The Kecksburg story evolves into legend
One would think that the lack of anything being found or the published scientific works would have been enough to put the Kecksburg story away for good. Dr. Hynek seemed willing to accept the meteor explanation as was NICAP, the primary UFO organization in the United States! However, the event would not go away, and over the years, the story would evolve into the legend it has become today.
Lost in the woods
The following week, radio reporter John Murphy decided to produce a radio documentary called, “The object in the woods”. In the program, Murphy proclaimed that several people chose to withdraw their interviews because of possible repercussions from the state police or the army. As a result, his story was somewhat watered down. At no time, did Murphy mention that something was brought out of the woods or that vast contingents of military personnel were involved. All that was suggested was that something was in the woods. No shape or size was given. Despite the suggestion that people were pressured not to talk, the radio station made the following statement at the beginning of the program:
This station has not been contacted by any official agency of the State, Federal or local Governments in connection with this program. We have received very good cooperation
with the State Police and with the military and we were able to receive all the information that we wanted this past week. We have not had any political or otherwise influence put on us concerning this program, whatsoever.1
Most of the program recounted Murphy’s adventure that night. Murphy mentions seeing a few military personnel from the Army and Air Force at the state police barracks. He also mentions that he was not allowed to go with the searchers in the woods even though he felt he had been authorized to do so. Beyond that, there is very little information to add to the story. There is no mention of military personnel/equipment, no mention of an object being removed from the woods, or mention of any threats made directly to anyone by guards or the government.
Murphy would eventually die in a tragic hit and run accident. UFOlogists and other television programs have put a sinister
spin on all of this over the years with the implication he was “terminated” for knowing too much. There is no evidence to support this claim other than some very overactive imaginations.
Already mentioned in this issue was Ivan T. Sanderson’s article about the events that evening. However, a lot of his article were essentially “poetic license” and not very accurate. This is a pertinent example:
Yet, although meteors land almost every day and are ignored or at most searched for by enthusiastic amateurs, great contingents of specialists from the armed forces arrived at the scenes of the falls as almost as fast as the State Police got there. One armed forces’ spokesman stated for the record, “We don’t know what we have here, (but) there is an Unidentified Flying Object in the woods.” Neither meteors or bolides fly; they fall. What is more they don’t just drift in at 1062.5 miles per hour. 2
The actual quote in the Tribune-Review was, “We don’t know what we have yet.” 3 There never was a mention of UFO being in the woods. Additionally, Sanderson mentioned large groups of specialists going to all the locations falls were reported. As one can see from what is documented, this is far from the truth.
In his book, Flying Saucers: Serious Business, Frank Edwards mentions the Kecksburg incident and the role he played. According to him, he was at station KDKA being interviewed by Mike Levine, when the event occurred. Edwards concluded at the time it was probably a meteor. However, he seems to have changed his opinion after reading the stories in the papers and the article by Ivan Sanderson.
Edwards seems to have used Sanderson’s article as his primary source. Instead of a “puff of smoke” that was reported, he draws the conclusion that something was burning in the woods even though there never was any evidence for this. He also repeats the military involvement described by Sanderson:
Sanderson says that newsmen and State Police officers who converged on the area discovered that sizeable contingents of various military units had already reached the scene.4
However, this is not what Sanderson stated. Edwards had misinterpreted what was written.
Part of the greatest flap yet?
Jerome Clark also apparently used Sanderson as his source of information in an article for Flying Saucer Review in 1966. According to Clark:
At Cleveland, radar traced it at a speed of 1062.5 miles per hour. 5 There never was any mention of radar contact in any of the news reports or in Sanderson’s article.
Clark also ran with the story told by Sanderson, the same way Edwards did:
At 4:50 the sightings climaxed with the crash of a brilliant orange UFO into a woods thirty miles south of Pittsburgh. One of the witnesses, a farm-woman residing
near Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, notified State Police immediately. Responding to her call, law officers were startled to find sizeable military units already at the scene. One service official told newsmen, “We don’t know what we have here, but there is an Unidentified Flying Object in the woods.”6
The quote by the “service official” came from Sanderson with the parenthesis around “but” removed. This appears in Edwards book as well. As previously noted, Sanderson got the quote wrong. It appears that either Edwards or Clark changed it slightly and then the other used the quote. Nobody went to the original source. They were just repeating what others had stated.
Trying to create a scenario to explain all the conflicting reports of fragments in the media, Mr. Clark boldly proclaimed:
The only conclusion to be drawn, improbable as it may be, is that several UFOs met with violent disaster, within minutes of each other, over the North-east on the afternoon of December 9.7
Of course, it isn’t the only conclusion one can draw but it is the only conclusion a UFOlogist will draw. Liberally using Sanderson, Clark and Edwards misrepresented
the actual events and laid more seeds for the future evolution of the Kecksburg UFO crash.
The Phoenix rises
The Kecksburg story lay dormant for about 10-15 years as nobody seemed interested in crashed flying saucers. However, in the late 1970s, Len Stringfield began to start writing about UFO crash rumors he had heard over the years. Roswell was becoming a popular name in UFOlogy and the interest in potential UFO crashes rose.
The phoenix of Kecksburg first began to rise thanks to the efforts of Clark McClelland.
Writing in his “The UFO Crash Retrieval Syndrome status report II: New Sources, New Data, Part II New Support Data”, Len Stringfield states he was told about Kecksburg by McClelland on October 5, 1979.
McClelland recounted many of the news reports at the time but then used Ivan Sanderson’s flawed air speed calculations without checking up on them. He then described pursuing the possibility that it might have been Cosmos-96 that caused the incident.
