Believers mark 40th anniversary in KecksburgFree-lance journalist John Horrigan knows UFOs.
By A.J. Panian
By A.J. Panian
Since 1990, Horrigan, of Watertown, Mass., has visited the scenes of incidents widely believed to involve unidentified flying objects, including three trips to Roswell, N.M., and one to Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia.
"I've done a number of stories around the world involving reported UFO crashes," Horrigan said. "When I'd heard of all these witnesses from various walks of life and heard their stories, I thought that all of them can't be lying. I also wondered why these things were being ignored by mainstream media or covered up."
Add the mystery surrounding Kecksburg to his list of inquiries.
Horrigan was there Saturday, along with about 250 others, observing the 40th anniversary of a still-disputed accounting of what happened on Dec. 9, 1965, that over time has drawn an international eye to this tiny farming village in Mt. Pleasant Township.
"News of this anniversary went on the international newswire, so it's been in papers from South Africa to Canada, all over the place; the phones have just been ringing day and night," said Stan Gordon, of Greensburg, who organized the event and has spent a lifetime investigating the incident, in which a large, metallic acorn-shaped object supposedly streaked through the region's skies before plummeting into a patch of woods near the town.
The anniversary event attracted many who were on the scene that day. Each testified that military and police officials restricted all access to the woods where the crash is believed to have occurred, left the scene with the suspected object in tow on a flatbed trailer, and subsequently denied finding anything.
Bob Gatty, a former Tribune-Review reporter who wrote the initial articles on the incident, said follow-up inquiries into that singular event have tailed him ever since.
"I've been a journalist and congressional aide for about 42 years, and nothing has stuck with me like this story," Gatty said. "When I got to Kecksburg that night, I was met by Army people and state cops with guns who told me I couldn't go any further. All these years, this story has been kept alive. There has to be a reason why that is. The reason is because the government is covering something up."
A report was given by Lee Helfrich, an attorney with Lobel, Novins and Lamont, Washington, D.C. Helfrich is representing journalist Leslie Kean in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in December 2003, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to get the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to release records of what happened that day in Kecksburg. Kean is an investigative reporter backed in the suit by the Sci Fi Channel's director of special projects, Larry Landsman.
"When we first filed the suit, the government immediately went in and asked the court to rule in its favor, which is typical. Our argument was that they didn't conduct an adequate search. They never even looked for this information," Helfrich said.
In May, U.S. District Judge Emmitt Sullivan restricted the filing of any further case information pending review of submitted data. On Friday, Helfrich asked Sullivan to lift his restriction on new information so she could file for a ruling in Kean's favor. She is awaiting his decision.
"We're hoping to get some response soon," said Kean, adding that the government may never relinquish documents revealing the truth of the matter. "It's quite possible that records have been expunged, or that whatever records remain are so highly classified that we will never get them. But they're obligated to tell us that, and they haven't done that."
A NASA spokesman told The Associated Press there is no cover-up and the UFO was a Soviet satellite, although government records have been lost.
A chasm ultimately formed between town residents who believed a UFO had crashed there, and those who thought the incident a hoax, Horrigan said. Just as astonishing, he added, is the way the lore behind the incident has now galvanized the community.
"Forty years on, and everyone is here to offer praise to one another, and that's great," Horrigan said. "There's no way that they can stop (Kecksburg) from being a tourist destination, so they might as well embrace the tourism as opposed to trying to reject it. There's nothing wrong with that, and the community should be proud."
A refurbished miniature replica of the object believed by many to have landed near the town was on display for the event. The prop, used in 1990 during an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, was refurbished by local businesses, said Ron Struble, president of the Kecksburg UFO Festival Committee.
"The (UFO replica) is going up on the platform that's already being designed for display during a fall festival here in September of 2006," Struble said.
* Special Thanks To Christian Macé
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