On January 31, 1978, three young boys were "bootskating" on the ice-covered playing field of the Montvale Memorial Elementary School in Montvale, New Jersey. Eddie Hargrove, his brother Michael, and their friend John Cummings watched as a flying object approached and hovered overhead.
Since it remained stationary for almost five minutes, the boys got a good look at the object. It was square with rounded corners and appeared to have a dome on top. It had a yellow light at each corner and a light underneath, which cast a red beam that stopped just short of the ground.
Eddie, Michael, and John quickly realized that they were seeing something strange. As the flying object moved away, they became frightened and ran to the dugout by the school's baseball diamond. By then, the object had disappeared. Before they could discuss what had happened, they noticed what looked like a man in a yellow jogging suit across the road from the field. Michael thought it was a neighbor who frequently jogged in the evening.
"Mr. Johnson," Michael called to the man, "did you see that UFO?"
Immediately the man turned toward the boys, and Michael gasped. The man was not Mr. Johnson. His head was shaped oddly, and had a crease down the forehead; he looked more like a hawk than a man. Then, before he could answer, ten other creatures, all in yellow jogging suits, joined him. Each one was bald and had large, dark, square places where his eyes should have been; their skin was light yellow. They walked stiffly, like Nazi soldiers, according to John. "Have you heard of Hitler's army?" John later asked a UFOlogist who interviewed him. "You know how they walked kind of stiff, with their arms straight? Well, that's . . . how they looked."
But the joggers weren't the only strange thing that the boys saw after the UFO. All three noticed that the surroundings had grown eerily silent. They also smelled the odor of burning sulfur.
Mustering their courage, they left the dugout to get a better look at the Yellow-suited creatures. Some were walking back and forth, while others headed down a nearby road. Then the boys noticed another figure - a woman, they believed.
She was wearing a short dress and had no facial features. As Eddie's said, she just had skin on her face. She walked down the road to a low fence, where she sat down. She pointed at the three boys, as if to signal them, then raised her arm skyward. Eddie, Michael, and John looked up and saw the squarish object flying toward them. The woman stood up and began to walk away. A police car drove toward her, but as it approached, she disappeared. After it had passed the spot where she had been, the boys saw her reappear and continue walking.
As she got farther away, something even stranger happened. "Parts of her," the three boys later reported, "kept going away - disappearing - and coming back again." Finally the woman walked through the rear wall of a building and disappeared completely.
So did the creatures in the yellow suits, but the boys had concentrated so much on observing the woman that they did not see what had happened to the men. Now everything was normal again - almost.
The boys hurried to John's house and banged on the door. John's brother, Hilton, looked out the window to see what was the matter. He saw the boys at the door, but he also saw a spinning object in the sky. It had yellow and red lights exactly where the three other boys had seen them earlier. Hilton let his brother and his friends in. After a few minutes' discussion, they decided to telephone the police. As it turned out, no other UFO reports had been made that night. But the boys didn't doubt for a moment what they had seen.
By now you might be wondering if the boys really saw a UFO. They said that they saw something in the sky. Could it have been an airplane? After all, they lived on the flight path for Newark Airport.
You might also wonder if the boys saw the yellow-clad UFOccupants. Perhaps they were so frightened by the flying object that they turned ordinary people into aliens.
And what about the strange woman? Why was she pointing at the sky, and did she really disappear? Maybe she was a ghost. Or maybe she was just a tired woman walking home from work who happened to stretch her arm a moment.
Were the boys playing a prank? Or were they so scared by a passing plane that they imagined a spooky UFO? Were they trying to get some attention? Or could they have been telling the truth?
Three UFO investigators, Budd Hopkins, Ted Bloecher, and Patrick Huyghe, decided to study the case. First, they called the boys' parents and arranged to investigate the encounter. On February 5, five days after the initial sighting, they arrived in Montvale. The men inspected the playing field and surrounding area. They also interviewed each boy privately.
The investigators had two questions in mind: Were the boys lying, or had they seen something? If they had seen something, could it be explained by normal circumstances?
In the course of their questioning, the men tried to trick the boys into admitting that they hadn't really seen a UFO or any strange creatures. They questioned the boys about Star Trek, Star Wars, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But they learned from Eddie and Michael's father that his sons had never been interested in science fiction. The boys stuck to their story. As Budd Hopkins wrote in his report, "It became clear to all three of us by the end of the day that the boys were not perpetrating a hoax."
If the boys had actually seen a UFO, the men wanted to know whether it was something ordinary (like an airplane or a helicopter) that had caused the boys to jump to conclusions about every person they next encountered. When the New York Air Traffic Control Center and Newark Airport reported that no flying object had been picked up on radar in the vicinity of Montvale that evening, the investigators decided to center their inquiry on the creatures.
Could they have been joggers?
Officer Pelsang of the Montvale Police Department reported that he had been on duty that evening and had seen no group of joggers. In fact, he had never seen more than two people jogging together in Montvale and never after dark. No one jogs after dark. They'd have to be crazy." Officer Pelsang was certain that he would have noticed a large group of joggers.
If they were not joggers, could the creatures have been employees of the Department of Public Works (DPW)?
The headquarters of the DPW were opposite the school's playing field and near where the boys first saw the yellow-suited aliens. The three men discovered that the DPW workers wore yellow uniforms in bad weather. However, Lewis Bradley of the DPW stated that all workers had gone home at 4:30 P.m. on the day in question and that none were wearing yellow uniforms that day.
The investigators were persistent in their questioning. Could another group of workers have been there that day?
"Look," Mr. Bradley said impatiently, "there are only six men who work here, and I'm the boss. I just finished handing in their time sheets."
As for the female creature, no one else had seen her. That left Hopkins, Bloecher, and Huyghe with no way to prove or disprove the boys' encounter.
Did the boys see a UFO? The investigators concluded that the boys' reports should not be ignored. They agreed with Officer Pelsang, who said, "Twelve-year old boys don't call the police unless they're really upset about something." The boys must have seen something real that night. However, no matter what the investigators wanted to believe, they could not prove that anything had happened. As they wrote in their final report, "The story is interesting but, alas, the amount of value from a case of this kind . . . is doubtful."
Copyright © James M. Deem. Taken from How to Catch a Flying Saucer (Houghton Mifflin, 1991). All rights reserved.