New York Field Investigator
As Hanger 1 leads to greater awareness of MUFON: An old experience is newly filed.
Forty-three years ago a close encounter with a UFO left a couple of star-crossed teenage lovers shattered on a Long Island beach. “For over 40 years I’ve just wanted to sleep,” says Gary, who says he lost much of his ability to taste food after the close encounter he and “Jean” experienced on Long Island. “I want to sleep. I never get more than two or three hours. The bad dreams always come back….Who am I going to tell this to besides MUFON?”
Tonight the beach is empty. The moon is full. A warm breeze blows. Gary is necking with his girlfriend, “Jean.” They are typical Long Island kids on summer vacation. And they’re in love.
The year is 1972. The two 17-year-olds have their whole lives ahead of them. They often talk of the exciting possibilities. College is coming up. Then they’ll get good jobs. Who knows: marriage after that? Maybe even kids, later –could be!
Then the UFO came to the beach that night and struck like a cobra, poisoning their lives and destroying their plans forever.
At first the kids thought the enormous yellowish-white light was “a meteor flying above the water.” After all, they were on the beach that night not just to neck, but to view the shooting stars display of the Perseids meteor shower.
But the meteor out on the water suddenly made a 90-degree turn and went under the water, then aimed itself right for them. They knew meteors don’t make sharp turns and travel horizontally under water. Then, poof! Four hours were gone, and neither Gary nor Jean could account for where they were or what they had done during that time. Suddenly, fear gripped their lives.
Flash to 24 years later - after Gary had served in the Green Berets and gone to college to study physics, and Jean had been in and out of mental institutions because of her repeated mental breakdowns and bouts with anorexia: Yes, the same sandy shore of the same unlucky beach where the teenagers had their dreadful incident, looking out on the same strange body of water, Moriches Bay – is the site where Long Islanders witnessed a horrific jet explosion that killed hundreds of people – 14 years after Gary and Jean had their awful experience there.
On July 17, 1996, Pan Am Fight 800 combusted into thunderous fireballs of red, yellow and blue flames over the dark green waters of Moriches Bay, 10 miles out from the south shore of sunny Long Island. Bathers on the local beaches of Fire Island, a nearby barrier reef island, pointed up to the embroiled jet because the explosion occurred in broad daylight in a sky that was a perfect blue with no place for the fireballs to hide from view.
“Look at that!” people cried.
All 230 passengers and crew died aboard the doomed jetliner that fateful day.
In 2000, after four years of studying the reconstructed jet in a hanger near to the bay, the Federal Aviation Administration determined the explosion was caused by a spark that ignited fumes in a fuel tank, breaking in half the belly and back of the 747 as it roared through the air.
Many of the people who witnessed the explosion didn’t buy the government’s 2000 explanation, despite the fact that a thousand FBI agents had been assigned to the case.
Many people said they saw “something” approaching the jet before it exploded. One witness, for example, told ABC News that she saw a “red dot” go up to the jet just before it combusted. Pierre Salinger, an ABC News correspondent, spearheaded claims that friendly fire from the U.S. Navy’s USS Normandy, a guided missile cruiser, shot down the jet by mistake: the claim was largely ignored. The government insisted an optical illusion led some people to think they saw a missile, but what they really saw were parts of the jet flying through the sky as the craft blew apart.
People who lived on Long Island, and knew that UFOs were often seen over Moriches Bay, suspected a UFO brought down the Boeing jumbo jet. They suggested that perhaps aliens shot down the jetliner in retaliation for the UFO that had reportedly been shot out of the sky in the same place in September, 1989. In this scenario, alien bodies were collected by elite black military ops soldiers in black helicopters – or so the legend goes.
People such as Carmela Somma of Manorville, 80 at the time I interviewed her, now deceased, said she couldn’t remember the exact date in September, but couldn’t forget the day the UFO got shot down by the military because it was the day a Canadian goose fell dead out of the sky right into her dirt driveway with a mushroom cloud of dust rising 10 feet into the air above it; and a crow flew headlong into her living room bay window, breaking the glass while also breaking its own neck. “Something was going on in those skies!” feisty, white-haired Carmela insisted, pointing her tea cup at my chin with fire in her eyes, spilling a quarter of its contents on the fine cherry wood table in her country home in the woods. She didn’t care about the table because her story was more important at the moment. “That’s the day the military was all over the place like ants,” she went on. “I was outside burying the goose and the crow out near the road and they stopped here in front of my house to ask me where they could buy coffee, and how to get to the bay.”
