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Eyes on the Sky
Members of Catskills group are ever vigilant in search of UFOs

   Tiny lights glittered in the night, bright and mysterious.
   They were visitors from another world, and rose quietly into the treetops of Pine Bush, Orange County, in the Catskills.
   Tony Stevens was watching.
   "It's a gathering," he said, identifying thousands of living flashbulbs as fireflies. "There will be so many of them, when they go all the way into the trees, it looks like a Christmas tree."
   Other flying things are harder to see, Stevens says, and harder to understand. They're unidentified flying objects -- UFOs -- and some think they're real.
   Stevens and his friends, members of the United Friends Observer Society, are among the believers. They routinely watch the skies for weird lights going faster -- or slower -- than normal.
   The society meets each month in Walker Valley, just west of Pine Bush -- a hamlet in the town of Crawford and a reputed hotbed for UFO activity in the Northeast.
   Space stories are always on the agenda; so is a late-night vigil in an open field. And a search for the unusual.
   "We get people coming from all over the world to some of our meetings, and our meetings vary between 15 to 50 people at a time," said Sue Mann, 49, of Newburgh, one of the group leaders. "We have a mailing list of over 1,000 people; we are the only support group of this kind anywhere that I know of."
   "People have trouble dealing with this," she added, "and we sit and listen to their stories or they listen to our stories, which help them realize that they are not the only ones out there who have experienced things."
   Mann said she has seen weird things in space.
   "Your scientific mind takes over," she said. "You say, that can't be what I think I see. You start thinking it could be this or that. Then you look and say, 'You know what? There is no other explanation. It is what you think it is.' "


   UFOs have been a source of wonder for some and amusement for others since June 1947, when an Idaho businessman said he saw nine "discs" flying over the Cascade Mountains in the state of Washington. It was the first sighting ever reported.
   That summer, flying saucers became a national craze. By early July, sightings had been reported in 33 states.
   On July 6, according to press reports, the Army Air Force alerted jet and fighter planes on the Pacific Coast. Their mission was to chase UFOs -- and try to get some answers.
   On July 8, the Army announced a flying "disc" that had crashed near Roswell, N.M., was just a weather balloon.


   The United Friends know all about UFO history, and their own.
   The group was founded in 1993 by Margaret Lay and her daughter Dawn, for people who wanted to share UFO experiences. Members of the group are happy to tell their stories; 40 people attended the most recent meeting.
   Mann said she and her husband John were star-gazing during the early morning hours of Aug. 1, 1993, in Pine Bush. Two stars, close together, had attracted their attention.
   Sue Mann eventually gave up.
   "I said, 'Let's go, let's go for breakfast, I want to go home and go to sleep,' "she said. "The minute I said that, those two stars shot out faster than you can imagine. I said, 'Oh my God, they were watching us as we were watching them.' "
   Stevens, 59, has a favorite story, too.
   About four years ago, he was with Mann and other friends when a shooting star came toward them. Stevens said this "shooting star" changed directions and made a 90-degree turn.
   "It seemed more like it wanted us to see it," Stevens said. "It did it right in front of us, and it went straight up."
   The U.S. government, through its longtime study Project Blue Book, concluded there was nothing extraordinary about UFOs. Mann, a former motor vehicle department clerk, makes no apologies for her beliefs.
   "I don't really care if anybody believes me, I don't care if anybody thinks I'm crazy," she said. "I know what I've experienced."
   Anyone can become experienced. Mann said it just takes patience.
   "They have to keep going out," she said. "They need to get binoculars. If they can afford it, night vision binoculars, digital cameras. You go, you bring blankets and bug spray, you bring chairs, and you just sit.
   "You may not ever see anything. Or you may see something right away."
   There have been things to see across New York.
   On New Year's Eve 1982, a retired police officer in the Dutchess County town of Kent saw red, green and white lights in a "V" shape. They were connected to a dark, triangular fuselage.
   Other people would report seeing a similar UFO in the Hudson Valley through 1986.
   Sightings have also been reported in the Capital Region.
   Raymond Cecot of Niskayuna keeps track of UFOs through his group, the Independent Researchers Association for Anomalous Phenomenon. He said a Fox television news crew taped something unusual in the sky -- supposedly a fast UFO -- at Albany International Airport in October 2002.
   And Stillwater residents reported strange lights in the sky in October 1994.
   But even in a summer that has seen space-themed movies such as "War of the Worlds" and "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," and newsmakers like NASA's successful Deep Impact mission and Wednesday's launch of space shuttle Discovery, Cecot says the real novelty of UFO-watching has faded.
   "From my perspective, the average person goes from their house to their car and their car to the mall," he said. "They never look up at the sky at night. I think if we started looking up in the sky more, we would see more things that are unusual."


