Saturday, December 29, 2007

One More 1978 UFO Report from Central NY

Jan served in Vietnam in the Army and and knows aircraft. That's why I paid special attention to his report, and he kindly allowed me to audio-record our interview in 1978 and use his name when I thought it would be helpful.

On or about April 5, 1978 at around 10:15 p.m. Jan and a female friend were driving on Route 31 in Cicero, NY, when they observed a tubular-shaped object about 10 feet above the trees on the left. The ground was illuminated in four spots by four bright white lights on the object. He pulled the car over and parked as three cars passed by. "When we pulled off the side of the road the object started moving," Jan related. "When the first car went by, the object dipped and turned and looked toward the second and third cars. When they went by, it just started moving slowly, horizontally, alongside the car at 50 or 60 yards away at about treetop level."

The object slowly descended and then turned toward the witnesses, giving off a quiet "thrashing" sound. Reddish-blue lights were noted on its bottom. Further describing the noise, Jan stated that it "sounded like the sticks on the trees may have been clicking." When the object began to depart, it tilted and the four bright white lights went out and the blue-red color underneath became prominent. From the back, a diamond shape was observed and displayed four or five white, twinkling lights. Jan estimated its size as that of a dump truck-and-a-half because of a nearby dump truck used for comparison.

Finally, Jan estimated that the object may have moved at a speed of three to five miles per hour at most when it maneuvered horizontally, but when it departed it simply shot up into the air and disappeared. He offered a litany of details about the observation, but this embraces the main points.

I acquired a file filled with reports and miscellaneous notes about the 1978 UFO wave, and much of it was sent to APRO and/or written up for various UFO organization newsletters. I think this was also a time when I began to wind down my UFO research activities significantly because of all the frustration involved. I was impressed, very impressed, with the UFO activity evidenced in Central New York at that time, but even when you find yourself stone-cold convinced that something real is involved, it all becomes like trying to catch the wind when you have few resources to back you up.

The Great Central NY UFO Wave of 1978 - Part 2

Central New York's UFO sighting "flap" occurred primarily from March through May, 1978, but the reports began surfacing again in the fall. However, whatever was going on in New York seemed ominously overshadowed in October when young (20) Australian pilot Frederick Valentich disappeared during a solo flight originating from Melbourne. Early that evening, he radioed from his Cessna 182 to air traffic controllers that a large object with green lights was in pursuit of his craft. His final words before contact was lost for all time were, "It is not an aircraft," and then some profoundly curious metallic scratching sounds were heard before radio contact immediately ceased. No trace of Valentich or his Cessna was ever located, despite an intensive search. Yes, 1978 was one heck of a year for the books, both "here" and "there."

And returning to "here" takes us back to those early months in 1978, as Central NY UFO reports stubbornly continued without an end in sight. At some point (I'm a little fuzzy on dates right now and currently cannot locate specific notes) I received a phone call from a National Enquirer reporter. While I had spoken by phone with an editor or two in the past, calling from their Lantana, Florida offices, this call originated in Syracuse and this reporter was in town, looking to meet with me.

She and I did meet (I'll call her L here), and after a conversation about local UFO activity visited with some teens who had photographed a possible UFO at night. The pictures ultimately weren't that impressive because, particularly, no landmarks were visible in the night skies.

I directed L to other potential sources of reliable information regarding the local UFO situation and she spent a few days trying to piece a story together. Whatever one thinks of The National Enquirer, I must say that they apparently hire some no-nonsense reporters. This woman was kind but firm and knew how to get a story. In fact, one of the first stories she related when we initially met involved her intensive pursuit of a famous young female singer/entertainer, a member of an equally famous family of recording artists. The National Enquirer, cashing in on the person's fame at that time, insisted that the reporter pursue a story, whatever it took, and ultimately poor L did so many stakeouts that she developed a severe pneumonia. It wasn't easy being a reporter for The NE.

Nevertheless, while in Syracuse L ran into one obstacle after another, especially when confronting local law enforcement agencies for records of their people's UFO sightings or reports. Further, her Enquirer editor, a lady in Florida, was impatient and looking for a good story soon so L could fly out of here and go on to something else.

It turned out that L had a friend whom she stayed with here, the wife of a family well known in local social circles, and one night L and her friend invited me over for dinner and a discussion about the UFO wave. We compared notes and broached relating subjects, such as a tip-off from news personnel at a local TV station about a well-dressed, official-appearing young gentleman who showed up, asking about the UFO situation, but hesitant about identifying himself. Some personnel at the TV station were certain the man had "U.S. government" written all over him. We will never know.

So we talked, we chomped on pre-dinner snacks, we unwound from days of discussions with sighting witnesses that frazzled everybody's nerves. And there was a phone call just before dinner hit the table. I didn't understand exactly what was going on, but it appeared there would be another dinner guest. Indeed, there was, just minutes later -- fresh from landing at Hancock Airport from parts unknown, a man with a heavy Australian, or was that a British accent, dressed neatly with a jacket and tie. L introduced him to her friend and to me, inviting him to sit with us and have dinner, and as he sat he presented me with a business card indicating his position as a senior reporter at The Enquirer. Yes, Lantana was sending in The Big Guns to help L get the UFO story on its way so she could leave this part of the country.

Still, even with two reporters instead of one teaming up to tackle the stubborn things in life they didn't get far. That is, the sightings witnesses proved talkative and giving, but the Syracuse Police Dept. and Onondaga Country Sheriff's Office were another story, a very, very unhelpful story. The very thought of offering assistance and records to The National Enquirer turned a few stomachs and L and her fellow writer finally left Syracuse with far less than they wished. Ultimately, an article about the Central NY UFO wave did appear in the Enquirer, but it was brief and to the point. It could have been so much more, had official cooperation been evidenced.

But at least L and the folks in Lantana did get a story. Things didn't go nearly as well for Dr. Hynek's Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), which found law enforcement authorities in CNY carrying (in their own words) an "embarrassing burden." According to Allen Hendry in the CUFOS International UFO Reporter (Vol. 3, No. 6, June, 1978, page 8):

(A member of) "the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department became the focus for UFO reporting in that area, thanks to local press coverage. He promised me directly (and twice via the press) that the Center for UFO Studies would be the recipient of a considerable package of witness descriptions, sketches, and photos. Then, according to local sources, the heads of the area's law enforcement agencies opted to 'stone wall' the entire situation inexplicably. Repeated appeals by myself, various reporters, and investigator Robert Barrow failed to shift the 'embarrassing' (?) burden onto our shoulders. In the unlikely event that these records should become available in the future, IUR will inform its readers of the results."
CUFOS never received the promised records, and the rest of us are left to ponder why. Or maybe we know why already. The Temple of Nevermind never closes.

The same sheriff's representative publicly dismissed nocturnal sightings as being caused by the planet Venus, which wasn't even visible at those hours. Then he tried to blame the entire UFO wave on balloons, only to be told off on TV news shows by angry local balloonists who denied their involvement in any way.

The Syracuse Police department wasn't much more helpful. In fact, it became something of a joke locally when its late chief, Thomas Sardino, discovered to his anger and outrage one of his own cops with an artist's depiction of the chief flying his own UFO over the city as subordinate police officers watch from the street. The scene was priceless, particularly when the cartoon ended up on T-shirts sold successfully all over town! The cartoon's inception appeared to stem from a warning issued to Syracuse police officers by the chief, instructing them not to publicize their own recent UFO sightings.

Faced with my own problems with local police agencies, I wrote a lengthy letter to the editor of The Syracuse Post-Standard which appeared in the edition of May 18, 1978. I related the promise I had received from Chief Sardino in writing, promising to consult with me on UFO reports (it never happened). The Sheriff's office never bothered to respond to a similar request. When I offered my assistance and tried to leave a phone number, I was told not to bother. When I offered my assistance to one officer (for his own benefit) who had already embarrassed himself in front of the media he snapped at me and accused me of trying to tell him how to do his job.

In the letter, I also referenced the Baldwinsville case, where a UFO also emitted a noticeable humming sound. Then there remained the radar controversy, where sheriffs confirmed radar contact with a UFO in their log, only to be told by the FAA that there was no unidentified blip -- a situation that angered many in the sheriff's office, and all the more when "geese" were said to have resulted in a blip return.

