Summary: An in-depth local newspaper article looking back at the Hudson Valley sightings and other aspects of the UFO phenomenon and research. "It was 17 years ago this month when the phenomenon known as the Hudson Valley UFO commenced its high-profile tour through the Northeast."
It was 17 years ago this month when the phenomenon known as the Hudson Valley UFO commenced its high-profile tour through the Northeast. Particularly fond of Westchester County, it was nicknamed the "Westchester Boomerang," though it spent a great deal of time in Connecticut as well.
Hundreds of local citizens reported sightings to the police and numerous police officers witnessed the spectacle firsthand. According to Philip Imbrogno, a UFO investigator and co-author of Night Siege: The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings (written with Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Bob Pratt), which chronicles the most impressive reports, more than 5,000 people have reported seeing a triangular- or boomerang-shaped object larger than a football field hovering in our skies.
The Hudson Valley UFO sightings occurred with surprising regularity throughout the 1980s, and the phenomenon was immortalized in Communion, Whitley Streiber's autobiographical account of abduction from his cabin in Pine Bush, N. Y. The sightings continue to this day, though with much less frequency. Mark Cashman of the Connecticut chapter of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) said that although investigators are unsure why, UFO phenomenon has always come in waves since it was first tracked in the late 1940s.
The Hudson Valley sightings were so widespread in the 1980s that the Hudson Valley UFO barely registers as an anomaly anymore. Rather, it seems to have been embraced as a local bragging right.
Numerous people I know personally profess to have seen it, including one woman who was walking around downtown Fairfield, Conn., with a friend one night about 12 years ago when the phenomenon appeared cruising over the center of town. A Fairfield police officer patrolling nearby witnessed it as well. Everyone who has seen it describes nearly the same thing: a triangular object larger than a football field with a "V" of lights moving at about 25 miles-per-hour, only a couple hundred feet up in the sky, making little or no noise -- far less than any airplane.
Local authorities alternately blamed the phenomena on military aircraft, though no agency would take credit for them, and motorized hang gliders called ultralights allegedly rigged with special effects lighting. This latter theory persisted despite the fact that ultralight experts testified that such a hoax would be impossible to pull off; it's also illegal to fly ultralights at night, which is when the vast majority of the Hudson Valley sightings took place.
Though no logical explanation seems to exist for the Hudson Valley UFO, it certainly doesn't prove the existence of another intelligent life force. However, there are many people who claim to be in contact with alien intelligence as a result of, or in conjunction with, the Hudson Valley sightings.
In the course of researching this story, one of my sources insisted that it was no accident I'd decided to write about UFOs. He believed that some alien intelligence was in telepathic communication with me and informing my decision to delve into a topic that is routinely ridiculed by the scientific community and in the media.
I certainly don't have a rational answer as to why the subject fascinates me; people's reactions to the possibility of alien life intrigues me as much as the possibility of alien life itself. The heyday of the Hudson Valley sightings was long before I moved to the East Coast from Indiana; I thought UFOs only harassed red necks in the Midwest.
Imbrogno has heard so many contact reports -- close to 300 -- that he co-authored a sequel to Night Siege with Marianne Horrigan called Contact of the 5th Kind. Imbrogno now lives in Danbury, Conn., and has taught science at the Windward School in White Plains, N. Y., for nearly 20 years. He also sits on the board of directors at the Bowman Observatory in Greenwich and writes a soon-to-be syndicated astronomy column for the Greenwich Time.
In a recent interview, Imbrogno noted that while absolute proof of UFOs and extra-terrestrial phenomenon remains elusive, he's been confronted with a multitude of very convincing evidence through his investigations. One of the most impressive cases Imbrogno handled in conjunction with the Hudson Valley UFO was that of Dean Fagerstrom of Brewster, N. Y. Although Imbrogno estimates that more than 90 percent of "channeling cases," or instances where a non-human presence communicates through an individual, are decidedly "bunk," he believes that Fagerstrom may be one of the very few individuals in communication with non-human intelligence.
Fagerstrom, now in his late 60s, was a security specialist after an 11-year military career and a stint in Vietnam. During a recent interview with the Weekly, Fagerstrom explained that he's been experiencing bizarre phenomenon all his life.
