The Exeter, NH/Muscarello Case
September 3, 1965
Exeter, NH

 

Investigator, Raymond Fowler


Raymond Fowler report:
The alarm clock jolted me out of a sound sleep. It seemed as if I had just set it! It was mighty tempting to just turn over and go back to sleep. I was dead tired, but my conscience was wide awake and putting in overtime, telling me what a fink I was for not taking the kids to the zoo. But I slipped out of bed, showered, shaved, ate and was soon on Route 95 heading towards Exeter. To tell the truth, I was really wondering whether I shouldn't have waited until definite appointments had been set up with the witnesses. No one knew I was coming, and I had no assurance whatsoever that I would be able to talk to any one of them. My approach to this case was highly unorthodox. I had made it a personal rule never to send an investigator to the field without first performing a telephone investigation and setting up definite witness interviews in advance. In this case, I had done neither. Here I was, well on the way, and there was no turning back. I headed directly for the police station. "Who knows?" I thought, "perhaps Officers Bertrand and Hunt will be on duty and be willing to talk right now."

The little town of Exeter at 6:40 A.M., on Saturday morning, September 11, was dead. It was still fairly dark, and neither traffic nor pedestrians were to be seen. I parked in front of the police station, took a deep breath, and strode into the front lobby, trying to look as official as possible. I dropped my NICAP ID card in front of the semiconscious policeman hunched over the front desk. He looked up, startled. Before he had a chance to say anything, I said in the most authoritative tone I could muster, "Good morning, officer, my name is Raymond Fowler. I represent the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena in Washington and have a few questions to ask about a UFO sighting in this area!"

"The National what?" he said.

I then proceeded to tell him about NICAP and our interest in documenting the Exeter case.

"Oh," said another officer who had been standing unnoticed on the other side of the room. "You're with that Major Keyhoe's group."

I replied in the affirmative and asked if it would be possible to talk with Officers Bertrand and Hunt.

The officer at the desk chuckled. "That's Hunt right there!"

I turned to look at Hunt, who had just turned a shade of red. "Well," I said, "can we sit down and talk about it?"

"What's there to talk about? It's all in the papers," he cautiously replied.

I showed him the standard, eight-page Air Force questionnaire and explained that I wanted him to fill it in and sign it. It took a bit of convincing at first, but he finally agreed to do it.

Officer Hunt explained that he had been called to the UFO sighting area to assist Officer Bertrand, who had radioed the station for help. Bertrand had gone to a field earlier with a teenager, Norman Muscarello, to investigate the boy's story that a UFO had chased him. While walking in the field with Norman, the UFO had suddenly appeared again and made passes at them. "By the time I got there," Hunt said, "the object was moving off to the tree line, performing fantastic maneuvers. It made right-angle turns and sort of floated down like a failing leaf. Then it took off toward Hampton and chased another guy in a car." Hunt then gave me directions to Norman Muscarello's house. He said that if I returned to the station at eight o'clock, he would phone Officer Bertrand and ask him to cooperate with me. I thanked him and headed off to Muscarello's house.

The house was unlighted when I arrived and knocked on the door. Mrs. Muscarello warily opened the door just a crack and we talked. She would not let me in and seemed very upset about all the phone calls and publicity. She told me that Norman had left the state and would not return until September 14. She related to me that both Air Force and Navy officers had visited to question him. I obtained Norman's account through her and made arrangements to talk to him personally at a later date. I then returned to the police station, where Hunt called Bertrand arid persuaded him to talk with me. Hunt went off duty and I left for Bertrand's home, whose address, believe it or not, was Pick- pocket Road!

Officer Bertrand invited me in and proceeded to interrogate me! He explained later that he wanted to assure himself that I wasn't "some kind of a nut." He told me that several days after the sighting, a man had driven into his yard in a car that had a sign on it reading "UFO Investigator."

