SOLVING THE 1965 EXETER NH SIGHTINGS



By Larry Robinson

Source footnotes in parentheses. Updated 06/18/13.



PART 1: SEPTEMBER 3, 1965

THE 9/3/65 SIGHTINGS IN CHRONOLOGY, as reported in references (1,2,3,5,6,7,9,10):

SIGHTING 1: 2330 9/2/65 (1)

  1. Man in Brentwood (just southwest of Exeter) woke up.
  2. The whole room was lit up.
  3. Looked out window, expecting to see car coming down road with brights on.
  4. Suddenly, everything went dark.

SIGHTING 2: 0100 - 0120 (1,2)

  1. An unidentified woman was driving 12 miles from Epping NH to Exeter NH (1)
  2. The sighting was along the NH Route 101 bypass around Exeter.
  3. The woman was followed by an object with brilliant red flashing lights.
  4. Object made no sound.
  5. Object disappeared by shooting up into the stars when car reached overpass.

0130 - 0145 Patrolman Eugene Bertrand talks with woman on bypass 101.

  1. He stayed with her and looked for the object for about 15 minutes (7).
  2. Woman indicated bright light on horizon to Bertrand (9).
  3. Bertrand did not think the incident was important at the time, and did not take her name (9).
  4. Source (9) gives beginning time as 0030. Other sources (1,2,7) give 0130.

SIGHTING 3: 0200 (1,2,9)

  1. Norman Muscarello was walking and hitchhiking on NH 150.
  2. He was traveling from Amesbury MA to Exeter NH. He had sold his car because he had joined the Navy. (1)
  3. The sighting was at the Carl Dining farm on NH Route 150 in Kensington NH.
  4. Sighting was near an open field on the farm, at Telephone pole # 668.
  5. The field is bordered by the road, and tree lines of evergreen trees.
  6. Object came out of the sky from Muscarello's right directly toward him.
  7. Muscarello estimated the object was 80 to 90 ft in diameter (see below on this).
  8. Object had brilliant pulsating red lights around an apparent rim.
  9. Object wobbled, yawed, and floated toward him.
  10. Object made no sound.
  11. Muscarello dove for the shoulder when he thought it would hit him.
  12. Object backed off and hovered over the Clyde Russell house, almost hitting the chimney.
  13. When it backed off further, Muscarello ran to that house.
  14. He pounded on the door and screamed. No one answered.
  15. Because he was making so much noise, the Russells assumed he was drunk, and didn't answer the door (1-p62,9). Thus, potential witnesses didn't see the object.
  16. The object disappeared in the direction of Hampton.
  17. Muscarello flagged down a car and went to the Exeter police station.

0224 Muscarello arrives at police station, reports sighting to Sgt Reginald Toland.

0235? Patrolman Eugene Bertrand arrives at police station.

SIGHTING 4: 0255 - 0305 (1,2,9)Artist's depiction

  1. Bertrand drove Muscarello back out to the Dining farm on NH 150, arriving at 0245.
  2. Bertrand parked the car next to pole #668.
  3. Bertrand and Muscarello walk down to a corral 75-100 yd from the road.
  4. Bertrand was shining his light at a woods to the east (one account says north).
  5. Horses at the farm began to kick and whinny, dogs began barking.
  6. Object rose slowly from behind two tall pines in the tree line beyond the corral.
  7. Muscarello screamed, "I see it! I see it!" Bertrand turned around.
  8. Bertrand saw it, dragged Muscarello back to the patrol car. He said he did this because he was "afraid of infrared rays or radiation." (1)
  9. At 0255, Bertrand radioed the sighting to Toland (3).
  10. Object roundish, with 5 pulsating red lights, rocking back and forth.
  11. Closest approach was when it hovered over the Russell house.
  12. The object moved with the leading edge lower than the trailing edge (7).
  13. Object hovered for several minutes, then moved away east toward Hampton.
  14. Patrolman Dave Hunt drove up, saw object moving left to right toward Hampton.
  15. Blue Book report says direction of disappearance is 160 degrees (7).
  16. Total sighting time about 10 minutes.
  17. Mr. Fiset sees the police cars, but not the object.
  18. The image at right, widely distributed among UFO groups, seems to be an artist's representation based on the reported size and height. It may not be accurate, because witnesses have no way to correctly judge size or distance.