I highlighted other local reports. A couple watched a strange object pace their car at 55 m.p.h. at low altitude until it sped off. There was a possible vehicle electromagnetic interference case. In Auburn, NY something was reportedly witnessed by hundreds and perhaps photographed. In Oswego, a bright object was seen hovering over Lake Ontario, near the Nine Mile Nuclear Plant -- reportedly the topic of many CB radio enthusiasts as both police and Coast Guard personnel watched.

Former Syracuse area resident Mark Bundy wrote a superbly insightful article encompassing 1978's NY UFO madness for the Winter, 1979 issue of Pursuit, journal of the (defunct) Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained. Entitled "The Central New York UFO Wave," Mark's piece included illustrations he accomplished himself to demonstrate the strangeness in the skies over New York. Reflecting the absence of official cooperation from local law enforcement agencies, he lamented that "The Central New York UFO wave became a part of history, a history that is sadly incomplete and lacking in its overall coverage.

"It's a wonder," he concludes, "that the UFOs put up with such shoddy treatment."

Next blog entry: One more report from 1978 of interest, from a Vietnam veteran who knows aircraft and saw something in Central NY that wasn't like anything he saw in Vietnam. To say the least.

The Great Central NY UFO Wave of 1978 - Part 1

Syracuse and Central New York have never been immune to UFO activity, and I doubt that any geographical area on earth can make that claim. The UFO is a universal phenomenon. Or phenomena, take your pick.
Beginning roughly in the spring of 1978, New York's mid-section began bulging with an array of credible UFO reports involving "solid citizens" from all walks of life. The sightings began turning up with a ferocity and volume that took UFO researchers, the press and law enforcement personnel by surprise, and the net result might best be summed up as confusion, cover-ups and national attention of the worst kind. All told, at least 100 separate UFO sightings were involved, and if data from outlying areas within a radius of 50 miles from Syracuse is taken into account, perhaps a figure of several hundred (including sightings by large groups of people, counted as individual observers) is closer to the truth.

Amongst numerous researchers and writers representing several UFO organizations and media outlets involved in investigating this series of events, I gathered what reports I could and sent them along primarily to APRO, and did write articles for The A.P.R.O. Bulletin, The UFO Research Newsletter and other venues. In many cases the witnesses kindly allowed their names to be used, greatly adding credibility to their accounts.

Even though single-witness UFO reports are often considered less significant than those including numerous observers, one such incident in particular impressed me, an encounter of March 30, 1978. Sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., Joseph, a 20-year-old college student had just dropped his girlfriend off at her home in Pompey, NY, and was returning to his parents' home in Syracuse. The road was fairly deserted on this cool and clear evening, with only one car passing from the opposite direction a few minutes before his encounter.

The witness's attention was not fully directed upon his driving, because he was attempting to tune in an FM radio station in his 1976 Ford LTD, peculiarly finding only static. He wasn't sure whether this might be normal, considering his road location.

At any rate, Joseph happened to notice a light far in back, reflected in his outside and inside mirrors, maybe a car with a single headlight, or even a motorcycle. He returned his attention to tuning the radio, but a few seconds later a bright flash equivalent to that of a camera flash bulb abruptly gained his attention. Quickly glancing all round on the dark road, he looked through the driver's side window and saw an object about 30-50 yards away, gliding above the field off the roadside. The road's shoulders were piled high with snow, which the object caused to reflect brightly white, and any visible trees would be far off in the distance, so the witness was able to get a clear view of the object as it appeared to pace his car.

With his side window closed, Joseph watched this object, as large as a boxcar (40-50 or maybe even 60 feet long and 10-20 feet high), flashing so many lights that it reminded him of a Christmas tree. I had submitted a drawing supplied by Joseph to APRO, indicating the object's shape and light pattern. The middle portion contained numerous bright white lights, while the top and bottom sported dull blue-white panels of light. One crucial observation by the witness was the fact that his car bounced up and down due to numerous post-winter road potholes and uneven surfaces, yet the object paced him smoothly from the field. After perhaps two minutes, the object suddenly ascended quickly in an instant blur of lights, and Joseph feared that it might have taken up a new position above his auto, so he sped away as fast as he could go.

Unnerved by his experience, Joseph pulled into a shopping center parking lot in Dewitt, NY to regain his bearings. His father later stated his son was visibly upset once he returned home, and law enforcement personnel were called and took a report. The witness noted no loss of time or physical effects. He readily admitted that he had indeed seen the new movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," but did not even think of its now famous highway-truck-UFO scene at the time. I found Joseph to be most sincere and he certainly gained nothing by relating his story to me or to others.

Yet, months before this, another highly intriguing incident had surfaced, this time in Plymouth, NY (about 50 miles from Syracuse). Featured in the May 21, 1978 edition of the weekly Syracuse New Times newspaper, writer Robert Monell related the UFO encounter of farmer Thomas Colledge and his family. Just before 1:00 a.m. he and his wife had gone to bed and they suddenly heard "a tremendous roar." Rushing to a window, they observed an arrowhead-shaped object approximating the size of a house. "By the time I could get a good look at it, the whole house was shaking," Mr. Colledge stated. He had never seen an aircraft like this, an object which bathed the entire back yard in intense light. He feared a pending crash directly into his barns, but the UFO went right over them, "putting out a mercury vapor lamp in the process."

Mrs. Colledge reported the object "was covered with flashing and streaming red and white lights. Visible for 20-30 seconds, the thing disappeared over a hill, the loud roar still audible. Adding to the drama, about 10 minutes later a couple and their teenage son heard and saw apparently the same object at the other end of town. And so went that report, until UFOs returned in alarming quantity to Central NY at the end of March.

Six days after Joseph's troubling UFO encounter in Pompey, NY, a police officer and his family living in Baldwinsville experienced an amazing UFO incident on April 5, 1978. According to both the Syracuse Herald-Journal of April 6 (see quoted sections below) and my own inquiry (I met the family, accompanied by Robert Monell, who represented the Syracuse New Times), the police dispatcher and his family observed a revolving, oval-shaped object displaying around its middle blue, green and yellow flashing lights. The object hovered over a wooded area, seemed to rock back and forth and moved in a rectangular pattern.

The officer's wife stated a passenger plane approaching Syracuse flew directly under the object. Significantly, the couple's son "saw two flashes of white light come from the UFO and arc to the ground. . .at the same time, the lights in the home went out." A Niagara Mohawk (power company) spokesman did confirm that "there were two brief, consecutive interruptions in power at 10:15. . .along the company's 115,000 volt line between the Long Branch substation north of Liverpool and Mortimer substation just south of Rochester." Further, a spokesman for the New York State Gas and Electric Power Corp. stated that about 3,000 homes in the Jordan-Elbridge area lost power briefly. Both utilities connect to the Mortimer substation.

The pilot of an incoming aircraft "observed the power blackout but did not see the UFO," while a police helicopter crew "observed the two flashes of light. . .and the temporary blackout." Of considerable interest is the fact that air traffic controllers at Hancock Field stated "an unidentified blip" appeared on radar. However, by the next day the FAA had publicly denied radar contact, and a power company official denied to me the significance of the outages.

Other sightings occurred on following evenings in this and other areas of the county, and there were even nighttime photos taken by teenagers which turned out to be inconclusive after analysis by APRO, though at least one showing a distant light in the darkness of an evening sky was felt to coincide with the photographer's account and integrity.

Reliable accounts of strange things in the sky continued to pummel local law enforcement agencies in early 1978, even as Dr. J. Allen Hynek's Center for UFO Studies took an active interest in the flood of intriguing reports. If harried representatives of official Syracuse and Onondaga County agencies thought the firestorm of public concern couldn't possibly get any worse, they were wrong: The National Enquirer was coming to town, and one of the "alien" faces they sought turned out to be mine. The Enquirer? Yes, The Enquirer -- in an era when The National Enquirer turned out some top-rate UFO reporting. These were the days of TNE reporter Bob Pratt's superb articles and accounts by other talented fact-diggers from Lantana, Florida, the weekly's home base. Surprised? More next time. . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NASA's UFO No-No, 1978 - Part 2

These are the remaining NASA UFO pages to accompany those in the previous post. Please note the last page, where organizations no. 1 (NICAP) and 3 (APRO) are listed, but no longer exist. The others exist but have new addresses, available on the Internet.