   In the dark, the field trip crew chats quietly under the Big Dipper as the fireflies conduct their own meeting. Occasionally, a plane leaves or lands at nearby Stewart Air Force Base in Newburgh.
   Stevens, who lives in Pine Bush and is a retired corrections officer, said clear skies are key. People will stay out longer if the stars are out.
   "Things happen when you leave," he said. "Then you don't have any witnesses."
   "January and February are the best times of the year," adds Michael Casillo, 62, of Poughkeepsie. "There's not a cloud in the sky. On a cold winter night, you can see a trillion miles away."
   Maia Leibowitz, 48, of Tuxedo Park, in southern Orange County, takes a conservative approach. "I expect nothing but hope for something," she said.
   Alan French of Scotia would expect nothing -- always. He is a member of the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers, and does not believe in UFOs. It all comes down to proof.
   "I want to see some real evidence, not blurry photos or reports of strange lights that could have easily been something else," he said.
   Odd things can be explained: French said he and other star watchers were at the George Landis Arboretum in Esperance in 2002 when they saw a bright cloud that appeared to be changing shapes. Research revealed that components to a satellite-rocket mission had caused the special effect.
   In Pine Bush, people say they will keep watching.
   "You don't have to believe me, I know what I've seen," said Rob Oliveri, 54, of Carmel. "I've seen so many things through the years. I say 'OK, you think I'm nuts, I'm nuts. But I'm not nuts in anything else.' "
   The United Friends Observer Society meets the first Wednesday of each month from 7:30 until 10 p.m. at the Walker Valley Schoolhouse, Route 52, Walker Valley. More information about the group can be found at
   Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at

Source: Gazette Reporter




Sunday, August 10, 2003

Are we alone?

Members of the United Friends Observer Society don't think so

By Rebecca Rothbaum
Poughkeepsie Journal


Karl Rabe/Poughkeepsie Journal
Members of the United Friends Observer Society look to the skies for UFOs after their monthly meetings in Shawangunk.
Karl Rabe/Poughkeepsie Journal
Bruce Cornet speaks at a United Friends Observer Society meeting in Shawangunk.

SHAWANGUNK -- Bill Wiand doesn't know who they are or what they want. But he knows what he has seen and it is enough to tell him there is life out there, from some far away part of our universe or maybe even another dimension.

''I did recently have a visitation and it terrified me,'' he said. ''It started like it always does, with the noise in my ears and it just kind of rumbles through. I couldn't move my body, but I could move my eyes and I knew the room was filled with entities.''

Wiand was talking at the most recent meeting of the United Friends Observer Society or UFOS, which describes itself as a ''support group for those who have seen UFOs, would like to see a UFO, or have experienced contact with a UFO.''

''We're here for anyone who needs us to help them through their experiences,'' explained Sue Wiand, who with her husband Bill and Newburgh couple Sue and John Mann, run UFOS.

Sue Mann, who was listening, added: ''Also, we're here for anyone who is interested. We don't make any judgments.''

The group was founded 10 years ago in nearby Pine Bush, Orange County, an area considered ground zero for UFO sightings in the Northeast and made famous among UFO circles by the late Ellen Crystall's 1994 book ''Silent Invasion: The Shocking Discoveries of a UFO Researcher.''

(It didn't hurt that Whitley Streiber, author of ''Communion,'' a best-selling personal account of Streiber's purported alien abduction, lives not far away in Accord.)

From near and far

Although sightings in the area are said to have been on the decline for the past several years, a meeting last week drew more than 30 people, some from as far as New Jersey and Connecticut. They sat on bridge chairs around folding tables in a fluorescent-lit former one-room schoolhouse that now serves as a town recreation center and the setting for UFOS's once-a-month meetings.

