The following section is designed to put together a small inventory of some of the preeminent UFO sightings to be found in the investigative literature. The episodes described herein are chosen, not necessarily for their drama or shock effect (though many are not lacking in this regard), but for the strength of the evidence of something unexplained which they embody. Some of the most famous and/or interesting cases in UFO lore are not covered here, because they are either too disputed, too subject to alternative explanations, not well enough documented, or too radical to lead the way to a wider acceptance of the phenomenon. This section is meant to help those who are somewhat skeptical, without being close-minded, get their foot in the door of contemplating the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial spacecraft in our skies, and to inspire them to further explore the idea and its significance. Thus, cases such as the Roswell flying saucer crash, all alien abduction episodes (from Barney and Betty Hill to the present), the Valentich Disappearance, Flight 19, Area 51, the Men in Black, Gulf Breeze, the Lubbock Lights, crop circles, the Tunguska Event, the Rendlesham Forest Incident, Nha Trang, the Zhang Po Incident, numerous reports from the Soviet Union, released after the "fall of Communism", and many other interesting chapters of the "UFO package" are omitted, here. This does not imply any judgment on these components of the lore, only a personal preference for the construction of this article, which intends to focus on a few select UFO cases which come closest to satisfying scientific standards of proof regarding the phenomenon. Needless to say, there is an extensive, even huge, inventory of events not included in this small section, which are highly suggestive of the presence of alien spacecraft interacting with our world. The events I have chosen to write about here were selected on the basis of the strength of the witnesses (conforming to our prejudices of what kinds of people constitute the most reliable witnesses), the number of witnesses involved (multiple witnesses preferred), and the presence of other collaborative factors (especially visual sightings enhanced by radar readings or other forms of evidence).

To briefly summarize the history of official UFO investigation, which has documented some of the most interesting cases: shortly after the end of World War Two, and the advent of American nuclear power, the modern UFO phenomenon took off. Before this time, there had been reports of objects in the sky from other times and cultures, which some modern scholars and enthusiasts have reinterpreted as UFOs in the modern sense: from the Bible, from ancient Rome, from the Dogon people of Mali, from medieval Europe, from Europe and America in the late 1800s… But in 1947, with a massive wave of sightings which swept across America and gave rise to the term "flying saucer", the modern UFO phenomenon was born.

The US Air Force, being America’s guardian of the skies, assumed the central role in investigating the phenomenon, in a period which was rife with Cold War tension between the US and the Soviet Union, and fresh with the memory of the gigantic technological breakthroughs which had been made near the end of the Second World War by the Nazi V-2 (rocket bomb), which laid the foundations for the space age, and the Me-262 (Messerschmitt jet fighter), which made a laughingstock of the propeller-driven plane, and demonstrated to the world the extreme danger of arriving late to the next generation of weaponry. No one could afford to be left behind in research and development; no one could afford to become the next century’s Indians, armed with bows and arrows against the gun. It was crucial for the sake of national security, in those early days, to identify the nature and source of the mysterious craft which seemed to be filling up our skies after the threshold year of 1947, to determine whether or not they posed a threat to us, and what, if anything, could be done about them. A special investigative group was therefore set up to deal with the mysterious craft which had been seen by large numbers of people and numerous well-trained military personnel, with the purpose of getting a handle on the problem.

The original investigative apparatus soon evolved into what would become known as PROJECT BLUE BOOK, a group of scientists and officials working under the aegis of the US Air Force. They were assigned to studying the reports of UFOs which came to the attention of the government: to do on-site investigative research; to interview witnesses; to analyze all the evidence from different angles, informed by their various fields of expertise; and, finally, to come up with an assessment of what had actually happened. In many cases, the reports which they were given to evaluate could be explained within the framework of what they already knew. There were misinterpreted sightings of conventional aircraft and weather balloons, of meteors, stars, and planets, of satellites, flocks of birds (illuminated from below, by lights on the ground), of clouds, of atmospheric phenomenon (such as "swamp gas" and electrical discharges), as well as probable hallucinations and many hoaxes. On the other hand, there were also some very compelling sightings for which they could provide no plausible explanation, which fit no known laws of science and did not lie within the known, or even imagined, limits of human technology. Without publicly embracing the "Extraterrestrial Hypothesis", it is my belief that some members of the investigative team certainly considered it to be a very strong possibility in the face of the evidence which they were encountering. There were many sightings of objects which appeared to be solid craft, which utterly exceeded the performance capabilities of any earthly flying machine, and which, at times, exhibited what seemed "intelligent" and "responsive" behavior when faced with investigation or confrontation by terrestrial airpower.

I am certain that in these days government assessors of the UFO phenomenon determined that these UFOs did not represent a national security threat stemming from the Soviet Union, or any other earthly nation, and that they did not represent a security threat from outer space, either, at least not in terms of making any demand upon our military resources, because the technology involved was so far beyond ours that there was no possibility of defending ourselves against attack should one unfold. As time went on, and no attack was manifested, this line of thinking was reinforced. The aliens had no intention to attack, or they would have done so already. The key to handling the UFO problem, therefore, became one of managing their potential social, political, and religious effects on the earth, with regard to maintaining the stability of our system.

After a very shocking and in some ways disconcerting wave of UFO sightings over Washington DC in 1952, the CIA set up a body of scientists known as the Robertson Panel to, essentially, deal with the social effects of the UFO phenomenon. This panel proposed to inject a higher degree of order into the situation by co-opting the scientific community to debunk the UFO phenomenon. The guiding principles of the Panel seem to have been that: (1) The phenomenon, if not quieted down (which meant making it seem less real to the public and thereby inhibiting the public’s response to it), could distract the American security establishment from focusing on more real and immediate dangers, such as the actions of the Soviet Union. (2) The phenomenon could, if it were to be incorporated into the worldview of political or religious groups, take a subversive direction.

As a result of the emphasis of the Robertson Panel, Project Blue Book was, to all intents and purposes, taken off its original track and transformed from a serious investigative project into a PR front for the government, which wished to exploit the public trust enjoyed by the Blue Book scientists to dismantle popular belief in UFOs, in order to dry up the social potential of the phenomenon. Blue Book was plugged into the new agenda set by the Robertson panel, and given the primary purpose of explaining away UFO sightings, rather than investigating them. Blue Book scientists felt they were now beginning to receive a lower level of official cooperation than before; at least some of them felt that their research was hampered by the implied directive to disprove rather than to investigate.

In spite of this, some excellent work was done and many interesting cases examined. But public acceptance of Blue Book began to wane, as its overall agenda seemed to become more apparent. As Blue Book’s credibility floundered, the Air Force contracted a new group to go through the Blue Book case files and examine the UFO problem, anew, to determine if the subject required further investigation. The University of Colorado UFO Project, known as the Condon Committee, operated between 1966 and 1968, and finally issued a massive report which included assessments on a large inventory of cases, as well as a summary which, essentially, dismissed the UFO phenomenon as being a hodgepodge of mundane events with natural causes, and discouraged the government from making any major new investments in its study. Although the report actually contained some very intriguing cases which it, itself, left as "unexplained" (over ¼ of the cases, in fact), and although the possibility of further research was not ruled out, the effect of the report was to publicly remove the government from the investigation. The subject had been deemed by "eminent scientists" as not worthy of pursuit, and the Air Force gladly let go of this controversial and frequently embarrassing theme, which left it constantly exposed to the charge of engineering a "cover up"; Project Blue Book was laid to rest in 1969, and whatever government investigation of UFOs continued afterwards was kept off the record, and denied.

However, the public’s desire to know, and to have a resource in the event of future UFO sightings, remained. During this time, citizens’ groups devoted to the study of UFOs, and enclaves of interested scientists persevered and grew, and kept the investigative process up and running privately, albeit with vastly diminished resources and reduced access. In its controversial lifetime, Project Blue Book had amassed a total of 12, 618 UFO sightings, of which just over 700 remained unexplained. On the basis of these numbers, and the quality of some of the evidence (which seemed to indicate that something very real was, in fact, taking place), astronomer J. Allen Hynek, who had been a member of Project Blue Book, persisted in the field, forming his own research center and launching a crusade, of sorts, not to prove anything, but to defend the honor of seeking. He believed the UFO phenomenon deserved respect, and real attention.

In addition to his work in evaluating sightings and popularizing the worthiness of ufology as the rightful domain of serious scientists, and not merely the stamping ground of fringe lunatics, J. Allen Hynek devised a structure of classification which was very helpful in regarding the phenomenon. In his own research, he divided UFO sightings into two principal categories: UFOs spotted at a distance, and UFOs observed at close range. (By close range, he meant at such a distance that "extended areas" could be seen as opposed to mere points or "near points" in the sky; he gauged this range to be generally less than 500 feet.)

Regarding the distance events, he divided the sightings into 3 categories: nocturnal lights, daytime discs, and radar/visual. "Radar/visual" refers to events simultaneously observed by the eye and picked up on radar, a category which he considered to be especially compelling, as long as investigators were able, with a high degree of probability, to tie the two forms of perception (the visual sightings and the radar imaging) to the same event. In this type of sighting there was imbedded an innate layer of corroboration. (Hynek did not, in his own work, accept radar images without visual backing as evidence of UFOs, due to the existence of anomalous propagation, or the generation of apparently solid images on screen due to a variety of factors, which could include temperature inversions which divert the radar waves in such a way that they pick up objects on the ground, misreads of flocks of birds, swarms of insects, etc. "Ghosts", "bogies", and "angels" are well-known curses of the radar operator, though the best of such operators, informed by experience, have some ability to weed them out.)

Within the category of "close encounters", Hynek devised the by-now famous system which describes those encounters as being either of "the first kind" (a pure visual sighting); "second kind" (a sighting combined with some physical effect or trace); and "third kind" (a sighting involving "animate beings" who are in some way connected with the unidentified object).

Successors to Hynek have described a "fourth kind" (involving "alien abduction"), and even a "fifth kind" (involving some sort of cooperative communication experience between alien and earthling).

With great respect to the seriousness and methodology of the late Dr. Hynek, I have chosen the UFO encounters included in this section to conform to the highest standards of proof available, opting for radar/visual sightings, for witness quality (emphasizing military and aviation personnel), and for multiple-witness scenarios whenever possible.

Once again, the purpose of this article - unlike The Secret of the UFOs, which presupposes the existence of UFOs and seeks to discern their significance – is to refer readers to some high-quality UFO sightings, in hopes of broadening the numbers of us who believe that UFOs are real. Once we accept that fact, and accept one of its likely corollaries, that we are being visited by alien beings from an advanced civilization from outer space, our world changes, if for no other reason than that we realize the survival and transcendence of our own race is possible, in spite of how imprisoned we seem by our primitive and destructive ways. There are ways of living and thinking that are as far ahead of our own, as alien disks in the sky are ahead of our aircraft. Those ways are not to be told to us directly, it seems, but unleashed from within us by the inspiration that dances beyond the reach of who we are, but not of who we could be.

But these are only my ideas. This article’s purpose is to provide facts: just facts. The next step will be yours.

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On the afternoon of June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, a businessman and experienced pilot, was flying over Washington State in his private aircraft. He had responded to a request, which included the offer of a reward, to help search for a missing Marine Corps C-46 transport plane which had gone down in the vicinity of Mt. Rainer. While engaged in his search, he suddenly spotted a formation of very bright objects flying over the nearby mountaintops at tremendous speed. He described their velocity as much faster than that of ordinary aircraft of the day (he estimated 1700 mph) and also noted that their appearance in flight was quite different ("erratic" he called it), "like speed boats on rough water." They seemed to flutter, tilt, and tip as they hurtled through the sky; or, as he put it later, to fly "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water." The story made it to the Associated Press, and the word "flying saucer" entered the popular vocabulary.

But Arnold’s strange experience was just the beginning. That summer, in the wake of Arnold’s encounter, a massive wave of UFO sightings occurred throughout the United States. The wave of sightings was remarkable, not only because it was "new" and because the impact, without proper interpretation-control systems and debunking mechanisms in place, was especially strong: it was also remarkable because of the large number of daytime disc sightings that were involved, as well as the high percentage of "quality witnesses" who were on hand to provide reports.

Examples follow:

June 28: At 2 PM, US air force jet pilot Lt. Armstrong, spotted a formation of five or six white disks while flying over Nevada.

June 28: At 9:30 PM, at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, two pilots, two intelligence offices and four additional witnesses observed a bright light rushing through the sky at high speed. It made a sharp, 90 degree turn before disappearing.

June 29: At White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico, US Naval Laboratory rocket expert Dr. C.J. John and two other scientists observed a silver disk flying through the sky at supersonic speeds.

June 30: Police officers in Portland, Oregon, observed five shiny disks traveling rapidly through the air in what was described as a wobbling, oscillating motion. A private pilot also reported seeking the flying disks. Witnesses said the UFOs left no vapor trail.

June 30: In the mid-morning hours, a US Navy pilot flying over Arizona, reported seeing two gray spheres which he estimated to be about 10 ft. in diameter, diving towards the earth at tremendous speed. They seemed to land about 25 miles south of the Grand Canyon.

July 4: United Airlines Captain E.J. Smith, while flying over Idaho, reported witnessing 9 circular objects in the sky. His report was corroborated by co-pilot Ralph Stevens and stewardess Martie Morrow. For about 15 minutes, the UFOs carried out dazzling maneuvers, merged together, separated, disappeared, reappeared, and finally vanished from sight.

July 4: 88 sightings were reported by 400 people in 24 states. About one half involved solo UFOs; some of the other sightings involved UFOs flying in formation. 2/3 of the sightings were made during the daytime. The high volume of sightings under conditions of superior visibility makes this situation extraordinary.

July 8: 9:10 AM. Three officers at Muroc Filed (which is now Edwards Air Force Base), California, observed three silver UFOs in flight. At 9:20 AM, Lt. J. C. McHenry observed a flying sphere in the sky as he was warming up his airplane’s engines. At 11:50 AM at White Sands, 5 Air Force technicians, including a major, saw a UFO intrude as they were witnessing an ejection-seat experiment, carried out at 20,000 ft. by two P-82s and one A-26. The UFO, rotating as it descended, traveled much faster to the ground than the falling parachute they were observing, then rose back up into the sky. The witnesses did not observe any of the signs usually associated with known means of propulsion, such as smoke, engine noise, etc. At 3:50 PM, a pilot in a P-51 Mustang flying at 20,000 ft., spotted a "flat object of a light-reflecting nature" which had no wings traveling above him. He was unable to close with it. [1]

The modern age of the UFO had begun. Large sectors of the public were convinced that "flying saucers" were real, and that the earth was in the midst of being visited by beings from outer space.

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1952: UFOs Over Washington, D.C.

At 11:40 PM on the night of July 19, 1952, began one of the most amazing cases ever recorded in the history of the study of UFOs. A wave of disconcerting sightings, many taking place in restricted airspace above Washington, D.C., shook the national security apparatus so badly that a major shift in the way the government handled UFO cases from then on was set into motion. The search for knowledge was supplanted by the imperative to manage public reaction, which was best achieved by dismissing, denying and ridiculing the phenomenon.

But that was later. Regarding this "invasion of the skies of the capital", a great deal of information was still able to reach public attention, and to alarm it with the prospect of the United States government’s impotence in the face of worlds far more advanced than our own.

Some of the key features of the case were as follows:

Air traffic controller Edward Nugent, at Washington National Airport, picked up a cluster of seven blips on his radarscope. Nugent passed on the information to his supervisor, Harry G. Barnes, senior air traffic controller for the Civil Aeronautics Administration. Of the objects being tracked on their radar scope, Barnes stated: "We knew immediately that a very strange situation existed… Their movements were completely radical compared to those of ordinary aircraft." They did not seem to be following any defined course, and periodically disappeared and reappeared on the radar screen, possibly because of sudden, high-velocity accelerations, or for other reasons. Due to the unusual nature of the readings, the radar was checked out and found to be in good working order. Having eliminated a technical malfunction as the cause of the aberrant readings, Barnes, whose station was focused on long-range surveillance, called the other radar site at Washington National, which focused on nearer air space in order to guide aircraft in for landings, in order to see if they had anything on the objects. It turns out, that site was also tracking the objects on radar, and had a visual sighting on one of them as well (a bright orange light was described).

The objects then proceeded to spread out "all over" the zone being monitored, and to fly over the White House and the Capitol Building. That’s when Barnes called Andrews Air Force Base, which was some 10 miles away, to compare notes. An air controller there said the only aircraft they were onto at that time was a C-47 transport, which was an hour away. But then an airman called the tower, to report strange objects in the sky near the base. An airman in the tower, looking out his window in the direction indicated by the caller, observed an object "which appeared to be like an orange ball of fire, trailing a tail… it was very bright and definite, and unlike anything I had ever seen before… It made a kind of circular movement." Suddenly the object stopped in midair, and a split second later, "took off at unbelievable speed", vanishing from sight. Shortly afterwards, another, similar object was seen from the tower.

Since the runways at Andrews Air Force Base were under repair, it could not send any unit up into the air to check out the mysterious objects. The call went in to Newcastle Air Force Base in Delaware, instead, to send up jet interceptors.

Meanwhile, Washington National, which was continuing to track the UFOs on radar, also made a visual sighting of an orange disk flying at an altitude of about 3000 feet.

A little after 1 AM of the 20th, a pilot for a civilian flight for Capital Airlines, Captain S.C. Pierman, noticed, over a 14-minute period, the passage of "six bright white, tailless, fast-moving lights" through the night sky. On the ground, Barnes’ radar station picked up each of the captain’s reported sightings as a blip on the radar screen. Each blip vanished at the moment that the captain indicated a UFO had taken off at high speed. The other radar station at Washington National also located a UFO, which descended rapidly, leveled off, then rose suddenly and disappeared off the radar screen.