NASA's UFO No-No, 1978 - Part 1

So, let's say you're NASA and the Air Force's Project Blue Book is long dead and gone, and you're now assigned to handle queries about UFOs and you wish you didn't have to, no matter how cordial you seem on the surface. What do you do? Why, of course you continue sending nearly useless information sheets to everybody who writes you about the subject. We displayed an earlier version on this blog, and now I'm putting up one I received in 1978. Today, I'm including about half of the pages in this post and will follow immediately with a post (part 2) showing the others.

UFO Course Mail and Startling Student Report

The article I wrote for Argosy UFO in 1977 about the UFO course at Onondaga Community College continued to draw mail from across the U.S. and from other countries, much of it reaching me directly because I had included a post office box address in the piece. Some letters went straight to the college, which couldn't fail to notice (see), and in this instance a letter (see) from a 14-year-old in Iowa was forwarded to me.

Numerous letters were received from young teenagers in the late seventies, and while I have little doubt that the movies "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" influenced UFO interest in some of them, I was frequently impressed by their obvious interest in science. The overwhelming amount of letters received from young people indicated admirable curiosity, and I'm sure many of them went on to obtain degrees in the sciences. When one explores the UFO issue in depth, there is always the added benefit of exposure to multiple disciplines.

Regarding the course itself, one of my students, employed in sales for an airline company, approached me after class one night in 1978 and told me an interesting story about an older incident. In the fall of 1965 he was attending college in Ithaca, NY (we certainly revisit Ithaca a lot on this blog!) and one night around 11:00 he and a girlfriend were driving up a hill, on the way to park in an out-of-the-way farm field. Nearing the top of the road, they noticed a car speeding past them from the opposite direction, and the girlfriend pointed out that she knew the car, and in it were a female friend of hers and her boyfriend. They were amazed to witness the automobile departing the area at breakneck speed.

My student and his girlfriend reached the vacant farm field and parked the car, by then having forgotten about the speeding auto. However, almost at once the two began to feel extreme anxiety and agitation, emotions so intense that the young woman began to cry. They even locked the car doors, thinking they were being watched. Shortly, they left the area, not knowing what fear had overtaken them.

The next day, the two women met one another, and the one in the speeding car explained their haste on the road: A brilliantly glowing object, unlike anything either had ever witnessed, had landed behind trees in the same farm field. Gripped by apprehension, they hit the road and sped away.

According to my student, ever since that night he has felt exceptional anxiety at other times, only to learn later that a UFO had been seen within a few miles of the area where he and his girlfriend had been so frightened that evening in 1965.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Major Keyhoe's Letter: His Plan in 1977

I only met the late Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe (USMC, ret.) once, at the Washington, D.C. office of NICAP in the summer of 1965. I was a teenager then, thrilled to spend even those few minutes at the old Connecticut Ave. office. I guess the experience was something like going to a mini theme park in an office space, so much to see -- and, unfortunately for the office staff, so much work to do. The U.S. was right in the middle of a flurry of UFO reports, and desks were piled high with clippings and files.

The highlight for me was meeting Maj. Keyhoe himself, the NICAP director whose books about UFOs were amongst the first I ever read on the subject. Keyhoe, the Marine Corps veteran who astounded readers of True Magazine in 1950 with exciting UFO reports obtained via official sources. Keyhoe, whose first book about UFOs in 1950, Flying Saucers Are Real was followed by several more in addition to articles in major magazines. Keyhoe, personal aide to Charles Lindbergh during a cross-country flight, documented in his book, Flying with Lindbergh. Keyhoe, who knew Admiral Richard Byrd personally and realized Byrd would have been outraged over fabrications about his relationship to "hollow earth" tales.

I was greeted by Richard Hall, NICAP's assistant director who, as many of you must know, remains active in UFO research and has authored numerous articles in additon to his well known books. The 1964 NICAP publication intended for every member of Congress, The UFO Evidence, was very much Hall's literary baby and remains one of the most respected and most consulted UFO compilations ever produced.

The third person of three whom I met that day and the first whom I encountered was Lelia Day, NICAP's secretary, and she was a very nice lady. In fact, more than a decade later I was searching for her because I never doubted the extent of NICAP knowledge she must have absorbed over the years, and I was working on a writing project longing for her insight. Sadly, however, I learned that she had been long dead even before I began the search. Of interest, however, is the fact that I learned this and other things of significance from Maj. Keyhoe himself in a letter, the only letter I ever received from Keyhoe personally. By 1977, Keyhoe and Hall had departed NICAP, the organization had seemingly been taken over by people with perhaps more than passing government affiliations (see the site and read the NICAP history) and there remain numerous questions about NICAP's eventual administration and downfall that may rival the UFO mystery in some ways.

So, here's Maj. Keyhoe's letter, dated December 4, 1977, with an intriguing reference on the letterhead to his role as NICAP's "former director." Note also my re-posting from an early blog entry of Al Chop's 1953 letter to Holt publishers, vouching for Keyhoe's integrity and actions (though Chop's incredibly open-ended admission regarding some government people accepting the ET theory is the real high point of the letter -- which Holt printed on the jacket of a Keyhoe book, much to Chop's surprise and the Dept. of Defense's probable chagrin).

I had also forwarded a copy of a newspaper review I wrote for Keyhoe's final book, Aliens From Space, referenced in his letter. But of considerable interest here are Keyhoe's comments and plans regarding the Jimmy Carter presidency as it might relate to UFO information release. Based upon information Keyhoe accumulated from official sources, he was poised to write another book, a project of no eventual publication, unfortunately. Keyhoe had briefly outlined his plan to me here in confidence, though I certainly see no point in staying silent 30 years later. Actually, as is the case with so many other documents on this blog, even I hadn't seen this letter since receiving and filing it away.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Not So Official Anymore

I wanted to offer a quick update on my previous comment relevant to the magazine, Official UFO, now long deceased. I did locate a news release sent out by very concerned, more likely outraged, editor Dennis William Hauck, and it served as his resignation letter as well as a further indictment of the publisher-enforced workings of the magazine. The two visuals displayed will tell the story.

I've included additional space on this situation because I wish it to serve as a caution to those who sadly believe that if something is in print it obviously must be true. Editors serve publishers as a rule, and the situation is seldom the other way around.

California Sunshine

1977 continued to be a busy year. True Magazine printed issue no. six of True Flying Saucers and UFOs Quarterly, containing a piece I wrote about the infamous "Robertson Panel," which (in basic terms) set the stage for downplaying UFOs officially in the U.S. to the current day. Argosy Magazine's companion periodical, Argosy UFO, published another of my articles, "How a Ufologist Came to the Aid of the Air Force," mentioned in a previous blog entry.

In the meantime, the letters continued to arrive. APRO forwarded the letter shown here, something from a California writer who seemed to pay more attention to my I-wish-I-hadn't-written-this article, "How to Conduct Yourself Inside a UFO," than I did. He seemed a very loving person, including two hearts on the page (of course, I took out his name here), offering advice for my UFO course students in the mix. I particularly liked the part where he states: " 'How to Conduct Yourself Inside a UFO' is How to Conduct Yourself Inside your Outside! The UFO is your Outside, Inside your Inside, Outside your Outside, Inside."

I know what you're thinking. But I must say, these contemplative letters far surpass the ones that start out, "Let me tell you all about my trip to the Crab Nebula. . .with Elvis. . ."

Well, yeah, except for the true, real occasions where people really, absolutely and undeniably did go there with Elvis. And what kind of souvenirs would people bring back from the Crab Nebula, anyway? I don't want to know.

The Triangle and Rumors

There are a couple of nagging little fragments of intrigue I wanted to touch upon as we prepare to exit 1977 for a bit.

The April 18 issue of U.S. News & World Report (as I recall, we're into the "Washington Whispers" column of that date) casually mentioned this little tidbit:

"Before the year is out, the government -- perhaps the President -- is expected to make what are described as 'unsettling disclosures' about UFOs -- unidentified flying objects. Such revelations, based on information from the CIA, would be a reversal of official policy that in the past has downgraded UFO incidents."

Yes, we continue The Big Wait thirty years later.

