and they certainly wouldn’t make so many wild, incredulous claims about alien abductions and nefarious experiments conducted upon the unsuspecting townsfolk of Pine Bush.
No, Pine Bush, New York is no normal Orange County suburb. Pine Bush is widely regarded as the UFO capital of the east coast.
The Hudson Valley of New York has long been referred to as the home of some truly strange occurrences. Ghost lights are seen in the woods regularly. Ghosts themselves run rampant throughout the entire area. And, most famously, the Hudson Valley has long been known to attract strange vessels and beings from outer space. Pine Bush came to be known worldwide as the primary destination for these extraterrestrial visitors in the area.
Some Pine Bush locals have personal stories of alien sightings, abductions and encounters dating as far back as the 1960s, but the town’s reputation as a hotbed of UFO activity was cemented largely during an incredibly active flurry of strange sightings that occurred in the mid-1980s and continued into the 1990s. Throughout the early part of the ’80s, a mysterious aircraft that has come to be referred to as “The Westchester Boomerang” was seen over two thousand times in the general area, including a handful of sightings in Pine Bush. As the craft’s name suggests, however, most of the sightings occurred not in Orange, but in Westchester County. While the sensational Westchester Boomerang was occupying the attention of researchers, curious, quieter, less hyped, but just as strange events were happening on a frighteningly regular basis in Pine Bush. As the hype over the Westchester sightings died down, more and more people began to realize that truly strange, phenomenal things were occurring in the seemingly normal rural village.
Locals first began to speak among each other regarding the strange events they were noticing. Many had seen different types of odd aircraft––from the familiar boomerang-shaped vessel to pencil-thin hovering objects to quickly-moving balls and beams of light making regular sojourns in the skies above their homes. Furthermore, people began whispering of strange strobe lights that were often seen emanating from forests and wooded areas scattered about town. Many reported hearing strange noises and having odd things happen at the Jewish Cemetery on Route 52. Town officials were also confused by the recurring phenomenon happening at a small bridge in town––no matter how many times they would repaint the structure, the paint would quickly peel away for no apparent reason. These stories were told privately, if at all, among confused and scared locals. Many didn’t realize that their neighbors were having experiences similar to their own––most people were unsure of what they had seen or were frightened of being regarded as crazy for their claims.
Peoples’ attitudes about their experiences started to slowly change in 1991, with the publication of Silent Invasion: The Shocking Discoveries of a UFO Researcher, by Ellen Crystall. Crystall, a New Jersey resident, had been traveling to Pine Bush for eleven years, researching stories of alien encounters there. She detailed UFO sightings and other related phenomena in her book, and also included a series of controversial photos said to depict actual run-ins with alien craft. The book made only a very small splash, but did lead to a series of appearances for Crystall on a number of talk shows. A few magazines and television programs visited Pine Bush to conduct their own investigations. Most importantly, the book outed the town as a focal point of UFO activity, and made people much more comfortable about coming forward with their own personal tales.
Large crowds gathered nightly at a number of locations throughout the town. The most-attended spot was West Searesville Road. Hundreds of people reported seeing objects in the sky above this desolate street, and as the reports grew in number, so did the crowds. Eventually, the number of people skywatching on West Searesville became so large that the town was forced to prohibit the activity––the crowds were disrupting traffic on the road and people would often wander off onto private property, hassling and waking up residents (who were probably so used to UFO visits that they weren’t even bothering to go out and look for them anymore.) Police would patrol the road each night to make sure crowds were not forming.
Their efforts worked on some level––but smaller groups still hit the road looking for visitors from behind, and others formed on South Searesville, at the Jewish Cemetery on Route 52 (which was also the location of strange rumbling sounds and even unidentified animal sightings), and at other spots around Pine Bush.
People began producing amazing photographs and even videotapes of bizarre objects they witnessed flying in the sky. Local newspapers started reporting peoples’ encounters, and some of the reports witnesses have given these papers are truly amazing.
One Times-Herald Record article told of a sighting by Pine Bush resident John Lewis, who videotaped a thin black object flying in the sky. “Lewis watched the object move slowly downward at a 45 degree angle for about five minutes,” the paper recounted. “Then he rushed for his video camera. The unidentified flying object was pencil-shaped and black with a long tail. There was not a glint of reflection from the sun.
‘Maybe it is a missle, maybe an asteroid,’ [Lewis] says. ‘I don’t know. It is beyond me. It’s not a plane, not a cloud.’”
The Poughkeepsie Journal ran an article detailing the activities of the United Friends Observer Society (UFOS), a support group founded in Pine Bush in 1993 for people who’d had encounters with or were abducted by the aliens that frequent the town. Local Bill Wiand told the Journal’s reporter of his personal experiences with aliens.
“I did recently have an invasion and it terrified me,’ he said. ‘It started like it always does, with the noise in my ears and it just kind of rumbles through. I couldn’t move my body, but I could move my eyes and I knew the room was filled with entities.’”
The article goes on to detail other people’s abductions, including one researcher who claimed that “‘They immobilized me and undressed me and put this device on my genitals and took a sperm sample.”
In another Times-Herald Record article, a number of people shared their stories of odd occurrences at Pine Bush. Among them were the incredible recollections of Jim Smith, a Pine Bush resident and sergeant at Woodbourne Correctional Facility. He told the paper:
“I’ve seen so many of the beings, I know exactly how they move. They’re different sizes, different shapes, but when you see them so much, you know they’re not of this earth.
Not long ago, I saw this figure about six foot six and dressed in all black standing beneath the traffic light in Pine Bush. I said to Hilda, my fiancée, ‘What’s that woman doing?’
Hilda said ‘Oh my God, I thought I was the only one who saw the thing.’
When she moved, it wasn’t like walking. It wasn’t in frames either, like most of them move. In frames, they’re someplace and then they’re suddenly in another place, like time-lapse photography. But this one moved horizontally.
In Pine Bush, you see things you don’t expect. I’ve seen a cat with no head walking across the floor. It just had a piece of cardboard where the head should be. A lot of people in Pine Bush tell me they’ve seen that cat. But not everyone can see the cat or the beings. You have to be open to things like that.”
These days, most people in Pine Bush are “open to things like that.” UFO encounters and other unexplainable incidents have become a fact of life in Pine Bush. People trade stories regularly––and a number of local businesses have embraced the town’s strange reputation. Butch Hunt’s barbershop on Main Street in Pine Bush features a UFO-themed sign hanging out front, and the interior is riddled with articles about sightings and photos said to capture images of unidentified flying objects. Another local business has gone so far as to name itself after Pine Bush’s reputation. A diner has opened with the name “Cup & Saucer.” In any other town, this would refer to a coffee cup and saucer. In Pine Bush, the sign outside the diner proudly displays a cup and a flying saucer––an alien craft hovers above the coffee cup. Not surprisingly, this diner has served as a haven for UFO enthusiasts, who flock there not just for food and drink, but to share stories of experiences, tips on the best locations to sight UFOs, and to otherwise network with others who believe Pine Bush is in fact a hub of extraterrestrial activity here on Earth.
By all accounts, the UFO activity around Pine Bush has lessened considerably since its glory days in the 1980s and ’90s. Most attribute this to the development that has occurred in the area. The past twenty years have seen condos fill in what used to be farmland in the area, and as this has occurred, UFO sightings have decreased substantially. Other phenomenon are still reported as well, including sightings of strange shadowy figures, strange noises permeating desolate areas, flashing lights, and more. UFOs are still seen in Pine Bush much more often than they are in your average town, but not with the incredible frequency of the past two decades.
You can read about all of New York’s unusual phenomena in our book Weird New York.