Bob Shell: AAP, What Are They?

UFO illustration by Dean Rosenzweig, copyright 2023
Artwork by Dean Rosenzweig, Copyright 2023

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2023


AAP, What Are They?


Everyone has heard of UFOs or Flying Saucers, but what are they? My preferred term is AAP, Anomalous Aerial Phenomena. I prefer this term to UFO, because it makes no assumptions not established by the observations. AAP don’t fly in the sense that our aircraft and rockets do. They lack wings, airfoils, and have no visible means of propulsion. Occasionally they show exhaust behind them, but that is rare. They simple float or hang in the air without any visible means of support. They accelerate instantaneously, to amazing speeds without causing sonic booms, which we cannot do. They make right-angle turns in defiance of inertia. 

And, are they even objects in our normal sense of that concept. They disappear into nothing, appear from nothing, divide into two or more, change shape and size, and don’t show up on ordinary radar. So, it seems they aren’t objects as we think of that word. 

The only part of UFO that’s true is that they are unidentified. We simply don’t know what they are. 

The old term Flying Saucer doesn’t fit, either, because they don’t fly, as above, and are rarely saucer-shaped. 

The term Flying Saucer was coined by newspapers after Kenneth Arnold’s sighting near Mt Ranier in 1947. Arnold was piloting a small plane when he saw a formation of AAPs flying at phenomenal speed (he estimated 14,000 mph). He said they moved “like a saucer skipping over water,” a common observation of AAPs. This “accelersate and glide” movement has been observed many times. 

But Arnold never said they were saucer-shaped. He said they moved like saucers. The things he saw were crescent-shaped. Newspapermen stuck us with an erroneous name. Unfortunately, this catchy name stuck for a long time. 

AAP come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but are rarely actually saucer-shaped. 

Back in the early 1970’s I had a very clear daytime AAP sighting. My wife and I were living on an old farm with no close neighbors. The old farmhouse was on the side of a hill overlooking a shallow valley. We were sitting on the front porch on a warm, sunny summer day, when movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention. 

When I looked up, I saw a shiny metallic cigar-shaped something slowly crossing the sky. It is very difficult to judge the size of things with no point of reference, but I could tell this thing was quite large. I ran inside the house and grabbed my good 7 X 35 German binoculars and looked at it through them. It was externally featureless, appearing to have a shiny metal skin like polished aluminum with no windows or other external features. As it slowly traversed the sky we noticed a weird phenomenon. Nature had gone absolutely silent. Before this thing appeared birds were chirping, grasshoppers were rasping, tree leaves were rustling in the breeze, all the normal natural sounds of summer in the country. All that ceased — stopped dead. The silence was eerie, spooky, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. 

When the thing had gone about a third of the way from horizon to horizon, a blinding white beam like a searchlight shone down from about its middle, brighter than the sun, onto things I couldn’t see because of a small ridge across the valley. That light shone down for maybe fifteen seconds or so, then went out. 

The thing wasn’t directly overhead. We were viewing it at about a sixty degree angle above the far horizon. It moved silently and majestically across the sky from my left to my right, until it disappeared behind the tree line. Once it had gone all of the sounds started again as though nothing had interrupted them. 

In those days you could call the air traffic controllers in the tower of the Roanoke airport. I called them and asked if they knew of any air traffic in my area, but they said there was none. 

I reported the sighting to NICAP, but never heard anything more about it. It was a very dramatic event and remains burned into my memory all these years later. 

In all the years since, when anyone asked me if I was a UFO believer, I answered that I was not a believer, I was a knower. I know AAP exist, but I don’t claim to know what they are. 

That was not my first or only experience with AAP. A few years earlier, around 1971, I was on my way late at night from Roanoke, Virginia to Washington, DC. I was in my mid-twenties and didn’t own a car at the time, so I was riding on a Greyhound bus, sitting toward the front on the righthand side. As we headed east across the northern Virginia countryside toward Washington, it was clear but very dark outside. I looked to the southeast and saw three very large somethings hovering over the hills. The things themselves were invisible, black or very dark against the night sky, but appeared spherical and were covered with colored lights that were blinking on and off in what appeared to be random patterns. I watched, spellbound, for a few minutes. They didn’t move, appeared to be hovering stationary over the hills. There was a moderate wind blowing as I could see from the motion of the trees, but these things weren’t moved by it. To me that ruled out some sort of gigantic balloons. I got up and walked forward and called the bus driver’s attention to them. The other few passengers appeared to be asleep, so I didn’t bother them. 

The driver slowed to look and said, “What the hell is that?” in amazement. I wanted him to stop so we could get a better look, but he said he couldn’t unless it was a genuine emergency, and he didn’t consider it one, so we continued on our way at a slower speed, watching them until I lost sight of the things behind us. As far as I could tell, they didn’t move at all.

Interstate 66 hadn’t been built yet, so we were traveling on two-lane blacktop roads, and at times roadside trees hid the AAP but when visibility was restored, they were still hanging there. I’d guess they were visible for fifteen minutes or more. I knew some of the people at NICAP, so I filed a report of the incident with them the following day, noting the time and bus number. I may have known the driver’s name and put it in my report, but if so I’ve forgotten it over the years. 

My interest in AAP goes back to my teens. My late father, Jim Shell, was a television news reporter for WSLS TV, Channel Ten, in Roanoke. He’d spent all of WW II in San Francisco in one of the coastal defense batteries, set up to defend the San Francisco Bay from Japanese submarines. Even in the 1950’s, San Francisco was a hotbed of what were called hipsters, and beatniks, the beat generation. 

My father became a Freemason and Rosicrucian, and raised his three children free from the mental shackles of established religion. I am ever thankful for that gift he gave me. 

In the mid-1960’s there was a major “UFO flap” in the little town of Wytheville, Virginia (pronounced ‘With-vul’ by the locals). This event was included peripherally in an X Files episode. 

Briefly, for over a year scores of residents of the Wytheville area saw flying triangles, large, triangular-shaped things that flew around above them. There was one place where people parked to watch them, seeing them almost every night. 

Most of the media other than the local newspaper dismissed the whole thing, but my father took it seriously. He went to Wytheville and interviewed numerous eyewitnesses, and reported about the events on his newscasts. 

Interestingly, similar triangular AAP were seen over Belgium at the same time, and reported in European media. Then, as abruptly as it started, it ended. The triangles were seen no more and most people filed it all away in some dark corner of their minds or simply forgot about it. 

My father got a bunch of UFO books when he was researching the Wytheville events. I read them all, and was convinced there was something real going on. 

Those events, and others I may write about one day, confirmed for me that we humans share this planet with “others,” who have technology far beyond anything we have even dreamed of. Who or what they are I do not know, but I have my ideas. 

Recently, I saw a TV report that said that NASA scientists believe there is evidence of an earlier prehuman civilization. 

They have been called ultraterrestrials and hyperterrestrials by some researchers. 

Although many books and articles state that the AAP began with Kenneth Arnold’s 1947 sighting, that is simply wrong. Sightings of AAP date back as far as recorded history. Whatever they are, they’ve been with us since we became human, if not before. 

I’ll write more about AAP and my personal experiences with them as time allows. I’d be interested in hearing from others with personal AAP experiences. I’m currently writing a sequel to my 2019 book ‘Cosmic Dance’ and intend to include a chapter on AAP.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell link here:

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