And around Central NY in late February and early March there were reports of UFOs around a golf course, near a water tower and in other areas. WSYR-TV (now WSTM, though the call letters WSYR currently designate another Syracuse TV station) News reported on March 6, 1977 of witnesses at a golf course seeing a large triangular object in the sky around 10:00 p.m., only about 300 feet in the air. One corner displayed a red light while another corner was lighted in green. People in vehicles with CB radios chattered about this and other UFOs. Local Air Force authorities insisted there were no test vehicles in the area, but a WSYR reporter suggested, not entirely serious, that maybe test vehicles were involved -- in an attempt to prepare us for contact with real UFOs in the future.

The Library of Congress and UFOs

With so many people consumed by UFO interest in the 1970s because of some rather exceptional reports, members of Congress, too, often exhibited concern -- or were forced to -- when queried by their constituents. In fact, by 1976-77, two of the hottest publications available from the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service, each produced under the guidance of Marcia S. Smith, were The UFO Enigma and Extraterrestrial Intelligence and UFOs: A Selected, Annotated Bibliography.

Like many CRS publications, these were intended primarily for members of Congress, but once word "hit the streets" they became a must-have for UFO researchers, the media and the curious. In those days, even for these bulky, book-sized documents, there was no charge, you just asked your member of Congress for copies.

But aside from these historically impressive documents, the single-page letter accompanying them contained all the ingredients in that second paragraph (click to enlarge) to make one look twice. When Congressman William Walsh's office enclosed the letter with the two publications, it apparently had not been seen by most researchers or UFO organizations, and I quickly distributed copies of the page to interested parties. In his (former) UFO Research Newsletter, Gordon I.R. Lore, Jr. wrote, "In response to inquiries about UFO information, the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service suggests UFOs may be ET."

Time and again, we know that numerous members of Congress have evidenced a sincere concern about the UFO phenomenon, and some of them were quite vocal, while others wanted no public attention whatsoever. The very existence of this letter, and the extensively researched publications it accompanied, indicated that UFOs were and likely still are more than a moot subject amongst congressmen and senators privy to information of note.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Congressional Recommendation

When I began writing this blog back in April, referencing events purely in chronological order wasn't possible, though things are a little more orderly for the moment. In fact, some of the more important entries were inserted in those first few weeks.

Nevertheless, I always knew that once a little chronological order kicked in, this very moment would arrive -- an occasion where I would bring before my readers something of curious significance. As usual, I'll let you be judge and jury.

In recent years I've mentioned the existence of "the letter," and various Web sites comment either correctly or incorrectly about the circumstances. But the truth is, I doubt that I ever showed the document itself to more than six people. Okay, maybe ten people, but, then again, probably the number six is too high. For three decades I've carried a photocopy in my wallet, just in case (of what?), and I even made sure it was a very poor photocopy, just so that if I did show it to somebody they would say with extreme doubt, "Oh yes, sure, look at this thing, it's an obvious fake!"

No, actually the letter is quite real. I'm proud of the whole thing, but. . .then what? So what? What to do? Where to go with this?

If you've read this blog from the start, you know that I've included several letters from former, now deceased, Syracuse Congressman James M. Hanley. Jim Hanley, as I've said previously, was one of the best congressional representatives Central NY ever knew, and he served several terms beginning in the early sixties. The James M. Hanley Federal Building in downtown Syracuse was constructed and named in his honor.

Prior to the 1976 elections, congressional redistricting or some such activity resulted in my area being represented by another congressman, and on at least one occasion when I tried to contact Rep. Hanley about some matter his office wrote back, replying that congressional courtesy required that the new representative handle my letter because Mr. Hanley no longer covered my area. I was (obviously) a chronic letter writer in those days on numerous matters, so dealing with a different office really presented no problem. Well, not until. . .

Until Jimmy Carter won the presidential election in 1976. As many people know, Carter believed he saw a UFO in 1973, and the kicker was that classic June 8, 1976 National Enquirer article in which Carter was quoted to say, "If I become President, I'll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public, and the scientists."

Upon reading that, my dilemma surfaced like a periscope smashing into an iceberg. What if? What if Jimmy Carter won? Would he? Would he really do it? Would there be a new UFO project?

And what if I communicated some thoughts on UFOs to my "new" (Republican) congressman's office, with which I'd conducted nowhere nearly the level of correspondence about UFOs that I had with the other (a Democrat) for over 10 years? I truly doubted that anybody there would care, particularly because this was the opposing political party. I didn't care which party was which, just that they represented two opposing sides, and there's nothing like politics to muck up the best of intentions.

So I took the chance and wrote my original congressman, hoping this letter wouldn't get passed on like the other. On November 12, 1976 I wrote Jim Hanley a long letter, reaffirming my interest in a comprehensive UFO investigation after Carter assumes office. This was the time when my articles appeared in national magazines and I was teaching the UFO course at a college, and I simply posed the question, how could I be considered for a position in any proposed UFO project the Carter Administration might initiate? I wasn't a scientist, so the strengths I could offer would include anything involved with an historical perspective, publicity or writing in such a project.

Based on past expectations, I fully expected the letter would go to Rep. William Walsh, my then-current member of Congress. However, much to my surprise, Hanley sent me a letter on December 1 (displayed here), informing me that he had forwarded my letter to the Carter-Mondale transition team for a response.

However, my sense of surprise ascended to cascading explosions of astonishment two weeks later, when a December 15 letter from Rep. Hanley arrived, accompanied by a December 6 letter from the Carter transition staff, signed by the prominent Frank Moore, one of Jimmy Carter's key people.

Yes, the letter's words are routine, but all of this came about because Rep. Hanley had taken a giant step by actually recommending me to Carter's staff as a potential UFO project participant. I never for a moment anticipated that he would put his name and immensely golden reputation on the line by doing for me this incredible kindness.

That's where the story ends. There was no follow-up by Carter's people, apparently no UFO project and certainly no clandestine midnight meetings between men in black nor hooded alien figures and I (I bring these folks into the mix only because some inventive bloggers hovering on the edge out there may be looking for precisely this improbable collaboration, and I don't wish to deny them their impressions).

I do suspect, however, that I may be the only UFO researcher, and probably the only anybody, ever awarded a congressional recommendation to work in a government UFO project. Me, just a regular guy, neither rocket scientist nor brain surgeon. More animal than human, some might say, but I do digress. . .

Okay, now you know the letter is real. As I said, I'm proud of it -- but I've never been quite sure about including it on my resume. Especially when a little explanation might be required. Wow, can you even imagine?

All too often, what might have been or, arguably, should have been, will never be. All during the time I served at an Air Force base in Carter's Georgia from 1971-72, I never once ran into Jimmy Carter or Billy Carter, nor had I even a chance encounter with Miss Lillian at a supermarket. What were the odds?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Possible Navy Frogman

WNDR-AM Radio no longer exists in Syracuse, but on October 24, 1976 I appeared as a guest on a weekly Sunday evening talk show entitled "Open Forum." Host Mike Cahill rather surprised me because his invitation included no mention of the skeptical astronomer who joined us for a discussion about UFOs.

We consumed about two and a half hours of this program that ran from 7:00 to midnight. There was a tape of the show, but only of the part where we talked about UFOs. Later, after I had returned home, still listening to program callers who phoned in long after the fact, the UFO topic remained hot. Now, there were numerous prank calls that night, as one might expect, with regret. But. . .

There was one particular caller, a man with a young-sounding voice, who had an immediate answer for every question the host asked. The caller claimed to have been a U.S. Navy frogman who, as part of a team of seven, assisted in the successful recovery of a strange submerged object that he called a UFO, or a part of one, on December 7, 1969. He reported its location as the Atlantic Ocean, not far from Guantanamo.

I listened intently from home, wishing I were still at the studio to take the call. The caller exhibited a few seconds of hesitation at only one point, and that is when host Cahill requested the retrieval's location. Following disclosure, the man clearly stated that he was warned never to discuss the incident under threat of some undefined punishment. At that point, he also warned radio listeners intrigued by the UFO subject not to get too involved, whatever that meant. The caller did seem genuinely afraid to leave his name off the air and feared his call being traced. He had commented that he probably said too much already.

I phoned Mike Cahill Monday morning (I was unable to reach him the previous evening) to see if a studio tape recording existed of the show, but there was no tape. He, too, had wished for a recording of this most intriguing call. He promised to contact me with any further information, but nothing materialized.

