They came from somewhere Out There. They boldly went where 13-foot-tall pinheads had never gone before. And, in a lesser city of the earthlings, they made contact—with a bunch of kids.

The encounter, as reported straight-facedly by the Soviet press, took place Sept. 27 in Voronezh, 300 miles southeast of Moscow. About 6:30 P.M., a dazzling orb descended, revealing itself to be a banana-shaped spaceship. "Creatures similar to humans and a small robot came out," said Tass, the official news agency. The aliens, according to the newspaper Soviet Culture, were tall and triple-eyed. The soccer-playing children (there were, oddly, no adult witnesses) were reportedly paralyzed with fear; one youngster's scream of terror was silenced by an alien's gaze. The ETs and the UFO bolted but came back five minutes later. One alien pointed a tube at a 16-year-old boy, who vanished. Then the aliens disappeared again, and the boy rematerialized.

That visitation, first reported Oct. 9, was followed by other accounts. Socialist Industry reported a close encounter between a milkmaid and an alien outside the city of Perm, and comrades at a collective farm there reported seeing huge headless creatures on a motorbike.

Finally, on Oct. 12, Komsomolskaya Pravda, the Young Communist newspaper, published a purported interview with an alien. Journalist Pavel Mukhortov described a meeting on July 30—again near Perm—with 13-foot, glow-in-the-dark aliens. He said they read his questions telepathically and answered in glowing letters that appeared before his eyes. The creatures said they hailed from "the constellation Libra, Red Star." No, they hadn't been told by their "central system" about their mission on Earth, and, sorry, they couldn't take him to their planet. "You might bring thought bacteria," they told poor Pavel.

There has been speculation that the alleged interview might have been a not-so-Swift attempt at satire. But there could be a simpler explanation. Maybe, just maybe, these beings come from a galaxy that's short of something vital—something like vodka, or caviar, or borscht.