Like Frank Edwards and Jerome Clark before him, McClelland apparently used Sanderson as a primary source for the following with some additional embellishment:
Within an hour following the impact of the object at Kecksburg, a large contingent of military specialists arrived at the scene almost as swiftly as the Pennsylvania State Police and volunteer fire groups. They quickly cordoned off the area and ordered on-lookers to leave.8
On January 11, 1980, McClelland interviewed several of the witnesses who were mentioned in the 1965 newspaper accounts. James Mayes and Melvin Reese repeated their story about seeing a light in the woods. Mayes also mentioned that the military personnel had set up a command post in the Kecksburg fire hall and were in contact with their base, which was west of Pittsburgh (Oakdale is west of Pittsburgh). McClelland implies this was Wright-Patterson and does not mention the 662nd radar squadron, which was published in the newspapers. His claim about on-lookers being ordered to leave is in also contradicted with what was reported in 1965 where the roads were jammed up with all sorts of curious people.
Mayes also recalled that a large military truck had come into the area and exited later with a large object covered by a tarpaulin. This would be confirmed by Robert Bitner, who stated he was the fire chief in 1965. Bitner claimed to arrive later in the evening in time to see a 10-ton truck exit the wooded area, under guard, with a tarp covered object that was 6 feet high, 7 feet wide, and 17 feet long. When it left, the vehicle was under escort to an undisclosed location.
In conclusion, McClelland would write:
The Kecksburg incident was not caused by a meteor or anything astronomical. Of this we can be sure. Perhaps further study of the re-entry data will determine an association with the Cosmos-96 that returned to Earth on December 9, 1965. This remains to be proven. Was it a craft alien to Earth? Information gained so far may eventually favor this theory. What is certain is that something important was apparently retrieved by the military and as yet, the object and its origin remain a mystery.9
In this article, one can see the how the Kecksburg story is evolving. The appearance of a few radar technicians from a nearby radar station who arrived late in the evening has evolved into a large number of “specialists” (with the implication that they specialized in crashed UFO retrievals) arriving before or at the same time as the police and fire department. Additionally, we see the appearance of the truck with the recovered object underneath a tarpaulin. In 1965, the only mention of something being retrieved was made by Captain Dussia in the December 10, 1965 article about the search failing to find anything.
About something that was carried out of the woods, Capt. Dussia said it was the equipment used in the search.10
Stringfield and McClelland were moving the case from a mysterious object that nobody could find to a full blown crashed spaceship retrieval.
By the mid-1980s, it was Stan Gordon, who picked up the Kecksburg story and began to look for additional witnesses who could shed more light on the cover-up that had occurred in association with the UFO crash.
According to Gordon, he was interested in the case when he was a teenager: He heard reports that something crashed in the woods near the tiny village of Kecksburg
at approximately 4:45 p.m. that evening...
On his black-and-white TV, Gordon watched the local news and occasional special bulletins that broke into regular programming to state that the military had arrived on the scene and that the area was cordoned off. A search was underway to locate the object.11
Already convinced that it was some extraordinary event, Gordon began to research the case and disagreed with the conclusion it was a meteor because of what had been previously stated about the event.
As previously noted, the various elements were already established in place. Sanderson had planted most of the seeds. The object could not be a meteor because it had changed direction and was too slow. The military that was present had ballooned from a handful of technicians to units of significant size and were controlling access to the wooded area. Finally, there now were witnesses who were proclaiming there was an object and it was carted away by the military.
All Gordon had to do was canvas the area with this story and faded memories/imagination would do the rest.
Gordon showed up in shopping malls and on radio talk shows promoting the story. Eventually, he found his star witness. In 1987, while at a local shopping mall with one of his displays, James Romansky came up and told Gordon he was there that night.
Romanskying the Acorn
James Romansky’s story is the first to have made claims to have actually seen the object in the woods. In early accounts, he went by the pseudonym of “John” or “Pete” but would reveal his name in time for the filming of the “Unsolved Mysteries” episode in September of 1990.
According to Romansky, he was an 18 year-old volunteer fireman with the Lloydsville fire department about a dozen miles to the north. He had heard the whistle and, thinking a plane had gone down, proceeded to Kecksburg with the fire truck.
When the truck arrived at the Kecksburg fire station, Romansky and his group were assigned to search an area of the woods that was part of a larger grid search:
We was into our grid area and we heard on our walkie-talkies that another team found where the object was and it wasn’t so far from where we were, so we hightailed
it over into a hollow and came upon the object.
There were eight, nine, 10 guys there, standing around looking at this thing. I stopped and looked and said, `Whoa, this is no aircraft. What the hell is it?’
It looked like a giant acorn. It was oblong and had a bumper around it and in back it was perfectly flat. I saw no doors, no motor, no windows, no seams, no rivets.
But there were two unique things: one was the color, a golden bronze. It was a weird color. And the other thing was on this bumper . . . it looked like ancient Egyptian
hieroglyphics. Rectangles, lines and circles.12
Romansky then states somebody came in with a Geiger counter and ordered everyone out of the area. The military had arrived and taken charge. According to Romansky,
the Kecksburg fire hall was filled with all sorts of military personnel and he was not allowed inside. There were even armed guards outside the building.
As they stood about, Romansky saw a convoy of military vehicles, which included a wrecker and large flatbed vehicle head towards the woods:
...it’s there an hour, hour and a half. And then it comes out, hell-bent for leather, and on the back of that truck was the object, covered by a tarpaulin, maybe 15 foot long, eight to 10 foot in diameter, big enough for a man to stand in.13
Romansky’s story (Under the alias of “John”) began to appear in UFO articles in 1987 but on May 6, 1989, Kim Opaka published his story in the Latrobe, Bulletin
(Kecksburg Crash Controversial). With the shape of the object established in the public record, all stories could now draw on this information to generate new and more exciting tales.
However, Romansky’s credibility began to wane as soon as his name was revealed. In 1966, Romansky was convicted of robbing a bank. The excuse made for Romansky was that he was young and needed the money. Quotes in the news reports from the trial indicated a less than repentant individual. One gets the impression that he is not the most trustworthy of individuals.
