UFO Conjecture(s)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Something doesn't add up: The Wanaque Reservoir UFO sighting of 1966

There are several Wanaque sightings for 1966: one in January, one in February, and one in October.

Photos of the UFO(s) seen by many witnesses during those sightings have been published, one of them here:

But we don't know if the photo is from the January, February, or October sightings.

The David Ickes web-site quotes Tony Bragalia (from The Bragalia Files):

"I am not aware of the location of the negatives (given they exist) nor the identity of the photographer/s who took these intriguing images. Though I cannot vouch for their authenticity, at least one of the witnesses contacted thought that there was a good similarity to what was seen at Wanaque.

They could though be “fakes” made after the event to simulate what had happened at Wanaque. Or perhaps they are of a similar event."

Dominick has provided a link to Mallan's excellent accumulation of witness testimony for the October and earlier sightings.

Click here for Mallan's article

Lloyd Mallan's exegesis of the Wanaque UFO sighting of October 11th, 1966 is an example of superb research and interviewing technique(s), both of which he is noted for.

In the linked piece that Dominick provided, Mr. Mallan gets one of his interviewed cops to tell him what kind of weather was extant on that October 11th, 1966 night:

"Was the sky clear?" I asked Sergeant Thompson.

"It was a perfectly clear night, yes."

The weather for that night is listed by NOAA weather as this:


Now, was it a clear night or a rainy/snowy, highly precipitate night?

Also, Tony Bragalia told me to observe that deatils were seen through the ray that allegedly emanates from the UFO -- something that Tony thinks authenticates the photo and sighting.

If it was indeed highly precipitate both on October 11th and October 12th, 1966, how could such details be so readily seen, or photographed?

Mr. Mallan also got this testimony for the earlier sightings in January or February:

"It was overcast, starting to rain - the sky was just starting to be socked in. You couldn't see any stars in the sky or even the moon..."

And the same caveat applies -- if it was raining during those sightings, how was it possible for the camera to catch details in the background of the UFO photo?

Also, Ms. Mallan's interviewees give testimony that the object was the about the size of a car (close up) or just a bright light (when seen from a distance).

Anyone familiar with how a camera, circa 1966, would capture something in the sky, they know that an object's image wouldn't be as large as that which the photo depicts.

The photo, above, for me (and Lance Moody, among others), is a fake, but Tony Bragalia and others (Jeff Ritzmann for one) think an analysis of the photo(s) or their negatives will provide proof of a UFO or not.

Getting hold of the original snapshots (or negatives) will be daunting, but Mr. Bragalia has pulled other rabbits out of a hat, so....

While a few things don't add up here, the "research" goes on.

Nota Bene: I can't determine the exact date of the alleged Wanaque photos. Who took them and when is murky.



  • What I came away with is a localized, profound ionization of the atmosphere. A phenomenon that reminded me of a carbon based electric arc lamp which works on principles somewhat like arc welding,in that the witnesses perhaps saw the atmosphere being ionized by the high potential difference (voltage) that is energized between the earth and storm clouds. The point being this is probably an effect being mistaken for a cause. Plasmas come to mind.

    The cause behind the effect is seems to be far from settled, to coin a pun, far from being a smoking gun this cited occurrence seems "up in the air" based on various inconsistent descriptions of an "object" that was assumed to be within this effect.

    A game of semiotic matching in the perception the mind looking at probabilities ie: atmospheric effects=unknown aircraft= an object, rather than an unknown series of unidentified behaviors and effects.

    The fact that it was sighted in the same location seems to be related to the geological and other attributes of the location not a theatrical set piece put on by bored aliens who want to stir folks up. What is more probable? A great deal of this is a chain of critical assumptions based on subjective matches without any chain of a coherent theory.

    The photograph in question is a red herring, beside the point,that is more than probably faked based on this essay.

    It remains like most of these occurrences, an unknown not a "close match"..to name or cite this event preemptively as a "spaceship" without further analysis does the phenomenon a disservice in terms of critical thinking.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • PS
    One thing that struck me is how the earlier postwar investigations of enigmas of unknown atmospheric phenomenon have become a fairly rigid mindset, a set of self referential beliefs centered around our cultures iconic heavier than air atmospheric craft, which in retrospect, looks like mistaking a living phenomenon of an unknown nature..for objects for the simple reason that is what we are familiar with. Empirical irony at it's best, full of dead ends..for now. If and when the causes of this phenomenon are found, I think it's safe to say it will be beyond our current conceptual models.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • Bruce:

    When I read the accounts of those who saw UFOs over or near Wanaque Dam, I think of misperceived atmospherics, however...

