A Continuing History of Sightings of
in the Wallkill River Valley of New York State
For a number of years (since 1992 for BC) the authors have conducted field research on what we now call Transient Luminescent Phenomena (TLP), commonly known as the UFO phenomenon. We prefer the name TLP, because it is more neutral and does not connote an extraterrestrial origin or implication. Our research has been concentrated in a region of the Wallkill River valley of New York, commonly referred to as Pine Bush. Dr. Ellen Crystall wrote the book Silent Invasion (1991), which is based on her then 10 year old study of this unusual light activity in the valley. Other books, such as Night Siege by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Phil Imbrognio, and Bob Pratt (1987), discuss mass sightings of TLPs in the Hudson River valley region just to the east of Pine Bush during the early and mid 1980's. This phenomenon is well known to most of the local inhabitants, many of whom have had sightings. Anyone who has visited Butch's Barber Shop in Pine Bush will find a wall containing many newspaper articles on the subject of UFOs. Two years ago there was a large billboard on the side of a barn picturing a classic UFO. It could be seen from State Route 17 going north just before the exit for State Route 302 to Pine Bush. The billboard stated: "ET Came Home... to Pine Bush. You Can Too!!" It has since been taken down. All the attention this phenomenon has gotten in the region underscores the fact that something highly unusual has been occurring there for many decades.
This article is based on a series of recent sightings and videotapes taken of the famous Pine Bush "Black Triangle", which is illustrated by Crystall as a drawing in her book as it hovers above a cemetery along State Route 52 between Pine Bush and Walden, NY. The center of UFO or TLP activity is not located at Pine Bush, however, but is located about midway between four small towns covering a region of about 26 square miles (Figure 1). In clockwise direction from the center of the TLP hotspot, these towns are Walden (4:00 o'clock), Montgomery (6:00 o'clock), Pine Bush (10:00 o'clock), and Wallkill (2:00 o'clock) in Orange and Ulster counties, New York. The most intense TLP activity has been observed in a four square mile area over and on the Owen's dairy farm and surrounding farmlands and woodlands. Agricultural and dairy farming is in decline in the region, and some property in the hotspot area has been sold for residential development. New homes can be seen in several places surrounding the fields and wooded areas where TLPs have been observed originating and disappearing, but that development has not affected TLP activity to date. Visitors and residents commonly aggregate in one small area along West Searsville Road near its intersection with Hill Avenue to witness this phenomenon at night. Most visitors see nothing, they say, except conventional aircraft flying over the region. The really convincing TLP activity is sporadic and unpredictable. Only in this spot do UFO enthusiasts and the curious not have problems with local residents who live along many of the local roads. If you talk to these residents, some will admit to seeing unusual lights at night, but most don't want to talk about their experiences. Some will laugh and even state that they have never seen a UFO and don't believe that they exist. But if you talk to the children, you will sometimes get a very different picture of what they and their parents have reportedly seen, but don't talk about in public.
In addition to the black triangle, other types of strange flying craft have also been observed in the area, mostly at night. The authors have witnessed and photographed the unusual manta-ray-shaped craft, which closely resembles the marine animal in shape, including a long retractable tail (based on eye witness accounts). Others have seen boomerang-shaped craft, luminescent globular-shaped objects, as well as the classic saucer-shaped and cigar-shaped UFOs. But the triangular and manta-ray or diamond-shaped objects are by far the most commonly sighted when these craft fly close enough to observers to be identified in silhouette. All the non-luminescent craft have non-reflective bodies, which appear black or even transparent against the night sky, even around their brilliant plasma lights. The lack of significant light reflection off the fuselage is one important characteristic which distinguishes these craft from conventional aircraft (excluding known stealth military aircraft, such as the B-2 and F117, and the new less-well-known triangular X-22A and HALO). Because reports of sightings are not common, and because many people have not reported seeing anything unusual in the area even after coming out night after night for weeks, there is much disagreement as to what is really going on in and around Pine Bush. It is not uncommon to hear skeptics say that all people are seeing are conventional aircraft, and that most if not all reports of TLPs are, according to them, misidentifications of airplanes or natural phenomena.
Several times a month the anomalous TLP activity is so common in the region that the skies appear to be "filled" with a half dozen or more aircraft at a time. Many visitors have remarked that they have never seen so many planes in one area except perhaps at a busy international airport (e.g. Paul Devereaux, 1997, pers. comm.). Large international airports such as Newark and Kennedy are located hundreds of miles away to the southeast. On some occasions we have counted and recorded as many as 63 apparent aircraft flying over the valley in a three hour period between 8:30 pm and 11:30 pm. Most had strobes and red lights that resemble aircraft lights at a distance. Even Stewart airport, located on the opposite or eastern side of the valley, does not see that kind of air traffic at its busiest hour. American Airlines and U.S. Air make routine landings there, but on normal flight schedules. The Airforce keeps a squadron of planes at Stewart, but they are mostly C5's and C130's used by the Air National Guard for practice flights. Rarely are those planes flown over the region in question, and most only fly to the east of the TLP hotspot area during the day (G. Filer, 1997, pers. comm.). In 1992, however, Bruce witnessed and photographed a C5 circling high above an area just north of the town of Montgomery during the day where a TLP had been photographed by him descending below tree top level the night before. When C5's and C130's do fly over the region, they fly at altitudes higher than the TLPs (usually above 2000 feet). Most TLPs are seen at altitudes lower than 1500 feet, and frequently well below 1000 feet (i.e. three to five tree heights above the ground at close range). Even private aircraft from nearby Orange County airport do not fly that low except at or near the airport! And we have never seen military aircraft fly on the weekends when many TLP sightings are made, because the Air National Guard usually does not fly on weekends. These anomalies must be taken into consideration when observing air traffic in the area, something that skeptics rarely consider in giving their second hand opinions.
To the south of the TLP hotspot, about a mile south of Montgomery, NY, is Orange County airport. Planes traveling to and from this airport can be seen off and on during most days. The airport usually closes at 9:30 pm when the runway lights are turned out. Air traffic around that airport is usually minimal compared to Stewart air traffic. Occasionally a plane will come in for a landing after 9:30 pm. The runway lights will be turned back on just before that plane arrives in accordance with a formal flight plan. Most of the TLP activity we have observed occurs after 9:30 pm, however, ruling out that airport as a main source of TLP activity. In 1993 Bruce witnessed a plane take off from Orange County airport after dark and then begin to chase after a TLP in its vicinity, which was quite amusing.
Initially the TLP was observed moving slowly at a low altitude (est. 1000-1500 feet) when the small plane approached it from the south just after leveling off after takeoff. As the plane banked sharply east towards the TLP, the TLP began moving at a higher rate of speed. As the plane increased its engine noise and gave chase, the TLP suddenly took off and disappeared beyond sight from the ground in an apparent evasive maneuver. No sound was made by the TLP.
That was not the first experience Bruce had which convinced him that unusual lights were flying around this region at night. The first incident which convinced him he was not misidentifying a conventional aircraft occurred on 23 June 1992. "I was with a group of spectators, and it was my first time out in the field with Ellen Crystall. Someone in the group brought to our attention a row of lights moving slowly from north to south low over the low ridge behind us (to the west). We turned around and I began taking the first of two time exposures (Figure 2). That picture shows the TLP climbing. I moved my camera for the next picture (Figure 3) and opened the shutter. Just after I did this, the object, which resembled a long cigar-shaped fuselage, unfolded wings and we began hearing a sound like that of a jet. Previously the TLP had been moving silently. It unfolded its wings vertically, flew straight for a distance, then turned east and rotated into a horizontal position as it headed in the direction of Stewart airport. One person in our group yelled out, "No way," in reference to his disbelief that what he had just seen was nothing more than a conventional jet on a flight path to Stewart. He ran to his car and jumped in, and began giving chase down West Searsville Rd. We followed in suite, and for a short period of time there was this caravan of cars racing down back roads in rural Orange County, New York, chasing a TLP that now resembled a jet." Skeptics might say that all we witnessed was a jet banking, and that what we thought was the deployment of wings was instead a rotation of the plane during a turn. But the TLP continued to fly in a straight line for a distance before turning, and the photograph shows it descending rapidly, much too soon for a landing at Stewart.
