Westmoreland County has had its share of mysterious sightings
At 10 p.m. July 24, three people in a parking lot in North Huntingdon Township witnessed a shiny sphere the size of a tennis ball hovering six feet above the pavement.
It moved slowly and "straight as an arrow," they told Stan Gordon of Greensburg, and it "zoomed on past us as if being driven by something unseen."
The witnesses might have been surprised at the incident, but Gordon wasn't.
As an investigator into the unexplained for the past 43 years, he's heard about everything from bigfoot creatures and UFOs to reports of supposedly extinct animals and huge birds with giant wingspans.
Information about those recent local sightings and some of the area's classic mysteries such as the nationally famous UFO landing in Kecksburg in 1965 will be on display Saturday at Westmoreland Mall. The annual event coincides with National UFO Information Week that's promoted by the Mutual UFO Network in Colorado.
"There's a lot going on around the world, around the country and locally, but except for the rare occasions, you don't read about them," Gordon says.
In other words, although strange things are still happening, they're not getting the attention the media gave to "flying saucers" in the 1950s and 1960s, and the numerous bigfoot sightings 10 and 20 years later in the Laurel Highlands and near Greengate Mall.
The glowing sphere in the parking lot was only one unusual recent report.
The big birds are another, and witnesses all over the country describe them as having dark feathers and wingspans of 15 or more feet. In the world of cryptozoology - the study of hidden or unknown animals - they are being referred to as thunderbirds. "People have been seeing them for years," Gordon says.
"Back in the 1970s, I interviewed a policeman in one of the northern counties who said that one came down over his antenna."
There were two thunderbird sightings near Pittsburgh on June 14 and 15 last year. Another witness reported seeing one at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 near Route 119 in South Greensburg. He first heard a sound "like flags flapping in a thunderstorm," then saw a huge dark bird swoop down, land on a dead tree and spread wings that spanned nearly 20 feet.
This year, on June 7, a witness in a rural area near Greensburg reported hearing a "swoosh, like a huge bird passing over." Then, on June 26, two birds with 6-foot bodies and 12-foot wingspans were allegedly seen in Wyoming County.
Bigfoot creatures were reported being seen April 25 in Towanda; in June near Pleasant Unity; and a year earlier near Greensburg and Jeannette.
There were unexplained crop circles reported in May 2000 near Delmont.
UFOs make up the majority of incidents. So far this year, witnesses in Whitehall reported seeing two mysterious objects on Jan. 2. On April 10, an experienced pilot saw a "white diamond shape" hovering low in Peters Township, Allegheny County, before disappearing. Five days later in Clarksburg, Indiana County, two witnesses on Route 286 saw a hovering object the size of a bus. On May 14, someone reported seeing a hovering object near the turnpike in Harrison City.
There were three reports from Saltsburg. On Oct. 15, 2001, someone spotted a "bright green sphere" moving across the sky. This year, on Feb. 13, a witness saw "white lights hovering low," and eight days later, another person reported seeing a 100-foot triangle rise up into the sky, then disappear.
"The first thing we do in any of these reports is to try to explain them as natural phenomena," Gordon says. "Sometimes people don't realize that they are seeing meteors, the northern lights, or planets and stars." Gordon says space junk re-entering the atmosphere can look startling, too, and so can aircraft viewed from odd angles.
Gordon and his team of investigators rule out those things first and even post photos and examples on Gordon's UFO Anomalies Zone Web site ( www.westol.com/~paufo ).
The other incidents remain unexplained, and that's what intrigues many, including Gordon, who has never seen a UFO or bigfoot. To make a report, contact Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org or the 24-hour hot line, (724) 838-7769. For information on mysterious animals, visit www.cryptozoology.com .