From the near complete lack of inflection in Herbert Schirmer's voice, the scratches and hisses on the cassette recording and the stray coughs from the audience, one might think he's about to present the world's first PowerPoint presentation.
But after introducing himself, the former Ashland police officer launches into a story about an encounter that took place during an early-morning shift on Dec. 3, 1967, when he was 22.
"I was looking at him, and he was looking at me ... and ... he said, ‘Are you the watchman of this town?'
"And my response was ... ‘Yes, sir.'
"He said, ‘Come with me, watchman.'
"And we started moving toward ... the spacecraft."
Yes, a spacecraft. Schirmer was speaking at a UFO convention about the ship and aliens he said he saw on routine patrol.
"Spotted flying saucer at Highway 6 and Highway 63, believe it or not," he reported after returning to the station at about 3 a.m.
"He remembered in his training, no matter what, write it in the log," said Michael Jasorka, a Los Angeles comic book artist who came upon Schirmer's story, and the recording, online.
Schirmer's report, the matter-of-fact way he shared his story and the fallout from talking candidly about an alien abduction all inspired Jasorka to create a comic book about it: "December 3rd, 1967: An Alien Encounter."
The concept of the 50-page book is pretty simple. Jasorka decided early on that any dialogue he would write couldn't top Schirmer's personal account from the convention, believed to have taken place in Florida in the early 1970s. Jasorka instead transcribed the speech, broke up the text and drew corresponding panels for Schirmer's words.
"It was this perfect fragment in time as an audio piece that I loved," Jasorka said. "He made this real easy for me."
An audio CD of Schirmer's speech is included with the book, which Jasorka self-published thanks in part to a Kickstarter.com project that resulted in more than $4,500 in donations.
Jasorka never has been to Ashland, or Nebraska, so he got acquainted with the town thanks to Google Maps' Street View feature. He's planning on visiting the site this summer.
"It was all there, essentially," Jasorka said. "I could envision that tire shop."
The tire shop came into play a few days after Schirmer filed his abduction report. Schirmer said the owner of the Goodyear shop saw him walking past the store and ran to catch him: "Herb, if you ever see another flying saucer, and it lands, you tell 'em I wanna sell them a set of tires."
It was one of countless reactions to his account that ranged from humorous (prank phone calls from Mars) to disturbing (his car was blown up) after he gave a series of interviews about the alien encounter.
"He has nothing really to gain from that and everything to lose," Jasorka said. "It's just an incredible story."
Schirmer lasted only a few more months in the Ashland Police Department after his reported encounter. A Lincoln Evening Journal article about another UFO report about a year after Schirmer's said he was reported to be living in Omaha.
Jasorka said he was unable to find Schirmer, who would be in his late 60s now, but wasn't really trying. If they meet, he said, it will happen organically.
Jasorka dedicated the book to Schirmer: "Whose story I believe."
Reach Cory Matteson at 402-473-7438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.