Fagerstrom, who fled the seminary in his early 20s, said that what most people would consider to be alien and religious phenomenon is all part of the same spiritual destiny for him. He claims that in 1964, an Adonis-like entity named Donestra, hailing from the planet Solarian, visited him while he was working on some peculiar mathematical sequences which, according to Imbrogno, were designed to predict the lottery.
Fagerstrom maintains that Donestra helped him win the lottery, but he said that Donestra's real interest in his equations had to do with a divine form of mathematics based on the true date of Christ's birth. "[Donestra] discussed various things that I was aware of at least in theory, but not so much factually the way he expressed it, and this was to the effect that there were multiple civilizations and he was one representative and he was particularly interested in my mathematical pursuits which had begun at that time and have continued to this day," Fagerstrom explained.
Fagerstrom claims that a divine entity named Aphax has channeled this revelatory mathematical system through him, which he compiled in an unpublished manuscript called the "Book of Anglion." He believes it will spark a revolution in the field of computer science.
According to Fagerstrom, Anglion is the name of a spiritual society in "the other world" headed by Emmanuel Swedenborg who was a Swedish theologian, scientist and philosopher who lived from 1688 to1772. Much of Fagerstrom's spiritual and extra-terrestrial ideologies seem to come from Swedenborg's work, which he referenced often during our interview.
Despite his fantastical tangents, Fagerstrom has interested Imbrogno since their first meeting in 1982 because of the material Fagerstrom has produced ostensibly through contact with Donestra and several other angelic and extra-terrestrial entities.
On Jan. 9, 1968, Fagerstrom says he awoke at 4 a.m. and saw something that looked like an old-fashioned microphone hovering in the air over his bed. It approached him with an extended needle-like probe, which began vibrating and made his whole head and body resonate.
Fagerstrom then felt compelled to draw multiple diagrams depicting various kinds of futuristic technology; he allegedly shut himself up in a room for three days and produced 32 diagrams. While well-executed for someone who claims to have no art or engineering background, the designs don't provide the specifics of construction or purpose. The diagrams, which Fagerstrom gave to Imbrogno, impressed the late Dr. Allen Hynek who worked with Imbrogno on Night Siege. Hynek was an astrophysicist who served as the Air Force's UFO consultant when UFO phenomenon was under official investigation throughout the '50s and '60s. He was later a Professor of Astronomy at Northwestern University.
According to Imbrogno, the late John Stokes, an associate of Hynek's, constructed a helical coil depicted in one of Fagerstrom's diagrams. It allegedly produced an electromagnetic pulse much greater than any similar technology can produce today, but the coil burned itself out within a matter of seconds. No further attempts to build Fagerstrom's diagrams have been made.
In 1972, Fagerstrom was staring down at a blank clipboard when he started writing pages of unidentifiable symbols, which look something like Arabic. Fagerstrom believes he was channeling an angelic language which delivered a subliminal message to him though he's unclear on what that message was.
A linguist told Imbrogno that the writing appeared to be a language similar to ancient Babylonian (Sumerian, according to Fagerstrom) with more than 200 characters. Sixteen years later, Fagerstrom allegedly produced more inexplicable material through channeling. Despite the fact that he can't play the piano, Fagerstrom claims to have spontaneously played 100 compositions, which he attributes to the pianist Franz Liszt who lived from 1811 to 1886.
Fagerstrom recalled a vision he had in 1988 of a 42-foot piano which Liszt played before a celestial audience of whom he said, "They were in heavenly ecstasy because this music was penetrating their very beings and it was telling them internal kinds of secrets which had nothing to do with notes."
Imbrogno says he's heard Fagerstrom in action and believes he had no pre-existing musical skill, but proof is slippery and restricted to Fagerstrom's word.
Fagerstrom said he has seen many UFOs over the years and claims that Donestra attributed the multitude of visitations to the fact that Jesus, a divinity recognized by all cosmic civilizations, was born on Earth. Fagerstrom said his various strange experience have left him with a sense of purpose. "I want to see a love for the truth, a love for God and a love for each other. This is everything."
