A monument now stands near the Sheffield Bridge in the small western Massachusetts town recognizing an out of the ordinary event – the sighting of an unidentified flying object.
Nine-year-old Thom Reed was riding in a car with his mother, grandmother and brother crossing the Sheffield Bridge heading home from their restaurant Village on the Green on September 1, 1969.
“I was giving my brother a little fireball candy,” Reed explains. “My grandmother turned around to see some lights coming up what looked like from behind the bridge or trees. We all looked at it because it was kind of a self-contained glow. It rose up a little bit. It looked like it followed the dirt road, which I’m sure it probably didn’t, but it appeared that way because we could see it through the trees. The light started to bleed through once we broke into a little bit of a clearing. We could see inside the car so the light was flooding inside the car.”
Reed says his family saw what looked like an amber glow on both sides of the dirt road.
“Then that was the last thing we really remembered from the station wagon,” he said. “It came to a stop off the right side of the road. Everything got really calm. It was like being in the middle of a hurricane. There was like a barometric change in pressure. It was just like a dead silence. Then there was an eruption of crickets and frogs and it got really loud and that was it. Then we remember bits and pieces of being in like a hangar. Other people there. It was quite confusing.”
Reed says they found themselves back inside the car, but his mother and grandmother had switched spots. After a while, they realized more than two hours had gone by. Reed wasn’t the only one to report seeing something that night. The local radio station, WSBS, broadcast accounts of the event. More than 45 years later, the Great Barrington Historical Society officially recognized it as “the first off-world/UFO case in U.S. history.” Debbie Oppermann is the society’s director.
“From our perspective it’s a significantly historic event,” Oppermann said. “Basically because it’s an event that was important to many people in South County at that time. There were several eyewitnesses and WSBS reported on it so it is historically significant.”
That decision came in February. Oppermann says the public response has been mixed, some praising it as a bold step while traditionalists have been skeptical. In August, a granite monument, paid for by people who say they saw something that night, was unveiled near the Sheffield Bridge. Reed says it wasn’t the first time he had experienced something of this kind. In 1966 he says he saw a vessel at his family’s property. As for the 1969 event, he says he remembers more than he would like to.
“We encountered something,” Reed said. “It was definitely not of this world. We had a black and white television at time and the imagery that we saw on this thing was unbelievable. There were lights that looked like fluorescent tubing inside this hangar. This hangar thing we were in was huge. It was larger than football field. This hallway we had seen was circular with a Y-configuration almost to control the flow of traffic. This one room had a bowed-in wall that was rounded. This was not something that you would have seen in 1969 anywhere else. I have no idea where I was, but I know that what I saw was very different than anything I’ve even seen today 50 years later.”
A replica of the craft the Reeds saw in Sheffield is on display at the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico, site of a widely reported 1947 UFO incident.
“There must have been 20 or 30 sketches that were drawn by children in our 4th grade class from what they saw,” Reed said. “They hung underneath our the class board in Sheffield Center School. More than one of those hang in the Roswell museum today. People don’t realize the significance of this. And so it wasn’t just us.”
Reed wants to replicate that exhibit for the Great Barrington Historical Society. Oppermann says she is waiting for more information from Reed before considering programming around the 1969 event. The case has been featured in a number of television shows and Reed says there is more to come. In 1992, the family’s attorney brought the event to the United Nations where it was discussed as the agency pondered the creation of a unit to study unidentified flying objects. Reed says his father, who was planning a book on the family’s experiences, died “under questionable circumstances” 14 years to that day.
“Although it was tough to think about, there were nightmares, days where my brother and I had to sleep in the living room on the sofa and loveseat, we didn’t want to go to our room, we wanted to stay downstairs and our parents would stay down there with us because we were pretty shook up about it,” Reed said. “I was scared, nervous, upset about what took place and couldn’t make sense of it. But now it’s historic.”
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