Were the lights over the Hudson River Valley really UFOs?

“It looked like a city of lights.”

Thousands claimed they saw the UFO


Dennis Sant

The quiet beauty of New York’s Hudson River Valley is home to upscale professionals and retirees.  They tend to be well-educated and cosmopolitan, hardly the type of people one would expect to be swept up by UFO fever.  Yet, that’s exactly what happened to more than 5,000 residents between 1983 and 1986.  Ultimately, the entire episode was largely dismissed as a hoax perpetrated by a group of local stunt pilots.  However, to this day, many of the eyewitnesses maintain that what they saw could not have been a handful of airplanes.

Dennis Sant, a husband and father of five, had worked in local government for 17 years.  He led a perfectly normal life.  Then on March 17, 1983, Dennis’s home in Brewster, New York, was the site of an extraordinary event:

“It was a very large object.  The structure of it was very dark gray, metallic, almost girder-type looking… The object seemed to be very silent.  The lights were iridescent, bright, they stood out in the sky and three-dimension.  It looked like a city of lights.  It just hung in the sky, all brilliant colors…  We followed the object around to the backyard.  And at that point, a feeling of fright came upon me.  Thoughts started to flood my mind, thoughts of the craft touching ground, thoughts of an encounter with an alien being.  Thoughts of being abducted.  All types of fearful thoughts started to enter into my mind.”

Officers radioed in about the UFO

But Dennis and his family were not the only ones mesmerized by the extraordinary light formation.  A few miles away, traffic screeched to a halt on Interstate 84 as the mysterious object hovered overhead.  The Hudson Valley sightings had only just begun.

One week later, Officer Andi Sadoff of the New Castle Police was on routine patrol when he, too, had an encounter:

“I was working a 4 PM to midnight tour and assigned to set up some radar to look for speeding cars and I looked up into the sky and saw a series of lights.  And at first I thought it was a plane, it was quite a distance, quite far away, but it was, it was really quite large.  As I recall, there were mostly white lights, but there were green lights also. It was alternating green and white lights.  It approached my vehicle and it stopped and it seemed to hover.  And I’m looking at this thing, thinking what is it?  I wasn’t afraid.  I was just amazed.  I was in awe of it.  I didn’t know what it was.  The only thing that I recall the most is I was amazed that there was no noise.  There was no humming.  There was no engine, there was no sound. It was absolutely silent.”

Then just seconds later, the eerie silence was broken by another eyewitness report.  At virtually the same time, Ed Burns, a computer engineer and senior manager for IBM, was driving home on the Taconic Parkway, 10 miles north of Officer Sadoff’s location:

“Out of nowhere, I got a lot of static on the radio.  I thought maybe I was on the wrong number, and then I went over to turn the dial again and that’s when I looked up and saw this craft.  It was a triangular ship.  And the back had to be as large as a football field at least. And there was no noise.”

Many articles were written about sightings

Ed pulled off the highway and joined a group of motorists by the side of the road. According to Ed, they were all staring at the sky, seemingly dumbstruck:

“I’m not into astronomy… but what I had witnessed that night was not from this planet.”

The eyewitness reports indicated the object was slowly moving north over the Hudson River Valley.  Officer Sadoff and at least 12 others saw it in New Castle.  Ten minutes later, Ed Burns and at least 20 motorists, saw it near Millwood.  Ten minutes after that, the phones began ringing off the hook in the police station at Yorktown. Officer William Wolf Jr. was the dispatcher on duty that night:

“Every line kept going, every single line, constantly answer the phone, another line would light up.  I’d answer the next line and another one would line up.  Got to the point… the county parkway stopped.  The people were out in their cars.  It was starting to get really crazy.  I tried calling the cars to find out if they saw anything.  And the only one that called… Kevin, said that he would stop in.”