One after another, they introduced themselves. Most had no news to report. Often, the conversation veered into a discussion of the paranormal. A young woman from Connecticut and middle-aged man from Putnam County agreed they felt dramatic changes in their ''energy'' over the last week and speculated as to the cause.

''I have this sense from people to get ready because there's going to be a wave of new sightings,'' added Pat Carlone, a member of the Connecticut branch of the Mutual UFO Network, a national organization based in Texas.

Carlone has been driving to the UFOS meetings from his home in Danbury for the past 10 years. Although he said he has never seen what he believes to be a UFO, Carlone, an electrical engineer by trade, has made the study of them -- and the people who do claim to see them -- a passion.

''The fun of it is to figure out the psychology and science of why some people are seeing them,'' he said after the meeting.

He was chatting with some other attendees near the alien-decorated cake Sue Wiand brought to celebrate her husband's birthday.

''I have a good feeling that there is another intelligence,'' Carlone continued. ''What it is -- whether it is some part of our military or something outside of us -- I don't know.''

Bruce Cornet, who holds a doctoral degree in geology and has been studying UFO activity in the area for more than a decade, has been trying to marshal scientific documentation to back up his own experiences. As people were filing into the meeting, he described to a handful of listeners what he believes was his first alien abduction -- back in 1981 -- which he has remembered only through hypnosis.

''They immobilized me and undressed me and put this device on my genitals and took a sperm sample,'' Cornet said.

After overcoming his paralysis, Cornet said he tried to free himself. But the aliens, whom he described as humanoid but ''looking like they were 2,000 years old, shriveled up, with jaundiced skin,'' stunned him with a probe to his forehead.

Cornet considers the possibility that many of the UFOs spotted locally may in fact be military aircraft, flying in and out of Stewart Airport. But like other UFO-ologists, Cornet is not totally satisfied with that answer.

''What would the military be parading super secret aircraft through farm fields for?'' he asked.

Once the last of the stragglers had left the old schoolhouse, a small group struck off for one of the dark side roads off Route 52 to look once more to the skies. But it was a slow night, heavy with fog that eventually grew so thick it dimmed even the glow of a golden half moon.

''Ooh,'' said a woman from New City in Rockland County, who gave her name only as Beverly. ''This fog is eerie.''

''Yeah,'' said a man from Cherry Hill, N.J. ''It's like that movie 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.' ''

Area has history of UFO sightings

Over the years, there have been countless sightings of unidentified flying objects, commonly known as UFOs, throughout the Hudson Valley.

Most seem to be concentrated in Pine Bush, Orange County, considered a UFO hot spot and made famous in UFO circles by Ellen Crystall, late author of ''Silent Invasion.''

There was also a rash of sightings in Dutchess County (as well as Westchester County and Connecticut) during the mid-1980s, when thousands of people reported seeing a V-shaped craft, a phenomenon documented in ''Night Siege.'' Law enforcement officials later identified those UFOs as ultra-light aircraft flying in formation out of the Stormville Airport.

What is probably the most famous report of extraterrestrial contact came in the form of ''Communion'' (1994) and ''Conformation'' (1999), two hit books by Whitley Streiber, who describes his encounters with ''visitors'' at his home in Accord.