Staff Sergeant Charles Davenport, assigned to a Maintenance Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base, noticed an orange-red light to the south of the base, which acted out a recurring pattern of stopping, standing still in the sky, then effecting a sudden change of direction and altitude. He called in the UFO’s position, and several individuals in the base tower saw it before it sped away.

Meanwhile, Bolling Air Force Base, located between Washington National and Andrews, was also picking up objects from its mobile control tower. Personnel connected to Bolling observed a round, amber light in the sky, and an object which was bright orange in color. The observer of the orange light said that it was too fast to be a jet, traveling anywhere from 1000-2000 mph, and that its flight was erratic, punctuated by constant changes in altitude. It was visually observed for 15-20 minutes.

At one point, three radar stations simultaneously got a fix on the same object, which hovered over the Riverdale radio beacon for about 30 seconds, before disappearing at the same moment from all three screens.

By 3 AM, the incursion was over. No UFOs were anywhere to be seen. Two interceptors, arriving from Newcastle, searched the relevant airspace until their fuel ran low, and they were forced to head back towards their base in Delaware. At that moment, the UFOs returned. This impressed Barnes, who felt as if the UFOs had detected the approach of the jets and left the scene until the jets were gone; it was also consistent with the UFOs’ behavior when Barnes had attempted to co-opt Captain Pierman’s civilian flight to move in closer to the mysterious objects in order to check them out. Every time, as Captain Pierman had approached them, they had withdrawn from the vicinity of his craft.

Barnes, who was quite excited by the events, was told, on behalf of military intelligence which he had contacted, that the information he had given them was being passed on to a higher authority.

Davenport of the Andrews maintenance unit, meanwhile, near the end of this astounding night, reported seeing a UFO at the low height of the treetops. This time, it was bluish silver. "It moved erratically, rolling from side to side as it sped by." Three times, he reported, he saw a red object leave the silver object at high velocity, and vanish into the distance.

Radar continued to track various mysterious objects until 5:30 AM. In the early morning, with the light of day already invading the sky, a civilian radio engineer (who had not heard of all the activity during the night), reported seeing five large discs circling about in a loose formation. They then "tilted upward and left on a steep ascent."

Barnes, amazed by the night’s bountiful crop of mysteries, told a local newspaper: "They were no ordinary aircraft. I could tell that by their movement on the scope. I can safely deduce that they performed gyrations which no known aircraft could perform. By this I mean that our scope showed that they could make right angle turns and complete reversals of flight. Nor in my opinion could any natural phenomena such as shooting stars, electrical disturbances or clouds account for these spots on our radar."

Although the skies were now quiet, some unexplained blips continued to appear on radar screens throughout the 20th. Betty Ann Behl, an Air Force weather observer, noticed radar blips performing amazing feats on her scope, which she said were in no way similar to the bogus images which may sometimes be produced by temperature inversions and other meteorological phenomena: phenomena which she had observed in the past.

That night, an Army artillery officer, Joseph H. Gigandet, and an FBI agent, as well as various local callers, observed a UFO near Alexandria, Virginia, southwest of Washington National. It was described as a red, cigar-shaped object. It traveled slowly, stopped, left, came back, stopped, and then flew away, turning a deeper red as it accelerated.

Project Blue Book, which was up and running at this time, was notably left out of the loop during the event, most likely indicating that the event was so "hot" that its investigation was slated to be carried out by much more highly classified and integrated elements of the defense establishment.

On July 26, as Washington was still trying to settle down after its previous encounter with the unknown, the UFOs returned for a second major episode.

Around 8:15 PM, the pilot and stewardess of a National Airlines flight observed several glowing objects in the sky, high above them, traveling at an estimated speed of about 100 mph. Around the same time, Washington National and Andrews picked up 12-or-so unidentified images on their scopes. A master sergeant on the ground corroborated the scope readings with a visual sighting of lights. As the night progressed, the activity rose to a frantic pace. Military radar stations observed the UFOs demonstrating a huge performance repertoire, sometimes traveling slowly at less than 100 mph, sometimes traveling at the astonishing rate of 7000 mph, and displaying the ability to instantaneously reverse direction.

Finally, around 11:30 PM, two F-94s from Newcastle Air Force Base arrived at the scene to try to get to the bottom of the mystery. Shortly before they had left base, the UFOs had vanished from the skies above Washington. But now, as the jets approached, the UFOs, failing to follow the pattern of the previous encounter, returned. Lt. William Patterson who was piloting one of the planes, was guided in by ground control to pursue several "fast-moving targets" which were about 10 miles from his position. He came upon four "white glows", and gave chase. But after appearing to retire from him, they suddenly rushed towards him, and encircled his plane, so that he was now flying surrounded by a cluster of unknown objects. When he radioed in to base asking for instructions, the answer he received was "stunned silence." After a moment of incredible tension, the UFOs departed.

In spite of this awful blow to his nerves, Patterson still had the courage left to go after a new bright light in his vicinity, but it simply "went out", leaving him with nothing to chase. Meanwhile, the pilot of the other interceptor, Captain John McHugo, was guided from the ground into the midst of the UFOs, but he was unable to make any visual sighting. At one point, one of the radars had him on scope surrounded by a group of "targets", but he saw nothing at all.

As authorities attempted to piece together what was happening, meteorological data was received from the Washington National Weather Station indicating that a slight temperature inversion was in place, a weather phenomenon known to sometimes propagate inaccurate radar images. However, all experienced personnel associated with the readings that were being taken in considered the radar returns to be good, and the best of the returns to be from "solid metallic objects." No one believed the inversions were nearly strong enough to produce images of the quality they had received, nor anomalies of the kind which they had witnessed: neither the dramatic forms of movement, nor the seemingly responsive, intelligent behavior which the unknown objects appeared to manifest. More F-94s were scrambled from Newcastle, but by now the wild night was calming down, and the incidents faded until nothing more was left except the question of what had happened.

In the wake of this tremendous excitement, when our nation’s capital seemed to lay wide open and helpless beneath the activity of some unknown power, the Air Force provided the reassuring theory that the incidents were nothing but the result of temperature inversions, which are known to be capable of haunting radar scopes with false images. The visual sightings which seemed to parallel the radar reads, were attributed to meteors and to misperceptions produced by overexcitement and the expectation of seeing something unusual. It was considered an absolute necessity, for the psychological component of the national security, to allay public fears regarding the episode, and to retain the full confidence of the American people in the ability of their armed forces to protect them.

However, the personnel most intimately connected with the experience, including Barnes, did not concur with the official explanation. Politically useful as it might be, it did not do justice to the truth which they had experienced. Barnes would later say that the radar returns "were not shapeless blobs such as one gets from ground returns under anomalous propagation." James E. McDonald, an atmospheric physicist from the University of Arizona, in subsequent years, would conduct a study which would lead him to the conclusion that the official explanation of the episode was physically impossible. [2]

But these objections did little to preserve the credibility of the UFO phenomenon in the eyes of the American public, or to promote the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence to the center of human consciousness. The reaction to these dramatic sightings, as engendered by the Robertson Panel and the new, hijacked version of Project Blue Book, which had been refashioned into a PR tool coated with the paint of science, was overpowering. The people allowed themselves to believe the experts who were placed on the stage in front of them (while other experts bit their tongue); and as an act of loyalty to the society which they loved, they opted to trust rather than to question. From now on, it would become harder and harder for the public to get access to information of this same quality. Military sources would become better disciplined and controlled, sympathetic scientists intimidated by the specter of ridicule and professional harm, and witnesses inhibited by the label of gullibility. Perception would be dominated by new systems of reaction put into place, centered on the power of peer judgment, and information would be monopolized by the State. (Even under the "Freedom of Information Act", it must be remembered, there is a whole level of communication within government which does not, officially, exist, and which cannot therefore be disclosed.)

Thanks largely to the response provoked by this dramatic, and extremely well-documented encounter with UFOs, our ability to connect with the paradigm-shift which they seem to offer us has been greatly diminished.

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1952: The Nash-Fortenberry Incident

On July 14, 1952, beginning at 8:12 PM, Captain William B. Nash and his copilot William H. Fortenberry, had a UFO experience as they were flying their Pan American Airway DC-4 over the Chesapeake Bay. They saw six red points moving rapidly in their direction. As the dots came closer, it was discerned that they were reddish orange circles, or coin-like objects, which the crew estimated were about 100 feet in diameter and 15 feet thick. According to Captain Nash, the objects had "sharply defined edges." As the mystery objects approached the DC-4, it was noted that they were flying in a "narrow echelon formation", or an oblique line, with the crafts towards the rear flying at progressively higher increments of altitude. Suddenly, the advancing formation slowed down, and the craft, in unison, "flipped on edge", so that their diameters were now aligned vertically with the earth. To borrow a useful description from another, unrelated sighting which exists in the UFO literature, the objects assumed a position rather like "a Ferris wheel." The surfaces of the objects seemed to be glowing, while the crew had the impression that the bottoms of the objects were unlighted. The rear UFOs jumped over the leader, so that the "tail" of the formation was now in advance with respect to the DC-4. The UFOs then simultaneously assumed a horizontal orientation (went flat again), and veered off, sharply, in another direction. At this time two new UFOs, which the crew had not noticed before, appeared from behind and underneath their DC-4, and rushed away to join the departing formation. When they reached it, the lights of the entire formation went out, then went on again. The formation departed at high speed, north of Newport News, Virginia, before climbing high into the sky at a 45 degree angle of ascent, and disappearing, one UFO light at a time going out until nothing was left but the night from which they had come.

