In the season premiere of the second season of Fargo — and please note that spoilers are a-comin’ — a small-time thug named Rye played by Kieran Culkin attempted to strong-arm a judge, which didn’t go as he hoped. The end result, as tends to happen in these situations, was a massacre in a waffle restaurant. At the end of the massacre, as Rye was outside looking at the body of an unfortunate waitress, he was startled by bright blue lights in the sky that seemed to approach him before zipping off into the distance. It was all very strange, and it led to a number of understandable questions, including “Wait, was that a UFO?” and “No, seriously, was that a UFO?”
Hmm. Looks pretty UFO-y.
And here’s the thing: This all might have actually been based in fact. Well, “fact.” You see, this season of Fargo takes place in Minnesota in 1979, the same time and place as “The Val Johnson Incident,” a famous potential UFO sighting involving a Minnesota deputy sheriff. From Wikipedia:
Johnson reported that while he was on patrol near Stephen, Minnesota about 2 AM on August 27, 1979 he saw a beam of light just above the road. According to Johnson, the beam sped towards him, his squad car was engulfed in light, and he heard glass breaking. Johnson said he was unconscious for 39 minutes and when he awoke he realized his wristwatch and the vehicle’s clock had stopped for 14 minutes. The windshield was shattered, a headlight and red emergency light was damaged and a thin radio aerial bent. Deputies responding to Johnson’s call for help found the squad car sideways on the road. Johnson suffered bruises and eye irritation that a physician compared to “welder’s burns.”
Not an exact match to the events of the show, clearly, unless maybe the implication is that the same UFO that came for Ol’ Val also showed up at the Waffle Hut the night of the massacre. Aliens just running amok all over Minnesota: A small part of me hopes that’s what the entire back half of this season is about, an all out war between humans and aliens. It would put that mob territory battle in perspective, at least.
And in a nice bit of timing, Minnesota Public Radio News actually caught up with Val Johnson a few months back, before anyone but the Fargo cast and crew knew about the potential reference. They asked him about the incident and how it affected his life, and I am very pleased to report that Val Johnson has been 100 percent Minnesota-as-hell about it all.
“People don’t call about that anymore,” he said.
It becomes readily apparent that the details of the Val Johnson incident still enthralling UFO enthusiasts, just don’t fascinate Johnson.
“I looked up at the sky and said, ‘Well shucks, what happened?'” Johnson recalled. “And then I shuffled on with my life.”
“Well shucks, what happened?” sounds more like something you’d say to a toddler with a stain on his Spider-Man shirt than something you say after a potential UFO burned your eyeballs. I love it. And that’s not even the best part. This is how he responded to strange maniacs showing up at his house to talk about aliens.
“We’d sit in the back yard with lemonade and talk,” he said. “They’d tell me what they thought happened to me and I’d nod at the appropriate times. Eventually they’d go away.”
Is it too late to make Val Johnson a character on the show? Or let him host a Chris Hardwick-style yapfest Fargo aftershow? I feel like we can make the second thing happen if we get cracking today.