In the mid-1960s a UFO terrified a small New Jersey town. On a clear and cold mid-winter night, the community was infiltrated and “beamed upon” by rays that shot downward from a brilliant and eerie object. Over the decades the event has seemed to have faded from view for reasons that remain very murky. There are those who are no doubt very happy about this. But a closer examination of the event today reveals it to be the most credible and exceptional “mass sighting” of a UFO anywhere in all of human history. The sheer number of highly credible individuals who reported the sighting astounds.
By Anthony Bragalia
More significantly, the event was apparently photographed by the frightened. These extremely rare, little-seen images are controversial, and they are shown here.
Digging deeper this author has found records indicating that the US Government was concerned about ‘imposter military men’ that had infiltrated the community to suppress or dissuade them from reporting anything further on the incident. This may be another reason why this great mass UFO sighting is not so well known by the masses (or even many in the UFO research community.)
Finally, this author has also located and contacted an original witness from when the event occurred. In retirement he reluctantly confirms that the object that he saw (and remembers well, even 45 years later) was not of Earth.
The UFO That Terrified a Town
On January 11, 1966 in Wanaque, New Jersey (located in Passaic County) a bizarre and disturbing event began to unfold over this town of less than ten thousand. Most of the activity took place around the Wanaque Dam and the community’s key water resources. The event lasted about two and a half hours (6:20-8:58 PM) and it was seen by dozens of individuals. The police were flooded with incoming reports on the aerial object from around a 20-mile radius.
The UFO was reported as:
- Very white but occasionally changing colors, including red, blue and greenBut by far and away the most amazing and important feature reported about the UFO is this:
- Exceedingly bright and shining, but not flickering or twinkling
- Much larger than any star, at times appearing to assume an irregular egg-shaped, fuzzy structure (and described as perhaps the size of about “10 bright stars clumped together”)
- Gliding “low and oddly” across the vast frozen and semi-frozen waters, seemingly in a deliberate “pattern” (described by some as a circular pattern and sometimes maneuvering side to side and up and down.)
- Flying as low as 250 fifty feet above to as high as 1000 feet above witnesses
- Moving at moderate to fast speeds in complete silence (with no sound of motor or engine) and occasionally hovering or floating for periods of time
- Finally, zooming out of view at extreme speed after its “survey” of the area
During the duration of the sighting, the object would periodically shoot large beams of light from a porthole down towards the ice near the Wanaque Dam and the town’s reservoir and water resource facilities. The beams would then create holes in the ice as if they were burning through the freeze of winter with precision and ease! How mere “light” could do this (unless it was a laser or unknown energetic technology) is not understood. Sgt. Ben Thompson (see list of witnesses below) reported the UFO’s strange ability to suck together tree tops and to cause a rise in the reservoir’s water level.
Who Saw All of This?
Scores and scores of people from the town said that they saw parts of the event or the entire episode. These people include the Mayor, several Councilmen, numerous Law Enforcement personnel, the Reservoir Police and even a high-ranking Catholic nun.
This author has reviewed what little historical literature is available on the sighting. This includes a review of papers and other periodicals from 1966-1967 including: The New York Journal-American; the APRO Bulletin; NICAP Notes by Otto Binder, 1966; UFO Investigator Vol. III No. 6 Jan-Feb 1966 and area NJ and Tri-State newspapers (i.e. Newark News and the Star Ledger.) The list of key witnesses (included in brief interviews in newspapers at the time) are:
- Mayor Harry T. Wolfe and his Son BillyOther witnesses named in the Press at the time include two teenagers (Sloat and Melegrae) and Newark College of Engineering student John DiGiamoco as well as some of the wives and children of those listed above. It was reported that by night’s end, the Police Department had received “dozens” of phone call reports of the object from different locations and vantage points from surrounding areas. The early reports had apparently instigated town officials to convene at the Dam to see the sight for themselves. Of course not everyone saw all of the more spectacular aspects of the incident, with some only reporting less impressive “anomalies” depending on when they arrived, from where they viewed.
