Coming To A Sky Near You

Roswell, NM, may be a hotbed of alien analysis, but extraterrestrial sighting and study is not limited to the Southwest. Here’s the lowdown from some UFO spotters and scoffers in the Delaware Valley:

Tom Carey

Tom Carey (r.) at the crash site with Paul Davids, producer of the 1994 movie Roswell.

Tom Carey, Cigna claims representative, UFO sighting investigator, Huntingdon Valley.

When you call the number listed in the Philadelphia white pages for “UFO Reporting Service,” the phone will ring in a bedroom in Tom Carey’s house. Carey has been the state section director of this area’s 60-member Mutual UFO Network since 1986, and about a year ago he converted his son’s old room into his own UFO investigation office — separate telephone line and all. He receives, on average, about three calls a week.

“It goes in waves. One week I’ll get 10 calls, others less. I never go a week without just one, though.”

Upon receiving a call, Carey or another MUFON member goes to the site to investigate. “Other [MUFON] members are always saying, ‘Give me a case, give me a case,'” says Carey. “If it’s a showstopper, I’ll investigate it.”

UFO sightings are at a peak right now, Carey contends.

Aside from the sighting calls he receives on his hotline, Carey has ventured out to Roswell at least a half dozen times in search of living witnesses and artifacts which were left behind.

“Going to the crash site is like going to Mecca,” says the 50-something Carey, whoholds a master’s in anthropology from California State University at Sacramento.

On one of his trips he ran into a crew shooting Roswell — The U.F.O. Cover-Up, the 1994 film starring Kyle MacLachlan.

Carey says the Air Force’s June 24-released report is “embarrassing.”

In particular, Carey cites the Project Mogul balloon theory. “It doesn’t work,” he says. “For it to work, you have to throw away the witnesses. You can’t do that.”

He’s working on a book which he hopes will be “the final word” on Roswell. It won’t be published until about 1999, says Carey, after the excitement surrounding the anniversary dies down. There’s one problem, though. Many of the witnesses are dying of old age.

Though he’s not willing to go into too much detail, he recently found a “blockbuster” witness. He hasn’t secured her testimony yet, but he has a good feeling.

And though he describes himself as having an “open mind” and “cognizant of problems with the evidence,” he says disbelievers often lump him with “true believers” — a derogatory term for UFO enthusiasts.

“I’m ready to drop Roswell if I see evidence,” he insists.

Not the case with the skeptics, he says.

“If Bill Clinton trotted [the alien corpses] out, the debunkers still wouldn’t change their minds.”

The UFO Hotline is (215) 947-4740.


John Stine IV, landscaper, occasional stargazer, Parkesburg, PA.

Less than two weeks ago, while John Stine and his three kids were enjoying a spaghetti supper on their back patio, they had a little visitor.

It was what Stine describes as a “little orange and yellow ball of light, somewhat transparent.”

According to Stine, on Monday, June 23, at about 7:30 p.m., the glowing orb swooped down and orbited the table clockwise.

“It was kind of like a helicopter blade,” recalls Stine. “You couldn’t really see it.”

Three to four seconds after it arrived, it whirred away into the trees.

“We couldn’t talk to each other for a while,” he adds. “We were so surprised.”

But they had so much energy that night, says Stine, 36, that he and the kids stayed up and rode bicycles up and down the driveway — the kids till 2 a.m., he till 4.

He told his wife, Debbie, about the orange ball. Debbie scoffed.

“She was skeptical,” admits Stine.

So he lined up Gummi Bears in front of 3-year-old Jessica.

“Now tell Mommy and Daddy what color it was,” Stine urged the little girl.

Jessica chose the orange and the yellow.

“I asked her what happened and she said, ‘It went in my food and in my eyes,'” says Stine.

In the days following the incident, Stine noticed a few changes in his family’s behavior.

On Tuesday night 6-year-old Jeremy had such a bad headache that he had to rest on the sofa for a while. On Wednesday night, Jessica had a similar headache, and she, too, had to take a sofa sabbatical. Three days later, on Saturday, Stine and his 9-year-old, Johnny, experienced “throbbing” headaches during a birthday party and had to lie down.