Meanwhile, there is little evidence in his story that can be proven to be true. Bob Young stated that the reason the 18-year old Romansky was not allowed in the firehouse had more to do with the bar that was there. Romansky was too young to be allowed to participate in the festivities.
According to then fire chief Ed Myers, “We probably sold as much beer as we ever did because of all the people.”14
The rest of his story about being part of some search grid and using Walkie-talkies is also disputed by Myers. Meanwhile, the have been no fireman that have come forward to confirm what Romansky stated.
Even though he was working closely with all these people in the search, he has yet to produce a name that will confirm his version of events. Fortunately for Romansky,
another witness would appear to help him out.
Beating the Bulebush
The second major witness to the acorn did not publicly appear until the fall of 1989 when Stan Gordon referred to him as “Jack” in the MUFON journal. According
to Gordon, he got a tip in September 1988 that led him to “Jack”, who confirmed the story told by Romansky Jack, a pseudonym for the actual witness, lived about a mile from the crash site at the time of the occurrence. Jack had been listening to the radio, and had just heard the report that something had crashed in the area. He drove up the road to the highest lookout point. This road is now called Meteor Road, since it was this track that was jammed with cars from the public during the night of the search in 1965.
When Jack got to the top he looked down to the wooded area below and saw a group of about 10 people standing around and pointing to something. Curious, he walked down the steep bank to see what was so interesting. When he arrived at the spot, he noticed a series of trees had been knocked down, and about 20 feet away from him and the group was a strange object semi-buried in the ground.
It was nearly dark and Jack used his high beam flashlight to explore the device. His basic description is quite similar to Pete’s. But Jack claims that at the time he saw it, bright blue sparks “like a welder’s torch” were coming from it. This sparking kept up for some time, but seemed to be almost stopped just before he and the others left the site. The object made no sound, but the observers were hesitant to approach it any closer. The people talked among themselves as to what the strange object was. There were no homes in the area, and apparently none of these people (we don’t know their identities) ever officially called this report in to the police. Jack’s report of the blue sparks now brings up the possibility that some of the reports of a blue light in the woods during the early evening hours may not all be dismissed as the prank we had discussed before.
It also has to be pointed out that apparently Jack and the others got to the site before either Pete, the other members of the search team or the military. Jack came in from the opposite side from where the state police had initially entered. Pete also came into the area from a different point. Jack mentioned that as they were moving out of the area, they saw distant lights in the woods. Some of the people commented that whoever came out of the object was walking away, but it was likely that they were seeing the search parties beginning to arrive at the location.15
“Jack” appears to be the first published account of witness Bill Bulebush. Although we don’t know if “Jack” is really Bulebush, there are no others with a similar tale.
Compare the story in 1989 with the story told by Bulebush in 2000:
It was about 4:45 in the afternoon and Bill Bulebush was in his driveway, flat on his back under the dashboard of his Corvair, his head beneath the steering wheel, the tools he needed to install a CB radio in his hands, when he was startled by a strange, sizzling noise overhead. He craned his neck and looked through the windshield and saw a bright light speeding across the clouds so fast it seemed to set the sky on fire.
“I got out of the car and walked out toward the road where I could watch it,” says Bulebush, 74, recalling the afternoon of Dec. 9, 1965.
“I went down over the hill toward the mountain, then I seen it coming back. It was like it couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to do. This thing floated and made a U-turn and headed into the ravine. I got in my car and took off over the back road.”
That back road - a lightly traveled two-lane stretch then called Kuhn’s Road and later rechristened Meteor Road - winds above the farmland and woods that make up Kecksburg, Pa., a crossroads community in Westmoreland County about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Bulebush parked his car, got out and looked down into the valley to see where the thing had landed. The landscape was familiar. Bulebush had lived there his entire
He grabbed a flashlight and walked down the hill into the woods. The tops of trees had been sheared in the same direction as the fireball’s path. He smelled sulfur. Then he came upon it: an acorn-shaped object about the size of a Volkswagen bug, burnt orange in color, with a raised ring around the back and markings that looked like backward letters.
Frightened, his heart pounding wildly, Bulebush stood behind a tree, staring, expecting something to jump out - although he couldn’t see how anything could possibly exit the strange capsule.
“There was no doors, no seams, no nothing,” he says. “It laid there and arced for a while, like it was cooling down. If I’d had my camera, that picture would be worth a million dollars.”
When other people started to rush into the woods, Bulebush decided to leave. He was afraid of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “I didn’t want to be running around with this light shining and get shot for no reason,” he recalls.
In the early darkness he made his way back to his car, went home and told his wife what he had seen. “She asked me, Did I stop at the club? Was I drinking? I said, No, no, I wasn’t drinking. She said, You better not say nothing to anybody.”
Bulebush followed her advice for nearly 25 years. Until one day when out of the blue Bulebush got a phone call from a man who said he’d spent decades researching UFOs and the mystery of Kecksburg.16
It is important to note the changes. The original story involved him and ten other people. He then changed it to he was alone. This probably has a lot to do with the lack of people coming forward to verify this version of events. Additionally, he originally heard about the crash on the radio. Now, he is outside and saw the meteor crash and where it went.
In a later version, Bulebush would change his story again. For the television program, UFO files: Kecksburg, he was no longer installing the CB radio but working on his car. He had the CB radio on:
I heard guys in Ohio talking on there and they were jabbering, they were coming east. They said they seen this thing going east...17
One wonders how a 1965 CB radio could receive signals from Ohio that was over 60 miles away when most CB radios can only receive signals from about ten to twenty miles away. Another revision is that instead of going home and telling his wife, he grabs his son and takes him down to the road to see everything. Bulebush comments on the military: I never seen so many people and the Army was there. I couldn’t figure out how the Army got there so quick. The Army kept everyone away.18
Bulebush seems to have problems telling a consistent story. Is this a case of increasing the size of “the fish that got away”?
