9:45 pm approximately 12 miles southwest of West Palm Beach on Military Trail. DesVergas reported seeing lights along the ground in a heavily bushed area, and feared that a car had gone off the road or perhaps a plane had crashed and started a fire. Stopping to investigate, and leaving the three scouts in the car, DesVergas took a machete and two flashlights into the brush area to have a look. He instructed the three scouts that if he didn't come back in ten minutes, they were to go get help.

DesVergas started off into the heavy brush and after about 4 minutes of hacking through the brush and getting closer to the lights, he reported an odd, "acute, sharp," smell that was "sickening and nauseating," which made him feel "woozy," so much so, that he almost blacked out. Desvergers also described feeling heat, which he said, was "like walking into an oven," and a hissing sound was also present "like a tire going down." He reported feeling electrical effects on his skin. He shone his flashlight up in the sky and reported seeing a large, dark sphere hovering which had " a phosphorescent effect around the side."  He noticed a small “red ball of fire” drifting towards him almost immediately after this, which expanded into a ‘red mist’ which surrounded him. He lost consciousness. 

The three scouts, who were in the car waiting for their scoutmaster, described the event: Ruffing said, he saw "a series of red lights in the clearing" and he saw "Sonny 'stiffen up' and fall." Stevens and Rowan described how they could see Desvergers' flashlight going through the woods, "could see flashlights flashing on the trees and then he disappeared for a few seconds, at least the light disappeared. The next thing they saw was a series of red lights...a lot like flares.... It...seemed to be...six or eight red lights going in all directions." The three scouts immediately went to get help at a nearby farmhouse.

The Palm Beach County Deputy Sheriff Mott Partin, and the Lake Worth Constable Loius Carrol both responded to the call, went to the site and discovered Desvergas incoherent by fear, with burns on his face and arms, having singed hair; his hat was burned, and one of the flashlights he had left at the spot of the incident was on fire (the second was never found). Where Desvergas had blacked out, the group found a flattened, singed circle of grass in which the plants "seemed to be scorched or blistered."


DesVergas, photographed after the event, pointing to the singed hair on his arm, and showing the flash burn on his arms and face.

For some reason, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Dept. called the United States Air Force. USAF doctors examined Desvergas and likened the burn to flash radiation exposure -- there were singed hairs, burns on his face and arms, and they also pointed out that his nostrils showed signs of being burned by a "flash heat source." DesVergas' burned hat (which had been brand new) was sent to Dayton A.F.B. for examination – where it was reportedly determined that the burned holes in the hat had been made by electrical "sparks of some kind."

USAF Captain Edward Ruppelt conducted the investigation as part of Project Blue Book. Several USAF investigators examined the area and took these photos:

 In the above photo you can see the dark discoloration of the area reported as 'singed'.

Here you can see three additional USAF investigators along the edge of the circular area.

This photo shows a USAF investigator pointing out the spot on the ground where the flashlight was found (marked by the long twig in the photo placed there by the Palm Beach County Deputy Sheriff), and where DesVergas had blacked out.

This photo has a USAF investigator simulating the position taken by DesVergas when the red ball of light supposedly came towards him in the approximate location.

Grass samples from the circle were also sent to the Battelle Memorial Institute's agronomy lab in Columbus, Ohio on August 28. Battelle Memorial Institute, had a contract (under the code name Project Stork) with the USAF to provide technical and scientific support for Project Blue Book. Battelle's agronomy lab found that when the soil had been cleaned away from the roots of the grass samples from the circular, flattened, singed area, they were found to be charred black:

"Regarding the 'Florida' samples, no difference was observed between the two samples of soil, but it was found that the root structure of the plants from the area in question was degenerated, apparently by heat, while the root structure of a control sample was undisturbed. In addition, the lower leaves, those nearest the ground under normal conditions, were slightly deteriorated, apparently by heat. No logical explanation is possible for this alteration of the first sample, beyond the suggestion that a high soil temperature around the plants could have been the cause. No radioactivity was found in any of these samples."

The rest of the circle sample plants from the ground up were unaffected, except for the tips of the plants closest to the ground which were also singed. The only plants found to be affected were the samples taken from the circular, flattened area -- the samples that were collected from 50 yards and 75 yards away were unaffected. Battelle's agronomy lab tried to duplicate the specific plant damage, but were unsuccessful. Although they weren’t able to duplicate the exact effect, they were able to come close by placing live grass clumps in a pan of sandy soil and heating it to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit - this duplicated the charred roots effect.

Many critics and skeptics have criticized this event by examining DesVergas' questionable past and insinuating that because of that past, that this event was then nothing but a hoax. However, Project Blue Book marked this case as 'unsolved' particularly due to the amount of physical evidence collected and independent eyewitnesses which substantiated DesVergas' claims. The 3 scouts as well as DesVergas had been repeatedly questioned, and basically substantiated the story repeatedly. Later, another witness came forward -- Lyman Bradford, who was 7 at the time, said he'd seen the lights land in the back of his family's property -- 5 acres of palmetto scrub on Military Trail north of Okeechobee Boulevard. Bradford, said that his dad, a volunteer fire chief, took photographs, which USAF investigators later confiscated.

USAF Captain Edward Ruppelt, who conducted the Project Blue Book investigation of this incident, speculated on these circumstances and known facts in his Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. He suggested that induction heating, a process which is also used in foundries to melt metals where solid rods or ingots are subjected to an alternating magnetic current, setting up "eddy currents" in the metal and raising its temperature, could have been responsible for the charring of the plant roots found at the West Palm Beach site. He suggested that if one were to replace the solid metal with damp sand, which is an electrical conductor, and assume that something generating a powerful alternating magnetic field was hovering over the ground, that could provide the explaination of how the grass roots were charred. To get that alternating magnetic field, some type of electrical equipment was needed, which could also have been the source for the electrical sparks that burned the holes in DesVergas' hat. DesVergas also did feel some heat, possibly radiating from the ground. Also, the sharp odor that DesVergas smelled could be Ozone gas -- (Ruppelt quoting from a Chemistry book) "Ozone is prepared by passing air between two plates which are charged at a high electrical potential." Breathing in a high concentration of ozone gas can also cause unconsciousness.

Crop type: grass

Sources: Project Blue Book Case No. 1981 DesVergers case file; Had "his hair singed by flying saucer" Australian Associated Press, August 24, 1952; , "Sixth Status Report on Contract AF-19741, PPS-100 [Project Stork]," Battelle Memorial Institute, October 10, 1952, originally classified Restricted, p. 3; Laboratory report on the scoutmaster's burned/singed cap, Federal Bureau of Investigation. (August 29, 1952); The UFO Encyclopedia, vol. 2: The Emergence of a Phenomenon: UFOs from the Beginning through 1959. Pages 146-149; NICAP;, USAF; Flying Saucers – UFO Reports No.1, 1967; The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Ruppelt, Edward J., 1956. Pages 176-186


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Page last updated on August 1, 2011

2008 ICCRA - Jeffrey & Delsey Wilson.