    I'd like to note, as I have to Anthony Bragalia, that the sightings took place in the time-frame of the Ann Arbor/Dexter and Hillsdale "swamp gas" sightings (March 1966).

    Those "UFOs" also were tethered to water, and Ronald Mannor, who saw the "object" with his father (Frank) at their Dexter farm, insists that the UFOs were tangible things.

    Ronald will be highlighted on a History Channel show by one of our colleagues who is doing a documentary for History, upcoming, about such sightings.

    (I am in touch with Ronald, and talked with him and his father in 1966, while working at the Detroit News. The swamp gas explanation was a ruse -- as you know and Hynek later admitted. What they saw was, and I believe them, a strange object that hovered over a swamp in their acreage, just as the Hillsdale College girls reported about their sighting.)

    So I am inclined to think that something more than misperceived atmosperics or misidentified astronomical entities (stars or meteors) may have taken place in Wanaque.

    But the photo? Bogus, to give credibility to badgered witnesses, as Mallan's account tells.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • The proximity to water could just as easily be attributable to an unknown series of relationships than to a object in the form of a spaceship, as well as the timing of Wanaque and Ann Arbor being representative of certain natural conditions present at that time in the northern hemisphere, again, to create anomalous atmospheric effects from an unknown anomalous source. I think the emphasis is on unknown, as we are referring to effects not a specifically attributable cause. I think starting over in looking at this phenomenon, we can only analyze effects as an arms length transaction, and not inserting a metallic "spaceship", an object, as anything other than a possible though improbable source. The fact that they were perceived as tangible is a perceptual issue that needs further qualification. I agree something anomalous happened that had an atmospheric component, I am not saying it was solely atmospheric, it was an environmental clue, nothing more or less. I think these accounts are by their nature, not the sort of material that will unlock the science behind this, while interesting, these old accounts ultimately act like a heat sink for rationalists to debate more as an entertaining game. Taking any one incident as a template to determine the nature of this is a self inflicted trap.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • Bruce:

    You are looking for (or at) the evanescent aspect of UFOs, their ulterior reality.

    That may be the case.

    But I'm of the school that thinks UFOs are "flying saucers" of a kind, made of something that is tangible or feigns tangibility.

    The Platonic "reality" doesn't do it for me.

    The day will come when I pass over to that intangible reality you love so much.

    But, for now, I remain entrenched in solidified reality -- amenable to touch, taste, and smell.

    The Wanaque UFO sightings remain obscure, for several reasons.

    What I'm dealing with here are the photos. the one above, in particular -- which has a tangibility that no one is addressing: is it real or is it fake?


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • I don't think ionization of the atmosphere is evanescent. I think to say the enigma is solved by preemptively having a conclusion and then working reverse causation to find a pattern is to go beyond the miasma of clues to a bias in the investigation, when eliminating all suspects first then narrowing the scope seems to be called for. You could of course be correct in your assumptions, but honestly, pragmatism toward an unknown does not necessarily translate into an intangible philosophy. Appearances can be deceiving. Good luck to you.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • A final comment;

    "Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise." - Bertrand Russell

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • You always make sense, Bruce, in an abstruse way, as I've often noted.

    But what about the photo?

    Is it real or fake?


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • Personally based on the weather conditions cited, the degree of luminosity of the light reported by witnesses and the corresponding lack of diffusion and reflection being irradiated by the light itself in the environment, it is more probable to be a ham fisted fake. It would be interesting to determine was this photo sold or offered at gratis to these publications as a secondary probe of motive, as well the type of camera used,the lens associated with the film speed etc. The issue with researching this is the extraordinary lapse of time since the alleged image was taken. I give credit where credit is due for tenacity, but I think the challenge of this one might be a bridge too far, too distant in time to be of any use.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • I do not see anything akin to stars in the perceived sky of this bad quality, "internet" (in other words, passed around like a whore on Saturday night), image. Such things are indeterminable to that kind of clarity.

