The UFO That Landed NASA in Court
Town In The Middle
Kecksburg wasn't where the story started, nor where it ended. This small town in Pennsylvania was where something crashed in the woods after it traveled quite some distance. Afterwards, the case involved missing files, a forgetful NASA and eventually, the story landed up in court. Let's start at the beginning.
The first people to see the Kecksburg UFO weren't in Pennsylvania. During 1965, on December 9, thousands watched an object streak through the night sky. It was unanimously described as a big and brilliantly fireball. Sightings were reported in Canada (including several pilots), and six states in the United States.
The newspapers treated it as a meteor. This assumption came after the authorities dismissed the possibilities that it could have been satellite debris, a missile or an aircraft in distress. Must've been a funny meteor. It allegedly rained metal pieces over Ohio and Michigan, some of which were so hot they started field fires. The UFO was also linked to sonic booms that occurred in Western Pennsylvania.
An Acorn Arrives
Duly, the UFO crashed in Kecksburg. A young boy claimed to have witnessed the incident and his mother, who saw blue smoke rising from the trees, placed a phone call to the authorities. It was a call that would later bring the military and people who, according to residents, behaved in a sinister manner towards them.
Before the uniforms arrived, locals went to investigate. Among them were volunteers from the local fire department, perhaps under the impression that a light aircraft had fallen. The thing they encountered, however, had no wings. The object was about the size of a Volkswagen bus and according to the time's media reports measured 12 to 15 feet high, with a diameter of 8 to 12 feet. It was also completely metal, with no bolts, rivets or panels. The shape resembled an acorn.
The witnesses found a curious detail when they examined the base. It was encircled by a band inscribed with writing. The closest thing people could match the scribbles with were Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
An established fact is that the United States Army arrived. Things get murky and sinister after that. Locals at the scene claimed the area was taken over by a strong military presence, already somewhat strange for a “meteor.” Civilians were booted from the site, before the artifact was loaded onto a truck and taken away. Afterwards, the military issued a statement about the remarkable emptiness of the forest. Their exact words? The search discovered “absolutely nothing.”
There was also a reporter present. Base in Greensburg, the Tribune-Review ran the story the next morning and it was supportive of those who believed something fell in Kecksburg. It detailed how the area was immediately cordoned off, by State Police to await the U.S. Army. The story claimed that the military brought their own engineers and civilian scientists. When the newspaper ran a follow-up later, the story said that the authorities found nothing.
Some locals had reason to believe that this “nothing” was actually something very important. Several complained about visits from officials who threatened them. They were specifically told not to talk about what they saw. If true, the visits and threats were a lot of effort for a whole lot of nothing that happened in Kecksburg that night.
Sci Fi Channel Takes on NASA
In 2003, the Sci Fi Channel wanted the truth about the incident. Their scientific team arrived in Kecksburg and found damaged tree tops leading straight to the crash site. When analyzed, tree core samples showed that the damage happened in 1965. This contradicted the claims that nothing came down.
The Channel approached Leslie Kean, an investigative journalist and asked her to work with the Coalition for Freedom of Information. What started as another investigative job, turned into years of legal battle and a successful lawsuit against NASA (that night, some officials apparently identified themselves as working for the agency).
The Court Case (2003 to 2005)
- 2003 — The Sci Fi Channel and Kean file for NASA to release documents on the Kecksburg incident
- 2003 — In November, NASA releases around 40 uninformative pages
- 2005 — NASA admits that something fell and was found, but claims it was a Russian satellite
The Russian Satellite
The satellite in question was real. Around the time of the Kecksburg crash, the Soviet probe Kosmos 96 was falling back to Earth. Here's why it couldn't have been the acorn in the woods.
1. According to Stan Gordon, a local UFO reporter, witnesses and the initial media reports claimed the thing slowed down as if being controlled. Controlled landings weren't a defining attribute of satellites in the 1960s
2. After launching, Kosmos 96 malfunctioned. Some suggested the object was part of the satellite's debris, but witnesses never mentioned any charring, torn pieces or damage
3. Kosmos 96 never left the atmosphere. The Kecksburg UFO entered the atmosphere and caused shock waves that were recorded on a seismograph near Detroit
4. The Russian probe was bell-shaped. The description of “acorn” was also suitable, but the soviet piece's measurements were much smaller than those given for the UFO
5. In 1991, a US Space Command report stated that Kosmos 96 did crash on December 9, 1965 — but in Canada and 13 hours before the UFO's re-entry at 4:45pm
6. Nicholas Johnson, the Chief Scientist for Orbital Debris (stationed at NASA's Johnson Space Center) made no bones about it. In 2003, he insisted that the Russian probe was nowhere near Pennsylvania on the evening in question
The Court Case (2005 – 2007)
- 2005 — After NASA's surprise statement about the metal fragment, Kean requests their sources for this claim, since their spokesman said the records were misplaced in the 1990s. Kean never receives an answer
- 2005 — In December, Kean files another lawsuit to force NASA to search for the documents
- 2007 — In March, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan denies NASA's request to have the case thrown out. Instead, he calls NASA's attempts to explain or find the documents a “ball of yarn,” and gives them until the end of the year to find the missing records
- 2007 — Kean receives the documents from NASA
The Fireball Press Releases
The NASA Files
When Kean received the files, several documents were missing or destroyed. Some had nothing to do with the case. Despite this, her analysis found that the object wasn't from any known country. She couldn't rule out an old theory — that the Kecksburg UFO was a secret U.S. project. If this was the case, the stonewalling that endured for over 40 years was unusual.
Another interesting finding was that the records showed NASA did investigate things that fell from the sky, something that had been denied earlier in the case. This was supported by the discovery that a box — full of files about recovered fragments — was missing. She also found that NASA released abundant press releases out about other fireballs, but was oddly silent about the one in Kecksburg.
Kean, who was not personally allowed to search NASA's archives, suspected that some of the paperwork linked to Kecksburg had not been released. However, she and her team decided to cease their case against NASA, having exhausted all their legal avenues.
© 2019 Jana Louise Smit