It was back in the 1960s, down in New Zealand, that Warren Aston watched a small point of light approach a satellite, circle around it, and then vanish at a high rate of speed.
Aston, who has carried that memory with him for more than 40 years, has emerged as one of the world's foremost UFO researchers, traveling far and wide to collect and investigate unusual stories across cultures.
Arriving from Australia, Aston spent Friday at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, browsing old papers before heading to Townsend in hopes of finding the location where Udo Wartena allegedly boarded a UFO in 1948.
While in Helena, Aston also hopes to interview several friends of Leo Dworshak, a man who also claimed to have boarded a UFO in North Dakota in the 1932.
Aston, who travels the world conducting interviews on the topic, says the two Montana stories are among the most credible he's ever encountered.
"I grew up at the beginning of the space race," Aston said. "It took me into a bigger world than my little country town. To me, this is just another part of it. We see our own future when we see these things happening."
While clearing a ditch in the Big Belt Mountains in the summer of 1948, Udo Wartena, a Dutch immigrant, saw what he described as a ship.
The ship looked like a blimp, but more pointed and not as thick in the middle. While the ground sloped away, the ship remained on a level hover.
"As I stood there, a stairway was let down and a man came down this and started walking towards me," Wartena wrote in 1980. "As I was somewhat more than interested, I went to meet him. He stopped when we were about ten or twelve feet apart."
A being that appeared like a man came down from the ship. The being asked Wartena if they could take some water. Wartena watched as they lowered a hose from the ship. The being then invited Wartena to come aboard.
"After we had entered the ship, I had noticed that the sound I had heard outside was hardly noticeable," he wrote. "So I asked him what caused the noise or humming. He said this would be a bit complicated, but he would try to explain so I could understand."
The man said two flywheels moving in opposite directions created the ship's gravitation. The ship also used energy from the stars for power and momentum.
While Wartena kept his story to himself for much of his life -- just as the aliens had asked him to do -- he finally wrote the details down, then confided in two of his closets friends just before his death.
The story didn't hit UFO circles until Aston got hold of it. He released the details at a UFO symposium in Michigan in 1997. Aston still describes the story as one of the most convincing he's ever heard.
"I was the original investigator for the Wartena story," Aston. "He'd said all they wanted to do was get water. It was their energy source. They split the water from the oxygen and hydrogen, and used the hydrogen to power their craft."
Aston said the details are impressive, being that the encounter took place 60 years ago. But Wartena didn't divulge his story for more than 50 years, leading some to wonder if the details could have been mixed with mankind's own emerging technology.
Wartena's close encounter wasn't the only story to bring Aston to Helena. Leo Dworshak, who lived in the McHugh trailer court for years, wrote a small book on his experience.
Dworshak claimed to have seen a UFO land while exploring with his brother in North Dakota in 1932. He also said he boarded the UFO and met its alien occupants.
"The first time we just saw the ship," Dworshak told the IR in 2003. "The second time we entered the UFO and we were in there with the aliens. They showed us the whole ship."
Dworshak detailed the way the spacecraft landed, how it looked, and how an invisible force-field had kept him and his brother at a distance.
The pair watched the UFO rotate "in a complicated way." The flashing, colored lights formed an outer shell, "like a band or a belt," that circled the vehicle at its widest point.
"The inner shell seemed to be standing still, or perhaps turning the other way," Dworshak had said. "It was totally silent and produced no cloud of exhaust fumes or smoke."
The ship returned night after night. Eventually, Dworshak said, the aliens invited him and his brother to come aboard.
After he was disinfected, the aliens gave Dworshak a tour of the craft. They also showed him the future -- one that included the home computer and the rise of Nazi Germany.
Much of our knowledge, Dworshak had said, is a gift from an alien race -- left behind for us to find, to study, and to contemplate. The aliens also told him that "No one will ever believe you when you tell them about us."
Some still don't, but Aston is inclined to believe Dworshak's story. Unfortunately, Dworshak passed away three weeks ago, and Aston never got his face-to-race interview.
"I'm meeting people who knew him and worked with him over a period of time," Aston said. "Both of their stories have some things in common. Did they run in the same group of people? At this stage, I think, possibly not."