    I see no stars, but a disturbance of emulsion (or digital data) that could be anything from photo wear, to development issues, to moderate cloud cover, to over-application of digital filters.

    There's no telling what it is. Who knows who's fooled with what here.

    This does seem by all rights to be a cropped photograph. I know of no standard camera that would take a photo of such a ratio back in 1966, although I could be wrong.

    Now the question begs, if it's been cropped, what else has been done. It's all a question of lineage.

    I don't care who the photo came from if I have the original negative or direct print from original negative (done by modern equipment).

    To that end, if we can't get the original data, there's no point in further debating this photo at all - we have no clue as to it's lineage or provenance and that's everything. To lay anything other than "meh" to the internet photo we have is counter-productive.

    I think the basic requirements to examine the photo are very modest, all things considered. Let's see the original data before we say if it's worth looking at further.

    By Blogger JR, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • JR:

    I also noted to Tony the cropping of the photo. There was no camera providing photos in the format of this reproduced copy.

    But you fellows disappoint.

    If a crime is committed and the weapon is not available, should the crime go un-investigated?

    Getting one's hands on the original would make it easy to discern the viability of the photo or photos in question, much as was discussed here, previously, in the British spaceman photo.

    But that seems unlikely, although Tony Bragalia is giving it the good ol' college try, which has served him well for his other researched forays.

    Since we only have the besmirched copy, seen above, we are stuck with that image to ruminate about.

    Bruce Maccabee wouldn't be so niggardly about deciphering such a belittled image I imagine.

    But you blokes give up rather easily, looking for the easy way.

    Disappointing, to say the least.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • RR-If you're willing to lay judgement of one kind or another onto incomplete, and likely corrupt and contaminated data - that's totally fine. I don't.

    I'm not looking for an "easy way". But there are rules of evidence, and a small compressed possibly multi-generational scan of a 1966 photo doesn't pass the filter.

    This is, all too often, how less than credible "analysis" starts and proliferates. It's unreliable data, and minimally informative.

    By Blogger JR, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • Jeff:

    I respect your professionalism, as you know, and I've made that clear here, I think.

    But the UFO crowd, me included, often look for the easy clues, the facts that stand out and are obvious or nearly so.

    But when a "toughie" comes into view, everyone wants to pretend to be occupied with things more important, or they choose to avoid those niggling aspects that remain stubbornly subliminal.

    While much of the photo can't be authenticated without the original, there are elements in the image provided that can be taken apart and brought forward for consideration.

    All is not lost by a photo being second or fifth generation or by being acquired on the internet.

    Sherlock Holmes and/or Columbo would be aghast at the slackery of the approach I find here.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • Any time you want a UFO photo "authenticated" you can call Bruce Maccabee. He has proven himself a laughingstock over and over again.


    By Blogger Lance, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • Dominick provides this, from his comments at the previous post (replying to Lance there):

    ...it's simply NOT true that there is "no reason to believe that it (the photo)might be of earth shattering importance." There is at least ONE reason why it might be of such importance: It matches in a very specific (and unusual) way the description of some of the observers. I am well aware that UFo photos can be (and have been) faked but I am not aware of fake photos that come AFTER a reported multiple sighting that then match up with some of the unusual characteristics of that sighting. It's not impossible, of course, but I just don't recall any examples in the literature.

    Even if we had the original prints and even if we did some solid 2011 photo analysis, I'm not sure that everyone would be satisfied with the results. The Rex Heflin photos are still debated even though a. there is no evidence that the photos were faked and b. that the Journal of Scientific Exploration photo-analysis(Vol. 14, No.4, 2000) found black particulate matter trailing the UFO in one photo that appeared to match the smoke ring debris in another photo.

    (See my op/ed on this classic photo case in the Orange County Register, November 8, 2009.)

    But rather than provide a reasonable explanation of a hoax or a reasonable criticism of the photo-analysis, we still have UFO skeptics asserting that the Heflin photos are a fake...because, apparentlhy, they look like a fake!