Like Romansky’s tale, this story can not be confirmed either. One has to wonder where the “tip” came from. Perhaps it was James Romansky OR some other UFOlogist who had primed the pump for Bulebush. Unfortunately, he did not get the story exactly right the first time so he had to refine it.
The story of the military involvement ballooned when Lillian and John Hays described how their house was turned into the center of operations that night by all the military. According to popular Kecksburg lore, their farm was the closest to where the object was found and, therefore, the military set up their command post there. Throughout the evening, the military came and went. Young John Hays was up in his bedroom looking out the window in his room and saw the military cut the fence to allow passage of their truck into the ravine. He saw the flatbed go into the ravine and pull out an object the size of a volkswagon. The next day Hays and his brother went down into the woods and saw damage to trees and the ground.
The problem with the “command post” story told by the Hays family is that it appears to be refuted by the father in 1965:
...Don Hays, Mt. Pleasant RD2, who was working on his automobile about 5:15 PM Thursday night and was about as close as could be determined to the area where the search was conducted, reported nothing and saw nothing. 19
Additionally, the Hilland’s, who owned the home the Hays were renting, disagree with Lilian and John’s account. According to Bob Young, Mr. Hilland told him that there wasn’t even a phone installed in the house in 1965. Bob Young could not confirm this but, if true, it would indicate that the Hays story is completely fabricated.
Of course, one really does not need the evidence of the phone because the father reported he saw nothing in 1965, which indicates somebody is lying.
Local resident, Ray Howard claims that the vehicle could not even had made it down into the ravine area.
Ray Howard, of Kecksburg, expressed doubt that any flat-bed truck would be able to get in and out of such a steep ravine.
“There’s no way,” he said with emphasis. “They couldn’t have gotten within 500 feet of that thing.”20
The topographic maps of the location indicate a very steep grade into the “ravine”.
Is it even possible that a vehicle described by the witnesses could have made it into the dense woods shown in the Sci-Fi Channel’s program? Why was there no evidence of the truck and flat bed’s passage into these woods when the police and media searched the area on the morning of December 10th? Where are the photographs showing the vehicle or the trail it left behind? There is no evidence presented to date that any vehicle of significant size ever went into those woods. It seems unlikely that this story is accurate.
Bill Weaver drove into Kecksburg to see what was happening. According to him, he could see what was happening in the woods from a location that was near the Hays home. He tried to illuminate the woods with a spotlight in his car but was ordered to turn the light off.
In the Unsolved Mysteries broadcast, Bill Weaver told a story of seeing box-type truck appear and two men stepped out with a large box. They were dressed in “moon suits” as if they wanted to avoid being contaminated. Weaver was then ordered out of the area.
This appears to be confirmed by Lilian and John Hays, who stated they heard that NASA was on its way. John Hays would state that he later saw men in white suits outside his home.
However, what evidence is there that NASA even was aware where the “crash site” was located. In the “memo for the record” (10 December 1965), Project Blue Book writes:
Houston Space Center requested information as to the sighting near Acme, Pennsylvania. Major told him that an Air Force team along with the State Highway Patrol searched the area until 2 o’clock this morning. Major gave him the location as 45-50 miles east of Pittsburgh. 21
This phone call occurred on the morning of the 10th AFTER they had learned about the results of the search. If NASA was not informed until AFTER the search was complete, it means they were not involved that evening as claimed. There is no mention of NASA being in communication with Blue Book in the handwritten log found in the Blue Book Files. In the log and the “memos for the record”, it appears that people were interested but knew just as much as Blue Book did. Everyone was waiting for what the Oakdale group would report before taking any further action.
Boots on the ground
In the story now being presented, the military’s involvement at Kecksburg reaches mythic proportions. Instead of a few technicians from a local radar squadron, vast numbers of armed military personnel are now present. Some of the more interesting stories about the military personnel include:
Dave Newhouse stated a guard 1. pointed a gun at him and orderedhim to leave. (see image below from the Sci-Fi Channel program where he demonstrated how a military guard pointed his gun at him).
Don Sebastian stated he snuck 2. around the roadblocks and saw armed soldiers marching in a line. He then heard several screams that were, to him, not human. He rapidly departed the area.
Robert Blyston would claim that the 3. town was under martial law with MPs at every corner! Jerry Betters says he saw the flatbed 4. and the UFO, which was still uncovered
enough for him to see it. When they were noticed, an officer ordered them out of the area at gunpoint.
Then there were the military vehicles:
Linda Foschia reports seeing a Con1. voy of army trucks, jeeps and the flatbed truck first reported by Mayes and Bitner in 1980.
Bob Bitner described a personnel 2. carrier, and a 6X6 army truck (with a canopy) had shown up near his location.
He states the 6X6 went down into the woods Probably the best “debunking” of all this was produced by Leslie Kean even though she tried to spin it a different way:
Our private investigator was able to locate Cashman and three other key personnel from the 662nd, and Gordon interviewed a fifth in 1991. Only one of these, a lieutenant
whom I will not name to respect his privacy, said he actually went out to search for the object that night. This officer said he did not observe any Army presence in the area, any excess civilian activity, or the large spotlights in the woods observed by witnesses and reporter John Murphy. This seems impossible if he was anywhere near the correct location and directly contradicts press reports about the large military presence and civilian crowds. He said he and three other members of the 662nd searched the woods with flashlights and found nothing.
It is revealing that puzzling discrepancies exist among key points of the various accounts, as well as between aspects of the statements of these officers and reports from both the media and Project Blue Book. For example, the lieutenant who searched the woods said there were four in his search team; another officer told us that he had driven with the team to a nearby barrack while two from Oakdale conducted the search with a state trooper. (This could have been the three man team referred to by Blue Book, although Blue Book said that the three were all from Oakdale.)