- Councilmen Warren Hagstrom, Arthur Barton and John Shuttle
- Civil Defense Administrators Bentley Spencer and Richard Vrooman
- Chief of Police Floyd Elson
- Officer George Dyckman
- Patrolman Joe Cisco
- Sgt. Bobby Gordon (Pompton Lakes Police)
- Sgts. Ben Thompson and David Sisco
- Patrolmen Edward Nestor and Jack Wardlaw
- Reservoir Police & Personnel George Destito, Charles Theodora, Fred Steines
- The Mother Superior of a Local Convent
What They Said
Key quotes about the event that I have found by combing though and culling reports from newspapers in the days following the event include:
Mayor Wolfe, who would characterize the whole thing by saying that “the phenomena was terribly strange.”
Officer George Dyckman: “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”
Reservoir employee Fred Steines stated: “A bolt of light shot down from it as if attracted to the water, like a beam emitted from a portal.”
Councilman Warren Hagstrom: “We got goose bumps all over when we saw where the hole was.”
Patrolman Joe Cisco (recorded on police radio): “Something landed in front of the dam. Something’s burning a hole in the ice! Something with a bright light on it, going up and down!”
The UFO That Terrified The Town –Photographed?
The extraordinary and rare photograph featured at the top of this article is said to be an actual image taken of the Wanaque UFO. It appears to be emitting a downward beam of “structured” light.
The beam is large, dense and “engineered” (as shown in its extreme angularity.) You can view an enlargement of the UFO/Beam photo below:
The light beam was said to have been “energetic” and could pierce or burn through the ice. Others saw the beam’s reflection on the ice and only that it was somehow impacting its surface. None of those who photographed the Wanaque UFO and beams wished to have their names publicly identified. Some of the photographs found their way to the late UFO researcher August C. Roberts.
Over 45 years after the original event, this author has located an original witness to Wanaque found mentioned in early-published reports. The witness (who prefers not to be publicly identified) replied it that though he is not 100% certain, it does appear “very similar” to what he has seen as a young man those many years ago.
Given the sheer number of highly reputable people who saw this event, it is inconceivable that more photographs were not taken. It is perhaps as great a mystery as the UFO itself: How could an event witnessed by scores of people for over two hours not have resulted in far more captured images of the craft? This is particularly odd given that many of the witnesses were law enforcement officials on patrol. This author has reason to believe that many Wanaque UFO photos (and perhaps film) were suppressed or remain in private, nervous hands to this very day.
A Few Other Photos That Made It Out
Series of Five Photos Taken at Wanaque and Published by Dell
Dell Publishing in NY (now Bantam/Random House) received a series of 5 black and white photos after the Wanaque event claiming to be of the craft and beam seen there. The submitter wished no acknowledgement and did not seek any compensation. Dell published the photos and, accompanying them, a very brief article in the 1967 issue of its publication, UFO Reports.
The photograph of the UFO and beam featured at the beginning of this article appears to be what could be yet another photo of this Dell series, but not included in the article. It appears similar to the fifth photo appearing in the Dell article, but it also reveals more view and detail (including an “interaction” between the water and the bottom of the beam.)
I am not aware of the location of the negatives (given they exist) nor the identity of the photographer/s who took these intriguing images. Though I cannot vouch for their authenticity, at least one of the witnesses contacted thought that there was a good similarity to what was seen at Wanaque (see interview below.)
They could though be “fakes” made after the event to simulate what had happened at Wanaque. Or perhaps they are of a similar event.
Or perhaps even still, they are genuine. They were sent to private researcher August Roberts and to Dell anonymously. They wanted to get them out, but perhaps feared potential retribution or unwanted attention. I intend on locating other of the known witnesses to see if they will or will not collaborate the photos as possible images of what was really seen at Wanaque.
This author has learned that unknown men posing as military officials descended upon Wanaque in the period after the sighting to intimidate and dissuade talk about the UFO. And the source for this is the U.S. Pentagon itself! Found buried in the defunct civilian UFO research organization’s publication APRO Bulletin (Jan-Feb, 1967) is a detailing of these “MIB” visits.
“Men dressed in uniforms or bearing credentials from government agencies have been silencing witnesses to the UFO at Wanaque. According to Pentagon spokesman Colonel George P. Freeman, ‘These men are not connected to the Air Force in any way.’ He cited a recent case in which the police officers and other witnesses at sightings in Wanaque, NJ and told them they had seen nothing and should not discuss the incident. Whoever he was, he wasn’t’ from the Air Force,’ Freeman stated.”