Assigning motivations to alien life forms has become something of a national pastime spawning countless hypothesis. While Fagerstrom believes extra-terrestrials are manifestations of the divine, MUFON's investigator Peter Jordan adamantly maintains that the phenomena he's investigated is not so benign.
"Whatever this is, it does do physical things, and many of those things are physically harmful. This is a phenomenon that is extremely selfish and in many cases extremely sinister. It is certainly deceptive and that alone makes it unworthy of being embraced completely. I mean it can be studied, yes, but embraced, no."
Jordan, a national lecturer on paranormal occurrences, has noticed a link between supernatural phenomenon and occurrences that are generally associated with extra-terrestrials; he suggests one common denominator is a controversial concept called plasma. Plasma, which in simple terms is ionized particles, has been called the fourth state of matter. According to Jordan, although most scientists believe in it theoretically, it's incredibly difficult to study in a controlled environment.
Jordan says that plasma, created when quartz crystals are placed under extreme pressure, may be partially responsible for many anomalies in various parts of the country. "The Hudson Valley region is one of those areas that has always attracted an incredible bevy of paranormal phenomenon," Jordan said.
Based on his research and personal experience, Jordan theorized that plasma can create a ball of traveling light consistent with many sightings attributed to both ghosts and aliens. Plasma may be an alternate life form, according to some researchers, including a physicist at London University who told Jordan he believed plasma was organic matter. Plasma is one of the many oddities being investigated by Vesitigia, a nonprofit and independent national organization of scientists studying paranormal activity of which Jordan is a member.
Although he believes there is a lot going on for which we have no explanation, including UFO phenomenon, Jordan is more skeptical about abduction and contact cases -- particularly those remembered through hypnosis. "In the year 2000, every single person on every single street corner in the United States knows what's involved in a UFO scenario. So all you end up with is a mirror-like reflection of that scenario. It's circular reasoning," he argues.
Further muddying the waters, Jordan suggests that if alien abductions are really taking place, this non-human intelligence may be interacting with our consciousness and helping to shape our perception of extra-terrestrial life. In other words, the shape-shifting entity appears in the form we expect it to take; for most of us that's the hydrocephalic creature with the big eyes.
Jordan also suspects that the government is responsible for at least some of the phenomenon attributed to alien sources. Without divulging the specifics, he explained that his research has led him to believe that the government may attempt to simulate alien intelligence for the sake of psychological experimentation. When I admonished Jordan for leaving me more confused than ever he quipped, "Why are you expecting a simple answer from aliens?"
Most UFO investigators believe that the government knows something it's not telling us and has no plans of enlightening the public anytime soon. Peter Gersten, a founding member of Citizens Against UFO Secrecy, or CAUS (Ufolawyer@caus.org), has brought several lawsuits against the U. S. government in an effort to uncover its knowledge of UFO and extra-terrestrial phenomenon.
Gersten began his career as a prosecutor for the Kings County District Attorney's office in Brooklyn and then went into private practice. In 1977, he was hired by Ground Saucer Watch to acquire CIA documents concerning UFO phenomenon under the newly enacted Freedom of Information Act. "Low and behold, about a year later, the CIA released 900 pages of documents on a subject that they had stated up until that time that not only weren't they studying but basically didn't exist," Gersten recalled in a recent interview. "The CIA documents confirmed the reality of the objects. "
In addition to the 900 released documents, 57 others were found but withheld on the grounds of national security, thereby setting a precedent that UFOs were considered real enough to affect national security.
Several hundred more documents were found that originated in other agencies and were out of CIA jurisdiction. All agencies eventually released the documents voluntarily except for the National Security Agency, which continues to withhold 135 documents on the grounds of national security despite several appeals.
Gersten has two suits pending, one of which seeks the release of Department of Defense documents pertaining to the Hudson Valley UFO. The DOD claims it has no such documents, but the case received a favorable motion in February when a judge ruled the DOD must share its search methods and prove that it conducted a thorough investigation for the documents.