"At the time I was unprepared for such a display of illogic, and clung to my seat as we bounced along a narrow curving farm road doing more than 50 mph. The lead car turned onto South Searsville Rd., which is on line with one of the flight paths to Stewart, and to my astonishment we seemed to be catching up to this object. The lead car stopped at the next intersection with Albany Post Rd., and the driver got out of his car. As we stood there in the middle of the road beside our cars, we watched the lights on this dark object as it hovered, swiveled around, and then began coming back towards us. I looked up and saw silhouetted against a high silver-colored cloud bank illuminated by the Moon what looked like an all black jet as it traveled back in the direction it had come. But what struck me as unusual about its shape is that it had no visible engine pods on its wings or body. It sounded like a jet, and looked like a Boeing 707 in outline, but for the first time in my life I was truly confused as to what I had just witnessed."
The two time exposures taken of this object clearly show what we saw the lights doing that night. The first time exposure (Figure 2) shows a cluster of lights, large and small, moving in an erratic pattern up and down as the TLP moved forward. This movement produced an uneven sewing stitch pattern on the black and white print. If the camera and tripod or zoom lens had been vibrating, a similar pattern might be generated, but it would be symmetrical and not uneven as this light trace is. Nor was there a wind present to generate a harmonic vibration in the camera system. I have had a harmonic vibration generated in my camera setup when it was influenced by a strong constant wind. In that case a sine wave type vibration did show up on the photographs. But when the picture in question is compared with the next picture taken in sequence, something quite different is revealed (Figure 3). The uneven sewing stitch pattern is no longer present. On the right side of the photograph the lights appear clustered as before, but they quickly begin moving apart as we saw wings on this craft unfold. The wings did not unfold horizontally, as might be expected, but unfolded vertically. You can see the lights diverging into a configuration that crudely resembles the lighting pattern on a conventional jet: i.e. wingtip lights, headlights on the wings near the fuselage, and lights along the fuselage and at the tail. But instead of the light traces on the photograph showing the previous sewing stitch pattern, they are relatively straight except for a shallow irregular undulation.
Thus, these two images show a change in lighting pattern and movement, which cannot be easily explained in conventional or prosaic terms. They also show the TLP making an arc, or rising to a higher altitude just before deploying its wings, then descended back to a lower altitude. The lights moved apart too quickly for a turn, and from that point forward the lights on the photograph are parallel to one another, indicating no subsequent change in rotation or orientation relative to the observer and camera. In other words, the photographs do not show the TLP turning. Planes can't fly with their wings oriented vertical to the Earth for very long and maintain altitude, and a descent at that low altitude over a ridge would be unsafe. In a sharp turn or bank, however, planes can hold a vertical position for a short period of time, but this craft had not begun to turn at that point. In addition, commercial jets usually do not bank very steeply (with wings vertical), except in an emergency, due to the higher "G" forces that would be created, which could cause potential injury to passengers.