This helps to account for the lack of subsequent details or real investigation and the apparent absence of photographs of the event taken by those who would let their names be used.
The Same Thing Happens Two Hours Away On The Same Day
According to a 1966 civilian UFO research organization NICAP report by John Pagano found by this author, on January 11, 1966 at 7:45 p.m. – on the very same day and at the very same time- as the Wanaque, NJ sighting, another, similar sighting was taking place in Myerstown, PA, about two hundred miles from Wanaque. A nurse and others together in a car saw a luminous disc, like one saucer inverted on top of another, at relatively close range as it hovered above the car. After about five minutes, the object suddenly accelerated and sped away. The precise timing of the two sightings at the same time, the “luminosity” of the object, its being seen at close range and hovering – as well as its abrupt acceleration away - are all uncannily reminiscent of Wanaque.
The Sightings Continued
On October 15, 1966, less than a week after the original Wanaque sighting, Police Chief John Casazza with the Reservoir Force said that he and his friend Bob Dexter witnessed a strange sight in the air at about 10:40 at night behind some hills on the dam. According to an interview he conducted with early researcher Lloyd Mallan, he said, “it was shaped like an ellipse, but was flatter on the bottom and more round at the top. In length, it appeared three times larger than the Moon. It gave off kind of a light. White light. It was not flashing or blinking. Casazza send the craft was noiseless and moved slowly and then very fast out of view.
According to November 1966 issue of UFO Investigator from civilian research organization NICAP, later in the year in Wanaque (on October 10, 1966 at 9:15 PM) police officers observed a spherical object with a protrusion on one side emitting an extremely bright blinding light that lit up the terrain (environmental illumination.) The UFO hovered and moved around erratically at high speeds, making sharp turns and leaving a misty trail in its wake when it moved. Even the intervening decades Wanaque has had other similar aerial anomalies involving very brightly lit objects, including one the was reportedly filmed in 1992.
A Witness Speaks Today
This author located and spoke with a first-hand witness to the event who was a young Wanaque man in 1966 who was mentioned in the news at the time. This witness, not wishing disruption or re-involvement four and a half decades hence, agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity. Excerpts of what he said recently to me are telling:
“I remember the thing very well. I still do not know what it was. I think about it from time to time, but it’s no use because it doesn’t bring me any closer to knowing what it was.”(On the emailed alleged photo of the Wanaque UFO and beam):
“Maybe things that aren’t from here aren’t meant to be understood by us here.” He added, “ask anyone who will tell you , it was not a helicopter or something astronomical. It was…not…from our military or something we misidentified. It was a UFO, from somewhere else.”
“The beams or ray thing that came out from the bottom of the glob (globe?) was the thing that got to me. It made the light cut the ice out. It frightened us kids. And I’m sure the adults. Because we don’t have anything like that even today.”
“The adults didn’t really speak much about it after the initial thing that I could tell. I’d talk about it with my friends some time later and one of them told me that people came around to not say anything.”
“I am not 100%. I saw it from a different perspective. And not that close up or with a camera lens. But it is very similar to certain times when I saw it. The beam or huge ray, it kind of changed shape and the main body had a haze . Now that you are mentioning it, I have always wondered why none of the adults there, like the police, released any photos. They had to have had them taken. And the Reservoir police had cameras too. It went on for so long-people could have gone and come back to get one.”Perhaps additional witnesses will be found to help clarify the mysterious night all those years ago. Maybe they can recall if these images remind them of what they saw.
Military Denial & Explanations Offered
Though the US military denied having knowledge of the Wanaque affair, this is directly contradicted by Sgt Bobby Gordon of the Pompton Lakes Police Force, who was an eye-witness. About 15 minutes after the “main event” and the craft had left, Gordon said, he saw the abrupt and mysterious appearance of seven helicopters and 10 or so high-performance jets over the Wanaque Reservoir. Gordon believes that these overflights were no coincidental to the sightings of the strange UFO. Gordon said that he did not report this to the Air Force as he said “I had enough aggravation on my job, so that I don’ have to go outside to get it.”
1960s UFO researcher Llloyd Mallan conducted a private investigation of the incident. He called numbers of officials to see if they would lay claim to the overflight of US aircraft in the wake of the Wanaque sighting. The U.S. Navy, FAA, US Coast Guard, Wright Patterson Air Force Base and other Air Bases and the US Coast Guard all denied knowledge of any such flights. Mallan believed that the military scrambled to investigate and to learn more about a craft that was not their own.