"Somehow, the guy persuaded me to let him into the house, and he made some real crazy remarks. He really scared my wife. He told her that perhaps 'they,' the UFO operators, were after me!"

"Oh, I think I know who that was," I said. "Was he a real friendly looking fellow with a bald head?"

"Yeh, that's what he looked like. When he said that to my wife, that was enough for me.! got rid of him real fast! You seem to be serious about this, and I'm willing to tell you exactly what happened but no more. I don't want to speculate about it. If you'll drive me down to the field where I saw this thing, I'll fill out your forms and talk to you about it."

As we drove to the field, Bertrand told me how he had come upon a woman parked in an automobile on Route 101 about an hour before his own experience.

"I thought she had car trouble, but she was real upset and told me that a red glowing object had chased her! I looked around but didn't see anything except a bright star, so I sent her home. Then, about an hour later, I got a call from the station telling me to report in at once. A kid had just come into the station all shook up about some object that had chased him."

"What on earth was a kid doing out that time of night?" I asked.

"He was hitchhiking between Amesbury and Exeter along Route 150. He'd been visiting a girlfriend." Bertrand continued and related to me how he had gone back to the station, picked up Norman, and brought him back to the field where he had seen the UFO. "I know this kid," he said. "He's real tough. It would take a lot to scare him, but something must have really scared him. He could hardly hold his cigarette and was as pale as a sheet! Whoops, slow down. This is the place, right here."

I turned around and parked at the head of a field that lay between the Clyde Russell and Carl Dining farms. Bertrand continued his story as we sat in my car.

"Norman and I came out here and I parked right about where we are parked right now. We sat looking for several minutes but didn't see anything unusual. I radioed the station and told them that there was nothing out here. They asked me to take a walk into the field for a quick look before coming back in. I felt kind of foolish walking out here on private property after midnight, looking for a flying saucer!"

Bertrand then suggested that we go out to the field so that he could show me where he and Norman had been. We got out of the car and strolled into the field toward a corral.

"We walked out about this far," he said "I waved my flashlight back and forth, and then Norman shouted----'Look out, here it comes!' I swung around and could hardly believe what I was seeing. There was this huge, dark object as big as that barn over there with red flashing lights on it. It barely cleared that tree right there, and it was moving back and forth."

"What did you guys do when you saw that thing?" I asked.

"Well, it seemed to tilt and come right at us. Norman told me later that I was yelling, 'I'll shoot it! I'll shoot it!' I did automatically drop on one knee and drew my service revolver, but I didn't shoot. I do remember suddenly thinking that it would be unwise to fire at it, so I yelled to Norman to run for the cruiser, but he just froze in his tracks. I practically had to drag him back!"

"How close was the object to you then?" I asked.

"It seemed to be about one hundred feet up and about one hundred feet away. All I could see at that point was bright red with sort of a halo effect. I thought we'd be burned alive, but it gave off no heat and I didn't hear any noise. I called Dave Hunt on the radio. He was already on his way out here and arrived in just a few minutes. Whatever it was, it must have really scared the horses in that barn."

"Why do you say that? Did you hear them from here?" I asked.

"Yeh, you could hear them neighing and kicking in their stalls. Even the dogs around here started howling. When Dave arrived, the three of us just stood there and watched it. It floated, wobbled, and did things that no plane could do. Then it just darted away over those trees toward Hampton."

"What did you do then?" I asked.

"Well, we all returned to the station to write up our report. We'd only been back a short while when a call came in from the Hampton telephone operator. She told us that she'd just talked to a man who was calling from a phone booth and was very upset. He said that he was being chased by a flying saucer and that it was still out there! Before she could connect him with us, the connection was broken. We went out looking for him and even went to the hospital to see if he'd been brought in there, but we never found out who he was."

As Bertrand and I walked back toward my car, I was thinking to myself, "This really happened! He's reliving a real event!" My heart was literally pounding in empathy as we sat down in the front seat to fill in forms and continue the interview. I sat there entranced, wistfully looking at the field while he penciled in answers on the questionnaire. As he passed me the forms, I remarked to him, "This one will go down in UFO history!"

