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Mon, Oct 15, 2007

Hobbyist Gleefully Fools SoCal Residents With 'UFO'

Radio-Control Model Leads To Sightings

A radio control model airplane hobbyist has a strange sense of humor that has people looking to the skies over Southern California.

Hoaxmaster Linn Murphy has reportedly fooled thousands. But now, it appears, the jig is up, according to the Orange County Register.

In his hometown of Irvine, Murphy is equal parts rebel, nerd and celebrity -- a man who has spiked Orange County's unidentified flying object sightings for the past three years, with a foam toy three feet in diameter.

The Register reports Murphy has emptied bars, distracted football games and brought cars to a halt. The man has generated hundreds, if not thousands, of calls to police... and dozens of videos on UFO Web sites.

"All the police know me," he likes to say of his nightly obsession - flying radio-control planes shaped like saucers with lights. "It's never boring. Every night is different, " said Murphy.

Murphy got his start in the hobby from model radio control airplane enthusiast Steve Zingali, who introduced the UFO.

One 53-year-old man reported a large glowing ball that "appeared to drip fire." It traveled about five miles in a few seconds, he said, and left an "acrid type odor" in the air.

At 400 feet altitude, the UFO (which weighs about a pound) looks like a mammoth spacecraft miles away, dancing, diving, hovering, and flitting away.

Zingali and Murphy say they love the "gotcha" element of fooling people... in fact, it's why they fly.

"I like to fly, land and leave," says Murphy, a self-employed entrepreneur whose stories usually end with the phrase, "I got another one!"

Like the time an Irvine police officer threatened to cite him.

"I said, 'Sir, unless you're with the FAA, my lights are not causing a disturbance. And unless you can show me a code we're breaking, I think we're going to continue to fly." (The police later invited him to fly his UFO in front of the station.)

Another time he flew over a Huntington Beach mall and a woman ran up saying, "Oh my gosh, did you see it? There was a UFO bigger than my house!" (He showed her the UFO in his trunk.)

Or the time he crashed his UFO on the roof of a Barnes & Noble. "I walked in," he says. "The manager saw me with my radio around my neck saying I lost my UFO, and thought I was odd."

She refused to get it, so he called the police, who recovered it for him.

"We've had strange calls -- people reporting UFOs and strange sounds in the air," says Lt. Rich Paddock, police chief for Aliso Viejo. "But they're not doing anything illegal. There's no ordinance that says it's illegal to fly a super-double-secret, gyroscoptic UFO in county airspace."

FMI: www.ufocenter.com

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