Posted on December 9, 2013
When a large fireball streaks through the sky, everyone points and shouts, “What was that?” or “Did you see that?”
When the fireball is accompanied by sonic booms, many people assume that something has crashed onto the earth. When the fireball disappears behind a tree or house, many assume that it has landed just a hundred feet or so beyond.
It's actually really hard to figure out how distant an object in the sky is, unless you already know the size. If you see a familiar type of bird or airplane in the sky, you have a very good idea of how big it is, really, and therefore can ballpark a guess about its distance. But a ball of fire?
Most people assume such a thing is much closer to them than it really is.
Some people rush about trying to find whatever fell. Some people call authorities to report what they saw. A few contact journalists. Most people talk to their friends and loved ones, exchanging notes about who saw and heard what. And many people also repeat what others saw as well as what they saw.
Out of such an incident, many rumors are born.
Stories are misheard, misunderstood, or misremembered. Details are exaggerated or forgotten, and so the stories begin to take on a life of their own.
On this date in 1965, a fireball was seen by thousands in six U.S. states and in Ontario, Canada. Although most people reported seeing a meteor, others reported it as a UFO.
Remember, UFO does not mean an alien spacecraft. Instead, it means an Unidentified Flying Object.
In this case, perhaps, it should be an Unidentified Falling Object.
|This model was built to|
show what a few people
Some people thought it was a plane test, a missile test, or a fallen satellite. A few people in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, thought that the fireball was something that crashed in the woods near their village. One boy said he saw an object land, and his mother said she saw a wisp of smoke. Another person said he felt a vibration and heard a thump. That's not much to go on, but when people investigated, several people saw that they saw an acorn-shaped metal object that was about the size of a VW Beetle car, with unfamiliar signs etched into its base.
When something weird happens, some people call the police or the fire department. That apparently happened in Kecksburg, but there are mixed reports about what happened when the police and fire department arrived. Some say that the are was roped off and that civilians and journalists were kept away from the area where a giant space acorn may or may not have landed and / or crashed! Some say that the military was obviously alerted, and that men in uniforms and men in black suits began to arrive in the town and the woods. Some claim that a flatbed truck took something away from the woods; and some claim that audio tapes and photographs taken on the night of the fireball incident were confiscated by (choose one) military personnel, government officials, or NASA scientists.
Supposedly, a fire fighter saw the acorn-shaped whatever-it-was. Supposedly, fire fighters and police found absolutely nothing. Reportedly, a bell- or acorn-shaped Russian satellite was known to have reentered the atmosphere and crashed in Canada on that actual date—but miles and miles away from, and 13 hours before, the fireball. At the time, experts said that there was no way the Russian satellite could have crashed in Kecksburg, but decades later one NASA spokesperson said that the Kecksburg incident was caused by a Russian satellite! What a bunch of contradictions, huh?
In the meantime, some people claimed that an alien spacecraft had landed (or crashed) in Kecksburg, and the government covered it up. Others claimed that the incident was really “the Nazi Bell” piloted by Nazi SS officer Hans Kammler, who escaped from Allied forces at the end of World War II and time-and-space traveled to Kecksburg in the 1960s. Of course, he then integrated himself into American society. Another theory is that the fireball and “thump” were the results of Nazi investigations into antigravity, a project called Die Glocke (The Bell).
What are we to believe?
I think that there seems to be zero evidence for an alien spacecraft. There is the tiniest bit of evidence pointing to Nazi experimentation with a similarly shaped device, which could possibly have led to much-later experimentation that may have resulted in a crash and cover-up—but the time-travel and antigravity angles are surely fabrications. The coincidence of a Russian satellite of the “right” shape crashing on the same day makes me think that somehow two different stories (a meteor and the reentry of an old satellite) got mixed up together. Astronomers' calculations that indicate that the fireball / meteor's trajectory couldn't possibly have resulted in a crash in Kecksburg seem pretty compelling. However, the varied stories coming from officials make me wonder if there might have been some sort of test-gone-awry that was responsible for some of the initial reports. We all know that legitimate security concerns as well as Cold War paranoia and inter-agency non-cooperation have made it difficult, at times, to figure out what really happened. And who was to blame.
Where there is profit...
|When you see this sort of ad for a TV|
special, you should be on alert -
the show is almost certainly going to
overdramatize the incident rather than
"stick to the facts."
I was interested to note that most of the TV specials about the Kecksburg incident happened in the 2000s, almost 40 years after the fireball. Why all the interest, all of a sudden?
Then I discovered that, also in the 2000s, the Kecksburg Volunteer Fire Department started hosting, every summer, a free UFO Festival to raise funds. (Are you wondering how, if it's free, does it raise funds? Apparently they've made enough money from selling food and from renting space to vendors to pay for such things as a $190,000 firetruck.)
What goes on at a UFO Festival? There is a parade with prizes for the best UFO entry, UFO costume, UFO pet costume, and UFO motorcycle. There is a bucket brigade, bed race, hay bale toss, and a “Smoke in the Valley Burn Out contest” (whatever that is!), even though these things have everything to do with "festival" and nothing to do with UFOs! There is an “Out of this World Hot Dog Eating Contest.” There is a UFO conference (also free!), a craft show, and a lot of vendors. UFO and Bigfoot “researchers” and organizations put up exhibits and hold talks and, I bet, spread a lot of misinformation.
|The Kecksburg UFO Festival: same sort of|
carnival or festival booths and activities, with
an alien / UFO twist.
(Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of evidence that most people in such organizations are sincere but mistaken about UFOs and Bigfoot. I hope there are a few skeptics in attendance that can offer rational, evidence-based explanations for the mysteries discussed.)
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