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The Day a UFO Buzzed Lake George

By Joseph W. Zarzynski

Monday, July 1, 2013

It was September 12, 1955. Eisenhower was president, the Cold War raged, Elvis Presley had recently made his first American television appearance, and the front page headline for The Knickerbocker News (Albany, NY) newspaper read: “U.S. Planes Hunt ‘Mystery Object’ Sighted Over Lake George Area.”

What was even stranger was that Lake George was not alone with UFO sightings. Around the country, other celestial phenomena had been spotted that day, too.

By the mid-1950s, UFO sightings were not uncommon across the USA. The term, UFO, was relatively new. Around 1953, the U.S. military coined the word, UFO, or unidentified flying object, to refer to any unknown object viewed in the skies. It was a replacement designation for–“flying saucers”–an appellation that became popular largely because of the 1947 Roswell incident, when news broadcasts reported that a “flying saucer” had crashed in southeastern New Mexico.

But September 12, 1955 was different. The Niagara Falls Gazette reported that on the previous day, a “flying saucer” had been reported over the Buffalo-area. Also, the Associated Press wire service announced a large weather balloon or flying saucer had been seen over Chicago and then headed out over Lake Michigan. In Denver, the Air Force announced their personnel had seen three airborne objects, probably weather balloons. Other UFOs had also been seen around the nation.

The United Press in Albany reported that the Ground Observer Corps Headquarters was investigating a strange “object” spotted over Lake George on September 11. Local news reported that a mystery object was seen drifting westward from Silver Bay out over the Adirondacks. The Lake George sightings were so credible, the U.S. Air Force reportedly ordered planes to fly over the “Queen of American Lakes.”

The Niagara Falls Gazette news story stated that a military aircraft from a base in Niagara Falls had gotten close enough to their local UFO to identify it as a weather balloon. An Air Force spokesman said the balloon was about 5 ft. in diameter and trailed a 20 ft. cord carrying weather recording instrumentation. The Air Force report indicated that a weather balloon could reach 3 times its diameter as it went into the higher atmosphere, but would burst at about 90,000 ft. and a small parachute would guide it back to earth.

Yes, 1955 was a tumultuous time. The Cold War was scaring the populace, Elvis’s wiggling hips were causing a sensation, and little green men from Mars were in vogue. But UFO believers might say it seems strange that the Air Force would send military planes over Lake George to investigate just a weather balloon.

To borrow the tagline from the end of episodes of the 1993-2002 television series, The X-Files, “The Truth Is Out There.”

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