Published: 1:10 PM 12/10/2013
By BRYAN LAPLACA, COLUMNIST
It had been 12 years since the UFO sightings around the Wanaque Reservoir area were all the rage. Trying to spot UFOs by the reservoir was such a popular nighttime activity that the sky watchers' cars backed up the roads in the vicinity.
"Scientists are still seeking answers to the 1966 event, and by the end of the year there reportedly may be a scientific explanation to the sightings," it was reported.
A non-profit group of researchers from Stanhope, under the name of Vestigia Inc., was gearing up to test their hypothesis that seismic pressure on quartz-bearing rock was responsible for the mysterious light configurations.
Robert Jones, a Byram Township computer analyst who founded Vestigia Inc., believed there was a common explanation for the UFOs. Jones had also been exploring strange lighting in Long Valley for two years.
The reported sightings at Wanaque and Long Valley almost always seem to be of soft, glowing lights close to the ground, Jones noted.
According to his hypothesis, seismic pressure on the crystalline rock surfaces gives off lightning. Jones believed the pressure around the Wanaque Reservoir might have been caused by the nearby Ramapo Fault. A number of mild tremors occurred along the fault line over the years.
With permission from the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, the researchers intended to use Geiger counters, infrared detectors, magnetometers, and surveying equipment in their work at the reservoir.
In 1977, Vestigia Inc. had helped the U.S. Navy investigate the mysterious sonic booms heard along the New Jersey coast.
The noises were never fully explained, it was reported.
It was Jan. 11, 1966 at about 6:30 p.m. when residents, municipal officials, and police in North Jersey glanced up and saw strange lights in the sky.
At that time, the Pompton Lakes Police Department handled dispatching duty for many of the local towns.
"Listen," went a typical call, "this sounds crazy, but I saw something in the sky. Do you know what it is?"
The calls came from Wanaque, Ringwood, West Milford, Butler, and Wayne. There were even some from the Paterson and Totowa area.
The astounded callers were looking for an explanation, but police could not understand the white oval hovering in the sky. The UFO was described as a white and garishly bright disk 2 feet in diameter.
To observers, the odd movements of the mysterious visitor were enthralling. Some felt as if it was toying with police, citizens, and borough officials by performing dives almost into the reservoir.
"At times it appeared as if it were looking down upon the spectators from a silent stationary position high in the heavens and by making neat right angles as if it were using the sky as a chalkboard," one reporter wrote.
It was reported that the UFO made "quick stops" at various locations in the community: Lakeland Regional High School, the Houdaille sand pit, and the overhead bridge on Ringwood Avenue which had since been torn down. Then it disappeared.
Hours later, at 2:15 a.m., it reappeared over Wyckoff. Five minutes later was spotted back over the reservoir in Wanaque. Police said it almost came to rest at the top of the 1,500-foot-long Raymond Dam. It was gone at 4:15 a.m.
The Air Force, contacted when the object was first seen, said it was an official helicopter with a strong beacon. A few hours later, police spotted Air Force jets flying over the Wanaque Reservoir area.
Then August Roberts, a member of the International Intelligence on Unidentified Flying Objects, said the object "might possibly have been a government experiment in the creation of an anti-gravity machine."
The 1966 sightings in Wanaque were not the first. Some 18 years earlier, Charles Capen, former chief engineer of the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, said he had seen a similar object.
See the UFO Casebook file 1966 - The Wanaque Reservoir Incident.