- Moviegoers across America have been flocking to the theaters
to see Steven Spielberg's blockbuster "War of the Worlds," which
was filmed around North Jersey. But while the movie is focused on a fictional
alien invasion, there are a lot of people in North Bergen who believe there
have been many local invasions and sightings of unidentified flying objects
(UFOs) here over the last 30 years, most of which were centered on the
southeastern end of North Hudson Braddock Park.
- The North Bergen sightings have been documented and reported
to several different agencies, such as the National UFO Reporting Center
in Seattle and the Center for UFO Studies in Chicago.
- In fact, since the initial sighting in 1975, there have
been a total of 700 sightings or incidents involving North Bergen residents
over the last 30 years - easily the highest total of reported incidents
in the United States.
- These have far exceeded those in the more famous location
of Roswell, N.M. or other popular UFO sighting spots like Hudson Valley,
N.Y. and Gulf Breeze, Fla. - places that have had at least 500 sightings
over the years.
- All began with liquor store owner
- The UFO craze in North Bergen began in earnest on January
12, 1975, when a 72-year-old liquor store owner named George O'Barski was
driving home through North Hudson Braddock Park at approximately 2:45 a.m.
He began to experience some heavy static on his car radio. Then the radio
- O'Barski, who is now deceased, apparently heard a loud
noise from above. When he glanced over his shoulder, he saw a round, flat
object with glowing, rectangular windows that hovered behind his car.
- O'Barski later told federal officials that the object
came to a stop about 100 feet ahead of his car. It was hovering 10 feet
off the ground and was about 30 feet wide. It was flat at the bottom and
brightly domed at the top.
- O'Barski said that a ladder came from the object, and
somewhere between eight and 11 creatures, all looking identical, emerged.
They were about three, perhaps four feet tall and all wore dark snow-suit
like uniforms with helmets. Each had a small bag and a little shovel. They
quickly scooped up soil samples, poured the samples into the little bags,
and immediately got back onto the craft.
- Close encounters of the Hudson kind
- The obviously frightened and startled O'Barski told federal
officials that the entire episode lasted like three minutes. At sunrise,
O'Barski went back to North Hudson Braddock Park to make sure he wasn't
dreaming. There were several holes in the soil where he had witnessed the
aliens allegedly digging.
- But O'Barski was not alone with his sighting.
- A doorman who was working at the Stonehenge apartment
complex across from the park on the other side of Boulevard East also noticed
the glowing object hovering 100 feet over Braddock Park, he told law enforcement
officials. The doorman, whose actual identity has not been revealed and
now cannot be found, said that when the object started its ascent, it forced
windows to be shattered in the apartment complex and split a large tree
adjacent to the complex in half.
- It was also later revealed that O'Barski and the unnamed
Stonehenge doorman did not know each other, and it was impossible for the
two to collaborate on their stories.
- The doorman at the Stonehenge also noticed something
else: The creature he spotted was not wearing a coat and the temperatures
were in the teens that early morning.
- UFO experts investigate
- The O'Barski case intrigued two people who are now linked
in the world of UFO investigation.
- Ted Bloecher was an experienced stage actor, having performed
in "Guys and Dolls," "My Fair Lady," and "Oliver"
on Broadway. But as a child, Bloecher was always fascinated with the study
of UFOs (called ufology) and eventually became totally engulfed in O'Barski's
- Bloecher, now a regular UFO investigator, went to interview
O'Barski about his experience with the creatures, later referred to in
reports as "humanoids" because of their appearance.
- He said he believes the creatures were just pretending
to get soil samples.
- "Since I'm an experienced stage actor, I know very
well what is a staged act and what is real," Bloecher said. "The
scene of them getting soil samples was fake. It was staged. Their real
target was George O'Barski. They weren't interested in soil samples. They
- Another UFO researcher who was intrigued by the O'Barski
story was a writer named Budd Hopkins. In fact, both Bloecher and Hopkins
were so intrigued by O'Barski's saga - a story that both experts eventually
believed to be real after interviewing O'Barski - that they have since
teamed forces in the pursuit of other "close encounters."
- The two currently conduct UFO sighting seminars throughout
- The reason Hopkins was so fascinated by the O'Barski
sighting is that Hopkins had just visited a friend inside the Stonehenge
apartments in North Bergen a week before the sighting.
- "It was more than a bizarre coincidence," Hopkins
would later say.
- Newspaper reports were minimal after the O'Barski incident.
Both the local dailies, the Jersey Journal and the now-defunct Hudson Dispatch,
gave the incident a few paragraphs each.
- According to O'Barski's son, George, Jr., his father
went to his grave thoroughly believing that what he saw that fateful evening
did in fact take place.
- "We might have thought he was a little crazy at
first, but he was certain that he saw what he did," George O'Barski,
Jr. said on a recently aired A&E Network special about UFOs that focused
on the North Bergen phenomenon. "It really bothered my father that
people thought he was lying."
- As it turned out, O'Barski wasn't alone.
