Three Contra Costa County, California boys say they saw an object resembling a flying saucer land in West Pittsburg, CA on the night of May 20, 1977. They fled when unknown creatures came toward them, walking like robots and surrounded by smoke or steam vapor.
The Center for UFO Studies, directed by J. Allen Hynek, considered this to be one of only three credible humanoid encounter cases of the year. Since that time there has been some second guessing of this case though it is a lesser recognized close encounter. I have also included 3 other reports during a small flap in 2006-2007 in the same East Bay area of Pittsburg:
Police officers and scientists who interviewed the boys said all three told the same story, in detail, in separate interviews, and said the three boys were genuinely and deeply frightened by whatever they experienced that night.
This incident has now gone down in the record books as one of only three apparently credible cases of a “Close Encounter of the Third Kind” reported in the United States that year, according to the Center for UFO Studies in Evanston, III.
The center, directed by J. Allen Hynek, has a number of distinguished scientists as investigators and consultants.
The center was established recently as “a place where people can report UFO incidents without fear of ridicule and with the assurance that there will be a credible follow-up investigation,” according to Richard Haines, a psychologist tor a government agency, who as a hobby helped investigate the West Pittsburg UFO sighting.
Haines was impressed by the depth of similar detail in the separate stories told by the three 14-year-old boys. However, he noted, there is no independent corroborating evidence by other eyewitnesses.
The boys are not expert observers (such as pilots or ship navigators). There were no UFO radar sightings that night. There were no obvious marks on the ground or magnetic changes in the earth at the supposed landing site when Haines visted the location a month later.
There is a chance this could be a hoax or some kind of illusion, he said, noting that there are many possible psychological interpretations of such a story told by boys from broken or incomplete homes who were out late at night, in a strange, dark place.
He noted that the boys reported getting only brief, ill-defined views of whatever it was they encountered. Further interviews under hypnosis probably would not produce more details.
For these reasons, Haines concluded, “I do not believe that the evidence which now exists, as of this time, warrants further investigation.”
This incident in Contra Costa County has gone into the international record books. People interested in the question of unidentified flying objects will be talking about it and writing about it for years.
For that reason, it is worth examining in some detail.
As a historic event, the incident at West Pittsburg is one of the last reported sightings of allegedly alien creatures to have occurred in the United States before the advent of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The movie made UFO-watching a popular backyard sport in the United States.
The three boys, then 14-years-old, who reported the sighting are:
• Lennie Young, who then lived with his mother, Mary Clark, at 10 Roberts St., West Pittsburg. He now lives with grandparents in Walnut Creek.
Lennie said he is familiar with the area and has spent “many nights” in the meadow where the sighting happened and “knows” that what he saw was not human beings walking in the darkness.
• George Ferrera, son of Muriel Wilder, of 320 First Avenue South, Pacheoo. He had never before been to West Pittsburg and came to town to spend the night with his friend Patrick, who used to live in Pacheco. Police said George was the calmest of the frightened trio on the night of the sightings. His mother said he still has nightmares about the event. “I think he saw a UFO,” Mrs. Wilder said.
Patrick Morrison, who then lived at 90 Bay View Avenue (around the corner from Lennie Young) in West Pittsburg. The boys fled in terror to Morrison’s home after the sighting. His mother, Wanda Morrison, recently remarried and they now live on Clear Land Circle.
Sometime before 11 PM, the three were at a grassy field north of Willow Pass Road near Mallard Slough Road, in an area between the Santa Fe Railroad tracks and the marsh at the edge of Suisun Bay.
They were considering hitchhiking to the nearby community of Shore Acres or going to “The Pump House,” a nearby unauthorized gathering place for local young people.
The pump house, which is near the reported UFO landing, site, is a castle-like structure of concrete and steel, complete with a moat and a bridge, housing the pumps which during some seasons lift fresh water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for the Treated Water Division of the Contra Costa County Water District.
According to the story the boys later told to Haines and to Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriff Douglas Pendleton, they saw a group of bright red lights, apparently joined together, with a blue light flitting like a firefly around the other lights. They said the object flew away rapidly (covering what on the map would be more than three miles in about five seconds) and then came back and landed nearby.
The descriptions vary somewhat, but all remember it having a row of square lights, like windows, with one “window” larger than the others. None of the boys called it a “flying saucer.’ Young said it was “round but flat.” Ferrera compared it to a flying building. Morrison recalls lights blinking on and off and reflecting from the sides of the flying object.
Then, the boys said, emerging from darkness between themselves and the UFO they saw three creatures 50 to 150 feet away, barely visible in the light from two street lamps and a nearby liquor store.
Lennie Young remembers, “‘They were like smoke. They were black. They had no faces. I don’t know if they had arms or heads. It was like they had no clothes on. They were walking towards us. They were about 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet tall.
“I’ve stayed out all night in that field several times and I know what people look like walking in the dark. They were not people, they were something else.”
Pat Morrison said, “They wore weird looking, walking slow. They looked like they were wearing long skirts over their heads. They were black. They walked as if they were linked together,” (like figures in a chain gang).
George Ferrera remembers them as “gray objects, with a kind of human shape, but no eyes. They walked like robots.’ George’s mother said since that night the youth has had nightmares and refuses to go back to West Pittsburg. “His friends had a hard time convincing him to go see the movie ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ Mrs. Wilder said.
Haines said that as the boys fled in terror to Pat Morrison’s house, they said they looked back, and for a while the figures seemed to be following close behind.
Mrs. Morrison called the sheriff’s office.
Pendleton said all three gave the same story and offered to take a lie detector test. The boys did not appear to have been drinking or using drugs, Pendleton said. The deputy said the boys appeared to be genuinely terrified and one boy was shaking badly.
Haines stated that:” I found that the three boys had a consistent story with a level of detail present that does not appear to have been manufactured. If they had made up the story, they would have had to remember it very well. Their fright was very real,” Haines said.
He determined that the weather was clear and it was unlikely that the boys were seeing their own shadows reflected on ground fog. He said no American airplanes carry the colors described by the boys. He made a magnetometer survey of the grassy field and found no evidence of magnetic changes or scorched grass or holes at the supposed UFO landing site.
While the pyschologist was making engineering surveys, a well-known engineer was trying to probe into young Ferrera’s unconscious memories, but found the boy was not a good subject for hypnosis.
James A. Harder, a professor of hydraulic engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, investigated the West Pittsburg sighting in his capacity as director of research for the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization in Tucson, AZ.
Harder said there was no physical evidence at the scene and his talks with the boys Indicated, “There was nothing more we could recover other than what they had already talked about.”
Allan Hendry, editor of the International UFO Reporter said, “This is a 50-50 case if there ever was one.”
Hendry said he talked to the airport tower supervisors who were on duty at the time at Oakland, San Francisco and Travis Air Force Base and said there were no reports of UFOs-by pilots or on radar that night.
He said two aerial advertising firms in Oakland were not flying at the time.