Mrs. Somma said she never saw anything written in local newspapers about all the activity of those two days out on Moriches Bay and thought it odd that such an event could go unnoticed by television and newspaper reporters. People in town whispered, however, that two UFOs had been shot down by military jets, she said.
Then, in the weeks and months to come after Flight 800 exploded in 1996, UFOs started appearing regularly again over Moriches Bay. According to Preston Dennett, author of UFOs Over New York (Schiffer: 2008), in November, 1996, a Swissair 747 on the way to JFK on Long Island related to air traffic control in Boston, MA a near miss with a white object traveling in the opposite direction. The captain said the object went right over the airplane. A transcript from the call with the Boston controller has the captain saying, “It was too fast to be an airplane.” This took place over Moriches Bay.
Then a month later, a Saudi 747 had to be diverted away from Moriches Bay after the captain spotted a green, flare-like object hanging over the jet when they were in the exact area where Flight 800 exploded. The object appeared on the plane’s radar. The jet was headed to JFK, but it was diverted to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C.
There had been other documented sightings of UFOs over the bay around that time.
Now let’s get back to Gary and his girlfriend, who were the victims of a UFO close encounter while at Moriches Bay.
Gary’s experience was Case # 62629, emailed to me by Nick Voulgaris, New York MUFON’s Chief Investigator in mid-January, 2015. Like other MUFON Field Investigators who take reports of UFOs from witnesses, I was eager to hear Gary’s story and take notes for the CMS file I had to complete, even though I was aware the event happened over four decades earlier.
After talking with Gary on the telephone, here’s what I put in my report:
“Witness is a former Long Island resident. He currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is 62. He told me of a bizarre episode of a sighting and missing time that has disrupted his life and the life of a fellow witness to the point that it ruined both their lives. Witness reported his story to MUFON 43 years after the event took place because he never knew who he could tell, he said. It wasn’t until he saw a story about missing time that aired on the television show, “Hangar 1: The UFO Files,” that he realized he could relate his experience to MUFON – “that there was somebody out there who would actually listen to me and not laugh,” he said. “Everybody always laughs.”
According to the witness, he was on a beach near a jetty with his girlfriend at a lovers’ lane area at Moriches Bay Inlet on Fire Island in August, 1972, watching the Perseids meteor shower in the vast sky. Neither he nor “Jean” had been drinking alcohol or doing drugs, he attested.
“It was a romantic evening,” Gary began. “It was August and warm, a nice breeze was blowing, when suddenly my girlfriend said, ‘Hey, Gary, what’s that?’
“I turned and looked out at the water and saw what I thought was a meteor heading right towards us. It was scary. It was flying above the water in a straight line. It didn’t look like it was on fire, it was more like a giant white light with a yellowish tinge, but not a blaring white light like a headlight, but more like a bright white object. It was getting closer quickly and getting larger as it got nearer. It was absolutely silent, too.”
The witness stated the object might have been the size of a 707 jet, “maybe 70 or 80 feet across.”
“Suddenly the object went into the ocean and submerged at a place about a half mile from us,” Gary continued. “We could still see the light. It was maybe 50 feet below the water. It was coming at us fast, a light under the dark water. Then it just stopped and made a 90-degree turn to the left.
“I ran along the rocks of the jetty to a light beacon,” the witness continued. “It was like a small tower, and I climbed onto it so I could get a better view. My girlfriend was still taking her time along the rocks of the jetty on her way to me. Then I suddenly noticed the light was coming at us. It was moving very fast at us, moving maybe a 100 miles an hour under the water coming to us!
“Then the next thing we knew we were beside a road about 300 yards away from where we were on the jetty, not knowing how we got there or what happened. My girlfriend was sitting on the ground shaking and crying. I kept asking her, ‘What just happened? What just happened?’ But she couldn’t answer. She just sat there trembling and crying, unable to speak because she was so traumatized, so scared of something. We both felt terrible fear.
“I looked at my watch. Four hours had passed since we were on the jetty. It was three in the morning. I thought my watch was broken, but it wasn’t. It worked perfectly. We couldn’t account for the four hours of missing time. Something had happened to us, but we didn’t know what.
