In 1962, my husband and I moved our growing family to Ramapo Valley Road in Oakland, NJ. Our home, an expanded Cape Cod, complete with in-ground basement, ground floor, and an unfinished attic, was nestled into a somewhat steep piece of land; the hillside going from East to West. This meant the entire, east-facing front of the house, with its extra bedroom extension built atop the garage, was visible from the street.
From the inside of our home, we could look east and north through our front windows. It was a delight to see an unparalleled viewpoint of the lines of the undulating Ramapo Mountains, some four miles distant. Behind the first line, but not visible to the eye, the Wanaque Reservoir was nestled. It is the largest of a series of reservoirs in northern New Jersey, with a capacity of thirty million gallons. It soon became a favorite destination of ours.
With great appreciation of the skies’ cycle, we also often watched noteworthy sunrises and moonrises peeking out from the eastern continuum. Those heavenly bodies crept slowly toward the zenith in preparation for their ride through the skies. On the other hand, the lower western sky was blocked by the slope of the hill rising to a hillock, in back of our property.
By 1965, our family consisted of four children and more room was needed. Within a year, we moved farther northeast to Oak Ridge/West Milford, NJ.
Life in Oakland, this then remote and sparsely settled area of northern New Jersey was an adventure. Our explorations enabled us to find a dozen or so abandoned farmhouses and their rampantly-wild flower/vegetable gardens. Some of the locations had been abandoned within the past hundred years; some within the past forty. Another dozen or so cellar holes with buried treasures such as tools, utensils, and sometimes furniture were hidden in the woods. These places became a source mine for useful objects, tools, and plants.
In addition, we through the diversity of the four season, checking out the area’s wealth of hills, fields, walking trails, edible plants, watercourses, night skies, and huge reservoirs which still supply the lower parts of the state with drinking water.
The largest reservoir nearby was the aforementioned Wanaque Reservoir. A winding, often one-lane road marked the margins of its steep sides. Swimming and boating were prohibited. Fishing was permitted. And, after we settled in to the community, so was bird watching. For safety reasons, the rules were strictly enforced by constant patrol of officers from surrounding towns and hamlets. They knew we and our friends spent a great deal of time looking for and admiring water birds, amongst them the Bald Eagle. We received a great deal of good-natured ribbing about our hobby. On the other hand, our knowledge of the scientific world was greatly admired, and we were considered an accurate source of information.
Around ten pm on the evening of October 11,1966, the town of Wanaquepolice captain and one of his officers were making their rounds. At that time of the year, the reservoir was already covered by ice about two/three inches thick. As they carefully negotiated the double curve of Deadman’s Curve, an incredibly bright light from the sky illuminated everything to daylight. There was no noise. and their patrol car momentarily went dead.
As they looked out at the reservoir, they could see a huge circular hole, with perhaps a fifty foot diameter, which had melted the ice. Looking up, they saw a huge, white fireball which suddenly darted away into space. Frantically, they were able to start the patrol car, and, as their radio spluttered into a veritable explosion of calls, they drove a half mile further on to assess and handle the situation. Those calls were coming in from all over the region about the bright lights of the object flying low over the hills.
This account was told to me by the two men involved, when friend Bob arranged me to meet them a week or so later.
There are dozens of accounts of the incidents and its aftermath. – Yet, a week later, another UFO appeared! To me, the most accurate rendition is found on the following website: http://www.andras-nagy.com/ufo02/05.htm .
The next morning, news of the incident spread through radio and newspapers and phone calls. We wondered what had happened, because neither of us had a belief in aliens. So, neither my husband nor I were agitated. Friend Bob called. “I’m taking you guys out to see the hole! It’s a b-i-g one!”
“Karl, nothing untoward happened last night!” I told him after talking to Bob. “I was up around one this morning to take care of one of the children, and the only fiery ball I saw was the full moon setting over” pointing to a low hill in the Ramapo Chain, “there by Lois’ house in the dell.”
“Full moon? Setting, Liz? You sure?”
“Yes of course.” Said with irritation. “After about five minutes, I got the baby back to sleep and looked at the mountains again. The moon had set.”
Karl walked over to the window. I followed. “Show me where.” He said.
I pointed. “Right there! Right above the hill where Lois lives.”
He cleared his throat. “That’s due north. Since when does the moon set due north? Liz, the moon wasn’t full tonight. It’s not due to be full until Halloween.”
We looked at each other, totally speechless. Then we made a beeline to the phone to call Bob. We made a date to see the ice hole on Saturday morning, some five days later.
The ensuing media frenzy escalated into national news. Sightings of other UFO’s in the area went on for a week. Even though later news accounts denied an official investigation, federal officials were all over the area with instruments, cameras, and even rowboats. Official vehicles from the Air Force, Army, FAA, and other federal agencies were racing back and forth on Ramapo Valley Road for days. Eventually an official announcement was made there was nothing unusual in the area.
We did see the hole on Saturday. It was an extraordinary. A fifty-foot diameter circle of water in the midst of the ice!
There is an impressive postscript to this narrative.
After Karl went to work on October 17th, I walked down with the children to Lois’ house to tell her the news. Lois was a highly educated woman and a professional news writer. I told her the whole story, and she pooh-poohed the whole. We listened to the radio and even drove to town to pick up some newspapers. Still, she was more than skeptical.
The children played as we sat at her round glass table in the yard. Lois made me tell my story several times more. She asked several pointed questions. The setting of the “moon” amused her.
Then she snorted. “Liz, be intelligent. UFO’s don’t exist. It is mass hysteria. It’s a perfectly lovely October day today. “Why, I got up this morning and watched the sun rise through the low clouds. It was so beautiful! The clouds turned it to a silvery, metallic color. It’s fall, so it rose rapidly, of course, but I couldn’t watch because Harold was waiting for his breakfast.”
A light went off in my brain. “Where were you standing, Lois?”
“There.” pointing at the kitchen window. “Why?”
I looked at her a moment, then whispered. “Lois, that’s due west.”
“Right! The sun…” and then she faltered. “The sun rises in the East. The moon sets in the West. They are not rapid movers. Oh my Lord!”
We sat there, holding each other hands, saying nothing. The children played unconcernedly on.
Postscript: On 08/28/2011, friend Skip sent me this email after reading the above post: I have a listing of the full moons gathered from the Naval Observatory; after reading with interest your first UFO encounter at Wanaque I can confirm the October full moon was on: 1966 Oct 29 10:01 Sat