I spent the rest of the morning interviewing people in the general locale. Some had already been questioned by the Air Force just a week ago. Bertrand had also mentioned these investigators, who had questioned him and Officer Hunt just a day after the sighting. The Air Force team had told them to keep quiet about the incident so that it would not get printed up in the newspapers.

"We told them that it was a bit too late for that," Bertrand had recounted to me. "A local reporter was in the station that night and had tipped off the Manchester Union Leader. It was really funny. We were all standing there talking about what had happened when someone pointed at the front window. We all jumped! There was this reporter peering through the glass at us with a helmet and tight jacket on! He had motorcycled all the way up from Manchester."

I laughed, "Thought the spacemen had landed, huh?"

I finally arrived back home just before three o'clock in the afternoon, weary and with an empty stomach. Margaret was worried when I hadn't shown up for dinner, and I had been too busy to think to call. After gobbling down some warmed-up leftovers, I informed her rather hesitatingly that we'd have to take a rain-check on the afternoon drive because I had to get back to Exeter to take some photographs. I'm afraid at that point, she definitely did not share my enthusiasm! I explained to her that I had discovered a set of power lines that crossed the road about a half mile from the field where the object had been seen. It looked to me as if they might have passed just behind the trees from where the object had first appeared. In any event, I wanted to walk back there and check this aspect of the sighting out, as well as take some photographs of the sighting area. I phoned my brother Richard to assist me, and off I went to Exeter again. I wasn't usually so callous in putting flying saucers before family, but this was an exceptional case!

We took some photographs and then drove down the road to where the power lines crossed Route 150. Leaving the car, we began hiking along the lines until stopped short by a swamp. Our feet were soaked as we headed back to the car, but it was a worthwhile jaunt. The power lines did pass directly behind the field. When I arrived home bedraggled and wet, Margaret just gave me that "you must be nuts" look and shook her head.

The Saturday Review Calls

I worked on the initial report for the next few days and managed to mail it out early Tuesday morning. (1) By Thursday, I had received a most encouraging response from Richard Hall, acting director of NICAP. It contained news about an excellent opportunity.

        September 15, 1965
Dear Ray:

     Your excellent report on the September 3, New Hampshire sightings has been received. You certainly are to be commended for a prompt and thorough investigation. The information is most interesting and will be of great value. We are fortunate to have people of your ability donating their services to us.
     Mr. John Fuller of Saturday Review may be in touch with you about these sightings. He is doing a straightforward column on the recent wave of sightings. . . . We are cooperating fully. Thanks again for your hard work on our behalf.
 

Sincerely, 
Dick Hall 

"The Saturday Review?" I thought. "What an opportunity to acquaint its readers with cases like Exeter!" I showed the letter to my not-too-sympathetic-about-Exeter wife, who said in effect, "I'll believe it when I see it!" Well, she believed it several days later as she was scurrying around busily preparing for the writer from Saturday Review. John Fuller had indeed phoned. He told me that he did not want to write about the Exeter incident until he personally had thoroughly reinvestigated the case to his own satisfaction. I agreed to provide him with a Xerox copy of my initial report along with any follow-up data that might come in.

John arrived at our home for dinner on the following weekend armed with a tape recorder and notebook. He explained to me that he had been reading about the increase in UFO sightings with great interest. An overwhelming curiosity had prompted him to track down and document at least one specific case. "To be quite frank," he said, "I'm very skeptical about this subject." We all liked John. He took the time to chat with the children and my wife. It was readily apparent that he was interested in getting to know us as people as well as using me as a source for information about the Exeter UFO sighting.