Officer Kevin Soravilla arrived a few minutes later.  He also saw the lights reported by dozens of Yorktown residents:

“The object was extremely large.  I estimated it to be close to 300 to 400 yards wide. We stood out in front, facing to the north.  And approximately about five minutes later… the object began to appear from the northern horizon.”

Although Officers Wolf and Soravilla were standing side by side in front of the Yorktown Police station, their accounts are entirely contradictory.  Officer Soravilla was convinced that he saw a large object with a number of small lights:

“I would say approximately 16, 18 lights, running in a V formation, approximately 200 to 400 yards wide.  I was standing between the lights to see any type of a solid structure where he may have basically been staring at the lights himself.”

But Officer Wolf had a completely different impression:

“They looked like airplanes to me, I said Kev… I live near an airport and I see these airplanes every day.  So as they were coming over, he said well you can’t hear anything.  I said listen, but then we started to hear a drone.  It wasn’t one big solid unit.  But if you looked at it for like a couple of minutes or even a fraction as it was coming over, I could see where some people would’ve gotten upset.”

Suddenly, the Hudson Valley sightings had taken a dramatic turn.  It appeared that the UFOs were a hoax, nothing more than small aircraft flying in precise patterns.  Anthony Capaldi was an air traffic control specialist at the time of the sightings.  In the summer of 1983, he made an observation that seemed to settle the UFO controversy once and for all:

“The first time I observed the formation, it looked a little peculiar.  And from our vantage point in the tower, they just appeared to be just one big light because they were flying in tight formation.  I don’t think if this formation flew over an individual’s head at a thousand feet that there’s any way you could mistake it for anything but the formation flying, due to the sound of the aircraft engines.  And I imagine that at a thousand feet, you could really determine that it’s aircraft.”

But not everyone agreed.  Phillip Imbrogno, an author and UFO expert, spoke to several of the eyewitnesses:

“The UFO was surely seen before these hoaxster pilots began their night flights.  After these hoaxsters began their night flights, people would call me up who had seen the UFO on previous dates and said well I saw something strange in the sky but it wasn’t the same thing that I saw a week before.”

A home video showing a light formation above Brewster, New York, was taken on June 10, 1984, by local resident Bob Pozzuoli.  Phillip Imbrogno was convinced the footage showed an actual UFO:

“It has been looked at by a number of photographic experts who indicate that the movement of the object on the video seems to be one rigid object not individual objects.  Plus there were hundreds and hundreds of witnesses who saw the UFO and said it was something strange.  But the night that the airplanes were seen, there were also dozens of witnesses who said, in fact, that they did see airplanes.”

So what is the truth about the fantastic light formations in the sky above the Hudson River Valley?  Were they aerial stunts performed by sophisticated pranksters?  Or did the flying objects come from somewhere beyond the stars?

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season five with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.



  1. Ed Mulvaney

    I lived in Poughkeepsie NY from 1978 to 1987. I know most sightings were from 1981 and up but a friend and I were driving back from Brewster to Poughkeepsie in fall 1979 around 1am and had encountered an extremely large craft while traveling west on 84 coming down stormville mountain. As we drove, off to the right you can see across a large valley when my friend almost screamed what is that? Looking to the right about 1/4 to 1/2 miles was a craft as large as an aircraft carrier moving maybe 20 to 40 mph parallel to rt 84 heading west. I was eye level to it when we first saw it as we were coming down in elevation. From this view, it had the height or more than the trees it was passing over. It was easily 10 times that in length. I could see a dark structure with bright white lights at both ends with colored smaller lights that shifted colors.
    I exited 84 onto the taconic state parkway northbound when about a quarter mile up we came across 15 to 20 cars pulled over on both sides of the highway in which I pulled behind one on the center median. We got out. Everyone was out of their cars already watching the skies to the south. There is a full grown forest to the south (and north) with a meadow from the parkway to around 75 yards to the tree line. We stood there for a minute or two when over the treeline this ship came into view. It appeared to be a dark metallic structure which was a huge triangular shape with a large oval shaped section on the belly. This had oval ports of chasing lights that were intense and multiple colors. The 3 points of the triangle had very bright white lights that changed intensity. It appeared to traveling 3 to 5 mph and took a minute for the whole craft to come into view. What struck me was the lack of noise, off to the north 2 or 3 miles away was a single engine plane heading south. I could hear the drone of the engine but not anything from this giant piece of hardware maybe 300 to 400 feet above me. It lumbered north and crossed right overhead, I was amazed at how much of the night sky it blocked from my view. It continued north and disappeared over the trees. The whole ordeal lasted maybe 3 minutes. Everyone started to get in their cars and drive away. I spoke to one gentleman and asked, what do you think? He looked at and opened his car door, got in and drove off. I don’t know what I saw, but it was not designed, assembled and flown by creatures from this planet…


