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The case in Beverly, Massachussetts, USA, on April 22, 1966:

A completely baffling case involving nine witnesses took place on April 22, 1966, in Beverly, Mass. This dramatic close encounter is regarded as being among the most persuasive arguments for the extraterrestrial hypothesis, and it is almost certainly the most solidly unidentifiable report from Massachusetts in the Sixties.

The events:

The events of that evening began to unfold shortly after 9:00 p.m.. Nancy Modugno, age 11, was laying in bed when she noticed a bright light blinking through her window. She looked out and saw, only forty feet away, an amazing object about the size of an automobile, brightly lit with flashing blue, green, red and white lights. The football-shaped craft made a whizzing, ricocheting sound as it moved over the neighborhood at a very low altitude, just clearing the tops of the houses. As she watched, the thing descended and could be seen behind trees, apparently landing in a large field behind Beverly High School.

Terrified, the astonished girl ran down the stairs and tried to tell her father about what she had seen. He tried to calm her down and went about adjusting the television set, which had mysteriously just lost its picture. Nancy's mother, Claire, was visiting two friends, Barbara Smith and Brenda Maria, in an adjoining apartment at the time. Nancy's father ordered her back to bed, but she became hysterical and refused to leave. At this point, Barbara and Brenda walked in to order a pizza. Seeing Nancy in a fit, the two women attempted to ease her fears and calm her down. They could see the flashing lights in the field, and told Nancy that they would walk over there to prove that it was just a plane.

Barbara and Brenda picked up Claire Modugno and walked down a hill to the field. The three women looked up and saw something they could not have anticipated. There were three objects maneuvering in the sky, halting and circling as if they were playing tag. They were oval-shaped, with bright flashing lights. Two were distant, but one was much closer, apparently right over the school.

The women crossed the field to get a better look. They could see flashing lights on the edge of the craft changing colors from red to green and blue. Brenda waved her arms at the object and it immediately stopped circling and moved across the field towards the women. They were horrified. In her statement, Barbara said:

"It started to come towards us... I started to run. Brenda called, 'Look up! It is directly over us!' I looked up and saw a round object... like the bottom of a plate. It was solid, grayish white... I felt this thing was going to come down on top of me. It was like a giant mushroom."

Out of sheer terror, Barbara and Claire turned and ran up the hill. Brenda was all alone in the field, with the thing only 20 feet above her head. She stated:

"The object appeared larger and larger as it came closer. The lights appeared to be all around and turning. The colors were very bright. When overhead, all I could see was a blurry atmosphere and brightly lit-up lights flashing slowly around... I thought it might crash on my head!"

The others called to her, then, she too turned and fled. One of the witnesses was so petrified by the encounter that she literally wet her pants.

While the women ran back to the apartments, the object smoothly moved over the school building. They got on the telephone to alert their neighbors to the spectacle unfolding outside. One woman was already in her yard, watching the flying saucers. And one man, upon looking outside and seeing the discs, called the police.

The police arrived to find a small crowd of people standing outside watching the closest object moving up and down above the school. Jokingly, Officers Bossie and Mahan asked the group, "Where's the airplane?" When the witnesses pointed to the thing, then at high altitude and looking like a star, the officers laughed. Then, suddenly, the disc turned bright red and dropped to a position directly over the school building. At this point, the officers became visibly shaken. Mahan stated, "I observed what seem to be a large plate hovering over the school. It had three lights - red, green, and blue - but no noise... This object hovered... The lights were flashing..." Bossie said, "It hovered and then began gliding. Some of the people got on the ground and were real scared!" They jumped back into the cruiser and drove toward the object, down into the schoolyard. They could see clearly that it was not an airplane or helicopter and that it was shaped like a half dollar, with three lights, red, green and blue, in indentations at the rear of the disc - similar to back-up lights.

Just as the policemen got out of the cruiser, the disc made a couple of passes over the school and began to move slowly away. It picked up speed and was last seen as it disappeared behind buildings. By this time, the two other UFOs had also disappeared, though nobody had seen them leave.

Raymond E. Fowler:

Raymond E. Fowler investigated this case thoroughly for the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). He also sent a copy of his report to the Condon study group, a group studying UFOs for the U.S. Air Force. The people on that committee who were objectively trying to find the truth about UFOs used the Beverly Case as evidence for the reality of the phenomenon. Other members tried to explain the sighting as a misinterpretation of stars or the planet Jupiter. However, a detailed follow-up analysis by Fowler based on witness interviews showed that the line of sight from the witnesses to Jupiter's position and the line of sight to the approximate location of the object differed by about 50 degrees.

