10 November, 2014

Carbondale marks 'alien' incident 40th anniversary

CARBONDALE, Pa. (AP) — Embrace it or ignore it.

That was the advice a tourism planning consultant gave Carbondale a few years ago about how to deal with its mysterious UFO legend that began 40 years ago.

On Nov. 9, 1974, three teenage boys told police they saw "a red, whirring ball fly over Salem Mountain and into the mine pond," and the Carbondale UFO legend was born. It created quite a hubbub, as police, military, UFO enthusiasts and curious spectators from across the country descended on the city and pond. The submerged object glowed for nine hours. Two days later, a diver emerged from the murky waters with a railroad lantern.

Twenty-five years later, one of the former teens admitted he had thrown a battery-powered lantern into the pond to scare his sister.

Some believe that story, but others insist a craft from space landed in the small pond and the government covered it up. One theory holds that the object was a fallen spy satellite, either from the U.S. or Russia.

But whether it was a prank, hoax or satellite, the legend lives on.

"It's one of those things that you fully embrace it or never mention it," said Christine Tocki-Mulvey, the city's Office of Community and Economic Development director and the administrator of Carbondale's Route 6 Task Force on tourism.

Carbondale, nicknamed the Pioneer City, founded in 1822 and known for its anthracite resources and as the site of the first underground mine in 1831, has chosen to embrace — tongue-in-cheek — its 1974 UFO legend.

The city will hold a 40th anniversary celebration Thursday at the Best Western Pioneer Plaza hotel on Main Street from 5 to 8 p.m. A $5 ticket must be purchased in advance, and there will be cash bar and food. For tickets or more information, call City Hall at 570-282-4633.

The "Throwback-Thursday" celebration will feature a UFO/alien theme. Items from the incident, including a 1974 report by the UFO Research Investigation Center in Philadelphia and the railroad lantern that was pulled from the pond, will be on display, said city Clerk Michele Bannon.

The UFO legend has had renewed interest in recent years, particularly after being mentioned in a WVIA "My Town" documentary in 2012 about the city, said Bannon and Tocki-Mulvey. The legend also has spawned a website, carbondalien.com, and a mascot — a green, big-headed extraterrestrial dubbed Carbon D. Alien — that has been digitally added into pictures old and new so he appears ever-present, everywhere.

S. Robert Powell, executive director of the Carbondale Historical Society & Museum, said of the UFO legend, "It's an interesting corollary to the history of Carbondale," and the city's part in the UFO hysteria of that time.

He recalled that around 25 years ago, former Mayor Charlotte Moro entrusted into his hands the railroad lantern that is a tangible artifact of the incident. In 1974, the plastic orange lantern with a hoop handle was a modern-day railroad lantern, he said.

"She had a reverential attitude about the lantern. She said, 'Robert, you ought to have it,'" for the museum, Powell said.

Bannon was 4 years old at the time of the UFO incident and vividly remembers the commotion it caused.

"I remember my grandpa was alive and he walked us to the park and it was all roped off," Bannon said. "There was a whole bunch of agents at the pond. They brought in a lead-lined truck" to cart away an object removed from the pond.

The 40th anniversary celebration is an opportunity to share such memories and hopefully spur some tourism in Carbondale, said Bannon and Tocki-Mulvey.

"Everybody has a little bit of folklore" about the incident, Bannon said. "We're having a blast with it."

Link:  http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Carbondale-marks-alien-incident-40th-anniversary-5881751.php


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