-- Rebecca Rothbaum, staff writer

June 15, 2003

Believers keep eye on Pine Bush sky

   By Beth Quinn
   Times Herald-Record
   During the cleanup at Ground Zero two years ago, a National Guard reservist took some photographs of the site.
   When he got them developed, he noticed dozens of round, blue, semi-opaque spots in the pictures. He showed the photos to his pal, Jim Smith.
   "My friend figured there was something wrong with the film," said Smith, a 49-year-old sergeant at Woodbourne Correctional Facility. "But I knew what they were right away."
   Smith told his friend that the camera had captured images of orbs – also called Tesla globes. He explained that the orbs are associated with UFO and alien activity on Earth. They can't be seen with the naked eye. They show up only on film.
   And he told his friend that he'd never seen so many orbs in one place before.
   "You mean to tell me you've seen these things before?" his friend asked.
   "Of course," Smith said. "All the time. After all, I'm from Pine Bush."
    * * *
   For more than two decades, Pine Bush has been considered the UFO capital of the Northeast.
   Since the 1980s, local residents and visiting ufologists have reported hundreds of phenomena in the town and surrounding area: photographs of Tesla globes (some of them containing aliens called "grays" sitting in lotus position); sightings of lighted boomerang-shaped spacecraft, called "triangles"; interdimensional gateways; and alien abductions.
   In 1994, the now-deceased ufologist Ellen Crystall chronicled her own 11-year investigation into alien activity in Pine Bush in her book, "Silent Invasion." Magazine articles, talk shows and TV documentaries followed.
   It's been a while, though. The media attention has died down. Some newcomers might not even know they've moved to an area famous for its alien activity.
   So what exactly is going on in Pine Bush? Have the aliens pulled up stakes and gone back to their planet? Or is Pine Bush still a UFO hot spot?
   "It's just part of our lives," said Sue Wiand, who lives in nearby Walker Valley. "I hear stories of sightings all the time standing in line at the grocery store."
   At the moment, she said, nine out of 10 sightings occur in the portion of Pine Bush that lies in the Town of Shawangunk near Oregon Trail, Indian Springs Road and Galeville Road.
   In fact, there's a bridge on Galeville Road that just won't stay painted.
   "They have to paint it over and over," Wiand said. "That area is known as a UFO landing area, so maybe the heat from the craft peels the paint off."
   Whether you're a believer or not, there is no question that something is still going on in Pine Bush.
   Just listen to those who've been there when it's happened. They're regular folks with regular lives who happen to be well acquainted with the others who inhabit Pine Bush. These are their stories, in their own words.
   * * *
   I'm out on the road sky-watching a lot. One night I was out on a little country road near the Jewish cemetery (Congregation Beth Hillel Cemetery on Route 52).
   It was a little damp with ground fog coming and going. Then the fog enveloped the truck. I started seeing silhouettes of people. At one point, a guy on a bike came right at the truck. He should have hit the windshield, but he didn't. He just disappeared.
   I sat there for half an hour watching. It was like the truck was parked in an alley between two tall buildings – maybe 6 feet in and facing outward toward a busy street. All kinds of pedestrian traffic was walking past the alley opening through the fog. They were normal human size, but silhouettes. I couldn't see any faces.
   But it was a busy, busy street in some other dimension, right there on a back country road in Pine Bush.
   Tony "Smoothie" Stevens, 56, Pine Bush,
   retired lieutenant, Department of Correctional Services
   * * *
   My husband, John, doesn't like to talk about his encounters. They've been happening since he was 3 years old, and they make him very angry, very scared. He's retired from the Rockland County Sheriff's Department, and he doesn't scare easily. But this scares him.
   His most recent encounter happened when he was driving home from work. He got out at midnight, so it was late. His whole car was suddenly enveloped in angel hair – stuff that's like white Christmas tree icicles. It's associated with lots of people's encounters.
   He knew what was coming, and it made him angry. He grabbed his steering wheel hard, very tight. "Why are you doing this to me again? Why?" he said.
   The next thing he recalls was lying on a table with two beings nearby. They were speaking in their own language, but John could understand them.
   One said, "He'll be able to do it." The other one said, "No, he's too angry."
   And then John was in his car again. The angel hair had dissipated. He could drive again.
   Susan Mann, 47, Town of Newburgh
   * * *
   A lot of people in Pine Bush talk about abduction. That's real common around here.
   I was taken when I was 11, but I had been seeing them most of my life.
   When I was taken, there were bright lights, a table. They'd get close and I couldn't move away from them. One held up a needle and I could see it glistening. He jabbed it into my head behind my ear. I blacked out.
   When they returned me, they put me back in bed wrong. My feet were on the pillow. I guess they didn't know the difference.
   I've looked for explanations. I don't know what it was, but I know what it wasn't. It wasn't sleep paralysis. It wasn't epilepsy.
   There are different kinds, different sizes of beings. The most common are the "grays" – they're small, 3- to 4-feet tall. There are also the "Nordics" – beings with large blue eyes and fine blond hair.
   It's not OK for them to be doing this. No one, no matter who, has the right to do this to us.
   John DiTuro, 40, Pine Bush,
   computer engineer
   * * *
   I've seen so many of the beings, I know exactly how they move. They're different sizes, different shapes, but when you see them so much, you know they're not of this earth.
   Not long ago, I saw this figure – about 6 foot 6 and dressed all in black – standing beneath the traffic light in Pine Bush.
   I said to Hilda (my fiancιe), "What's that woman doing?"
   Hilda said, "Oh my God, I thought I was the only one who saw the thing."
   When she moved, it wasn't like walking. It wasn't in frames, either, like most of them move. In frames, they're someplace and then they're suddenly in another place, like time-lapse photography.
   But this one moved horizontally.
   In Pine Bush, you see things you don't expect. I've seen a cat with no head walking across the floor. It just had a piece of cardboard where the head should be. A lot of people in Pine Bush tell me they've seen that cat.
   But not everyone can see the cat or the beings. You have to be open to things like that.
   Jim Smith, 49, Pine Bush,
   sergeant, Woodbourne Correctional Facility