In his book "UFOs, interplanetary visitors," detailed information is provided on the case, such as street names, witnesses names including additionnal witnesses names, more detailed accounts by the main witnesses, as well as similar cases in that region at the same time, with an overall of 22 other cases that remained unexplainable but consistent with an extra-terrestrial origin for the reported phenomenon.

The Condon Report about this case:

When the Condon Committee released its final report, the Beverly Sighting was Case 6, one of the cases which made specific reference to an alien vehicle. It said, "While the current cases investigated did not yield impressive residual evidence, even in the narrative content, to support a hypothesis that an alien vehicle was physically present, narratives of past events, such as the 1966 incident at Beverly, Mass., "would fit no other explanation if the testimony of the witnesses is taken at full face value."

Craig states (Condon & Gillmor, 1968, pp. 72, 73):

While the current cases investigated did not yield impressive residual evidence, even in the narrative content, to support an hypothesis that an alien vehicle was physically present, narratives of past events, such as the 1966 incident at Beverly, Mass. (Case 6), would fit no other explanation if the testimony of witnesses is taken at face value.

A very slick formulation indeed, it lets the reader think that maybe the testimony of the witness should not be taken at face value but should be considered as erroneous or fabricated, which is precisely what the Condon Committee should have been able to determine. They tried, but could not.

Case 6 is described on Condon and Gillmor (1968) pp. 266-270. The abstract of this case (Condon & Gillmor, 1968) p. 266 is as follows:

Three adult women went onto the high school athletic field to check the identity of a bright light which had frightened an 11-year-old girl in her home nearby, and reported that one of three lights they saw maneuvering in the sky above the school flew noiselessly toward them, coming directly overhead, 20-30 ft. above one of them. It was described as a flowing [sic], solid disc-like, automobile-sized object. Two policemen who responded to a telephone message that a UFO was under observation verified that an extraordinary object was flying over the high school. The object has not been identified. Most of the extended observation, however, apparently was an observation of the planet Jupiter.

The author did not feel particularly embarrassed to explain that the policement reported an extraordinary object flying over the high school where the three girls saw it as automobile-sized and to consider that "apparently" it was the planet Jupiter.

Page 103 has general comments, (while recognizing a radar case as "puzzling" a few lines above) it says:

While the current cases investigated did not yield impressive residual evidence, even in the narrative content, to support an hypothesis that an alien vehicle was physically present, narratives of past events, such as the 1966 incident at Beverly, Mass., (Case 6), would fit no other explanation if the testimony of witnesses is taken at full face value. The weight one should place on such anecdotal information might be determined through psychological testing of witnesses; however, advice given us by psychologists at the University of Colorado Medical Center indicated that such testing would be of questionable significance if done as long as a year or two after the event. Since we had no such impressive cases among more recent sightings, the opportunity for significant psychological testing of witnesses in such cases was not presented. Depending upon the weight given to old anecdotal information it permits one to support any conclusion regarding the nature of UFOs that the individual wishes to draw.

Here again, the report admits that they had not done any "psychological testing" on the child, three women and two policemen that reported the event, suggesting that they may be liars that set up a conspiracy or have had hallucinations, the report does not recognize the existence or the value of Ray Fowler's own conclusion on that aspect.

Also, the hesitations in dismissing as "probably Jupiter" or as a sheer collective lies or independant but corroborative hallucinations says a lot about the Condon team's own psychology: the need to call upon two different dismissal reason, as any psychologist would see, is a clear indication of the embarrassment of the investigators.

The report adds that it is of no use to conduct psychological investigation if it is not immediately, one could then have expected that the Report would recommend further study with resources so that future reports can be investigated immediately when they occur. This was ultimately not the recommendation.

All in all, Condon did not use this case as an indication that there may be something real behind UFO reports, but adopted the line of reasoning that because there are UFOs reported, they should have been better investigated, as if they were investigated, they would turn out mundane, which is why they should not be investigated.

Dr. James E. McDonald:

In The Statement on the Unidentified Flying Objects, submitted by James E. McDonald, Senior Physicist, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, and professor, Department of Meteorology, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics at July 29, 1968, Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects, Rayburn Bldg., Washington, D.C, the case is commented:

5. Perhaps, for present purposes, the foregoing cases will suffice to indicate that there have been significant UFO incidents in cities. Many other examples could easily be cited. Elsewhere (Ref. 2) I have discussed my interviews with witnesses in a case at Beverly, Mass., on the evening of April 22, 1966, where three adult women and subsequently a total of more than half a dozen adults (including two police officers) observed three round lighted objects hovering near a school building in the middle of Beverly. At one early stage of the sighting, one of the discs moved rapidly over the three women, hovering above one of them at an altitude of only a few tens of feet and terrifying the hapless woman until she bolted. This case was quite thoroughly checked by Mr. Raymond E. Fowler, one of NICAP's most able investigators, who has studied numerous other UFO incidents in the New England area.