The morning after the flight reached Miami, a Special Investigations team from the US Air Force arrived from McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, to interrogate Nash and Fortenberry, at first separately, and then together. According to Nash, the investigators told them that they had received reports of other sightings connected with the incident, including one from a lieutenant commander, who had seen a formation of red discs flying rapidly through the sky and making "immediate direction changes without turn radius." [3]

The quality of the witnesses and the fact that the incident was probably viewed by multiple witnesses from different perspectives, make this a highly credible report, which, in spite of some debunking efforts centered on temperature inversions and reflected city lights, could only be categorized as "unexplained."

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On June 29, 1954, a Boeing Stratocruiser Centaurus belonging to the British Overseas Airways Corporation, took off from New York’s Idlewild Airport (now JFK), en route to England. Its flight plan was to travel to Newfoundland in order to refuel, before heading over to Europe. While flying above the North Atlantic off the coast of Labrador on the first leg of its journey, during daylight hours, Captain James Howard detected, off to his left, what seemed to be an enormous metal object appearing through a gap in the clouds above him. He also saw six smaller objects which seemed to be circling the larger object. Co-pilot Lee Boyd and the 30 passengers aboard the flight, all witnessed the spectacle. They observed the larger object appear to change its shape as it flew in their vicinity, which struck them as a most extraordinary phenomenon. Boyd called in to ground control, telling them: "We are not alone." Ground control’s reply was: "We know." When Boyd asked them what was up in the air beside them, ground control told him that they didn’t know, but that they’d scrambled a jet fighter (in this case a Sabre) from Goose Bay to investigate. For 20 minutes, the mysterious object kept pace with the Stratocruiser at a distance of about three miles. As the Sabre finally approached the scene, the six objects which had been circling the larger one lined up and, one by one, merged with it; the larger UFO then appeared to shrink. By the time the Sabre had arrived, the UFO had disappeared entirely.

During refueling at Newfoundland, intelligence officers met with the crew and told them that there had been other sightings in the area, as well. The sighting with multiple witnesses aboard the Stratocruiser, which included a trained pilot and copilot, was very likely corroborated by other sources outside of the plane. [4]

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On August 13, 1956, UFO activity came to the area of the Bentwaters Radar Station and Lakenheath Air Force Base in England, which were operated by the Royal Air Force and US Air Force. Around 9:30 PM, radar at Bentwaters began to pick up mysterious targets moving in from the east (a potentially hostile direction, given the location of the USSR), requiring special attention. However, the targets soon began to display puzzling anomalies. One was calculated to be moving at velocities of between 4000 to 9000 mph, defying the performance capabilities of any known aircraft. Next, a loose formation of a dozen or so objects, led by three in a triangular configuration, appeared, a mere 8 miles southwest of Bentwaters. As the formation was observed on the radar scope, all of the objects seemed to come together to form one huge radar image. It stopped in midair and remained stationary for 10 to 15 minutes, before continuing its leisurely flight across the sky; after stopping one more time, it resumed its flight again and finally disappeared. The object had been followed on radar for about 25 minutes. Equipment was checked to insure that it was functioning properly, and it passed inspection.

A T-33 aircraft which was returning to Bentwaters at the time was directed to search for the mysterious objects. It had no radar aboard, and in spite of 45 minutes of search time, it was unable to locate any UFO.

Soon after it had given up, however, another image appeared on the Bentwaters radar screen, flying for a moment at incredible speed before disappearing; then another, which gave a solid return comparable to that typically received from an aircraft: only this craft was observed to be traveling between 2000 and 4000 mph, which was well beyond the capabilities of any earthly technology. It passed almost directly over the base, then vanished from the radar screen. But before it was gone, the radar images had been corroborated by sightings from the ground and air: a C-47 pilot saw it passing underneath his plane.

In close temporal proximity to this incident, personnel at Lakenheath Air Force Base, from the ground, observed a luminous object passing through the sky. They observed it stop, then resume its flight. Next, they observed two white lights appear from separate points in the sky, come together, and depart in formation, after performing several aerobatic feats, including "rapid accelerations and abrupt stops", which were picked up and recorded by two radar screens at Lakenheath.

Around midnight, Lakenheath notified the chief fighter controller on duty at the RAF Station at Neatishead, F.H.C. Wimbeldon, that the base was being buzzed by an unidentified object. Wimbledon scrambled a Venom night fighter, whose mission was directed from the ground by a highly-trained, four-man Interception Control team. This team, joined by Wimbledon, all got solid readings of the object which was disturbing Lakenheath on their radar scopes. The Venom fighter, observing a bright white light in the sky at the point where the radar reads were guiding him, flew in for a closer look. But as he approached, the light disappeared, at the same time that the image was lost from radar scopes.

But no sooner was this incident over, than another radar target appeared over Bedford, and the Venom changed course to investigate it. According to the aircraft’s navigator, who locked on to it with his radar, it was "the clearest target I have ever seen on radar." As the pilot approached, the UFO either jumped over him, or vanished and reappeared, so that it was now on his tail, following him. For a fighter to have a potentially hostile aircraft on his tail is, according to the classic tenets of aerial combat, a calamity: it is the position of maximum vulnerability. The pilot therefore attempted to shake the UFO through a variety of maneuvers, including climbing, diving, circling, etc., but he could not lose the UFO, which clung tightly behind him, thwarting his every evasive measure. On the ground, the pilot’s ordeal was witnessed on radar, as two distinct targets in the throes of a phantom war, dancing a ballet of combat without casualties. After ten minutes of this, with its fuel running low, the worn-out Venom headed back towards base. The UFO followed it for a little ways, then let it go, and stopped to hover in the sky. A second Venom fighter was scrambled to challenge it, but equipment problems compelled it to turn back. Two separate ground radars observed the UFO’s departure, at a speed of about 600 mph.

Lakenheath continued to pick up signs of unusual activity on its radar scopes until around 3:30 AM.

Efforts at debunking this incident have been made, based on a confluence of operator error, "anomalous propagation" and meteors, but have made little headway. This episode occurred in the context of very well-prepared and highly-trained military personnel, involving major bases accustomed to Cold War era responsibilities, which were endowed with solid equipment, and instilled with a commitment to making serious and competent responses in the face of threats to the national security. Physicists James McDonald and Gordon David Thayer both agreed that no presently known phenomenon could account for what happened at Lakenheath on the night of August 13. According to Thayer, who worked for the Condon Committee: "There is simply no way that any known sort of anomalous propagation effect could account for this. In fact, any explanation even remotely conceivable seems to demand the presence of some physical object in the air over Lakenheath."

This is especially compelling, as the whole point of the Condon Committee, as it was conceived, was probably to try to co-opt respected scientists into a government project to debunk UFOs, in order to marginalize the social and psychological menace to national security which they were believed to constitute. However, the Condon Report, itself (which dealt with hundreds of UFO cases), described the Lakenheath-Bentwaters incident as "the most puzzling and unusual case in the radar-visual files", and went on to say that: "the apparently rational, intelligent behavior of the UFO suggests a mechanical device of unknown origin as the most probable explanation." This was revolutionary stuff, indeed. Ultimately, the Condon Committee’s way of dealing with the breach in disbelief propagated by the incident, was to bury the case in what has been described as a huge and overwhelmingly boring report (the Condon Report), which critics contend was constructed as if to repel readers and to hide the cases which it could not explain behind a moat of innumerable pages describing cases which it could. Since few readers had the determination to plough through the whole thing, many depended upon the report’s introduction/summary, written by Dr. E. U. Condon, to clue them in to what was going on, and this introduction has been criticized for drawing conclusions inconsistent with the details to be found inside the report, which contains many inexplicable incidents such as the one at Lakenheath, which are scattered throughout it like money hidden in pillow cases and underneath floorboards. According to Dr. J. Allen Hynek, "a careful reading of the report establishes that the committee went a long way, inadvertently, to establish the non-explainability hypothesis [of UFOs]…" But the tenacious purpose of the committee’s director, Dr. Condon, was firmly in the camp of the debunkers, as this telling comment regarding another incident almost perfectly illustrates: "This unusual sighting should therefore be assigned to the category of some almost certainly natural phenomenon which is so rare that it apparently has never been reported before or since." Ultimately, this vice-like purpose prevailed. The introduction of the Condon Report stifled the content (over 25% of which was unexplained, and therefore of great interest); the spin overcame the facts. The Condon Report brought peace of mind to many, but at the price of knowledge.

The fact that the Lakenheath-Bentwaters case was able to survive a process and a purpose such as this, and to receive such an articulated level of bewilderment from the midst of a project engineered to appear authoritative and to lay public interest in UFOs to rest, is surely a testimony to its solidity. It is one of the key cases on record for those who wish to recover a bizarre and fertile piece of the heritage of our species – our collective involvement with the UFO - as material for reassessing our place in the universe, and energizing our dream to be more than we are. [5]

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In 1978, a wave of UFO sightings took place over Kuwait. Many times, what happens in foreign lands, especially if they are not "Western, European" states, drops a notch in credibility due to our cultural prejudices, as well as the less technically-advanced means of evaluating such phenomena which we imagine these nations to possess. The fact is, in many cases, the military-technical infrastructure required to assess the strangeness of a UFO incident is intact in such countries, even if it is not on a par with our own; and, in many cases, especially when such areas are allied to us and potentially at risk from neighbors, or else are suppliers of resources of great economic importance to us, their threat-evaluation infrastructure is backed up by ours, in the form of satellite coverage, air support, intelligence sharing, and technical assistance.

Oil-rich, politically-friendly Kuwait, in 1978, would fit the description of one such country.

From November to December 14, Kuwait was troubled by a series of UFO sightings which caused it to appoint a special investigatory committee drawn from members of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research. Many of the sightings occurred over a Kuwait oil company gathering-center north of Kuwait City. In the most impressive incident, on November 10, a cylindrical structure "bigger than a jumbo jet", with a large dome and flashing lights appeared, and landed quietly on the ground near an important oil-pumping site, where it remained for several minutes, before flying away at great speed. The object was seen by seven witnesses, including an American. According to the Government of Kuwait, at the time the site was encountering UFO activity, the automatic pumping system (which is designed to turn itself off in the event of mechanical failure anywhere within the system which could result in damage), shut down. The system was designed so that, once this occurred, it could only be restarted manually. However, once the UFO had left the area, the system, contrary to its design, started up again, apparently without human intervention.

On November 21, in the early morning hours, a UFO appeared over a Kuwaiti oilfield close to the border with Iraq. For half an hour it hovered over the site. During this time, long-distance communications between the site and outside locations ceased to function, but within the oilfield itself, local communications were maintained, allowing workers to contact their superior, who was among the witnesses of the UFO.

Both of these cases would correspond to what J. Allen Hynek called "close encounters of the second kind", in which physical effects were linked to visual sightings of a UFO.

In January of 1979, the US Embassy in Kuwait sent a message concerning the sightings to the US State Department, reporting on the seriousness with which the phenomenon was being taken by the Kuwaiti government, which had been informed by the panel of scientists charged with investigating it that the theory of an espionage device of terrestrial origin (one of several possibilities), had been ruled out; that they could not rule out the possibility that they were dealing with extraterrestrial spacecraft (a theory which they did not advocate, nor dismiss); and finally, that the government ought to "take all [necessary] measures to protect Kuwait’s airspace and territory as well as the country’s oil resources."

Clearly, the sightings were of some stature to produce these results within Kuwait, itself, and to create this kind of buzz in international diplomatic communications. [6]

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From December 1982 through 1986, a geographical zone referred to as the Hudson River valley, comprising Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, and Dutchess counties in New York state, and Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut, became the site of a most amazing string of UFO sightings, probably involving over 5000 witnesses. [7] Among these witnesses were many men and women of intelligence and competence, holding down jobs of considerable responsibility; law enforcement officers, scientists and tech people; and individuals with military and flying experience. One reason why this wave of sightings is so impressive is the location in which it "chose" to manifest: a densely-populated area filled with many affluent suburbs, within commuting distance of New York City. This was no sighting by a lone motorist on a deserted mountain road; this was a prolonged, and by UFO standards, surprisingly blatant period of display engineered to take place over a thoroughly inhabited part of the country just north of the world’s premier media center. And yet, by this time, the apparatus for containing the impact of UFO encounters was so well-developed, bending both science and the mainstream media towards the "official story" with the carrot-and-stick of damage-control disguised as explanations, and ridicule disguised as rationality, that the wave of sightings has hardly left a dent on our world. In the same way that the consciousness of our culture presses on towards its vigorous and oftentimes shallow goals, with hardly a thought given to the dying who live in our midst (unless we know them personally), so the majority of us shut out the unsettling experience of these many UFO witnesses (whose story barely reached us), leaving it behind with long strides as we continued to live the same lives we would have lived had nothing ever happened to them. If their experiences were meant to affect us in any way, the mechanisms of stability created since the 1950s to protect our society from the "subversion" of the UFO influence had prevailed, and left those experiences hanging in the air, without any form of connection to us. The spark was isolated from the tinderbox, not so much physically as psychologically, by what had been done to us by decades of contempt. We were no longer prepared to believe, and therefore, the most feeble of answers sufficed to satisfy us.

Things might have ended there were it not for the efforts of a qualified champion who consented to play the role of pariah in the name of science. Thanks to the tenacious work of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the former Project Bluebook astronomer who had redeemed what he thought was the original intention of that project by creating his own public interest group dedicated to seeking the truth about UFOs, much of the wealth generated by this remarkable period in the history of the Hudson River Valley was saved from extinction, and remains in our hands, to contemplate when we are ready. The details which I present here are derived primarily from Hynek’s seminal work on the subject, Night Siege.

Although there was some variation in the description of the phenomenon which occurred, most witnesses concurred regarding the type of UFO which began to haunt their skies at night. It was an ENORMOUS, silently-moving, boomerang or V-shaped craft, almost always the size of a football field or even larger (some descriptions had it three times that size). Some witnesses believed they heard a slight humming noise as it passed overhead, while others heard nothing at all. Most of the time, it was said to move slowly, almost to drift over their heads (one man claimed he had been able to keep up with it by jogging); at other times, it was seen to hover; to spin and change direction; to vanish (make itself invisible) and reappear; or to depart at great speeds. Those who saw it best were invariably left in a state of absolute awe, with no doubt that they had seen something not of this world. Some individuals saw only the lights of the craft, delineating its outline as it passed through the sky, while many others saw a metallic-looking structure, claiming to see where the lights were attached to that structure. Some witnesses got an even more detailed look than that.

Following, are descriptions of some episodes involving the famous boomerang craft:

October 28,1983: Jim Cooke, a biomedical engineer who designed equipment for laser optics and laser surgery, and had also done airplane repair work in the past, saw it while driving home along Croton Falls Road. He stopped to watch it, at a range of about 200 feet, as it hovered over a local reservoir, after having cut its bright lights. He described the craft as being triangular in shape, and having a dark mass and a highly non-reflective surface; and gave it a relatively small size compared to other observers (100 feet wide, 30 feet at the apex). After a while, nine red lights came on on the sides of the craft, and then, either a red beam, or a solid cherry-red object emerged from the UFO’s underside, and began to move about the reservoir, dipping down and flying over it, as though it were probing the waters. Whenever traffic passed by along the nearby road, the object’s lights would go off, returning only after the cars were gone. After finishing whatever it was that it was busy doing at the reservoir, it rose up into the sky and drifted away, as strangely and silently as it had come. [8]

December 31, 1982: A retired New York City police officer living in Kent, New York, saw a group of red, green, and white lights approaching. As the object got closer, he could see that it was shaped like a V or boomerang. He claimed that the lights seemed to be connected by some form of structure, and said, "I could hear a faint, deep hum. It sounded like a factory with a lot of machines operating in the distance." He felt his chest vibrating as the UFO neared. As it passed over his home, the colored lights were cut, and only the white lights remained, brilliantly illuminating the ground all around him. Then the white lights went out, and the colored lights came back on. The object slowly drifted out of sight.