SIGHTING 5: 0317 (1,2)

  1. Man called Exeter operator from phone booth in Hampton.
  2. He claimed that a flying saucer was coming right at him.
  3. The caller hung up or was cut off.
  4. The identity of this man was later found out by Raymond Fowler, but no testimony was collected (10-p86).

SIGHTING 6: 0415? (1)

  1. Hunt saw the object while on the NH 101 bypass.
  2. Object seen to the east, in the distance toward Hampton.

Evaluation of the data and problems found with it: Exeter map

ANALYSIS OF THE 9/3/65 SIGHTINGS:

SIGHTING 1: 2330 9/2/65 - Brentwood:

SIGHTING 2: 0100 - 0120 - 101 Bypass:

SIGHTING 3: 0200 - Kensington - Norman Muscarello hitchhiking,
SIGHTING 4: 0300 - Kensington - Bertrand, Muscarello, and Hunt:

SIGHTING 5: 0317 - Hampton phone booth:

SIGHTING 6: 0415? Hunt on 101:

Three fire balloons, launched approximately one hour apart from the same site, could account for sightings 3, 4, 5, and 6. A fourth launched from another location could be the cause for sighting 2.

Why people can't identify fire balloons:

  1. They never heard of one. Only the Type 1 fire balloon had received any publicity at all among the general public, and that was an article in Popular Science several years earlier. But just before the frenzy of sightings, there were articles In Science Experimenter Magazine on how to make fire balloons for cheap weather observations. One person thought my article was describing manned hot air balloons, instead of these pranks made from dry cleaning suit bags.
  2. Only the bottom part containing the candles is visible.
  3. The maneuvers it makes seem to be intelligently controlled.
  4. Witnesses assume it's a vehicle, so it has to be big enough to be a vehicle.
  5. Since it has to be big, it has to be far to be the angular size it is. So witnesses overestimate the distance.
  6. Since binocular vision works only out to about 20 feet, nothing visible contradicts this assumption.
  7. Under scotopic conditions, the human color identification process works differently. Distant light sources are reported to have higher color saturation than they really have.
  8. Halation makes the lights seem bigger than they are, and obscures the shape of the flame.
  9. I was certainly fooled at first when I saw one. Since I hadn't heard of UFOs at the time, I thought it was a launch from a missile silo. It was a type 1, so it had only one light.

The page author has reports of many launchings of fire balloons or flare balloons in the general area of Exeter. Some are from the launchers themselves. The page author test-flew a fire balloon in 1972, but tethered because of the fire hazard, to learn the properties of one.

In Westport Connecticut, high school students confessed to launching hundreds of flare balloons over the period from mid-August 1965 to March 1966. Nobody figured out what was going on until parents observed a launch.

If the report that only one light was on at a time is correct(7), then the sightings fit a type of flare balloon used in 1964 at Caltech. It was a railroad flare on a paddle wheel, tied to a government-surplus weather balloon. As the paddle wheel was spun by the air passing the rising balloon, it cut off the light from the flare as both rotated together.

PART 2: OTHER SIGHTINGS IN THE AREA

ACCOUNTS IN THE AREA THAT FIT THE FIRE BALLOON EXPLANATION (from 1):

