Go Back Report # 475

11-09-1974                                                   HOAX 

Photo courtesy of researcher Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos of:


Pennsylvania's ‘U.F.O.’ Just a Flash in the Pond

       CARBONDALE, Pa., Nov. 11 (AP)—An old railroad lantern glowing underwater in a silt pond near an abandoned coal breaker kept this rural eastern Pennsylvania community talking of unidentified flying objects over the weekend.

       A diver retrieved the 12-inch lantern today after the pond was drained.

       Three teen-age boys told the Carbondale police Saturday they had seen a brightly shining object flash across the sky and seconds later saw a light shining in the pond. One patrolman, dispatched to the scene, fired at least four shots at the object. The police tried to retrieve the object, but it fell to the bottom.                                                                                              

This reference: The New York Times, November 12, 1974, p. 78, col. 1           


Submerged UFO Really Identified?

       On November 9, 1974, three teenagers and several anonymous callers reported seeing a mysterious glowing object fall from the skies into a small silt pond behind Russell Park in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, and even though police have written off the affair as a massive hoax, doubts continue to exist.          

       Some of the reasons for the doubt include the testimony of a Russell Park employee who arrived on the scene 15 minutes after the alleged splashdown. He said the brightness of the object fluctuated, brightening and dimming alternately. A volunteer fireman backed up the statement, and said that the object he saw glowing in the pond could not have been the railroad lantern, which was retrieved by police the next day. Police had tried to hook the thing into a net on the end of a long pole on Sunday, the 10th, but had no luck. A policeman, speaking "off the record," said that what he saw in the water could not have been a railroad lantern. Other points which lend doubt were the facts that a scuba diver from New York State retrieved the lantern, his wife said she would not comment when asked whether he had been requested to go to Carbondale by authorities there, and a police scuba diving team as well as divers from the Wallenpaupack Scuba Club (located in Carbondale) were not asked to search for the lantern.

       A Carbondale merchant who sells lanterns such as that retrieved from the pond said the lantern couldn't have stayed lit for nine hours (from the time it was seen to come down until it was retrieved). Consequently, a large number of people in the Carbondale area doubt that the police retrieved the real source of the glow.                                                                                      

This reference: The APRO Bulletin, January/February 1975, pp. 8-9    



25 Years Later, Man Admits to UFO Hoax



       If fictional FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully came to Carbondale today, they could stamp the borough's 25-year-old X-File "CASE CLOSED."

       After a quarter century, Northeastern Pennsylvanians now know what caused the strange glow on Nov. 9, 1974, in an old mine silt pond in Russell Park near Carbondale Area High School: The water's mysterious green-tinged glow, which lasted nine hours, apparently came from a sealed beam lantern tossed into the water by a then-14-year-old boy.

       "I created the story," said Robert J. Gillette Jr., who is now 39 and still living in Carbondale.

       He said he tossed the flashlight into the water that day in an effort to frighten his sister, Maria, and her friends.

       "There was nothing to do in Carbondale — it's still the same way — so we had them come over and said there was a monster in the water or something bizarre," he recalled. "The flashlight burned out in the meantime and we had to get another one and that happened to be the lantern. We got that out of a car."

       Somebody called the police, too. Retired Carbondale Police Lt. John Barbero recalled this past week that the caller sounded young.

       Mr. Barbero, then a patrolman, and Officer Joseph Jacobina responded. They were the first on the scene.

       When police arrived, Mr. Gillette and his friends, Bill and John Lloyd, spun a tale of a whirring, sparking, red ball flying over Salem Mountain and plunging into the pond.

       "The way it was in the water, glowing ... it stayed lit for quite a while," Mr. Barbero said. "It looked like it was pulsating, but it was the waves making it look like that.”

       When the police arrived, the prank suddenly looked serious. The boys didn’t think they could alter their story.

       "Once the cops came up, I said, 'Oh, oh, we’re in trouble,’ ” Mr. Gillette explained. “I was thinking Boys’ Town or reform school. So I made the story up and they bought it.”

       Police said this was the first time anyone admitted to creating the hoax. John Lloyd declined to be interviewed when called.

       The next scene could have been straight from a 1950s sci-fi movie. Patrolman Jacobina fired a shot at the glowing object. It missed.

       At the time, witnesses said the light moved out of the bullet's way. Military personnel with Geiger counters, scientists, and UFO “experts” arrived.

       Mr. Barbero was there for three days straight, never leaving.

       “For three days, we were the talk of the country,” he added. Experts came from as far away as Canada to check on it."

       “I was dumbfounded,” Mr. Gillette said. "You see all these government officials and all the press coverage they had. I couldn’t believe it.”

       Carbondale Police Chief Dominick Andidora, then a young patrolman, said it was a combination of factors that made the boys' tale seem plausible, at first.

       When they threw the lantern in, it flipped over the right way and landed (with the light pointing) straight up in the air," he said. "The pond is green from all of the sulfur and stuff. It looked like the son-of-a-gun pond was green and glowing. To add to it, the warm water was getting cooled off and it was steaming. People thought it was boiling.

       “The elements were right there to where everybody thought it was a UFO," Chief Andidora said.

       The plot thickened thanks to another coincidence: A piece of construction equipment at the coal breaker next to the pond had been wrecked. They moved it the night the “UFO” was reported.

       "What they did was they loaded it up on the lowboy (trailer) and covered it with a big canvas and took it out at 6 o'clock in the morning," Chief Andidora explained. "When the machine went out at 6 that morning, all the people said, 'Oh my God, it's a piece of the UFO.' It was just a piece of machinery from the breaker."

       Mr. Barbero always thought the UFO tale was bogus and said, "It’s good someone came forward.

       He knows some people will never believe it was a hoax.

       "Every expert — UFO experts, the military — they all came in and searched the bottom of the pond, sent a diver in, and that (lantern) is the only thing they ever came up with," he said.

       Many people still think an actual UFO landed 25 years ago. A number of Internet sites list it as a UFO landing site.

       Chief Andidora said even his late mother continued to believe the incident was something other than a hoax.

       "People to this day think we're covering it (up),” he said.                                               

This reference: “Chronicles of a UFO Sighting” – News clip – The Sunday Times, Scranton, PA, November 7, 1999.     

UFOCAT PRN – 81016 [DOS: 11-??-1974]

UFOCAT URN – 081016 J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, Nov. 15, 1974, on-site investigation

UFOCAT PRN – 80984 [DOS: 11-09-1974]

UFOCAT URN – 080984 J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, Nov. 09, 1974
UFOCAT URN – 103793 J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, Nov. 11, 1974, on-site investigation
UFOCAT URN – 081015 The New York Times, November 12, 1974, p. 78, col. 1
UFOCAT URN – 081014 J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, Nov. 12, 1974
UFOCAT URN – 092270 The APRO Bulletin, January/February 1975, pp. 8-9
UFOCAT URN – 148176 A Geo-Bibliography of Anomalies by George Eberhart, #0765, © 1980
UFOCAT URN – NONE    The Sunday Times, Scranton, PA, November 7, 1999
UFOCAT URN – 159871 Fate Magazine, May 2002, p. 23 by Mathew Graeber

North American – United States, Pennsylvania, Lackawanna

Carbondale - Latitude 41-34 N, Longitude 75-30 W (D-M)

Reference: The National Gazetteer of the United States of America, prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, Washington, D.C., 1990   

UFO Location (UFOCAT) Latitude 41.57 N, Longitude 75.50 W (D.%) 


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