“After that the girl never wanted to see me again,” Gary went on. “She had a mental breakdown and was hospitalized. It’s kind of a sad story because she has been in and out of mental institutions ever since. She became anorexic and…well, she didn’t want to have anything to do with me again, so I lost touch.
“Later in my life I went back to New York just before 9/11 in 2001. I asked people at that time what they knew about “Jean.” They said she wasn’t doing too good. She was in and out of hospitals. Yes, she was alive still after nearly 30 years, but I didn’t know where she was or what was happening to her. I was back in New York another time since then and asked about her again and people shook their heads. Her life was not right, they said. Not right ever since she experienced the UFO on the beach with me.”
According to the witness, he went on to become a Green Beret and later even started a family, but like Jean, things were not right for him, either.
The major consequence of the UFO experience was that he could never sleep properly afterwards, he told me. “For 40 years I have the same dream every night; and if I wake up to try to end the dream, it starts all over again as soon as I fall back to sleep.
“In the dream I’m being pursued,” the witness continued. “Something is after me. It’s chasing after me. I don’t know what it is. I can never see it. I can run fast and for miles in my dreams; I know I’m dreaming because after many thousands of times having the same dream, I know even as I’m dreaming I can’t run for miles any more because I’m older now, and I wake myself up . I never sleep more than two or three hours a night.
“I signed into sleep studies where they hooked probes up to me to monitor my brain and studied my sleeping patterns. Even with all that they never could tell me why I couldn’t sleep. They told me that I would die of exhaustion if I don’t achieve a delta state of sleep soon. But I’m still here after 40 years. I really want to sleep. I want to sleep.”
Witness said he does not see strange beings in his dreams. “I know I don’t scream or anything in my sleep,” he said, anticipating my next question.
Gary said he knows his dreams have much to do with his experience of missing time and the white object that rapidly advanced upon him and his girlfriend as they peered out over the dark UFO infested waters of strange Moriches Bay from the jetty.
When asked if he recalls any faces or strange beings in his dreams, he said, “No, never.” When asked if he recalled any scoop marks, strange markings on his skin, bumps or rashes on his body immediately after the episode of missing time, he said, “No, I really didn’t look for anything when it happened, and I don’t remember any.”
At no point did Gary state that he had been abducted; nor did he call the object that approached him a spaceship. He never used the word aliens, either. He seemed to go out of his way to avoid these words, sometimes giving me the impression he wanted me to say the words for him, which I would not because MUFON has experts for the job of determining whether or not a witness is also an Experiencer – an abductee who had been taken into a spaceships by aliens. It’s not my job to figure all this out. I’m not that experienced with abductions. As a Field Investigator, I take the reports.
However, the witness stated he has met people who have had similar experiences as him and they claimed to have been abducted; and while he feels a connection to their stories, he does not necessarily believe or want to believe he had been abducted by creatures from some other world. “People laugh at me when I tell them this story,” he said. “That’s why I contacted MUFON, I knew MUFON wouldn’t laugh.”
I told Gary of the MUFON Experiencer Research Team and said I would send him an email explaining how to get to the Experiencer Questionnaire on the MUFON.com website which he could complete in a few minutes online. He said he would fill it out and submit it. Gary is near deaf so he has great difficulty hearing voices on the telephone. I told him I would correspond with him henceforth by email.
A few days after interviewing Gary he wrote me an email telling me he forgot to say that following the UFO experience he had he lost his sense of taste and has since had to use spices to taste anything. He said he didn’t know if his dulled taste buds had anything to do with his UFO experience. I think he wanted me to tell him it probably did. But, you know, that’s not my job.
Enter Kathleen Marden.
“Call me Kathy,” she wrote in an email back to me when I queried her attention. Kathy is Director of MUFON’s Experiencer Research Team (ERT). She is also the well known and highly respected author of books about abductions and ET contact experiences. Many people might also know her as the niece of Barney and Betty Hill, who claimed they were abducted in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in 1961. It was a highly publicized case. Kathy has written extensively about the Hills and is considered the world’s authority about their abduction experience and other pertinent events in their lives.
In correspondence with her, Kathy acknowledged members of her family have had abduction experiences since 1961. She indicated that she had had such experiences, too. She suggested I put Gary in touch with her about his and Jean’s sighting and episode of missing time.