Gersten's real interest lies in the "intelligence behind the UFOs" and he insists he can prove in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt that we are in contact with another intelligence, which he believes is non-biological and co-exists with us on this planet independent of the laws of physics as we understand them. "It's my belief that this intelligence takes different forms depending on the evolutionary and historical status of our species," he explained. "At one point it was angels, at another point gods, here it's extra-terrestrials because that's where we're at."
While none of these theories can be proved or disproved, the proliferation of UFO phenomenon and philosophy tends to muddy the very real and indisputable evidence of unidentified flying objects that researchers have collected over the last 50 years.
Mark Cashman, state director of MUFON's Connecticut chapter, applies as much hard science to his investigations as possible and has even developed a system of measurement called triangulation, similar to methods used by surveyors to more accurately assess the size, distance and speed of reported UFOs.
Cashman is the first to admit that UFO research is constrained by the fact that the field is primarily populated by amateurs and believes no real progress will be made until the government and scientific community support UFO research. He's not holding his breath.
Although the government now scoffs at UFO research -- the Federal Aviation Administration and FBI barely kept a straight face when I asked if either agency has any current involvement with UFO reports -- its attitude used to be quite different.
"The history of this field has sort of vaporized for the modern generation," Cashman says. "They don't realize that during the 1950s and '60s there was tremendous ferment in this field and that the government at various times was really relatively open in terms of what they were doing."
The government, primarily via the Air Force, conducted official UFO research until 1969 when it turned the project over to the University of Colorado, Boulder. By this time, UFO phenomenon had attracted enough fringe groups, eccentrics and hoaxes that scientists were beginning to dismiss it despite the general persistent interest.
According to Cashman, the University of Colorado was a bit sheepish about taking on the project but needed the grant money. A memo later surfaced that advised those involved to make it look to the public like the project was being taken seriously but make it understood by the scientific community that it wasn't.
"Despite the fact that the project's findings were that they couldn't explain 30 percent of the sightings that they were given, the project director said there was nothing to it and that science shouldn't be paying attention," Cashman explained. "It was a disaster for people who wanted to find out what was going on scientifically because this was a very high-prestige study."
Colorado's attitude effectively ended official study of UFOs and ensured that no grant money would be forthcoming for future projects. "It's possible that if the study had swung the other way and had simply said, 'This is interesting, we should give some people some grants to look at this stuff,' we would know a tremendous amount by now and the fringe would never have come into it," Cashman said.
It's important to remember that legitimizing the existence of UFOs isn't the same as sanctioning the reality of extra-terrestrials. UFOs are simply things in the sky that science can't explain. Documents released through Gersten's lawsuits prove that there have been many flying objects that science can't explain.
One of the most respected sources for government documentation of UFOs is E.J. Ruppelt's book The Report On Unidentified Flying Objects published in 1956. Ruppelt was an Air Force captain and headed the government's official UFO research, Project Blue Book, during the early '50s.
He was involved with multiple sightings, both on military radar and by the eyewitness accounts of Air Force pilots. One of the most incredible sightings took place on Sept. 12, 1953. An object was picked up on radar and two F-84s were dispatched to follow it, which they did although the object wouldn't let them get any closer than three miles.
"That intercept by the airforce is highly credible," Cashman remarked. "We've got military pilots, military radar operators, we've got multiple people seeing the same thing with different kinds of modalities -- they're seeing it with radar, they're seeing it with their eyes, they're flying up to it. That to me is the kind of stuff to focus in on."
There are many reports of the Air Force chasing after these objects and also evidence of them firing on UFOs. According to Cashman, there's even documentation from the 1950s of a radar trace indicating an object traveling at speeds greater than 9,000 miles an hour. Our modern M.A.C.H. technology can't even produce those kinds of speeds.
Cashman is cautious about UFO evidence and focuses on definitive scientific proof rather than theory in his search for the truth which, although it's undoubtedly out there, won't be forthcoming anytime soon.
If a non-human intelligence is responsible for UFOs, the realization of this truth will overturn every belief system humanity has ever held or created. While society has embraced aliens as part of our modern mythology, I'm not sure we're ready to handle biological competition of that magnitude. However, the last thing we should do is stumble blindly into this potential reality. "If this is true, if what appears on the surface is in fact true, it's got to be one of the most important things we could know about the universe," Cashman said.