|It was Thursday, December 9, 1965. Something odd in the sky caught the attention of thousands of people as it pierced the Earth’s atmosphere. Observers who looked toward the sky that day were treated to an anomaly. Individuals from Canada, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania experienced a unique object in the heavens—and on the ground— that embodied phenomenal qualities. Following is a synthesis of several eyewitnesses’ statements about what they saw:|
The projectile was brilliant. At times, this fireball glowed intensely, and gave off tints of color, as it shot across the sky. The airborne anomaly was afire and southeasterly bound. Its tail was a display of flames that left traces of smoke hanging among the clouds (Gordon 2001). The smoke outlined a dynamic, irregular trajectory.
The object didn’t maneuver like an ordinary meteor or piece of space junk. To the contrary, this red-hot contraption slowed, stopped, stood still, and changed course on its sinuous way to Kecksburg. Unquestionably, the brilliant object qualified as a UFO because of its unique appearance and strange movements.
It made weird noises too. This thing boomed and blasted at times, and it hissed as well. In addition, as this peculiarity flew above Pennsylvania readying itself to land, it seemed to morph. By the end of its journey, the oddity had changed shape—from a blazing ball to a fiery four-pointed star (Ventre and Eichler 2015). Over a densely wooded section of Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, the quirky craft glided from above the treetops to the forest floor in a controlled manner.
Alerted by the local news media’s announcements about the potential UFO crash, masses of people started for Kecksburg. The crowds that amassed were hoping to see a wrecked aerial phenomenon. At one point, a police spokesman appeared and stated to the gathering that an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) had indeed landed in the woods (Farrell 2004).
Although it broke a few trees on its way to the ground, the objet touched down almost completely undamaged. It came to a halt after plowing through the woodland’s rich soil. At the end of a mud furrow, the anomaly was partially buried and reclining on its side. Grounded and motionless, the thing had a shape like a large acorn. This particular huge acorn, however, was shiny, seamless, and the color of honey.
The big acorn was giving off flashes of bright arcing light (Ventre and Eichler 2015). In addition, the golden, smooth metallic object had a protuberance on its front. The protuberance resembled a burnt orange trashcan (Robinson 2017). The craft had a raised band around its base. The band was marked with an arrangement of unfamiliar symbols.
Local citizens, police, members of the media, and some Air Force investigators gathered at the landing site (Farrell 2004). Within a short period of time, uniformed individuals representing various branches of the military joined up with members of the local police force to rope-off part of the forest. The scene was busy. Even the then President of The Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Eric Walker, joined the others at the Kecksburg crash site (Camron 1991).
Soon individuals wearing radiation protection suits showed up. They operated Geiger counters and wandered into the woods searching for something. Other similarly dressed people were walking around the area carrying a large box. (Ventre and Eichler 2015).
Later that night, a small convoy of trucks (at least one truck was displaying an Army insignia) entered the area. A flatbed semi-trailer truck left carrying an object covered by a tarp. The item underneath the tarp was acorn-shaped and about the size of a VW Beetle (Gordon 2017). Regardless, by the next day (Friday, December 10, 1965), local newspapers were reporting that searchers had failed to find any suspicious objects in the woods . . . .
For more than fifty years, Kecksburg, Pennsylvania was famous. It was the site of one of the most important Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) events in modern history. As time would have it, the incident continues to impact my life. After more than five decades, the Kecksburg case remains special to me for the following four reasons:
Reason One: Early in my life, I heard the Kecksburg UFO incident unfold in front of me through the medium of live radio. I vividly remember it as if the riddle started to develop yesterday. The 1965 Kecksburg mystery had an impact on how I conducted the rest of my life.
It was Thursday, December 9, 1965 and the Pittsburgh Area was progressing toward evening. I was at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania. I wasn’t alone. I was with my twin brother, Rick.
But, unlike Rick, I wasn’t inside the church. I was in the church’s parking lot—seated in the front bench seat of my parents’ 1965 Chevrolet Impala. As I recall, our mother had ordered us both to the church to confess our sins to a priest before Sunday’s mass. I had made my confession with haste. But Rick was still inside the confessional bragging to the priest about his recent blameworthy accomplishments. Freed of my wrongdoings, I sat in the great car alone and prepared to listen to a radio station of my choice.
If Rick would have made his confession first, I would have had to suffer through his ritual as the lucky driver of the trendy family car. He’d open the hood and unscrew the wing nut on top of the big engine’s air filter and carefully remove the unpopular particle absorbing device. Then he’d tuck the bulky silencer away in the trunk. Next, he would jump into the driver’s seat; start the engine; and pump the accelerator—revving the engine anywhere from 3 to 30 times.
