Friday, July 1, 2011

The Wanaque Incident

Photo is property of Anthony Bragalia.

I am not God's gift to the field of UFO research.

That probably could have gone without being said, but I just wanted to be clear on the point.  Sure, every once in a while I'll encounter a "fanatic" who is so divorced from the notion of scientific evidence that it makes me think, "hey, I actually know what I'm talking about," but I am reluctant to call myself an "expert."   I have, however, read extensively on the subject of UFOs and can hold a conversation or write about the subject with the best of them...well, unless "the best" is named Stanton Friedman, Jacques Vallee, Nick Redfern, Mac Tonnies, Nick Pope, Richard Dolan or such.  Then I'm out of my league.
But every once in a while, I come across a quality UFO case that I have never heard of before and I become eager to learn all about it.  The Wanaque Incident of 1966 is just such a case.

I found this story as a post on UFO Chronicles by Anthony Bragalia.  As it stands, the narrative describes what could be called one of the most incredible mass sightings in the history of the field.  On the night of January 11, 1966, several residents of Wanaque, New Jersey, sighted a glowing UFO over the town's dam and water reservoir.  Descriptions of the aerial craft were fairly consistent, ranging from egg-shaped to the classic saucer shape.  The brilliant object would hover silently and then zoom away at high speed.  Most interesting of all, the UFO was observed shooting a beam of light into the frozen reservoir as showcased in the pic above.  Witnesses to the event included the town's mayor, the chief of police and several officers, and the Mother Superior of a local New Jersey convent. In terms of qualifications and character, these witnesses are far above your run-of-the-mill UFO experiencers. 

True to many accounts of UFO phenomena and most any X-Files episode that dealt with the "myth arc," Men In Black (MIBs) showed up in Wanaque and "strongly suggested" to all witnesses of the disturbance, including police officers, that they saw nothing and they really shouldn't say anything more about it.  When confronted, the Air Force maintained that they had no personnel in the area conducting investigations. Timothy Good actually makes a one-page mention of this in his 1988 landmark book, Above Top Secret:

"Police officers and other witnesses to a UFO sighting in Wanaque, New Jersey, in 1966, were assembled by a man wearing an Air Force unifrom who told them they hadn't seen anything or should not discuss the matter any further.  'We checked with the local base,' said [the USAF officer in charge of Project Blue Book] and discovered that no one connected with the Air Force had visited Wanaque on the dat in question.  Whoever he was, he wasn't from the Air Force.' "  (p. 299)

All the while, sightings of this mysterious aerial craft continued, going on until October of that year in Wanaque and even as far away as towns in western Pennsylvania.  Still, no one talked.
Even today as the author found witnesses to come forward and discuss the sighting, most (if not all) elected to remain anonymous.  Because of the lack of discussion until this point, the Wanaque sightings were only lightly investigated at best.  There were no samples taken of the ice where the UFO beam hit, there was no analysis of the photos, and there were no real, in-depth interviews with the witnesses.  Local Air Force bases had their thoughts on what the object could have been.  Ready for them?
-A weather balloon.  Come on, really?
-Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter.  That's almost as cliched as "weather balloon."  Just toss in "swamp gas" while you're at it.
-A helicopter.  An Air Force base in New York actually proposed this...until they realized how dumb it sounded.
-And our old friend Phil Klass conjectured that it was his stand-by answer, ball lightning.

Now we may leave the Air Force's...and Phil Klass'...explanations to try to ascertain what really happened.

The author of this piece on The UFO Chronicles is willing to admit that the photograph he acquired of the incident might be a fake.  As a good investigator, one must always be prepared to accept that outcome.  But keep in mind that the photo was done far before the advent of Photoshop and the allied packages of software.  Note the shape and intensity of the light beam from the UFO.  That is not something naturally occurring.
Could memories have faded or distorted since 1966?  Sure they could have.  Especially if the witnesses who are now talking were mere children at the time of the sighting.  But the fact still remains that the caliber of the witnesses is downright stellar.  They were for the most part, the tops in their professions; hardworking folks who had no motive to become involved with the UFO phenomenon and certainly nothing to gain from it.
Something happened that night over Wanaque.  Just what it was...aliens or perhaps something even yet to be determined.
I just love reading about cases I've never come across before!

Postscript: did you know that many sightings of UFOs take place at or near large bodies of water?  They also appear interested in facilities powered by water, such as nuclear or hydroelectric plants...or dams.

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