The Truth About The Alien Invasion In The Hudson Valley

Modern interest in unidentified flying objects reached a crescendo in the 20th century when pilot Kenneth Arnold saw nine bizarre craft in formation near Mount Rainier in 1947. As documented by PBS, within six weeks of Arnold's story going public, 90% of Americans had heard the term "flying saucer." Soon, eyewitness accounts of similar objects poured in from across the country, sparking an Air Force investigation into the phenomenon.

The same year as Kenneth Arnold's aerial encounter, the United States military claimed to have recovered the remains of a crashed flying disc near Roswell, New Mexico. Although the Army quickly retracted its initial claims, recharacterizing the object as a crashed weather balloon, stories of recovered alien bodies and an elaborate cover-up persist to the present day.

In June 2021, the United States' defense and intelligence officials released a nine-page report acknowledging the existence of "unidentified aerial phenomenon" (UAP) and the danger they may pose to air traffic and national security. Far from the full disclosure ufologists had hoped for, the Pentagon's UFO report suggested that there is insufficient data to determine the origin of the objects.

Yet, many residents of New York's Hudson Valley need no official government report to convince them that UFOs are real. Since the 1980s, the area has gained a reputation as the UFO capital of the Northeast, with thousands having witnessed unexplained aerial phenomena and some claiming to have had physical contact with extraterrestrial beings. This is the truth behind New York state's alien invasion.

High strangeness in the Hudson Valley

Long before the Hudson Valley became a UFO hub, the region already had an admittedly spooky reputation. The area even inspired American author Washington Irving to write the classic gothic tale "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Although Irving's Headless Horseman may be the Hudson Valley's most famous literary spirit, the area is also host to many allegedly real hauntings.

Among the most intriguing true Hudson Valley ghost stories is the tale of Anna Dorothea Swarts. Swarts was dragged to death behind the horse of a wealthy Catskill landowner in 1755. Nearly a century later, the stretch of land where Swarts met her death was said to be haunted by a spectral horse dragging a "hideous skeleton." Other famous hauntings include a ghostly singer who can be heard in the wings of the historic Tarrytown Music Hall and the apparition of Sybil Harris King, who haunts Tarrytown's King House Mansion.

Strange lights have been seen in the Hudson River since the 18th century, according to Ellenville historian Richard McPhillips. "In the 1700s, these sailors were going up and down the Hudson River from New York City to ... Albany, and at night, they would see these unusual lights on both sides of the river," McPhillips told "The Pine Bush Chronicles." "They were very afraid of [the lights]. A lot of the sailors were kept in line because, if they screwed up, the threat was that they were going to throw them over to land, and they'd have to deal with these lights at night."

Before the flap — Hudson Valley UFOs of the '50s, '60s, and '70s

According to UFO researcher Linda Zimmerman, some of the first documented UFO sightings in the Hudson Valley occurred in July 1909. Citing contemporary newspaper reports, Zimmerman stated that the craft, referred to as an "airship," flew only at night in a manner impossible for the aircraft of the era and was seen moving from town to town along the Hudson River.

In 1953, young Hank Vanderbeck of Saugerties, New York, was playing with his friends on a warm, sunny summer day when he saw something unusual in the sky. Vanderbeck would describe the object as cigar-shaped and tapered on both ends. Hoops of alternating red and green light encircled the 300-foot-long craft. The object, which hung in the air over Saugerties for 20 minutes, caused a minor panic. Fighter jets from nearby Stewart Air Force base were dispatched, but the object sped away at an incredible rate of speed as they approached.

As documented in Ellen Crystall's "Silent Invasion," in 1968, Harold "Butch" Hunt was crossing Red Mills Bridge in Crawford, New York, when a metallic object measuring 70 to 100 feet in diameter bathed his car in light. The UFO followed a panicked Hunt for a while before disappearing into the night sky.