Monday evening I phoned Coral Lorenzen about this, she was "intrigued" and thought perhaps some of their military members could look into this.

As an aside, this is also the call where Coral informed me that an interview about APRO had just appeared in Oui Magazine and that there was some misquoting involved. She vowed to do no more interviews via phone unless she could tape them and review the articles first. I had to conceal my laughter when she confessed no prior knowledge that Oui featured pictures of naked women and, indeed, she insisted that her son cut the article out and give to her so she wouldn't have to look at the other contents -- and then she threw the remainder in the trash.

By this point, her husband Jim had fully recovered from heart bypass surgery and felt great. Coral was expecting a call from a Japanese film company this very evening, intent upon coming to the U.S. to film a documentary about UFO abductions, and she was working on a new book regarding abductions based upon what she called seven good cases. Quite confident, Coral promised the book would be unlike any other UFO book. I'm not sure whether anything more developed from this ongoing project, and I also suspect that answers to a great many questions like this will only be answered when access to APRO's files occurs someday (these invaluable files are apparently in the hands of a couple who somehow inherited them after Coral's death and APRO's demise).

Dr. Hynek's Silent Movie

Two more 1976 letters from Dr. J. Allen Hynek today. In one, he answers my complaint about a late publication.

In the other, he actually acknowledges how much money he made from his brief non-speaking appearance in the then still-unreleased movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the answer to a question I certainly did not ask. But it was interesting to know.

If you read my earliest blog entries, you already know that one of my Argosy UFO articles turned up as a prop in the movie for a few seconds. Even in my life, this is one incredibly useless bit of information and impresses nobody. Drat.

It appears that Dr. Hynek banged this letter out on a typewriter or printer by himself, and I suppose he was just busy or tired when referencing the movie's director as "Steve Spielsberg" and leaving the "s" off the second word of the title. Too much time frittered away in astrophysics and not enough on the keyboard, apparently.

Edited Out

Editors of large city newspapers often serve their readers for years, at least they did commonly during the days when newspapers were so much more popular than they seem in some areas today. The late J. Leonard Gorman, executive editor of The Post-Standard (Syracuse), experienced such longevity, and he had been around long enough to know about my UFO interest via many letters to the editor. When informed about my first article for the national magazine Official UFO, he sent a very nice letter and kindly assigned a reporter to write a story.

On the other hand, speaking of Official UFO, there were publications where editors barely had time to unpack before making a hasty exit. Countrywide Publications of NY, NY published Official UFO and several other titles in the seventies and eighties. Official's first editor, Bernard O'Connor, was a dream for any UFO researcher intent upon writing a serious article. His dedication to printing the best UFO literature available impressed all of the major UFO organizations and his early issues seemed promising with an eventual circulation of 250,000.

He included my article (expanded from the 1971 A.P.R.O. Bulletin piece) on UFOs and ultrasound in the May, 1976 issue and by the time of its publication I was already working with him on the large article I hoped to write about the 1956 United Artists documentary movie, "U.F.O."

But suddenly all plans were on hold. Contributing writers in May of 1976 received letters from O'Connor informing us of his resignation from Official UFO. He thanked all of us profusely, yet gave no reason for leaving -- though word was already on the street about friction in the office.

Before long, a new editor stepped in, Russ Rueger, and he, too, sent out letters, essentially saying hi to the writers and laying out his plans for the magazine, Unfortunately, barely three months later we writers received another letter (widely circulated) from him, this time telling us of his own resignation, and he didn't spare the details. Rueger stated that the publisher endorsed an attitude that readers are mostly "true believers" who "desperately need to believe that UFOs are extraterrestrial beings who will someday come to earth to bring salvation." Further, stated Rueger, the publisher demonstrated a preference for "trumped up, sensationalized" unsubstantiated sightings and one or few-witness accounts written with a "true confession" slant. "We're an entertainment magazine," Rueger claimed the publisher would say, "so ethics are irrelevant." Clearly aware that Official UFO would exploit, rather than assist, UFO research, Rueger, simultaneously involved in a separate situation with the publisher which led to everything else that transpired, left the magazine, replaced by respected UFO researcher Dennis Hauck, who was assured by the publisher that all would be well. Thus, just in 1976, Official UFO was directed by three editors. I don't know the circumstances, but it wasn't too long before the magazine and its likewise absurd companion, Ancient Astronauts, perished. Whatever Hauck was able to offer during his tenure there, I'm sure his standards reflected the best of everything.

During the turmoil, I was advised to contact a Saga Magazine editor who might be interested in my planned article on the 1956 United Artists movie, but he decided -- unwisely - that nobody reading Saga publications would care about my rehashing the details of an old movie about UFOs. Eventually, completed at last, the article went back to Official UFO under Hauck's guidance and was printed in the February, 1977 issue with some portions excluded because of length. The piece, " 'UFO' Revisited," proved very popular with readers, and in later years became available on the NICAP Web site with pictures (see the NICAP link and look up my name in the NICAP search engine for access) and is also currently featured on the Web site in both English and French versions.

However, as the February cover displayed here clearly shows, Official UFO was indeed wrestling with its identity, spotlighting in one title a sober interview with Dr. Hynek, while way above headlining the frightening UFO abduction of a woman's daughter -- a false story, by the way, contrived purely to sell magazines to the gullible, compliments of the publisher.

For me, abandoning Official UFO as a writer was an eye-opener, causing me to trust the publishing world a little less, more aware that the bottom line was almost always the bottom line. Integrity didn't matter nearly as much as the money to some publishers, and the proof was usually right before our eyes on the newsstands in the seventies and eighties, the largest assortment of UFO-related garbage in print that one can imagine.

Placing a few articles with competitors, such as Argosy Magazine's Argosy UFO and True Magazine's True Flying Saucers and UFOs Quarterly, where editorial policies enjoyed more stability, worked out well, but my unpleasant encounters with Countrywide Publications weren't over yet. A few years later, on some city newsstand I spotted a hopelessly inferior-looking magazine about UFOs, and though I can't remember its title at the moment, I instantly noticed the cheap pulp on which it was printed and the print quality inside was just hideous. In addition, I did a double-take while thumbing through the pages of this Countrywide abomination when I stumbled upon a reprint of my own article on UFOs and ultrasound from 1976 -- the article I sold to Countrywide on a "first rights" basis, meaning all rights reverted back to me after initial publication. I don't even recall if my name remained with the title, though the graphics were the same. Other writers recognized their previously sold work also, but I don't believe any of us attempted legal action because the expense and uncertainty for, frankly, so little economically would have been enormous and just too much trouble. I guess I know too well now what a cautionary tale is.

The lesson? If you write and something goes awry, by all means check with the editorial staff -- but don't automatically exclude the publishers as the root of all things dreadful. After all, they run the show.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Conversation with Coral Lorenzen

Maybe you wonder why some of my blog entries seem irrelevant to your interest. I know a lot of this seems to be all about me, and that's because (unfortunately) much of it is about me. It's a blog, my name's at the top and if you sometimes think, oh, good grief, this guy is so full of himself, I guess that's an unintended impression I leave. However, my primary concern here is to offer whatever I can for historical reasons. I suspect that many UFO researchers of the past didn't send or receive as many letters as I, and if they did chances are their collections were simply thrown in the trash by surviving relatives or friends after their demise, people with no understanding of the historical treasures they condemned to extinction.

Therefore, I beg your indulgence when I get personal about important UFO researchers or witnesses of the past. I just want some things on the record, particularly when I believe that few, if anybody, had the opportunity or desire to bring these little nuggets to the forefront.

Readers who follow this blog realize that I had occasional phone conversations with Jim and Coral Lorenzen, the late couple who originated the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) in 1952, one of the oldest UFO research groups in the world. In my old files I've found notes made during an afternoon call to Coral on Saturday, May 29, 1976, and today I'll just list a few points from that conversation:

My reason for calling was to ask how Jim was doing, as he continued recovery from recent cardiac bypass surgery. Coral recalled that night when Jim felt so poorly and frightened about his condition. He had phoned his physician emergently, and when the surgeon replied that he would be at the hospital in one hour Jim responded, no, I want you there now. The operation proved successful.

