The truth is out there: Car­bon­dale UFO tale rises again

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SUNDAY SELECT - By Kyle Wind The (Scranton) Times-Tri­bune

David Mor­ris wants to be­lieve.

The Green­field Twp. res­i­dent was only 6 years old on Nov. 9, 1974, when then-14year-old Robert Gil­lette Jr. and two friends re­ported to po­lice they saw a red, whirring ball fly over Salem Moun­tain and fol­lowed it to a silt pond in Car­bon­dale.

At age 48, he still is in­trigued by the lo­cal leg­end.

Mor­ris was one of dozens of peo­ple who took a county tran­sit sys­tem trol­ley from Car­bon­dale Grand Ho­tel to the old mine pond on Satur­day to sat­isfy their cu­rios­ity — part of a ho­tel-hosted event com­mem­o­rat­ing an in­ci­dent that be­came in­ter­na­tional news at the time.

“I was cu­ri­ous to see if it was phys­i­cally pos­si­ble for some­thing like that to have taken place,” Mor­ris said. “I think it was def­i­nitely phys­i­cally pos­si­ble.”

The “Car­bon­dale UFO” drew po­lice, mil­i­tary, UFO en­thu­si­asts and spec­ta­tors from all over the coun­try in 1974. A green-tinged glow il­lu­mi­nated the pond for nine hours; af­ter two days, a diver emerged from the murky wa­ters with only an old rail­road lan­tern.

Kay Pope, who was 15 at the time and is now 58, re­mem­bers rid­ing her bi­cy­cle to the Rus­sell Park area and see­ing it cor­doned off by the mil­i­tary. She also saw what ap­peared to be some­thing large be­ing re­moved from the area.

“We al­ways rode our bikes up there,” said Pope, who now lives in Blakely. “(I saw) a big flatbed truck on the road with some­thing huge on it that was cov­ered, and there were a lot of peo­ple in (mil­i­tary) uni­forms.”

Gil­lette told The TimesTri­bune in 1999 that he threw the bat­tery-pow­ered, sealed-beam lan­tern into the wa­ter to scare his sis­ter — but the leg­end has since lived on.

Af­ter see­ing the pond and talk­ing with lo­cals who were around at the time, Mor­ris didn’t buy the story that a lan­tern was be­hind it all. He was dis­ap­pointed Gil­lette did not speak at the event be­cause he wanted to clar­ify some of the de­tails.

“Why would you call in the peo­ple that were called in and heavy ma­chin­ery to take a lan­tern out of a pond?” he won­dered. “It just doesn’t make any sense. I think some­thing def­i­nitely hap­pened there.”

Now 56 years old, Gil­lette was hang­ing around the ho­tel dur­ing Satur­day’s “alien land­ing an­niver­sary and cel­e­bra­tion” and now claims what he told the news­pa­per 17 years ago wasn’t true.

“My girl­friend broke up with me, so I was in a bad mood,” he said. “I just told them what they wanted to hear, that it was a lan­tern. It wasn’t a lan­tern. Some­thing was pulled out of the pond.”

Satur­day’s event in­cluded speak­ers from the Mu­tual UFO Net­work and oth­ers with ex­per­tise on the topic.

Bill We­ber, the net­work’s chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor for Penn­syl­va­nia and Delaware, said in an in­ter­view that he doesn’t have ex­ten­sive knowl­edge about the Car­bon­dale in­ci­dent, and based on what he knew, “I think the jury is still out.”

“I hear re­ports of lights in the sky, ma­neu­vers in the sky, un­known ob­jects, tri­an­gles in the sky,” We­ber said. “In Penn­syl­va­nia, we av­er­age about 25 to 35 cases a month. We have means of test­ing the cred­i­bil­ity . ... We take the re­port, we es­tab­lish con­tact with the wit­ness or wit­nesses and we do our own in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­ter­net searches, FAA re­quests, lo­cal po­lice, state po­lice re­quests. We try to get to the bot­tom of it.”

In 85 per­cent of the cases, in­ves­ti­ga­tors are able to ex­plain what peo­ple saw, he es­ti­mated. The other 15 per­cent of the time, they are not.

For his part, Gil­lette did not think aliens were re­spon­si­ble for what he saw, but per­haps a Soviet satel­lite. “I don’t think it was aliens. Some peo­ple do,” the city res­i­dent said. “I never called it a UFO. The of­fi­cial peo­ple did.”

Richard Su­raci, a mar­ket­ing and sales of­fi­cial for Car­bon­dale Grand Ho­tel, en­vi­sions the fes­tiv­i­ties be­com­ing an an­nual event to cel­e­brate an in­ter­est­ing piece of the city’s his­tory.

“In Penn­syl­va­nia, we av­er­age about 25 to 35 (UFO) cases a month. We have means of test­ing the cred­i­bil­ity . ... We take the re­port, we es­tab­lish con­tact with the wit­ness or wit­nesses and we do our own in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­ter­net searches, FAA re­quests, lo­cal po­lice, state po­lice re­quests. We try to get to the bot­tom of it.” — Bill We­ber, Mu­tual UFO Net­work’s chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor for Penn­syl­va­nia and Delaware

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