On January 4, 1971, Officer Robert Comeau of the Crawford Police Department was awakened by a whirring sound. Glancing out his window, Comeau saw a silver, disc-shaped UFO hovering several hundred feet from his home. Comeau watched the craft for 40 minutes.

Ellen Crystall makes contact

UFO researcher and author Ellen Crystall is largely responsible for bringing attention to the Hudson Valley sightings. Her 1991 book "Silent Invasion" is often credited with encouraging witnesses to come forward with their stories and opening public discourse about UFO activity in the region.

Fascinated by UFOs since childhood, Crystall became serious about the subject after witnessing strange lights in the skies over Hollywood, California, in 1971. As detailed in "Silent Invasion," a close encounter with a triangular UFO eventually frightened Crystall into leaving Los Angeles for her parents' home on the East Coast. Still, the sightings, many of which she photographed, continued unabated. 

Crystall first traveled to Pine Bush, New York, in 1980. Although the infamous flap of 1982 was still nearly two years away, the Hudson Valley community was already becoming known as a UFO hot spot. In July of that year, locals directed Crystall to a field where they claimed UFOs regularly landed. According to Crystall, she and her companions were surrounded by at least a dozen large triangular craft. In a scene she described as "like Grand Central Station at rush hour," the brightly lit UFOs filled the sky before landing in the nearby field. The following day, Crystall returned to the site, where she discovered burned areas and deep impressions in the soil.

Over the course of her years-long study of the Pine Bush sightings, Crystall allegedly saw hundreds of craft which seemed to actively interact with witnesses, as well extraterrestrial beings.

New Year's Eve, 1982 — the sightings begin

As detailed in "Night Siege" by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Philip J. Imbrogno, and Bob Pratt, minutes before midnight on December 31, 1982, a retired New York City police officer was celebrating the new year with his wife over a bottle of champagne. Having recently moved into their home in Kent, New York, the former cop decided to take another bottle outside to smash against the house in an informal christening ceremony. While cleaning up the shards of broken glass, he noticed a group of red, green, and white lights in the distance. Initially, he thought the lights belonged to an airliner in distress, but soon he noted that the object was moving too slowly to be a jet.

He quickly shouted to his wife to bring their movie camera. Just as she stepped outside, the object, then visible as a V-shaped structure, passed at an altitude of roughly 500 feet over the house. As the stunned husband and wife watched, the object emitted an intense white light, illuminating the ground around them, before slowly floating off in the direction of a nearby interstate.

Moments after the former policeman and his wife witnessed the UFO, 55-year-old warehouse foreman Edwin Hansen had a startling encounter with the same craft. While driving home, Hansen noticed lights hovering over the highway just ahead of his car. As Hansen drew closer, the object seemed to take notice and projected an intense beam of white light onto the road before turning away.

The Hudson Valley boomerangs

Throughout the Hudson Valley sightings of the 1980s and '90s, the most common type of UFO was described as being distinctly angular and shaped like a wedge or boomerang. As recounted by, eyewitness Kevin Soravilla, a retired Yorktown Police lieutenant, stated that the object he saw appeared to measure 100 yards from wingtip to wingtip and lumbered slowly and silently before performing a sudden 45-degree turn and speeding off. The inexplicable event prompted Soravilla to contact nearby Stewart Air Force Base to determine if he had seen one of its C-5 transport planes. Air Force officials told Soravilla that no C-5s had been in the area.

Along with the immense size and unique shape of the UFOs, many observers have noted that the craft were mechanical in nature despite their gravity-defying abilities. On February 26, 1983, Monique O'Driscoll, a 38-year-old mental health worker from Lake Carmel, New York, tracked a boomerang-shaped craft with pulsing red, blue, and amber lights on a rural back road. As the object passed over, she noted that the underside reminded her of the crisscrossed steel girders of bridges, with "tubular things here and there." In "Silent Invasion," Ellen Crystall describes the many wedge-shaped craft she saw as black with silvery elements. She also claimed that she could clearly make out seams along the UFO's surface marking areas where the riveted, metallic plates of the craft's hull appeared to be joined.

