It was the sixties in small town Illinois, I was a little boy, and was walking to my Granny Bert’s house. She lived a block away, I wasn’t quite halfway there, in front of the Duvall’s house. I used to walk barefoot, till one day I stepped on a dead squirrel’s skull. I still walked barefoot after that, but I looked down and watched where I was going.
That day I happened to look up and when I did, I saw it.
It was a rocket, pure and simple. At first I thought it must be a toy rocket, like you order from the back of comic books. But it was too high in the air, too large and too real. I could make out the markings pretty clearly, but it was about fifty years ago so no, I can’t say what they were.
When I first started making that walk, my mother would walk me to the end of our block, and Granny Bert would wait on the front porch, so I was always in view of one or the other. Sometime after Kindergarten they stopped doing that, and I was allowed to walk alone.
Granny Bert wasn’t waiting on me, which means it had to be between 1966 and 1970. I told her what I saw, she laughed and didn’t know what to think, so didn’t think much of it. Ben, my adopted Grandpa said it was probably government experiments. He watched a lot of science fiction on TV and at the time I believed he was the smartest person I knew.
(Years later, when dementia hit, he swore he’d been in Iraq when he was younger, working for the CIA. He was captured, he said, tied to a table but was still able to get his finger into his belly button. By rotating it counter clockwise, he was able to signal to the helicopters who swooped in and rescued him. The CIA and mind control went hand in hand even then, or rather finger in navel.)
Later I’d hear that there were missile silos in the area, but officially none existed here. We were too far west to be able to reach Russia, and the missile defenses for St. Louis were a couple hours away.
Aliens, or more government experiments?
I knew it wasn’t aliens that I’d seen. It wasn’t a saucer, it was a missile. I watched it long enough to see it was real, watched it punch through the clouds and disappear. It was too low to have been launched very far away. There are no air bases nearby. There was a small airport in town, but it was in the wrong direction.
I wasn’t the only one who saw strange things in the sky over Carmi. A few years later, on the night of February 9, 1975, a man and a woman just outside of town reported a blue object with either beams of light coming down, or lighted struts or legs. At the same time, they reported other aircraft nearby in the sky.
The alien invasion of Carmi, Illinois or “Whoa Bub! Did you see that?”
Carmi, the town where I live, did have a notable UFO event. It was August of 1978, the same year devil worshippers were reported outside of town. They turned out to be Dadaists, moved to the midwestern countryside. The UFOs never were explained to anyone’s satisfaction.
The Indianapolis Star wrote that police took calls regarding six strange lights, glowing red, green and white, traveling at high speeds and making precision, unusually sharp turns. Sgt. Dee Heil reported they were visible for six hours and seen by at least seven police officers – an Illinois State Trooper, two Carmi police officers, an Edwards County Sheriff’s deputy, a White County jailer and a town marshal. They were visible in the area from 10:30 p.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. Thursday. “No Earthly aircraft just hangs in one area for seven hours,” Heil noted. “I’m not a star gazer, but I never noticed anything like this before,” he said. He also reported that the lights were about the size of the planet Venus.
The Detroit Free Press reported that “In Albion, the state police’s Clyde Paris watched through the scope of his rifle as five objects skittered in the blackness, darting vertically and horizontally at high rates. Meanwhile, back in Carmi, officer Willard Blazier went so far as to shine a spotlight toward one of the crafts. When he did, the craft halted and circled back toward him. He decided not to do it again.”
The next night they’d moved to nearby Evansville, Indiana. Once again, according to the Detroit Free Press, “A 25-year-old Indiana Vocational Technical College-Southwest student named David Acker was smoking a cigarette when he saw a triangle of red lights creeping across the sky. He lived near the airport, so at first he assumed it was just an airplane. “One light turned to the east, one went west, and one traveled straight ahead,” he told the Press.“
A West Sider reported a sighting as well, as did a Chandler police officer. All claimed to see the same thing: red lights that shone green as they departed. Almost as though they had taillights.”
The most commonly accepted explanation for the lights, at least among those who wanted an Earthly explanation, was an optical illusion involving stars.
An open minded non-believer
I believe in ghosts. I’ve seen them, I know they exist. But I don’t know what they are.