- The Stith sense
- In 1979, North Bergen resident Harold Stith was driving
through North Hudson Braddock Park in almost the same exact location that
O'Barski had traveled four years prior. Again, it was at nighttime.
- "My father was driving home from work, driving on
Boulevard East, and he turned into the [Braddock] park," said Harold's
son, Robert Stith, who lives in Secaucus. "As soon as he turned off
into the park, his car just stopped dead. Then the radio went dead. A bright
light came on top of the car, and then my father heard some strange things
on the radio, some language that he didn't understand. He then noticed
it was some sort of spaceship. The doors of the ship opened and these little
grey men with big eyes came out. The next thing my father knew was that
the door shut and they flew off. He thought it was like 10 minutes, but
as it turned out, it was like three hours. My mother said that my father
came home three hours late."
- Hopkins, who also investigated the Stith case, believes
that Stith was abducted.
- "He believed that he was abducted," Robert
Stith said. "We all thought he was crazy. He didn't want the story
to come out because other people would have thought he was nuts."
- Two days after Stith had his close encounter, he told
his family that he had a dream about the Miss America pageant.
- "My father named the winner, what she wore, what
she performed, where she was from," Robert Stith said. "No one
took it seriously. We didn't have an affiliation with the pageant, and
we had no idea why he would pick the Miss America winner."
- Harold Stith's prediction came true. Two weeks later,
it all happened just like Stith predicted. Cheryl Prewitt of Mississippi,
the one Stith named after his dream, was crowned Miss America of 1980.
- "I don't think he ever had a theory as to why he
could have done that," Robert Stith said.
- The elder Stith never predicted the future again.
- "Nothing ever happened with me," Robert Stith
said. "I'm still waiting."
- Again, there was a small article written in the Hudson
Dispatch about several people spotting a glowing object in North Hudson
Braddock Park that evening.
- Eighties and '90s
- The local reports to the National UFO Reporting Center
came to a halt for a few years, until 1985, when Ron Lee said he saw three
stationary sets of lights in the area, all oval in shape. Then the lights
took off into the sky.
- Ninetta Nappi reported the same lights as "racing
- In 1988, two different North Bergen residents reported
shapes that looked like "white and green diamonds" flying over
- In 1993, a North Bergen school teacher, Ann Barlovich,
reported seeing a "large elliptical light with an eerie glow, a blimp-like
- "I know what I saw and it wasn't like anything else
I'd ever seen before," Barlovich said in the A&E special. In 1999,
a resident of the Parker Imperial condominium complex said that he was
standing on his balcony and was ready to take a picture of the sunset,
when he noticed something peculiar. The man took the picture, then downloaded
the picture to his computer and noticed three weird orbs in the photo.
- "I really didn't see the orbs when I took the picture,"
said the resident. "Only when I reviewed it later." However,
he refused to show the photos to the North Bergen Reporter.
- On November 3, 2003, the last two sightings were reported
to the National UFO Reporting Center, both from near Braddock Park.
- At 5:40 p.m. that day, two North Bergen residents reported
seeing something in the dusky sky. One witness saw something that looked
like a star, but then it moved in circles, then in a zig-zag motion. It
moved for about five seconds, stopped for a bit, then continued the circular
and zigzagging routine. Another witness saw the same exact thing.
- "At first I thought that my vision was playing with
me, or may be the clouds, but I tried looking at other stars, and they
did not move at all," reads the report on the National UFO Reporting
Center board. "After an hour, the light became steady and stopped
moving. I do not know if what I saw was a UFO, but it was too high to be
a plane or a helicopter."
- Even Peter Jennings knows
- ABC News anchor Peter Jennings did a special report on
UFOs in November of 2004, and he hinted about the number of sightings in
North Bergen, wondering if it was just coincidence or fact-based. The A&E
special report also focused an entire hour on the North Bergen sightings,
especially the famed O'Barski sighting that happened 30 years ago this
- In the ABC report, the network said that almost 50 percent
of Americans believe that UFOs are real, not to mention millions of individuals
in other countries. Federal records of the reports have never been released
to the public.
- Police comment
- North Bergen Police Chief William Galvin, a native of
the township, remembers the craze from when he was a 21-year-old who had
yet to become a police officer.
- "I just remember the hype, and then I just saw the
(A&E) special on TV, and it reminded me," Galvin said. "We
laugh about it. No one has ever received a call reporting a UFO to the
Police Department. It is a mind boggling number to think so many have been
reported them here. But as far as I know, I don't remember anyone calling
the police with these cases. We might have got a call or two about strange
objects, but no one ever made a big deal about it. I can't believe we're
No. 1 on that list. It amazes me."
- Police Captain Robert Farley, a 32-year veteran of the
department, said that he didn't even know about the sightings until the
recent A&E special.
- "I never knew anything about it," Farley said.
- But obviously, the cases were reported. So when local
people watch "War of the Worlds," they can wonder whether aliens
already visited the largest recreational area in Hudson County 30 years
- ©The Hudson Reporter 2005