    For informational purposes, the link to my Heflin op/ed piece is:


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • This site tells where the Wanaque UFO photos may have come from:

    http://www.ignaciodarnaude.com/avistamientos_ovnis/Schwarz,UFOs%20and%20L ight%20Beams,FSR72V18N4.pdf


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • RR- Can you tell me what parts can be brought forward for consideration?

    By Blogger JR, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • No, Jeff, I'll leave that to the creative souls who visit here.

    (If I could provide a decent analysis, I would, and the question wouldn't have been asked in the first place.)



    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • RR-
    Well it's hard to call "slakery" when presenting a 169 X 320 72 dpi unknown origin web image, calling for analysis.

    That would fall under the "naive" category. ;)

    By Blogger JR, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • JR:

    Yeppir, naive is what it is, but I didn't call for analysis just some insightful comments about the photo.

    You touched on one: the cropped image.

    Then there are the images behind the "ray" and the similarity of the UFO to one on the cover of a UFO magazine of the period.

    (I'll have to put that online here.)

    You don't have to feel guilty or slackful because of my remarks.

    This is just "ufology."


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • "This site tells where the Wanaque UFO photos may have come from:


    That link is bad--try this one:


    By Blogger steve sawyer, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • The original article ["How It Was at Wanaque"] within which the woman holding a magazine showing the alleged Wanaque UFO photos initially came from was "Flying Saucers UFO Report No. 2," edited by Carmena Freedman, Dell Publications, New York, October 1967, pp. 58-59, as shown on .pdf page 20 [Footnote 4] of Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 18, No. 4, 1972, at the following url:


    Note particularly the photo [Figure 3] in the FSR article by Berthold E. Schwarz, which shows the Wanaque photo being debated here in a wider view, and which shows a rather large "ball of light" (or whatever it is) to the right of the "light beams."

    [The tinyurl noted here includes all of FSR, V.18, No.4, and Schwarz' complete article, including the 4 references continued on to page 17, not included in the initial url Rich provided an erroneous link to]

    By Blogger steve sawyer, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • The problem with discussions like this is that the photograph can never be authenticated as a "real UFO". A UFO photograph can only be proven to be definitely false - it can never be proven to definitely depict a legitimate scientific unknown or "real UFO". No matter who took it, no matter how well it stands up over time, it could still be a hoax. In this sense, pictures like this have very little evidential value one way or the other. For all I know, the Trent pictures could depict a real UFO - or it could be a hub cap. With the pictures that can't be resolved one way or another, we just bring our personal prejudices to bear on them. They don't prove anything one way or another, and probably only possess lasting value as specimens of some variety of ontological Outsider Art.

    By Blogger Tristan Eldritch, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • Thanks, Steve:

    It's also a PDF, which I can provide via a link should anyone wish to read it.

    Tony Bragalia informs me that the author of the PDF is iffy, so caveats abound.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • Tristan:

    We all agree that UFOs represent a real phenomenon, don't we?

    The question here has to do with the authenticity of the Wanaque UFO photo, not UFOs per se.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 04, 2011  

  • I posted this comment on Anthony Bragalia's article:

    "There are some problems with this photo. It was supposedly taken at night, yet the forest is sharp and fairly well exposed. This would require a tripod and a long exposure. The reservoir is dark, yet it was supposed to be covered with ice. (The ground under the trees appears to be covered with snow, however, so at least it was approximately the right time of year.) [Others suggest this could have been the October sighting, rather than the January sighting. It could equally well have been of some other locale, though.]

    There are actually two clear beams of light, which are more transparent at the bottom than the top, yet which do not seem to diminish in intensity nearly as much as they should as they spread out. The beams seem to simply end rather than illuminating the reservoir - in fact, the darkest part of the picture is directly beneath the beams. This is not how real light behaves. The left side of the craft is indistinct and does not match the right side, yet there is little evidence of motion blur, indicating a short exposure or a static subject (more likely the latter given this is supposed to be a night shot and it has a properly-exposed background.)

    On the whole it looks like a fake produced by dodging a print (using an opaque or partially transparent object to reduce exposure in a defined area of photographic paper.) There is a faint line coming form the 4 o'clock position on the craft which may be the support wire used to hold the cutout used to do the dodging."

    In other words: this would be easy to fake, but essentially impossible to have been taken as described at the time described.

