Review: Night Siege: The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Philip J. Imbrogno, and Bob Pratt

Night Siege documents a very large and unusually persistent unidentified flying object over the Hudson Valley region of the northeast United States in the 1970s and 80s. (The current version of the book is amended to include additional reports up through the mid 1990s.) Sightings of the object were investigated first hand by a small team of researchers, three of whom went on to produce this text based on their data and experiences.

The book is largely a walk-through of the most significant encounters with the UFO, presented chronologically as the events unfolded. It relies heavily on eyewitness testimony gathered first hand by the authors, including statements from police officers, scientists, engineers, and other members of the general public. Overall they do a good job of setting the scene, and creating a mildly suspenseful yet informative narrative. There is little in the way of any conclusion, although the authors clearly lean in the direction that the object does not appear to be a traditional man-made craft.

As is par for the course in the UFO arena, the Hudson Valley object left no apparent physical traces. Its reality cannot be proven in the scientific sense, and those of a permanently skeptical bent will not find any more irrefutable proof of the unearthly here than elsewhere. That said, I found Night Siege to be a fascinating entry, and an outstanding read as far as these cases go.

One of the foremost difficulties faced by anyone evaluating a sighting of something unusual in the sky (or for that matter, on the ground) is overcoming the problem of the credibility of the witness. Most encounters with the unknown involve only a small number of people, maybe one or two in any given incident. Even the most honest and well meaning individuals are human, and all humans are prone to accidental misinterpretation. Dreams, hallucinations, intoxications, and just being deceived by ones own eyes are all potential causes for concern. Just because someone thinks they’re seeing spaceships (or Sasquatches, the Loch Ness monster, etc.) doesn’t mean they really are. This is evidenced by the substantial number of UFOs that become IFOs (identified flying objects) upon further review and investigation. Hoaxers are far from the only threat to the research. Honest mistakes happen all the time, but it muddies the waters and makes it difficult to accept witness testimony of an extraordinary event at face value.

With that in mind, what really stood out about the Night Siege phenomenon was the raw volume of consistent and often simultaneous sightings. During some of the more notable incidents, the Taconic Parkway clogged with cars pulling over to view the UFO. Police phones were overwhelmed with calls and dozens of officers saw it. The UFO even famously hovered in restricted airspace over the Indian Point nuclear reactor. The authors estimate over 7000 people observed the same object or objects during the time period in question! And the numbers do not appear baseless, given the hundreds of reports compiled by the investigators, along with the corresponding police activity and media coverage.

These are, simply put, not events that can be casually dismissed as civilian or government aircraft, the planet Venus, street lights, or swamp gas. The witnesses were not drunk or dreaming. Whatever it was, it was big, it was unusual, and a lot of people saw it. It left so many witnesses that by the later chapters, the text almost begins to drag with the repetition of encounter after encounter. How many people need to see something before it becomes, in some sense or another, very much real?

We may only be able to speculate as to what the Hudson Valley UFO really was, but unlike other strange sights that only manifest in isolation, it’s hard to argue that something bizarre wasn’t hovering around the night skies over the north east. In my opinion, it makes for one of the most challenging UFO incidents from a skeptical perspective, and it is definitely some fascinating reading.

Rating: 5/5

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