The weird thing is, says Stine, “My wife didn’t get a headache — and she gets migraines sometimes.”

Little Johnny urged him to call someone.

Stine called his parents in search of an explanation. They told him he was crazy. When he called his wife’s parents, they didn’t believe him either. “I felt like a jerk,” he says.

Johnny suggested he look in the phone book under U. That’s where he found Tom Carey’s UFO Reporting Service.

He jokes that if it was just he who saw the sphere, he would have brushed it off. After all, he was never really into UFOs. “I do believe there is something more intelligent than us out there, but I don’t go out searching for UFOs.”

“I’ve never been abducted or anything. I’d probably go with ’em, though,” he jokes.

Stine couldn’t, however, ignore the fact that all three of his kids remember the same thing he does, down to the exact details.

Saying you think you saw a UFO is kind of embarrassing, Stine says. “It’s not explainable. People gotta see things to believe them.”

As for the Roswell controversy, he admits he hasn’t been keeping up with the developments. If aliens did actually land there, says Stine, “I’d say, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ But I think society would go berserk.”


Dr. David M. Jacobs, Temple University history professor, author of two UFO books, MUFON member.

Dr. David Jacobs doesn’t buy the Roswell conspiracy theory.

The events surrounding the Roswell incident are not complete enough to convince this history professor and Wyndmoor resident that a flying saucer crashed in New Mexico 50 years ago. “[The evidence] is not compelling,” he says. He contends that if aliens actually crashed in the Southwest in 1947, “we’d have seen a whole lot [about aliens] over the past 50 years.”

He’s no debunker, though. He teaches a course at Temple, “UFOs in American Society.” He’s an active member of MUFON. He’s slated to lecture at MUFON’s July conference in Grand Rapids, MI. He’s just more convinced by anecdotal evidence — alien abduction accounts.

In his second book, Secret Life: Firsthand Accounts of UFO Abductions (Simon & Schuster, 1992), Jacobs, 54, analyzed the detailed accounts given by people who claim to have been abducted by extraterrestrials. For his third book, tentatively titled The Threat, due out in January 1998, Jacobs continued his hypnosis work with abductees — this time about 700.

What is it about abduction stories that convinces him so?

“Scientists say, ‘I don’t know how it works, therefore it doesn’t.’ But the question is, ‘Are [abductees] seeing this?’ It’s a key question.”

Plus, he asserts, the people he has worked with are not looking for publicity.

“[Abduction] crosses all racial, ethnic, societal, geographical and national lines,” says Jacobs. “These people don’t have anything to gain. They have everything to lose.”

Being out about UFOs wasn’t always so simple.

His first foray into the study of UFOs was his 1973 doctoral dissertation, a work which didn’t escape controversy, he admits. “Most academics think [the study of UFOs] is complete and total nonsense,” says Jacobs matter-of-factly.

Though he thinks the hubbub surrounding Roswell will disappear in a week, he doesn’t see the same fate for UFO sightings and abductions.

“It is not a fad. This isn’t silly season.”

Before he hangs up the phone, he adds, “Now don’t make me look crazy.”


Milton Rothman, retired physicist and UFO skeptic living in Center City. Author of A Physicist’s Guide to Skepticisms and The Science Gap (both by Prometheus).

Milton tends to disbelieve UFO theories. “I look with great doubt on UFOs,” says Milton. He contends that the images abductees and others report are imagined, contrived. “The images people believed they saw were really in science fiction at the time.” He cites the November 1929 cover of Science Wonder Stories, which depicted a large flying saucer picking up the New York Woolworth building. “[That cover was published] 20 years before people saw flying saucers at Roswell.”

He maintains that it is “extremely unlikely” that the government could cover up such an event. “Why should they?” he asks. “They couldn’t cover up the atomic bomb in the ’40s. Hundreds of people knew about it. It’s got to leak out sometime.”

Being a physicist, he argues the validity of flying saucers using the laws of nature. “What kind of force is there [to keep a craft] hanging motionless at a height of several thousand feet?” Besides, he adds, if there was an electromagnetic field like many say, every lab in the area would have detected it.