I’ve seen strange things in the sky, but nothing like a flying saucer. I believe we see unidentified flying objects all the time, just like my rocket, or the countless lights traveling high above fly over country. If I saw a saucer, I’m sure I’d believe.
I can believe there is life out there, and that they’ve visited here. It’s a big universe. But the nearest solar system, Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light years away, or about 25 trillion miles. The fastest conventional space ship that we have would take 78,000 years to get there. Now if you could travel faster than the speed of light, and there are those working on designs to do just that, you could cut that to days. The same for other civilizations coming here.
Then again, if you could do that, time travel would likely be possible as well. So the aliens you see could be your great-great-grandchild.
My point is, if they could find their way here across the vastness of time and space, why the hell would they need flashing lights? Those are for planes looking to avoid collisions. If you can travel that far through the universe you can avoid a 747 I’m sure. Turn signals perhaps?
To understand other forms of life, you need to stop believing the only form of life that counts are ones like ours. Perhaps there are life forms which don’t even require a body. Forms of life so complex that we simply don’t have the ability to understand them, even if we had the manual laid out in front of us.
We would likely have as much chance of understanding them, as the ant does understanding the mind of the person attached to the foot which is about to step on it.
Still, I find many UFO reports credible. It’s the explanations for the unexplained I have a problem with, similar to those who claim to know ghosts are all about.
Aliens? Maybe, but there is an earthly explanation for at least some of these reports.
The U.S. Government has admitted they didn’t put the brakes on the UFO question because it made great cover for some of their experiments. If you saw something like a rocket in the sky that shouldn’t be there, nobody would believe you. Those who did, would attribute it to another civilization, on another planet.
Project MKUltra reminds us the government is made up of people, and people often suck
In the general scheme of things, a little boy seeing a rocket where there shouldn’t be one is no big deal. Governments keep secrets, at least in theory for our own good.
But what happens when you give people power over others, and the gift of secrecy to hide their movements?
Project MKUltra was a real thing. If you listen closely, you hear it mentioned in the Netflix show Stranger Things, and many others. It did exist, and was a program carried out by the CIA involving mind control. It was begun in the early 1950s, ended in the early seventies and many of their experiments were carried out on humans, both willing and unwilling. Quite a few of those people, never knew what hit them.
The word allegedly comes up a lot when studying Project MKUltra. The records were all destroyed on the orders of CIA Director Richard Helms, two years before the project was made public. A few records which had been misfiled told part of the story, as did interviews with former agents and participants.
The project allegedly got its start as an extension of research that was done in German concentration camps, in particular Dachau in World War II, as well as Japanese internment camps. Following the war, some of the “doctors” from the camp were brought to the states to coach American researchers in mind control. The ultimate goal was to control people to do their will, without question.
Developing the ideal mind control drug was one of their focuses. On a positive note, ProjectMKUltra helped usher in the summer of love in the 1960s. Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was a paid volunteer, and was given LSD numerous times. He liked it so much he started hosting acid parties at home, then moved them into San Francisco and called them The Acid Tests. The house band for the Acid Tests became the Grateful Dead, and their lyricist, Robert Hunter was also part of the experiment that Kesey took part in.
Pretty soon San Francisco was awash in LSD and that’s where the summer of love was born. A case of an experiment which got out of hand? Or perhaps an experiment where you dosed an entire counterculture, whose reach spread around the globe?
But it wasn’t all rainbows painted all over the blues. In Kentucky they dosed a mental patient with LSD 174 days in a row. As one agency officer was quoted, “they picked people who couldn’t fight back.” The CIA went as far as to setup brothels and dosed the johns, then watched through one way mirrors. The idea was someone who came into a brothel was already compromised and would likely keep their mouth shut.
They experimented with a wide range of drugs in addition to LSD, such as mescaline, cocaine, DMT, magic mushrooms, and more. They also tried hypnosis, isolation and sensory deprivation, electro shock as well as sexual abuse and verbal humiliation. Once the patient was tripping, they were then subjected to mind manipulation.
Keep in mind, this was often done without the person’s consent, and in fact they might never know who did it, nor why. So ask yourself, could you really trust the government’s explanations in that particular era?
If there was ever an era when we did trust our government, it ended in the 1970s.