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June 15, 2003

You are not alone

   If you've ever seen a UFO or had an encounter with an alien, you know how hard it is to get people to take you seriously.
   That's why the folks whose stories appear on these pages are members of a support group called the United Friends Observer Society. They get together monthly to share their most recent experiences.
   The group, which was founded in 1993, has attracted hundreds of members worldwide. On average, about 30 people regularly attend the meetings. Those interested in learning more about UFOs or talking about a sighting of their own are invited.
   The group meets from 7:30 to 10 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month at the Walker Valley Schoolhouse on Route 52, about 4 miles west of Pine Bush.
   They will also be holding organized sky watches this summer. Anyone interested in seeing a UFO is welcome.
   But group member John DiTuro offers one word of caution:
   "It's fun to go out and look at UFOs," he said. "But it's kind of scary when they follow you home. Be careful what you look for."
   – Beth Quinn


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January 02, 2003

Crossroads of a diverse world
The face of Pine Bush is changing, in more ways than one
   By Greg Cannon
   Times Herald-Record
   Pine Bush – At the 39-room Harvest Inn here, UFO buffs mingle with Jehovah's Witnesses visiting the nearby Watchtower Farms and locals who book the Magnolia Suite looking for a getaway close to home.
   "It's amazing how many different aspects of human society come through here in Pine Bush," said Howard Boyd, manager of the motel that was built 10 years ago on what was farmland.
   For much of its life, this out-of-the-way corner of Orange County was known more for spurning outsiders than for welcoming them. A pro-South copperhead press forged the reputation in the 19th century. Active Ku Klux Klan groups fostered it well into the 20th century.
   But the hamlet and the surrounding Town of Crawford are being remade by a mini-boom.
   The agricultural roots are still present, but where Pine Bush used to serve farm families, it now serves urban and suburban transplants.
   Shelves at the local Agway store used to bear farm equipment and livestock feed. Now they carry garden supplies and dog food.
   A big Hannaford's supermarket is being built across from the little, locally owned Valley Supreme market. Cell-phone towers rise higher than farm silos.
   For years, outsiders knew Pine Bush as a place worthy of supermarket tabloid headlines, if they knew it at all. Several UFO sightings were reported here.
   The United Friends Observers Society still meets regularly to share UFO sightings, but instead of cringing at the dubious notoriety, locals now profit from it. The motel lets rooms to UFO enthusiasts and the Cup and Saucer Diner trades on the reputation as well.
   Pine Bush is still tiny. It's the heart of a town with just 7,800 people. But that's double what it was 30 years ago.
   Its growth rate trailed only the southern Orange boom towns of Chester and Monroe in the county, places on major highways, closer to New York.
   What draws people to this hamlet tucked away in the far corner of the county?
   "I just always wanted to get away from the city," says Jim Flanagan , who moved his family from Staten Island to a new subdivision here two years ago but still works as a Manhattan fire marshal. "I always liked the country life."
   Like immigrants at the end of the 19th century drawn from the Old Country by tales of streets paved with gold, the Flanagans heard of Pine Bush from a city friend who preceded them.
   They came looking for the peace and quiet that's already gone from some of the thoroughly suburban communities to the south.
   But the hustle and bustle may be catching up with them. The sprawling Pine Bush Central School District has more students than the hamlet from which it takes its name has residents.
   The start and end of the school day can create traffic that's all too familiar to Long Islanders.
   But they keep coming. And farmland keeps yielding to housing.
   "The more people who are attracted to [a place], the less attractive it is," says Pine Bush native and big-time real estate agent R.J. Smith. "You can't stop the change, you can't stop development."
   Smith has facilitated much of that development, but in talking about his hometown, he sounds more like an environmentalist.
   He lives in a house built by his family in the 1800s a few blocks off Main Street and speaks of the need for clustered housing as a means of preserving open space.
   The countryside may be drawing new and different people to Pine Bush, Smith says, but accommodating them under current development patterns means losing more of that countryside.