But Kathy also sent me a paper she had written about an abduction case at Bluff Ledge summer girl’s camp on Lake Champlain in Vermont on August 7. 1968. The case was investigated by Walter N. Webb of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomenon (NICAP) and subsequently written about in Webb’s 1993 book, Encounter at Bluff Ledge. “Sixteen-year-old “Michael” a waterfront maintenance worker and 19-year-old “Janet Cornell,” a water skiing instructor, were lounging on the dock at the Bluff,” started Ms. Marden’s description of the UFO event in the paper. It goes on to say that the teenagers spotted a UFO: It “plunged into the lake.”
The UFO then traveled under water to the dock: “Within seconds the object was directly overhead. It emitted an intense cone-shaped beam which engulfed the teens.”
The paper goes on to say, “After the craft departed, ‘Janet’ and ‘Michael’ conversed briefly about their overwhelming fatigue and desire for sleep, but neither discussed the UFO incident….
“Soon the summer ended and the pair went their separate ways.”
Then, 10 years later, Michael sought help to deal with his experience. Janet was tracked down and both underwent separate hypnosis sessions.
“Michael” recalled observing “Janet” lying on a rectangular table surrounded by two non-human entities, while a third appeared to be monitoring test results on several screens.”
Marden’s paper about the Bluff Ledge case goes on to say, “Skin samples, bodily fluids, blood and ova were extracted. He also underwent an examination on the table next to Janet’s, but he lost consciousness immediately after he was placed on the table.”
In an email to me, Kathy wrote, “Please refer the witness to the ERT… We’ll do what we can to help him. No one should have to suffer this level of trauma without being taken seriously. Like 74 percent of abductees he has difficulty falling asleep at night. When he does, his sleep is too shallow to be restorative…. It usually helps people when they talk with me or a member of my team…. He might not want to know the details of what occurred on that fateful night in 1972, but we on the ERT can offer him understanding and support.”
In fact, it is understanding and support that MUFON Field Investigators also offer the witnesses we interview, even if we must remain neutral while we’re interviewing them, always wondering about their credibility as we listen to their stories, and working to get the details right as we jot them down on paper. But just by listening, we are helping.
Many of these witnesses and Experiencers may feel ill-at-ease telling friends and family members about strange UFO-type things that happened to them. The fact that MUFON has an Experiencer Research Team that is geared to helping people find the answers they need about what might have happened to them during an abduction or missing time episode, and to direct them to other levels of help, tells us MUFON plays an important role in society, for besides mental health professionals, to whom else can these victims turn? After all, our government denies official encounters with UFOs and aliens. In essence, this leaves lone abductees at the mercy of more intelligent life forms that study humans for their own reasons. And in most cases where people are helped by ERT, it all starts with us – Field Investigators – carefully listening to people’s experiences and methodically jotting down notes to be transferred into CMS so they can be directed to the right people.
It might have taken the television show “Hangar 1” to alert many people like Gary to the fact that MUFON is here to listen to their UFO experiences, and that ERT is here to help sort out close encounters. But in 2019, MUFON will have been around for 50 years, contributing to society by helping track experiences and allowing individuals with bottled-up anxieties to exhale and reveal their traumatizing ordeals. We do this just by listening.
So what about Gary?
Gary was sent in the right direction. He contacted Kathleen Marden and she will take it from there. MUFON prides itself in respecting the privacy of witnesses, so we might never know what Gary’s next step to healing might be. He might decide to pursue hypnotic regression so he can try to uncover the truth about what happened to him and Jean during the four hours of missing time. Or he might chose to learn self-hypnosis to deal with his sleeping disorder. Maybe he’ll undertake both. Perhaps he might consult with medical doctors or a psychologist or psychiatrist, or maybe he’ll join an Experiencers’ group to talk about what happened to him. It’s up to him. From this point on his growth is entirely private and will remain outside of our knowledge as it will not be included in the CMS report about his case. As far as MUFON is concerned, what’s important for him is that he finds help to better his life.
And now he has.
“The details that the witness offered are classic among cases of alien abduction” wrote Kathy Marden in an email to me. “It is so unfortunate that this young couple didn’t know who to report their experience to back in 1972. If they had gotten help then, their lives might have been a lot different….lives should not be ruined because of this.”
Joseph Flammer is the author of UFOs Over Long Island (Schiffer: 2015).