Jan 29, 2020 I Brent Swancer

The Bizarre UFO Waves of New York’s Hudson River Valley

Sometimes UFOs show up in the most seemingly unlikely of places. The area of New York’s Hudson River Valley is known for its quaint, historical beauty, agriculture, and as a prominent winemaking region. Here many educated professionals have their homes in upscale neighborhoods, and it is one of the last places one would expect to be ground zero for some of the most intense UFO activity there is, yet for a few years starting from 1981, the peaceful Hudson River Valley began to gain a reputation as a hotspot for otherworldly phenomena that has generated much discussion to this day.

The beginning of it all is widely thought to have been on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1981, when an unnamed off-duty police officer was out in the yard of his home in Kent, New York, with his family just a few minutes before the start of the new year, but this was to prove to be a bit more exciting than usual. Off in the distance they spied a group of red, green, and white lights that were approaching from the south, and which they at fist just took to be a plane. However, as the object approached it could be seen that rather than a plane, the multicolored lights were embedded within a boomerang-shaped craft of some sort, which slowly passed right over their heads at a height of around 500 feet while issuing only an eerie, faint humming sound. On several occasions the lights were reported as shifting from multicolored to an all-white coloration in different patterns, and this was quite obviously no normal aircraft.

It would turn out that there were many other witnesses to this incident at the time, as on nearby Interstate 84 several motorists also observed the object and were so awed by it that they stopped their vehicles along the road to watch it make its inscrutable journey across the sky. One of these motorists was 55-year-old Edwin Hansen, who would explain that the massive boomerang or V-shaped object was big enough to block out the stars, and could be seen to project some sort of light beam to the ground. Oddly, Hansen would also claim that he had made what he believed to be some sort of telepathic contact with the craft, his mind filled with strange images and thoughts that were not his own and the sensation that something was reading his mind and telling him to not be afraid.

This was to prove to be far from a one-off sighting of an unidentified flying object, and the strangeness would resume in February of the following year. On February 26, 1982, a witness by the name of Monique O’Driscoll was driving with her daughter when they saw a strange light in the sky that seemed to take up position over a frozen lake. When they stopped the car they could see that it was a large V-shaped object with numerous red, blue, and amber lights dotting it, as well as an underside crisscrossed by some sort of metal beams. At one point the object seemed to approach them, giving them a bit of a scare, before making its way off into the night. This object would be seen by quite a few other witnesses as well, and the police office would get a deluge of panicked calls at the time. Whatever it was did not seem to be finished frightening the area’s residents, as on March 17, 1983 it was seen again by a few witnesses in Brewster, New York, including by the Deputy Clerk for Putnam County Dennis Sant, who saw it from his home. Sant was left utterly baffled by the bizarre incident, as well as not a little frightened, and he describes what he saw thusly:

It was a very large object. The structure of it was very dark gray, metallic, almost girder-type looking. The object seemed to be very silent. The lights were iridescent, bright, they stood out in the sky and three-dimension. It looked like a city of lights. It just hung in the sky, all brilliant colors… We followed the object around to the backyard. And at that point, a feeling of fright came upon me. Thoughts started to flood my mind, thoughts of the craft touching ground, thoughts of an encounter with an alien being.  Thoughts of being abducted. All types of fearful thoughts started to enter into my mind.

As with the other sightings, it was described as being a large boomerang-shaped craft, around 131 feet long, and more than 330 feet wide, with a multitude of bright red, green, amber and white lights along its fuselage, and it was largely silent. This incident would lead into another just a week later, when the object appeared on March 24, 1983 in the areas of Yorktown and New Castle to set off a whole new wave of sightings. Police began getting a flood of calls from people seeing weird things in the sky, all describing the same V-shaped lighted craft mostly described as being as large as a football field, although there were also reports of smaller objects darting through the sky or even two in different locations at the same time, suggesting there was more than one of them. Among the witnesses were several police officers, and one Officer Andi Sadoff of the New Castle Police explains what he saw as follows:

I was working a 4 PM to midnight tour and assigned to set up some radar to look for speeding cars and I looked up into the sky and saw a series of lights. And at first I thought it was a plane, it was quite a distance, quite far away, but it was, it was really quite large.  As I recall, there were mostly white lights, but there were green lights also. It was alternating green and white lights. It approached my vehicle and it stopped and it seemed to hover. And I’m looking at this thing, thinking what is it? I wasn’t afraid. I was just amazed. I was in awe of it. I didn’t know what it was. The only thing that I recall the most is I was amazed that there was no noise. There was no humming. There was no engine, there was no sound. It was absolutely silent.

This particular report was supported by another that occurred at exactly the same time, this time the witness being a senior manager for IBM by the name of Ed Burns. He was only about 10 miles away from Officer Sadoff, and says that he was first clued in to something strange going on when his radio started acting oddly. Burns says:

Out of nowhere, I got a lot of static on the radio. I thought maybe I was on the wrong number, and then I went over to turn the dial again and that’s when I looked up and saw this craft. It was a triangular ship. And the back had to be as large as a football field at least. And there was no noise. I’m not into astronomy… but what I had witnessed that night was not from this planet.

