December 8, 2021

Tales of the unknown

People at Homer gathering share stories of UFO sightings

Travis Dunn/contributing photographer

Linda Miller Costa, left, and Cheryl Costa discuss UFO sighting statistics during a UFO Town Hall held at the Center for the Arts of Homer Thursday night.

HOMER — At first, Stephanie Orak thought it was a blimp.

It was about 9 p.m. May 20, 1989, in Ithaca, and the object Orak saw in the sky was black and blimp-shaped, with eight flashing lights around it.

She wasn’t the only one who saw it. Her husband, John, did, too. Later, they found that dozens of other people had seen it, and the sighting was reported in news media from Ithaca to Binghamton.

The Oraks were among about 60 people who showed up Thursday at UFO Town Hall at the Center for the Arts of Homer to learn more about UFOs and to share their experiences. The event was hosted by Syracuse-based Linda Miller Costa and Cheryl Costa, authors of “UFO Sightings Desk Reference: United States of America 2001-2015.”

The Oraks were not the only people with stories to share. One man said he saw a UFO in 1975 on his way to a movie with his future wife.

“It was quite large, and it did not make a single sound,” he said.

After the object flew over them, the man wanted to watch it longer, but his thengirlfriend insisted they leave. Afterward, he called a friend at an Air Force base and told him about it. That friend immediately hung up on him and later chewed him out for calling.

“Don’t ever call me about a UFO,” his friend told him, adding that pilots privately talked about seeing UFOs, but never reported them because they would be grounded.

Several people shared similar stories, although the Costas said the storytellers didn’t need to identify themselves. Among them:
• A woman described seeing a cylindrical object with three or four flashing lights on it in the sky near Song Mountain in Tully in 1995 while she was walking her dog. “I told my husband about it, and he thought I was crazy,” she said.

• A man said he saw witnessed a UFO in 1998 near Yaman Park in Cortland in 1998. The object “looked almost liquid” or like it was underwater, he said. “It scared the crap out of me.”

• Another man described seeing a formation of UFOs in the late 1970s when he was about 11 or 12 years old and growing up in Apalachin. He was camping out in his backyard with a friend, when they saw at least 15 black circles with lighter-colored edges flying in silent formation.

Linda Miller Costa said UFO phenomena are largely ignored or dismissed and witnesses rarely gain anything by reporting sightings except ridicule. For researchers, the reaction is generally just as bad, she said: No one takes them seriously, and they can’t get support from government agencies or academia.

But more research is what’s needed, she said.

Some of the more skeptical members of the audience agreed, including Erik Gustafson, 23, who just graduated from Cornell University and was hired by Blue Origin, an aerospace company.

“People are seeing things, but we don’t know what they are,” he said. More data needs to be gathered and subjected to rigorous analysis to find patterns. Location and time patterns might allow scientists to know when and where to look for UFOs.

Tighe Gugerty, 20, a Syracuse University student who studies physics, said what he’s heard about UFOs “doesn’t really align” with what he’s learned about physics. But like Gustafson, he thought further research is necessary.