Monday, February 10, 2020

Now Brewing: Ameri-Scares New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies

Around 2:00 AM on September 3, 1965, a young man named Norman Muscarello was hitchhiking to his home in Exeter, New Hampshire from nearby Amesbury, Massachusetts. With so few cars traveling at that hour, he was forced to walk most of the way. About five miles south of Exeter, he saw strange, flashing lights appear in the sky. Naturally enough, he at first believed the lights must be from a plane or a helicopter. However, the airborne object made no sound, and its unusual, erratic movements resembled those of no conventional aircraft. When the object suddenly zoomed toward him, he became frightened and dove into a ditch to hide. Eventually, the brilliant object soared away to the east, toward Hampton. When a car finally came along, he flagged it down. The driver took him to the police station in Exeter, where Muscarello told the officer on duty, Reginald "Scratch" Toland, everything he had seen.

A short time earlier, a police officer named Eugene Bertrand had met a woman on the road who also claimed to have seen a mysterious, brilliant object in the sky. She told Bertand this UFO had followed her for several miles down a dark, deserted highway. Bertrand initially dismissed the woman's claim, but now intrigued, he decided to take young Muscarello back to the place where he claimed to have seen the flying object. Soon after the two men arrived, the lights reappeared, this time rising from behind a grove of nearby trees. It wasn't long before another police officer, David Hunt, appeared on the scene. As the three men watched, the object hovered, zoomed, and fluttered wildly in midair. All three witnesses agreed that the object's aerobatic maneuvers surpassed the capabilities of any conventional aircraft.

For several weeks afterward, numerous people in the area reported seeing strange lights in the sky. US Air Force investigators offered a variety of “natural” explanations for the UFOs. They suggested that witnesses might be seeing airplanes they simply didn’t recognize, or strangely magnified stars — due to unusual atmospheric conditions — or even lights from nearby Pease Air Force Base (now closed). However, in the face of so much evidence and no satisfactory answers, the Air Force filed the Exeter sightings under "Unexplained."

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The passage above is a summation of an article titled "Outer Space Ghost Story" by John G. Fuller, which I discovered in the pages of Reader's Digest — the May 1966 issue — when I was about seven years old (right about the time the issue came out). My grandmother owned a huge collection of Reader's Digest issues, and I loved perusing them, especially the ones with stories about ghosts, the Loch Ness Monster, and flying saucers. Needless to say, I have since acquired a copy of the issue in question, as well as several others of special interest. The image above illustrates the Reader's Digest story. Fuller's piece originally appeared in Look magazine, and his bestselling book, Incident at Exeter, is one of the most well-known chronicles of UFO phenomena.

When researching legends, folklore, and historical events from the various states for the Ameri-Scares series, the Exeter story is one that came foremost to mind. After revisiting the myriad UFO stories from that time period, I felt it would be the perfect background for the Ameri-Scares New Hampshire book. I recently turned in my latest entry — Ohio: Fear the Grassman — and I'll be moving on to the New Hampshire book in short order. I'm tentatively titling it New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies.

I think it will be a fun one — hopefully as much for readers as for me.

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