Currituck County Tales and Legends
The Great Silver Ball
Contributed by Robert Etheridge
My mother, Elizabeth Sawyer Etheridge, told me all of the stories that I know about Currituck County. This one concerns a phenomenon that she experienced herself not once, but twice.
The year was 1935. The month was March, that most indecisive of all months. For a number of days March had been behaving like January with cold winds and dreary skies. Then March decided that it wanted to be May and promptly put on a glorious spring face. Elizabeth stepped out onto the back porch of her home in Harbinger and simply delighted in the warm air and cheery birdsong, which seemed to be everywhere. She was an avid gardener and was seeing in her mind's eye just where she was going to plant the annuals for the season when she noticed a slight movement just above the tree line across the field. When she devoted her full attention she could see that an object was suspended in the sky. In appearance she described it as a large ball. It was silver in color and was definitely spherical in shape. Its size was that of a silver dollar held at arm's length. There were no definite markings on the object, just vague impressions of shading. As she watched, the object slowly began sinking toward the horizon. It gradually increased the speed of its descent and quickly disappeared behind the tree line.
All around her the birds continued their singing. There was nothing to indicate that anything out of the ordinary had happened. Elizabeth stood there for several minutes before turning and going back into her home. She knew that she had seen an omen.
Two days later she received word that her father, Gideon Sawyer, had died.
The following days March decided once again to be winter. The family gathered and were all drawn together in their time of grief. Elizabeth and her mother, Mary, resolved a long-standing feud and both were sorry that they did not do so when Gid was alive, as he had wished.
More days passed and March once again turned into delightful spring. On another day, Elizabeth once again stepped out onto her back porch and listened to the birds singing and planned her flower garden. And then, with a strange premonition, before she even saw it, she knew that the silver ball was back. She looked up across the field and there it was, just as it was several days before. And, as several days before, it began to gradually sink. As before, its speed increased and it quickly disappeared behind the tree line. Elizabeth again stood for several minutes and then turned and went back into her house. This time she knew what the sign meant.
Two days later her husband, Tregarron Guard, who had been ill, died.
When I became older I tried to rationalize just what it was that my mother saw. I thought perhaps she saw a blimp from the Navy Blimp Base in Weeksville. A blimp would appear spherical when viewed face on, but the blimp base was not authorized until 1942 and did not become fully operational until 1943. Some folks today would explain the silver ball by saying it was an UFO. I do not care for such explanations myself. I believe that she saw something because she was not a fanciful person, but as to what it was, I do not know.