Rothman, 77, is so convinced aliens have not visited this planet, he spends a good part of his time arguing about it. He’s a member of CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, a national skeptics organization. Locally, Rothman attends once-a-month lunches and talking sessions at the Franklin Inn Club; each meeting features a different topic. This month’s topic is — what else? — Roswell. He’s also a member of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PHACT), a group that holds monthly meetings in Bensalem.

So Rothman says the alien crash-landing theory is implausible. But what about the rest of the country?

Interest in UFOs is growing, he concedes, because we are reaching the end of the millennium. “People are getting filled with strange ideas. They’re letting their imaginations run wild.”

True believers need to believe in something, he says.

He likes arguing about the reality (or fantasy) of alien existence; however, he admits, it is hard to convince “true believers.” He often just gives up.

Rothman’s a debunker, there’s no doubt about that. But as a young boy, he used to read science fiction.

“Now I read mysteries.”


John O’Brien, owner of a silk screen printing company, true believer, South Philadelphia.

John O’Brien, 43, maintains he was abducted by aliens at least 10 times, including once when he was 6 years old. Upon arriving home from school, he and his younger brother asked their mother if they could go to the park. When they were not quite half a block away from their home, says O’Brien, a saucer-shaped craft with fire coming out of the bottom descended from the West Philly sky and put out its landing gear (O’Brien describes it as having three legs). He remembers picking up a rock and getting ready to throw it. His brother told him not to, he says. After that, he explains, the aliens abducted him, leaving his brother and a friend to ponder what had just happened.

Sounds like late-night entertainment to many, but O’Brien stands behind his story — even if it doesn’t match up with what his brother remembers.

His brother, he says, recalls picking up the rock and John telling him not to throw it. And, says John, his brother didn’t see any landing gear. He saw the craft, which had light coming from underneath, hover just above the ground.

In stressful situations, says O’Brien, people view events differently — especially in cases of abduction.

O’Brien says he was first abducted as an infant and most recently three years ago. He has physical evidence to prove it.

“I have an awful lot of scars that I know where I got.”

His first abduction, says O’Brien, left a small scar on his scrotum.

A former member of MUFON, O’Brien started his own discussion group, which used to meet in a Center City caf. “There was a lot of interest in the group,” he says, “but there was also a lot of hesitation about talking. People don’t want to look foolish.”

As an abductee, “your whole world is shattered by things that aren’t supposed to be there. I don’t know anyone who enjoys [being abducted]. It is not pleasant.”

O’Brien has sampled numerous religions, including Catholicism, Presbyterianism and one he calls “controlling and cultic in nature,” and still attends a variety of services. He says his alleged abductions made him doubt his faith.

“I was so angry with God for this,” he says. “I really questioned a loving God.”

His group eventually disbanded (the caf where they met changed management, says O’Brien, and people had misgivings about meeting in private homes), but he’s optimistic about starting a new one.

For now he’ll continue working on his book; he’s applying for a Pew grant in the fall. If that falls through, he says he’ll continue trying to get the government and nonbelievers to understand.

“If these beings have the ability to make us see things that aren’t there, where we cannot distinguish reality from reality, we are in trouble.”

Another organization, CIRAEP (Council of Investigation & Research on Aerial/Earth Phenomena), founded by Robert Eure of Willow Grove, holds monthly meetings at Abington Library. The next meeting is on Friday, July 11. The featured speakers are relatives of Betty and Barney Hill, the African American couple whose alleged UFO abduction was widely publicized. Call 659-3673 for info.

    • Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and editor-in-chief of Philadelphia Weekly. His past work includes years as a journalist with Philadelphia Weekly, his PW column “The Uncomfortable Whole” winning multiple awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists’ First Place award for newspaper commentary in both 2014 and 2015. Josh has written for a variety of local and national publications, and his work often includes his perspective as someone with lived experience with HIV, homelessness, poverty, trauma, and addiction along with expert analysis from years of experience in journalism and public service following a five year stint in local government communications. He is a member of Philly’s local LGBTQ community, a parishioner at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, a militant bicyclist, and resident of the Point Breeze section of the city with his cat, a senior tom named Mason.

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