June 15, 2003
Believers keep eye on Pine Bush sky
By Beth Quinn
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,
* * *
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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January 02, 2003
Crossroads of a diverse world
The face of Pine Bush is changing, in more ways than one
By Greg Cannon
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.
Caught on tape: Pine Bush man's UFO sighting
By Nathan Hegedus
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:
Keep watching the skies
PINE BUSH: Members of a UFO club hope to shed light on mysterious sightings.
By Stephanie Pass
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."
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