But, this month I was the first twin to make it to the car. Thus, instead of gunning the engine, I quietly dialed through several stations on the analog car radio hunting for my standard target—Pittsburgh’s channel KDKA. As KDKA’s signal began to emerge out of the radio’s background noise, an announcer was in the midst of broadcasting a breaking news bulletin. The broadcaster reported that an incident was unfolding near Kecksburg, Pennsylvania. It seemed as if a bright aerial anomaly—a genuine UFO — had been observed falling near there. Reports were being received by KDKA indicating that people may have seen the object crash land.
Kecksburg was about an hour away from the church parking lot where I sat. When my brother finally dashed out of the church and jumped into the car, I told him all about the subject of the recent radio broadcast. We decided to go to where the action was. So, I quickly drove us to our home which was a couple of miles away. When we arrived, we begged our parents for permission to drive to the alleged crash site. It didn’t work.
Because of our past driving records, my parents could not, with straight faces, permit my brother or me to make the 53 mile trek to Kecksburg. Sadly, I thought for sure that the Kecksburg case had ended for me then and there. I was wrong.
Later, in 1966, I graduated from Har-Brack High School and started attending Duquesne University in Pittsburg where I received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1970. Soon after that, I started teaching music in the Cambria County public schools. At the same time, I enrolled in graduate school at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where I received a Master of Education Degree in 1974. By 1975, I had enrolled at Penn State University to study filmmaking. In 1977, I was accepted into one of Penn State’s doctoral programs where I studied acoustics, aesthetics, and research design, among other subjects.
As a young professional music educator, I taught in Pennsylvania’s public schools and held concurrent adjunct positions at Penn State University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In 1980, I co-wrote a children’s musical play about a supernatural being known as a goblin. This musical theatre work was entered in a national competition sponsored by the Open Court Publishing Company. Open Court awarded the musical play second prize. More importantly, writing a musical about the supernatural provided me with firsthand knowledge related to the popularity of rare and mysterious experiences. Furthermore, the second place award involved a summer studying musical play writing at Illinois Wesleyan University.
By 1984, I had earned a Doctor of Education Degree from Penn State University—a highly rated research facility. My thorough approach to advanced research was a direct result of The Pennsylvania State University Graduate School awarding an excellent rating to my dissertation. Soon, I acquired a reputation as a researcher, scientist, writer, lecturer, and educator who began his professional career as a musician. Thus, I was an artist who worked with music by nature. However, out of necessity, I was a scientist.
In 1985, mostly because of the success of the earlier kid’s goblin musicale, I decided to write another children’s musical play. During the mid-1980s, popular topics for children’s stories included extra-terrestrials, spaceships, and battles in outer space. The films E.T., Star Wars, and Star Trek were extremely popular. Accordingly, planning a musical play with a UFO-related plot seemed in order. Therefore, in preparation for writing this second musical play, I decided to learn as much about the UFO phenomenon as I could.
Reason Two: I may have been the first professed researcher of unexplained phenomena to hear eyewitnesses to the Kecksburg incident volunteer live public testimonies. In 1987, to gain a sufficient depth and breadth of knowledge about UFOs for my upcoming children’s musical, I attended a UFO data-gathering event known as National UFO Information Week. The event was jointly sponsored by the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) of Seguin, Texas and a Pennsylvania clearinghouse for UFO sightings.
It was almost twenty-two years after the strange event had happened at Kecksburg. To my knowledge, no eyewitnesses had yet come forward to offer details about that occurrence. While National UFO Information Week was allegedly designed as an effort to make all UFO sightings public, the event could also serve as a platform for latent Kecksburg eyewitnesses.
The UFO affair was held in a shopping mall in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. This mall featured an enclosed shopping area that accommodated several stores. The main floor of the galleria was designed in the shape of a large cross. A huge courtyard was at the center of this comfortable indoor market. The courtyard was more packed that day than on a typical Saturday in August. Pedestrians and shoppers were all over the place.
On that specific Saturday, my personal mission was to get an intense exposure to UFO culture. Therefore, I spent a considerable amount of time looking into the UFO-related exhibits on display and I courteously engaged professed UFO witnesses in stimulating conversations about the behavior and appearance of the odd objects they had seen in the sky. During other times, I strolled along the mall’s walkways—reflecting and briefly talking with passersby, shoppers, or pedestrians who were visiting the unique gathering.
