Thirty years after initial case, town lays claim to American's most sightings
By Jim Hague
Reporter staff writer
The Hoboken Reporter
The North Bergen sightings have been documented and reported to several different agencies, such as the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle and the Center for UFO Studies in Chicago.
In fact, since the initial sighting in 1975, there have been a total of 700 sightings or incidents involving North Bergen residents over the last 30 years - easily the highest total of reported incidents in the United States.
These have far exceeded those in the more famous location of Roswell, N.M. or other popular UFO sighting spots like Hudson Valley, N.Y. and Gulf Breeze, Fla. - places that have had at least 500 sightings over the years.
All began with liquor store owner
The UFO craze in North Bergen began in earnest on January 12, 1975, when a 72-year-old liquor store owner named George O'Barski was driving home through North Hudson Braddock Park at approximately 2:45 a.m. He began to experience some heavy static on his car radio. Then the radio went dead.
O'Barski, who is now deceased, apparently heard a loud noise from above. When he glanced over his shoulder, he saw a round, flat object with glowing, rectangular windows that hovered behind his car.
O'Barski later told federal officials that the object came to a stop about 100 feet ahead of his car. It was hovering 10 feet off the ground and was about 30 feet wide. It was flat at the bottom and brightly domed at the top.
O'Barski said that a ladder came from the object, and somewhere between eight and 11 creatures, all looking identical, emerged. They were about three, perhaps four feet tall and all wore dark snow-suit like uniforms with helmets. Each had a small bag and a little shovel. They quickly scooped up soil samples, poured the samples into the little bags, and immediately got back onto the craft.
Close encounters of the Hudson kind
The obviously frightened and startled O'Barski told federal officials that the entire episode lasted like three minutes. At sunrise, O'Barski went back to North Hudson Braddock Park to make sure he wasn't dreaming. There were several holes in the soil where he had witnessed the aliens allegedly digging.
But O'Barski was not alone with his sighting.
A doorman who was working at the Stonehenge apartment complex across from the park on the other side of Boulevard East also noticed the glowing object hovering 100 feet over Braddock Park, he told law enforcement officials. The doorman, whose actual identity has not been revealed and now cannot be found, said that when the object started its ascent, it forced windows to be shattered in the apartment complex and split a large tree adjacent to the complex in half.
It was also later revealed that O'Barski and the unnamed Stonehenge doorman did not know each other, and it was impossible for the two to collaborate on their stories.
The doorman at the Stonehenge also noticed something else: The creature he spotted was not wearing a coat and the temperatures were in the teens that early morning.
UFO experts investigate
The O'Barski case intrigued two people who are now linked in the world of UFO investigation. Ted Bloecher was an experienced stage actor, having performed in "Guys and Dolls," "My Fair Lady," and "Oliver" on Broadway. But as a child, Bloecher was always fascinated with the study of UFOs (called ufology) and eventually became totally engulfed in O'Barski's tale.
Bloecher, now a regular UFO investigator, went to interview O'Barski about his experience with the creatures, later referred to in reports as "humanoids" because of their appearance.
He said he believes the creatures were just pretending to get soil samples.
"Since I'm an experienced stage actor, I know very well what is a staged act and what is real," Bloecher said. "The scene of them getting soil samples was fake. It was staged. Their real target was George O'Barski. They weren't interested in soil samples. They wanted him."
Another UFO researcher who was intrigued by the O'Barski story was a writer named Budd Hopkins. In fact, both Bloecher and Hopkins were so intrigued by O'Barski's saga - a story that both experts eventually believed to be real after interviewing O'Barski - that they have since teamed forces in the pursuit of other "close encounters."
The two currently conduct UFO sighting seminars throughout the country.
The reason Hopkins was so fascinated by the O'Barski sighting is that Hopkins had just visited a friend inside the Stonehenge apartments in North Bergen a week before the sighting. "It was more than a bizarre coincidence," Hopkins would later say.
Newspaper reports were minimal after the O'Barski incident. Both the local dailies, the Jersey Journal and the now-defunct Hudson Dispatch, gave the incident a few paragraphs each. According to O'Barski's son, George, Jr., his father went to his grave thoroughly believing that what he saw that fateful evening did in fact take place.
"We might have thought he was a little crazy at first, but he was certain that he saw what he did," George O'Barski, Jr. said on a recently aired A&E Network special about UFOs that focused on the North Bergen phenomenon. "It really bothered my father that people thought he was lying." As it turned out, O'Barski wasn't alone.
The Stith sense
In 1979, North Bergen resident Harold Stith was driving through North Hudson Braddock Park in almost the same exact location that O'Barski had traveled four years prior. Again, it was at nighttime.
"My father was driving home from work, driving on Boulevard East, and he turned into the [Braddock] park," said Harold's son, Robert Stith, who lives in Secaucus. "As soon as he turned off into the park, his car just stopped dead. Then the radio went dead. A bright light came on top of the car, and then my father heard some strange things on the radio, some language that he didn't understand. He then noticed it was some sort of spaceship. The doors of the ship opened and these little grey men with big eyes came out. The next thing my father knew was that the door shut and they flew off. He thought it was like 10 minutes, but as it turned out, it was like three hours. My mother said that my father came home three hours late."
Hopkins, who also investigated the Stith case, believes that Stith was abducted. "He believed that he was abducted," Robert Stith said. "We all thought he was crazy. He didn't want the story to come out because other people would have thought he was nuts."
Two days after Stith had his close encounter, he told his family that he had a dream about the Miss America pageant.
"My father named the winner, what she wore, what she performed, where she was from," Robert Stith said. "No one took it seriously. We didn't have an affiliation with the pageant, and we had no idea why he would pick the Miss America winner."
Harold Stith's prediction came true. Two weeks later, it all happened just like Stith predicted. Cheryl Prewitt of Mississippi, the one Stith named after his dream, was crowned Miss America of 1980.
"I don't think he ever had a theory as to why he could have done that," Robert Stith said. The elder Stith never predicted the future again.
"Nothing ever happened with me," Robert Stith said. "I'm still waiting."
Again, there was a small article written in the Hudson Dispatch about several people spotting a glowing object in North Hudson Braddock Park that evening.
Eighties and '90s
The local reports to the National UFO Reporting Center came to a halt for a few years, until 1985, when Ron Lee said he saw three stationary sets of lights in the area, all oval in shape. Then the lights took off into the sky. Ninetta Nappi reported the same lights as "racing blips."
In 1988, two different North Bergen residents reported shapes that looked like "white and green diamonds" flying over Braddock Park.
In 1993, a North Bergen school teacher, Ann Barlovich, reported seeing a "large elliptical light with an eerie glow, a blimp-like object."
"I know what I saw and it wasn't like anything else I'd ever seen before," Barlovich said in the A&E special.
In 1999, a resident of the Parker Imperial condominium complex said that he was standing on his balcony and was ready to take a picture of the sunset, when he noticed something peculiar. The man took the picture, then downloaded the picture to his computer and noticed three weird orbs in the photo.
"I really didn't see the orbs when I took the picture," said the resident. "Only when I reviewed it later."
However, he refused to show the photos to the North Bergen Reporter.
On November 3, 2003, the last two sightings were reported to the National UFO Reporting Center, both from near Braddock Park.
At 5:40 p.m. that day, two North Bergen residents reported seeing something in the dusky sky. One witness saw something that looked like a star, but then it moved in circles, then in a zig-zag motion. It moved for about five seconds, stopped for a bit, then continued the circular and zigzagging routine. Another witness saw the same exact thing.
"At first I thought that my vision was playing with me, or may be the clouds, but I tried looking at other stars, and they did not move at all," reads the report on the National UFO Reporting Center board. "After an hour, the light became steady and stopped moving. I do not know if what I saw was a UFO, but it was too high to be a plane or a helicopter."
Even Peter Jennings knows
ABC News anchor Peter Jennings did a special report on UFOs in November of 2004, and he hinted about the number of sightings in North Bergen, wondering if it was just coincidence or fact-based. The A&E special report also focused an entire hour on the North Bergen sightings, especially the famed O'Barski sighting that happened 30 years ago this year.
In the ABC report, the network said that almost 50 percent of Americans believe that UFOs are real, not to mention millions of individuals in other countries. Federal records of the reports have never been released to the public.
North Bergen Police Chief William Galvin, a native of the township, remembers the craze from when he was a 21-year-old who had yet to become a police officer.
"I just remember the hype, and then I just saw the (A&E) special on TV, and it reminded me," Galvin said. "We laugh about it. No one has ever received a call reporting a UFO to the Police Department. It is a mind boggling number to think so many have been reported them here. But as far as I know, I don't remember anyone calling the police with these cases. We might have got a call or two about strange objects, but no one ever made a big deal about it. I can't believe we're No. 1 on that list. It amazes me."
Police Captain Robert Farley, a 32-year veteran of the department, said that he didn't even know about the sightings until the recent A&E special.
"I never knew anything about it," Farley said.
But obviously, the cases were reported. So when local people watch "War of the Worlds," they can wonder whether aliens already visited the largest recreational area in Hudson County 30 years ago.
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