In his famous lecture "Twenty-Two Years of Inadequate UFO Investigations" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 134th Meeting, General Symposium, Unidentified Flying Objects, held at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, on December 27, 1969, he comments the Condon report, and:

Some examples of UFO cases conceded to be unexplainable in the Condon Report and containing features of particularly strong scientific interest: Utica, N.Y., 6/23/55; Lakenheath, England, 8/13/56; Jackson, Ala., 11/14/56; Norfolk, Va., 8/30/57; RB-47 case, 9/19/57; Beverly Mass., 4/22/66; Donnybrook, N.D., 8/19/66; Haynesville, La., 12/30/66; Joplin, Mo., 1/13/67; Colorado Springs, Colo., 5/13/67.

Dr. Jacques Vallée:

Vallée has filed the case in his "Magonia" database of UFO landings reports descriptions:

763
Apr. 22, 1966
2100

Beverly (Massachusetts). A child saw a blinding, multicolored source of light making a buzzing sound as it flew over the road 15 m away from the house. It seemed to land in a field near the school. Three adults came out to calm the child and also saw the object circling and hovering. They called the police. Two officers arrived and saw the object appearing to "dance" with two other craft. All witnesses then observed the arrival of one helicopter and two aircraft, as the remaining object flew away to the southwest. Police described the object as plate-shaped when stationary above the school building. TV reception was blurred throughout the observation. (Personal)

The short summary is strewn with ommissions and small inaccuracies. It would have been essential for example to note that the arrival of the helicopter and two planes allowed the witness to exclude that they confused the reported flying saucers with aircraft and helicopters, since they clearly stated that there was no resemblance between their appearance. In addition it would have been useful to specify that these aircraft showed up following the phone call of the two police officers to the US Air Force which then decided to send its aircraft for a survey of the situation. The lack to mention this fact will undoubtedly let the badly informed reader think that the witnesses have mistaken planes and helicopters for flying saucers.

The French GEPAN study:

In the French official investigation of the UFO Phenomenon, GEPAN Technical Note N.4, the case evaluation is the Condon Report is mentionned and criticized:

4.1. NARRATIVE PROOF

Case 6 is narrated in CR 266-270. The summary of the case (CR 266) is as follow:

"Three adult women went onto the high school athletic field to check the identity of a bright light which had frightened an 11-year-old girl in her home nearby, and reported that one of three lights they saw maneuvering in the sky above the school flew noiselessly toward them, coming directly overhead, 20-30 ft. above one of them. It was described as a flowing [sic], solid disc-like, automobile-sized object. Two policemen who responded to a telephone message that a UFO was under observation verified that an extraordinary object was flying over the high school. The object has not been identified. Most of the extended observation, however, apparently was an observation of the planet Jupiter."

The majority of the scientists who studied UFOs adopt a more restricted definition by excluding the reports which were identified without hesitation.

Moreover, several members of the Project adopted a different definition for the UFOs, as one can see in the declaration (CR 248) "the preponderance of the evidence indicates the possibility of an authentic UFO in this case" and in CR 256 "the probability of the presence of at least one UFO appears very high."

"The idea that certain UFO can be spaceships, sent towards the Earth by another civilization, living another planet or solar system or a planet associated with another star located at a distance from the Sun, is called the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH)."

It is rather ambiguous that CONDON introduces also the term "extraterrestrial reality" (ETR) which represents apparently the belief that the ETH is true. The conclusion of CONDON (CR 25) is that "there is currently no direct proof to allow the claim that UFOs are spaceships from another civilization visiting the Earth." While reaching this conclusion, CONDON takes the position (CR 19) that "if a UFO report can be explained plausibly in ordinary terms, we accept this explanation even if there is not enough evidence so that no doubt is possible."

GEPAN makes a very cautious use of the case itself, in the sense that there is no emphasis on the inconsistence of the Jupiter explanation. GEPAN concentrates on the logical twists used by the Condon Report, indicating how dubious GEPAN was about the scientific value of the Condon Report analysis and interpretations.

References:

In addition to the references reproduced in this site, the following is a mandatory source for anyone interested in the case discussed here:

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This page was last updated on December 26, 2003