During one of my meanders that day, I recall my breath and heart rate increasing as I overheard an alleged eyewitness describe a UFO that landed near Greensburg in 1965. As it turned out, he was describing what had happened in Kecksburg. That was the first time I had experienced anybody offer precise details about the Kecksburg incident in a public gathering. The experience literally took my breath away. Following is what happened:
I was walking around the mall in an area that was rather far away from the UFO exhibits. While roaming around that space’s walkways, I noticed people naturally gathering into clusters. In each assembled cluster, people were freely talking about UFO-related topics. Eventually, I wandered upon one sizeable group of people who had gathered themselves into a formation that roughly resembled two Socratic circles. One small circle had formed inside a larger circle and a solo speaker was standing in the middle of the smaller circle. As I recall, the smaller inner ring was made up of at least ten people, while the larger outer ring held twenty or more individuals. I wedged into the outer ring.
After elbowing my way through the crowd and squeezing myself into the larger circle, I used my listening skills to focus on what the speaker in the center of the two concentric circles was saying. Since most of the people around me were taller than I was, I couldn’t get a real clear look at the presenter at first. But, I could tell this speaker’s voice belonged to a male. From what I could see, he appeared to be moderately built, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, and had brownish colored hair. However, I didn’t know if the speaker was a formal presenter sponsored by MUFON, or if he was an impromptu speaker who had actually experienced a close UFO encounter.
This speaker said that the thing he saw on the ground that day was a big piece of metal and was sort of burnt orange in color. It was partially buried in the mud after tearing a trench into the dirt while landing. In addition, this object was giving off very bright sparks or flashes of light.
At that point in his testimony, I wasn’t really sure about where this speaker’s UFO experience had taken place. Then suddenly, another male speaker spoke up. This second speaker was standing in front of me and off to my left. He was part of the smaller (or inner) Socratic ring. Since I was standing in the larger (or outer) Socratic ring at that time, I could hear him and see him clearly. He was about 6 feet tall, dark haired, and had a moderate build.
The second speaker interrupted the first speaker by shouting: That was us! After the initial interruption, he went on to say that the bright flashes the first speaker described were probably from the flashbulbs on the cameras he and his friends were using to take photographs that evening. He went on to say that he and some of his friends had driven to Kecksburg that December—twenty-two years ago—shortly after hearing about the UFO through the media.
Supposedly, he and his friends had flashbulb-equipped cameras with them when they ventured into the woods at around sundown. While wandering among the trees, he and his group came upon a rather large, smooth, shiny, acorn-shaped object. He said it was the color of honey. The thing was resting at the end of a mud furrow.
Allegedly, the second speaker and his group took several snapshots of the unidentifiable object before leaving the woods. The second speaker also maintained that the bright bursts of light the first speaker saw were probably from their flash cameras. Additionally, the second speaker maintained that he and his buddies were on the opposite side of the object from where the first speaker was standing.
Next, a third man in the crowd (who was standing outside of both Socratic circles and off to my right) spoke out. He asked the second speaker if he had reported his alleged UFO incident to anyone. The second speaker said: No. As a result, the third male speaker hurriedly approached the second speaker. The two men talked briefly, and then walked off together toward the area of the mall where UFO artifacts were being exhibited.
At that point, I recall becoming ecstatic when I realized I had just heard two potential genuine eyewitnesses to the Kecksburg incident give live verbal testimonies about the famous episode. Again, to my knowledge, no eyewitnesses had come forward since 1965 to testify about the Kecksburg case. Thus, on August 15, 1987, I may have been the first individual—who was admittedly researching unexplained phenomena—to hear living testimonies about the Kecksburg incident.
Hearing the above mentioned real-life verifications, confirmed in my mind at least, that Pennsylvania was a bona fide UFO hotspot. As a curious UFO researcher who lived and worked in Pennsylvania from 1948 to 1992, I’ve spoken with several people who have allegedly experienced UFOs while living in that eastern state.
Between late 1989 and early 1990, my career as a professional music educator began to pick up. I was publishing articles in professional journals and lecturing at state and national music education conferences. My attendance at events related to the UFO phenomenon declined. The children’s musical play that I had been writing fell to the wayside.
Reason Three: The Kecksburg event was the first UFO incident that I prepared and presented a formal talk about. That talk consequently led to speaking engagements with an established lecture circuit. The circuit was based in Texas and included established UFO researchers such as: Stanton T. Friedman, Travis Walton, and Noe Torres.
Because of the Great Recession of 2007, I was forced into semi-retirement during the summer of 2010. As a result, I moved to McAllen, Texas because of its strong economy and burgeoning arts scene. However, severe underemployed drew me back into my favorite kind of work—research. Fortunately, my employment situation afforded me sufficient time to revive some stimulating research I had put on the proverbial back burner decades ago. For several years, I’d been enamored with how humans grappled with mysteries.
