The "Acorn" that supposedly landed at Kecksburg (Courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)
Out of the ashes....
ŠTim Printy July 2006
With most of the solution presented by science for the events surrounding the Great Lakes fireball, one might expect this case of a UFO being identified. However, when it comes to UFOlogy, no case is EVER really solved. There are always those, who are going to try and find something unusual about any event and magnify it in a way to ensure the case is never 100% explainable. UFOlogists tried to keep the case alive almost as soon as the sun rose on December 10th. Ivan T. Sanderson of the National Investigations Committee of Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), wrote a report based on his interviews of various individuals. Sanderson, who was not an astronomer but some sort of naturalist, was one of the first to suggest that this was no meteor and it really was some sort of alien spaceship. According to Jenny Randles:
The object took six minutes to pass the observed trajectory, from which Sanderson calculated a speed of 1,600 km/h, which, if accurate, would rule out a meteor. Several pilots spoke of being buffeted by shock waves as the thing passed them. There were also stories of a sonic boom and vibrations felt on the ground. The smoke trail was so intense that it remained visible for up to twenty minutes. During the final few miles of its flight the object seemed to change course. (Randles)
This was Sanderson's centerpiece of evidence to eliminate the astronomical explanation. For some reason Sanderson's path and speeds did not agree with the calculations performed by Chamberlain and Krause. .This is probably due to the fact that UFOlogists are rarely willing to gather scientific data on UFO sightings. Most of their reports are simply stories and rarely do you read about azimuth and elevation angles in their analysis. However, when it comes to fireballs, eyewitnesses will fill out observation forms that have this data. Interviewers will go to the location and talk to the witness to help refine the data so it can be as accurate as possible. A good example of this is found in table A1 of this document for the Tagish Lake Fireball of 2000.I doubt that Sanderson's interviews were as extensive as those done by the astronomers involved in the research done by Chamberlain and Krause.
In the late 1970's, Kecksburg resurfaced in UFO lore. This time UFOlogists were interested in making this into a major crashed Spaceship story. As early as 1980, efforts were being made to find witnesses to the event that would attest to a crashed spaceship being recovered. A Pittsburgh radio program hosted by John Signa had presented UFO investigator Clark McClelland, who discussed the events of that evening based on what he had found. As a result, several of the witnesses called including Robert Bitner and James Mayes to tell the story about the Military retrieving something from the woods. This was the beginning of the Kecksburg legend.
In 1989, Robert Barry hosted a show on a WGCB-TV that included mentioning the Kecksburg recovery. Now NASA was involved as well. According to Robert Young:
Barry says that years ago he was told by an unnamed NASA informant that the Kecksburg UFO had been tracked...Barry also reported , citing Stan Gordon as his source, that a 1965 member of the Kecksburg Fire Company claims it had been contacted by NASA before the UFO crashed and asked to keep the public away from the area...(Frazier, Karr and Nickell ed. 181)
Kecksburg UFO promoter Stan Gordan (from his website)
By this point in time, Stan Gordon, of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and the Pennsylvania Association for the Study of the Unexplained (PASU), had taken over the case and even produced a video about the events. What resulted was a tale that mimicked the infamous Roswell case. Individuals suddenly appeared with privileged knowledge about the case, which included covert military convoys, military threats, and, of course, a crashed UFO.
Rushing to the scene
Based on the present legend, at least one individual saw the UFO crash and immediately drove to where it had landed. This man is Bill Bulebush. His story surfaced around 1990:
Bulebush, 40 then, was home just outside Kecksburg, tinkering with his 1964 Corvair.
He saw the flaming whatever-it-was fly over, then double back "just like it was controlled," he said last week.
And when he watched it go down just north of town, Bulebush said, he drove off after it, up what's now Meteor Road.
There, maybe a quarter-mile into the woods, lay this thing -- burnt orange, maybe 10 feet long, shaped like an acorn, he said.
"It was smoldering and cracking, sparks coming off it ... no sign of life, with a sour smell, sort of like sulfur," Bulebush said.
It was half-buried, after tearing a trench into the ground with a belly-flop landing, he said.
"I went down and stood behind a tree and watched it ... 10 feet away," he said.
And when he heard people tramping through the woods, he said, he got scared and hightailed back home -- where wife, Betty Bulebush, concedes she met the story with enough lack of interest that "I kept watching TV." (Gibb)
Bulebush's hasty exit marks the arrival of another group who would report they found the crashed UFO.