Another officer told me there was no search at all, and that the reports coming in to the Oakdale base concerned only an object in the sky and not an object on the ground. He remembers very well the high volume of calls from the local area and speaking to some of the callers, and says that if there had been a search, he definitely would have known. He was adamant that there wasn’t one. And yet another told me that the object was a Russian satellite, but insisted that he made that determination only from newspaper and television reports.
According to Project Blue Book records, Cashman called Blue Book headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base twice from the Oakdale base, including a final
call at 2 a.m., to report that nothing was found. Oddly, Cashman says he has no memory of any event, phone calls, or heightened activity at that time. He stated that he was the Blue Book liaison officer (as stated in the Blue Book files), as opposed to the lieutenant who told me he was the Blue Book officer.
We are not certain whether these contradictory and sometimes confusing reports are simply a question of jumbled memories after all these years, or if other factors are at play. Is it possible that this small group was taken to a different location from the one that was cordoned off by the Army, and that they searched the wrong site? If this did occur, was the state trooper who took the Air Force team to the wrong site instructed by someone to do so? If so, the officers are honestly reporting that nothing was found. Would it therefore have been possible since Project Blue Book did not have access to cases higher than a secret clearance that Blue Book actually never knew about an object retrieved from another location by the Army?
On the other hand, Murphy reports seeing what appeared to be members of the 662nd Radar Squadron at the edge of the woods after leaving the police barracks where he had first encountered them. If the lieutenant was one of these men, he could not possibly have missed the surrounding military and civilian activity. Were these officers perhaps sworn not to reveal what happened for national security reasons, and thus their cover stories have differences? We don’t know, and we won’t know until the government releases the records.22
A very likely answer as to why they saw no soldiers is that there weren’t hundreds of soldiers and vehicles in the surrounding area. Remember, the story about “heavy”(more than a dozen men) military involvement did not surface until years later. Many residents do not recall all these military vehicles/personnel and, for some reason and contrary to what Kean states, the 1965 media did not report this either.
Military Invasion debunked?
One of the key ingredients of the military’s involvement has to do with the flat bed used to pull the “acorn” out of the ravine. If the military was going to send a flat bed pulled by a tractor, they would use their own equipment. The tractor in use at the time was the M123.
The M123 tractor probably would have been capable to carry a large object as it was often used to haul large vehicles like the M113 personnel carrier. However, one wonders if it had the capability to navigate such terrain and it has one nagging problem. The M123 wheelbase is outside the limits for use on US roadways.
The width of the item exceeds the legal limitations for highway movement in CONUS and the recommended highway limitations in oversea areas. Special permits will be required in CONUS, and special routing may be required overseas.23
For the vehicle to be routed on US roads would means the command would have to obtain special permits for its use. It would have been unlikely for such permits to be allowed on such an extremely short notice.
Another key ingredient in the present Kecksburg story involves more vehicles in a convoy. This brings up some interesting questions:
What was the source of all these 1. vehicles and men? There are no military bases within two hours that have such equipment and manpower.
It is unlikely that the 662nd radar squadron or the Nike missile batteries would have them.
Why didn’t anybody outside of Kecksburg see this convoy? It would have drawn considerable attention and certainly would have been mentioned in the media.
A huge traffic jam, mentioned by the 3. media, lasted most of the evening. How did the military navigate this traffic without forcing vehicles out of the way?
Where are the photographs of this 4. convoy traversing through Kecksburg?
Despite professional news photographers being present, there isn’t one image of a military vehicle.
How were these vehicles fueled 5. since many were probably working outside their operational range? Nobody reports seeing them fueling at any location.
Bob Bitner mentioned “a personnel 6. carrier”. He was clear to make it a vehicle different than a standard military truck. This implies he was talking
about a tracked vehicle of some kind. The M113 was the standard personnel carrier of 1965 and was not authorized to be used on civilian roadways in the United States. One would need to transport such a vehicle with the M123.
The probable response as to why these vehicles/convoys were unreported in 1965 is that this was all covertly done and was missed by everyone. The does not stand to reason. The military could not have halted traffic on the minor roads to allow their vehicles to arrive without somebody noticing. All the media reports from 1965 fail to mention the convoy and cordoning off of the roads to allow for its passage.
Another key ingredient in all of this is the claim that the military had arrived in force and established, as one witness called it, martial law in Kecksburg. There is absolutely
no evidence that this occurred. For the military to perform the way it did in the Kecksburg legend, it would have violated the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prevents the military from search, seizure, arrest, or anything similar to this without lawful authorization.
Other claims of military personnel raising weapons on people to make them leave are just pure fiction. To even load a weapon under these conditions would be a serious violation of any sentry. It would mean that one would have been intending to use deadly force when it was not necessary.
Like the convoy of vehicles, all of these armed military guards are missing from the media at the time. If there were personnel everywhere as claimed, then we would have seen photographs in the headlines instead of Mrs. Kalp talking to Robert Gatty (Greensburg-Tribune review) or a bunch of civilians standing on the road looking at the search area (Uniontown Evening standard). How can such claims be so readily accepted?
In all of this military involvement, it is important to note the following:
Not once have any Army or Air Force personnel come forward to confirm they were the members of unit (other than the 662nd radar squadron) that was activated to retrieve a crashed UFO at Kecksburg. The story described involves about a hundred men or more. How hard would it be to produce a unit identification and some names of those involved?
There are no military bases with the 2. equipment and personnel available in range from where these units could have come from in such a short time period and Kecksburg crash proponents have offered none. It is as if the military materialized out of thin air and disappeared the same way.
Nobody ever lodged a complaint 3. with any elected official about the military’s unlawful behavior that night. Having homes invaded, death threats made, and destruction of property would have caused some sort of complaint and elected officials would have responded by talking to the governor or to federal officials.
Does science support the crash?
By 2003, the Sci-Fi channel turned their attention to “The Roswell of the east” because it was a recent case. They believed it would be possible to find some real evidence if they looked hard enough. As a result, they sent several scientists into the woods to look for evidence of the crashed Acorn. Geomorphologist and Geoarcheologist, J. Steven Kite spent a significant amount of time in the Ravine trying to locate evidence that a crashed acorn had damaged the ground. They could not find anything to indicate there was any damage to the ground in 1965 by impact, heavy vehicles, or covering up of the area. Leslie Kean would write that this means the impact was a very low-velocity and that it was possible that the stream in the ravine might have, through erosion, hid evidence of the retrieval and cover-up.
However, Kean presents not one expert opinion that demonstrates the small stream could have eroded away any evidence of a cover-up. Additionally, how can she make the claim that it was a low velocity impact when the two star witnesses, who saw the acorn (Bulebush and Romansky), indicate it was half-buried in the ground (Romansky referred to it as a “crater” in his 1989 testimony to Kim Opaka) and there was some form of gouge. This is hardly the description of a low-energy impact. What Kite’s findings actually proved was that there was no evidence to support the stories of Bulebush and Romansky.
Since Kite’s findings were inconclusive at best, the findings of Ray Hicks were considered more important by Kean and the Sci-Fi channel. Hicks took core samples of trees that were supposedly damaged by the passage of the acorn. These damaged trees were identified by photographs taken by Stan Gordon around twenty years after the event. When Hicks analyzed the core samples he suggested that some of the trees had a change in their growth rates that occurred around 1965. The implications were that the acorn had managed to knock these trees down and soft-landed in the ravine exactly where Bulebush and Romansky stated.
At first glance, this evidence does look impressive but it seems incomplete. How many trees were actually tested and what were the results? Were these results consistent with this trajectory? Whatever study was done seems to have never been published in a scientific journal.
However, Leslie Kean does give a few quotes from Hicks. Hicks had stated that the rings indicated that one of the trees had a reduction in growth around 1967 or 1968. He only suggested that if he was off in his count, it might support the 1965 crash. Exactly how many people counted the rings and exactly what is the margin for error? This tree ring analysis was being presented as something of an exact science but now it appears that it could be off a few years!
What is most interesting is how the same Ray Hicks felt about the results when he was interviewed by AP reporter Joe Mandak: Forestry professor Ray Hicks counted tree rings and determined that trees in the area were damaged in 1965. Hicks, however, said the trees were likely damaged by ice, and then snapped off by the wind. He says his findings don’t support Kean’sclaim that “something physically landed” at the site. 24
I am not sure why there are conflicting reports from Hicks. Since he was paid for his findings, HIcks probably had to word his report so as to satisfy his employers. That means he would have to word it in a way that a crash might have caused the damage.
Kean and the Sci-Fi channel seemed to have “cherry-picked” the right analysis and comment that supported their case. They withheld any information that was contradictory to their case.
In a final desperate effort to produce real evidence, Kean and the Coalition for Freedom of Information (CFI) filed numerous FOIA requests for NASA documents regarding Kecksburg. NASA released what they had and suggested that any records regarding Kecksburg would have been in their Fragology files. These are records of material that had been examined after reentering the earth’s atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the boxes of these records had been missing since 1987. However, there was a summary sheet of what was included in the boxes. This document did not even list Kecksburg. UFOlogists suggest that the important records aren’t listed since the classification would have been higher than Confidential. Of course, NASA could easily have stated they had no records on Kecksburg because they did not go there.
To further complicate matters, a NASA spokesman, Dave Steitz, was quoted as saying the following regarding the request:
As a rule, we don’t track UFOs. What we could do, and what we apparently did as experts in spacecraft in the 1960s, was to take a look at whatever it was and give our expert opinion,” Steitz said. “We did that, we boxed (the case) up and that was the end of it. Unfortunately, the documents supporting those findings were misplaced.25
UFOlogists have leaped onto this statement as an admission that NASA did retrieve something that evening. The truth is that Steitz suggested this was possible since the discussion was about the Fragology files that were missing. Steitz was not present in 1965 and was not involved in the Fragology effort. It was not an open admission that NASA did recover debris that night. It only suggested that IF they had done such an operation, then it would have been in the Fragology files. There is no evidence that suggests that they did.
This was confirmed after years of diligent searching by NASA because of the lawsuit. Nothing could be found relating to Kecksburg. Boxes and files were still missing but there is no evidence to indicate what was in those boxes/files had anything to do with Kecksburg. By 2009, Kean was satisfied that the search was complete. She made many suggestions about why there were no records (some involve the standard conspiracy theory). She also wondered why NASA had no files on the fireball incident but had records
about other fireballs. The most likely reason is because they knew nothing came down. As we know from the Blue Book files, they told NASA they had found nothing at Kecksburg. Scientists also had stated the meteor headed into Canada. It seemed, with this fireball, NASA saw no reason to pursue the matter.
The bottom line in all of this, is there is no evidence that NASA was ever involved in Kecksburg beyond a phone call to Blue Book. Kean and CFI wasted a lot of people’s
time and tax payer dollars conducting a wild goose chase just so they could make headlines.
The myth exposed
What this all boils down to is that the Kecksburg story has evolved from its simple roots into an incredible story that is not supported by any evidence that can be verified. For some reason, there are quite a few UFOlogists, who find this case truly compelling. The truth is, it is only compelling when you listen to the crash proponent’s version of events. If you look beyond the wild tales and the smokescreen hiding pertinent information, you quickly discover that this case is devoid of substance. This is more about people seeking attention than a real investigation designed to produce facts that can be established.
Some people believe that UFOs have landed or crashed, and have been recovered by the United States Government. Sometimes, as the stories go, dead or living alien crew members were involved. There are sometimes people who claim that they, or others, are witnesses. Books, movies and television programs have presented their accounts.
Stories like this have been circulating since shortly after the first flying saucer reports in 1947. The claims are often similar and many people wonder: could there be something to these stories?
