The Kecksburg UFO is not the only report in the area – Pittsburgh and surrounding areas are awash in reports of the paranormal.
This weekend, local fans of the unexplained and unexplainable descended on the Westmoreland County community of Kecksburg for the annual UFO festival, 52 years after the famous unidentified flying object landed in a wooded hollow.
Two years ago, researchers theorized that the object that fell to earth on Dec. 9, 1965, was an Air Force spy satellite, and the government has always said it was an asteroid. The Kecksburg volunteer fire department sees that as no reason to stop its annual festival, and with good reason.
That unidentified flying object may have been identified, but Western Pennsylvanian UFO and monster hunters have plenty of mysteries left to consider: Allegheny County leads the state in sightings of both, according to self-reported data kept by enthusiast organizations.
You may already be aware of some of Pennsylvania’s unique “cryptids” — creatures of disputed existence. We have the Raystown Ray, the Loch Ness Monster-like creature that supposedly lives in Huntingdon’s Raystown Lake. And there was the Green Man, a real sad story of a disfigured man whose story was twisted by time and rumors into a glowing green creature who stalked the roads at night. But the more universal types of paranormal sightings proliferate here, too.
Figuring out the paranormal hot spots is tricky, because there are multiple competing hotlines for reports run by enthusiasts at either the national or local scale. But according to the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) and the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, Allegheny leads the state in both: 315 Allegheny UFO sightings swamp Bucks County’s second place tally of 216, while nine Bigfoot sightings beat Cambria, Mercer and Clearfield’s six. Both datasets have entries going back decades and continue to accept old sightings, but their reports are mostly in the last couple of decades.
Another Bigfoot sighting database, kept by the Keystone Bigfoot Project, has Allegheny second with 43 reports to Westmoreland’s 113, but this part of the state remains the hot spot. Fayette comes in third with 36.
For both UFOs and Bigfoots, Pennsylvania as a whole trails the states where you might expect to find more monster hunters. Plenty of both are reported in Florida, while the Lynchian woods of the Pacific Northwest are apparently crawling with Bigfoots, as are the mirages and long horizons of Arizonan and Texan deserts. But the Appalachians are no slouch, particularly for Bigfoots — Ohioans and Pennsylvanians report a lot of sightings, and West Virginia and Kentucky do very well for their smaller populations.
“One of the main areas is along the Chestnut Ridge,” said Stan Gordon, a local monster hunter who says he has never had a first-hand experience but has talked to hundreds of witnesses.
He has been interested in the creatures since he was 10 and started his first organization devoted to them, the Westmoreland Research Group, in 1970.
“Chestnut Ridge stretches from West Virginia to Fayette here in Western Pennsylvania” and has been the location of sightings of UFOs, Bigfoots and other cryptids, such as thunderbirds, Mr. Gordon said.
“For years and years we’ve had reports there [of] giant birds [with] massive wingspans,” he said, noting that people find them eating roadkill.
Mr. Gordon also discussed sightings of real animals in places they would never be expected to show up — such as a black panther supposedly spotted in Bloomfield in 1983. Those might be called regionally cryptid sightings.
In Allegheny County, UFOs dominate, Mr. Gordon said.
“People think of disks” when they picture UFOs, he said, “but there’s also cigar-shaped objects, triangular objects, and in recent years, around Pittsburgh, large black rectangular objects.”
Even Mr. Gordon admits that many of the sightings are easily explained as natural or man-made.
“With UFOs, you’ve got stars, space debris, Chinese lanterns, and drones,” he said. And with Bigfoots, “bears, large dogs, even hunters in camouflage outfits.”
But he thinks some of them cannot be explained away.
“The best witnesses are people who don’t believe these things can exist. People are afraid at being laughed at for these strange reports,” he said.
Mr. Gordon was a scheduled speaker at the Kecksburg UFO Festival.
Peter Davenport, the Washington, D.C.-based director of NUFORC, said, “Our data do not suggest any hot spots, except for Horry County, South Carolina,” the home of Myrtle Beach.
NUFORC tracks sightings by town or city, not county, so it is not obvious without some analysis that Allegheny leads Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh trails Philadelphia among cities, but Allegheny as a whole has had nearly twice as many sightings reported.
Mr. Davenport agreed with Mr. Gordon that many sightings can be explained.
“For example, rocket launches or rocket booster re-entries into the atmosphere get reported,” Mr. Davenport said. “People take photographs of smoke rising off their own cigarettes and ask if it is a UFO.”
But unlike Mr. Gordon, Mr. Davenport said he has his own first-hand experiences, starting at age 6, that make him sure.
Mr. Davenport and Mr. Gordon encourage anyone sitting on a paranormal story to go ahead and submit a report. Given Allegheny County’s high ranking as a paranormal sighting center, plenty of readers may well have something to report.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette