The Truth Is Out There at New England’s Biggest UFO Festival
Get to know New Hampshire’s alien obsession.
Norman Muscarello was hitchhiking back from his girlfriend’s house near Exeter, New Hampshire in the early morning of September 3, 1965, when he saw pulsating lights in the sky. The US Navy enlistee froze in his tracks beside the Dining family farm on rural Route 150 as the lights hovered overhead, disappeared, then returned in throbbing red bursts. “There was absolutely no sound, other than the fact that I heard horses in Dinings’ field raising holy hell, kicking the barn. Crickets just seemed to quit,” he recalled in a 1980 interview. Petrified, Muscarello ran across the street and hid. A few minutes later, the lights zoomed away, leaving the 18-year-old alone on the road.
The Incident at Exeter, as it’s now known, is the force behind the annual Exeter UFO Festival. Following a pandemic-fueled hiatus, the celebration is back for its 10th anniversary on September 3 and 4, 2022. The entire commercial district of Exeter—population 16,000, with a quaint downtown lined with historic architecture clustered along the Squamscott River—gets in on the action. The Town Hall hosts a variety of talks and other-wordly swag tables. There are costume contests, kids’ activities, and even trolley rides that transport you to the site where it all began.
Bill Smith, a former president of the Exeter Area Kiwanis Club and current chair of the festival, explains that the event started as a lecture series, to shed light on a most unusual piece of Exeter history. It has since become a two-day fundraiser for children’s charities, with 100% of the proceeds from ticket and concession sales benefit area youth nonprofits and programming. “It is also a big sales day for local merchants,” Smith says. “For some, it’s the second largest sales weekend after Christmas.”
Exeter’s shops and restaurants deck out their windows alien-inspired decor. Sidewalk chalkboards showcase words of wisdom for surviving an extraterrestrial invasion (“Stock up on tennis balls” and “Buy ALL the treats” advises Paws Pet Boutique II), and an inflatable alien dressed as a sushi chef stands outside OBA Noodle Bar.
Deanna Benoit, owner of Top Drawer Boutique, has participated in the festivities since their inception. Her displays have included a big green alien sporting a pink lace bra and panties, lounging sideways in the front window, and a pair of ETs clad in nighties, clutching suitcases. The sandwich board outside the store read, “Wear pretty underwear. You never know if you’ll be abducted.”
“The business community really seems to get into it,” Benoit says. “Customers love it. They laugh, they stop and take pictures. It generates a lot of buzz.”
This year’s keynote speaker is Ralph Blumenthal, a New York Times contributor and 45-year veteran of its reporting team, as well as a distinguished lecturer at Baruch College in New York, and a summer journalism instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy, a nearby boarding school. Blumenthal’s 2021 book, The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack, chronicles the work of a Harvard psychiatrist who documented the experiences of hundreds of people who claimed to have had alien encounters. Mack’s work was an important development in ufology—AKA the study of UFOs—lending credence to what had previously been considered a fringe field.
Along with Blumenthal, this year’s Exeter UFO Festival will feature Kathleen Marden, a leading UFO contact researcher; Jennifer Stein, a ufology documentarian; and Paul and Ben Eno, father-son hosts of radio show Behind the Paranormal with Paul & Ben Eno, who plan to live-broadcast from the event.
What makes the Incident at Exeter such an enduring example of UFO phenomenon, Blumenthal says, is that multiple people observed it. After Muscarello reported the sighting to the police, he and two police officers, David Hunt and Eugene Bertrand Jr., returned to the scene, where they all witnessed it simultaneously. Earlier in the evening, a woman reported to Bertrand that she had been followed in her car on a nearby road by a large object in the sky with flashing red lights. Similar sightings in the region the following day have led to the Incident at Exeter becoming one of the best-documented UFO sightings in American history.
Museum of Jewish Heritage, April 21, 2022
New York State Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Letitia James in conversation with Ralph Blumenthal
Ralph Blumenthal on “Crash! The Stock Market Collapse of 1929 and the Rise of Fake Money (Scrip)”
Tuesday, October 29, 2019 | 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
48 Wall Street, 5th Floor*
New York City
Ninety years to the day after Black Tuesday ushered in the Great Depression, former New York Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal, a Distinguished Lecturer at Baruch College of the City University of New York, talks about how cash-starved municipalities issued their own bills and coins, with examples from the Baruch Archives historic collections.
Making Democracy Work: FDR’s Bitter Struggle to Modernize the Presidency
April 28, 2019
The Roosevelt Library and the Baruch College Newman Library of the City University of New York will commemorate the 80th anniversary of FDR’s 1939 reorganization of the executive branch. The symposium, “Making Democracy Work: FDR’s Bitter Struggle to Modernize the Presidency” is based on Baruch’s historic collection of the papers of one of FDR’s administrative geniuses, Luther Halsey Gulick III. Panelists will include Susan Dunn, Massachusetts Professor of Humanities at Williams College, David B. Woolner, Senior Fellow and Resident Historian of the Roosevelt Institute, and Kenneth Meier, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University. The discussion will be moderated by Ralph Blumenthal, Distinguished Lecturer at Baruch College.
How Did Ordinary Citizens Become Murderers?
Dr. Christopher Browning, the author of Ordinary Men, and Dr. Wendy Lower, the author of Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, will help illuminate one of the Holocaust’s most vexing questions: What prompted average people to commit extraordinary crimes in support of the Nazi cause?
Baruch College and Luther Gulick
How does the goverment organize itself ‘to the benefit of the people’?
Luther Gulick is not well known, but his legacy in government holds a lot of answers. It is all being meticulously archived at Baruch College.