by Charles Lear
Linda Zimmermann, who specializes in UFO sightings reports from New York’s Hudson River Valley, has often mentioned her amazement at how much activity there was in her “own back yard.” That got me to wondering what there was in my back yard. I live in Queens, so Hudson River Valley is my north 40 and my backyard is Long Island. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this area, Manhattan is across the Hudson River, east of New Jersey and Brooklyn and Queens are across the East River east of Manhattan on the western tip of Long Island. It turns out that Long Island is a great place to be for someone with an interest in UFOs, with plenty of sightings and a lot of craziness.
A very old classic case reported Sept. 12, 1880 in The New York Times involved not a flying object but a flying man. The article begins, “One day last week a marvelous apparition was seen near Coney Island. At the height of at least a thousand feet in the air a strange object was in the act of flying toward the New Jersey coast. It was apparently a man with bat’s wings and improved frog’s legs. The face of the man could be distinctly seen, and it wore a cruel and determined expression.” It goes on to speculate as to who the mystery flyer might be and settles on a “Mr. Talmage.” Alex Wallach, who writes for untapped cities, investigated and concluded that the person referred to was probably Thomas Dewitt Talmadge, a notorious preacher in Brooklyn Heights known for his “acrobatic” preaching style, who was trained in gymnastics and promoted physical fitness. There are articles from the time period mocking him in various ways and when reading the entire New York Times piece with this in mind, it seems that this is one of those and that the flying man was an invention by the writer to this end.
The first major recognition of Long Island UFOs comes in John Keel’s 1975 book, “The Mothman Prophecies.” Chapter 15 is titled, “Misery on the Mount” and the “Mount” is Long Island’s Mount Misery, which is an impressive, 400 foot pile of gravel and sand in West Hills County Park left behind by a glacier that stopped by around 20,000 years ago. After writing about an MIB visit on the Mount, Keel focuses on a 1967 flap there that attracted mobs of sky watchers after local radio personality, Jaye P. Paro, reported the sightings. A young female contactee, called “Jane” in the book, who talks with an alien named Apol comes out of all this and tells her story to Paro who puts her in touch with Keel. Paro is then approached by a large, gasping, dark-skinned woman in a feathered costume claiming to be from the planet Ceres, who calls herself Princess Moon Owl. Miss Moon Owl went on to achieve a good deal of publicity and Keel implies that she may have been part of a publicity campaign by Saucer News editor, James Moseley, for a UFO convention he was organizing. Keel finishes the chapter focusing on Apol, who was providing him with prophecies through Jane after he had taken her to Mount Misery and hypnotized her. Besides all this, Mount Misery has a long, local history of ghosts and demon dogs and, if we can believe a picture Paro snapped of a hairy humanoid published in a 1969 edition of Beyond, maybe even a Wildman.
Long Island’s next moment in the UFO spotlight came in the 1990’s with the arrest of John Ford, June 13, 1996. Ford was the founder, in 1988, of the Long Island UFO Network and was accused, along with two other members, of conspiring to murder three minor conservative political figures by poisoning them with radium. Activists in a campaign to free Ford claimed he was arrested as part of a cover-up around two UFO crashes: one in 1989 at Moriches Bay, the other in 1992 in Southaven Park. In 1997, Ford was found unfit to stand trial and sent to the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center in New Hampton where he apparently remains.
The Moriches Bay incident was LIUFON’s first investigation and it was based on the anonymous witness testimony of a family who observed military and police helicopters hovering over a downed craft on a beach and circling a large “mother ship” according to their 1989 press release. They also stated that they had “impounded” 48 photos pending investigation. The story got more complicated and convoluted as the years went by and came to involve Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) and a planned downing and retrieval of an alien craft. Jeff Rense has a thorough rendering of the case where he names the witnesses and includes many others. Something strange does seem to have happened there and what’s also strange is that Moriches Bay was the site of the 1996 TWA Flight 800 disaster, which spawned its own conspiracy theories.
On November 24, 1992 just after 7pm, LIUFON started getting reports that something had gone down in Southaven Park along with reports of rumblings and strange lights. There was a fire that was handled by the Brookhaven National Laboratory Fire Department, alleged military-style road blocks manned by men in black jumpsuits and the park was closed for a week afterward. LIUFON did a subsequent investigation claiming to have found a site with bent over trees and bulldozed areas. They claimed to have had first hand witnesses who later refused to come forward and ultimately their investigation was cut short by Ford’s arrest.
The Southaven case is also strange and not resolved by any means but it needs to be noted that one of LIUFON’s members was Preston Nichols who stirred up his own conspiracy stew with a series of 5 books, the first of which was published in 1992, known as “The Montauk Series.” Nichols claimed to have recovered memories of being involved in secret military time travel experiments that were an extension of the Philadelphia Experiment (which has been thoroughly debunked) that started at Brookhaven National Labs and later transferred to Camp Hero at Montauk. The Montauk stories are dark, sinister and rife with the paranoia rampant in the UFO field during the 90’s and it’s interesting that Ford tied Brookhaven to Moriches Bay. As for Brookhaven’s fire department handling the Southaven fire, an explanation for their being there was that they were the closest available but, given Ford’s suspicions it was, perhaps, an unfortunate coincidence. Ford released a 102 page “My Statement to the Media” as reported in the Washington Post that includes claims of being a CIA agent from the age of 19 and that there had been five assassination attempts on him by the KGB so it’s reasonable to conclude he suffered from delusion.
Recent sightings on Long Island are of the more mundane type but they are numerous. In “UFO Sightings Desk Reference: United States of America 2001-2015” written by Cheryl and Linda Costa, Long Island is credited with 830 reported sightings during the period named in the title. A notable case was investigated by Long Island MUFON field investigator, Joseph Flammer. He wrote that Emily Blinder of South Huntington reported seeing a triangular craft in January of 2017 that was 55 feet away from her moving slowly above the trees. It just so happened that she was at the base of that famous mound of weirdness, Mt. Misery. What’s in your back yard?