Jim's post-surgical depression and spirits had lifted significantly the previous week when he appeared, still accompanied by a weakened voice, with alleged UFO abductee Travis Walton on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America," hosted by David Hartman, who was joined by actor Paul Michael Glaser of the "Starsky and Hutch" TV series (as the art of coincidence goes, I guess I should mention that Glaser's acting TV partner in the series, David Soul, appeared in the UFO-related TV movie, "The Disappearance of Flight 412," mentioned a couple of blog entries ago). The weeks after surgery had been chaotic, with medical insurance not covering enough and Coral losing weight because of worry over Jim's ordeal. While in Hollywood, the Lorenzens had spoken with an unidentified motion picture producer who expressed considerable interest in making UFO documentaries.

We talked about her new book, Encounters with UFO Occupants, actually an updated version of Flying Saucer Occupants. She also labored busily on a future book about UFO abductions. I was interested to learn that she had also written a science fiction story about a time in the 1930s when people saw a landed UFO with occupants exiting and then re-entering the object, which quickly departs. All witnesses, from the town drunk to the highest official, decide not to tell anybody for individual reasons of their own. To her regret, Coral had been unable to sell this one. I wonder what happened to it?

There were troubles at the magazine, Official UFO. Coral knew very well by then that its editor and his boss had serious disagreements (I'll write more about this situation in another blog entry), but was surprised when I informed her that he had already resigned on May 1.

Nor was it ever a secret that there had been "bad blood" between APRO and another major UFO organization known to many. In this conversation, Coral excoriates its director, who has just assumed the position of editor for the group's membership publication following a resignation ("Can you imagine what a mess that will be?" she asks). She asserts that he was once an APRO member who broke away to form his own organization, calling APRO members around the country in the process in an attempt to get them to abandon APRO. One APRO member had even taped a call from him and played it for Jim and Coral, who stated he said some terrible things about they, the Lorenzens.

Before ending our talk, I did ask Coral about her UFO opinions, in light of the Travis Walton abduction case and others then coming to light. Without hesitation, and with perhaps the only laughter induced during a call enhanced by her coughing and obvious weariness, she merely shot back this response: "Beats me."

UFOs go to College

A letter from the Syracuse police chief helped start the year 1975, as he informed me per my request that his office would be sure to pass UFO information along to me. It never really worked out that way, though. Several years later, when Central New York experienced a wave of numerous and impressive UFO sightings, the chief's department went bonkers, put off or refused requests for information from other organizations, and bit itself in the butt with intense in-fighting that spilled out into the streets and into the clutches of a very attentive media. (The late) Chief Sardino himself, outraged, was depicted as a controversial cartoon figure in association with UFOs on a quickly produced t-shirt, a garment quickly snapped up from the entrepreneurs who gladly distributed them locally for some fast cash. The Syracuse Police Dept., then as now, has a proud reputation, but the appearance of UFOs -- assumed a law enforcement responsibility ever since the breakup of the Air Force's Project Blue Book -- simply blew that official entity and others in Central NY into a frenzy, with little direction and absolutely no tools to prepare for UFO investigations. I plan to explore this era in a future blog entry.

For me, 1975 was significant mostly for preparing to write for some national magazines and, more important, for the chance to teach an introductory UFO course at a college. Non-credit though it was, at least this gave the UFO subject more credibility. Having spoken about UFOs at high schools and the like in the past, the opportunity to actually prepare and receive payment to teach a course now was definitely a step up. Mine wasn't the first UFO-related course offered at the college or university level, and other programs had been available for credit elsewhere in the country, but my own "UFOs: An Introduction" was certainly one of the very few ever attempted by 1975. Several sessions were successfully taught between 1975 and 1976, until I eventually went on to other things. At some point I wrote an article describing the course for Argosy UFO, and because I included a post office box number I received a wealth of letters from the U.S. and other countries, some from researchers intent upon the initiation of UFO history courses in their own areas. In the framework of mine, slides and audio presentations were included, and I obtained permission from the major UFO organizations to reprint specific material as handouts for my students. One student, incidentally, was the very pleasant father of one of the best known UFO skeptics (perhaps too mild a word, but I try to be kind) in the U.S. Yes, it was a tad awkward on those occasions when I condemned the skeptics and debunkers by name in the classroom.

As you peruse (that's one of those hundred-dollar words some writers use when we want to make you believe we're brilliant or derived from royalty -- so, is it working?) the letters displayed here, you'll also find a handwritten note from Coral Lorenzen. She and Jim were very helpful with my attempts to write for magazines, and in her note she also references a UFO conference at Fort Smith, Arkansas -- one of the more significant UFO discussion sessions of that year, as I recall.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dr. Hynek and CUFOS Reach Out

The Center for UFO Studies (see the link and visit the web site) was a fledgling operation in 1975, the brainchild attributed primarily to astronomer and former Air Force chief consultant on UFOs Dr. J. Allen Hynek. I suppose the easiest explanation for its existence is its fulfillment of the need for something, a reliable reporting source, where UFO sightings could be reported and investigated appropriately. Project Blue Book had folded, thanks, of course, to that ridiculous conclusion conjured up by the University of Colorado and Dr. Edward Condon assuring us that UFOs were no big deal -- worthy of a look by science as time goes on, but nothing to fret over. Yet, internationally the dramatic UFO reports from pilots, police agencies and government entities at many levels continued. CUFOS would be a clearing house headed up by Hynek and other respected personnel, intent upon direct contact with official agencies (not so much with individual members of the public who wished to report sightings) in receipt of scientifically worthwhile UFO information from their own local areas.

I only met the late Dr. Hynek personally on one occasion, following one of his public lectures, but do have a few letters from him going back to the time when the Center was taking form. Two of them are offered with today's entry. Should the reader be familiar with Hynek's bearded face, there is no mistaking him during his cameo role in the 1978 movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Previously, I mentioned that when I purchased and received an autographed copy of Hynek's first book, the pages were all out of order. Impressed as I often am with things peculiarly out of kilter, I wouldn't dream of returning it for a replacement.

There are several pages of notes I had made sometime in late 1974 regarding a lengthy phone conversation with APRO's Jim Lorenzen. To say the least, both Jim and Coral exhibited considerable animosity toward the idea of Hynek taking such a public stance with his new Center, and I'm sure there were issues concerning them all about which I knew nothing, but Jim portrayed Hynek (and others) as too much the publicity seeker.

It isn't easy to understand the intricacies involved with relationships amongst various UFO researchers, but we can say with assurance that the UFO subject has always served as a great avenue for fostering jealousies and mistrust - sometimes justified and sometimes not. And don't for a minute believe that this sort of thing affects only private researchers: The government-sponsored Colorado University UFO project, a study intended as the epitome of pristine science and public spotlessness from start to finish, was itself rife with petty disagreements and displays of professional ego leading to the project's eternal tarnish.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Living Life Stoned While TV Rocks

The December, 1973 UFO report that I mentioned a couple of blog entries ago wasn't quite the end-of-year event for strange activity in Central NY. In the final days of October an incident so bizarre hit the news that one might be inclined to say, "Yeah, right" and dismiss it faster than a tabloid story about a new Elvis sighting.

Like the alleged Pascagoula, Mississippi UFO abduction prevalent throughout the world's headlines previously in 1973, two Central NY fishermen came forward with their own peculiar story, but this one involved flying stones and no alien creatures. No UFOs as we generally think of UFOs, as far as I know. Still. . .

Two friends, one 28 and the other 63, decided to do some evening fishing on Skaneateles Lake during a late October weekend. By the light of two lanterns they cast their lines around 7:00 p.m. At about 10:45 something hit the water near them -- a jumping fish, perhaps, they thought. Then another object hit the water, apparently a stone, larger than the first -- and soon another that they estimate weighed 50 lbs. splashed in and displaced water a good three or four feet.

They shouted into the woods, shined their lights all around and saw nobody. Frightened, or at least rather unnerved at this point, they raced back to their car, this time finding themselves deluged with a rain of small stones as they loaded their equipment into the car. One of the men took a shotgun out of the vehicle and fired into the trees.

Driving some distance away from the scene, believing they were safe, they pulled the car to the roadside so one of them could remove some heavy clothing worn to keep warm on that chilly October night. As the man exited the car, stones again began falling, pelting the car and the man. Leaving the scene, they drove off to a bar in Skaneateles, where each drank a beer as the bartender told of a UFO seen over the lake just a week previously.