The local fire department had begun searching the woods shortly after Mrs. Kalp reported that something had fallen into there. Groups of men combed the woods in an effort to locate anything that was suspicious. It was these search teams that had apparently chased Bulebush away. One of the searchers was supposed to be Jim Romansky. According to Stan Gordon:
Jim Romansky, not from the Kecksburg area, states that he was a member of another fire company which had been called out to assist in the search for a possible downed aircraft that day. The search teams had been combing the woods when a call came in over a walkie-talkie that another team had found the crash site. Jim's team hurried over to the location and were puzzled by what they saw. Jim stood on a bank about five feet from the partially buried off-gold colored acorn-shaped object. Jim, who has been a machinist much of his life, said it gave him the impression that someone had taken liquid metal and poured it into an acorn shaped mold. There were no rivets, seams, wings, or fuselage apparent, and the object appeared as one solid piece of metal, unlike a conventional aircraft.
Jim, can only estimate the size of the object since it wasn't entirely visible. He said that it was 10 to 12 feet or more in length, and about 8 to 10 feet in diameter. He believes that a grown man could have easily stood up inside of the device. On the rear of the object was a ringed area about 8 to 10 inches wide, but less in height. It was on this area that strange markings similar to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics were seen.Jim has stated, "It looked like someone took a welding rod and just welded a bead for the different designs."
Jim and the other firemen speculated over the object. Two men dressed in overcoats appeared on the scene and told the searchers that the area was now under quarantine and they had to leave. Behind these two men were a group of military personnel. Jim said they passed within 5 feet of each other. When he and the others returned to the Kecksburg fire station, Jim says it was occupied by the military. (Gordon)
So, based on the new Kecksburg legend, Jim Romansky came from a town about 8-10 miles away (he was living in Latrobe at the time) and was organized for a search of the woods within an hour or two of the actual event. Strangely, it appears that most of those involved with the search were "local boys" and not from towns some distance away. Additionally, Romansky mentions no names of those with him or those who found the object.
The evil government intervenes
The initial response to the Kalp report had been made by the local government. State police and firemen were involved in blocking off the area and conducting the search. This was the case as the story was told in 1965. However, in the new legend, the military moves in with lightning speed and takes over. Numerous witnesses are presented to show that the military was in charge. According to Stan Gordon, one witness named Robert Bitner saw the military arrive with vehicles:
Bitner did not arrive in the area until late in the evening. He located a Kecksburg fire truck parked near an old farmhouse with several firemen standing around. They told Bitner that something had fallen from the sky into the ravine below. Bitner was present later that night (not earlier in the evening) when a small group of military vehicles came into that area. Among the vehicles was a personnel carrier and a 6x6 military truck...The military proceeded down into the wooded hollow. Bitner and the other firemen were not permitted to go along. When the military came back up from the woods, the firemen were told they could leave, and Bitner went directly home. (Gordon)
Others like Robert Blystone makes it appear that at least a company of troops had taken over the area:
Robert Blystone Jr. walked into Kecksburg that evening. He said there was military everywhere- on the street corners, and on the roads. At one point he went to an area where he could see down to the fire station where he saw military vehicles parked there. He said the military were armed with rifles and sidearms. (Gordon)
Despite such a large quantity of military vehicles being present that could easily descend into a heavily wooded ravine, some of the military officers were left looking for a ride. Local firemen were glad to help:
James Mayes and other Kecksburg firemen drove some military "brass" on their 1961 four wheel drive pumper towards the impact site. They drove through the fields toward the woods near a farmhouse that was being rented by the Hays family. When they started to descend into a hollow, the military said that this was as far as the firemen could go. The fire truck was turned back and the military officers proceeded on foot. Mayes estimated that there were four or five of the officers that were holding onto the running boards and tail board of the pumper truck. (Gordon)
The Hays family home was taken over according to Lillian and her son John.
Lillian Hays and her son, John, confirm that military personnel and men in suits frequented their rented farmhouse that night in 1965. The visitors made many phone calls from the house, located not far from the impact site in the woods. John overhead a conversation and learned that NASA was also on the way to that location. Later that evening, he saw a man wearing a NASA patch. A NASA representative reportedly interviewed some eyewitnesses of the Kecksburg incident at the time. (Gordon)
This NASA connection has never been identified and nobody has questioned how somebody from NASA could have made it to Kecksburg in such a short amount of time.