John left for Exeter armed with my report and copious notes. He talked with the witnesses, local newspaper editors, and Air Force officers at Pease AFB. He phoned back afterwards to tell me that he was absolutely convinced that "these people really saw something!" One thing led to another. John's story soon appeared in the October 2, 1965, issue of the Saturday Review's "Trade Winds" column. Then Look magazine asked John to return to Exeter to obtain additional material for an in-depth story on the incident. Soon after, Reader's Digest printed a summary of the Look article, and the G. P. Putnam publishing company commissioned him to write a book based upon the Exeter sighting. (2)

John soon made a return visit to us and secured information from my files relating to other sightings for use in his book. He insisted that I would be given full credit. "You are going to be the hero of this book," he said. To me, all of this seemed too good to be true. The results of my personal efforts coupled with the support of the subcommittee had hitherto been known and used by a small segment of the public via the auspices of NICAP. Now, in just the space of several months, my reports had suddenly become the basis of national magazine articles and the later best-selling book, Incident at Exeter, by John Fuller. However, the crowning event was yet to take place, as we shall soon see.

On April 5, 1966, the House Armed Services Committee unanimously voted my entire report on the Exeter sighting into the Congressional Record during the first open Congressional hearings on UFOs! By that time, the report had grown considerably and contained a blow-by-blow description of a fight with the Pentagon, whose initial evaluation of the incident was "stars and planets twinkling!" (3) I found out several years later that the local commander at Pease Air Force Base had not even sent the base's report out to Project Bluebook when the Pentagon issued this misleading statement. The same source told me that after this press release was made, an urgent wire from Bluebook came into Pease Air Force Base that reprimanded the commander for not being more punctual in submitting the report through channels. Then, since the "twinkling star" answer was obviously contrary to the well-publicized facts, the Pentagon tried to explain away the sightings as military aircraft.

Each of these attempts to explain away the Exeter sightings was proved erroneous, and a fully documented account of my running battle with the Air Force became part of the Congressional Record. This baffle was won, but not without much effort on the part of myself, the witnesses, and John Fuller.

Report Goes to Congress

The House Armed Services Committee opened the public segment of the UFO hearings at 10:35 A.M. on April 5, 1966. Those persons mentioned in connection with my report on the Exeter UFO sighting were: Congressman William H. Bates, Massachusetts; Honorable Harold Brown, Secretary of the Air Force; Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Scientific Consultant to the Air Force; and General McConnell, USAF. During Dr. Hynek's testimony, my former congressman, the late William H. Bates, interjected my report into the hearings. Let us join the discussion at this point.
 
 
 

Mr. Bates: But the interesting thing, of course, is we have so many prominent people in the scientific world here who have taken a position, a rather strong position. I have here a letter from a constituent of mine. He is a project administrator or engineer in the MINUTEMAN program. That is a responsible position, would we say?

General McConnell: Yes.

Mr. Bates: On the basis of scientific ability he has been given a rather important position toward the security of this country; is that correct?

Secretary Brown: I would like to know who he is and what his responsibilities are before I comment on this, Mr. Bates. Certainly, from the information contained in the letter you quote, he appears to occupy a position of some responsibility.

Mr. Bates:  It does seem to be. And as I read the letter which he has written to me, it is certainly written by a well- educated person. And, of course, we hear all kinds of comments on the other side of the same issue now. With this Lunar II excursion around the moon, people say, "I suppose the people up there are making the same kind of reports as the doctor has just made to us." They are making these kinds of statements.

Doctor, to be more specific, the paper which I have, Mr. Chairman, I would like to get unanimous consent to insert in the record the information which has been provided to me.

The Chairman: Without objection. (4)

Since a substantial portion of this letter appears in the introduction to this book. I have omitted it here. Thirty-four pages were inserted into the Congressional Record at this point that thoroughly documented the Exeter sighting. Included within the report were letters to and from the Air Force from myself and from Officers Bertrand and Hunt. They centered around the ridiculous "explanations" that the Pentagon had offered for the sighting. One of the first attempts to cover up what really happened at Exeter appeared in local newspapers on October 6.
 