As they resumed driving, stones again pelted the car and at some point they again stopped on the road to see if anything was flying overhead. The older witness claimed he saw nothing, but heard a humming sound. As they reached the Syracuse area, he states something seemed to shake the car. Only when they reached one of the men's homes did the stone barrage cease. According to The Post-Standard (Syracuse) of October 29, 1973, the fishermen had notified the police, and it was noted in an article from The Herald-Journal (Syracuse), also of October 29, that the Skaneateles police chief was a little skeptical about the incident. Then again, the older witness did remark, "What're the police going to do?"

I had sent the newspaper clippings to the International Fortean Organization, where they were mentioned in an issue of The INFO Journal in 1974. Initially, I had trouble locating either fisherman, but conversations with two reporters who covered the story indicated that each seemed sincere and truly frightened about their experience. At some point, at last I did meet the men and we participated in a talk show on Syracuse's WCNY-TV (a PBS station). Their sincerity could be described as overwhelming.

Ultimately, a geologist at Syracuse University tested six small stones the men had secured and offered as evidence. According to The Post-Standard of November 3, 1973, a spectrographic microscope and polarized light were implemented for stone analysis and the geologist's report stated there was "nothing at all that would indicate they are from any kind of extraterrestrial source. . .They are all very, very similar to rocks that are found in the local area." None was larger than a half dollar.

The INFO Journal editors remarked, rather tongue-in-cheek, that the composition of the stones as laid out in the newspaper article reminded them of the material commonly found in railroad roadbeds, and that "Maybe the Zeta Reticuli Express was passing through." (For my readers who just asked, "Huh?" Zeta Reticuli is the star system from which some assume Betty and Barney Hill's alleged alien abductors originated, based upon Marjorie Fish's highly intriguing star map per Betty Hill's recollections under hypnosis.)

For my part, while I confined myself generally to the UFO issue in those years, I did find a remarkably similar Iowa case mentioned in the book, The Enigma of the Poltergeist, by Raymond Bayless, a book I loaned to a reporter from The Syracuse New Times, who eventually wrote something about the Skaneateles case and referenced Bayless' book. Poltergeists? UFOs? I don't know. I've always felt peculiar enough just wondering what the concepts of here and now mean.

Okay, so back to UFOs. Let's go back to the beginning of 1974, at last, where I find that I made notes and wrote yet another of numerous letters to the editor about the topic, though 1973 hasn't yet made its exit. From November of 1973, there's a report about six Argentina Navy technicians tracking a UFO for 20 minutes. Certain that no aircraft or satellite activity was responsible, they officially documented this impressively maneuverable object as a UFO.

And there's this curious little tidbit (source unavailable at the moment) from the national media in 1973, quoting Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. George S. Brown at an October 16 press conference, where he admits that UFOs "plagued us in Vietnam during the war." Brown admitted to no knowledge about their identity, but his confirmation certainly added authenticity to numerous UFO reports filtering out of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam Era.

During the seventies and eighties, I occasionally wrote articles and reviews for The Syracuse New Times, a Central NY weekly newspaper still publishing. As 1974 drew to a close, I submitted an article for the December 8 edition headlined, "Television Getting More Open-Minded About UFOs." Indeed, keepers of the small screen and its (then) three main networks planned, for a welcome change, fair reporting about UFOs, whether truth or fiction. In fact, on October 1 NBC had premiered an important, now generally forgotten, motion picture starring Glenn Ford, entitled "The Disappearance of Flight 412." Presented as the fictional account of a shadowy, mentally-brutal U.S. government "debriefing" of an Air Force flight crew involved in a tragic UFO incident, few amongst the TV audience would ever know that the story flowed directly from a script writer's personal knowledge.

Actually, Jim and Coral Lorenzen of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization had even provided the producers some photos of UFOs seen in the movie. Obviously low-budget and looking a bit dated over 30 years later, the film nonetheless remains a chilling dramatization about aeronautical things unknown and government secrets untold.

1974 was also the year when plans began to take shape for the insightful documentary, "UFOs: Past, Present and Future," and NBC was forging ahead in anticipation of another little TV movie called "The UFO Incident," an extraordinarily well done production about the Barney and Betty Hill UFO abduction.

Jim Lorenzen, whom I quoted in my newspaper article, had addressed the amazingly fair treatment of the UFO subject weeks earlier: "There is now in motion a trend toward good public information on UFO matters. A handful of television films now in various stages of production will be aired this fall and winter. The subject will be treated maturely and realistically. Whether this new attitude is triggered by 'inside' tips or not is not known at this time.

"However," Lorenzen continued, "NBC activity in this area is the result of 'the word' being passed down from Herb Schlosser's (then NBC's president) office contrary to usual procedure -- story and theme ideas usually originate at lower levels and go 'upstairs' for approval."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Newfield and Ithaca NY UFO Update

You may recall my earlier reference to the Ithaca and Newfield UFO sightings of 1967. A few days ago I received a note from a person who decided to come forward and impart some information about his possible role in some of the UFO reports. I don't know how much influence his prank exerted upon the overall situation, because the magnitude of official interest in the Newfield situation was just too extraordinary to dismiss via the launch of a homemade "UFO." However, the writer certainly has something important to say from his aspect, and I'm anonymously including his comments as follows. Incidentally, I remind my readers, having seen an abundance of such pranks intended to foster UFO reports in the past, that sending anything skyward with a working flame can result in serious trouble with law enforcement personnel, should fire damage result when one's flaming creation lands in combustible material (I know, I know, I take all the fun out of this when I bring it up...)

I stumbled over references to UFOs over Newfield NY in 1967.
I guess I have a confession.
I was a student at Cornell University's College of Engineering in 1967. I was curious about hot air balloons, and wondered whether or not I could make a working model. I took a dry cleaning bag, sealed up the openings at the top, built a framework to hold the bottom open, and then placed a "heat tab" from a Boy Scout Heat Tab stove on the frame.
I then brought the bag out to the "dust bowl" between the University Halls dormitories, lit the pellet, and held the bag upright to keep it from catching fire. Within a few minutes, the bag arose and began a journey, sailing out of sight to the southwest direction.
Within the same moments, I had drawn an audience of about a hundred freshmen students, curious as to what I was doing. Once the bag lifted off, some of the students began trying the same trick. Some succeeded while others failed. My success was based on the fuel: the heat tab.
I must say that my creation was a sight to behold. The heat tab produced a constant glow, and the clear bag took on the light in a way which magnified the existing light. It was strange, to say the least.
The next day, I was surprised to see an article in the Ithaca Journal titled, "UFOs Spotted over Newfield". It didn't take more than a split second to make the connection that the UFOs may have been the bags we sent aloft from Cornell. The direction and the timing were right!
I never thought anything came of the sightings, however your blog seems to make reference to UFO sighting over Newfield.
Is there any possibility that my college prank was the cause of these UFO sightings over Newfield?

More From 1973

I alluded to the fact earlier that 1973 was a banner year for numerous interesting UFO reports around the USA. By the fall season I was learning of some impressive activity in Central New York and nearby.

On October 25, 1973 Syracuse radio station WHEN-AM reported an intriguing sighting witnessed the previous evening by no less than noted astronomer Terrance Dickinson, assistant director of Rochester's Strassburg Planetarium. Quoting from a transcript of that newscast:

"A Rochester astronomer says he sighted a formation of UFOs last night. Terry Dickinson. . .describes what he saw: 'A V-formation of lights, about the brightness of the planet Jupiter, that were moving together. I immediately turned the telescope onto them and I could see that, in addition to the four brilliant lights, there were smaller lights immediately beside the bright ones.'

"And Terry Dickinson says that after making checks with airports in the Rochester area, he's convinced that what he saw last night were UFOs."

In a later newscast, Dickinson admitted that he was very much the skeptic until his sighting, but changed his views after the experience.