    On further examination it appears possible that the dodging was done with three cutouts, one for the ship body and one for each "light beam".

    The landscape photo, either an underexposed twilight photo or a night scene taken with a tripod was printed for a few seconds with all the cutouts in place blocking the light from the enlarger. A bit of movement of the ship-body cutout may have been used, giving a bit of motion-blur effect. The cutout for the left beam was removed a short time before the light from the enlarger was shut off, allowing a faint bit of the scene to be printed through the left beam.

    The .pdf with the wider view photo referenced above has been run through the wrong type of printing screen, obscuring all fine details. Also, apparently no one is willing to claim authorship of the photo, and the scene may actually be of the Poconos.

    The sightings may well be authentic, but this photo is not of much use as evidence in support of the story.

    By Blogger EH, at Monday, August 08, 2011  

  • OTOH I'm not sure the evidence shows that it was not clear during the October sighting - the referenced website shot seems to say that they have precipitation records, but not temperature or other records. "Station data completeness" is whether the data is present from the stations in the selected area, not what the data is at those stations. Otherwise why would "temperature" be measured in percent, rather than degrees?

    By Blogger EH, at Monday, August 08, 2011  

  • EH-

    Thanks much for the comments and analysis. However, the “Poconos” idea of the locale came from the very gullible, late Dr. Berthold Schwarz. He published the photo in 1972- six years after similar photos from the series had already been published in Dell’s 1967 UFO Reports. Schwarz said it was taken in PA by a “salesman” that he would only identify by initials. This salesman –if one carefully reads Schwarz’ article- was a “silent contactee” and a “repeater.” I do not believe this photo was taken in the Poconos. In fact, I am now rather certain it was at Wanaque….The background reveals Lilly Hill, a feature of Wanaque.

    The problems you identify needn’t be. The photo is in the winter. I lived in the Northeast. Some of the water in Winter can be frozen solid, some can be “crunchy” under your feet and still other parts of the same body of water can be flowing and liquid. There is snow near the woods/hill too in the photo. October is too early for that- January is perfect for that.

    I fail to see any “support line”- and I do not believe this photo to be “easy to fake” – especially in the 1960s. I also fail utterly to see “three cut-outs” in the photo.

    Your comment “this is not how real light behaves” bemuses. If we are dealing with a non-earthly craft- it is likely that those in it are able to manipulate light energy in any way that they wish!

    Of more interest to me is the irregular shape, the morph-like quality and the misty/fuzzy plasma-like edges reported by those witnesses I am continuing to interview. This was a highly-energetic phenomenon, and though I am not certain about the photo/s authenticity, I am certain that the photos taken were taken by NJ cops. More to come on that!


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, August 09, 2011  

  • Oct 1966 one perfect New Jersey Saturday for touch football. Looking at a calender today I would say it was likely the 22nd Oct. Paramus retail malls were closed on sundays. I was twelve and old enough to stay home to continue the games when my parents went to Paramus to shop. Their story went like this, on their way they decided to stop at capital lighting near Livingston on Rt 10 from there they crossed over Rt 10 onto river road heading towards Pinebrook/Rt 46. They came upon a car stopped in the road at the point where the power lines cross over, the people in the car seemed to be all looking and pointing up and to their right.The people reacted by turning around and speeding off . My Dad described what he saw as a large cigar shaped object just a few hundred yards away moving away from his position. Seemed to be following open space just above the power lines. Where the people in the other car turned and left in rubber burning haste the opposite direction Dad was consumed with curiosity and tried to follow to get a better look.One more glimpse and it left the scene faster than anything he ever witnessed.Wish I went shopping that day.

    By Blogger jack kuchta, at Saturday, October 26, 2013  

  • I was 11 years old at the time of the sightings over Wanaque N.J. I saw a UFO with my mom while outside with my telescope. I lived on Ringwood Ave and Furnace Ave.
    I saw a oval shaped, bronze colored object glide at tree top level the street to our North (Frederick Ave). The object simply disappeared. I am disappointed that I never saw the UFO's over the damn. I would guess many folks saw strange lights, but never reported them. I saw lots of military type vehicles around the vicinity of the reservoir the week of the sightings.

    By Blogger George, at Saturday, August 15, 2015  

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