And some of skeptical inclination have offered up several ill-conceived and far-reaching “answers” or solutions to the true nature of the Wanaque sightings. Though few if any proffer a hoax explanation, some have said it was:
A Balloon–McGuire AFB in Wrightstown speculated it was a weather balloon that traveled from Kennedy International Airport, which the Pentagon initially agreed with. Later McGuire said it was not and the Pentagon offered a new explanation
Venus and Jupiter–The Pentagon later offered that these planets were in alignment creating a strange effect
Helicopters or other Aircraft–Stewart AFB in Newburgh, NY said it was a helicopter with a powerful beacon on a night mission. They later “soft-pedaled” on this explanation, likely realizing all of the other conflicting “real reasons” given for the sighting by other officials
Ball Lightning –“Ball lightning” was offered as an explanation to Wanaque when the question was posed to arch-skeptic Phil Klass by a researcher. But ball lightning is a very rare form of lightning. It can appear white, spherical and luminous and even pierce window pane. However the duration of the phenomenon is typically no longer that two minutes –not two hours like the sighting at Wanaque. And ball lighting forms are typically no more than eight inches. At the extreme outset they have been seen briefly at a meter or so in diameter- but not several feet in diameter, as at Wanaque. And the craft at Wanaque remained “formed” with fuzzy “structure” whereas ball lighting rather quickly “peters out” into nothingness. And ball lightning cannot float, dart, travel in circles and up and down in a pattern. Lastly, ball lightning cannot shoot sharp beams out of itself, emitting beam-like structures. As a 10 year old boy, this author experienced ball lightning. My mother was on one side of the living room and I on the other. A terrific summer storm was raging. Then, out of nowhere, a “energy ball” of light about the size of a small fist pierced through our picture window and streaked in an instant to a light socket, which sparked and burned. No way was this like Wanaque.
Every single witness ever contacted disagrees with all of these “explanations.” All say that none in any way account for what was viewed at relatively close range for a long time. They insist that it was not a manmade craft (it was silent and blinding, making impossible maneuvers) or a celestial body (though it was the size of “10 stars”) nor was it ball lightening (though it shot from its underside strange, large and powerful light beams.
The Truth About The Mass Sighting at Wanaque
We have learned many things about Wanaque:
One truth is that there was very little meaningful investigation done at the time about this astounding aerial encounter. Project Blue Book and the Air Force did nothing substantial, if at all. Military or intelligence did not make contact with witnesses to conduct in-depth interviews and to perform on-site investigations (at least that we know of.) No one was officially dispatched to technically evaluate the UFO beam’s impact on the ice. No water samples were taken, no deep-freeze divers were ordered down, and no radiation testing was conducted. Indeed the only ones that seemed interested were media, and then only briefly. And it was largely local coverage with limited follow-up and no real independent investigative reporting. It even had limited mention in the UFO press. It gets no mention at all in most all of the major UFO encyclopedias today for instance.
The other truth learned is that very large numbers of very credible people reported very identical things at the very same time. None of them has ever gained or sought any fame or reward for telling their piece of what they know.
And what else is known is that pictures that had to have been taken were never made openly public. Those that may have, as show here, unfortunately have no provenance. Others may have been suppressed or confiscated. The reason that this is so (and that even today why many are reticent to discuss the event in detail) is that some in the community were intimidated by real or imposter military authorities who warned them not to say much.
Finally we learn that if the craft that visited and brought rays down upon Wanaque was not military, nor any type of craft made by people, and not a stellar or atmospheric aberration. It hovered and maneuvered silently at will in a deliberate pattern. It was intelligently controlled. It blinded with its intense white and colored lights. It was amorphous, changing fuzzily from structure to energetic glob. It shot forth with precision some form of unusual light energy capable of piercing and carving winter ice. It entranced those who saw it. And then it left in a near instant. It was out of everyone’s vision. But it would forever emblazon everyone’s mind with the sight of the unearthly.
Indeed this “weirdness at Wanaque” was so alien that one can only conclude that it was just that…Alien.
* Special Thanks To Tony Bragalia & Rich Reynolds
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