July 15, 2002

Montgomery defers moratorium appeals

   By Alan Snel
   Times Herald-Record
   Montgomery – The Montgomery Town Board has voted to take more time before it decides the appeals of three developers who want to be excluded from the town's six-month residential building moratorium.
   The Town Board will take up the appeal cases of the DiMartino, Village at Goodwill and Deerfield Farms housing proposals at its Aug. 1 meeting. The vote to reserve decision was 5-0 Thursday night before a room full of residents and lawyers.
   The board received many letters and documents for and against the three appeals and needs time to digest the information, Supervisor Al Valk explained.
   Susan Cockburn of Montgomery, who ran unsuccessfully for town supervisor last year, did not find fault with the board's decision to put off the case until Aug. 1.
   She said the Town Board should stick to the temporary building ban and not grant any exceptions to developers.
   "The developers are supposed to prove hardship. Nobody did," said Cockburn, who made a presentation at the board meeting on the controversial Village at Goodwill housing proposal.
   Cockburn argued the Village at Goodwill adult community project is not consistent with the town master plan. "It's slated for agricultural, rural land and it flies in the face of the master plan that says there should be a smooth transition from one use to the next use."
   Montgomery enacted its temporary building ban because the northern Orange County town known for its transportation hub status and rural landscape is besieged with home builders' requests to develop the countryside into subdivisions. A town panel is updating the master plan in hopes of managing the growth.
   In the case of Deerfield Farms, Realtor R.J. Smith, who is representing the developer, said his client should be immune from the Montgomery moratorium because the proposal will meet or even exceed the new master plan's requirements.
   The Deerfield Farms project calls for building only 10 homes on 175 acres, and keeping 110 acres as open space at the site that's on Route 52 between Walden and Pine Bush.
   "This could be a working model on how to preserve open space," Smith said.
   Valk said developers can still move ahead with doing studies on their sites such as doing soil or drainage reports.
   A fourth developer, DC Capital, has also appealed recently for an exemption to the moratorium. The builder's appeal was too late to get on Thursday night's agenda, Valk said.
   Also, Valk said the town will celebrate a new park planned for the Benedict Farm off Route 17K outside the village of Montgomery. There will be free ice cream cones, country music and vintage farm machinery from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on July 20. The park's access to the Wallkill River should be ready either later this year or next spring, Valk said.