Regardless, by 2011, I was really getting bored. So, I joined an organization known as the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). I contacted MUFON’s Texas State Director and asked for information about any active UFO researchers in my area that might be able to use my assistance. I was put into contact with Mr. Noe Torres, the director of MUFON in South Texas. I emailed Noe a brief history of my UFO studies including my personal research regarding the Kecksburg crash. Mr. Torres responded and claimed he had been fascinated by the Kecksburg case for years. In fact, he had written about the Kecksburg crash and recovery in a couple of the UFO books he had published.
Since I had been essentially working on this case since 1965, my new MUFON director acquaintance encouraged me to give a brief overview about the Kecksburg happening at an upcoming presentation he was scheduled to give for a public library in Alamo, Texas. Thus, in 2012, I began conducting research for my impending Keckburg talk. I reviewed my existing files on Kecksburg and I initiated additional research that uncovered more recently de-classified information on the topic. I found lots of information related to the Kecksburg mystery by searching the internet.
From that point on, I served as a participant in a Southern Texas UFO lecture circuit. I was introduced to several respected UFO researchers and countless sincere eyewitnesses—some of which possessed hard evidence. Noe’s initial encouragement caused me to return to researching and lecturing about UFOs and anomalies in general.
Prior to my 2012 Texas research spurt, I had served as the multimedia assessment specialist for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Arts Education Consensus Project in Washington, DC. That project lasted from 1992 to 1998. As the project’s assessment specialist, I was introduced to the work of Dr. Howard Gardner. Dr. Gardner, a psychologist from Harvard University, developed the theory of multiple intelligences (MI). His MI theory explained how people perceive the world through each of their intelligences. In 1999, Dr. Gardner wrote about the possibility of expanding his multiple intelligence theory to include existential intelligence.
People with a strong existential intelligence have the capacity to think about why things exist and if there is intelligent life throughout the Universe. Also, they need the freedom to ponder, conceptualize, and hypothesize, as well as analyze and think about questions that do not have clear answers. Individuals with a strong existential intelligence also wonder about how variables interact, and evaluate how concepts relate to one another (Gangi 2011). I have a strong existential intelligence.
A March 2013 phone call led to a rejuvenated correspondence with Dr. Howard Gardner. I initiated a probe about starting up an independent research project related to existential intelligence. Through phone calls and emails, I proposed launching a scientific study to investigate how encounters with unexplained phenomena might shape the human brain. Dr. Gardner provided valuable guidance about such a study. Thus, almost immediately I initiated an independent research project that explored potential links among existential intelligence, aesthetic experiences, anomalies, and the paranormal.
Through the process of conducting research for this independent study, I was introduced to neuroaesthetics. Neuroaesthetics is a relatively new subfield of neuroscience that merges neuroscience with observed aesthetics. Since my preferred career path at that time—educational administration— had abandoned me during the recession, I felt I had nothing to lose by chasing a research topic that captured my curiosity.
Reason Four: On or about June 1, 2016, I declared that the Kecksburg case would be my inaugural attempt at unraveling an established (fifty year old) UFO mystery. I gathered and analyzing new relevant data from the existing literature. Thus, I closed the Kecksburg case, once and for all, by applying scientific methodology to aggressive research. I strongly believe I solved the Kecksburg enigma—beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Several months earlier, in 2015, I had reviewed an article published by MUFON. The article addressed the Kecksburg case. The authors of the piece mentioned that a December 9, 1965 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California of a Thor Agena-D rocket took two days to recover after an erratic attitude (Ventre and Eichler 2015). That was essentially all they wrote about Corona satellites.
The authors of the MUFON-recognized article essentially dismissed the Corona satellite launched on December 9, 1965 as a candidate for the Kecksburg UFO. As an aggressive researcher, I found it troubling that MUFON-associated researchers fundamentally ignored a spacecraft launched from California (on the same day as the Pennsylvania incident) as a Kecksburg UFO contender. Then and there, I decided to carry out my own research study related to the Kecksburg event.
* Dr. Bob Wenzel Gross is a semi-retired researcher and writer with a forthcoming non-fiction memoir entitled: In Pursuit of Anomalies: How Great Music and Real UFOs Can Save the Human Race. Dr. Gross has worked as a researcher, field investigator, scientist, writer, lecturer, educator, administrator, change agent, turnaround specialist, and professional musician.
Dr. Bob Wenzel Gross is an artist who works with music by nature—and he is a scientist out of necessity. Dr. Gross holds a Doctorate from Penn State University where his solid approach to advanced research resulted in PSU’s Graduate School awarding his dissertation an excellent rating. Moreover, he has 40 years’ experience as an educator at all levels of instruction and has been an adjunct professor at Penn State University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, New Mexico State University, and South Texas College. Email: [email protected].
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