During the first three years of Bruce's investigation in the area, he obtained many photographs showing various types of oscillations in the light traces on his photographs. At first he wanted to believe that his camera system had been vibrating when the photographs were taken, especially since the oscillations were largest at the beginning of the light trace just after the shutter had opened, and decreased or dampened down within five to ten seconds into the time exposure. But no matter how much precaution was taken to reduce or prevent internal vibration in the camera, these oscillations persisted for TLP activity. He even switched to an electronic shutter opener with cable which Minolta makes for its cameras to insure that no physical energy from the movement of his finger could create a vibration. Sometimes the oscillation would not begin until a second or two after the shutter opened based on the position of the oscillation along the light trace (Figure 4). Most photographs of conventional aircraft that he took with the same camera system did not show these types of oscillation. When they did occur they were limited in development and could be attributed to camera vibration. Tests conducted on his camera system showed that a mechanical or physical oscillation could be generated with a strong tap to the tripod or lens, but the oscillation generated always died to extinction in less than 2.0 seconds. Why is this important? Any evidence which can be used to distinguish conventional aircraft from unconventional ones is important in TLP identification and investigation. Since most oscillations recorded for TLP activity lasted well into the time exposure and were much longer in duration than 2.0 seconds, Bruce surmised that the oscillation was being created at the source. In order to test this hypothesis, he began introducing deliberate vibration to his camera system so that he could have a comparison of the two types of oscillation on the same photograph. When he did this he got some interesting and unexpected results.
In one test he was photographing a suspected TLP that was on an east-west ascending flight path similar to that of jets taking off from Stewart airport. These lights were suspect because they were too low in altitude for a normal take-off from Stewart. The trajectory indicated a lift-off or origin closer to the observer than Stewart and away from the direction of Orange County airport. Just after he completed the third time exposure in sequence the TLP suddenly began a turn towards him and circled back over him. That maneuver by itself is highly unusual for a commercial aircraft, particularly one coming out of Stewart. The craft flew directly over his camera position and then turned sharply north without banking and flew off into the distance (Figure 5). It's altitude is estimated at less than 2000 feet based on the size of the image on the photograph. On take-off from Stewart, aircraft are usually well above 3000 feet by this location in the valley. As the craft flew over him he gave his camera a sharp bump with his hand. The photograph that resulted (Figure 5b) reveals not only that the TLP produced up and down symmetrical oscillations that dampened to near extinction well into the time exposure, but that the vibrations created by the bump did not influence that pattern of oscillation other than disturbing it for about 1.5 seconds. Once the camera vibration had dampened and disappeared, the oscillations of the light trace continued as if the camera bump had not occurred.
This experiment and others prove 1) that the oscillations originate at the light source, 2) that they are deliberate and under the control of the pilot, 3) that they were intentionally produced just after the shutter on his camera opened, and 4) that the pilot somehow knew when the shutter was opened in order to time the oscillations with that opening and the beginning of the light trace record. All four proofs imply that what he was photographing was either not a conventional aircraft or not an aircraft using conventional technology. The fact that the oscillations were produced in a majority of cases in a position on the time exposure that could be mistaken for shutter vibration, indicates a sophisticated knowledge of how our camera systems work and how skeptics think: If it looks like a camera vibration, by God it must be a camera vibration!
The second experience Bruce had which convinced him he was not observing and photographing conventional aircraft occurred on 10 July 1992. On that night he was standing by his truck along side South Searsville Rd. near its intersection with Rowe Lane. "I spotted a pair of bright golden lights approaching me from the north. These lights were unusually low to the ground at a distance, which raised my suspicion that it was not a conventional aircraft. I began a series of black and white time exposures as these lights slowly advanced towards me across a long open farm field. When the TLP was no farther from me than about one half mile, I ran out of film. The last picture on that roll shows two large lights the brightness of landing lights with a pulsing light in between. The photograph shows these lights moving in an uneven or bouncing fashion (Figure 6). I immediately began rolling back the film in an attempt to change rolls. I popped the back of the camera, took out the film cartridge, and ran to my truck, where I fumbled for a new roll. I ran back to the camera and began loading the new roll of Kodak 400 ISO color film. I concentrated intensely on the process, not looking up or keeping track of where the TLP was located. When I finished, I looked up thinking that I would find it coming over me, but instead saw it hovering at a distance in front of me. Based on its new position, the pilot had slowed down and then stopped in order to give me time to reload my camera! As soon as I looked up and pointed the camera at the TLP again, it began to move. I took two photographs of it flying directly over me (Figures 7a and 7b). I saw an unusual shape, very different from that of a conventional aircraft. It looked more like a kite or black diamond in silhouette. As it passed over me it turned down the intensity of its bright "landing" lights to the intensity and size of navigation lights (which conventional jets can't do), which allowed eight additional multicolored lights to become visible (11 lights total).
