On Jan. 12, 1975, a liquor store owner named George O’Barski said he was driving through North Bergen’s Braddock Park at 2:45 a.m. when his radio filled with static.
He said he looked over his shoulder and saw a flying saucer about 30 feet wide land in a field near the Stonehenge apartment complex, and saw a group of creatures, each “three feet tall,” step out to take some soil samples with shovels and bags. He said that the UFO came to a stop about 100 feet away from him, and flew off once the soil samples were collected.
O’Barski went back to Braddock Park a few hours later where he’d seen the aliens, and found holes exactly where he’d seen them digging a few hours earlier.
O’Barksi’s story was reported in a Village Voice article by Budd Hopkins, who devoted many an hour to fringe research on UFO encounters. Hopkins said that he met with a doorman from North Bergen’s Stonehenge apartments, William Pawlowski, a few days after the UFO sighting.
Pawlowski told Hopkins that he saw strange floating lights around the time of the landing. Shortly after the spaceship departed, a large plate-glass window shattered in the lobby. Hopkins said that the doorman told him he couldn’t find anything at the scene that could’ve broken the window.
A second touchdown
Hopkins returned to North Bergen in 1979, four years after he met with O’Barski.
North Bergen resident Harold Stith told Hopkins that he was driving through Braddock Park just off Boulevard East, when he said his car stopped dead in its tracks, illuminated in a spotlight.
In a 2007 interview with The Hudson Reporter, Stith’s son, Robert, retold his father’s story.
“My father was driving home from work, driving on Boulevard East, and he turned into the park,” Robert Stith said. “As soon as he turned off on the park, his car just stopped dead. The radio went dead. A bright light came on top of the car, and then my father heard some strange things on the radio, some language that he didn’t understand. He then noticed it was some sort of spaceship. The doors of the ship opened, and these little grey men with big eyes came out. The next thing my father knew was that the door shut, and they flew off. He thought it was like 10 minutes, but as it turned out, it was like three hours. My mother said that my father came home three hours late.”
Harold Stith, Robert Stith, and Hopkins believed Stith was abducted that night, according to the Reporter story in the paper’s archives. Harold Stith held onto that belief for the rest of his life. His abduction was featured in Hopkins’s book “Missing Time.”
North Bergen believers
Standup comedian Joey Diaz, whose routines often reference his drug-addled misadventures as a Hudson County teenager in the ‘60s and ‘70s, appeared on Joe Rogan’s “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast to talk about North Bergen aliens earlier this month.
More than one million listeners tuned into his profanity-laden monologue about those North Bergen UFO sightings in the ‘70s that turned quite a few heads over the years, despite there being no documentation of the incident.
Here’s Diaz’s recollection.
“A UFO landed in Hudson County [James J. Braddock] park when I was a kid, and the next day, they locked up the whole park,” Diaz said. “I still remember being a young kid, and there were witnesses who said there were flashing lights outside. I wrote it off, I didn’t even pay attention. I remember riding my bike up there and seeing people with orange protective suits on, and put it out of my mind.”
Ready for prime time
A slew of recent national news stories has documented the things people claim to have seen in the sky. UFO sightings have not become UFO realities, but they have sparked intrigue among alien believers and nonbelievers alike.
The Pawloski sighting has been featured in numerous, nationally-syndicated documentaries, including ones on A&E and The History Channel, despite sparse news coverage at the time. The sighting became a hallmark incident among UFO fanatics.
Politico reported that federal legislators were briefed this summer on an increasing number of UFO sightings reported by Navy pilots. Some pilots told the New York Times that they’d seen flying objects with no exhaust plumes or visible engines flying at “hypersonic speeds.”
2018 was a record-high year for reported UFO sightings, according to the independent National UFO Reporting Center. The NUFORC, launched in 1974, has documented 90,000 UFO sightings since it was founded.
More than 1.3 million people have signed up for a mock Facebook event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The post claims that, in massive numbers, those attending the event have pledged to storm the Nevada Air Force Base on foot in September, in search of extraterrestrial secrets.
Local UFO fanatics are looking for more outer space action than that witnessed in North Bergen High School’s on-stage adaptation of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Close encounters have been reported right in their backyards.
A UFO hot spot
In the wake of the fringe UFO research movement, Hudson County became a Mecca for reported sightings. A Patch.com story suggests that 65 UFO sightings in New Jersey have been reported this year. Hudson County topped the charts with nine sightings.
There were dozens of sightings in the ‘80s, 90s, and ‘2000s, according to the databases of the National UFO Reporting Center, Mutual UFO Network, and Center for UFO Studies.
They’ve collected stories about fireballs, triangles, saucers, and floating lights seen soaring or hovering above Hudson County.
The encounters are not verifiable by basic research standards. There’s scant public record or proof that North Hudson locals told anyone about these encounters. But Hudson County UFO fanatics and anyone with an active imagination or just a healthy longing for life out there in the cosmos, should scroll through some of the dodgy local reports.