  1. July 29, 1965 2200? - Exeter - Lillian Pearce, Sharon Pierce:
    They saw lights ahead like emergency vehicles at an accident. Then the object with red flashing lights rose out of a field next to the road and took off.
  2. September 21, 1965 0200? - Near Kensington - Blodgett:
    Red ball hovered over neighbor's house, then spun and left.
  3. Late September, 1965 - Near Kensington - Ron Smith, relatives:
    Round object, red and white, passed over car, hovered, tilted, reversed, passed over car again. Then it stopped, and resumed its original course, passing over the car again. Witnesses left, then returned. Object passed over car again and shot away.
  4. Late September 1965, Sunday 0200? - Near Exeter - Lora Davis:
    Small green light turned into large red pulsating one. Moved east slowly at first, then hovered, and moved away. Object was shaped like a top (Possibly a blue bag was used).
  5. Early October 1965, 1825 - Hampton - Virginia Hale:
    Blue-green object hovering over the ocean. The color was similar to the first mercury-vapor lamps. It looked like an inverted bowl with a fin.
  6. October 17, 1965 1900? - Fremont - Jim Burleigh, Jerline Jalbert:
    Red object with silver things hanging down from it (foil strips?) followed power lines.
  7. October 19, 1965 1815 - Fremont - Mr + Mrs Healy:
    White round object flew over, glittered, then turned red-orange. Silver things hanging down from it (foil?).
  8. October 20, 1965 2200? - Exeter - Lillian Pearce, Doris Deyo, kids:
    Object with white and red lights dropped down toward car, rotated, many lights, silent.
  9. October 21, 1965 2200? - Exeter - John Fuller, Bob Kimball, Lillian Pierce + others:
    Orange round object crossed sky moving to southeast, followed by a jet (from vantage point of witnesses). Angular size was 1/5 full moon. Went beyond horizon.
  10. October 1965 - Fremont - Meredith Bolduc:
    Object following power lines came down toward the car. White ellipse with red around the rim.
  11. October 1965 - Fremont - Phyllis Bolduc:
    Object following power lines came down near the house. Bedroom lit up with red light. Automatic barnyard light shut itself off.

ACCOUNTS IN THE AREA THAT PROBABLY HAVE OTHER EXPLANATIONS (from 1):

  1. Late September, 1965 - Near Kensington - Ron Smith, relatives:
    Colored lights seen on Shaw Hill. This could be a downed power line.
  2. Late September, 1965 - Near Kensington - Mr + Mrs Mazalewski:
    Colored lights seen on ground, accompanied by loud humming. This could be a downed power line - could be the same as the above event.
  3. Late September 1965 Evening - Exeter:
    Object seen over the hospital. Electrical problems in the hospital. The visual object fits a fire balloon, the power problems could be related to a downed power line.
  4. The Northeast Blackout case (1,5,10).

PART 3: OTHER INFORMATION RELATED TO THE SIGHTINGS

REMARKS:

  1. This started about the time of the famous Plains States UFOs of August 2-3 1965. The news publicity may have spurred pranksters into action (1,5).
  2. This is about the time government-surplus weather balloons and thin plastic dry cleaning bags became readily available.
  3. The fire balloons were reported to have followed power lines. This may be because the wind followed the wide swaths cut in the trees for the lines.
  4. There is a college just west of the sighting area, full of fun-loving students.
  5. A flurry of fire balloon pranks started in mid-1965 and continued well through 1966, ending in 1967. There were articles in magazines describing the fire balloon that hundreds of kids read and had to try out. The number of cases where kids admitted launching fire balloons is larger than expected.
  6. There were some articles in Popular Science around 1961-1963 about old folk toys, and I remember the fire balloon being mentioned.
  7. Articles in Popular Mechanics and Science Experimenter intended using fire balloons for cheap weather balloons for science fair projects.
  8. Fire balloons were implicated for some of the 1897 "airship" sightings (6).
  9. At least four of the sightings studied in the Condon report can be shown to be fire balloon sightings. Many more could probably be fire balloons. They are (from 5):
  10. As long as people showed interest in UFOs, the pranksters kept up their fun. The fire balloons disappeared after the Condon report came out, and reappeared in 1973 when people started reporting sightings again.
  11. Several cases in nearby states involved government surplus weather balloons, helium, railroad flares, and aluminum foil strips. This is an alternative that is about three times the size of a fire balloon, and much brighter. The maximum sighting time of one of these would be 20 minutes, where a fire balloon can burn longer if made right.

CREDITS:

  1. Incident at Exeter - John G. Fuller, 1966 Berkely Publishing
  2. The TRUE Report on Flying Saucers - 1966 Fawcett Publications
  3. UFO - The Complete Sightings - Peter Brookesmith, 1995 Barnes and Noble
  4. AAA Road Atlas
  5. Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects - Edward U Condon 1969 Bantam
  6. UFOs Explained - Philip J. Klass, 1974 Vintage Books, p 314
  7. The Hynek UFO Report - J. Allen Hynek, 1977 Dell Publishing
  8. US Geological Survey, - 7.5 deg topographic map, Exeter Quadrangle
  9. The Encyclopedia of UFOs - Ronald Story, Richard Greenwell
  10. UFOs: Interplanetary Visitors - Raymond Fowler, 1974 Bantam
  11. Google Maps

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