” . . . stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country . . .”–The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving
The 1947 purported crash of an alien spacecraft in Roswell, New Mexico launched a national UFO frenzy. The Hudson Valley, no stranger to the marvelous and unexplained, quickly became a hot spot for unexplained flying craft. Pine Bush, about 60 miles north of Sleepy Hollow, seems to hold a special attraction for alien craft, with reported sightings from the 1950s through the present. While we aren’t breaking out the tinfoil hats just yet, we heartily agree with Washington Irving that the skies can get a little interesting here in Sleepy Hollow Country.
The Hudson Valley UFO Invasion
Before we dive into a hyper-local rash of UFO sightings, we should point out that from 1982 to 1986, thousands of people in the Hudson Valley observed unidentified flying objects, as many as 7,000 sightings, according to a 2013 article in Westchester Magazine.
The most significant incident occurred on March 24, 1983. Throughout the evening residents of Westchester County and the western side of Fairfield County, Connecticut reported an immense V-shaped formation of lights that seemed to take special interest in the Hudson River, the Croton Reservoir (part of New York City’s water supply), and the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Federal Aviation Administration could not confirm any of the sightings.
Some reports would later be cleared as hoaxes, including a group of pilots out of Stormville intentionally flying small planes in formation to mimic the appearance of a larger craft. Outfitting the planes with multicolored lights, turned on and off on cue, completed the illusion of an enormous UFO. When asked by the New York Times if the FAA would investigate either the alleged hoaxsters or the UFO sightings, a spokesman for the eastern region of the FAA said:
“Why would we care about a U.F.O.? If the pilot’s up there with a clearance and at the right altitude, we don’t care what planet he comes from.”FAA spokesman Louis Achitoff, The New York Times, Aug. 25, 1984
But what happened a decade earlier in the vicinity of Tarrytown? On November 19, 1973, multiple residents of Irvington, Tarrytown, and North Tarrytown (today’s Sleepy Hollow), placed calls to police about a large, low-flying object with multicolored lights. The last sighting was around 11 pm, by employees of a North Tarrytown trucking company. As reported in the local newspaper, police questioned if the men had been drinking. “I never touched a drop in my life,” one replied. The reporter continued, “The police believed him, but can’t explain the U.F.O.”
The summer of 1976 would see a resurgence of aerial activity, starting in the town of Carmel, Putnam County, before shifting 30 miles south to Tarrytown on the evening of Wednesday, August 25. At dusk, four residents of the south end of Tarrytown as well as multiple drivers nearby on Broadway reported seeing a large, turtle-shaped object, hovering over the approach to the Tappan Zee Bridge. The object reportedly stayed in position for 5 to 10 minutes before ascending to the east, where it was last spotted by drivers on I287 near White Plains.
After the publication of that story in the Tarrytown Daily News, three volunteers with the Tarrytown fire department attempted to debunk the sighting, insisting that it was no more than 50 to 75 darkly colored helium balloons tied together. The captain of the fire company reported seeing the cluster of balloons while stopped at a traffic light near the bridge. In response, other local residents stepped forward to confirm the UFO sighting.
Less than a week later about 15 residents of the east Irvington called in a report to local police about a colored object twinkling in the sky, hovering for up to two hours before disappearing. The responding Greenburgh town police officer confirmed the sighting.
What attracts UFOs here? Could it have been the NASA-funded lab at Union Carbide (today’s Regeneron building in Eastview) where five scientists were growing microbes and even lettuce and marigolds under conditions found on the surface of Mars? Or perhaps that Rockefeller-funded scholarly symposium on their estate in Pocantico Hills where physical evidence of UFOs was investigated?
Or maybe Irving was right all along—the little valley of Sleepy Hollow is a place where unexplained things happen and that’s just the way it is!