It turns out, shortly after this incident, that Edwin Hansen, a warehouse foreman who was on the road, saw what was probably the same UFO. He saw lights hovering over the road ahead of him, and noticed that several cars had pulled over to get a better look. At first, Hansen thought that he must be seeing a helicopter, which seemed to be aiming a searchlight at the ground. However, he failed to hear the telltale sound of a copter. Hansen says he wished that the object would come closer so that he could get a better look at it, and at that moment, it started to come straight towards his vehicle, as if it had understood him. The object temporarily switched off its searchlight, and Hansen observed that it was shaped like a boomerang, and that it was of enormous proportions. As it approached him more closely, its "searchlight" was switched back on. Hansen began to grow frightened, and honked his horn in an apparently irrational effort to scare it away, or perhaps to communicate his discomfort to it. After a moment, as though it could sense the terror with which he had been filled, the object cut its beam of light, and turned away from him. [9]

February 26, 1983: Herbert Proudfoot, a teacher, and two friends who were air-traffic controllers, were traveling in a single car along I-84 near one of the Danbury exits, when they spotted a group of colored lights approaching them. As the lights got closer, they noted that they seemed to belong to a single boomerang-shaped craft. They saw the lights connected to a solid structure. The air-traffic controllers in the car were surprised by the size of the craft, and by the noiselessness of its flight. One of them surmised that it might be an experimental government project, but if so, he could not imagine why such an aircraft would be tested over a heavily populated area. [10]

March 17, 1983: Dennis Sant, the deputy clerk for Putnam County, was driving home with his kids in his car when he observed a large triangular craft hovering in the vicinity of his home, perhaps 50 feet away. After the UFO left, he saw it hovering over I-84, where numerous motorists had stopped and stepped out of their cars to take a look at it. At that point, Sant remembers wishing that he could get a better look at it, since the first time he had seen it he had panicked. He states: "And as I was thinking that, it made a 360 degree turn, as if rotating on a wheel, stopped, and started to float in my direction." It finally stopped to hover at a distance of about 40 feet from him, some 20 feet above a telephone pole. He described the object as V-shaped and about 40 yards long, with the width of a football field, made of a "dark, very gray metal." At very close range, he could hear a "low engine sound." After a time, the object left, disappearing slowly from view, over a pond and swampy area to the side of I-84. [11]

Many others witnessed this UFO, including William Durkin, a truck driver and private pilot, who saw the lights from the window of his vehicle as he was traveling on I-84. He described the chaos created by the sighting: "Then I noticed that several people were driving erratically, all seemed to be watching the lights. Traffic in the opposite lanes was coming to a halt as the lights approached, and people were getting out of their cars." At first, he thought that a jetliner might be coming down, but then he realized that the object was moving too slowly to be a conventional aircraft, and he spied its boomerang shape. He said that he "could see some type of dark, pipelike structure connecting the lights. They were right over my head, and I couldn’t hear a sound." Durkin insisted that what he saw was not any type of aircraft with which he was familiar.

Around the same time, Don Odenkirk, an electrical engineer, and his wife also got a look at the object. From their perspective, they could only see the lights, but Odenkirk was sure from the way the lights moved as the object changed direction, that a single, solid object was involved. [12] Observations such as this (sightings of structure, or informed assessments of the synchronized movement of the lights), proved to be of great importance, as the major debunking efforts that were deployed to explain away the rash of sightings centered, alternately, on formations of small aircraft maneuvering in the night sky whose lights gave off the impression of one solid object [13], or else formations of fighters being refueled at high altitude by tankers during night training exercises (it was said that witnesses on the ground misjudged the height of the activity). [14]

March 24, 1983: For 2 ½ hours, the boomerang was seen flying over the "Hudson Valley area" by large numbers of witnesses. (85% of the sightings occurred within a 3 miles by 12 miles swath of Westchester and Putnam counties, which is traversed by the Taconic Parkway.) [15] Over 300 individuals, most likely only the tip of the iceberg, called into the UFO Hotline established by Hynek to deal with the case, and local police stations were also swamped by calls. The wave of sightings led to an article in a local paper, the Westchester-Rockland Daily Item, whose headline for March 26 said: HUNDREDS CLAIM TO HAVE SEEN UFO. [16]

Hunt Middleton, an executive with a major New York City corporation, observed the UFO as he got off of a commuter bus in Bedford. He saw a string of lights extending in something like a semicircle, just hovering in the night. When he went inside his house to fetch his family to come out and see it, it disappeared from sight. [17]

Steve Wittles, a computer consultant, and three friends saw the semicircle of lights some time later, over Carmel, which is ten miles north of Bedford. [18]

In the same neighborhood, Dr. Lawrence Greenman, his wife, and three daughters also saw the object. Observing it through binoculars, Mrs. Greenman said she could see something metallic, which was dull green in color, connecting the lights. The family saw that the object was V-shaped, and observed a brilliant white beam emitted from its underside; leaving the craft with the beam, and within it, was a small red object, which flew away in another direction at very high speed. The white beam then shut off. After this, the UFO departed, moving away from them at a slow pace. [19]

Ed Burns, an IBM program manager, was out on the road when he encountered the UFO. The sighting began with lights. Eventually, as the object drifted over him, Burns was able to perceive its enormity, and was also impressed by its silence. He joined a group of motorists who had pulled their vehicles over to the side of the road. For a time, the craft hovered before them, "looking like it was observing us as we were observing it." After a couple of minutes, it began to depart the scene, very slowly. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to be very far ahead of them. According to Burns: "If there is such a thing as a flying city, this was a flying city. It was not a small craft. It was huge." [20]

In Yorktown, police began to receive dozens of calls regarding the UFO. Police officer Keven Soravilla was one of them; he saw it as it hovered over the center of the town. [21]

Bill Hele, the chief meteorologist for the National Weather Corporation, ran into the object (fortunately not literally) on the Taconic Parkway, and added to his observations, the following statement: "I have been around planes for the past twenty years and at that point [the moment when he decided to pull over to the side of the road] I realized that this thing did not have the appearance of any known object or anything similar to an airplane or group of airplanes that I’d ever seen." He went on to add that it was "as large as an aircraft carrier." He was horrified when it cut its lights, that it seemed to completely disappear and that he could see nothing at all in the sky but stars; then its lights came back on, and once more, it was there. [22]

Dennis Fleming, the president of International Information Services, Limited, a data-processing company based in Greenwich, Connecticut, was another witness of the UFO. He noted its enormity, but said he could detect no structure. [23]

David Scarpino, an accountant for a major hospital in Westchester County, saw the object, and thought: "My God, something that large would need quite a lot of power to keep it in the air. Yet I could hear no sound." [24]

In Putnam County, John Piccone, an employee of Grumann who had worked with all types of aircraft and spacecraft, observed a flying boomerang, and remarked on the extraordinary feature of its ability to fly silently. He saw a light break away from the object, then return to it, but did not interpret this as an indication of separate objects flying in formation. He concluded by saying: "I work on spacecraft as well as aircraft. There is no doubt in my mind that what I saw was not aircraft." [25]

The police in Newcastle, New York, received numerous calls concerning the UFO. Policewoman Andy Sadoff, sitting in a car equipped with radar, while lying in wait for speeding motorists, saw the UFO pass over her and said that she could see a large solid object behind its lights, which were arranged in a semicircle. She was so mesmerized by its passage, that she did not think, or dare, to use her radar gun to try to get an image from it. [26]

Employment agency executive Elaine Keuchen, along with her husband, saw the UFO at Briarcliff. Her testimony is interesting in that it captures the ability of the craft to move at high velocity (discounting the theory of some that the UFO was an enormous dirigible or glider, which is an unworkable theory to begin with). She saw it streak "from one end of the sky to the other" in a "split-second", before it assumed a position hovering within their view. After a moment, it simply disappeared. But some time later, further along the Taconic Parkway, they spotted it again. According to Keuchen: "This time the object was hovering. It passed in front of the moon, and I saw a massive superstructure that seemed to be enormous, six stories or more high." Once again, it moved away from them with great speed and vanished from sight. [27]

In March and May of 1984, new waves of sightings took place; and there were more to follow.

June 11, 1984: An incident occurred which caused a local newspaper, the Reporter Dispatch, to post the following headline: UFO BUZZES NEW CASTLE. Witnesses saw a wide V-shaped formation of lights, with one side of the V shorter than the other, flying above the town. New Castle police received many phone calls about the event, and several officers witnessed it themselves. They were so impressed that they barged into a town board meeting which was in progress to urge all who were in attendance to run out and take a look; they also placed a call to Westchester County Airport to see if they had caught anything on their radar. The answer was affirmative. Subsequently, the FAA proved cagey in confirming details to investigators, but Hynek’s research team was provided with a tape of the call by New Castle police. Several of the police officers involved in the sighting possessed technical backgrounds and/or experience with aircraft. George Lowery, the desk sergeant, said, of the craft which he witnessed, that it was "not one of ours." [28]

What may have been the same UFO was spotted, around 9:30 PM, by Glen Skinner as he was driving along the Taconic Parkway. He watched it for some time, before it vanished in the blink of an eye. Skinner was a private pilot, working on obtaining a commercial license. He discounted the possibility that what he saw might be an aircraft or a formation of aircraft. [29]

July12, 1984: Ed Mulholland was an engineer for the Perkin-Elmer Corporation in Norwalk, Connecticut, "which designed and built the optics and some of the electrical components for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope." He observed the object drifting over a golf course as he was driving along I-84 in Danbury. After exiting the highway, he parked his car in a position which allowed him to observe the object, which was about 500 feet above him. He described it as "huge, like a spaceship", and observed that it seemed to be transparent; looking up at it from below, he could see the sky above it. He said: "It didn’t have any matter to it." [30]

David Athens, chief of the New Fairfield Fire Department, observed the UFO as he was talking with a police officer in a Danbury parking lot. These men, and other witnesses on the street, observed six or seven lights arranged in a circular pattern. When the bright lights which they were observing went off, they were able to detect a new group of red lights "underneath." At first, the object moved very slowly, then very rapidly. They observed two red lights seem to fall off of the object, and fly away in different directions. One of these lights never returned, but the other came back. Apparently, this was the second time that Athens had had a UFO experience in this sighting-rich landscape. In March of 1984, he had witnessed a UFO at North Salem while he was with his girlfriend. Intrigued, he got out of his vehicle with his flashlight, and turned it on and off in the manner of a signal. The UFO flashed its lights on and off as a response. If he flashed his light three times, it would respond by flashing itself on and off three times. After a while, the UFO flew away.