The unidentified flying object spotted in this area by many residents has finally been identified. It's a flying billboard which contains 500 high-intensity lights that spell out an advertising message. (5)

I was horrified when I saw this and immediately wrote to news papers in the area to put the matter straight:
 

At the time of the September 3, 1965, UFO sighting I checked with the manager of "Sky-Lite Aerial Advertising Co." and its aircraft was not flying on this night On October 9 I went over the advertising plane's flight paths between August 1 and October 8. The plane was not even airborne between August 21 and September 10.

In all fairness, this explanation did not seem to have originated from the Air Force. It seems to have been the attempt by an overzealous newspaper reporter to come up with an explanation for the sighting. It is curious to me that he did not discover that the plane was not airborne during the time frame of the Exeter sightings. It could have been just poor documentation on his part. However, about two weeks after my letter dismissing the advertising plane was printed in the local news, the Pentagon issued a number of explanations for the incident. They included: "a high altitude Strategic Air Command exercise" and a temperature inversion which causes "stars and planets to dance and twinkle." These explanations came directly from Washington and were prominently displayed in the papers around the Exeter area.
 

PENTAGON DOESN'T BELIEVE
UFO EXETER SIGHTINGS

Washington, D.C.-The Pentagon believes that after intensive investigation, it has come up with a natural explanation of the UFO sightings in Exeter, N.H., on September 3. . . . The spokesman said, "We believe what the people saw that night was stars and planets in unusual formations." (6)

Some intensive investigation! Does this sound like high-altitude aircraft or stars and planets twinkling?
 

It was coming up over a row of trees. There was no noise at all. It was about one hundred feet in the air and about two hundred feet away from us. I could see five bright red lights in a straight row. They dimmed from right to left and then from left to fight. . . . It lit up everything . . . it was silent. The horses started kicking and making an awful fuss, and the dogs in the farm started barking. The kid froze in his tracks, and I grabbed him and pulled him toward the police car. I reached for my revolver and then thought better of it. Then Officer David Hunt arrived in another patrol car. We sat there and looked at it for at least ten minutes. My brain kept telling me that this doesn't happen-but it was right in front of my eyes. There was no tail, no wings, and again no sound. It hovered there, still about one hundred feet away, sort of floated and wobbled. I don't know what it was. All I can say is that it was there, and three of us saw it together. (7)

This official release from Washington was all too familiar and completely frustrating. The witnesses felt that such statements jeopardized their hard-earned reputations as responsible police officers. In response to a request for further information about the Strategic Air Command aircraft exercise, Project Bluebook forwarded the following information:
 

Big Blast Coco, a SACINORAD training mission, was flown on 2-3 September, 1965. By 0310430Z, the operational portion of the mission was complete . . . . The town of Exeter is within the traffic pattern utilized by Air Traffic Control in the recovery of these aircraft at Pease AFB, N.H. During their approach the recovering aircraft would have been displaying standard position lights, anti-collision lights and possibly over-wing and landing lights.(9)

Undaunted, Bertrand and Hunt drafted another letter to Project Bluebook and outlined the facts of the matter. Excerpts from this letter are as follows:
 

· . . we have been the subject of considerable ridicule since the Pentagon released its "final evaluation" of our sighting...both Ptl.. Hunt and myself saw this object at close range, checked it out with each other, confirmed and reconfirmed the fact that this was not any kind of conventional aircraft. . . . Since our job depends on accuracy and an ability to tell the difference between fact and fiction, we were naturally disturbed by the Pentagon report. . . . What is a little difficult to understand is the fact that your letter (undated) arrived considerably after the Pentagon release. Since your letter says that you are still in the process of making a final evaluation, it seems that there is an inconsistency here. . . . Since one of us (Ptl.. Bertrand) was in the Air Force for four years engaged in refueling operations with all kinds of military aircraft, it was impossible to mistake what we saw for any kind of military operation, regardless of altitude. . . . Immediately after the object disappeared, we did see what probably was a B-47 at high altitude, but it bore no relation at all to the object we saw. . . . Another fact is that the time of our observation was nearly an hour after 2:00 A.M., which would eliminate the Air Force operation Big Blast...(9)

Outflanked by Bertrand's discovery that the alleged Air Force aircraft were not even airborne during the time that he, Muscarello, and Hunt concurrently observed the object, Bluebook gave some ground, but not much? In regard to the earlier sittings by the woman motorist and Muscarello (when alone), the Air Force still maintained those two had seen the aircraft!
 