1973, noteworthy for the Hickson-Parker UFO abduction in Pascagoula, Mississippi and reports of others, kept many researchers and journalists busy. I spoke at length with a Skaneateles, NY woman who awoke around 3:00 a.m. on October 12 and observed a "fiery Chinese dragon" shaped object in the sky that transformed into "a long whip shape" as it proceeded west. Then, on October 15, a Camillus, NY teenager and at least nine other witnesses watched two large, very bright lights appearing to be part of the same flashing object. At some point, a "ball" that blinked red, green and orange, with a circle of lights surrounding it, approached the first object. This second object stopped and hovered above the witnesses, and shortly the initial UFO flew directly above the second "as if they had merged" and both disappeared in different directions. On October 19 a witness in Constantia, NY viewed an object with green and red lights close to the waters of Oneida Lake. As he continued his observation, he saw it "skirt across" the water and it disappeared behind some trees. The UFO came to his attention initially because its brilliant lights reflected through his window.

Not even the Central NY winter could deter the steady flow of UFO reports. On December 7 I spoke with a Syracuse University law student who, with his girlfriend, a TV-radio major at S.U., experienced a bizarre object two nights previously. Observing from inside a dormitory, they watched as a diamond-shaped object, flat on the side, appeared over the campus. "Glowing lines" shooting from the thing helped define its shape. The witness further clarified that the object's color resembled that of a star, but sparks of red, yellow and green also exuded from it After watching the thing for 40-45 seconds, the witnesses watched it fly straight up in the sky and it disappeared quickly.

The national media's frenzy to report anything about UFOs encounters, true or not, resulted in considerable confusion at times. Following the Pascagoula fishermen abduction, James Lorenzen of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization offered a statement to the effect that people were seeing UFOs despite national attention on the Watergate scandal and Middle East tensions -- but some in the press misinterpreted his words to imply that he was actually saying people were observing UFOs merely as a distraction from these national concerns.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Boom, the Shattered Windows, a UFO and the Usual Suspects

A 42-year-old truck driver named Richard offered his full name, harboring no objections to public identification when he phoned me early on the evening of October 23, 1973. His call was about a possible UFO sighting, but it wasn't new. Five years before (1968), a mysterious "sonic boom" occurred over or near the Fayetteville-Manlius area of New York State, and he wanted to tell me about his experience, possibly related. First, he found it necessary to assure me he had been "stone sober, and I'm no fanatic." I made extensive notes of his description, and have reconstructed his narrative as follows:

"I think it was four or five years the middle of summer...and it was 8:30 at wasn't dark yet, and it was a clear night, a Thursday. I'm on (Richard gave a street name in the city of Syracuse where he resides) street, and I happened to step outside and looked toward the driveway -- which is south -- and over the top of the trees I can see this thing. It was red, it was a 'friction glow' red, colored red like a 'heat red.' Like something giving off heat." The thing made no obvious sounds,. according to the witness.

"Take the full moon and put it over (the south side of Syracuse). It was tree-top height here, but there it was probably two or three thousand feet high. It looked as bright as the full moon would be (the light did not blink on or off). The red was a glow more than a color. This thing was coming very slow, from east to west. I didn't think too much of it, but called my wife out and told her to look, and she saw it. Then the people in back and their children came out, and they looked at it.

"The whole thing went on for 20 or 25 minutes. The first thing I did was to call the telephone operator and said that I saw a UFO, and give me the SAC air base (at Hancock Field, Syracuse). The telephone operator said, 'It's a weather balloon.' I said, okay, it's a weather balloon. Now, give me the SAC air base!

"So I called the SAC air base. I talked with this boy who is way down in the basement there and I said, look, I'm not drunk, I'm a family man, I'm a hard worker and I'm not a fanatic -- but I think I've seen a UFO. He asked where, so I told him, south side of the city, near the west end. I used to be a paratrooper, so I know a little about the height. He said, 'We cover everything in the skies on radar in this area, and my radar shows nothing in the sky.' I asked him if he would pick up a weather balloon on radar and he said yes. I said, all right, that eliminates a weather balloon. 'Wait a minute,' he said, 'I'll send a man up to the roof to check on it visually.' Right after that he said, 'Wait -- I have a civilian airplane leaving Hancock Field right now, heading south in your direction, and you'll hear the engines in a minute.'

"Two or three minutes later, I heard the engines, and the thing stopped dead in the sky. Then, out of it came -- well, the best way the kids and I and the guy in the back could describe it would be like if somebody had six or seven flashlights and six or seven windows to shine them out of. Light beams, white, like you see in a searchlight. It looked like landing lights off an airplane, not pure white or pure yellow.

"It hovered, then the plane came closer -- and this thing started going up, not fast, but up. It kept going up. It took about 10 minutes, it didn't seem to be in any hurry. It went up until it looked like a star. But as it went higher and higher it changed its color from a bright, glowing red to a white-blue. It looked like a star. It went straight up until it disappeared. It was kind of a whitish-yellow.

"That was on a Thursday night at 8:30. Friday night, I looked in the newspaper to see if there was anything on it, but there was nothing. But I happened to read that there was a sonic boom at 8:30 Thursday over Fayetteville and Manlius. Residents there contacted the Air Force, which said that to make a sonic boom that would shatter windows over Fayetteville and Manlius (apparently there were reports of damage) would require many planes at the same time, and that's an 'impossibility.' They also said there were no planes in the area at that time.

"But in Saturday's newspaper, where I was checking to see if anybody in the plane that approached my area -- the plane that actually flew directly under the thing -- had noticed it, I read that the plane had landed either in New York or New Jersey. Somebody either telephoned or otherwise contacted somebody back in Syracuse, telling them about this UFO that they flew under. That's when it hit me. The sonic boom happened at 8:30 Thursday, and 10 minutes later I saw the thing in the sky, and maybe it was responsible for the whole thing.

"This was seen by my wife and I and our two children, and then by the other couple and their children in the back because I called them out. The first thing we thought is that it was the sun. It was big and red and oval-shaped, the appearance was like an egg. The higher it went, it changed colors. The thing would have to be the size of a city block. I kept telling myself it must be a weather balloon, until the guy at SAC said if it was his radar would have it."

And that was the end of Richard's story. I should mention that the man sent up on a roof to check for the object at Hancock Field reporting seeing nothing. Nevertheless, Richard's story was quite interesting, and placing the UFO and sonic boom in a similar time frame may be relevant. One's first impression might be to suggest whether the noise was caused by jets sent up to investigate the object, but none of the witnesses reported additional aircraft in the sky. I was able to find three Syracuse newspaper reports from the month of April, 1968, when the incident occurred. Again, these were the weeks leading up to my Air Force enlistment in June, and my attention to detail when contacted by sighting witnesses was certainly less than ideal at that time. But the report maintains an intrigue after all these years, and I wanted to share it here. The newspaper stories included the following details of interest:

The Post-Standard of April 18, 1968 states that an "explosion" in the Fayetteville-Manlius area early during the previous evening shattered a number of windows, panicked residents and deluged law enforcement offices and news media sources with phone calls. Air Force personnel at Hancock Field claimed no knowledge of military aircraft causing sonic booms.

According to The Herald-Journal of April 20, 1968, there were indeed numerous witnesses to the strange object's slow lateral and eventual upward movement, with colors and "rays" of light confirming what Richard had told me during our phone conversation. Even by April 20, the Air Force continued to deny radar confirmation, but did admit to calls from numerous witnesses.

Additionally, per The Herald-Journal of April 30, 1968, a husband (connected with the aircraft industry in some way) and wife watching a movie at a drive-in located in the same general area as the sonic booms of April 17 reported a UFO that flew overhead at about 12:40 a.m. Of course, this took place several days after the initial sighting. "The object was ice-cream cone shaped. . .traveling from east to west at a slow speed but picked up speed and, in doing so, changed from its original white color to a fiery orange," stated the article.

(By coincidence, just as a side note of interest, a letter was also written and mailed to me on October 23 by an Air Force serviceman of undisclosed rank with a mailbox at the former Griffiss AFB in Rome, NY, requesting information regarding UFOs and the alleged Hickson-Parker abduction incident. I responded, but heard nothing more from him.) And now this. . .

"HAPPY ANNIVERSARY:" Today, lest its significance go unnoticed, is the 42nd anniversary of The Great Northeast Power Blackout, notable for some highly interesting UFO sightings all over the Northeast concurrently. We've touched upon this subject previously, involved as we were with local UFOs (reported by the major news services at the time). As far as I'm concerned, satisfactory answers about the massive power failure never came forth -- and as I mentioned in a prior blog entry, a ranking power company official who promised to give me some important information about the UFO connection -- or not -- apparently took the "not" road, because I never heard from him again.