The ship seemed to generate sightings all up and down the valley on this evening, startling motorists and spotted numerous times by police officers, and the following evening the object was seen by various people yet again. The apperance was always nearly identical; large, descriptions like "as big as a football field" or as large as an aircraft carrier" were thrown around, V-shaped or triangular, the lights studding the exterior. However, interestingly, the reports showed varied behavior for the object or objects, such as that they would shoot beams of light, spin around like a top, shoot away at fantastic speeds, display patterns of colors with their lights, detach what appeared to be smaller craft from the main body, or wink in and out of existence. One witness named Jim Booke, a biomedical engineer, allegedly saw it silently circle over the Croton Falls Reservoir dropping what seemed to be lighted probes into the water and shooting a red beam of light into the reservoir, and indeed the object seemed to often stop over bodies of water. It all left people absolutely baffled, and this time the incident hit the news in a major way, finally catching the attention of UFO researchers Philip J. Imbrogno and J. Allen Hynek, who had been a senior consultant on the Air Force’s Project Blue Book.

Hudson River Valley in autumn
The Hudson River Valley

Imbrogno and Hynek arrived in the area and began interviewing as many witnesses to the UFOs that kept appearing as they could. They also set up a phone hotline for people who had seen the objects and very quickly received hundreds of calls, which along with the floods of calls police had received caused them to estimate that there were perhaps thousands of people out there who had observed the phenomenon on March 24 alone, the majority of these being from along the Taconic Parkway. Many of the witnesses were found to be reliable and upstanding citizens, and all of them described the same enormous boomerang shaped craft. The two researchers became convinced that something very odd was going on, but the police had other ideas.

According to law enforcement authorities, the whole thing was a prank being pulled by normal ultralight planes or helicopters flying in formation in such a way as to seem more mysterious. The Federal Aviation Administration agreed with this theory, as did officials from nearby Stewart Air Force Base. Supporting the plane theory even futher was a report from an air traffic control specialist named Anthony Capaldi, who also had seen the phenomenon but had come to the conclusion that it was planes in formation. He would say:

The first time I observed the formation, it looked a little peculiar. And from our vantage point in the tower, they just appeared to be just one big light because they were flying in tight formation. I don’t think if this formation flew over an individual’s head at a thousand feet that there’s any way you could mistake it for anything but the formation flying, due to the sound of the aircraft engines. And I imagine that at a thousand feet, you could really determine that it’s aircraft.

There was also a certified hoax when some prankish night pilots buzzed over the region in April of 1983, but interestingly most people who saw this formation immediately recognized them as planes, the same of which could not be said of the other waves of sightings. In fact, many of the witnesses insisted that they knew the difference between planes and what they had seen, and refused to believe that the objects were normal aircraft. This, plus the fact that besides the April hoax no one had ever been caught in the act and there were no suspects, as well as the fact that ultralight planes would unlikely be able to remain so silent and pull off the aerial activities witnessed or hold formation so well, and that so many people had reported these UFOs, Imbrogno and Hynek came to the conclusion that planes in formation were not an acceptable explanation.

In the meantime, the waves of sightings continued, with another on March 31, yet again that summer on July 12, 19, and 24, and yet another the following year on March 25, 1984, each one of these waves generating hundreds of sightings. Some of these reports were rather unsettling, such as a crew at the Indian Point Nuclear Plant, who claimed that the massive craft had hovered over one of the nuclear reactors and caused the facility's security systems to shut down, which had caused the supervisor to almost have his men open fire upon it, before it suddenly shot off into the night. Even more such sightings flaps would pop up in the coming years until it seemed to stop in 1986. Imbrogno and Hynek would estimate that more than 5,000 people had seen these objects, and they would write an entire book on it titled Night Siege: The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings. They also were able to find some certain idiosyncrasies among all of the data they managed to collect, such as that the sightings were clustered very tightly and seemed to fall on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday nights to a disproportionate degree. what this means is anyone's guess.

Considering the sheer number of independent sightings in the Hudson River Valley between 1981 to 1986, the consistency of the reports, and the number of trained observers, as well as the intensity of it all over the course of years, it certainly seems as though, although some people may have tried to imitate it and hoax it, the phenomenon itself remains mired in mystery. Indeed, the UFO flaps of the Hudson River Valley have never really been satisfactorily explained, and are some of the most widely witnessed UFO phenomena ever seen. What was going on here? Was this just misidentified aircraft and hoaxers as the authorities would like us to believe, or is there something more to it all? If these really were visitors from another world, then what did they want and what brought them to this specific place at these specific times? It is likely we will never know, and the mystery remains a classic case within UFOlogy.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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