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April 29, 2002

Caught on tape: Pine Bush man's UFO sighting

   By Nathan Hegedus
   Times Herald-Record
   Pine Bush – Life is changing in Pine Bush. Farms close and condos go up. Schools grow and so do taxes. The city arrives in the country.
   But there are constants, like tales of regular visitors from far beyond New York City. Visitors from outer space. At least, that's what people say.
   One day early this month, John Lewis returned from his job on Long Island. He took a shower, came downstairs and decided to check on his kids, who were playing by the front door of his condo.
   "What's that Nick?" Lewis asked his 5-year-old son, pointing to something crawling across the seamless blue sky. Nick couldn't answer, but then again, neither could John.
   Lewis watched the object move slowly downward at a 45-degree angle for about five minutes. Then he rushed for his video camera.
   The unidentified flying object was pencil-shaped and black with a long tail. There was not a glint of reflection from the sun.
   "Maybe it is a missile, maybe an asteroid," he says. "I don't know. It is beyond me. It's not a plane, not a cloud."
   As a child, Lewis always looked up at the stars. He always liked UFOs. But he was never a fanatic, he says.
   In fact, his son doesn't think the object was a UFO. Nicolas thinks it was an asteroid. John's wife Darlene is similarly nonplussed.
   But that same night, John's mother was distracted by a flash of light while driving. Three cars pulled over. The light had moved toward the condos.
   Locals in this tiny hamlet at the northern tip of Orange County have been seeing UFOs for decades. About 10 years ago, author Ellen Crystall wrote a book called "Silent Invasion," which helped cement Pine Bush's reputation as the UFO capital of the East Coast.
   Groups parked in fields at night to catch a glimpse of the strange lights. There was talk of an underground alien base.
   The buzz eventually died down. Life in Pine Bush went on, more concerned with visitors from Long Island than from space. The police don't get many trespassing calls on UFO-watchers anymore, says police Chief Daniel McCann.
   Still, the new diner is called the Cup and Saucer, with a UFO on its sign. And on Main Street, barber Butch Hunt has an alien on his sign, too.
   In fact, Hunt is the man to see in Pine Bush about UFOs. He claims he saw one way back in the 1960s with friends, after a night of shooting pool.
   He has newspaper clippings and woodcuts celebrating the UFOs on his wall. He doesn't hear stories like he used to. Yet he says one couple did see a UFO last November.
   "They had just moved," says Hunt. "They were skeptics. Then they were like instant coffee, became instant believers."
   And UFO watchers haven't abandoned Pine Bush, either. They come to the 39-room Harvest Inn fairly regularly, says manager Howard Boyd. They are pleasant, not weird, he says.
   Locally, the United Friends Observers Society still meets on the first Wednesday of each month at Crawford Town Hall to share UFO sightings.
   Nothing has ever been proven, of course. Every time the Crawford police have called nearby Stewart International Airport after a sighting, the officials said they saw nothing, says McCann.
   And in an old newspaper article, a Stewart air traffic controller pointed out that at least five airports surround Pine Bush.
   "But they sure saw something," says McCann of many UFO believers. "What it was, I have no idea. This has been around for as long as I can remember, like a cloud hanging over us."
   A man at Butch's barber shop named Eric says he "likes to try and keep off the grid."
   But Eric has a theory. Maybe the aliens up and moved, like summer people unhappy with the new traffic.
   "It is too crowded," he says. "Once they started to put in sidewalks, they said, 'That's it.' "
   At least until John Lewis looked into the sky with his son.
   What was that?

Older News Reports:

August 03, 2001

Owner predicts Pine Bush diner will launch with flying colors

   By Nathan Hegedus
   The Times Herald-Record
   Pine Bush – Something mysterious is landing in Pine Bush.
   A shiny object with lots of curves, it's got the locals buzzing.
   It's not a UFO, though Pine Bush is famous for them – it's a diner called the Cup and Saucer.
   It's not finished yet. But when the retro diner opens in early September, the Cup and Saucer will be decorated with alien-inspired pictures and articles. The logo will be a UFO zooming through the sky.
   "We live in a nostalgic period," says owner Dino Mavros. "Here the old with the new will come together. People here can't wait."
   Pine Bush doesn't have a full-fledged diner. There are Italian restaurants, delis, pizza places, fast food and Asian food, but no diners.
   "We won't have to eat pizza, pizza, or pizza," says Terri Kirk, manager of the Schuyler Crossing senior citizens apartments, who adds that the diner has been the buzz of the center.
   And if the local population can't support a diner, more people are coming – lots more.
   Mavros is building across the street from new condos, with more on the way. He's across the street from Pine Bush's only hotel. He's down the road from a senior citizens complex, and near a proposed office building.
   The Town of Crawford's population jumped by about a quarter in the 1990s, with plenty of growth in nearby Ulster County.
   Mavros figures all these people will want a full-service diner, with all kinds of food at all hours. He figures local kids don't want to keep driving to Bloomingburg to go to a diner.
   He seems to be right.
   "The diner's going to be the new hangout," says Monica Quartarone, 16, waiting for a friend to get her hair cut at Hair We Are!, in a complex near the diner. "There's nothing to do in Pine Bush."
   Mavros loves the whole thing – the UFO theme, every retro diner detail, bringing his teen-age son into the business.
   He's owned a diner before. But then he got into wholesale – he still supplies hundreds of diners – then real estate. Now he's back.
   "People up here can't wait, from insurance agents to state troopers," he says. "We're coming in on the ground floor. This is the right time at the right place."