The invasion of March 24, 1983

As documented in "Night Siege," on the evening of March 24, 1983, the Hudson Valley was plunged into what seemed to be a full-scale UFO invasion.

The first reported sighting of the night came from Hunt Middleton. Middleton had just stepped off a commuter bus and was walking to his Bedford, New York, home when he spied unusual colored lights through the trees. "It was just hovering there in the sky," Middleton said. "I continued to watch for five minutes, and all this time the object did not move."

Later, computer consultant Steve Wittles of Carmel, New York, watched what was likely the same object drift slowly eastward over the tree line. Just a quarter-mile from Wittles' sighting, Dr. Lawrence Greenman, his wife Joan, and their three daughters observed the UFO through binoculars as it stopped in midair and hovered over the trees. Soon, the police switchboard in Yorktown began to light up as panicked citizens reported seeing the huge chevron-shaped object as it flew north along the Taconic Parkway.

Meanwhile, 15 miles north of the sightings along the Taconic Parkway in Westchester County, the citizens of the Putnam County communities of Kent, Carmel, Lake Carmel, and Brewster were witnessing a similar, albeit smaller, boomerang-shaped craft. The final reported sighting of the night came from Robert Golden of Danbury, Connecticut, who watched a slow-moving wedge of red, white, and green lights pass over the pines near his home.

Hudson Valley hoaxers

The UFO flap of March 24, 1983, was the talk of the Hudson Valley for days after the event. A newspaper article published two days later only served to increase the region's mania for the weirdness that seemed to continue in the skies of Westchester and Putnam Counties. As detailed in "Night Siege," local residents hoping to get a glimpse of the craft scanned the skies nightly. Calls poured in to a newly established UFO hotline at all hours of the day and night. Along with genuine, unexplained aerial phenomena, many people mistook the planets Venus and Jupiter for UFOs. Others reported conventional aircraft in their excitement.

Sgt. Kenneth V. Spiro of the New York State Police claimed that one of his officers had exposed the sightings as a hoax when he tracked the UFO to Stormville Airport in Dutchess County. "It was a group of light planes. They fly in formation," Spiro told The New York Times. "The planes are rigged with bright lights that they can turn from one color to another. ... The trooper spoke to a couple of the pilots, and they're getting a big kick out of it."

Still, those who had seen both the March 24 UFO and the planes could easily tell the difference. "I've seen those jerks five or six times,” witness William A. Pollard said of the trickster pilots. ”They were nothing like what I saw the first time, nothing like it at all. ... the first thing I saw was rigid — absolutely rigid."

Communion: the abduction of Whitley Strieber

Whitley Strieber certainly wasn't hungry for fame or attention before the events that befell him on December 26, 1985. A bestselling author, two of Strieber's novels, "The Wolfen" and "The Hunger," had been adapted for film.

In the winter of 1985, Strieber, his wife, and young son had enjoyed an idyllic Christmas at their secluded cabin near Pine Bush, New York. The snow that began on Christmas Eve continued to fall for the next two days, and they spent the day cross-country skiing and eating Christmas dinner leftovers. By 11 o'clock that night, the Striebers were sound asleep.

However, Whitley Strieber's post-holiday slumber was shattered when he found himself awakened by what he described as "whooshing, swirling noise" emanating from the downstairs living room. Attempting to return to sleep, Strieber next noticed a figure with "two dark holes for eyes" opening his bedroom door. Soon after, he was whisked through the woods near his cabin in a state of paralysis. As documented in "Communion," Strieber was then transported to an unfamiliar room where nonhuman entities performed what he perceived to be invasive medical experiments on his body. Among the beings Strieber allegedly encountered were small, vaguely robotic creatures, an "army" of small, stocky aliens with bluish skin, and slender entities with black, slanted eyes.

In the decades since his apparent abduction, Strieber has written a number of books in which he attempts to make sense of his experience. He remains a popular figure in the paranormal and ufology communities.

A support group for witnesses

The volume of UFO incidents and other unexplainable occurrences in the Hudson Valley has inspired a group of dedicated believers to organize. Founded in 1993, the United Friends Observer Society support group has held regular meetings for over 20 years. As explained by The Wallkill Valley Times, members gather to share their stories, discuss sightings, and provide comfort to those traumatized by their run-ins with the unknown. A safe space for witnesses, contactees, abductees, and others who have had inexplicable encounters, the group meets in Walker Valley Schoolhouse Community Center located just east of UFO capital Pine Bush, New York, and often hosts lectures by paranormal and ufological researchers.

A supportive and nurturing environment, the United Friends Observer Society offers UFO and paranormal enthusiasts a forum free from the skeptical eyes and snarky comments of doubters. In 2010, Robert VanDerClock, a UFO lecturer and United Friends Observer Society regular, explained the organization's appeal to Middletown, New York's Times-Herald Record. "It's interesting to hear what people say when they're not afraid to say it," VanDerClock said.   

Strange entities plague the Hudson Valley

On the periphery of the Hudson Valley's rampant UFO activity are several strange, and possibly related phenomena that don't easily fit into traditional paranormal or cryptozoological categories. Ralph C. Schubert allegedly came within 10 feet of a mysterious translucent humanoid entity behind his parents' home in Walker Valley, New York. "At first, I thought it was ... a stranger on the property ... playing hide and seek," Schubert told the makers of "The Pine Bush Chronicles." "It would ... stand against a tree ... like hiding behind it. And then it would walk to another tree ... I got the sense that it was looking at me."

According to "Weird New York," Pine Bush resident Jim Smith is no stranger to bizarre entities. "I've seen so many of the beings, I know how they move," Smith said. "They're different sizes, different shapes, but when you see them ... you know they're not of this earth." Among the beings Smith has seen are a 6'6" black-clad figure that moved horizontally through space and a headless cat with "piece of cardboard where the head should be."

The sightings continue

As documented by the authors of "Weird New York," UFO sightings dropped off dramatically in the Hudson Valley with the arrival of the new millennium. Although Pine Bush, New York, remained a UFO hots pot in the 2000s, strange flying craft no longer appeared with the frequency and regularity of the area's '80s and '90s heyday. 

However, there is evidence that the visitors may be returning. In March 2021, the Hudson Valley Post reported that there had been over 150 UFO sightings in upstate New York during 2020. Based on information compiled by the National UFO Reporting Center, the astonishing figure nearly doubled the number of sightings reported in 2019, with many occurring in the Hudson Valley.

Yet, the dramatic uptick in UFO sightings is likely not indicative of an impending alien invasion. According to an April 2021 New York Times article, the COVID-19 lockdowns saw many urbanites fleeing to the countryside. Faced with less light pollution and more time to look up, transplanted city dwellers were suddenly aware that they may not be alone in the universe.

Pine Bush cashes in

In the decades since the famous Hudson Valley sightings, the hamlet of Pine Bush, New York, has wholeheartedly embraced its reputation as the East Coast's UFO capital. As reported by Albany's Times Union, the community has hosted an annual festival celebrating the area's long history as a hub for extraterrestrial activity since 2008. The Pine Bush UFO Fair, which began as a small gathering of ufologists, has swelled into an annual event featuring costumes and a parade which draws thousands (mostly from Earth) every year.

With the success of the annual UFO Fair, Pine Bush community leaders decided their town needed a more permanent monument to their admittedly weird heritage. In June 2021, The Pine Bush UFO and Paranormal Museum opened. Documenting strange happenings ranging from the infamous UFO sightings of the '80s and '90s to the region's long history of ghosts and cryptids, the museum serves as both a celebration and a serious study of the Hudson Valley's ongoing relationship with the uncanny.