    • Ed Mulvaney

      Sorry, the direction of the craft from the northbound lane of the taconic state parkway was coming from the east and traveling west


  2. Jack

    I lived in the Hudson Valley between Lagrange and Verbank New York from 1983 to 1996. One night I saw the group of lights everyone describes as a UFO over near Route 82. I jumped in my car and drove from the valley up the hill to the parking area at Sky Acres airport overlooking the valley. I hopped out and turned off my car to watch “it” pass over. I could hear the faint sound of Ultralight airplane engines running as the group of lights drifted slowly by. I listened and heard the voice of pilots shouting back and forth instructions to maintain a tight accurate formation. It was a large group of ultralights with a single light beneath each aircraft. I thought it was a neat hoax and drove home. I have not heard of the “UFO” sitings until years later. I am an instrument rated pilot with many hours of night flying experience. What they did was very difficult to pull off just to take off and form up into an accurately placed group that maintained formation for a long period of time. Sky Acres airport is a remote private airport with few houses around so it was not so difficult to get away with it.


  3. Paul

    June 1983 On top of the apple orchard on salt point rd.Warm summer night with my high school girlfriend .I seen a huge object in the clear skies.It moved so fast it bent light. It was amazing to watch as it could stand still yet in the blink of an eye be gone


  4. Anonymous

    In the summer of 1983, my Dad and I decided to take a ride from our house in Tomkins Cove, NY to enjoy the summer evening. I took the T-Tops off from the Camaro, and headed out with my Dad driving north up towards Bear Mountain State Park, and over the Bear Mountain Bridge. After crossing the bridge, I turned North onto the Bear Mountain Beacon Hwy, 9D. After a few minutes driving on 9D, I looked up through the T-top and saw a formation of lights. I was curious about the lights as I had never seen lights like that before in the night sky, so I pulled over into a turn out and got out of the car. There a very few houses in the area, and once we were out of the car, it was very dark. As I looked up into the sky, I saw a string of red and green lights, alternating in that pattern, red and green, and moving very slow from the south to the north. The lights were equally spaced in a straight line, and spanned about 150 feet across and approximately 500-1000 feet above the tree line. I watched the lights for about 20-30 seconds before they moved on northward over the tree line and out of sight. There was no sound at all coming from the lights nor did the lights appear to descend or change altitude during the time I observed them.
    After some years had gone by I read what was reported to be ultralight aircraft flying in tight formation as the reason for the numerous sightings and reports. I would have to disagree with that premise. At the time I was not a pilot but now hold an Airline Transport Rating with two type ratings. I’ve accumulated over 5,000 hours of flight time and have flown in tight formation in high performance jets. Even if the ultralights; fashioned with bed sheets and lawn mower engines were tethered together with broom sticks, they would not have been able to maintain their position relative to one another, nor stay in the sky. I could go on and on to debunk the debunkers but I’ve had my say. Though this happened more than 30 years ago it’s fresh in my mind and for some time I’ve wanted to post my comments. Thanks for the opportunity.
    I know Tony Capaldi….and he’s a good guy… but………how many ATC types do you know of who report observations.