In 1950 Frank Scully, a Hollywood columnist, wrote one of the first American UFO books, Behind the Flying Saucers. It was a popular best-seller. Scully retold a story about landed saucers and little dead crewmen he had heard from two acquaintances. One of them, a mysterious “Dr. Gee”, told Scully he was a Government scientist working on a secret magnetic propulsion project. This was only five years after the secret World War II atomic bomb project. Many readers did not recognize the phony science claims in the book. To them, it seemed like a good explanation for the “saucers”.
Two years later a magazine article by J. P. Cahn showed that the story was a hoax.2 It later turned out that “Dr. Gee” was one of many aliases used in confidence schemes by Leo GeBaur, owner of a Phoenix, Arizona, radio and TV parts store. Some things in the story may have come from a 1949 movie, “The Flying Saucer”. GeBaur and his friend were later convicted and jailed for fraud. People invested in an oil prospecting device that they said was based on saucer technology. It was only a war surplus electrical device worth a few dollars.
Many things in later “crash” stories seem to have come from “Dr. Gee’s” tale: The craft were said to have no visible seams, rivets or doors. The saucers were magnetically
powered, and made of metals unknown on Earth. Readers were told that scientists had a hard time entering the disks, even after using a diamond-tipped drill and torches. Alien writing like “Egyptian hieroglyphics” was found. The recovered saucer was supposed to have been taken on a covered, flat-bed truck to the Air Force technical center at Wright Field, Ohio.
A recent widely-publicized crash claim has been that a UFO or Soviet spacecraft was recovered by the military in 1965 at Kecksburg, Pennsylvania. I took a close look at this story and learned just how such claims can become widely told and believed UFO stories.
Near sunset on December 9, 1965, a brilliant fireball brighter than the full Moon was seen by thousands in 10 states and Ontario. Witnesses mistakenly thought it had crashed, landed or dropped fragments at 17 places in six states and the Canadian province.
Much more is known about this fireball than most objects of its kind. By good luck, the cloud it left in the sky was photographed seconds later from two places in Michigan. A sonic boom was caused when the object finally burst apart as it travelled at supersonic speed through the air. This was recorded by a seismometer used to measure earthquakes. Michigan State University astronomers Von Del Chamberlain and David J. Krause used a process called triangulation to find the object’s path through the atmosphere.
They found a speed of about 8.7 miles per second, within the speed of meteors entering the Earth’s atmosphere. This is about twice as fast as man-made space objects
returning from low orbits. A possible orbit for the object was determined out to the asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, where many bright fireball meteors originate.
The astronomers concluded that the object was a meteor, and that it was probably not man-made space debris because of its steep path. Their research was published in 1967-8 in a scientific journal 7a and by the Michigan Geological Survey.7b
The conclusion that the object was a meteor and not reentering space debris had also appeared, with a photograph, in the February, 1966, issue of Sky & Telescope magazine. This article explained how Chamberlain and Geophysicist G. W. Wetherill had spoken to or reviewed written reports from more than 120 eyewitnesses.
Some reported that from the south shore of Lake Erie the fireball had disappeared at the northern horizon over the lake. This showed them that the meteor did not fall south of the lake.
One of many places in Pennsylvania where people saw the meteor low in the western sky was Kecksburg, a small town about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Two children, who lived nearby at Acme, told their mother that they had seen “a star of fire”. The woman went outside and looked in the direction of the Ontario meteor. (See Figure 1 on page 11 of this issue) She reported that she saw what looked like “blue smoke” in the sky. It seemed to slowly fade away over a nearby wooded hill.
After first allowing her children to look for anything which had come down, she then went to find them and they returned home.
They made no report until at least 1 1/2 hours later, after the fireball was reported on local radio as a possible airplane on fire. This delay suggests that the event did not seem important to them.
About the time of their report, on nearby KDKA-radio, Pittsburgh, was a popular call-in show with well-known flying saucer lecturer Frank Edwards as a guest. Although Edwards concluded on the air that the object was a meteorite, in a best-selling book the following year he claimed there were things wrong with the official explanation. He must have had second thoughts later because in his next book the incident was not mentioned. Frank Edwards’ UFO claims on the radio that night may have been important in the development of the UFO crash legend.
John Murphy, news director of WHJB-radio, Greensburg, Pa., a local station, called the Pennsylvania State Police to relay the woman’s sighting. A report was also sent to the Associated Press (AP), which then issued its own bulletin calling the fireball a UFO.9a
According to once classified documents in the National Archives, the U.S. Air Force “Project Blue Book” UFO investigating office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio was notified of the news bulletin. Following normal 1965 procedures for investigating a UFO report,35 it asked personnel at the nearest Air Force base, a North American Air Defense Command radar site of the 662 Radar Squadron at Oakdale, Pa., to investigate. They were asked to collect what had been reported to be burning debris. Three men were sent to Kecksburg, and to Erie, Pa., where a civilian pilot had reported that the Ontario fireball fell into Lake Erie.9b
Hundreds of people who heard radio or television broadcasts travelled to Kecksburg.
Some, including members of local fire companies, property owners, State Police and spectators searched an area pointed out by the Acme witnesses, or just stood around watching.
UFO crash proponents say that local fire companies were called out. My investigation and an inquiry by former fire company officers have been unable to verify this among the records of four local fire companies.
Some say that a large military recovery operation occurred at Kecksburg. This also remains unproven. Another unproven claim is that the Army was involved. This rumor may have started because the Air Force Squadron was based at the Oakdale Army Engineers Support Facility.5
Some people even say that the military “roped off”, “sealed off” or “quarantined” the area. This was not supported by a single one of 61 eyewitnesses contacted for this report. What happened is that a State Police Fire Marshall, Carl Metz, ordered that the road past the search site blocked off at either end so that fire vehicles could use it, if needed. This road was later officially named “Meteor Road”.5
According to Edward Myers, 1965 Kecksburg Fire Chief, and other participants, the roadblocks were manned by fire police from the Mt. Pleasant Unity Fire Company.
Combat or riot-control equipped soldiers were not involved, as has been portrayed in a wildly imaginative television version of events.5m It is hard to believe that if armed troops were present this would not have been reported by the many TV, radio and newspaper reporters at the scene, who in 1965 reported no such activity.
The State Police led one search with flashlights which found nothing. Then reports of a flashing blue light brought the three Air Force men and the police back to the woods.9a This light seems to have been caused by several high school students who went into the woods to search, found nothing, and then ran through the trees flashing a camera strobe. This attracted spotlights from the crowd on the opposite hillside. I obtained a long, signed statement from one participant which fully explains these blue lights reported
by some eyewitnesses.
An unnamed spokesman for the 662nd Squadron reported, “There is an Unidentified Flying Object in the woods...” This suggests to some people that this must have been a “true UFO” event. Seldom is the rest of his statement considered: “We don’t know what we have yet.” According to a once-classified telephone log in the National Archives, the officer in charge of Project Blue Book, Major Hector Quintanilla, told superiors at the Pentagon that the fireball was a meteor.9b
An exciting headline the next day in an early edition of a local newspaper is often used by UFO crash supporters. A close reading of the article, however, shows that the reporter was unable to talk to anyone who had actually seen an object or to the Acme witnesses. It also gave an inaccurate location for the search, which was really 1/2 mile away on another farm.15
Proponents of a UFO mystery like to show copies of this article on national television. They have never displayed three other articles published the same day in a later edition of the same newspaper. In these the paper reported results of the official search and statements that the fireball had been a meteor.16a In an editorial the following day the newspaper concluded, after the on-the-scene investigation by its staff, that nothing at all had landed.16b
After a few inaccurate articles in flying saucer magazines5l,5p and Edwards’ book, the incident was forgotten. In the 1960s no major UFO investigator or group seems to have taken the incident seriously.
The crash legend developed after the involvement of UFO buffs and writers who sought witnesses and promoted the incident.
Prominent among these was a leading Pennsylvania UFO investigator, Stan Gordon, of nearby Greensburg. Founder of his own local UFO group, Gordon was also the state director of the Mutual UFO Network, the nation’s largest organization of UFO investigators and enthusiasts.5d-h The first event in the “modern” development of the Kecksburg legend occurred November 16, 1979, on a radio call-in show on KDKA, Pittsburgh. Guests included two UFO investigators and two well-known “abductees”, people who claimed to have been forcibly taken into UFOs by aliens. The Kecksburg incident and the old press reports were mentioned. Four listeners called who claimed to be 1965 Kecksburg eyewitnesses.
The investigators later interviewed two of the callers. One said that he was a former fireman and had seen a flashing light in the woods, but had been unable to see any shape to the object. The second man claimed that he was the 1965 Kecksburg Fire Chief. He said that from 25 feet away he had seen a “military 10-ton” flat-bed truck with a tarp over a 17-foot long object surrounded by military guards.
For 10 years this man’s story circulated among UFO enthusiasts interested in Kecksburg.
By 1985, when he retold the story to a local newspaper reporter, the vehicle was just a “heavy” truck with a tarp covering the back so that “you couldn’t tell if there was anything inside”. By 1990 his truck was only a military “troop-transport”.
In the 1985 interview this witness claimed that the military had prevented him from going to the crash site. Gordon later reported that the man actually did not arrive
until late at night, never went to the claimed impact site or the fire house, and only learned the next day that the firehall had been “overtaken” by the military.
By 1990 it was apparent that this key source for the UFO crash story was not the 1965 fire chief, although he had held this position at another time. He never responded
to the author’s written request for details of his personal experience. This early story is no longer featured by supporters of a mysterious crash and recovery.
Beginning in 1984 Gordon and other investigators began trying to obtain U.S. Government documents through the Freedom of Information Act.5d Microfilms of the complete 31-page Air Force file on the incident had been available publicly at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., since 1974. These once-classified files show that the sighting was judged to be “astro (meteor)”, with “No Physical Evidence”. Also included is a copy of the 1966 Sky & Telescope article with its photograph and correspondence with the photographer.9b
Despite years of effort by Mr. Gordon and others, nothing has ever been found in Government files to contradict the official version that the fireball was a meteor and that nothing was recovered.
Local UFO enthusiasts, however, were certain that something mysterious had happened. In August, 1987 they set up a display at a regional mall, a few miles from Kecksburg, during “International UFO Awareness Week”. This was preceded by statewide wire service publicity. After hearing them retell the “UFO crash” story and show 1965 news clips, one visitor said that he had seen the crashed UFO.5d
According to him, the UFO was buried partly in the ground. In the flashlight beams of searchers the object seemed to be shaped like an acorn with markings that looked like “Egyptian hieroglyphics”. There were no rivets, seams or openings in the craft. “It was definitely not of this planet”, he told a 1989 interviewer.
According to this man’s story, military officers then arrived and told searchers to leave. Armed troops occupied the fire house and would not allow the firemen to enter. He said that he saw a military convoy with a large flat-bed truck carrying a covered object, escorted by machine gun-armed jeeps, race away from the area.5d-f
After 22 years UFO investigators finally had an eyewitness who said he could lead them to the crash site. It seemed to confirm their own estimate of the crash location, leading them to believe that the witness’s story was true. This account was repeated for several years in UFO publications, television programs and among UFOlogists.
Three other eyewitnesses later came forward.
After questioning by believers, one told a story which seemed to confirm the description given by the Mall witness.
He said that he had been the first to find the UFO in the woods, but when other searchers approached he had just run away. Gordon was now convinced that they were on to something, and he ignored this improbable reaction by this second witness. The man had never publicly told his story before, but he decided to step forward from a crowd in the presence of network television cameras.