The epicenter of UFO activity on Long Island … Mount Misery Road
I hear music, daylight disc
Three men in black said, “Don’t report this”
“Ascension, ” and that’s all they said
Sickness now, the hour’s dreadAll praise
He’s found the awful truth, Balthazar
He’s found the saucer news
E.T.I., Blue Oyster Cult. Written near Mt. Misery Road, 1976
It’s a few decades later and I live on Long Island. It’s not long before I start hearing urban legends about abandoned military hospitals and asylums, some of which connect with Project MKUltra.
That makes sense. The project was carried out at over 80 locations in the U.S. Hospitals were a prime location, and one would assume mental hospitals as well. Long Island is dotted with those, as well as myths involving UFOs, men in black, secret government psychiatric centers and bizarre experiments.
And curiously enough, those sites also share another kind of urban legend. Those of an extraterrestrial kind.
We had a work picnic at West Hills County Park, near Melville on Long Island. It’s a curious neighborhood, where Walt Whitman was born, and various members of his family lived, all the way back to earliest days of the colonies. Several of their houses are still there, along with others, some dating back to the 17th century. Over the hill and through the houses below is Walt Whitman Mall, alongside Route 110 which runs from Long Island Sound in the north at Huntington, to Amityville on the Great South Bay. For most of its length it’s six lanes or more, transporting tens of thousand of cars a day.
One street over is Sweet Hollow Road, barely two lanes with no dividing line and a canopy of trees overhead. It could be a thousand roads back home in Illinois, Indiana or anyplace in the rural midwest. The area is hoary with history, dating from when only native Americans occupied this land, through the colonial era and the revolution, up to the present time.
The road cuts through West Hills County Park which is an oasis of green in a sea of concrete. One street over is Mt. Misery Road.
At the picnic, a coworker is telling me that back in the seventies these are the roads they’d haunt to smoke a joint, and he filled me in on some of the urban legends of the seventies.
The strangest thing he saw there, was at one time the military shut it down. The story he heard has it that it was something to do with UFOs. All he could vouch for was the road was blocked off, there was a strong military presence and they had to toss the joint out the window.
The official line, as best as can be determined is that it was practice maneuvers by the National Guard. That the military would be welcome to use the area makes sense. Much of the ground was owned by Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War under Roosevelt in the second world war. His highland games were legendary, and in fact, he passed his estate on to the country after his death where it became a large part of West Hills County Park.
It’s still a favorite location for the homes of ambassadors and other government officials.
Despite alternate explanations, the UFO story stuck, as there were already reports of strange sightings in the neighborhood, stretching all the way back to native American days.
During that work picnic I found the park had several trails for hiking, and as I passed near it every day on the way home, I took to wandering West Hills. I started bringing along a camera, began researching the legends of the area, and that dear reader, is how this website was born.
John Keel takes Long Island mysteries mainstream
In 1975, the book The Mothman Prophecies appeared, written by John Keel, and following that in 2002, a major motion picture treatment.
While the film never touched on Long Island, the book contains a full chapter regarding strange occurrences on Mount Misery, which is a part of West Hills County Park.
According to Keel, the area was being visited by strange people, asking strange questions. In the book he recounts one witnesses testimony “They had high cheekbones and very red faces, like a bad sunburn,” she told me. “They were very polite but they said my land belonged to their tribe and they were going to get it back. What frightened me was their feet. They didn’t have a car … they must have walked up that muddy hill … but their shoes were spotlessly clean. There was no trace of mud or water where they walked in my house.”
Many of Keel’s contacts came from a Long Island disk jockey, Jaye Paro who worked for WBAB in Babylon, New York.
She had reported on UFOs around Mt. Misery, along with many other legends from the neighborhood. One article from the 1960s by Paro seems to have been the primary source material for most of what you find online about Mt. Misery and Sweet Hollow Road, along with the chapter of Keel’s book.
Since so many people, myself included, have hiked the trails of West Hills and Mt. Misery, looking for the sites associated with the mysteries, it’s worth examining the magazine where these stories come from. It’s not the sixty’s version of the National Enquirer. It’s not that good, nor that reputable. It was the kind of story that people today love making fun of when they see it on TV. It was entertainment. Doesn’t mean it might not be true, or at least have elements of truth. But it was certainly buyer beware.