Meanwhile, the military personnel began to seal off the area. Gordon states:
Larry Snyder and some teenage friends tried to sneak down into the woods to see what had reportedly fallen. Snyder said they went to two different locations that evening. At each location, there was an armed military man who prevented them from entering towards the impact site. When Snyder asked what fell, a soldier answered saying that a meteor had landed. (Gordon)
Not only were the military sealing off the area, they apparently were authorized to use deadly force if necessary as described by witness David Newhouse:
The Army was definitely there. Its irrefutable. I saw them, said Dave Newhouse, a teenager at the time. When he and a friend tried to sneak into the woods, they were stopped by an Army guard.
He pointed his rifle at me and said get out, Newhouse said before the meeting. So, something was definitely there. I dont have any idea what it was, but the Army doesnt come out to guard a patch of woods.(Dudurich)
With all of the soldiers being used to search the area, seal off the woods, guard the firehouse and Hays household, as well as threaten anyone getting in the way, the military now employed a neat trick. They used local teenagers to help misdirect traffic:
Michael Slater, then 14 and living in Kecksburg, was outside with his brother that evening when a military jeep pulled up. The two boys were asked to assist with crowd control. If anyone asked for directions to the crash site, they were to give them the wrong directions.
We had fun sending people all over the place, he said, adding the men in the jeep told them they were doing a service for your country. (Dudurich)
Despite these Herculean efforts and threats of deadly force, all sorts of people still managed to find their way to the crash site and saw the military conducting a search of the area around the crash site. Apparently, they were looking for something that had gotten out of the crashed object or for any other parts that might be found.
Don Sebastian, who lived in Johnstown at the time, was in the area visiting friends when they heard the radio report that something had crashed near Kecksburg. They jumped in the car, only to be turned away by armed state police, he said. But determined to find out what was going on, Sebastian persisted, sneaking around the roadblock and heading back toward the scene.
I saw a line of soldiers down in the clearing ... best guess, maybe 100 guys ... armed at hip level and walking single file parallel to the crash site, he said prior to the meeting. It looked like a drill. Perfect formation. Nobody out of step. Until they heard a scream, he said.
This was a terror scream, and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, he said. After a minute or two, he heard another scream.
It didnt sound human, he said. Thats when I lost my nerve. I figured this was a place where I could get shot. So, I was out of there. (Dudurich)
It is important that the legend include such activities and large numbers of military personnel because, as witness Rob Bitner stated, "the government didn't send all them out because of some shooting star" (Gibb).
Scooped and cleaned
With the military and state police blocking off the area, the military now moved in to grab the crashed object, clean up the woods, and wisk the materials away to some secret location away from prying eyes. According to Gordon it was John Hays who first saw what happened,
At one point he saw a flatbed tractor trailer going down towards the hollow in the woods where the object reportedly fell. Later he noted a truck of the same description exiting the same area with a large object carried aboard. (Gordon)
Despite the massive lockdown and cordon established by the police and military, people continued to slip into the area and see the super secret operation in progress. Gordon next tells the story of a witness who drove all the way from Pittsburgh to see the excitement:
Well known Pittsburgh Jazz musician Jerry Betters has gone public stating that he was driven to Kecksburg by some friends that December night in 1965. They were curious after hearing the news reports of the alleged UFO landing. They didn't know the area, but apparently found themselves on the farm lane where others saw military action taking place that night. There, Betters saw numerous military vehicles, but more interestingly, a military flatbed tractor-trailer truck was making it's way up from the field. On the back of the trailer he saw an acorn-shaped object and the strange hieroglyphic markings were easily visible. For whatever reason, at that point the object was not covered. Betters will never forget the tone of voice of a military officer ordering servicemen to get him and his friends out of there. Jerry became quite upset when the soldiers aimed their guns at them. (Gordon)
The Slater teens would also see this flatbed tractor-trailer depart the scene. According to Ann Dudrich, "Slater said he and his brother later saw a flat-bed truck emerge from the woods, carrying an object covered by a tarp." (Dudrich).
