Our Looking Back column this month recalls an incredible wave from 40 years ago where various parts of the country experienced an unusual amount of UFO traffic during 1973. I have personally mentioned this particular time in this space before as I had firsthand encounters with these strange objects.
John Ventre describes the many pockets across the U.S. where UFOs were out in great numbers and flying low to the ground. In Pennsylvania that year, especially in the southwestern portion of the state, hundreds of UFO reports were being received by investigator Stan Gordon as well as a large number of Bigfoot reports in the same areas.
While the ridicule factor was in high gear in that era for anyone claiming to have seen a UFO, reporting a large, tall, hairy beast in your backyard was beyond comprehension and many believed the stories were being invented. I always like to point out that especially in this time, those who studied the UFO phenomena were not speaking to those who studied Bigfoot, and those who studied Bigfoot most likely did not speak with those who studied UFOs. The two worlds just did not intersect.
But yet the reports continued to pour in about the first of January 1973 and continued to get stronger over the summer and falls months. Gordon made the decision then to accept all reports of anomalous behavior and later began to draw conclusions between the UFOs and the creatures.
Just after dark one evening I was standing along a suburban street in Greensburg, PA, with a group of friends, along Seminary Drive in the Mt. View neighborhood. Someone pointed down the street of nicely built homes and manicured lawns and shouted, “What’s that?”
Like everyone else, I looked in that direction and saw something rather unusual. In the sky barely a few feet above the telephone pole lines was an object about the width of the two-lane road, disc-shaped, perhaps just 8 or 10 feet tall, that was completely lit up on its underside, and was silently moving directly toward us.
Pennsylvania telephone poles stand 40 feet tall, so I estimate that this object was no more than 45 feet off of the ground. The disc was moving toward us at a fairly slow rate, about 10 to 15 mph. All eyes were on the object as it reached us and moved directly overhead.
I recall nearly gasping as I took in the object in the seconds before it was overhead as I tried to make sense of what it could be. The size and shape were unusual, its lighting rather odd, and then the silence officially pronounced it as a mystery. As it moved overhead, standing just beneath it on the ground 45 feet below, you can only hear what appeared to be the displacement of the air, like a light rustling of the wind.
The object was following the lay of the land with Pennsylvania’s gently rolling hills. It moved past us and followed the long hill that moved toward Route 30 below us and quickly disappeared.
The moment’s following were a bit panicky – everyone was moving around and shouting and asking what it was we just saw. In a neighborhood of 300 homes and just a few blocks from home, I quickly jumped into my family sedan and drove home, rushing inside to tell my parents what I had just seen.
Moments later, we were outside again looking at the sky, wondering if the object was going to return. A Ford station wagon loaded with neighbors from the opposite end of the area pulled up in front of our home and we rushed over to talk to them. This group had just seen the same object and they were alarmed. We all quickly agreed to assemble witnesses on their property as soon as we could.
Then about 15 minutes later, I found myself standing on the neighbor’s front lawn with more than a dozen other witnesses all telling our personal story of the encounter we had just had.
None of us really understood that evening what the larger picture was. My own father, though, was a volunteer photographer for Stan Gordon and my parents attended meetings on the UFO phenomena with him. I had a bit more information that night than the average person, but even Gordon was most likely in the dark as to how much longer the wave was going to continue.
Then suddenly, someone in the group shouted – “Look, there it is again. It’s back.”
I looked up into the dark sky and again saw what appeared to be the same disc, lit the same way as the original object, but this time it was higher on the horizon and a short distance away from us. We watched as the object moved toward us and then it suddenly stopped and began to hover.
After a few seconds of hovering in place, the object began to quickly move directly down and toward the ground, but stopped and hovered again possibly at about 200 feet. Then a few seconds later it simply remained at that altitude, but moved about 100 feet and stopped to hover again. Then it quickly shot straight up into the air back to the level where we had first seen it hover.
Then hovering in place at this higher altitude, it moved about 100 feet away at that same level and stopped again. Then again rushed to the ground area, again to about 200 feet off of the ground.
We all waited in anticipation to see what was going to happen next. But now we heard the distinct sound of jets moving into our airspace.
The unusual object, hovering at this rather low altitude, suddenly shot off at an angle at tremendous speed until we could no longer see it.
Then we all saw what appeared to be two military jets moving into the sky in formation. As they entered the same area where the object had just been making its odd maneuvers, they circled that area, and then quickly moved away in the same direction that the object moved.
Just a minute later, two light planes, possibly single engine aircraft, moved into the area in the same formation as the military jets did, flying alongside each other. They also circled the local airspace and then like the military aircraft, moved off into the direction of the UFO.
We all began talking again about what we had just seen. Someone wondered if we were in the middle of an alien invasion. Others told their own, personal UFO stories from the past.
And all of us wondered out loud if we would ever see this strange object again.
We did not have to wait long. About 30 minutes later, what appeared to be the same object moved into our air space from the original direction it had approached from. And then the object performed the same maneuvers it had done earlier in exactly the same fashion – stopping and
hovering, moving toward the ground, sliding over, shooting up, sliding over again, shooting to the ground, and then moving out of our area at tremendous speed.
And then again the military jets moved in, completed their circling, and again moved off in the same direction as the UFO. And again, the light planes moved in and completed the same actions.
We all stood outside another couple of hours that night, but the strange object and the known aircraft did not return.
Once 1973 had finished I learned the larger story from Stan Gordon and the odd reports of the Bigfoot creature in the same area at the same time.
Many years later, Gordon and I would reunite on the subject and work on the book, Silent Invasion: The Pennsylvania UFO-Bigfoot Casebook. Gordon chose a methodical case-by-case look at what occurred that year and relates the cases with great detail from an investigator’s point of view.
If you study ufology and have not yet read Gordon’s book, I would suggest this particular volume be read and studied as one more important piece of the larger puzzle as we resolve the UFO enigma.
Hearing my parent’s story of watching a UFO hover over a gas station near their home in the early 1950s was chilling, but seeing an actual UFO at 45 feet propelled me into a lifetime of UFO interest culminating in a recent four and-a-half year project covering the latest news on incoming cases.