"Between the two color photographs the pilot changed the colors of its lights from yellow to white and green to blue. But the green and red outer lights, which on a conventional aircraft would be interpreted as navigation lights located at the wingtips, were not symmetrically or bilaterally positioned on the fuselage. The green/blue light was at the left angle of the diamond (looking up at the bottom), while the corresponding red light was in between the front of the craft and the right angle. Based on the size of the image on the photographs this craft is estimated to have been at an altitude of no more than 1000 feet. I remember it being the relative size of a small private jet viewed from the ground standing at the end of a runway. It made a soft swooshing sound not unlike that of the sound of a jet at a distance as it slowly moved away in the direction of Stewart airport, which confused me because stereotyping says that UFOs don't make jet-like sounds. But conventional fixed-wing aircraft can't stop in midair, and no commercial pilot would slow down so that someone on the ground would have time to change a roll of film."
The four examples of TLPs discussed above are but a very small sampling of the data we have collected over the past five years. We have accumulated literally thousands of photographs representing hundreds of similar encounters to bolster our claim of anomalous transient luminescent activity in the Wallkill River valley near Pine Bush, NY. Following the 23 June and 10 July 1992 TLP encounters, an intense three year photographic investigation of this phenomenon was conducted by Bruce, along with a 20 square mile geologic and magnetic survey. The results of his research and this survey are accessible at two websites to anyone who has access to the internet: Volume 1 (since June 1995) and Volume 2 (since September 1996). But this article is not just about past activity in the valley. It is about the ongoing and recent TLP activity, which over the past six years, ever since the publication of Silent Invasion by Ellen Crystall in 1991, has gradually attracted the interests of new field investigators (in addition to the two authors). Among those are Barbara Hartwell, John diTuro, Tom Mann, Sue Mann, and Dinah Bertran. More recently Bryan Williams and Thomas Sinisi have begun their own investigations. The youngest investigator is Andy Morrison from Allentown, PA. He is only 15 years old, but has a professional-looking website on his findings: http://members.aol.com/asmorrison/index.htm, called Center for Extraterrestrial Studies.
What prompted this article was an encounter in the valley with two black triangles on 17 May 1997. Bruce Cornet, Marc Whitford, and Dinah Bertran were all witnesses to this unusual event, which consisted of a staged performance for two camcorders and one 35 mm reflex camera. Dinah operated the still camera and took the time exposures. Bruce describes what happened from his perspective: "That evening began like any other trip up to Pine Bush from New Jersey. We arrived in the field area at about 9:00 pm, just after a storm front had moved through the valley as it traveled east. The sky was still filled with high clouds, and what rain remained was but an intermittent drizzle. The drizzle quickly disappeared and the high clouds began to dissipate. Soon star fields began to appear. At first we stopped along South Searsville Rd. near the center of TLP activity, but saw nothing. At about 10:30 pm we drove up to Muddy Kill Lane off of Corbett Lane, located just west of Montgomery, NY. Muddy Kill Lane, named after the creek in the valley below, is located on a north-south oriented ridge that rises 140 feet above the valley floor. On a clear night you can get a great view of the valley from there. On this night we had at least five miles visibility (based on an Orange County airport radio report). From that vantage point one can see where Stewart airport is located in the distance - about 8.5 miles away, but you can't see planes land at Stewart without a telescope on a crisp clear night. Even with a 30X zoom on my Sony Hi-8 camcorder, the best I can get are tiny dots of light as planes take off and lands. Thus, if we should see a TLP clearly go down below tree top level, and can resolve its lights, it cannot be landing at Stewart! A second airport, Orange County airport, is located much closer - just slightly more than two miles due south of our location that night. We can clearly see small planes taking off and landing there. But Orange County airport normally closes at about 9:30 pm, and on a night such as this when a storm front had just moved through the area, there would be little activity there. And we saw none.