Apparently, there were numerous flatbed tractor-trailers present that evening as Stan Gordon describes how some in the news media saw these vehicles:
Ernie Hoffman was also a reporter for the Greensburg, PA Tribune-Review in 1965. He replaced Robert Gatty in Kecksburg that night, so that Gatty could return to the newspaper office and work on the story. Hoffman said that he had pulled off on the shoulder of the narrow country road, and about 100 yards away saw a military flatbed tractor-trailer truck near a tree line. He said that there was something on the back of the truck under a tarpaulin which, at that distance, appeared about the size of two suitcases. The possibility remains that Hoffman did not see the object in question and/or the vehicle which was carrying other equipment. There are accounts of more than one flatbed tractor-trailer accompanying the other military equipment which had arrived that day. Hoffman verifies, as so many other people have, that military vehicles were around Kecksburg and down in the woods that evening. Another reporter, Adam Lynch, with WIIC-TV at the time, also confirmed seeing a military truck. (Gordon)
Even Robert Gatty mentions the military's presence that night but gives the impression that it was the state police that was in charge just as he described in his reports in 1965:
Bob Gatty, a reporter for the Tribune-Review at the time, had just gotten back into the office after covering a meeting. His city editor told him, Dont sit down. Ive got the story of the century for you. A UFO just landed in Kecksburg.
Gatty drove out to the site, and upon arrival, was met by a lot of military types.
I couldnt get any answers, Gatty said. I tried to go down into the woods, and a cop told me, You cant go down there. And I said, What if I do? And he said, Youll be arrested. (Dudurich)
With the main craft safely carted away, the rest of the military managed to smooth over any depression in the woods, reupright any trees that were knocked over, and remove any other evidence of the UFO's crash to the earth.
But what about the other eyewitnesses?
One thing missing from the new Kecksburg legend is that not all the people present in the area agree on what actually happened. When the "Unsolved Mysteries" television series wanted to perform an expose' on the Kecksburg crash, many local residents didn't like this. Robert Young explains:
Tribune-review staff writer David Darby (1990) reported that more than fifty Kecksburg residents sent a petition to the program's producers in an attempt to stop its airing. The paper reported that these nonbelievers included Ed Myers, the Kecksburg fire chief in 1965, who was portrayed by an actor in the program; Jerome and Valerie Miller, whose home was portrayed as the site of a "military command post" during the UFO recovery operations; the owners of the land where the saucer was supposed to have landed; and Kecksburg firemen.
Myers expressed concern. "It's killing me to know this is going nationwide, because there's absolutely no truth to it," he told Darby. "Somebody's gonna be put in the history books for my grandchildren to read, and it is just not true." (Frazier, Karr and Nickell ed. 178)
In part the petition read:
...much harassment and endangered the health and welfare of our residents. The curiosity seekers wanting to see the landing site, are leaving empty cans, bottles, and other debris, also using private buildings as restrooms. If this show goes nationwide many more people will want to see this so called landing site and cause more confusion...Many people saw something in the sky, but no one has evidence of it landing. We beg you to please talk to our property owners in the questioned landing site, who have no knowledge of any type of object landing. We feel that the story has been blown out of reasonable explanation. The authorities of 1965 insisted that they found nothing and we concur. (Randle 109)
Kevin Randle spins this to mean that the petition signers wanted nobody trespassing on their property. He also points out that some of the signers weren't even in Kecksburg that evening and base their knowledge on what they heard from neighbors, friends, and family living in the area at the time. Randle briefly mentions two witnesses who reject the legend (including Bitners brother-in-law) but glosses over their objections. This is done in order to diminish the impact of those eyewitnesses who did not see the events in the legend that evening. That gives reason to pause and consider the new legend that has been developed over the years. It also gives reason to question if the new Kecksburg legend is true, fabrication, or something else.
Dudurich, Ann Saul. "Kecksburg UFO debate renewed". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 3 August 2003. Available WWW: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/westmoreland/s_147868.html
Frazier, Kendrick ,Barry Karr, and Joe Nickell ed. UFO Invasion. Amherst: Prometheus, 1997
Gibb, Tom. "People in Kecksburg want to resolve what fell from the sky in 1965". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 9 March 2003. Available WWW: http://www.post-gazette.com/neigh_westmoreland/20030309kecksburgwestmor1p1.asp
Gordon, Stan. "Kecksburg - Response, Review & Update". 28 January 2001. UFO Updates Mailing List. Online posting. Available WWW: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2001/jan/m29-002.shtml
Randle, Kevin. A History of UFO Crashes. New York: Avon Books, 1995.
Randles, Jenny. UFO crash retrievals.Available WWW:http://www.ufoevidence.org/Cases/CaseSubarticle.asp?ID=282
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