Athens was not the only fireman who saw the UFO on the night of July 12, 1984. Several Danbury firemen working to put out a fire around 10 PM said that the UFO passed over them and seemed to hover over the burning house as if observing the activity. At least twelve Danbury policemen also observed the UFO on that night. After it had departed, many low-flying aircraft were seen speeding towards the place where it had last been seen. Presumably, this was some sort of military investigation. [31]

Meanwhile, in the town of Bethel, witnesses also reported the appearance of a UFO which was about 300 feet wide, and flying at an altitude of 500 feet. Behind the object’s lights there seemed to be a large dark mass, which blocked out the stars. A Bethel police officer, responding to a call, arrived at the scene; when he pointed his spotlight up at the object, it sent down a powerful beam of white light, in return, which illuminated the officer and about ten other people. The object then broke away, and departed at an increased rate of speed. [32]

On the same night, Mark Purdy, a construction engineer, ran into the UFO while driving on I-84 near the Brewster-Danbury line. He described it as a well-lit disc, and saw definite shape, as the center of the object was blacker than the sky it was flying through. According to Purdy, the UFO approached his vehicle, which he had stopped on the highway as had many other drivers, stunned by the appearance of the anomaly above them. At a distance of about 60 feet from him and an altitude of perhaps 500 feet, the object paused to hover. Then, it resumed its slow advance, approaching him more closely still. Purdy, at this point in time, became terrified, and rushed back towards the vehicle which he had stepped out of to get a better look at the object. The UFO doused him before he could escape with an intense beam of white light. According to Purdy: "It was so bright that it was a white-out." He could see nothing but the light, and he felt heat. After the light was switched off, and the UFO had left, Purdy climbed back into his truck and drove away in spite of his temporarily impaired vision. He felt as if he were snow-blind. [33]

June 14 and July 24, 1984: One of the most shocking revelations about the amazing string of sightings in the Hudson Valley was the fact that two incidents seemed to have occurred over the high-security Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County, the first on June 14, 1984, and the second on July 24. The investigation was complicated by the extreme reticence of officials to cooperate, centered on security and public-relations issues; but Hynek’s research team, at first approached by a security guard who worked at the plant, was able to use its experience and determination to put together a compelling portfolio on the case, based on the testimony of witnesses both inside the power plant and outside of it.

On June 14, around 10:15 PM, a series of lights in the sky was spotted by security personnel at Complex #3 and by Con Ed workers, as it approached the plant. The lights were arranged in a boomerang pattern, and finally seemed to hover about ¼ mile away from one of the plant gates. Later, the object appeared to be hovering over a parking lot on the plant grounds and over some large buildings, which providing something to measure it by, indicated its enormous size. It was observed to have a dark mass, which temporarily eclipsed a plane flying behind it in the distance. One of the security guards, who had had experience flying aircraft, discounted the possibility that formations of small planes or helicopters could be involved, for several reasons, including the difficulty of maintaining such a perfect formation in the face of the gusty winds that were present that night, the intensity of the lights (which were estimated to be ten times more powerful than the security lights of the nuclear facility), and the large dark mass that seemed to be associated with the lights. At last, the object left them, heading off in the direction of Peekskill.

On July 24, the UFO returned to Indian Point. A security guard alerted his companions, shouting, "Hey, here comes that UFO again!", until five security personnel, including two supervisors, had gathered to witness the event. Once more they saw the lights, and could discern the object, itself, on account of its ability to obscure what was behind it (in this case the stars). Later, as it approached more closely, passing directly above them, structure could be seen. Only one of the plant’s three reactors was running at this time, and that is the reactor which the object drifted over. The situation represented an absolute breach of the law (a violation of restricted airspace), and ostensibly posed a very real security risk. The guards had orders to shoot at the object if it approached the reactor too closely, as it had; so that they were now not only armed but awaiting the final command to open fire. However, the object was so huge and their weapons (shotguns) so inadequate, that such an act would surely only have been provocative. As this tense showdown was taking place, other personnel were watching the UFO on security cameras, which had been directed towards it. One of these observers confirmed that it was "one solid structure and very large. We had it on camera for about fifteen minutes." He said that the object was much larger than a C-5A, the largest aircraft in the world at that time, and described the object’s act of penetrating the plant’s air space and just hovering there as "very brazen. It acted like it didn’t care who saw it." Another security guard on the scene believed he saw two sphere-like protuberances on the bottom of the object, that "looked like portals that could open up and rockets or something could fly out of there."

Further information that was revealed about the incident included a report that the nuclear power’s advanced security system shut down as the UFO approached Reactor #3: the motion-detector sensors stopped working, and the entire alarm system ceased to function. Inside the security console, the computer that controls all security and communications systems shut down. The security commander still managed to contact Camp Smith, a nearby base for the New York National Guard, and he asked for a helicopter to be sent at once to shoot the object down. But before the situation could be assessed from that end, and the order given, the UFO had already left the scene.

Next day, security guards were told by the commander to forget what they had seen. "It didn’t happen." However, there were many witnesses at the plant, as well as local residents who had seen the incident from vantage points outside the plant, and the story was hard to sit on. Thanks to Hynek’s perseverance, and the overwhelming need of some of the witnesses to talk, the truth finally came out, though it did not make the leap across the fatal gap between disclosure (which occurred some time after the event) and widespread public acceptance (in areas beyond the Hudson Valley region). The UFO-phenomenon containment-apparatus was too well implanted.

Shortly after the incident at Indian Point, the facility was visited by officials of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which initiated a major overhaul of the plant’s security system. [34] In our current day and age of extremist threats to spectacular targets, and weak and potentially catastrophic links in our infrastructure, the fact that Indian Point was forced to tighten up its security by a mysterious UFO before its vulnerability stumbled into the age of terrorism is something we must truly be grateful for. Though it would be wrong to read anything more into this event than what is apparent, it is, nonetheless, interesting to observe how an overpowering, innocuous force of unknown origin may have induced us to don our armor before the arrival of a containable but malicious power of human origin.

In the modern lore of the UFO, the Hudson River Valley sightings are truly one of the outstanding treasures. They stand out for their prolific nature, their duration, and the quantity and quality of the witnesses involved. The debunking explanations, involving aircraft flying out of a nearby military base or various private fields (repeated night-flights of aircraft in formation), cutting-edge experimental aircraft (utilizing Stealth technology), or ultralight glider-planes or blimps, do not match the facts. Too many people observed behaviors, on the part of the UFO, as well as dimensions and details of construction, not consistent with these theories. Not even a deliberate psychological warfare experiment engineered by the US government to mimic extraterrestrial spacecraft would be up to the task of equaling this observed UFO-type in the field. It seems clear that something very real, and beyond the reach of ordinary explanations, showed itself over the Hudson River Valley in the years between December 1982 and July 1986. [35]

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Escalating from November 1989, onwards, a wave of sightings of triangular-shaped UFOs swept through Belgium, a country with an unprecedented level of cooperation between private citizens, police, and military in the face of the UFO phenomenon. From November 1989 through March 1990, over 2,500 reports of this craft-type were received by Belgian authorities. The craft, which bore some resemblance to the boomerang UFO of the Hudson Valley sightings, was said to be large (200 ft. across), with 3 powerful lights on its underside, and the capability of drifting slowly and noiselessly over the countryside (giving off only a faint hum), or, on the contrary, carrying out rapid accelerations and achieving high escape velocities. Doubtless, as the excitement of the phenomenon (which was treated openly and not stigmatized in the Belgian environment), began to spread, genuine sightings of the mystery craft were joined by a number of misperceptions of ordinary aircraft and natural phenomena. However, the number of sightings, involving multiple witnesses and police units on the ground, indicated that some form of unidentified, and uncleared flight activity was taking place on a regular basis inside Belgian airspace. Coordination was established between citizens’ groups and police forces on the ground, and the Belgian Air Force in the sky, as the wave of sightings continued to develop. In cases, radar images were produced by the military, but without absolute certainty that they correlated to the objects being witnessed from the ground.

Frustration mounted as many citizens on the ground, armed with still-cameras and video cameras, in a constant state of preparedness to produce visual documentation of the UFO, failed to get off a good shot. Or, to state it more precisely: many felt that they had got off a good shot, only to find, when the film was later developed, that the images that were retained were of poor and inconclusive quality. Theories abounded suggesting that the phenomenon, itself, might in some way be interfering with its own documentation (on that permanent level), by means of the kind of light it was emitting, or some form of energy which it was giving off. (Later, in April 1990, a solid visual representation of the UFO may finally have been obtained.) But while there was frustration, there was also anticipation. If the frequent night-time intrusions continued, it seemed to be only a matter of time until Belgium’s united front of citizen-military investigators caught something definitive in their net.