Ms Paro mentions the overbearing melancholy of the place, the wildness of the landscape even in modern Long Island, grisly axe murders, Native American ghosts, a poltergeist which drives a woman to her death and quotes locals as describing Mt. Misery as a supernatural volcano.
In addition to ghosts and hauntings, she presented eyewitness accounts of UFOs, strange messages being beamed into a resident’s television set and what appeared to be the first modern day report of the creature which came to be known as the Mothman.
Keel read her reports, and through her made several contacts. He eventually abandoned his belief that the visitors to Mount Misery and elsewhere were from other planets. Instead, he lent more credence to natural origins – sort of – such as the supernatural, or even demons. He also referred to them as ultraterrestials, entities which could adopt any shape they wanted.
Bill Knell turns Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow Road into an internet phenomenon
Keel’s writings caught the attention of Bill Knell, UFO researcher of dubious character and reliability. Knell tossed those into his cauldron, with a batch of other unrelated folk tales and urban legends about Sweet Hollow Road/Mount Misery, and in the process created a mythology about the neighborhood which still sends hundreds, if not thousands of people to wander the West Hills looking for the strange. For that he deserves some form of credit.
Unfortunately, the truth doesn’t seem to be Mr. Knell’s strong suit. When I first started researching the area online about 2010, he was usually the person quoted. Over time its fame grew into a monster. Some stories you can trace, like the burned school. It did exist and still does. But it never burned with all the students inside. It was a small fire and the building was rebuilt on the same site.
Knell seems to be the source of the legend of a military hospital on Mt. Misery which conducted mind control experiments on unknowing soldiers.
There was no military hospital on Mt. Misery. Satellite images show that pretty conclusively. It’s just not there. But I did get a lot exercise hiking through the woods, looking for it.
There was however, a nearby military hospital, a psychiatric one, which fits the story almost perfectly. In World War II, the military took over Edgewood Psychiatric Center, a part of Pilgrim Psych, and built Mason General Hospital. It was used for “treating the psychological casualties of the battlefield as well as for other related uses.”
You can draw your own conclusions what “other related uses” might mean.
They even demolished the abandoned buildings about the same time the abandoned psych unit on Mt. Misery was supposed to have been torn down.
Sloppy research or was he simply trying to tie things into a neat, more commercial package? It’s questions like that which makes a person more skeptical about the legends that spring up in UFO hotspots, and some of the more far fetched stories.
Which brings us to the most well known of Long Island’s UFO hotspots, Camp Hero out on the tip at Montauk. Camp Hero was built to protect New York from invasion by sea during World War II. Officially known as Montauk Air Force Station, it was designed to look like a fishing village to fool German u-boats.
According to the book, The Montauk Project, Experiments in Time, secret research was going on at Camp Hero involving contacting aliens, mind control, teleportation and time travel. It’s the latter which according to legend, went too far and resulted in a hole ripped in the fabric of space and time, which allowed a bigfoot like creature to come through. Which still lurks on the grounds of Camp Hero State Park.
The book spawned countless conspiracy theories, some hold water, most don’t. With so many turds floating, it’s impossible to see the lone jewels that sunk down to the bottom. You could spend a lifetime investigating the story and never find an answer, because it’s quite possible that there is no answer to find.
The legend also spawned a popular series on Netflix, Stranger Things. Though the setting was changed to Indiana, (near where I grew up and where I have lived … they do a good job of capturing the place in the 1980s) the plot follows the Montauk Project legend pretty closely. It’s obviously fiction, but good fiction. And watching it that way, it gets harder and harder to see it as really happening.
The skeptical mind and the rise of UFO sightings in the 20th century
A keen eye will notice a hotbed of UFO activity often takes place around military installations. Particularly those with a connection to the atomic bomb. There may be some validity to this.
CNN reported that seven ex members of the Air Force detailed experiences they’d had working at nuclear weapons facilities. Covering the decades from the sixties through the eighties, they spoke of UFOs hovering, and systems failing when they were in the area. Which means if true, aliens are here, and can shut off at will our most powerful weapons.
