Were the lights over the Hudson River Valley really UFOs?
“It looked like a city of lights.”
Thousands claimed they saw the UFO
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.