Investigators trying to verify a reported landing in Central Russia by huge, three-eyed aliens ran into an unexpected problem Saturday - a lack of witnesses.
Most of the children who in the past few days have enthralled the country with their tales of spaceships, robots and gun-toting extra-terrestrials in this industrial city of 900,000 were not allowed to meet the investigators."The parents want their kids to be left alone," said Slava Martinov, a member of the Commission for the Investigation of Abnormal Phenomena.
Commission head Genrykh Silanov, holding a copper rod to try to divine traces of the aliens, took his team to the bushy glade where several children claimed to have seen the spaceship land. He walked up and down a patch of soft earth for five minutes, twirling a bent piece of copper tubing in his right hand.
"This is called biolocation - it helps me sense where the aliens walked," he told a large group of Soviet journalists.
The team, most of whom are confirmed UFO enthusiasts, have already conducted interviews with the children about an alleged spaceship landing on Sept. 27 in a Voronezh park about 300 miles southeast of Moscow.
Lurid accounts in newspapers and the official news agency Tass have depicted 10-foot-high creatures with three eyes and small knobby heads landing their luminous sphere.
According to the reports, one of the aliens, silver-suited and accompanied by a robot, strolled through the park before firing an unusually large gun at a 16-year-old boy, who temporarily vanished. The boy reappeared when the spacecraft left.
The only child prepared to say she had seen the incident, 11-year-old Lena Sarokina, was closely questioned but gave no new details of the landing and the aliens' late evening stroll.
Friday the Communist Party daily Pravda slammed local authorities for not clamping down on the waves of rumors still sweeping much of Voronezh.
The incident has provoked a spate of articles in national papers, and Friday the local television station devoted the first 15 minutes of its main evening news bulletin to the story.
During the broadcast the two star child witnesses admitted to being avid science fiction fans but denied they had made up the story.
"For once, people here have forgotten about the lack of meat and soap and are talking only of this. You can see it in their faces - they are more alive, enthusiastic," said shop assistant Yelena Katurovna.
Adult witnesses remained obstinately elusive, but virtually everyone questioned had their own theories about the incident and said they knew of someone who had seen something unusual at some stage in their life.
"I am sure the ship came from Venus. I did not see it myself, but my grandmother's cousin once saw a space ship attack a train in Siberia," said a local technician, who asked to remain anonymous.