In fact, some of the most compelling evidence which has come to light recently came from the military, albeit via the Freedom of Information act. But it seems that in the end, the government sticks to its line that there is no credible evidence that aliens have been here, or live amongst us.
You can easily make the case that books, films and TV shows featuring secret experiments and flying saucers in the fifties and sixties led to a phenomenal increase in sightings.
One argument skeptics put out there is that the sightings sprang up because saucers entered the public consciousness. This is true. And at the same time, films about secret government experiments were on the rise as well.
Or, it’s entirely possible that the visitors only arrived about then, and that the films sprung up in response to a developing story, as more sightings to came to light.
It’s also worth remembering, less than a century before 1950, people didn’t normally think about flying machines. They didn’t exist. So it would make sense that they saw lights in the sky as something else, from ancestors to fairies. Which could explain why you don’t have a lot of sightings before the middle of the twentieth century, when air travel and of course, air warfare became part of the fabric of society.
And could explain why red lights in the dark might well become the Mothman’s eyes, rather than saucers in the sky.
Drones take over as the UFO of choice
Drones could be the next chapter in UFOs. Last December and this January of 2020, a fleet of drones were repeatedly sighted in the skies over Colorado and Nebraska. Rumors began to swirl, from secret government projects associated with nearby missile silos, to aliens, to drone operators out to fuck with the locals.
The world press picked up on the story and the authorities had to admit they were baffled. Many of the reports turned out to be fake, or even regular drones and in some cases, stars.
Like the UFO epidemic of the fifties and sixties, a few sightings of something unusual provoked fits of hysteria, wild explanations and conspiracy theories.
One of the areas where the drones were spotted was near Sydney, Nebraska. The New York Post quoted retired meteorologist Dan Carlson who spotted the drones four times near his farm near Sydney. “Drones flew in pairs on two nights. Their speed, impressive range — over the distant horizon without landing — and proximity to nearby missile silos makes him suspect the US Air Force at least knows of the flights.”
“I do not buy into the conspiracy theories. I am not living in fear of an alien invasion,” he said.
There are over 150 Minuteman nuclear missiles in the area, and it was speculated that one had gone missing and the drones were on a search and recovery mission. Others believed that it was the military training a missile defense system. All relevant government agencies, including the military denied any involvement.
I spent the night in Sydney last year, driving with my lady from Salt Lake City to southern Illinois. From time to time it was impossible not to hum the mysterious tones from Close Encounters in this part of the country, and it was easy to see why more strange things are seen in the sky here. There’s a lot more sky than in most places, a darker sky where stars, planets and strange lights shine brighter.
We pulled into the Sleep For Less motel late at night, fried from the road. The motel itself was like a time capsule, from the days when UFO reports were new, and springing up in places like this all over the country.
Standing outside at night, far from the interstate, the air crisp, the buzzing from the neon sign the only sound, it’s hard not to look up at the sky. And if you see something that shouldn’t be there, it sets your nerves on edge.
In February, an answer came forward when a member of the group, ArchAngel RECON, that tracked aerospace projects went public with what they’d been doing.
“We track and capture the aerospace target nicknamed the TicTac or UAP from various encounters such as with the USS Nimitz ship. This is a human made aircraft with human made technology that happens to defy known physics and outperform the best current known radar and fighter jet capabilities while operating on a power source that would in theory also change our entire knowledge in that sector.”
The group claims to have sighted their target on many occasions, at least in their mind, proving its existence.
They also noted the hysteria they had unwittingly caused. “It’s also important to note that the concern then grew to a scare, which did indeed produce an environment unlike the actual scene that likely started this whole thing, and undoubtedly, in my view, that will be the mass hysteria explanation given to this story.”
In the end, even ArchAngel RECON disavowed some of the drone sitings, and several law enforcement agencies disputed their claims. And yet since then, the sightings seem to have faded away, interest has waned and at least for some, the unexplained drones remain unidentified flying objects.
The little boy and the rocket
I don’t have the luxury of dismissing everything out of hand. When I was a little boy, I saw a rocket where it shouldn’t have been.
And now it’s ten years since I wandered the West Hills of Long Island, and I’m back in the midwest. I can stand in my back yard and see the spot where I looked up and saw the missile. With hindsight and a lifetime of following the subject, I put my mind to what it could have been, and so I invent my own conspiracy theory. It’s likely total bullshit, but it gives me something to think about when I’m looking up at night.
