The Great Harrisburg UFO Wave
From: Bob Young <YoungBob2@aol.com>
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2000 22:40:50 EST
Fwd Date: Fri, 03 Nov 2000 10:34:57 -0500
Subject: The Great Harrisburg UFO Wave
The Great Harrisburg UFO Wave (Condon Report Case 27)
By Robert R. Young
Adapted from Stardust, the newsletter of the Astronomical
Society of Harrisburg, Pa., Inc., May, 1997
The summer of 1967 saw The Great Harrisburg UFO Wave, enshrined
in local UFOlklore by being included as Case #27 in the report
of the University of Colorado Project (the "Condon Report")
which ended United States Air Force involvement in UFO
investigations (The Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying
Objects, E. U. Condon, et. al., Bantam edition, 1969, pp. 23,
46, 60, 332).
After widespread publicity, which included more than 2,000 radio
news reports and 14 detailed visitations recounted in the paper,
thousands of excited residents were often lining roads and high
spots around town at night throughout that hot summer. One of
our two newspapers sprinkled UFO stories among news of space
launches, race riots, burning U.S. cities and GIs fighting off
human wave attacks overseas. People saw things.
In 1967 the two Harrisburg newspapers, The Evening News and The
Patriot, had the same owner but separate editorial staffs.
Curiously, The Patriot printed almost nothing on UFOs during the
As described in the Colorado report, a Smithsonian Astrophysical
Observatory all-sky meteor camera on the roof of Holy Spirit
Hospital took thousands of pictures over 17 days while 100
reports were received by a phone hotline at Olmstead AFB in
Middletown. Experienced observers from ASH responded to a
request by Colorado scientists by manning three observing
stations, including a society member's observatory overlooking
the sighting hotbed at nearby Summerdale, nicknamed "UFO Hill".
What happened? Not much, really. ASH observers never saw
anything of interest. Just the sky and air traffic, including
nightly "UFO patrols" by small planes. On cloudy nights there
were almost never UFOs reported. Most turned out to be stars.
Only two "interesting" photo images were taken during the 100
sightings reported to Colorado Project researchers. One probably
was a plane and the other a meteor.
At least two "landings" were reported that summer. One
suspiciously close to "UFO Hill" was a hoax. A newspaper
reporter (who along with the members of a local flying saucer
club was largely responsible for stimulating the "flap")
reported stumbling over an electric extension cord in the woods
when investigating strange lights. Returning back later along
the path he noticed that the cable was mysteriously gone.
Years later I encountered a man who told me about how he, his
brother and friends, all in junior high or high school, had
created a fake landing with lights and power cords. they had
been caught by the cops, but since they had done nothing
illegal, they were just sent home with a warning.
Another landing, the so-called "Manor Hill" or "Hall Manor"
incident, was probably a mistaken star or aircraft seen by
residents of a public housing project. After local saucer
"investigators" trampled the nearby woods with flashlights for
hours, they returned in the morning to find a flattened, swirled
area of grass. A reported "high" radiation reading was never
confirmed or repeated, nor is it clear what this meant. This
incident became a classic "Close Encounter of the Second Kind"
(physical trace) case.
A compilation (notice that I didn't write "investigative
report") which lists this among hundreds of others has been
cited by ufologists, including the late astronomer and Air Force
UFO consultant J. Allen Hynek, as impressive evidence that
something important was going on (Ted Phillips, 1975, Physical
Traces Association With UFO Sightings, Center for UFO Studies).
The sole source Phillips cited for including the Manor Hill
landing was an article in a flying saucer magazine ("The
Remarkable Skies of Harrisburg", Flying Saucers UFO Reports,
Dell, No. 4, 1967, pp. 50-53). Even though the New York
City-based magazine had sent a reporter here, it inexplicable
illustrated the article with a photo taken by two boys 65 miles
away in Shamokin!
North of the city, near Elizabethville, UFOs were said to have
been in the air almost nightly, causing more than 60 reports.
These, in turn, launched "saucer patrols" by pilots of small
planes, which, of course, caused more sightings. Finally, after
so much nonsensical "research" by adults, some resourceful
teenagers with a car followed and recovered a prank plastic
laundry bag-balloon lighted by candles, blowing off the lid.
Many reports of UFOs that summer had them buzzing downtown
telephone microwave antennas. A quick check of a map shows that
from the popular "UFO Hill" viewing site the downtown Bell
Telephone of Pennsylvania headquarters, with its large, then
newly installed microwave horn antennae, lies in a direction
which puts it just between then Olmstead Air Force Base at
Middletown and the old Harrisburg airport at New Cumberland.
From "UFO Hill" the building was also directly in a line with
Olmstead's landing and takeoff path.
It seems that the explanation also owes a lot to an absurd and
typically costly bit of American war-making. Through the pork
barrel-rolling efforts of powerful U.S. Senator Hugh Scott,
major overhauls of the military's Chinook twin-rotor choppers
were performed at New Cumberland Army Supply Depot, adjacent to
the public airport. Not only were they brought from Europe but
also shot-up choppers were flown all the way from Viet Nam to
Harrisburg in large military transports. Then they were lifted
across the river to New Cumberland (I kid thee not) by giant Sky
Crane helicopter's, based at Olmstead just for the purpose. At
the time rumors had it that this was done only at night to hide
it from the eyes of war protesters, and taxpayers, but actually
it was done day and night for years. It's no wonder the Vietnam
War nearly bankrupted us and doomed further manned space
These were the "UFOs" buzzing Bell Telephone. I suppose that in
today's paranoid parlance they would be called "black
helicopters". If this all strikes you as a hard-to-believe
explanation dredged up just to debunk the '67 sightings,
consider the alternative.
That is, that over a period of weeks dozens of alien spaceships
hovered over Second and Pine Streets in downtown Harrisburg, and
except for an enterprising Evening News reporter, local saucer
investigators, and crowds of wannabees on a hill five miles
away, nobody noticed.