Summary: At approximately 5:00 p.m. EST on December 9, 1965, witnesses in Canada, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania saw a fireball in the evening sky. Some Ohio witnesses said that it turned slightly while over that state, veering in the direction of Pennsylvania.
At approximately 5:00 p.m. EST on December 9, 1965, witnesses in Canada, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania saw a fireball in the evening sky. Some Ohio witnesses said that it turned slightly while over that state, veering in the direction of Pennsylvania.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m., a woman named Frances Kalp called John Murphy of radio station WHJB in Greensburg, Pennsylvania to report that a flaming object had crashed into the woods near her home at Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. She said that she and her children had walked to within half a mile of the site and had seen something that looked like a "four-pointed star".
After talking to her, Murphy called the Pennsylvania State Police, who then called Kalp and asked her to meet them in nearby Kecksburg and lead them to the spot. Murphy decided to drive out to the location and see for himself. It seems unclear as to whether Murphy or the State Police arrived at the spot first.
At the scene, Murphy interviewed Kalp and her children while the State Police checked out the crash site. He later said that when State Police officials Carl Metz and Paul Shipco returned from the woods, they were very evasive about answering questions about what they had found, indicating that the military would be involved.
Murphy then called State Police Captain Dussia at the office in Greensburg, who told him to come into the State Police office for an official statement. So, Murphy drove into the Greenburg office, where he noticed that members of the Army and Air Force were present. The "official statement" turned out to be:
The Pennsylvania State Police have made a thorough search of the woods. We are convinced that there is nothing whatsoever in the woods.
Murphy called his radio station and turned in his report. Shortly thereafter, he overheard a policeman talking about a "pulsating blue light" seen in the woods. When he heard that Officer Metz and the military people were going back out to the site to investigate, he asked to accompany them and was given permission.
To his disappointment, when they arrived, Murphy was denied permission to enter the woods with them. The military sealed off the area and civilians were no longer allowed into the area. By now, with the news on radio and television, the area was clogged with cars and onlookers.
A few civilians, however, were able to get close enough to see the object before the military had sealed off the area. These witnesses, who were later interviewed by Stan Gordon, told of seeing a copper-colored, acorn-shaped object nine to twelve feet in length with a gold band around the bottom. Some claimed to see writing on it similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics. No one saw much before being asked to leave by the military.
Sometime later that night, several witnesses saw a flatbed truck leave the area carrying some large object beneath a tarpaulin. After the flatbed left, the military began to leave the area. By the next day, there was little evidence that anything had occurred in the area. The Air Force issued the official explanation that a meteorite was the cause of the reports of a glowing object in the skies the evening before, and the media accepted and passed on this explanation.
In 1990, the TV program Unsolved Mysteries decided to do a segment on the Kecksburg incident, and it soon became apparent that residents of the area were in disagreement about what had occurred. Many people believed that the Air Force meteorite explanation was true, and resented the intrusion of television and hundreds of sightseers. They went as far as gathering signatures on a petition to block the Unsolved Mysteries segment. However, others said that those who signed the petition were not present at the time and did not see the things that they themselves did, such as the mysterious flatbed truck.
The split is personified by Robert Young and Stan Gordon, two Pennsylvania researchers who spent a great deal of time studying the case, yet came to vastly different conclusions. Bob Young became a proponent of the official line that nothing more than a meteorite was involved, but Gordon believed the witnesses who said that they had seen an acorn-shaped object with strange writing on it and that the military had recovered and carried away something on a flatbed truck. Gordon later made a video of his findings called Kecksburg: The Untold Story.
Jim Oberg came up with a possible explanation later. The Russian Venus probe Kosmos 96 had been set to re-enter the atmosphere and crash in Canada thirteen hours before, at 3:18 a.m.. Oberg theorized in Omni magazine that what had entered at that time was a rocket booster, and that the probe itself re-entered later and was what crashed at Kecksburg. If a Russian space probe had crashed on American soil, then that would have been reason for the Air Force to activate top-secret Project Moondust, a special group whose purpose was to recover foreign space probes that crashed on American soil. Although the Russian and U.S. government had an agreement that any such objects recovered would be returned to the owner, Kosmos 96 had a heat shield that was made of specially hardened metal that the U.S. would have wanted to analyze. The Air Force denied that any Soviet technology had been recovered at Kecksburg, but that would be expected. Stan Gordon says that he has spoken to people from the Soviet Union who should know, and that they said the object could not have been Kosmos 96. That, too, might be the expected response.
The wife of John Murphy of radio station WGBH, said after his death that he had gotten to the site before the State Police arrived and had actually made photos of the object, which were immediately confiscated by the State Police. She also said that she thought he had been told by the military to keep quiet about what he had seen…