Copyright 2001 Orange County Publications, a division of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., all rights reserved

Keep watching the skies
    PINE BUSH: Members of a UFO club hope to shed light on mysterious sightings.
   By Stephanie Pass
   Record Correspondent
   He was only 8 when he first spotted the strange, colorful lights in the sky, mysteriously appearing and disappearing.
   It's something he's seen his whole life, but didn't talk about for decades, until he learned that hundreds of others had also seen the unidentified objects zooming across the still sky.
   "I've seen them since early childhood," said John Mann of the Town of Newburgh. "It got to the point where I just needed to talk to somebody about it."
   And in 1993, the perfect forum came to town, in the form of the United Friends Observers Society. The club – its acronym aptly enough spelling "UFOS" – meets monthly to discuss UFOs.
   Mann says he often sees UFOs, different from aircraft in form and movement. "You know they're not airplanes – they don't maneuver that way." He said some make startling turns, zooming at incredible speeds – as if gravity, air resistance and inertia were no concern. "They seem to use a different kind of physics."
   UFO enthusiasts claim Pine Bush and the Hudson Valley in general are UFO hot spots.
   The crafts' lights are distinct, Mann said; they have vibrantly colorful hues, including blue lights, which he says violates FAA guidelines. The lights seem to be of a different essence, casting no shadows.
   Mann, a retired lieutenant for the Rockland County Sheriff's Department, kept a lid on his sightings for years, aware of how most people would react.
   But Mann said it's really not so incredible. "If you look up at the sky, you see the stars, and think of all the billions with planets around them – it would be idiocy to think we're the only ones who developed life."
   So why hasn't everyone seen these flying objects? It may require being in the right place at the right time, Mann said, noting he's often seen them at dusk or dawn.
   Mann and his wife, Sue, along with another couple, run the group, comprising of dozens of UFO watchers from Orange, Ulster, Sullivan and Pike counties. They meet the first Wednesday of each month at Crawford Town Hall in Pine Bush. Roughly 500 people are on the mailing list. The club was formed by Dawn Lay and her mother, Max, in 1993.
   The group is now internationally known, Lay said. The Manns and other members were featured on a television show, "Strange Universe," in the mid-1990s. The Manns were also on the show "Encounters."
   Lay described her first UFO sighting in 1987. It was midnight in Gardiner when she and a friend saw lights in the sky. It was a band of light – red, green, blue, orange and yellow – moving circularly and changing colors. The cigar-shaped craft hovered over their field, moving back and forth and humming, then zooming up and vanishing at "warp speed." Lay called an operator and reported it. She said the operator laughed and hung up.
   UFOs have been a topic of discussion in the U.S. since the 1940s, when volunteer aircraft spotters, fulfilling air-defense needs, began reporting them. Reports of flying crafts – many elliptical, with no visible propellers or propulsion systems – continued, sometimes by pilots, flying instructors and military personnel. Some say reports in the '50s and '60s were due to military reconnaissance aircraft. Many cases aren't explained.
   Tony Stevens of Pine Bush, a club member for six years, can't explain UFOs he has seen, but he's sure they're not airplanes. A retired corrections lieutenant for Shawangunk Correctional Facility, he repaired planes as an Air Force mechanic.
   "I know what planes do; these things act totally different than the planes I've seen in my lifetime. You see the lights, they blink, and they're gone."
   Stevens first saw UFOs when he was 9. He went with his brother, Billy, tracking aircraft for civil defense. He began seeing silver streaks across the Middletown sky, suddenly vanishing. Once, on West Searsville Road, he saw a ball-size orange sphere appear, surrounded by fiery light. It suddenly "popped up" to the size of a house in seconds, then shot straight into the clouds and vanished.
   Stevens has photographed UFOs with his digital camera. He says most are cylindrical, and moving at supersonic speeds.
   Sue Mann saw her first UFO at age 20. She said she thinks they're not seen more often because "a lot of people just don't look up. They're just too busy with their own lifestyle, going to sales at Wal-Mart, and the 9-to-5 thing, they don't have time to look."
   John Mann agreed. "We think of ourselves as an advanced civilization, but we're just taking baby steps."

Telephone 845-341-1100 or 800-295-2181 outside the Middletown area.
Copyright March, 2006, Orange County Publications, a division of Ottaway newspapers, Inc., all rights reserved

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