One would think that here in the middle of nowhere there wouldn’t be a secret military connection. But I realize that’s not true.
A mile or so outside of town is the old radar base. Carmi Air Force Station was built in 1955 by the 704th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, with the mission of filling in the gaps for the 784th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron at Snow Mountain AFS, KY, assigned to protect Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Most of the gap fillers were unmanned. The base at Carmi sported a AN/TPS-1D radar set. It was a small, extremely portable unit, and could be mounted on a truck. Or it could be broken down into packages and carried by ship or cargo plane. It was ideal for carrying to the front lines because it was so portable, and so small. In fact, it could be carried by pack animals or even on foot with enough people.
So why is it that for the year that the base was in operation, there were about 120 people stationed here? And why was it a manned station when the others were unmanned? Why was the unit disbanded when they left Carmi?
Suddenly there was a cut in the budget and the base was abandoned.
Perhaps whatever they were building out here was completed, and they moved on to the next location. It’s hard to fathom why they needed so many soldiers to run such a small station here in the middle of nowhere. As with anything military related, there might be a good reason, there might not, but you’ll never known because it’s a need to know thing.
My lady lived in Missouri in the late sixties, an Air Force brat. She lived there for about a year, while her dad was helping to install a computer system. In all likelihood, it was part of the missile defense system for Kansas City or St. Louis. It took about a year, and then they moved on to the next location.
The obvious suspicion for the radar base is to support missile silos, and as I said, there have been rumors of those in this area for a long time. A silo is pretty low maintenance once built, and is of course underground. A look at the historic aerial images of the base does show some suspicious round markings, which you’d find at a silo site. They remained visible until that area was dug up by the government in the eighties or nineties to remove some old diesel tanks, underground. The area is now covered with gravel.
Like all good conspiracy theories, it can’t be proven true or false. But it does explain a rocket in a blue sky that shouldn’t have been there.
UFOs and secret experiments are the opposite sides of the same coin. Thoughts of UFOs, of strange creature like Bigfoot or Godzilla even, open our minds to possibilities. Our mistrust of secrecy, particularly from the government makes for easy explanations for phenomenon that by nature, can’t be explained.
When you’ve identified a UFO, it’s simply a flying object. And where’s the fun in that?
The UFO which needed a quart of oil
It’s a spring night and I’m sitting out on the patio with Todd Lane, my musical partner and hetero life-mate. We’re talking about the rocket, my new conspiracy theory regarding its origins, and things in the sky, looking upwards at the stars. I think of my friend back in New York, Lou, fighting cancer now. He always wished he could come back here with me sometime to see the stars without the glare from the city lights.
Lou, the view is great and you’re always invited.
We hear a noise in the night, sounds like a car that needs oil, clacking along the empty streets. It gets louder and we realize it’s not a car, it’s in the sky. About then two red lights and a white one appear over the trees. It disappears again behind some more trees, then turns a corner and we see it off to the south. It looks like a drone, sounds like drone even, though a bit sputtery. It could be just over on the other side of the house, or a bit further away even and larger than it looks.
I’m reminded of the first time I saw sky lanterns, a few years back. All I saw was a flaming light in the sky, which suddenly changed course and zoomed off. Followed by another. And another. I called the police, and only later learned what it was when my kid explained it. The sharp turn in direction and speeding off happened because they caught a draft.
It blew my mind that night though.
We’re watching the light, and about that time it shoots up higher in the sky and hovers there. The three lights are vertical, two white ones on top, a red one on bottom. It was then we realize it was hovering, and doing so silently.
For a few seconds we watch it, asking “what the hell is that?” Then the buzzing commences again and it turns and flies off, quickly.
The first thing we both think is drone. Then I ask, how did they shut the motor off when it was hovering? That’s the question he had. Turn off a drone’s motor in mid flight and it falls like a rock. And how else do you make a noisy drone go quiet than to shut off the motor?
I’m sure there is a logical explanation for the drone hovering silently that night, just as there is a logical reason for the rocket I saw streaking through the sky as a child. Personally I don’t care to know. I’m content for the flying objects in my sky to remain unidentified.