The early sightings . . . are attributed to aircraft from operation Big Blast "Coco." The subsequent observation by Officers Bertrand and Hunt occurring after 2 A.M. are regarded as unidentified. (10)

This was incredible to me but typical of the Air Force pattern of playing down and debunking reliable UFO sightings. I felt that I could not take this matter sitting down and drafted a long letter to the Office of the Secretary, Department of the Air Force. Among other things, I pointed out the following facts:
 

The UFO sighted by Norman Muscarello was identical to the UFO sighted later by Muscarello, Bertrand and Hun. Norman observed the UFO at close range during his initial sighting. There is no question in my mind that the same or similar object was involved in both of these particular sightings. The number of pulsating lights, the yawing motion, the same location, etc., make this so very apparent. Since I did not interview the unnamed woman, I am not certain of the details . . . . but according to Officer Bertrand, the object . . . was very similar to the UFO they sighted later I might add that another witness, a male motorist, also sighted a similar object. He tried to phone the police from a pay station at nearby Hampton, N.H., but was cut off. Later he reported the incident to U.S. Air Force authorities at Pease AB. The chances are astronomical that six people, entirely independent of each other; should report the identical description of a UFO within the span of several hours in the Same general area. (11)

The Air Force never answered this letter. They probably wondered how I knew that the male motorist had reported the object to Pease Air Force Base, because he had been strictly instructed to tell no one about the incident. I found out about this when lecturing to a management club from a major firm located in the area. One of the managers, a good friend of the witness, informed me. The man's name cannot be revealed.

The Exeter incident is typical of hundreds of other cases in which our government is forced, because of national security policy, to deny the existence of UFOs at the expense of witnesses' reputations. After a dogmatic explanation is issued from the Pentagon, it takes nothing short of an act of Congress to change it. Fortunately, through public, witness, and Congressional pressure, the Air Force was forced to back down in this case. Needless to say, this is an exception rather than the rule. Let us continue to examine the House Armed Services hearings on UFOs. The following statements were made after my detailed report on Exeter had been presented and voted into the Congressional Record:
 

Mr. Bates: In reference to the so-called sighting in New Hampshire, Doctor, you are familiar with that case?

Dr. Hynek: Yes, sir; I am familiar with the case.

Mr. Bates: You have examined it?

Dr. Hynek: No, I have not been there to examine it. Much of my information is based upon the rather excellent account that Mr. John Fuller has given of it in Look magazine. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of his statements, but I have talked with Mr. Fuller, and he apparently has tried to do a very thorough job in talking with people in New Hampshire.

Mr. Bates: Are you familiar with Mr. Raymond E. Fowler?

Dr. Hynek: I have had some correspondence with him, but I have never met him.

Mr. Bates: Is this . . . case one of the five percent that have not been identified, or within the ninety-five percent on which you have reached a decision?

Dr. Hynek: It is, I believe, to the best of my knowledge, listed as unidentified.

Mr. Bates: This one is still unidentified?

Dr. Hynek: Yes, sir.

The Chairman: In other words, you make no bones about it, you cannot explain it?

Dr. Hynek: That is correct. (12)

The interested reader should secure a full copy of these controversial hearings for his information. They contain statements made by persons intimately associated with the Air Force investigations of UFOs that are in utter contradiction to documented facts in formerly classified and unclassified source material.

Source: UFOs: Interplanetary Visitors (Raymond Fowler), pages 77-91)

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