On September 1, 1969, about 40 people in Berkshire County, Massachusetts reported seeing a UFO — and one boy named Thomas Reed claimed that he and his family were all taken aboard.
In 1969, residents of Berkshire County in Massachusetts went into a panic after multiple people reported seeing a UFO. The furor over the sighting reached far beyond the area and captivated people all over America. In Roswell, New Mexico, a replica of the alleged vessel was even displayed at the International UFO Museum.
The extraterrestrial episode will be one of the bizarre cases dissected on the rebooted Unsolved Mysteries series on Netflix in July 2020. Here’s the strange story behind the incident.
What Was The Berkshire UFO?
On the evening of Sept. 1, 1969, strange lights descended on the town of Sheffield, located in the southern Berkshires. Many who saw these lights said that they were attached to a UFO.
According to witness accounts, the UFO in question was a disk-shaped craft that performed acrobatic maneuvers in the sky above the Berkshires. It’s unclear exactly how long the phenomenon lasted, but many witnesses of alleged UFO encounters describe losing track of time.
The Berkshires is a region of rural highlands in western Massachusetts. It encompasses large swaths of wilderness, making it a popular tourist destination for hikers and nature lovers during the summer. The Berkshires are also made up of mostly small towns, which, in the case of curious extraterrestrial beings, makes it an ideal spot to visit.
However, the seemingly brief UFO encounter was apparently powerful enough to leave a lingering sense of mass confusion in its wake. Schoolchildren were drawing UFOs in class while adults called in to the local radio station to explain what they had seen.
“We had listeners call the radio station that evening,” said David Isy, general manager of local radio station WSBS. “At the time they didn’t know it was a UFO, they just, you know, called the station to say something bizarre has happened.”
Many people who saw the strange light vessel that night were left bewildered. Nobody seemed to know what they saw, but they knew that they saw something. The incident has since been dubbed the 1969 Berkshire UFO.
It was later estimated that about 40 people reported seeing the UFO. Some of them who were children at the time still live in the area today.
“Children coming into school, talking about the event,” said Robert Krol, the director of the Great Barrington Historical Society, in 2018. “An old student of mine! One is a local shop owner whose father was the… police chief in town. So these are reliable people. These are not self-promoters.”
The witness accounts were so plentiful and compelling that the local Great Barrington Historical Society recognized the encounter as “the first off-world/UFO case in U.S. history” about 45 years later.
But did the 1969 Berkshire UFO incident actually happen?
Accounts Of The Berkshire UFO
Whether or not you believe the witness stories, the Berkshire UFO in 1969 was no doubt a remarkable event for the townspeople of Sheffield.
While many have admitted to seeing the UFO vessel or its strange lights, the most prominent eyewitness is by far Thomas Reed.
According to Reed’s account, he saw the UFO when he was 9 years old on Sept. 1, 1969, while he was in the car with his mother, grandmother, and brother.
As Reed recalled, the family was heading home from their restaurant Village on the Green and he was busy giving his brother a little fireball candy. Suddenly, they noticed a mass of glowing lights peaking out from behind the lush trees on the empty road.
The strange lights continued to spill out from behind the trees as the family crossed the covered Sheffield bridge, but they didn’t know what to make of the sight.
“We all looked at it because it was kind of a self-contained glow,” Reed said. “It rose up a little bit. It looked like it followed the dirt road, which I’m sure it probably didn’t, but it appeared that way because we could see it through the trees. The light started to bleed through once we broke into a little bit of a clearing. We could see inside the car so the light was flooding inside the car.”
After an amber glow emerged on both sides of the road, Reed recalled being taken to a hangar-like area that was bigger than a football field.
“We encountered something,” Reed said. “It was definitely not of this world. We had a black and white television at time and the imagery that we saw on this thing was unbelievable. There were lights that looked like fluorescent tubing inside this hangar.”
“This hallway we had seen was circular with a Y-configuration almost to control the flow of traffic. This one room had a bowed-in wall that was rounded. This was not something that you would have seen in 1969 anywhere else. I have no idea where I was, but I know that what I saw was very different than anything I’ve even seen today 50 years later.”
Glimpses of this strange place muddied his brain until he realized they were back inside the car. His grandmother and mother had switched seats.
More astonishingly, there were no more glowing lights, Reed said.
“Everything got really calm. It was like being in the middle of a hurricane. There was like a barometric change in pressure. It was just like a dead silence. Then there was an eruption of crickets and frogs and it got really loud and that was it,” Reed said, adding that it was all “quite confusing.”
Reed has been the most vocal witness to the 1969 Berkshire UFO. He helped convince other witnesses to pool money together to erect a 5,000-pound concrete monument, which was built by the covered Sheffield bridge where he saw the UFO with his family. Benching and lighting decorations were also placed around the monument after it was erected.
Later, Reed formed the non-profit UFO Monument Park Inc. to maintain the plot of land where the monument stood.
Small Town Controversy
Word of the 1969 Berkshire UFO reached beyond Sheffield. In Roswell, New Mexico (the location of another infamous UFO encounter), the International UFO Museum put up a display of the alleged Berkshire craft.
Although the town of Sheffield seemed to embrace the Berkshire UFO incident at first, the novelty of the story has worn off among some residents in recent years.
Disagreements between those who believe the UFO monument marked a significant event in the town’s history and those who saw the monument as an eyesore began to boil over.
In 2019, just about four years after it was erected, the town removed the Berkshire UFO monument. The town’s attorney’s assessment that the monument had been erected on town property quickly paved the way for lawful removal.
According to Reed, there were no issues with the town officials during the plans to build the UFO monument. But officials painted a different story.
“It’s kind of on town property and no one decided it could go there,” said Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard. “The town has bylaws and if we let one place put something up then why can’t someone else? I don’t want that to happen.”
According to a town land survey, the monument’s location was on a town right-of-way and had to be removed. To add insult to injury, other parties withdrew their public support for the monument as well.
In 2018, a spokesperson for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, whose signature was sealed onto the UFO monument, told the Boston Globe that the signature had been issued in error. The Great Barrington Historical Society, which described the mass Berkshire UFO sighting as a “significant and true” event in 2015, backpedaled on its support, too.
“I think the Historical Society regrets that our words or our decision has been taken out of context,” said Krol, who added that the incident was significant to the town but the organization shouldn’t have focused on one individual (an obvious reference to Reed).
In 2019, after there were no efforts by Reed and his colleagues to remove the structure, the town hauled away the UFO monument for good.
“The monument was removed at considerable expense to the town,” said Selectman Martin Mitsoff, who could not give the precise cost of the removal. “Unfortunately, the party responsible was not responsive.” Meanwhile, Reed said that he and his colleagues would fight the removal.
Despite the human drama surrounding the event, the 1969 Berkshire UFO sighting continues to fascinate UFO enthusiasts from all over the world. Perhaps the Unsolved Mysteries series will bring us just a little bit closer to answers — and resolution.
After learning about the Berkshire UFO incident of 1969, watch three videos of UFOs filmed by Navy pilots that were declassified by the Pentagon and then explore Skinwalker Ranch, a real-life hotbed for paranormal activity.