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.