Finally, on the night of March 30-March 31, 1990, one of the most impressive incidents of the Belgian UFO outbreak occurred. A citizen on the ground placed a call to the military, describing the presence of a large triangular-shaped UFO passing overhead. The Belgian Air Force, in turn, notified local police who confirmed the sighting from the ground, while various radar installations each located an unidentified object in the vicinity of the sightings. Shortly thereafter, a second UFO appeared and began to move slowly towards the first.

Thrilled with its best opportunity in weeks, the Belgian Air Force scrambled two F-16 fighters from Beuchvechain Air Base, which zeroed in on the targets which were being tracked by radar. Without establishing visual sightings of them in the air (though witnesses on the ground continued to see the UFOs, as well as to observe the Belgian jets flying overhead), the jets locked onto the targets with their on-board, air-interception radar (which could have been used to direct missiles at the targets). In total, six "lock-ons" of the targets were established by the Belgian pilots, but each time they established a "lock-on", the targets altered speed and altitude, and broke away within 10 to 60 seconds.

After a while, observers on the ground noticed that the lights on one of the UFOs intensified and began to blink, and as they did so, the second UFO vanished from sight. Then the lights of the first UFO gradually dimmed until it, too, was lost from sight.

Various theories were proposed to explain this incident, and the wave of sightings in general. Among these theories was the possibility that the triangular-shaped UFOs were actually US stealth aircraft conducting undisclosed operations in Belgian airspace. Certainly, Stealth technology has, at times, an "otherworldly" look to it. However, many analysts discount this theory, due to the fact that the UFOs easily outpaced the F-16s, which were supposed to be much faster than any known form of stealth aircraft. A cutting edge, experimental version, perhaps? The next generation? The Belgian Air Force discounted the aircraft theory, due to the noiselessness of the craft in flight; while other analysts pointed to the incredible variations in the craft’s velocity, which could transition from hovering, to slow-drifting, to high-speed evasion capable of leaving an F-16 fighter in the dust.

The Belgian Air Force, likewise, dismissed the possibility of balloons and ultralight aircraft (incapable of such variations in speed), and rockets (unable to hover); and lastly, dismissed the idea of laser projections. Some observers considered the possibility that the triangular UFOs might actually be visual mirages constructed by laser systems on the ground, and then projected into the sky. This theory would envision the illusion-generating operation as an experimental test of new technology with psychological applications as well as diversionary value (eventually meant to mask real aerial activity with phantom decoy activity). Without stating the obvious - that such an operation, carried out without permission on Belgian territory by the US (a NATO ally), would represent a serious violation of international diplomatic protocol among friends, and an incredible abrogation of political responsibility – the Belgian Air Force discounted the laser projection theory on technical grounds: even if such an ability existed, they opined, the area of activity was too large for it to encompass, the night was lacking in cloud cover (as a projection surface), and "laser projections or mirages cannot be detected by radar."

The conclusion of the Belgian military: the radar targets which its jets pursued on the night of March 30-31 could not be identified.

In the end, on the basis of apparently strong evidence featuring multiple witnesses and trained witnesses located both on the ground and in the air, and on the basis of visual sightings and radar images seemingly corroborating the same incident, it may be said that a solid mystery remains here. [35a]

Perhaps time will reveal a surprisingly earthly explanation for some of the mysteries which now befuddle us; but even should it come to pass, it seems most likely that, as some of them are explained, the inexplicability of others will be deepened.

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As stated at the beginning of this article, the dossier on UFOs is huge, filled with a great deal of material which has still not been adequately explained, or which, in spite of plausible "natural" explanations, remains too interesting to abandon. Enthusiasts cling to such stories, which give meaning to their lives, with the tenacity of "defenders of the faith", while skeptics make war on folly and truth alike, with all the fury of a rival sect, committed to the goal of preserving the present to the end of time. As the cases described in this article show, there are, amidst many weak or inconclusive tellings and retellings of the UFO story, some stories that are rock-solid and hard to deny.

J. Allen Hynek once said: "The history of science has shown that it is the things that don’t fit, the apparent exceptions to the rule, that signal potential breakthroughs in our concept of the world about us." [36] For Hynek, proving that UFOs were spacecraft piloted by extraterrestrial beings was premature in our times, and not necessary for the advancement of science; and it was strategically dangerous, for the strangeness and alarm of the idea (the stigma of the "little green men", a sure cue to disbelieve), might well prevent the concept from ever getting its foot in the door. In fact, Hynek faulted the Condon Committee for linking the UFO to the ETI hypothesis (the "extraterrestrial intelligence" theory), a hypothesis which, at that time, "was impossible to establish or disprove." According to Hynek: "The only hypothesis the committee could productively have tested was: There exists a phenomenon, described by the content of UFO reports, which presently is not physically explainable." [37] And that was all he wanted: for the committee to effectively transmit to the world the idea that something very strange and unexplainable, according to our current understandings of science, was taking place; and that, through it, we were being offered a chance to expand our knowledge of the universe, as it had been expanded in the days of Copernicus and Galileo, in the days of Newton, and in the days of Einstein. We were being gently nudged towards the next level of progress, pushed towards taking the next step; and in loyalty to what we had learned already, we were refusing to take that step. What if we had stopped learning in the days of Thales, or Ptolemy? For Hynek, the UFO phenomenon was a passage into a new world, and he tried to hold the door open against the forces of skepticism and ridicule as long as he could, until, in April 1986, as the "Hudson Valley sightings" were coming to a close, he finally breathed his last in this world. But his legacy lives on, and much of the tenacious and brilliant work he pursued during his lifetime remains as a resource for us to build on, once we are emotionally ready.

My own opinion, on the basis of the cases presented here, is that Dr. Hynek is right: there surely is a phenomenon taking place which requires an expansion of our view of the universe. There are facts. It is not the right of Science to destroy those facts in order not to change. It is time for Science to rise, and walk to the new land that it is being showed.

While it is true that the UFO phenomenon does not absolutely prove the existence of alien beings, or require the ETI hypothesis to be its foundation [38], it is my personal belief that the cases cited in this article are highly suggestive of that hypothesis. (Other alternatives, involving psychoactive physical phenomena, for example, are also possible.) For me, the apparent technological nature of the activity, its ability to manifest physically, the seemingly intelligent/reactive capabilities sometimes demonstrated by the phenomenon, and the increasingly frequent reports, by witnesses, of alien beings (not covered in this article), lean me towards the extraterrestrial theory. For me, the question then becomes: why are they here, what are they doing, and what do they want? Those are questions I attempt to answer in The Secret of the UFOs.

But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. My original purpose in writing this article was merely to present the facts of some of the most compelling of all the UFO reports on file. I respect your own relation to this matter, and invite you to draw your own conclusions.

JRS, September 2008.

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Brookesmith, Peter. UFO: The Complete Sightings. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1995.

Clark, Jerome. The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial. NY: Visible Ink, 1998.

Clark, Jerome. Unexplained! Washington, DC: Visible Ink, 1993.

Hynek, J. Allen, and Philip J. Imbrogno. Night Siege: The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings. NY: Ballantine, 1987.

Hynek, J. Allen. The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry. NY: Ballantine, 1972.

Rainsnow, J. The Secret of the UFOs. Weapons of Depth, the UFO Page.



All references citing "Clark", unless otherwise noted, refer to his "UFO Book."

[1] Brookesmith, 44-47.

[2] Washington DC information is mainly from Clark, 653-662; a little from Brookesmith, 55-56.

[3] Clark, 409-410.

[4] Brookesmith, 58.

[5] Clark, 333-335; Brookesmith, 60-61. Hynek (UFO EXPERIENCE), 217-241, on the Condon Report. The two quotes re: that report, from pages 228 and 219.

[6] Clark, 331-332; Brookesmith, 116.

[7] Brookesmith, 128.

[8] Hynek, Imbrogno, NIGHT SIEGE, 1-4.

[9] Ibid, 5-8.

[10] Ibid, 12.

[11] Ibid, 18-21.

[12] Ibid, 18-23.

[13] Ibid, 45-53.

[14] Brookesmith, 129.

[15] Hynek, Imbrogno, NIGHT SIEGE, 25.

[16] Ibid, 15.

[17] Ibid, 25-26.

[18] Ibid, 26.

[19] Ibid, 27.

[20] Ibid, 29-30.

[21] Ibid, 30.

[22] Ibid, 30-32.

[23] Ibid, 32-33.

[24] Ibid, 33-34.

[25] Ibid, 36-37.

[26] Ibid, 39-40.

[27] Ibid, 42.

[28] Ibid, 80-83.

[29] Ibid, 83-84.

[30] Ibid, 93-94.

[31] Ibid, 95-100.

[32] Ibid, 102.

[33] Ibid, 104-105.

[34] Ibid, 140-149.

[35] Ibid, 199-201.

[35a] Brookesmith, 141. and

[36] Hynek, UFO EXPERIENCE, 220.

[37] Ibid, 228-229.

[38] Ibid, 227-228; Clark, UNEXPLAINED, 399-401.

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