by Libby Solomon October 22, 2018 (baltimoresun.com)
• Around midnight on Oct. 26, 1958, Alvin Cohen and Phillip Small were taking a drive by Loch Raven Reservoir in Towson, Maryland when they a great, iridescent, egg-shaped object appeared above a bridge. As Cohen (then 24 years old) and Small (then 27 years old) came closer, the car stopped dead as if the entire electrical system had given out. The young men hid behind the car and watched the object hover. There was a flash of light, and booming sound, and heat — and then it rose into the sky and disappeared. Small and Cohen’s car started up again. Small and Cohen felt as if their faces had been sunburnt the “tremendous heat wave” from the UFO.
• The Towson Precinct of the Baltimore County Police Department sent two officers to the scene and took a report. Later, Cohen, Small, and other witnesses were interviewed by the official Air Force investigating officer, 2nd Lt. Bert R. Staples, as a part of Project Blue Book. Others were interviewed including a 16-year-old boy and two employees of a lakefront restaurant, who all saw similar glowing objects around the same time and location. The restaurant employees also heard the same sound the men reported: a loud boom that sounded like an explosion or a thunderclap. After conducting interviews and examining the scene, Lt. Staples wrote in the 1958 report that with all of the credible witnesses, “it can be assumed that the sighting did actually occur.” Nevertheless, Staples wrote, “This UFO remains unidentified.”
• From 1947 to 1969, the Air Force investigated these occurrences under the program called Project Blue Book. Of the 12,618 sightings reported to Project Blue Book, just 701 of them, or five percent, were never explained. The Loch Raven incident was among the unexplained sightings. The National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena visited Loch Raven to conduct its own forensic tests which were inconclusive, according to the Air Force report.
• The Loch Raven incident was one of many strange occurrences reported in the 1940s through the 1960s. So 1958 was at the height of America’s obsession with UFOs. In the late ’40’s and early ’50’s, even mainstream news outlets would report sightings of “flying saucers,” says Pennsylvania State University history professor Greg Eghigian, who studies the history of UFOs. “There’s kind of an inexhaustible, unquenchable thirst many people have for thinking about things they consider to be mysterious or paranormal,” Eghigian said. “That speaks to a thing I think is almost virtually universal in people: wanting to understand and think the universe is actually a lot bigger than most of us can comprehend.”
Around midnight on Oct. 26, 1958, Alvin Cohen and Phillip Small were taking a drive by Loch Raven Reservoir in Towson when they said a great, iridescent, egg-shaped object appeared above a bridge.
The young men inched closer and the car stopped dead — no headlights, no engine, no ignition, as if the entire electrical system had given out.
“There was no place to run,” Small, then 27, told an Air Force investigator less than two weeks later, according to an interview transcript in a declassified report of the incident. “We probably would’ve if we could’ve but we were terrified at what we saw.”
Cohen, then 24, told investigators the men hid behind the car and watched the object hover. There was a flash of light and noise and heat — and then, Cohen said, it rose into the sky and disappeared.
Oct. 26 this year will mark 60 years since Cohen and Small reported seeing the mysterious object above the reservoir, at the height of the American obsession with unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.
The incident inspired UFO hunters through the years and launched an official Air Force investigation. But today, locals say, the story has largely been lost to history and many do not know it ever happened.
After conducting interviews and examining the scene, the investigating officer, 2nd Lt. Bert R. Staples, wrote in the 1958 report: “This UFO remains unidentified.”
Saucers and spies
The Loch Raven incident was one of many strange occurrences reported in the 1940s through the 1960s, when Cold War paranoia intersected with a fascination with outer space and the unknown.
Pennsylvania State University history professor Greg Eghigian, who studies the history of UFOs, said in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s, even mainstream news outlets would report strange sightings of “flying saucers.”
Around the same time, the U.S. government started investigating the reports — not looking for signs of alien life, but for signs of spy technology from the Soviet Union. From 1947 to 1969, the Air Force investigated these occurrences under a program called Project Blue Book.
According to a 1985 Air Force fact sheet posted on the National Archives website, 12,618 sightings were reported to Project Blue Book. Of those, just 5 percent were never explained. The Loch Raven incident was among the 701 that remained “unidentified.”
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