  5. geremy

    i also witnessed the UFO in the hudson valley in the summer of 1983 at Hessian Lake Bear mountain. Was there with a friend and two girls at the time . It was around 9-10pm i have never discussed it before and me and my friend never talk about it. We were the only ones there at the lake all 4 of us and it Hovered over the lake about 100-200 feet above it. No sound….just lights. It is as everyone has described which makes me feel validated at what i witnessed because it was so unbelievable. It was huge …a football field long and very wide. Had a distinct dark metallic grey/black color and i was so scared that i grabbed on to a tree for dear life. One of the lights shined on me/white and the rest is is really not very memmorable as i think i went into a shock. It left silently and un noticably. When the girls got home they told thier moms and the called police and west point etc….no other sightings
    no explanations
    to this day i will never forget what i witnessed


  6. Vinny

    I witnessed the Hudson Valley UFO in July 1984, it was huge over a football field size. My sighting was almost directly over my head at approximately 10:20PM. It came over my neighbors house which was a two story colonial and it made his house look small. It was no more than 500 feet over his house and made no sound at all. It drifted ever so slowly and my sighting was approximately 3 to five minutes long. I was in the Air Force and I attempted to put clouds between the object and my line of site to see if it was one object and the clouds disappeared behind the object. Approximately two minutes into my sighting the most amazing thing happened the entire object started to revolve their were seven lights which all began to spin in a counterclockwise matter and the entire opbect then made an immediate ninety degree (90) turn and then drifted into a 15 – 20 mile an hour wind and disappeared. This was not a group of ultralight aircraft at the distance directly over my head I would have heard them one sounds like a loud lawnmower seven would have been very loud and this was a rather sparsely populated area in Kent NY.

    Another thing why would ultralight pilots fly so tight in formation in the night above a development of homes?, why would ultralight pilots risk their licenses and fly over a Nuclear Power Plant a half our later which is restricted air space.

    I close my eyes and I see this object like it was last night, the most incredible thing I ever saw.

    ** As a side story in Brewster High School they held a UFO conference as it was such a big deal at the time I met J. Allen Hynct who discussed the sighting and took reports. At that confrence whgich was covered by media from all over the area and outside the area they had a person give a UFO siting which took place in The United Kingdom, it was the first time they reported on the Randlesheim (Sorry on the spelling)) at the time which occurred in 12/1980. I will never forget this sighting.


  7. anonimous

    I saw a circle disc in 74 in ft. Myers at the intersection of ortiz and palm beach blvd. travel ing east to west toward downtown ft.myers lights on the sauer blinked one at a time right to left .


    • Byron

      Sounds like a plane not a saucer, you said lights flashing side by side one at a time? Those are what conventional aircraft have, you had to mistaking it


  8. Donald caulley

    I seen this spaceship looking object in somers newyork. It was off route 100 biggest thing I’ve ever seen. No noice what so ever. Bigger then a football field. I could have thrown a rock and hit it.


  9. Kay M

    My mom and i saw 3 ufos in mid wilshire los angeles.They were glowing like balls of light. They hovered briefly above a skyscraper office building. Then they sort of zapped away in an upward direction in the sky and were gone in a instant. I was only about 12 at the time. I had never studied or even cared about what a ufo would look like. As I got older, of course I became curious and looked into the stories told by others who have also seen them. Its strange that we have to seek out evidence to verify what our own eyes have seen, but those accounts have solidified my belief in ufos because they’re eerily similar. The way they look the way that they move; It’s very true.


  10. Gil Carlson

    THE ALIENS MAY BE CLOSER TO YOU THAN YOU THINK! The Complete Guide to Extraterrestrial Bases on Earth Hundreds of strange and mysterious locations that have revealed amazing, bizarre technology:


  11. Gil Carlson

    The document contains notes and drawings supposedly made by the scientist who visited various UFO crash sites, and this info was released before he disappeared.