"When we got up to Muddy Kill Lane, no sooner had I turned off the engine to my van and a black triangle (also called a flying triangle or FT) flew over us. Its altitude is estimated to have been about 1000-1500 feet. I got out of the van with my camcorder, and was able to capture about 30 seconds of it up close, then an additional 3 minutes and 40 seconds of it flying east, banking to the right, then slowly descending, and turning towards us again as it dropped below the tops of trees. It went down between 2 and 3 miles from us based on my familiarity with the terrain during the day, which was visible at the time in silhouette due to local lights and to a horizon illuminated by the City of Newburg (where Stewart airport is located). In the area it went down there are only farm fields large enough for a helicopter to land in. But this was no helicopter. The lighting and jet-like sound it made were anything but that of a helicopter, and only a jump jet could land where this TLP disappeared. Its shape was not that of a jump jet either. Its shape was that of a triangle with a boom sticking out in front."
The time interval for the event was 10:58:55 pm to 11:03:05 pm. Its heading over us was due east, and its last heading before disappearing was due west. It disappeared behind trees into fields just north of Montgomery, NY, at a heading of 109 degrees compass, the direction in which Stewart airport is located. Stewart airport operations, however, reported that no aircraft of any kind landed at Stewart at or near the time this TLP went down. Its calculated average speed, based on an estimated distance of 3.5 miles traveled, was about 50 mph. If it had traveled as far as Stewart 8.5 miles away (9 miles with the turn back), it would have had an average airspeed of 128 mph, near the stall speed of any conventional jet. Neither airspeed calculation when combined with Stewart airport flight records favors the interpretation that what we observed was a conventional jet landing at Stewart.
This is not the first time we have witnessed and recorded anomalous flight patterns or TLPs going down below tree tops in that area. On 2 October 1992 four people (Bruce, Bob, Fred, and Elaine) were watching the night sky from the Muddy Kill Lane observation station when they witnessed a set of brilliant lights moving south over Walden, NY. The time was 10:45 pm. This TLP moved quickly and then slowed down to nearly a stop, moved gain and slowed down without changing apparent direction, repeating that patterns several times before descending at a seven degree angle to a field in the same area where the two 17 May TLPs disappeared. All four witnesses were surprised by what they saw, and thought that the TLP was attempting a landing. The flight pattern they observed could be duplicated by a helicopter, except that no sound was associated with this TLP, and helicopters flying over that area can be clearly heard from the Muddy Kill Lane location. Ultralight aircraft can neither travel as fast as this TLP was observed to travel nor as slow (except into a wind), and it is highly unlikely that any sane pilot would fly that low at night and land in an unlit field unless it was an emergency. If it was a plane, the next day there was no indication of a landing in any of the fields near where the TLP disappeared. On 12 August 1993 Bruce witnessed and photographed an almost duplicate performance by another TLP at about the same time: 10:40 pm.
More recently on 25 January 1997, Bruce and John Macedo, Jr. witnessed three TLPs as each in succession went down in the same place in a different region of the valley. The TLPs were videotaped as each circled, flared its lights, and then dropped slowly below tree tops between the towns of Walden and Wallkill in a wooded area containing fields and a small lake (Lake Osiris). On this video a viewer can witness the lights of the last two TLPs blink on in the sky above the place where the previous TLP just disappeared. This videotape is important in that it establishes a record of three very similar flight patterns and TLPs descending for what appear to be landings in an area where no landing strip for airplanes exists.
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